Date: Sunday, April 19th
Time: 5:00 PM
Venue: PPL Park
The New England Revolution comes to town a little less than 100%, with Jermaine Jones and Chris Tierney recovering from injuries still. Yet entering the weekend, they sit tied on points for second place in the Eastern Conference. They're catching the Philadelphia Union in a match-heavy part of the schedule, this being their third game in a span of nine days. These teams met three times last season, two of which were at PPL Park. The Revs were dominant in the 5-3 performance in Chester, but Union got wins in the other two meetings.
Common opponents so far this season number just two: Colorado and NYCFC. Union drew Rapids 0-0, while New England won 2-0. However, Revs lost in Yankee Stadium 2-0, whereas Union drew 1-1 in the House That Jeter Built, and defeated Man City B in Chester 2-1.
What New England Will Look Like
Revolution will get two players back from USMNT duty, as Lee Nguyen and the goal-scorer against Mexico Juan Agudelo return. Nguyen was an unused sub, and Agudelo played just 25 minutes in Wednesday night's exhibition, so expect them to both be available. The level of availability is a question for another USMNT regular, Jermaine Jones. He was on a minutes restriction during New England's last match back on April 11th, playing just the first half. He expects to play more than that this week, but they'll play it by ear.
The Revs favor a 4-2-3-1, with Scott Caldwell and Jones as the defensive mids, and Agudelo, Nguyen, and Kelyn Rowe the attackers. Charlie Davies leads the line in this formation. The fitness of Chris Tierney is critical, because his advances from his outside back position are dangerous and will threaten Union's Sheanon Williams, who has been caught in defensive lapses more frequently than Union fans would like. Andrew Farrell, in returning to center back after starting last year at right back, has had some misadventures in defense, as well. Jose Goncalves has his work cut out for him in supporting his central defense partner due to Farrell's forward runs and getting caught in possession.
What Philadelphia Will Look Like
The trend against NYCFC was for Union to deploy a two-striker system, using Sebastien Le Toux to partner with Fernando Aristeguieta up top. That move has allowed them to use 18-year-old Eric Ayuk on the right wing vacated by Seba. Ayuk's quickness has been a major factor in his brief time with the team, and is something Revolution will have to account for. I expect manager Jim Curtin to abandon the 4-4-2 to return to the 4-2-3-1 so as to match up better with the Revs. One change we may see is in the center of that midfield four due to Vincent Nogueira leaving Thursday night's match due to an injury. I'm not sure if that means Cristian Maidana returns to the starting XI, or if it will be Zach Pfeffer, just before he travels to join the United States' U-20 National Team. Maybe they'll both play, since they both came on as second-half subs Thursday, whereas Michael Lahoud played full 90s in both NYCFC matches.
I'd expect Brian Carroll to get the start with Lahoud at the holding spots, with Maidana centering Andrew Wenger and Ayuk. The other question to be answered an hour before kickoff is whether Aristeguieta being subbed off was tactical or due to fatigue. If he isn't the starter, expect CJ Sapong to build off of his late equalizer from Thursday night. The team announced that John McCarthy will get his third consecutive start in this match. He has yet to keep a clean sheet, but his proactive approach has been a welcome change in net. Another factor is Maurice Edu returning to the center back position. He and Steven Vitoria have been a better partnership than Union had at the start of the season with Vitoria and Ethan White. With their lack of defensive depth, I'd expect to continue to see Sheanon Williams and Ray Gaddis on the outside.
What to Expect
Union are building a belief in themselves with these last two matches, netting goals in the 92nd and 86th minutes in their two tilts with the Junior Blues. However, we can't forget the dramatic collapse in Kansas City where they conceded two goals in second half stoppage time to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Couple that with the history between these two teams where there were 13 goals scored in the three meetings in 2014. Both teams are playing better recently, and have some limitations defensively right now. Predictiion: Union 2, Revolution 3.