Game: Philadelphia Union vs. Jacksonville Armada FC (NASL)
Date: Saturday, February 6th
Time: 6:00 PM
Venue: Community First Park at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville in Jacksonville, FL
All-time Record: In their first match ever, Jacksonville defeated the Union 3-1. Andrew Wenger scored the lone Union goal.
How Jacksonville will look: Jacksonville has already played a closed-door scrimmage against the New York Red Bulls, so they've had some time in a game setting to gel a bit. Forward Alhassan Keita scored in that scrimmage - he was the one of the players who scored against the Union in last year's match. Some other familiar names on the side are ex-NYRB midfielder Tyler Ruthven, ex-Orlando City forward Akeil Barrett, and Haitian defender Mechack Jérôme. Jacksonville is coached by first-year manager Tony Meola, who had a distinguished career in both the United States National Team and MLS (with the New York/New Jersey MetroStars and Kansas City Wizards). This is a brand new team with a slew of new players. Jacksonville may go with the same 3-5-2 formation they used against the Red Bulls.
How Philadelphia will look: If last year's friendly is any indication, look for the Union to play a decent mix of starters, bench guys, and trialists. Andre Blake got the nod in goal last year due to Rais M'Bolhi being away with Algeria, and with Jim Curtin recently confirming he's the number one goalkeeper I'd look for him to at least start. Another change from last season will be Maurice Edu returning to the midfield instead of at center back. The Union will most likely line up in their 4-5-1, and I'd imagine them giving a look to most of the guys on the roster, possibly including new winger Roland Alberg, who was acquired from ADO Den Haag yesterday.
What to expect: If you're looking for a win, you're looking for the wrong thing. This first match should be more about the Union getting their legs underneath of them and developing chemistry. As long as they can avoid any serious injuries and accomplish this, the goals are irrelevant. Ignore the score and watch how the game flows - that will be the real indication of whether the match was a success.