Date: Saturday, June 25th, 2016
Time: 7:00 PM Eastern (4:00 PM Pacific, 11:00 PM UTC)
Venue: Talen Energy Stadium
Officials: REF: ARMANDO VILLARREAL AR1: Daniel Belleau AR2: Jose Da Silva 4TH: Jorge Gonzalez
Television: TCN Philadelphia
Streaming: MLS Live, MLS Direct Kick
The Philadelphia Union and the Vancouver Whitecaps have a short history despite some thrilling results over the last five seasons. In six matches against Vancouver, the Union have taken 8 points and are 2-2-2. In three games at Talen Energy Stadium the Union are undefeated, taking one win and two draws away from Vancouver. The two more memorable events were the first game in team history against Vancouver, where Guatemalan legend Carlos Ruiz scored his first goal for Philadelphia in a 1-0 victory. The most exciting match between the two was in fact former manager John Hackworth's last game at the helm of the Union. The 3-3 comeback draw against Vancouver was a break from the string of bad results that would ultimately see Hackworth fired.
How Philadelphia Looks:
Roland Alberg. That is all.
Actually that's not exactly all. Despite the fact that Alberg put the team on his back the last two MLS matches (and the US Open Cup match against Harrisburg City Islanders FC), the Union are in a very interesting transition period. First place sounds great and all, but the loss of Vincent Nogueira has left a weird vibe around the team. Jim Curtin recognized this after the 3-2 loss away to New York City FC and dropped Barnetta back to Nogs' role, bringing Roland Alberg off the bench to the #10 role against the Chicago Fire.
It worked wonders offensively.
Defensively? The questions mounted up as the Union allowed 3 goals to the worst team in MLS this season. It's now the second straight game they've allowed 3 goals. That is worrisome and when a Vancouver team that is arguably of a higher quality than the two teams the Union just conceded three against; the worry is amplified. Joshua Yaro is on the verge of returning to the starting XI and played 45 minutes off the bench against Chicago. Not to say he's the savior of everything defensively, but his form before his injury was good and may stabilize a young defense.
How Vancouver looks:
The MLS break might've been welcomed by Vancouver, having hit a snag in results prior to the break with a draw and a loss against Western Conference foes. The Canadian Championship continued for the Whitecaps during the break and so did their recent run of form. After losing 2-0 to NASL side Ottawa Fury, Vancouver did turn around a win the aggregate with a 3-0 victory at home. Their return to MLS play saw them fall to the New England Revolution 2-1 at home while missing a few key starters including Pedro Morales.
With the return of Morales and Vancouver striker Octavio Rivero, the Whitecaps offensive punch may be returning just in time to catch a Philly defense that has been shaky at best recently. Morales is definitely the offensive backbone of this team. He's terrific at creating chances, averaging about 1.8 key passes per game in his MLS career. Morales this year, however, is more of a productive scorer than creator. He has 6 goals which leads Vancouver this year and what's even scarier is he's scored 5 of those goals on the road. His performance will be a gigantic factor in their success at Talen Energy Stadium.
What to expect:
The Union and Vancouver have had only one game in their six meetings where both teams have scored. That game - the 3-3 draw in Chester in 2014 - accounts for half the goals scored between the two teams. With this history, you can suggest that the Union and Whitecaps are going to walk away in a battle for the shutout that every game but one has produced. I can't help but think the opposite will happen in this match.
With Philadelphia being in the transition that they are in, and Vancouver looking to break their mini-run of winless matches in MLS play, I can't see these teams not just absolutely going for it. That usually means goals. The Union are undefeated at home thus far in the 2016 MLS season, and I don't expect that to change on Saturday. Defense may not be the reason the Union win on Saturday, but I've got the Union pulling out another offensive blockbuster. 3-2 Union.