The Philadelphia Union (7-4-5, 26 points, 1st Place Eastern Conference), coming off a more interesting than needed to be 4-3 victory over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday, look to extend their 10 game home unbeaten streak (8-0-2), as they host the Vancouver Whitecaps FC (6-7-3, 21 points, 6th place West by a -1 goal differential). The Whitecaps are the slightly better rested side coming off a 1-0 defeat on the road at Toronto in the 1st leg of the Canadian Championship Final on Tuesday, while their last MLS match – a 2-1 loss at home to the NE Revolution – was back on Saturday. Vancouver is 0-2-1 in MLS action since May 22. The all time series of 6 games is all tied at 2-2-2, 1-0-2 favoring the U in Chester. Their last meeting – a 3-0 loss @ BP Place on May 9th of last season – was the last of a 5 game winless streak that put the Union in a big hole early in the season from which they could never escape.
What a difference a year makes for these now conference leaders. Even w/ that accolade, the last three MLS games, where the Union have given up 7 goals in 2 W’s and an L, shows that they still have work to do to stay atop the Table, as the following excerpts from Jim Curtin‘s post game presser illustrates:
Curtin: a big 3 points, told the team attacking-wise, A+, defensively, F.
Curtin: at 4-1 we should close out the game.
Curtin: two goals given up on restarts needs to be fixed
Curtin: we could have been even better with the ball, kept possession better
As for this week’s opponent, Vancouver is 2nd in MLS w/ 27 goals-conceded this season, but their offense has for the most part been able to overcome that as their GD is -3. Their 103 SOG is the most in the league, and they have a 1.5 GPG avg. – 4th most in the West. The main man to watch is MF Pedro Morales who leads the team w/ 6G and 3A, in 11 games played – all starts. Their other offensive star is the speedy MF Kekuta Manneh (4G, 2A, 15 GP , 11 starts), who has been hot lately, after not scoring in their 1st 7 games. On defense original expansion Union player DF Jordan Harvey has also scored twice while playing every minute of all 15 games this year.
Vancouver’s CB Kendall Waston will miss Saturday’s game with a suspension. F’s Octavio Rivero & Blas Perez are on yellow card warnings. None of the Union players are in that position.
Possible Starting XI:
1 Andre Blake GK 4 Ken Tribbett (DF) 16 Richie Marquez (DF) 12 Keegan Rosenberry (DF) 33 Fabinho (DF) 10 Tranquillo Barnetta (MF) 7 Brian Carroll (MF) 9 Sebastien Le Toux (FW) 6 Roland Alberg (MF) 13 Chris Pontius (MF) 11 Fabian Herbers (MF)
Fearless prediction: The U needs to find a way to solve Vancouver early – they have never scored in the 1st half against them – and having just played Wednesday, it is especially important to score early while they have fresh legs. It will not be easy, but I see the U feeding off the Saturday night crowd to eke out a 3-2 win w/ C.J. Sapong getting back on the score sheet w/ the winning goal, coming off the bench.