Coming off of matching the heaviest defeat in club history in their 5-1 loss at the LA Galaxy, the boys in blue return to PPL Park to try and hold off the Seattle Sounders, a team they have never beaten. But somehow, it’s a task that may not seem as daunting as it sounds.
After losing Obafemi Martins to injury and following Clint Dempsey’s classless act, Sounders FC lost at home in the MLS for the first time since March 14th as the Quakes were able to upset the Apple Cart. But now the Cart has tipped, are the wheels starting to fall off?
So, what have we learned about The Union in recent weeks? The team have shown countless times that they have the ability to control games for short stretches. In 10-30 minute intervals they are able to defend so rigidly that even the finest attackers in the league struggle to break through. However, if one goal knocks the team back, they crumble and seem to focus on individual play as opposed to playing as a team. Once the shape of the team starts to disperse, that’s where teams can really punish them..as LA Galaxy proved at the weekend.
Prior to the thumping against LA, the Union were in their best form of the season. The main reason for that success is the way the midfield has started to gel. Brian Carroll has really come out of his shell recently and has established himself as a great hold up player. This has allowed Vincent Nogueria play box to box and makes space for Cristian Maidana to be a roaming playmaker. The problem against LA is that they left WAY too much space open. The runs to the left from Maidana just left acres of room for counter attacks to source and once the rest of the midfield go to cover..that opens more space…see where we are going? If the Union are to find a way to beat Seattle, it’s through getting this midfield solidified. Pfeffer and Carroll have been putting in a lot work when it comes to winning the ball and getting it forward to the likes of Maidana and Wenger, it’s down to more attacking midfielders to stay in shape.
In terms of a lineup for the game, one man who may not be starting is Andrew Wenger. The winger has been under performing and he’s very much aware of it. The problem is, it hasn’t spurred him to improve as much as it has given him a stint of low confidence as he struggles to read defences. The duo of himself and Le Toux were expected to be lethal this season and it’s been a very one sided affair. Expect Jimmy McLaughlin to perhaps get the start with Wenger on the bench, time and time again Wenger has failed to produce and now it’s time to try something new before it’s too late.
With ongoing depth issues still haunting the Union, it looks as though Sapong will once again be the lone striker. Having now scored five goals and one assist on the season, he added to his tally against the Galaxy, scoring in each of his last three matches. His finishing is clinical in front of goal and from just beyond the 18 yard box, but his fatigue from so much playing time may come in to play here.
Without the Sounders having their three star strikers (conveniently the three who scored against the Union in the Open Cup Final) we may see Curtin move Edu into a midfield position to aid with the attacking movement. But with the absence of such big names, it may provoke the Union to start Marquez and White just to rest some of a defensive unit that has seen a lot of action recently.
Both teams are probably going to find the back of the net in a game that’s going to produce some ugly soccer for the Sounders. They’ll be forced to be physical and have to focus their efforts on keeping the ball. The Union have to go out and attack as a team, plenty of crosses and sharp runs like we have seen in previous fixtures should see them retain control of the matchup. It’s going to be a very tall order, but a 2-1 Union victory could well be on the cards. A goal from Sapong and another from a set piece.
Philadelphia Union 2-1 Seattle Sounders