Previewing a huge week for the Philadelphia Union

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Philadelphia Union
Apr 30, 2016; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union forward Chris Pontius (13) controls the ball against the San Jose Earthquakes during the second half at Talen Energy Stadium. The game ended in a 1-1 draw. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Union have a busy week this week both on the pitch and off it. The Union have a mid-week game against the high scoring LA Galaxy before traveling to play at Montreal this weekend which could become a battle for the top spot of the Eastern conference. Tomorrow also sees the close of the primary transfer window. In this window teams can sign international players, and make trades; this is the last time teams can wheal and deal to make their rosters stronger until July 4th. Lets focus on the off the pitch rumors of possible players moving before the deadline first, then look at the difficult challenges on the field for the Union this week.

So the transfer/trade deadline closes soon, should we expect to see anyone new in the blue and gold after this week? My realistic side says no of course not, but my fanatic side hopes for someone. Let’s not get crazy, there will not be a huge international signing made by the Union in this window… sorry Union Hulk, no Ronaldinho, but there could be a last-minute trade. This Union team is a very complete one, but there is still one spot that could use some depth, and that is the striker position. CJ Sapong has done a brilliant job for Philadelphia this year, don’t get me wrong, but another great striker could push this team from the edge of the playoffs, to full-blown contender. So who could the Union possibly trade for to fill this need?

Last weekend in Columbus a weird conversation occurred between Kei Kamara, and Federico Higuain over who would take a penalty for their team. This apparently was only the tip of the iceberg in a confrontation that has been going on between the two star players. Because of this conflict, Columbus’ coach is looking for a trade for either player. Kamara would be an amazing pick up for the Union if Earnie Stewart could pull of a trade. He would bring quality finishing and a dedicated work ethic to Philly which when paired with Sapong, would create a lethal attack.

This is pure fan speculation, and I have no idea who Earnie would send to Columbus for Kamara, but wouldn’t it be nice to see something like this happened at the deadline? So far, with Earnie Stewart anything seems like a possibility and the availability of Kamara could spark his interest. But lets stop the speculation and look to the actual games that are going to be played this week.

The Union play LA at Talen Energy Stadium this Wednesday. LA have the best goal differential in MLS, plus twelve. Galaxy scores goals in bunches, and as Jim Curtin said in his press conference on Monday, they are the team that beat their competitors by three or four. That is exactly what happened to the Union last year when they played LA, so how do the Union get a result this time around? There are three things the Union need to capitalize on if they are to get a result Wednesday. They are taking advantage of 2nd balls, taking advantage of LA keeper, Brian Rowe’s, bad distribution, and the fact that LA had to travel across country.

LA beat New England last weekend. They had a 3-0 lead going into halftime. During the second half they let New England back into the game. New England played harder for the second balls, especially after blocked shots. LA seemed to fall asleep watching the ball after they blocked first shot attempts by New England. This is something that could open a glaring hole in LA’s Defense, and pave a way for the Union to capitalize. If the Union can stay on the attack after their first attempts are stifled, then they will be able to find opportunities to get goals. They have one more factor on their side when it comes to creating chances.. and that comes from the feet of LA keeper Brian Rowe.

Rowe is an experienced backup goalkeeper, playing 22 times for LA over the past five years. Eight of those starts have come this season for the injured Dan Kennedy. Rowe has been a solid replacement thus far, but he is not very good on restarts; his distribution is poor. If the Union see this, and can take advantage of some shanked kicks by Rowe, then they will be able to start quick counter attacks that could lead to some big chances. This could be even more likely if the Galaxy players are fatigued from their travel cross-country.

LA played this past Sunday, and flew into Philadelphia on Tuesday for their game on Wednesday. This short turnaround, and cross-country travel, can take away from some player performance, and cause some coaches to rest some players. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena doesn’t seem like he’s going to rest anyone as all of his stars flew to Philly with the team. So LA will be full strength on Wednesday, but fatigue could still play a factor. Having only two days in between games and traveling cross-country can take away from players fitness. The Union will need to come out guns blazing, and can. They have had ten days off, and are itching for the field, and to get revenge on a team that has dominated them over the past few years.

This game is going to be a struggle. The young back line of the Union will have to be up to the hard task of stopping LA’s all-star attackers, but will hopefully be up to the task. Andre Blake will have to be even more of a superhero then he’s been to keep LA off the score sheet. Realistically, LA will probably score multiple goals in this game, so Philly will have to counter. They can do this be exploiting LA’s subtle but glaring weaknesses. Winning second balls, countering on Rowe’s bad distribution, and the fact that LA had to travel across country and play on two days rest could give Philly the one up on LA.

This midweek game will be a true test to see if The Union are going to be true contenders this year. Later this weekend Philly will travel to Montreal. If the Union travel to Canada, after beating LA, they will be in first place in the East, and could will have the opportunity to put some distance between themselves and Montreal. We will delve into the Montreal matchup, the midweek transfer deadline closing, and react to the LA game later this week. Stay tuned!


Photo credit: USA TODAY Sports