Fourth place Union to rely on improved depth once more at Vancouver Saturday


Starting midfielder Marco Fabian (sprained ankle) and goal keeper Andre Blake (torn groin) will be out of action Saturday evening for Philadelphia Union. Head Coach Jim Curtin will look to back-up keeper Matt Freese and perhaps newcomer Jamiro Monteiro once more in hopes of a road result at Vancouver Whitecaps FC.

Saturday’s match-up features a hot Philadelphia team versus an under-performing Vancouver Whitecaps FC side with both clubs looking to assert themselves in the early goings of the 2019 MLS season. “We’re going to be ready. Everything is focused on how can we beat Philly at home,” said Vancouver head coach Marc Dos Santos.

Philadelphia should provide Dos Santos’ team with plenty of headaches if their recent run of play continues. The Union are 4-1-1 over their last six contests, while also holding clean sheets on five separate outings. But Philadelphia’s scoring boots have been lacking away from home so far this year. They average less than 1 goal per game on the road, perhaps expected yet disappointing regardless.

The Union will also be without suspended left back Kai Wagner and imported forward Sergio Santos who is still nursing a leg injury suffered weeks back. An injury Curtin mentioned may have been a result of too much too soon. Santos made a brief rehab appearance with Steel FC and tallied the game winner in stoppage time, but his return to MLS action could still take some time.

Yet the Philadelphia offense hasn’t necessarily struggled. They’ve been more than competent at home average over two goals a game in Chester. But can they perform at that level in every game for every minute? That remains to be seen.

David Accam may return to the starting XI for Curtin, or at least his presence would be welcomed up top to try and spread Vancouver’s backline out as much as possible. A forward pairing of Cory Burke and Accam could provide the spark once again Saturday night.

As for the 10 role, Monteiro or Brenden Aaronson could man that spot. Monteiro played very effectively there in Philadelphia’s last match, a 3-0 home win against Montreal Impact FC. His speed and defensive pressing ability were needed to thwart Samuel Piette in the center of the pitch. He disrupted play and remained active in the attack. But Aaronson has also shown well in the 10. It’s a toss-up that any coach would appreciate. No matter which guy you go with, you’re going to get a positive performance.

Saturday could be a pivotal moment for Curtin’s side. Not only can they further convince the league and their critics that the depth on their roster has upgraded across the board. Just last week, Aurelien Collin was asked to start in place of Mark McKenzie at the final hour. And Collin was up to the task. Philadelphia can also send a message to the Eastern Conference. They have a shot at becoming an elite side in the East.

Vancouver started the year winless through their first six with just two points in that span. Since they’ve won only once. The Union have stumbled upon a weak opponent on their own turf, they must capitalize.

Expect to see similarities on the field for Philadelphia, with perhaps the same substitute rotation as well. But hopefully, Curtin goes with two forwards Saturday night to try and create more offense in the away match-up.

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Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports