Know Your Enemy: Philadelphia Union
Guest columnist Drew Epperley is the founder and editor of WVHooligan.com. His blog covers everything MLS and U.S. Soccer. You can follow him on Twitter @WVHooligan.
FC Dallas (3-6-3, 12 points) returns home for a Saturday clash with the Philadelphia Union (2-6-1, 7 points). This will be the first of three games in an eight-day stretch for Dallas.
Peter Nowak’s club is winless in their last three matches and are second-to-last in the league standings. Their lone road win this season came at Chivas USA.
This is the lone meeting between the two sides this season. Last year Dallas won the season series thanks to a 2-0 win at FC Dallas Stadium – the two sides drew the follow-up match at PPL Park 2-2.
Dallas will be without two key players for this match as both Brek Shea and Zach Loyd are suspended. This will be the first of three games that Shea has to sit out following his actions against the Columbus Crew last weekend where he deliberately kicked a ball into the assistant referee.
Union in the attack
Peter Nowak shuffled the deck with his club before the start of the season. Fan favorite and leading scorer Sebastian Le Toux was traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Without Le Toux, the Union have had to lean heavily on newcomers Lionard Pajoy and Gabirel Gomez for their attack. Both players are tied with three goals apiece and Pajoy is coming off a two-goal effort in a 3-2 loss to the New York Red Bulls last weekend.
Pajoy plays up front with Danny Mwanga, a former number one overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft. So far this season Mwanga has yet to find the back of the net as he’s struggled to make an impact on the field.
The attack in the midfield usually comes from the wide areas with Freddy Adu and Keon Daniels. Adu is suspended for this game after picking up two yellow cards against New York, so Nowak will likely turn to Michael Farfan for services from the wing.
When healthy, Nowak has also used winger Roger Torres in the attack but he is listed as out as he recovers from knee surgery.
The Union’s defense starts in the midfield with Gomez and Brian Carroll locking things down in the center of the pitch. Both play the defensive midfield role with size and toughness that Nowak likes to have on the field.
Previously Danny Califf had been one of the two main center backs for the Union but this week he was traded to Chivas USA. In his place lately has been the duo of Carlos Valdes and Sheanon Williams.
Williams originally played at full back for the Union before shifting into the middle this season. He is an underrated player and alongside a veteran like Valdes will continue to grow into a big time leader for this club.
At full back now is rookie Raymon Gaddis on the right. The former West Virginia standout has made a few starts recently for the Union and is starting to turn into one of the better rookies this season in MLS.
On the left will be Gabriel Farfan – who is retuning from a three game suspension.
In goal is second-year keeper Zac MacMath. So far he hasn’t seen the same success that he saw late in 2011 when he went unbeaten in seven starts.
Keys to three points
Without Adu roaming free in the midfield, the Union attack will certainly not be what it was last week against the Red Bulls.
Dallas will have to lock down the space in the midfield for the Union and not allow Pajoy and Mwanga to roam into the open spaces freely. Pajoy loves to shoot from anywhere.
Dallas will also need to remain smart in the open field. Keeping a level head and not giving up any costly fouls or cards will also be key.
This is a game that Dallas can win if they play their style of game in the open spaces and up top with Blas Perez. It all comes down to putting a full 90 minutes together that will be the difference in three points or none at all.