Union Hoping For Rapid Climb

Me Punta Islita
It’s the World Cup’s final weekend with teetering Brazil trying to reclaim at least a smidgen of dignity on Saturday in the runner-up match with the Netherlands (3 p.m., ESPN) after being blown apart by Germany on Tuesday in historic fashion. On Sunday, Germany takes on Argentina (3 p.m., 6abc) in what will hopefully be a full-pitch-press of a World Cup final (we deserve as much after enduring those hours of drudging, tactical monotony displayed by both the Argentinians and Holland on Wednesday as each tip-toed toward penalty kicks). Sandwiched in between these two mega matches is your Philadelphia Union who are home against the Colorado Rapids for 6abc Night at PPL Park (7 p.m., 6abc); what better way to warm-up for Sunday’s Southern Hemisphere showdown, right?

In the wake of yet another drubbing of the New England Revolution earlier this week, the Union will be working to keep that nice home field vibe going against Colorado. Tuesday’s 2-0 victory against the Revs was the latest in a string of 3 straight U.S. Open Cup wins (the club only needs 2 more W’s to take the tournament and earn its first trophy), and couples nicely with a general improvement in MLS matches in the last month, including an earlier 3-1 thrashing of the Revs up in Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago.

DISSAPPOINTMENT IN DALLAS

Philadelphia is coming-off a tough-to-swallow 2-1 loss in hot, sweaty Dallas last weekend, coughing-up what should’ve been a draw on an own goal that the score card says went in off Union defender Sheanon Williams, but had more to do with a bad clearing attempt by midfielder Fabinho that happened to catch William’s knee. It wasn’t the best-played game on either side, but the Union did well enough to get a point. The club will be gunning for a more positive result at home in what will likely be less humid, more friendly weather.

Since getting thumped by the L.A. Galaxy 4-1 in Southern California on May 25th, the Union has gone on a 5-1-1 tear, including its three Open Cup wins. Philadelphia sits in eighth place in the Eastern Conference (4-8-6), but is only 3 points out of 4th as five teams are now jammed-up on either side of the post season cut-off line. Unfortunately, the Union has played more matches than three of the teams it’s chasing which makes set-backs particularly hard to endure. Philadelphia has been getting big offense lately from multiple players. And the recent move from defense to midfield for Amobi Okugo has started to play dividends as Okugo scored a sweet goal in Dallas and appears energized by the new opportunity. Maurice Edu, now on the back line, appears less thrilled, even mentioning some discomfort with being the last line of defense ahead of goaltender Zac MacMath. Edu won’t have to worry about it this week as he sits with a red card violation. It deserves saying, however, that the veteran midfielder has been professional about the situation so far and will probably stay that way as long as the team keeps climbing.

Another question mark for the Union is star midfielder Vincent Nogueira who has been nursing a groin strain for several weeks. He’s still listed as questionable. That was the case last week and he did not play.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN HIGH SCORERS

Colorado is in the middle of a promising season. Their 7-5-5 mark is good for third place in the tough MLS Western Conference and the club is has a +5 goal differential with 24 scores in 17 contests. Vincente Sanchez is the big gun. The international star from Uruguay has 6 goals in 6 starts this year. Jamaican forward Deshorn Brown has also been effective with five goals. Other top contributors include midfielders Dillon Powers and Jose Mari (although the way Mari is talking, he may not be fully recovered from a recently sprained ankle by Saturday night). Colorado has no disciplinary issues reported this week by MLS.

LOOKING AHEAD

The Union will have to take care of business against Colorado, but it’s hard not to note next Wednesday’s home tilt against the New York Red Bulls (7 p.m., ESPN2). The Bulls are one of the clubs Philadelphia is chasing and only two points ahead in fifth place going into this weekend. That will be a very big match.

6ABC NIGHT

It’s 6abc Night at PPL Park on Saturday, which means the game is on 6abc. Other than that, I guess it means I get to walk out onto the pitch and wave for a couple of seconds before the game. Be nice. My wife and kid will be there! Seriously, it’s always a lot of fun. I’m pretty happy that 6abc’s relationship with the Union is still going strong after five years! I’m off next week, so you may see me at Wednesday’s game, too. That will “Guy From 6abc Is In The Stands Night”.

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