Preview: Eastern leaders Union host struggling RSL
A high-profile intraconference matchup is ahead as the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Union play host to Real Salt Lake on Saturday afternoon at PPL Park. Union return home after extended their unbeaten streak to three games with a 1-1 draw at defending MLS Cup champion Colorado last weekend. RSL kicked off its two-game Eastern swing with a 2-1 loss at Columbus at midweek.
REFEREE: Jorge Gonzalez. SAR (bench): Paul Scott; JAR (opposite): James Conlee; 4th: Jose Carlos Rivero MLS Career: 60 games; FC/gm: 24.5; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 18; pens: 16
PHILADELPHIA UNION – OUT: MF Amobi Okugo (L ankle sprain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Justin Mapp (R groin strain); PROBABLE: MF Michael Farfan (R groin strain); MF Stefani Miglioranzi (R groin strain)
REAL SALT LAKE – OUT: MF Javier Morales (L ankle fracture dislocation); FW Paulo Jr. (R hip flexor strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Robbie Russell (L hamstring strain); PROBABLE: MF Collen Warner (L ankle sprain)
PHI: Carlos Ruiz (Guatemala)
RSL: Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica); Arturo Alvarez (El Salvador); Will Johnson (Canada)
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: PHI: Danny Mwanga
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: PHI: Danny Califf, Jordan Harvey, Sheanon Williams
ALL-TIME (2 meetings): Union 0 wins, 1 goal … Real 1 win, 4 goals … Ties 1
AT PPL PARK (1 meeting): Union 0 wins, 1 goal … Real 0 wins, 1 goal … Ties 1
RETURN MATCH: 9/3: Real Salt Lake vs. Philadelphia Union, 9 p.m.
LAST YEAR (MLS):
5/8: RSL 3, PHI 0 (Beckerman 27; Olave 51; Saborio 70)
8/11: PHI 1, RSL 1 (Mwanga 8 – Espindola 17)
- In Union’s inaugural season a year ago, Real claimed a 3-0 win at Rio Tinto Stadium in May, and the teams played to a 1-1 draw at PPL Park in August.
- The teams were originally scheduled to play April 23 at Rio Tinto Stadium, but the game was moved to September in consideration of Real Salt Lake’s participation in the CONCACAF Champions League final.
- Coaches record: Peter Nowak vs. RSL: P6 W2 L2 D2 … Jason Kreis v PHI: P2 W1 L0 D1
Philadelphia Union stretched their unbeaten streak to three games, playing to a 1-1 draw Saturday with the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Union have 21 points from 12 matches on the year, leading the Eastern Conference.
- Both goals came in a four-minute span midway through the second half. After Colorado's Pablo Mastroeni was taken down by Union defender Danny Califf in the box, Conor Casey converted from the spot, wrong-footing goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón with a deft lob.
- But in the 66th minute, Danny Mwanga pulled the visitors level, taking a shot from just outside the edge of the area that Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens couldn't keep out of the goal despite getting his hands to the ball.
- Union manager Peter Nowak made one change to the team that defeated Toronto FC 6-2 at BMO Field. Jack McInerney came into the side for Danny Mwanga.
PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-4-2): Faryd Mondragon - Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Jordan Harvey - Justin Mapp (Keon Daniel 25 / Stefani Miglioranzi 79), Kyle Nakazawa, Brian Carroll, Gabriel Farfan - Sebastien Le Toux, Jack McInerney (Danny Mwanga 59).
- After losing three consecutive games on the road, Union have now taken points from back-to-back away matches. They are also one of three teams still unbeaten at home (along with LA Galaxy and the Columbus Crew), among teams that had played at home to start the week.
- “We created chances to win the game, so it’s good to get the point. I’m a little disappointed not to get three, but I think for us coming here, knowing how difficult it’s going to be, I think it’s a good motivation for next week,” Nowak said. “We’re playing another MLS Cup champion, Salt Lake, and it’s going to be a really tough game."
- Danny Mwanga has scored the last three goals for Union, over a span of 84 minutes. Mwanga scored the final two goals in the 6-2 win at Toronto, then the equalizing goal for the 1-1 draw in Colorado. He has scored in back-to-back games for the first time as a professional.
- “When you get drafted No. 1, people expect you to come in and help right away,” said Mwanga. “Being able to do it late last season, and this year, I started kind of slow but things are coming together. It’s a great feeling, but at the same times works as motivation and pushes me to work even harder.”
- With Carlos Ruiz away on national team duty with Guatemala for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Jack McInerney was given his first start of the year, partnering Mwanga in attack. He had made five substitute appearances.
- “I thought Jack had a productive, efficient start,” Union assistant coach John Hackworth said. “Although he didn’t score – and everyone looks at that as a measuring stick as to strikers having a good game – he actually played pretty well. He did the things we were asking him about.”
- Ruiz has missed the last two games – the first two games of the season where he has not played for Philadelphia – and in those contests, Mwanga has three goals and Sébastien Le Toux three assists.
- “It was a great combination between me and Sébastien,” Mwanga said. “He played me the ball and then made a really nice run behind the defense, so I think they were caught in a position where they should stay with me or follow Sébastien. But they kind of chose to go with Sébastien and that gave me time to take a shot on goal.”
- For a third consecutive game – from which they gotten a result from each – Union responded to a goal allowed with one of their own within a 10-minute span.
- “That’s our team in a nutshell,” said defender Jordan Harvey. “We were playing well, I thought we were getting some chances in the start of the second half, and I knew it was going to come eventually.
REAL SALT LAKE
Real Salt Lake started a two-game Eastern trip with a second loss in three games, falling 2-1 to the Columbus Crew on Wednesday night at Crew Stadium. RSL sits in fourth place in the Western Conference, with 20 points from 11 matches.
- Real took the lead in the seventh minute. Nelson González flighted in a corner kick from the right and Jámison Olave shook off his marker to bounce the ball off the turf and high into the goal.
- The Crew began their fightback in the 76th minute when Andrés Mendoza converted a penalty kick after Justin Meram was tripped by Olave in the box.
- Then in the 82nd minute, Josh Gardner score the eventual game-winner when his shot from 22 yards out hit the left thigh of RSL defender Chris Schuler then ricocheted past goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
- RSL coach Jason Kreis made one change to the side that defeated Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2-0 at at Rio Tinto Stadium. Jamison Olave returned from suspension in place of Nat Borchers in central defense.
REAL SALT LAKE (4-3-1-2): Nick Rimando - Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, Jamison Olave, Chris Wingert - Ned Grabavoy, Kyle Beckerman, Nelson Gonzalez (Luis Gil 59) - Collen Warner (Andy Williams 66) - Jean Alexandre (Robbie Russell 80), Fabian Espindola.
- After allowing just two goals in the first eight league games on the season, Real have now allowed two goals in two of their last three games.
- “Apart from the first 15 minutes, we didn’t manage the game very well,” RSL coach Jason Kreis said. “Tactically, we didn’t stay compact enough. We lost the ball in really, really bad positions. When you do that, it causes you to defend for long stretches. I thought Columbus was really unfortunate not to score in the first half, and because of that, it really affected the energy we were able to play the game with in the second half.”
- The defeat in Columbus marked the first time they had allowed two goals after the 75-minute mark since the LA Galaxy came back for a 2-2 draw, May 6, 2009 – a span of 63 league games.
- "When our guys are really, really committed — not just saying it but doing everything they can for each other — they don't allow chances and we certainly don't allow two goals," Kreis said.
- Kreis maintained the same group in his front two lines against Columbus that played in the win against Vancouver, giving Collen Warner a third start in the attacking midfield role that would usually have been manned by Javier Morales.
- "Collen Warner, in particular, we get at a lot to try and make defensive plays. We know how gifted he can be with the ball, and we need him to make defensive plays as well, and he got on the end of quite a few tackles," said Kreis.
- Jamison Olave scored his ninth goal in MLS – but it was his first away from home. Nelson Gonzalez, making his second consecutive start, contributed his second career assist.
- “Typically over the past couple of years the team has been very good on attacking set pieces. We have guys who are a little dangerous. It was a great service in and a great finish by Olave,” Kreis said.
- Temperature at game time in Columbus was 87 degrees, and with a heat wave gripping the Eastern half of the USA and an afternoon start following a quick turnaround, Real will face a test on Saturday.
- “We’re going to need to regroup pretty quickly," Kreis said. "We’ve got to regenerate. We’ve got guys in the ice bath right now, and we’ll take care of them over the next couple of days, because that 4 o’clock kickoff on Saturday is going to be a huge challenge."