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Sun. Dec 7th at 3:00pm EST · ESPN · UniMas · UDN · TSN1 · RDS2
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Final

Preview: East leaders Crew, Union tangle for top spot

ALERT: KICK OFF DELAYED UNTIL 8 PM ET (READ MORE

A crucial clash for leadership atop the Eastern Conference is ahead on Saturday night with the Columbus Crew play host to Philadelphia Union at Crew Stadium. The Crew lead the division by three points ahead of Union after their third win in four games, a 3-1 home win against New England. Philadelphia is coming off a third draw in a row, last a 2-2 result with FC Dallas at home last weekend.

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REFEREE: Mark Kadlecik. SAR (bench): Chris Strickland; JAR (opposite): Peter Balciunas; 4th: Allen Chapman
MLS Career: 12 games; FC/gm: 22.8; Y/gm: 3.1; R: 3; pens: 3

INJURY REPORT: COLUMBUS CREW – OUT: MF Tony Tchani (R knee inflammation); DF Shaun Francis (L adductor strain); DOUBTFUL: GK Alex Riggs (L oblique strain); MF Eddie Gaven (R lower leg contusion); Jeff Cunningham (R knee inflammation); QUESTIONABLE: MF Dejan Rusmir (L calf tightness); MF Rich Balchan (L adductor strain); PROBABLE: FW Emilio Renteria (L quad strain) …

PHILADELPHIA UNION – DOUBTFUL: MF Brian Carroll (R foot contusion); QUESTIONABLE: FW Levi Houapeu (L ankle strain); PROBABLE: MF Michael Farfan (R quad contusion)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: CLB: Julius James … PHI: Brian Carroll, Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CLB: Kevin Burns, Tommy Heinemann, Sebastian Miranda, Dejan Rusmir, Tony Tchani … PHI: Danny Califf, Danny Mwanga

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (2 meetings): Crew 2 wins, 5 goals … Union 0 wins, 2 goals … Ties 0
AT COLUMBUS (1 meeting): Crew 2 wins, 3 goals … Union 0 wins, 1 goal … Ties 0
RETURN MATCH: 9/17: Philadelphia Union vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

LAST YEAR (MLS)
8/5: PHI 1, CLB 2 (Le Toux 45 – Lenhart 43, 50)
10/24: CLB 3, PHI 1 (Barros Schelotto 15, Renteria 42, Mendoza 79 – Le Toux 87)
•    The Crew won both meetings in Union’s inaugural season last year, a 2-1 win at PPL Park and a 3-1 win at Crew Stadium.
•    Coaches record: Robert Warzycha vs. PHI: P2 W2 L0 D0 … Peter Nowak v CLB: P14 W6 L4 D4

COLUMBUS CREW
The Columbus Crew returned home and returned to their winning ways, coming back for a 3-1 win against the New England Revolution on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium. The Crew have 37 points from 25 games on the season, still leading the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH
•    The Revolution took the lead just before the break. Pat Phelan shook off a challenge in the area and laid the ball square in a return pass for Benny Feilhaber, and he lashed home a low shot past William Hesmer.
•    The equalizer came in the 54th minute when New England defender Kevin Alston stuck out a foot to prevent a chip from Andrés Mendoza reaching fellow forward Tommy Heinemann, but the ball flew over the head of onrushing goalkeeper Matt Reis.
•    On 75 minutes, the Crew took the lead when Julius James powered home a header from close range at the near post after a corner kick from Josh Gardner.
•    Emilio Renteria then finished off the scoring six minutes later when he turned home a shot all alone in front of goal from a rolling cross by Robbie Rogers from the right corner.
•    Crew head coach Robert Warzycha made two changes to the team that went down to a 2-0 defeat to the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. Kevin Burns and Justin Meram came into the midfield for Eddie Gaven and Dejan Rusmir.
•    COLUMBUS CREW  (4-1-3-2): William Hesmer - Sebastian Miranda, Chad Marshall, Julius James, Josh Gardner - Kevin Burns - Justin Meram (Bernardo Anor 72), Emmanuel Ekpo, Robbie Rogers - Tommy Heinemann (Emilio Renteria 58), Andres Mendoza (Dilly Duka 66).

TEAM NEWS
•    For the sixth time in 12 home matches, the Crew conceded the first goal. They have taken 13 points (3 wins, 4 draws) after allowing the first goal – second in MLS behind Seattle Sounders FC, who have taken 15 points after conceding first.
•    “It was a great response from the guys,” Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. “We talked about it at halftime, that this wasn’t the first time we were 1-0 down at home and that we would be able to score some goals in the second half.”
•    The Crew are also the only team in MLS which is undefeated when trailing at halftime (2-0-4); 21 of their 27 goals on the season have been scored after the break.
•    “Everyone knew it was going to come. We came out and really possessed. There wasn’t one point in the game that we were down on ourselves even though they had the goal,” said midfielder Dilly Duka. Said defender Chad Marshall: “It’s not something we want to do, [but] we did that a lot in 2008 and that worked out.”
•    The Crew scored a goal directly from a set piece service for the first time this season when Julius James headed home Josh Gardner’s corner kick. The only other goal the Crew have scored on a deadball situation – Jeff Cunningham’s goal on July 6 vs. Vancouver – came after a corner was cleared but then sent back into the box.
•    “I hit it down because I was so close to the goal,” James said. “I didn’t hit it cleanly enough as a laser. I tried to focus on getting it over. Josh put it in an excellent spot for me. My first goal for the Columbus Crew is a blessing for me.” Said Warzycha: “That goal was perfect timing. The service was good. The run was good. I’m very happy we scored the first one.”
•    Gardner was taken the corner kick with Eddie Gaven out of the lineup with a leg contusion that forced him off early in the Colorado match. It was the first time Gaven was out of the starting lineup in league play this season.
•    “He’s very capable of serving dead balls in,” Marshall said of Gardner. “If we make the right run we’re capable of scoring a lot more. It was good to get that one.”
•    With William Hesmer out of the lineup with a strained quadriceps muscle, Andy Gruenebaum backstopped the Crew to back-to-back shutouts. Hesmer allowed two goals to Colorado on his return, but was back between the posts for the New England match.
•    “It’s still a competition,” Warzycha said. “I’m not saying Will is going to play every game the rest of the season, but if he is going to be solid, he is going to play most of the games.”

PHILADELPHIA UNION
Philadelphia Union shared the points for a third consecutive match, twice coming back before settling for a 2-2 draw with FC Dallas on Saturday evening at PPL Park. Union have 34 points from 23 matches on the year, in second place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH
•    FC Dallas took the lead in the 16th minute through newcomer Maicon Santos. Union center back Carlos Valdés failed to deal with a bouncing ball and Santos nipped in behind him, floating his shot over goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón from outside the area.
•    But the home side pulled even in the 34th minute when Justin Mapp ran onto a ball played over the top by Sebastien Le Toux and was hauled down in the area by FCD defender George John. Le Toux then sent FCD goalkeeper Kevin Hartman the wrong way in converting from the spot.
•    Yet in first half stoppage time, FC Dallas again nosed in front. Sprung by a tremendous through ball from Santos, Marvin Chavez was in alone on Mondragón and put the ball between his legs toward goal. But the ball came off the post -- but Brek Shea was first to it to tap into the empty net.
•    FC Dallas were reduced to 10 men when John was sent off in the 81st minute, and Union again capitalized, this time with four minutes to play, again from the penalty spot. Union left back Gabriel Farfan was taken down in the box by Dallas substitute Jackson, and Le Toux again stepped up to knock home the penalty.
•    Union manager Peter Nowak made one change to the team that reached a 1-1 result with the Houston Dynamo at PPL Park. Freddy Adu made his Union debut, coming in for Roger Torres.
•    PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-3-1-2): Faryd Mondragon - Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Gabriel Farfan - Sebastien Le Toux, Brian Carroll, Justin Mapp (Keon Daniel 79) - Veljko Paunovic - Jack McInerney (Roger Torres 74), Freddy Adu (Danny Mwanga 62).

TEAM NEWS
•    It was an eighth draw in the last 12 league games for Union. “Goals have been hard to come by and we got two tonight because we were staying after it," said defender Sheanon Williams. "We got some calls in our favor and Seba took advantage on the PKs. We’ll take them however they come. Definitely, I think we’re pleased. We’re not leaving saying we’re thrilled with the one point, but we’re happy to get it and take a positive from the match."
•    Signed just the day before to a contract, Freddy Adu made his Philadelphia Union debut, starting and playing 62 minutes.
•    “He was still trying to find his way a bit, it’s obviously not easy to come into a team, practice with them one day and then sort everything out [in a game]," said defender Danny Califf. “He showed some flashes of what he can be and he is going to be a very important piece for us going forward.”
•    Adu was nominally an underneath attacker, pairing with Jack McInerney, but also interchanged with attacking midfielder Veljko Paunovic.
•    “We gave him a start; it was important for us not to push the envelope too much,” said Nowak. “You can see he still needs the game fitness. I think he understood the concept of the 60 minutes he played. He is going to get more dangerous if he is going to more from place to place. We have to figure out the tactical part, we have to see where he fits in our system. For the first time, it was good to have him [on the field].”
•    It was Adu’s first league action since 2007, when he played with Real Salt Lake. In his first four professional seasons, he made 98 appearances, scoring 12 goals with 19 assists.
•    “I was always trying to force things when I got to a new place. But today, I tried to let the game come to me and it did, especially in the second half. I was more active and dangerous [after halftime].”
•    Sebastien Le Toux scored twice from the penalty spot. The leading scorer for Union a year ago with 14 goals, all three of Le Toux’s goals this year have been penalties.
•    “We’ve been talking, we’ve been debating, trying to figure out this and that, goals from the run of play or not — who cares?” Nowak said. “Two goals are two goals. This is good for every player’s mentality.”
•    Le Toux has converted every penalty kick awarded to Union since the club’s inception – 6-for-6. “I like to take them and it’s something I’m pretty confident about,” Le Toux said. “I work on them before practice sometimes. People know on the team I like to take them and they’re confident in me taking them.”