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Preview: Union look to bounce back vs. Rapids

PHILADELPHIA UNION vs COLORADO RAPIDS
PPL PARK, Chester, Pa.
March 18, 2012 (WEEK 2, MLS Game #16)
4 p.m. ET (NBC SN)

The Philadelphia Union make their 2012 home debut when they play host to the Colorado Rapids on Sunday afternoon at PPL Park on the NBC Sports Network. Philly are coming off a 3-1 defeat to the Portland Timbers in a Monday night special on the road, while the Rapids got the new season started off well in a 2-0 home win against Columbus.

REFEREE: Mark Geiger. SAR (bench): C.J. Morgante; JAR (opposite): Steven Taylor; 4th: Andrew Chapin
MLS Career: 89 games; FC/gm: 26.5; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 16; pens: 30

DOWNLOAD FULL GAME GUIDE (PDF)

INJURY REPORT:

  • PHILADELPHIA UNION -- QUESTIONABLE: DF Chris Albright (L groin strain)
  • COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: FW Conor Casey (L Achilles tear); MF Jamie Smith (R ACL tear); DF Anthony Wallace (L Achilles tear); PROBABLE: DF Hunter Freeman (R ankle arthroscopy); MF Pablo Mastroeni (head contusion)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: PHI: Amobi Okugo, Freddy Adu (USA U-23)

SUSPENDED: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD

ALL-TIME (4 meetings): Rapids 2 wins, 8 goals ... Union 0 wins, 4 goals ... Ties 2

AT PHILADELPHIA (2 meetings): Rapids 1 win, 3 goals ... Union 0 wins, 2 goals ... Ties 1

LAST YEAR (MLS):

6/ 4: COL 1, PHI 1 (Casey 63 - Mwanga 66)
7/29: PHI 1, COL 2 (Torres 90 - Mastroeni 35; Nyassi 45)

  • This is the only league meeting between the teams this season.
  • Colorado has never lost to Philadelphia in Union's two seasons in the league. The Rapids took a 2-1 win on July 29 at PPL Park, their second win in four meetings all-time, after the teams played to a 1-1 draw in June in Commerce City.
  • Coaches record: Peter Nowak vs. COL: P11 W2 L5 D4 ... Oscar Pareja vs. PHI: first game

PHILADELPHIA UNION

Philadelphia Union faced a difficult assignment to open the 2012 season, making a trip to Jeld-Wen Field where the Portland Timbers came away with a 3-1 victory on Monday night.

LAST MATCH

  • Union took the lead five minutes into the second half. Gabriel Gomez's free kick sailed through the Portland back line, ticked off of Andrew Jean-Baptiste and flew past Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
  • It didn't take long for Portland to level terms. In the 54th minute, rookie Jean-Baptiste outjumped the Philly defense on a free kick from Jack Jewsbury, and redirected his header on goal, the ball squirting underneath goalkeeper Zac MacMath and into the back of the net.
  • Kris Boyd gave the Timbers the lead in the 66th minute when Kalif Alhassan flighted a cross into the center and Boyd flicked inside the far side netting.
  • The home side put the game away in the 76th minute. Alhassan received a quick freekick on the right flank, rounded a defender and sent in what appeared to be a cross. Instead, the ball looped over MacMath and settled in the far netting.
  • Union boss Peter Nowak had four key newcomers in his first lineup of the season, with Porfirio Lopez at left back, Gabriel Gomez and Josue Martinez in midfield and Lionard Pajoy up top.
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-5-1): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Porfirio Lopez - Freddy Adu (Jack McInerney 74), Gabriel Gomez, Michael Farfan (Keon Daniel 79), Brian Carroll, Josue Martinez (Danny Mwanga 60) - Lionard Pajoy.

TEAM NEWS

  • With 2011 regular goalkeeper Far˝d Mondragon having returned to Colombia, 20-year-old Zac MacMath was given the starting job. In seven games last season as a replacement for Mondragon, MacMath was not credited with a loss.
  • "There are certainly a couple of goals where it is unfortunate situations," Union defender Danny Califf said. "Overall if you look at the game, it wasn't so poor. There were some positives both offensively and defensively. It's their home opener and they brought it."
  • Keon Daniel, who last played for Union last August before being forced to remain in his native Trinidad & Tobago with a visa issue (after a national team call-up in September), came off the bench in Portland for the final 11 minutes.
  • "I'm getting more comfortable," Daniel said. "Last year was a learning experience in the league. This year I'm hoping for big things and I'm hoping to carry this team as far as possible."
  • Freddy Adu was given the start in the Union midfield and played 74 minutes. But he and Amobi Okugo have made their final appearance for a few weeks after the duo was called into the U.S. U-23 national team for the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
  • "I've been very impressed with everything he did over the last three months," head coach Peter Nowak said of Adu. "What he did, how he approached training, how he approached fitness - I can't say one bad word about Freddy's contribution to this team. It's a big year for him. I think he knows that, and I think he's mentally and physically prepared for the season."
  • Union's lone goal came on a direct free kick by new signing Gabriel Gomez. It was the fourth goal directly from a free kick in Union club history.
  • "They brought it in the second half," said MacMath. "We might have been a little tired, but overall once we let in the first goal we lost our confidence a little."

COLORADO RAPIDS

The Colorado Rapids got the Oscar Pareja era started on the right path, getting goals in each half for a 2-0 victory against the Columbus Crew at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.

LAST MATCH

  • The Rapids took the lead in the 44th minute. A corner was initially cleared by the Crew defense, but Rapids right back Kosuke Kimura gathered the ball and whipped in a spot-on cross, which was met by a charging Drew Moor, who delivered the opening goal via an unstoppable close-range header.
  • The home side finished off the victory in the 89th minute through a highlight-reel strike from Quincy Amarikwa, whose shot into the top left corner from just outside the 18-yard box left Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum helpless.
  • Jaime Castillon was called upon by Pareja to pull the strings in midfield where he was joined by rookie Tony Cascio. Newcomer Luis Zapata made his MLS debut at left back.
  • COLORADO RAPIDS (4-2-3-1): Matt Pickens - Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Drew Moor, Luis Zapata - Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni (Wells Thompson 74) - Brian Mullan, Jaime Castrillon, Tony Cascio (Quincy Amarikwa 69) - Omar Cummings (Andre Akpan 86)

TEAM NEWS

  • Pareja was one of two first-year head coaches to win on his debut over First Kick weekend (along with Vancouver's Martin Rennie). After scoring in the first half, Drew Moor raced over to the bench and embraced the Rapids boss.
  • "Oscar let us know before the game that he was a little bit nervous today, which is understandable ó it's his first head coaching job as a professional," Moor said to The Denver Post. "We all wanted to score an early goal to calm the nerves. He means so much to us. He's come in and made some great changes, and everybody just loves that he's here. To be able to celebrate that first goal with him was pretty special. ... We just wanted to let him know, 'Hey, we're here with you, all the way.' "
  • A key to the Rapids success was the play of midfielder Jaime Castrillon in the center of the park. "It's good because these guys are unafraid to be on the ball," midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said. "Now, we can keep the ball on the ground and use the talent that these guys have."
  • Castrillon and left back Luis Zapata were the first South American-born players to come into the Rapids lineup since 2008.
  • "Jamie and Luis will be growing with the games," said Oscar Pareja. "Obviously, after a result like this, we are happy ... and you want to highlight all the good things. [But] they know that I will demand more on the field because I know they can do more."
  • Getting the fullbacks involved offensively is another tactical shift Pareja has brought into the team. "As long as we have the ball, I want them to have the freedom to go," Pareja said to the Post. "When we don't have it, we will find a way to defend." Added Moor: "We want our outside backs to be able to attack. It's a dangerous weapon, and we need to use it."
  • Kimura was involved in both Colorado goals, the first multiple-assist game in his MLS career.
  • "No one likes to chase me, especially a left wing," Kimura said. "He can't even attack, because he has to defend all the time. My first job is defending. If I defend first, I can go up. I can defend at the same time by attacking." Added Quincy Amarikwa: "Kosuke will always tell you he could be a winger if he wants to be. And he's got an engine; he runs for days."