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Eastern Conference Championship

Preview: Union host Columbus in search of first win

PHILADELPHIA UNION vs COLUMBUS CREW
PPL PARK, Chester, Pa.
April 14, 2012 (WEEK 6, MLS Game #45)
3:30 p.m. ET (NBC SN)

Philadelphia Union return to action following a week off looking to gain their first victory of the season when they entertain the Columbus Crew on Saturday afternoon at PPL Park. Union gained their first point of the season last time out, in a scoreless draw at home with Vancouver Whitecaps FC. The Crew saw their modest two-game winning streak put to an end in their last match, a 4-1 home loss to New York last weekend.

REFEREE: Michael Kennedy. SAR (bench): Kermit Quisenberry; JAR (opposite): Bill Dittmar; 4th: Andrew Chapin
MLS Career: 146 games; FC/gm: 28.6; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 28; pens: 49

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INJURY REPORT:

  • PHILADELPHIA UNION – OUT: FW Krystian Witkowski (concussion); MF Roger Torres (L knee MCL sprain); PROBABLE: DF Danny Califf (L hamstring strain)
  • COLUMBUS CREW – OUT: FW Ben Speas (sports hernia rehab); DF Rich Balchan (sports hernia rehab); FW Tommy Heinemann (L knee internal injury); DF Julius James (illness); DOUBTFUL: GK William Hesmer (R ankle sprain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Carlos Mendes (R hamstring strain); MF Danny O'Rourke (L ankle sprain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: none

WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: none
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD

ALL-TIME (4 meetings): Union 1 win, 4 goals ... Crew 3 wins, 7 goals ... Ties 0
AT PHILADELPHIA (2 meetings): Union 1 win, 2 goals ... Crew 1 win, 2 goals ... Ties 0
RETURN MATCHES: 8/29: Philadelphia Union vs. Columbus Crew, 8 p.m. ET; 9/29: Columbus Crew vs. Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m. ET

LAST YEAR (MLS):

8/20: CLB 2, PHI 1 (Renteria 37; Mendoza 51 - Paunovic 42)
9/17: PHI 1, CLB 0 (Le Toux 32)

  • Union won 1-0 last Sept. 17 at PPL Park, putting an end to a Crew three-game winning streak in the series that began with the first-ever meeting between the clubs.
  • Coaches record: Peter Nowak vs. CLB: P16 W7 L5 D4 ... Robert Warzycha vs. PHI: P4 W3 L1 D0

PHILADELPHIA UNION

Philadelphia Union return to action after gaining their first point of the season, playing to a scoreless draw with Vancouver Whitecaps FC on March 31 at PPL Park. Union are in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with 1 point from 4 games.

HIGHLIGHTS: Red Bulls roll in Columbus

LAST MATCH

  • In his first appearance against his former club, Whitecaps FC's Sebastien Le Toux nearly made it a dream return, but he blazed his 83rd-minute chance over the bar when nearly in all alone.
  • The home side nearly took the lead in the 47th minute, but Carlos Valdes put his left-footed volley off a Keon Daniel corner kick off the post.
  • Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Joe Cannon was called upon to make two saves, while Philadelphia 'keeper Zac MacMath was not credited with a single save on the day.
  • Union boss Peter Nowak made four changes to the team that suffered a 1-0 loss to the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park. Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Gabriel Farfan and Chandler Hoffman came into the team, in place of Chris Albright, Roger Torres, Michael Farfan and Danny Mwanga.
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-4-2): Zac MacMath - Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Porfirio Lopez (Michael Farfan 46) - Gabriel Farfan, Gabriel Gomez, Brian Carroll, Keon Daniel (Danny Mwanga 86) - Lionard Pajoy, Chandler Hoffman (Jack McInerney 51).

TEAM NEWS

Key Matchup: Pajoy vs. Columbus backline

  • Union return to action after heading into a bye week following their first point of the season in the scoreless draw with Vancouver. "I think it's a good situation," Union manager Peter Nowak said. "I think it's going to give us time to assess where we are after these four games. We'll correct the things we need to correct."
  • Rookie Chandler Hoffman made his professional debut in the draw, starting up top and playing 51 minutes.
  • "Chandler did a pretty good job coming from the outside to the inside as the second striker," Union manager Peter Nowak said. "The chance he had in the second half, that's what we're looking for more of. We're looking for more of that."
  • After missing two matches, Danny Califf returned to the lineup, playing the full match in central defense.
  • "It was great," Califf said. "It was amazing not only to be back out there but to feel the outpouring of the emotion and support was awesome. I couldn't have asked for anything more." Said Nowak: "I think he played a tremendous game today. I take my hat off to him. You have to be prepared physically and mentally and it was a very good game from Danny."
  • In addition, Sheanon Williams returned to the side after missing the Chicago match while on international duty with the U.S. U-23 national team.
  • The Union back line held Vancouver without a single shot on goal for the match.
  • "The five or six guys in front of Zac did a pretty good job both going forward and recovering. There were a couple of shots, but not many big chances for Vancouver. So, from that perspective we're very happy to stop the series of mistakes," Nowak said.
  • Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath was credited with his first shutout in the game vs. Vancouver. He had three shutouts in seven starts in his rookie season last year.
  • "At least as far as the back line goes, all was right in the world," said Califf. "I think we did a good job of not giving them good looks. I think Zac came out and really took control of his box. He came out well on crosses and so that was big for him. As a group in general it was a big confidence booster."
  • Costa Rican international Porfirio LÛpez had played every minute of every game through halftime of the Vancouver match. But Gabriel Farfan took over the spot in the second half, when brother Michael came on.
  • "Gabe was very good on both sides of the ball," Nowak said. "He likes the position. He likes to move forward. He likes to take a chance and be on the offensive side of the ball. It's a good combination. We can switch at the half or we can look to give him more time over there. We'll see where we are."
  • Keon Daniel made his third consecutive start in the midfield, but shifted to the right side of the park.
  • "He was very good," Nowak said. "I think he's more comfortable with [fullback Sheanon Williams] on the right side, even if he is a natural left-footed guy. It was a great performance."

NBC Sports Network previews PHI - CLB

COLUMBUS CREW

The Columbus Crew saw their two-game winning streak come to a crashing halt, falling to a 4-1 defeat by the New York Red Bulls on Saturday afternoon at Crew Stadium. The Crew sit in a three-way tie for third place in the Eastern Conference with 6 points from 4 games.

HIGHLIGHTS: Union, 'Caps play to stalemate

LAST MATCH

  • The Red Bulls took the lead after just three minutes when Kenny Cooper out-muscled Crew central defender Eric Gehrig for a lofted ball from Thierry Henry and slotted a left-footed shot into the bottom right corner.
  • Ten minutes later, Cooper bagged his second goal of the afternoon when a deflected shot found the Red Bulls striker inside the Crew's six-yard box, and he looped a header out of goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum's reach and over the goal line.
  • Henry extended New York's lead to 3-0 just before halftime, leading a counterattack and slotting home to the far post around Gruenebaum.
  • The Crew scored in the 89th minute when midfielder Kirk Urso drove in a corner kick and center back Chad Marshall headed home from close range.
  • Henry restored New York's three-goal lead with his second goal just moments later, collecting a Joel Lindpere pass and striking an easy shot from 15 yards into the upper right corner.
  • Crew head coach Robert Warzycha made no changes to the team that recorded a 1-0 victory against Toronto FC at BMO Field.
  • COLUMBUS CREW (4-1-3-2): Andy Gruenebaum - Sebastian Miranda (Aaron Schoenfeld 75), Chad Marshall, Eric Gehrig, Shaun Francis - Kirk Urso - Eddie Gaven (Ethan Finlay 55), Milovan Mirosevic, Bernardo Anor (Dilly Duka 57) - Emilio Renteria, Olman Vargas.

TEAM NEWS

Black and Gold Breakdown: Philadelphia

  • After back-to-back shutouts, the Crew allowed a season-high four goals in the loss to New York.
  • "I think those were probably rookie mistakes that we made on the first goal and the second goal," Crew manager Robert Warzycha said. "That put us on our heels in the beginning. We tried to go forward and tried to pressure, but [New York] was always finding a way to get out of the pressure we put on them."
  • Down three goals at the interval, the Crew came out better after the break, getting six of their eight total attempts at goal. Three of the Crew's four goals this season have been scored in the second half.
  • "The second half is a pretty good description of what we wanted to do: put pressure on the ball, pressure on the players, don't give them the time to possess the ball," said Warzycha.
  • Warzycha made changes to both midfield positions before the hour mark. Rookie Ethan Finlay came on for Eddie Gaven, and Dilly Duka entered for Bernardo Anor, making his first appearance since suffering a hamstring injury in the season opener.
  • "[Duka] came on very strong, and Ethan [Finlay] also," Warzycha said. "[Finlay] had one chance to score a goal and he created another one with a slide tackle to get it to Emilio [Renter"a]. I think they did a lot."
  • After seeing his streak of six consecutive seasons with a goal come to an end last year, Crew center back Chad Marshall got his goal for 2012 early, in the 4-1 loss Saturday to New York. Marshall has scored in seven of his nine MLS seasons, missing out also in his rookie year of 2004.
  • "We didn't come out with any energy. We just came out flat," Marshall said. "We didn't match their intensity. We didn't get pressure on them at all. They could do whatever they wanted to and we had nothing going offensively. It was the perfect storm of things against us."
  • It was Marshall's 200th league appearance for the Crew. The club record is 216 appearances, set by defender Mike Clark.
  • "He probably would like the score to be different," Warzycha said to The Columbus Dispatch. "It's nice that he scored a goal in the game, but he would love to remember this game differently."
  • After missing out on training throughout the past weeks, goalkeeper William Hesmer was scheduled undergo another examination on his right ankle this week. Hesmer suffered the injury to ligaments on both sides of the ankle during preseason.