PHILADELPHIA UNION vs COLUMBUS CREW
PPL PARK - Chester, Pa.
Oct. 11, 2014 (WEEK 31, MLS Game #300)
7 p.m. ET (TCN-Phi; TWCS-OH; MLS LIVE)
A vitally important match in the Eastern Conference playoff chase is ahead on Saturday evening as Philadelphia Union meet the Columbus Crew at PPL Park. Union come into the contest sitting four points out of fifth place and the final playoff position in the division, returning to action following a late 1-1 home draw with the Chicago Fire on Oct. 2. The Crew are grimly hanging on to fifth place and the final postseason berth, following their 2-1 defeat at the New England Revolution last weekend.
REFEREE: Mark Geiger. AR1 (bench): C.J. Morgante; AR2 (opposite): Greg Barkey; 4th: Jorge Gonzalez
Geiger's MLS Career: 126 games; FC/gm: 26.7; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 31; pens: 42
SUSPENDED: CLB -- Waylon Francis (caution accumulation; through Oct. 12); Federico Higuain (caution accumulation; through Oct. 12)
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: PHI -- Maurice Edu ... CLB -- Bernardo Anor
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: PHI -- Fabinho, Raymon Gaddis ... CLB -- Eric Gehrig, Tyson Wahl, Tony Tchani
DISABLED LIST: CLB -- Kingsley Baiden (season-ending injury)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: CLB -- Kevan George (Trinidad & Tobago; vs. Dominican Republic, Oct, 8; vs. Saint Lucia, Oct. 10; vs. Antigua and Barbuda, Oct. 12) ... PHI: Michael Lahoud (Sierra Leone, vs. Cameroon, Oct. 10, vs. Cameroon, Oct. 15), Rais MíBolhi (Algeria, vs. Malawi, Oct. 11)
ALL-TIME (10 meetings): Union 3 wins, 13 goals ... Crew 6 wins, 15 goals ... Ties 1
AT PPL PARK (5 meetings): Union 3 wins, 7 goals ... Crew 2 wins, 4 goals ... Ties 0
FUTURE MATCH: 10/26: Columbus Crew vs. Philadelphia Union, 5 p.m. ET
3/22: CLB 2, PHI 1 (Anor 24, 47+ -- Fernandes 62)
- The teams are meeting for the second time this season, the first of two meetings over the final three weeks of the campaign. Bernardo Anor scored a pair of first-half goals to lead the Crew to a 2-1 victory March 22 at Crew Stadium.
- Philadelphia won 3-0 at PPL Park a year ago, after losing at home the season before. The Crew have won twice on their five trips to Chester.
- The Crew have never lost at home to Union, with four victories and a draw in five meetings all-time in Columbus.
- Coaches record: Jim Curtin vs. CLB: first game ... Gregg Berhalter vs. PHI: P1 W1 L0 T0
LAST MEETING (MLS)
- The Crew took the lead in the 24th minute. Federico Higuain provided a looping ball from a corner, and Bernardo Anor streaked untouched through the Union defense to powerfully head past Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath.
- The lead was doubled in first-half stoppage time. From a turnover near midfield, Crew midfielder Wil Trapp found Anor in the center of the pitch. He turned upfield and fired a left-footed blast from more than 30 yards out that bent to the left and flew past the 'keeper.
- Union did pull a goal back in the 62nd minute. Sebastien Le Toux found space behind the Crew defense and played a low cross to Leo Fernandes, who tucked a shot past Crew 'keeper Steve Clark from the top of the goal area.
- COLUMBUS CREW (4-4-1-1): Steve Clark - Josh Williams, Michael Parkhurst, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Waylon Francis - Hector Jimenez, Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, Bernardo Anor (Justin Meram 80) - Federico Higuain (Chad Barson 92+) - Jairo Arrieta (Dominic Oduro 66).
- PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Zac MacMath - Raymon Gaddis, Amobi Okugo, Aaron Wheeler, Fabinho - Brian Carroll, Maurice Edu - Sebastien Le Toux (Danny Cruz 80), Vincent Nogueira, Cristian Maidana (Leo Fernandes 55) - Jack McInerney (Antoine Hoppenot 72).
Philadelphia Union had their winless run extended to four matches, the Chicago Fire hitting back with a late goal for a 1-1 draw on Oct. 2 at PPL Park. Union are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 39 points from 31 games.
- The opening goal came after 88 minutes. Danny Cruz drove a cross into the box from the right that second-half substitute Brian Brown couldnít control, but Amobi Okugo raced onto it and drilled the loose ball into the back of the net from about the penalty spot.
- But the Fire hit for the equalizer two minutes into stoppage time. From a free kick in the Fire end, Union played it all the way back to goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi -- who then shanked a clearance directly to Fire substitute Robert Earnshaw. He dribbled in alone on net and sent a sublime chip over Mbolhi into the right side of the goal.
- Union interim manager Jim Curtin made three changes to the team that fell 1-0 to D.C. United RFK Stadium. Fabinho came into the back four for Sheanon Williams, Fred started in midfield in place of Sebastien Le Toux, and Pedro Ribeiro came in up top for Conor Casey.
- PHILADELPHIA UNION (4-2-3-1): Rais Mbolhi - Raymon Gaddis, Maurice Edu, Carlos Valdes, Fabinho - Amobi Okugo, Vincent Nogueira - Andrew Wenger, Fred (Danny Cruz 61), Cristian Maidana (Antoine Hoppenot 77) - Pedro Ribeiro (Brian Brown 61).
- Union had their late-season winless run extended to four matches, with their third draw in that time. Union have taken points from six of their last seven matches.
- "It's not in our hands anymore, thatís for sure. We're going to need a miracle, more or less. You need to win your last three and youíre also going to need a lot of help," Union interim manager Jim Curtin said. "After Amobi gets the goal -- you feel high, you have a chance even though that wasn't our best now. Then to have that happened, itís tough. Sickening is the word that kind of everyone feels right now -- it's tough."
- The Union goal was their first since the stoppage-time equalizer in the 2-2 draw with New York on Sept. 13, ending their goalless stretch at 267 minutes.
- "There was finally a breakthrough toward the end of the game and we aren't able to hold on. Before we get to their goal, there were five or six plays where guys could've made different decisions -- guys shouldn't be playing backwards in that point in the game," said Curtin. "Again, a lot of mistakes on that one. We should be able to close out a game when you're up 1-0. Unacceptable."
- Amobi Okugo scored his second goal of the season, his first since July 4. Okugo has scored all five of his career goals in MLS over the last two seasons, after going the first three seasons without a goal.
- Rais Mbolhi made his third consecutive start, with two draws and a defeat in that time. He has backstopped one victory in his four MLS starts, the 4-2 win vs. San Jose on Aug. 24.
- "What can I say?" Mbohli said. "It was a difficult match for me tonight. But mistakes happen. It was not the first one. It's not the last one obviously. I know how to handle this kind of situation. It's hard for me tonight but I'll be fine."
- "We've put ourselves in a big hole and now we have to find a way to dig out of it. I haven't felt like this for a long time after a game and to be honest, it's hard to put into words, you go from such a high [following Okugo's goal] to really the lowest of lows. We knew what was at stake for us and our fans and a series of errors cost us the game. Now unfortunately, we are on the outside looking in," Danny Cruz said.
- Pedro Ribeiro, Fred and Fabinho all made their first starts in four matches, since Sept. 13, when the trio came into the team in advance of the U.S. Open Cup Final. Conor Casey missed the match through a quadriceps injury, while Sheanon Williams is suffering from tendonitis.
The Columbus Crew saw their two-game winning streak come to an end, falling 2-1 to the New England Revolution on Saturday evening at Gillette Stadium. The Crew are in fifth place in the Eastern Conference, with 43 points from 31 matches.
- The opening goal came in the 20th minute. Teal Bunbury sent in a cross from the left side which was redirected by a Charlie Davies header and Lee Nguyen slotted from the right side of the box to give the Revolution the lead.
- It took the Crew just five minutes to equalize. Midfielder Tony Tchani beautifully threading a lead pass to Ethan Finlay, who split two Revolution defenders in the right side of the box before slotting home under goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
- The eventual game-winner came in the 67th minute. Chris Tierney sent a left-footed free kick from the left bouncing through the box before Jermaine Jones ran onto it to head home from the back post.
- The Crew went down to 10 men just three minutes later, when defender Waylon Francis picked up a second yellow card after impeding an attempted throw-in in the 70th minute.
- Crew head coach Gregg Berhalter made one change to the team that defeated the MontrÈal Impact 2-0 at Crew Stadium. Eric Gehrig came in at right back for Hector Jimenez.
- COLUMBUS CREW (4-2-3-1): Steve Clark - Eric Gehrig (Hector Jimenez 46), Michael Parkhurst, Tyson Wahl, Waylon Francis (ejected 70) - Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani - Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain, Justin Meram (Bernardo Anor 68) - Aaron Schoenfeld (Jairo Arrieta 71).
- The Crew saw their winning streak come to an end after two games. They still have not won three consecutive games this season since winning their opening three matches of the season.
- "Down the stretch these are playoff games, it's going to be a battle. The margin of error has to be minimal to none. If you sleep for a second it's going to cost you. These games are playoff games I feel like, most definitely," said midfielder Justin Meram.
- It also extended the Crew's road winless streak to four matches, since their 2-1 win at New England and Gillette Stadium on July 26.
- "It wasn't our best performance," Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter said. "That involved the control of the game and the self-control we demonstrated. Having said that, we went away from home and under these conditions we wanted to win a game. We certainly created enough chances to do so. So from that perspective I'm pleased, but we know we didn't play our best game tonight."
- Ethan Finlay scored for a second consecutive match, and has three goals over his last four matches. All nine of Finlay's goals have come over the last 20 matches, since May 17.
- "If we're getting chances, Gregg (Berhalter) is going to be happy with those. It's just the parts in between those chances we needed to clean up. I think he was happy with that side of things, but the rest wasn't up to snuff," said midfielder Wil Trapp.
- Said Meram: "We had our chances, for sure. We missed a couple chances and right away, I think they went, within 30 seconds to a minute scored. So that's the way the game goes, you miss by an inch and it comes back to haunt you. It was a fair game. I think both teams had their chances. They just finished theirs off."
- The Crew will be forced into a pair of team changes for the Philadelphia match. Waylon Francis will serve a one-match ban after his sending off; he had played every minute for 12 consecutive league games.
- Federico Higuain will also miss the match through suspension for caution accumulation, after starting 14 consecutive matches.
- "These are things that happen in the game," Berhalter said. "With three games left, it's obviously crucial to have our guys on the field. But it also gives our other guys a chance to step up. We're going to get some guys in there who are ready to play. The next guy has to step up, and weíll be ready."