The Union look to extend their undefeated home record against the San Jose Earthquakes.
Philadelphia Union: It's been somewhat of a slow start to the season for the Union from an attacking standpoint so you can't really say that anyone up front is on form. The defense has been the area of strength this year, somewhat surprisingly, and they owe a great amount of credit to goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon who has settled things down at the back and already chalked up three clean sheets. Being off last week, there isn't much to note about specific performances.
San Jose Earthquakes: In the offseason, the Quakes acquired Steven Lenhart from the Columbus Crew. In the loss to Chivas on Saturday, Lenhart made his Quakes debut, coming in for Simon Dawkins in the 80th minute. With Lenhart coming into the fray, the Quakes will have a deeper team -- one they expected to begin the season -- and will pose a threat in the midfield that wasn’t developing with the likes of Joey Gjertsen, Sam Cronin and Khari Stephenson.
Philadelphia: It's getting a bit old at this point, but the main man who is off target for the Union is Sebastien Le Toux. The prolific French forward lit up the league last season but has had trouble finding the mark this year. Same goes for Danny Mwanga who has seen limited time with Carlos Ruiz in the picture and appears to be suffering from something of a sophomore slump.
San Jose: The Earthquakes were able to break a scoring drought when Chris Wondolowski netted a 16th-minute goal, ending a 158-minute goalless streak. Unfortunately for the Quakes, they blew their 1-0 lead to a weak Chivas USA club on their home field. San Jose eventually lost 2-1 after allowing the go-ahead goal in the 85th minute. So far in 2011, the Quakes have struggled offensively. Early on, the defense was keeping them in games, but of late, the defense has been allowing too many shots on goal like the 17 against Chivas. It has been a recipe for disaster, which has the Quakes sitting at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
Philadelphia: Knowing Peter Nowak, he'll go with the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' thing and stay with a similar lineup to the one we saw draw with Seattle a few weeks ago. Rested and ready to run, he'll keep Ruiz in the lineup and Mwanga on the bench...much to the chagrin of the Union faithful. Ruiz however is the team's leading scorer and put in a wonderful curling free kick effort against the Sounders. He deserves his place in the lineup right now. We could also see Justin Mapp return to the starting lineup as his service and confidence on the ball are an important part of the mix for Philly.
San Jose: It’s not a matter of tactical deficiencies with San Jose. According to coach Frank Yallop, “We need to come out with more energy. One thing that I always want to see is fight and that wasn’t there.” And the players, like Cronin, feel the same way: ““The way we’ve approached the last two games is unacceptable. We have got to get better. We have to take a long look in the mirror and take responsibility.” Adding some determination and fight to its usual 4-4-2 formation, especially in a tough road environment at PPL Park, should give the Quakes a chance.
Philadelphia: Goals. Simple but effective. The Union haven't been scoring them, though they are getting chances. My guess is in this one, they finally put a few in the back of the net and make things very difficult for San Jose. Even if they score two it'll double their highest single-match output for the whole season. They have the weapons and the offense is coming along so look out for a few onion-bag-bulgers at PPL Park.
San Jose: Knowing is half the battle. The Quakes know something in their play is not right and that’s good. With the recent struggles on both sides of the ball, the players are showing some leadership qualities. Wondolowski, recognizing his role as No. 1 offensive threat, is stepping up in the locker room, taking his play into question: “We aren’t being as dynamic in the final third as we should.” Next step for Wondolowski is taking the role as on-field leader.
Philadelphia: The Union are a much-improved side in 2011 and coming off an extra week of rest they'll come out hard against the struggling Earthquakes and dispose of them with relative ease in a 2-0 match. That's right, another shutout.
San Jose: While the Quakes are saying all the right things, they still have to show they can execute. Outside of the 2-0 win in the second week of the season at FC Dallas, the Quakes haven’t shown they can beat anyone. It won’t happen this weekend either. Philadelphia wins 3-1.
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