Photo: Earl Gardner
The offseason is a brutal mix of rumor, speculation, and roster rebuilding. If you checked out after November, we understand. But here is some PSP original content you might have missed: Eli examined possible Union formations, focusing on the 4-4-2, the 4-3-3, and the 4-2-3-1. We also looked at Union players with the most to prove and came together for a two-part (part 1; part 2) roundtable to talk about the upcoming season. Dan checked in with an Eastern Conference preview, and I wrote that the new unbalanced schedule should benefit the local lads. We also have a look at preseason predictions of how the Union will finish in the Eastern Conference. For tonight’s game we have a quick reference of stats, highlights and excerpts from previous matches against Portland, our match preview, and the winner of our “Put a snake on it!” contest.
Portland v Union Watch
Is it 9:30pm yet?
For the third year in a row, the Union open the season on the road against a tough opponent. “You’d like to believe we’d have a home game, but once again this is the situation we have.” says Nowak. “But for most of our group, we have already played over [at Portland's Jeld-Wen Stadium]. That game was a big night, too. It doesn’t matter where we play, we are looking to have a good start, because it really does set the tone for the rest of the season.”
Jonathan Tannenwald reports via Twitter from Portland that, due to an ankle injury picked up in Costa Rica, Roger Torres did not travel with the team to Portland. Torres is not listed on the league’s injury report published on Friday.
Kevin Kinkead has his first scouting report of the year for the Union’s website. “Expect a physical, scrappy contest from two sides looking to start 2012 on a positive note,” he says. Defending set pieces and establishing a ground game while using their speed to attack the Timbers defense will be key to the Union coming out with a win.
JP Dellacamera previews tonight’s game.
Already without Futty Danso (DF – L foot fracture), David Horst (DF – R hip surgery), Eddie Johnson (FW – concussion), Steve Purdy (DF – L hamstring strain), and Sal Zizzo (MF – L ACL surgery), Portland coach John Spencer said on Sunday that Colombian defender Hanyer Mosquera may not be available for tonight’s game because his International Transfer Certificate still has not been received. That means that rookie Andrew Jean-Baptiste may be debuting in the center of the Timbers defense.
Timberlandia looks at the offseason moves of the Timbers and the Union in their preview of tonight’s game and concludes, “A feisty affair is on the cards.”
In their second year in the league, the Timbers are focused on consistency.
MLSsoccer.com previews tonight’s game.
Does Peter Nowak think the Union can be a championship contender this year? “Absolutely, I feel that this is a group that can win a championship,” Nowak tells Kerith Gabriel. “This is a group that can get not only to the playoffs, but that can contend for an MLS Cup. Many of the new guys we brought in have experience in winning championships, so that isn’t a problem I have with this group.”
Nowak adds, “We believe the players are going to get hungry. From week to week the lineups will change, we need to find the right formula [based on the opponent.] It’s about being prepared. And I truly believe we are.”
Gabriel notes that the average age of the DC United team Nowak coached to the 2004 MLS Cup championship was 22.8. The average age of the 2012 Union is 23.1.
Nowak likes what he sees in Lionard Pajoy. “Lio has different qualities. He’s not only a box player or poacher, he’s a guy who creates a lot for the other guys. He’s smart with his runs, he drifts left and right, he’s mobile coming back getting the ball. And his speed is encouraging.”
Freddy Adu tells Chris Vito that he’s been “converted to kind of an inverted winger.” He also says he’s ready to be a leader. ““Peter wants me to be more involved and be more active and take a much bigger role. We don’t have Sebastien (Le Toux, the franchise’s leading goalscorer) anymore, and the burden falls to us younger guys. Those newer guys don’t know the league. The guys like me who know the league, we have to help them settle in and lead the way.”
Michael Farfan says, “We have some great additions here, guys who have a lot of international experience as well. I’m very excited for the season. Guys are training hard and coming together. I like the mix of players we have here…Guys are anxious and ready to get going. I know I’m ready to play.”
Jonathan Tannenwald talks to Zac MacMath. When MacMath was asked if if the question of who the No. 2 keeper is has been unsettling, MacMath says, “I think it’s more settled than people have seen.”
Brian Carroll says of Gabriel Gomez, “He’s a fiery competitor, comfortable on the ball, willing to do anything that it takes to win.” Carrol essentially confirms what everyone expects, that he and Gomez will be starting together: “Hopefully, as a pairing and as an entire group going forward, we’ll be able to do good things together and gel with each and every passing week.”
Tannenwald also talks to former Union color guy Taylor Twellman, now with ESPN, about the team. He thinks Freddy Adu has to step it up this year and that Brian Carrol doesn’t get the credit he deserves for the club’s defensive turnaround in 2011.
The Sporting News says Freddy Adu “will have to deliver if the Union hope to return to the playoffs.”
Union Dues looks at Adu, “The polarizing express.”
Four former Union players—Justin Mapp for Montreal and Sebastien Le Toux, Jordan Harvey and Brad Knighton (who didn’t play) for Vancouver—were on hand when Vancouver defeated Montreal on Saturday thanks to a goal and an assist from Le Toux. All of the players tell Jonathan Tannenwald about missing Philadelphia, particularly the Union fans.
Le Toux says he hopes to score when Vancouver come to PPL Park on March 29, but he will not be motivated by revenge. “Not revenge, no,” he tells Tannenwald. “That’s not a good word. I’m just motivated to show that maybe if Philadelphia believed that I was done, and didn’t want me to re-sign a [new] contract, that maybe they were wrong and I can play very well.”
More predictions for how the Union will finish in the Eastern Conference standings. The Sports Network and the Kansas City Star have them finishing in eighth. At MLS Talk, each writer makes a prediction with Daniel Feuerstein having the Union finishing in tenth place, Robert Hay in eighth place, and Earl Reed in third place. At Chicago Fire Confidential, another panel of writers make their predictions with Guillermo Rivera predicting the Union will finish in sixth, Hottimeinoldtown.com’s Tweed Thornton predicting an eighth place finish, and Total-mls.com and Fire Confidential’s Jeff Krause also predicting a sixth place finish. Waking the Red has the Union finishing seventh.
Is it power rankings time already? Sounders at Heart has the Union at 15th.
Union Dues previews the state of the Union and expects to see a 4–2–3–1 most of the time.
The Phanatic Magazine expects 4–4–2.
Phillyphanatics.com previews the Union.
Juan Agudelo thinks he needs a true forward as a strike partner rather than Therry Henry, who likes to check back into the midfield.
Here’s a look at some of the innovations ESPN will be bringing to their MLS broadcasts.
The contributors to SBI have a whole slew of predictions. Bucking the otherwise universal opinion of his colleagues, Joey Samuel predicts Carlos Valdes will be Defender of the Year.
Rumors of interests from MLS in Stephen Ireland and Ivica Olic
Women’s Pro Soccer
England internationals Kelly Smith and Alex Scott, both of whom played for the WPS version of the Boston Breakers, have rejoined Arsenal Ladies. I suppose if you are not going to be making the money you deserve in an Olympics year, you may as well be ay home.
Adam linked to this over the weekend but I’m linking to it again in case you missed it. Fake Sigi has a very thought provoking piece on the real meaning of the recent uptick of MLS clubs associating themselves with W-League teams. FS emphasizes this is nothing more than an inexpensive form of branding and says not to expect MLS to any real interest in sponsoring the women’s game.
The season in Egypt, already suspended after last month’s violence at a match left 74 dead, has been canceled by the Egyptian Football Association.
Goal.com looks back at how the soccer world reacted to the tsunami that struck Japan a year ago on March 11.
A report out of Brazil says the mascot of the 2014 World Cup will be an armadillo.
Does Luis Suarez want out of Liverpool so he can play for Paris Saint-Germain?