Philadelphia Union - Columbus Crew Preview

The Philadelphia Union enter Wednesday night's match with revenge on the mind. Having been defeated by DC in controversial fashion on May 30. Combined that with the memory of two heart stopping close defeats to the Crew in October of last season that ended Philadelphia's hopes of making the playoffs and destroyed several months of good work and progress following Jim Curtin's interim appointment and you get a highly motivated Philadelphia Union.

The Union sit just two points off a playoff spot despite having playing three more games than 6th placed Chicago while Columbus sit in 5th place, a comfortable four points above the Union, having played two fewer games.

The Union have a rather abysmal record against Columbus of 3-8-1 all time in MLS, with three of those defeats having come last season. For the most part these seem like close affairs, but if the Union are going to keep their momentum going toward a late summer surge like last season, they'll have to get the proverbial monkey off of their backs and defeat Columbus. 

Philadelphia has a good opportunity despite having played more matches than most of their opponents in that they close out June against fellow Eastern Conference opponents and are seeing injured players return surely but slowly. They must capitalize on these Eastern conference "double headers" if they they're going to make the playoffs.

Maurice Edu and Fernando Aristeguieta returned to the starting lineup for Philadelphia last week following suspension and injury layoffs but the injury list for Philadelphia still remains extensive. Andre Blake and Michael Lahoud remain out, while Steven Vitoria trained this week and strikers Conor Casey and Antoine Hoppenot remain questionable. 

As for Columbus they could be without the services of back up goalkeeper Matt Lampson, defensive midfielder Wil Trapp, and defender Chris Klute who are all questionable. 

The Union take on the Columbus Crew and will be wary of the threat from Kei Kamara, he remains a key player for Columbus having scored a league leading 10 goals so far this season. Teammate Ethan Finlay also poses a threat to the Union having amassed a league leading seven assists from the wing, as well as two goals.

For the Union, midfielder Vincent Nogueira has been a crucial role player following his return from injury, while the statistics are deceiving with Nogueira only racking up two goals and no assists, he's arguably Philadelphia's best passer and his ability to relieve defensive pressure with well-placed clearances, transitioning the Union from defense to attack, and his third man runs have proved invaluable to the Union so far this season.

Along with him, recent acquisition CJ Sapong remains a key player for Philadelphia despite having been relegated to the bench following the return of Fernando Aristeguieta from injury and national team duty. The Virginia native offers pace off the bench that Philadelphia lack any of their other striker options while still possessing the physicality they like in a forward. He's proven to be a game changer off the bench in recent matches.

Overall, if history provides any indication, this match should be exciting, end to end stuff. For Philadelphia a win could help preserve their playoff hopes whereas a Columbus win would solidify their playoff spot. No matter the result, we're in likely in for a very good game.