The Philadelphia Union take on D.C. United at Talen Energy Stadium on Friday night. The Union sit in third place in the Eastern Conference, a point and two points and a game and two games in hand compared to second place Montreal Impact and first place New York City FC.
No news on the injury front
The Union remain without captain Maurice Edu who continues his rehabilitation from a stress fracture in his left tibia while defender Ken Tribbett and midfielder Ilsinho remain questionable with a right ankle sprain/ left hip sprain and right adductor strain respectively. The status of defender Anderson remains in question; he seems to be unavailable due to a right shoulder dislocation. Finally, left back Fabinho returns from suspension.
So who starts for the Union?
GK: Andre Blake: As if there was any question over this, the Jamaican international has been superb since claiming the starting goalkeeper spot as his own. Blake has the reflexes of a cheetah and will be sorely missed during the Copa America.
RB: Keegan Rosenberry: The rookie continues to surprise and delight Union fans having played possibly the best soccer of his young career in mammoth match-ups against the Los Angeles Galaxy and Montreal Impact, scoring his first professional goal and defending the right side of the pitch with vigor. He continues to keep veteran Ray Gaddis out of the starting line-up.
CB: Joshua Yaro: Yaro, also a rookie, continues to grow into his position having been drafted into the starting line-up to do an injury to starter Ken Tribbett. Having played several USL matches for Union affiliate Bethlehem Steel and given his Union debut versus Western conference powerhouse Seattle Sounders, Yaro looked shaky at first but has benefitted immensely from the baptism by fire.
CB: Richie Marquez: Marquez continues to be a rock at the back and is slowly developing a nice partnership with the youngster Yaro, he could very well anchor this Philadelphia back line for years to come.
LB: Fabinho: The Brazilian returns to the starting line-up replacing Ray Gaddis following his suspension for yellow card accumulation. Questionable defensively, he's excellent going forward and provides Philadelphia with nice overlapping runs and crosses on the left side.
CDM: Brian Carroll: The veteran and stand in captain is likely to retain his place despite an early season challenge by Warren Creavalle for his spot. Tactically astute despite his physical deficiencies, Carroll is aided by having the more athletic Nogueira by his side.
CDM: Vincent Nogueira: Having shaken off an early season injury and scored his first goal of the season last week against Los Angeles, Nogueira starts once again, The Frenchman is very much a two-way player and a pure central midfielder whose best trait is his passing. His lack of physicality and hesitancy to go into a tackle sometimes proves a detriment to the Union however.
LM: Chris Pontius: Labeled as a gamble going into the season due to his injury history, the signing of Chris Pontius looks like a coup currently. The former All-Star Game MVP has been unplayable as of late with four goals and two assists to his name this season. Facing his old team is likely to light a fire under him.
CAM: Tranquillo Barnetta: The Swiss attacking midfielder remains the creative force for the Union, despite missing time through injury as expected. He has one goal and two assists this season.
RM: Sebastian Le Toux: Not expected to be a starter this season, Le Toux has slotted into the starting line up like a seasoned professional this season due to an injury to Ilsinho and a hesitancy by Coach Jim Curtin to play Roland Alberg out wide. He has a solid two goals and two assists so far this season.
ST: C.J. Sapong: The man of the moment, Sapong's form of five goals and one assist in ten games this season has whispers of a United States Men's National Team call-up in his future. While remaining grounded as ever, Sapong continues to impress and is arguably the Union's most important player at the moment.
Philadelphia will be looking to cement their playoff spot and possibly grab first place in the Eastern Conference with a victory against DC on Friday night and with a line up like this and the good form of an increasingly close band of players they may very well do so.