The Philadelphia Union return home after an impressive two game road trip to face the Columbus Crew at Talen Energy Stadium on Wednesday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 PM EST (TV: The Comcast Network, MLS LIVE). This will be the second of three total matchups between the two sides this season.
In the first match between the sides in March, Philadelphia picked up their first win at MAPFRE Stadium in their history by a 2-1 margin despite Columbus dominating most of the possession and shot stats. Chris Pontius notched both goals for the Union, while former Columbus forward Kei Kamara scored a late goal to make things tighter in the closing minutes.
Here are a couple of questions before Wednesday:
How will both teams deal with major absences?
With the Copa America Centenario and Euro 2016 on the horizon, both teams will be without key pieces in their starting eleven.
For Philadelphia, goalkeeper Andre Blake has joined the Jamaican National Team camp ahead of their first Copa America game, on Sunday, June 5th, against Venezuela. The 25-year-old goalkeeper is currently in the top five in Major League Soccer in Goals Against Average with only 1.08 goals allowed on average as well as in the top five in Save Percentage with 73.6%.
The Former University of Connecticut Goalkeeper will certainly be missed by the Union for this game, but the question remains as to who Philadelphia Head Coach Jim Curtin will select to be the man between the pipes. The two options are John McCarthy or Matt Jones. On Wednesday, Curtin announced that Jones will be the starter Wednesday night against Columbus.
The CF Belenenses loanee has not played this season for Philadelphia and has only played once for their USL affiliate, Bethlehem Steel FC. Keep an eye on how Jones deals with organizing this stout defense for the first time in a game setting.
On the other side of the pitch, Columbus will be missing right back Harrison Afful as he is on International duty with Ghana. In their last game, a 4-3 win against Real Salt Lake, Hector Jimenez got the start in place of Afful. Jimenez made 17 starts at right back last season for Columbus, but will be making only his third start at right back on the season Wednesday.
Keep an eye on the matchup of Pontius and Jimenez. In March, Pontius made Afful pay twice when he notched a brace in the Union’s 2-1 win. Columbus Head Coach Gregg Berhalter will certainly not want to give Pontius the same amount of space he received in March, so Jimenez could possibly expect help from midfielder Wil Trapp in dealing with the Union’s potent offense.
Vincent Nogueira finally 100%
According to a few different tweets, Curtin told the press that Nogueira is feeling 100% and is available for Wednesday. Warren Creavalle played solidly in Nogueira’s absence, but he was unable to replicate the French midfielder’s ability to start the attack and contribute as much to the offense in general.
If Nogueira is in fact 100%, then it is likely he will start on Wednesday in the number eight role barring any complications. Without the 28-year-old midfielder in the starting eleven, the Philadelphia offense looked weaker going forward as the team was unable to connect the backline to the wingers and central midfielders as well as the Union do with him in the line. Keep an eye on how Nogueira deals with being back in the lineup after an extended absence.