Chester,PA- The Philadelphia Union have a short turnaround from Wednesday’s win over the Chicago Fire when the Vancouver Whitecaps come to Talen Energy Stadium Saturday night. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 PM EST (TV: TSN, MLS LIVE and The Comcast Network).
In six all-time matchups between the sides, Philadelphia and Vancouver both have two wins apiece as well as two ties. In three matchups in Chester, the Union has not lost to the Whitecaps with a record of one win and two ties.
Let’s take a look at a couple of questions before the game on Saturday:
Is Roland Alberg the answer to replacing Vincent Nogueira?
In his last three games with the Union (Harrisburg City Islanders, New York City FC & Chicago Fire), Alberg has six goals, including a hat trick in Wednesday’s victory against the Fire. The former ADO Den Haag midfielder has done most of his damage from the number ten role, which has relegated Tranquillo Barnetta to a more modified number eight role.
Alberg’s crazy goal scoring, as well as his overall excellent play in his last three games, has certainly alleviated the loss of Vincent Nogueira, who agreed to mutually terminate his contract two weeks ago.
The Dutch International plays both sides of the ball and is starting to look like the key cog that Nogueira was in the midfield. If Alberg can keep his play up to a similar level as the last three games, Philadelphia will continue to reside at the top of the MLS Eastern Conference Standings.
Can Philadelphia keep Talen Energy Stadium the fortress it currently is?
On the season, Philadelphia has not lost at home in all nine contests across the US Open Cup and MLS Regular Season.
In eight MLS Regular Season games at Talen Energy Stadium, Philadelphia has put in 18 goals and averages six shots on net. On average, Philadelphia has scored 2.2 goals at home and has not failed to score at home all season so far.
On the defensive side, Philadelphia has three shutouts and has only given up three goals once this season in eight games. On average, the Philadelphia backline has only given up 1.1 goals in the eight games in the friendly confines of Chester.
While stats tell some of the picture, the proof is mainly visual. Philadelphia Head Coach Jim Curtin and his squad just look more attack oriented as well as less jumpy on the ball when at home. To add, the midfield looks more cohesive while playing in front of the Sons of Ben at Talen Energy Stadium.
Who are some players to watch?
Two players to watch for Vancouver are Kekuta Manneh and Pedro Morales. Morales leads the team in goals with six on the season, while Manneh is tied for second on the team with four. Both players will lead a dangerous midfield for Vancouver and Philadelphia will need to lock down both players tightly in order to come out of Saturday’s game with the desired result. It would not be surprising to see Curtin opt to start Joshua Yaro, if healthy, in order to try to match Manneh's pace.
Two players for Philadelphia to watch are the aforementioned Barnetta and Alberg. Since both usually play the number ten role as their natural position, keep an eye on how the two interact in the midfield in alternating between the number eight and ten roles.