First Look: Philadelphia Union

Following a trio of impressive wins against top-tier competition, the New England Revolution will face a struggling opponent when they play the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park on Saturday.

Kickoff is set for 7pm, and the match will mark the second time the conference foes will face each other. On Mar. 15, the Union claimed a 1-0 win over the Revolution on the back of a Sebastian LeToux tally in the 31st minute. Of course, the most memorable storyline surrounding that first contest was coach Jay Heaps’ decision to leave a healthy Jose Goncalves off the gameday 18.

In the eight weeks since their first encounter, the Revolution and Union have taken remarkably different paths. After walking off the pitch at PPL Park, New England has gone 5-1-2 over their last eight. Meanwhile Philadelphia will be looking to build upon their 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City which, not unremarkably, put the brakes on a nine-game winless streak.

Here are a few things to know about the Union before they host the surging Revolution at PPL Park:

- Despite their poor form, the Union aren’t actually that bad in the rear. If you can believe it, the defense the Revolution face on Saturday is actually statistically better than the one they lit up for five goals earlier this week. Granted, the difference is marginal – Seattle entered Sunday’s clash with a 1.40 GAA, while Philadelphia has a 1.27 GAA. Amobi Okugo remains a presence at center back, while Austin Berry is returning from injury. Then, of course, is the fact that the Revolution haven’t scored in their last three games at PPL Park dating back to Jul. 2012.

- The Jack McInerney-Andrew Wenger swap hasn’t exactly sharpened the offense. Prior to Wednesday’s contest in K.C., the Union were averaging less than a goal per game (0.91, to be exact), and the former first overall pick was hardly making Philly fans forget about McInerney. To be fair, Wednesday’s win certainly served as notice that the reports of the Union’s passing have been greatly exaggerated. It was encouraging to see offseason addition Cristian Maidana score the game-winner, and Wenger make a couple of bids. But without Maurice Edu (U.S. national team duty) and Fabinho (yellow card accumulation) available, the Union may struggle to put together a similar performance against the Revolution, even at home.

- The Union have been hampered by horrible shooting. Much like the early-season edition of the Revolution attack, the Union’s inability to put shots on frame has proven to be their undoing. Through ten games, the Union are at the bottom of the eastern table with the fewest number of shots on goal per game (3.7).  Another less than stellar stat: the Union have only secured five goals from the run of play this year, a total that puts them at the bottom of the charts in that department. Want to get a sense of how bad it’s been for the Union up front this year? Watch this and wonder no more.

-Last week’s stat of promise: Aside from the offensive awakening of Diego Fagundez (two goals), the Revolution fired a season-high 10 shots on goal vs. Seattle.

-Early forecast: 72 degrees and mostly clear. (weather.com)

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About Brian O'Connell

Brian O'Connell serves as editor and staff writer at New England Soccer Today. He's also the Revolution beat writer for ESPNBoston.com, and is Officer at Large for the North American Soccer Reporters. He regularly contributes to The Associated Press, and has been featured on MLSSoccer.com & RevsNet.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianOConnell21 or contact him via e-mail at BOConnell21@aol.com