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Matchday 5: Rested Union Seek First Win of Season

Apr 14, 2012, 2:00 PM EDT

Philadelphia Union host Columbus Crew at PPL Park seeking their first win of the 2012 Major League Soccer season. It's a $1 dollar dog day at PPL where the Union will be without Roger Torres who suffered a knee injury (sprained MCL)
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After a week off the Union return to action at home against the Columbus Crew (3:30PM/NBC Sports Network). Winless on the season, the Union picked up its first points of the campaign two weeks ago with a scoreless draw against Vancouver. 

The Union, not the most creative team to begin with, will be without its most creative player for the next 6-8 weeks. Roger Torres, who when given the opportunity to play is the closest thing the Union has to a string puller, sprained the MCL in his left knee during a reserve league match
His absence creates an opportunity for Freddy Adu to assume the primary playmaking duties. Adu, who has not played for the Union since the season opener in Portland, is fit and rested after featuring for the US U-23′s during their failed Olympic qualifying campaign. Anyone who watched Adu play for the U-23′s saw a dangerous, confident, attacking player. You would not use any of those words to describe Adu’s play with the Union. He’ll need to carry that form from his US kit to the blue and gold of the Union.
True, Adu featured at right wing for the U-23′s, providing service into the area and taking players on 1 v. 1. It’s anyone’s guess at to where and how Peter Nowak will deploy him. I don’t know if Freddy is best served playing centrally, but I do know Nowak needs to figure out the center of his formation.
I’ve said it before, but Gabriel Gomez and Brian Carroll are redundant (at least they’ve been deployed in a manner that’s redundant). They both play in front of Danny Califf and Carlos Valdes as holding/defensive midfielders. Fundamentally, I do not have a problem playing a back four along with two holding midfielders. It’s a defensive posture, which makes sense considering Zak MacMath is an inexperienced goalkeeper.
What I do have a problem with is that the Union wants to play a style whereby they maintain possession and knock the ball around the park all day. How they think they can do that when six of their ten field players are defensive-minded is beyond me. Do they want to be a defensive team or a free-flowing offensive team? Their personnel does not lend itself to the latter, so why not recognize your strength and embrace a defensive counter-attacking style?
What, you may be asking, about this Columbus side they’ll face today? The Crew are 2-2 and sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference table. They come to town an injured bunch. Presumed starting center back Julius James has not played a game this year. He underwent surgery last week after suffering a collapsed lung. Presumed starting goalkeeper William Hesmer also has not played in a game this season. Hesmer underwent microfracture surgery on his right hip and will be out approximately six months.
Who will be in uniform for Columbus today? Chad Marshall, who was anchored the Crew back line for what seems like forever, will again be in the middle of the Crew’s back four. Marshall will make his 201st appearance in a Crew uniform, just 15 appearances shy of tying Mike Clark’s all-time club record.
Offensively, the Crew are led by forward Olman Vargas and midfielder Milovan Mirosevic. Former Rutgers player Dilly Duka came on off the bench last week during the Crew’s 4-1 loss to New York and may have earned himself some additional playing time today. Eddie Gaven, who like Marshall has been in MLS forever, also mans the midfield for the Crew. 
What do the Union need to do to pick up its first win of the season? As mentioned, they need to pick a style and stick with it. Holding Vancouver to zero shots last time out was a promising sign that they may have opted to assume a grind it out defensive style. If they persist on trying to dominate possession they’ll likely continue to struggle.
Starting Lineup I’d Like to See: MacMath, Sheanon Williams, Valdes, Califf, Gabriel Farfan, Adu, Garbiel Gomez, Brian Carroll, Keon Daniel, Lionard Pajoy, Danny Mwanga
Final Score Prediction: Not a win, but the Union grind out a 1-1 draw.
Photo Credit: Jason O. Watson, US Presswire