The Union, who have held the opposition scoreless over the last 332 minutes, host the San Jose Earthquakes (7PM/Comcast SportsNet) and Chris Wondolowski, who coming into play today was tied with Thierry Henry for the MLS goal scoring lead. The Union will attempt to shut down Wondo without the benefit of a number of familiar faces.
Manager Peter Nowak, starting left back Gabriel Farfan and starting midfielder Keon Daniel will all miss the game due to suspension. Losing Garfan will certainly hurt a defense that has kept three consecutive clean sheets. The back line will likely welcome back Danny Califf, who has been out with a hamstring injury. With Garfan out and Califf returning it remains to be seen how they’ll line up in the back.
Rookie Raymon Gaddis has done a solid job since being introduced to the starting lineup. I can’t imagine the Union coaching staff wants to move him from his right back spot. With that in mind we’ll likely see Sheanon Williams get the start at left back. An outside back combination of Gaddis and Williams certainly brings a ton of pace to the table. A back four of Gaddis, Califf, Carlos Valdes, and Williams could be the the back line combination of choice for a Union team recommitted to locking things down defensively.
While they seem to have figured things out in their defensive third, questions remain as to their ability to create and finish chances in the final third. The Union have scored a meager four goals in seven games. Gabriel Gomez is their leading scorer – with two goals (one from a free kick and the other from a penalty kick). The only other players to score a goal are Freddy Adu and Lionard Pajoy.
Adu has been fantastic since returning from Olympic qualifying. He’s flashed the sort of skill and attacking mindset you’re accustomed to seeing from him when wearing a US shirt. Michael Farfan has also played really well of late. His ability to get to the end line, take players on 1 v. 1 and deliver a cross have been on display recently – never more so than his cutting run and service on Adu’s backheel goal last week against Chivas
The Earthquakes come to town atop the Western Conference table. The Quakes have accumulated 16 points from seven games (5-1-1). They’ve been paced by Wondolowski, the 2010 MLS Golden Boot winner, who has scored eight goals thus far. Amazingly, Wondolowski is the only San Jose player who has scored more than one goal so far this season. Khari Stephenson, former Union man Shea Salina (who is out injured), Rafael Baca, Alan Gordon and Simon Dawkins have each scored a single goal thus far.
The Quakes have only conceded five goals in seven games. Jon Busch starts between the sticks. He plays behind a back line of Steven Beitashour, Ike Opara, Jason Hernandez and Justin Morrow.
It remains to be seen who will step into the role normally occupied by Keon Daniel. Could we see the debut of Kai Herdling in the Union midfield? Perhaps homegrown player Zach Pfeffer may get the call?
Starting Lineup I’d Like to See: Zac MacMath, Gaddis, Califf, Valdes, Williams, Brian Carroll, Adu, Gomez, Herdling, M. Farfan, Pajoy.
Final Score Prediction: I know I’ve predicted a lot of ties, but I see this one ending 1-1.
Photo Credit: Jason O. Watson, US Presswire