Leading Into the “Week to Define a Season”
Saturday, September 3rd, Wednesday, September 7th, and Saturday, September 10th. Those three dates collectively represent a pivotal point in this, the second year of Union’s existence. Be it the unscheduled bye-week, or the ton of rain we got due to Pain-in-the-Ass-Storm Irene, but the slate feels wiped clean. But only temporarily.
This Saturday, Union travel to Rio Tinto Stadium to take on Real Salt Lake. This is the match that was rescheduled because RSL was trying to secure domination over the region, and they lost in the final of the CONCACAF Champions League tournament. They’ve cleaned their faces of tears since then and are back to their normal top-of-MLS form, so this match is very important. This is the statement where I become a broken record: A draw in this match, normally, would be acceptable, but Union’s amassing of draws makes this a must-win. Now that I got that out of the way, let’s boil this one down. RSL are missing a handful of players to international duty and injury. Union are missing the suddenly error-prone Carlos Valdes to mandatory 1-game red card suspension. RSL still has that nasty-haired Kyle Beckerman because Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t plan to use him on 9/2 friendly against Costa Rica. More detail tomorrow in a match preview, this REALLY is a must-win.
The trap game is the also-rescheduled match versus New England Revolution. A number of fans will be annoyed that this match was rescheduled from a weekend to mid-week. I’ll be annoyed if Union win by fewer than 2 goals. The biggest impediment to Union in this fixture is complacency. They are not in a position to take a sorry-ass team like the Revs for granted. There will likely be some different faces in the lineup because some of the guys will need to be rested after the RSL match. The key will be those players playing like they want to earn a more playing time.
The last of this trifecta is a home date with the Portland Timbers. The hope here is that Union have built some momentum from solid, inspired play from the rest of the week, and they overwhelm Portland with high-quality play. Worst-case scenario: We’re looking at this match as one we hope to salvage at least a point from so that the week isn’t a complete disaster.
The team will be missing Keon Daniel to international duty, which sucks for us because that means more Justin Mapp (boooooo). It may, also, mean more time for Michael Farfan (yaaaaaaaay). This is also the time that Freddy Adu needs to accelerate his learning curve and orchestrate Union’s offense the way we all optimistically think he can. The offense has been stagnant for a large majority of the season and Freddy certainly has some playmaking ability. He needs to prove his worth to the team in the run of play, and make sure that Sebastien Le Toux doesn’t take any more corner kicks. It’s also time for Danny Mwanga to score some goals. Especially, if I’m claiming that this week defines the entire season. It would be nice if Carlos Ruiz doesn’t end the season as the team’s leading scorer.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union