Union vs. New England Revolution
5 p.m. on FS1
Fresh off a gut-wrenching end to their 2017 U.S. Open Cup, the Union (5-7-4) return to MLS play to host a team in the Revolution (5-7-5) they could end up battling for one of the final Eastern Conference playoff spots.
Here are five things to know:
1. Bruised but not beaten
Recovering from games four days apart is always a difficult task; recovering from a grueling 120-minute knockout game that ended with a brutal shootout loss to the nemesis New York Red Bulls is even tougher.
But although head coach Jim Curtin said he felt like he and the players “let down the fans,” he’s confident that they’ll be up for a quick turnaround.
“We will have some fresh legs,” Curtin said. “With the competitive roster, we have guys we plug in and don’t really miss a beat. That’s a strong thing to have. We’re a real balanced team and it’s a group I’m confident will be fresh. … Even the 120-minute guys are feeling pretty strong and ready to turn it around and go again.”
Indeed, four regular starters — goalkeeper Andre Blake, defenders Oguchi Onyewu and Ray Gaddis, and midfielder Ilsinho — didn’t play at all vs. the Red Bulls on Wednesday and another (Chris Pontius) only played 15 minutes.
And as for the guys who went the full 120 minutes, Curtin is feeling good about their effort and recovery, specifically pointing to attacking midfielder Roland Alberg.
“It was his best game in a Philadelphia Union uniform,” the Union coach said.
2. Gold Cup absences
There’s good news and bad news on the international absence front.
The bad news? The Union will be without captain Alejandro Bedoya, who’s currently with the U.S. national team leading up to start of the Gold Cup next weekend. And the Union are 5-1 in the last six games Bedoya has started.
The good news is Blake, who was dealing with a minor rib injury, is set to make one final start in Philly before joining Jamaica for the CONCACAF tournament. And he’s coming off a monster performance in the Union’s 1-0 win over D.C. United last weekend.
The Revs, meanwhile, will be without striker Juan Agudelo (U.S.) and midfielders Kelyn Rowe (U.S.) and Gershon Koffie (Ghana). All three were part of Saturday’s U.S.-Ghana friendly, though only Rowe got into the game, earning his first USMNT cap.
3. All eyes on Jones
With Bedoya gone and Warren Creavalle hurt, 20-year-old midfielder Derrick Jones has a big opportunity in front of him as a starter for Sunday’s game — and potentially a few more after that.
In Jones’ last start, he was shown a red card that led to a 2-0 loss to the Red Bulls on June 18. But he said he’s learned from that experience and is eager to temporarily take the spot of a player like Bedoya.
“I look up to him every day in training, on the field, in games,” Jones said of the Union captain. “He tells me to play my game, keep doing what I’m doing.”
Curtin said the first half of the season has gone well for Jones, who began the year of a starter before transitioning to a reserve role. But he expects more from the promising young homegrown.
“This is a big time for him now with Ale being out for these next two games,” the Union coach said. “He’ll have his hands full. But his fearlessness is what [sporting director Earnie Stewart] and I love in him and it’s what we see every day in training. We know he’ll be up to the challenge.”
4. Players to watch
Revolution: New England is missing some key players with Diego Fagundez suspended and others injured on top of the Agudelo, Rowe and Koffie international absences. But in striker Kei Kamara, the Revs still have a marquee veteran striker who can turn a game on its head.
Union: This could be an important game for Ilsinho, who’s dealing with a calf issue but figures to start at the No. 10 attacking midfield role. And he may need to have a big game to keep that spot, considering Alberg is coming off such a good game and Adam Najem — an up-and-comer at the No. 10 spot — had an “excellent” performance vs. the Red Bulls four days ago, according to Curtin.
5. This and that
• In their Open Cup game Wednesday, the Union finished with 27 shots but only scored once, leading Curtin to have the players work on finishing during practice this week.
• Maurice Edu, who hasn’t played an MLS game since Sept. 20, 2015, participated in training this week but still has no timetable to return.
• The Revs have yet to win on the road this season, going 0-6-3 in nine matches.
• The Union are 2-0-1 in their last three meetings with the Revs, outscoring them 8-1.
• With seven assists, Revs midfielder Lee Nguyen is tied for third in the league.