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May 5, 2012 at 7:09 AM

Sounders FC vs. Philadelphia Union, preview and prediction

Philadelphia Union Logo.jpgSounders FC (5-1-1) vs. Philadelphia Union (2-4-1)

Saturday, May 5, 1:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.

National TV: NBC Sports Network (Arlo White, Kyle Martino)

Radio: 97.3 KIRO-FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)

Spanish radio: La Gran D 99.3 FM

Referee: Ricardo Salazar

KEY UNION PLAYERS

D Carlos Valdes — For its poor record, the Union has a stout defense with eight goals allowed (tied for second least in the Eastern Conference). And for my money, the 26-year-old center back is the best of that group. One of the league’s many talented Colombians, he’s the only field player that’s played every minute this season.

M Gabriel Gomez — The newcomer has three of Philadelphia’s five goals. I’m not sure if that’s what they expected from him or not. Brings lots of experience to the center of the field with more than 70 caps for the Panamanian national team. Helped the Canaleros to the 2011 Gold Cup semifinals, which included a group-stage win against the U.S.

M Freddy Adu — Certainly the name everyone will recognize. In fact, I’m not sure the casual fan will recognize many else for the visitors, which have revamped their roster quite a bit. Amazingly still just 22 years old, he’s starting to shoulder more and more of the offensive responsibilities. He had a goal here last year in a big win.

KEY MATCHUPS

Lionard Pajoy vs. Patrick Ianni — Philadelphia’s new forward has started every game this season and is a big target at 6 foot 1. For a team that will probably have to make the most of limited opportunities, they’d love to see him get his second goal of the year. Seattle’s center back has missed the past couple weeks with a back injury, but sounds ready to go.

Bryan Meredith vs. Zac MacMath — Two second-year goalkeepers will be on the big stage on national television. Will they be up to the pressure? Will just one? MacMath has settled down after a nervy start and Meredith is a bit of an unknown. Seattle certainly felt Meredith (drafted 29th overall) was a better than MacMath (drafted fifth overall) of the options in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, but we’ll see how things plays out.

Rested but struggling vs. tired but winning — Parity in this league always seems to pop up when you least expect it. Just because Philly has got off to a poor start and Seattle’s is looking good, that doesn’t mean this will be a walkover. The Union has allowed just one goal in its last 194 road minutes.

PREDICTION

I really don’t know where to go with this one. You have to expect to see a handful of changes for the home side due to the quick turnaround, and at some point that has to catch up to the Sounders, right? Maybe?

Philadelphia is a defensive-minded team and I definitely think that’ll be the case Saturday, particularly with coach Peter Nowak still serving his suspension.

Whenever you think you have MLS figured out (and convention would say the Sounders win easily), it reminds you that you don’t. So I’ll predict the Union goes up on a spot kick, but Seattle pulls one back off a set piece…

Sounders FC 1, Philadelphia Union 1

PHI — Gabriel Gomez (pk) 29′

SEA — Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (Marc Burch) 68′

* * *

What do you think? How do you see this one playing out?

COMMENTS

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