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May 3, 2014 at 12:02 AM

Sounders FC vs. Philadelphia Union, preview and prediction

Sounders FC (5-2-1) vs. Philadelphia Union (1-3-5)
Saturday, May 3, 7 p.m., CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Wash.
TV/radio: Q-13 FOX, KIRO 97.3-FM (Ross Fletcher, Kasey Keller)
Spanish TV/radio: THIS-TV (KOMO2), ESPN Deportes 1490 AM
Referee: Silviu Petrescu

KEY UNION PLAYERS

M Maurice Edu — One of a handful of U.S. national team players who have returned to the league in the past 12 months or so. He has definitely improved what looked to be diminishing World Cup prospects having come in and played all 810 minutes this season, scoring twice and adding an assist. The Union hasn’t scored in the past couple games, which led Edu to commit to a more advanced role in the attack.

M Vincent Nogueira — This 26-year-old French newcomer has also played every minute this season. While Edu has been more of a box-to-box midfielder, Nogueira has assumed more of an attacking role (and ideally you’d like to see him with more than one goal and one assist in nine games). He’s a former player of the year for Sochaux of the French first division, so he’s certainly got the résumé to be an impact player.

GK Zac MacMath — The spotlight is burning extra bright on him this season, part of which has nothing to do with him. You might remember back in January that Philadelphia moved up in the MLS SuperDraft and selected top goalkeeper prospect Andre Blake. Whispers are starting to circulate that it might be time to see the youngster in action, so that could be added motivation to perform. A 1.22 goals-against average and 0-for-2 PK conversion rate against are pretty good.

KEY MATCHUPS

Clint Dempsey vs. Brian Carroll — Can anyone stop Seattle’s maestro in the attack? Well, Carroll is generally the deepest lying midfielder for the Union so a lot of the duty will fall on him. He’s a 12-year veteran, and has played a crucial role on some very successful teams in the past, so his experience will be a plus. Dempsey, though, is playing on another level — seven goals and two assists in four games would be solid production for a team, let alone an individual.

Andrew Wenger vs. Chad Marshall — This won’t be the first meeting between these two this season. Seattle’s stalwart defender dominated the young forward back in Week 3 when Wenger played for Montreal. A trade has brought the former No. 1 pick to his native Pennsylvania, and he’ll need to have more of an impact (no pun intended) for the visitors to be able to keep up with the league’s best offense. Is he up to the task?

Lopsided matchup vs. MLS parity — This league tends to produce crazy results. So while you have a visiting team that hasn’t won in seven games coming to town against a red-hot opponent that has won three in a row and scoring at a crazy rate, be careful thinking any result in MLS is a sure-thing. If you remember back to the first couple weeks of the season, lots of people were praising the Union’s soccer, saying Philly could be one of the more improved sides in the league.

PREDICTION

So about that warning about MLS unpredictability? I’m going to ignore it. All six of the pick ‘em experts at MLSsoccer.com picked the Sounders to win, and I’m right there with them.

I think the visitors will come in to bunker and counter, so getting an early goal could be important (you saw how Lamar Neagle’s goal last week opened up the game).

Ultimately, the win streak goes to four games…

Sounders FC 2, Philadelphia Union 0

SEA — Obafemi Martins (Clint Dempsey) 42′
SEA — Marco Pappa (un) 78′

*     *     *

How do you see this one playing out?

| More in Preview and prediction, Sounders FC

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