Game #20 Preview: Defending champs come to town

Posted on 29 July 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Colorado Rapids (7-6-10) vs. Philadelphia Union (8-4-7)
Friday, July 29, 2011, 7:30PM, Fox Soccer Channel
Chester, PA, PPL Park

Last year's match-up produced frustrations galore

Less than 24 hours after Bob Bradley was fired as US Men’s National Team coach and Union gaffer Piotr Nowak is already being thrown into the ring as one of the long-shot, MLS contenders for the top job. Let’s put that aside (especially considering there’s almost no chance it’ll happen) as the defending champions, Colorado, are coming to town tonight and the Union are looking to pick up where they left off before the “international friendly” break. After two spirited showings against Everton and Real Madrid – and more importantly no injuries – the Union will return to MLS competitive play with a strong and healthy squad. Compare that to the Rapids, who visit PPL Park without big man Conor Casey (ACL tear) and the possibility of several others.

Game Notes:

The Rapids have still put the ball in the net the last couple games, even without their best striker. Winger turned striker Sanna Nyassi flew through a flat-footed Red Bulls defense not once but three times to help Colorado to a decisive 4-1 win. Their last game, however, was a back and forth affair against New England, a 2-2 tie. Along with a surprise in Nyassi, the Rapids have two proven goalscorers in MLS All-Star Omar Cummings and former Hull City target striker Caleb Folan. You can expect them to start up front with Nyassi back at his original position on the flank.

The Union will be looking to extend a five game unbeaten streak and their last MLS regular season match was a 3-0 win up in New England that saw two new first-time scorers take centerstage. Carlos Valdes and Sheanon Williams scored their first and earned themselves an active but relatively relaxed week of international friendlies. Valdes and Williams didn’t look their sharpest against Real Madrid but we’re pretty certain that shouldn’t carry over into tonight. Valdes is also one more yellow card away from a one-game suspension but don’t expect that to make him any more cautious.

Believe it or not, Carlos Ruiz has scored in three of the last four regular season games. The Rapids have conceded 30 goals this season so one should expect that he’ll at least get his chances tonight as well. Ruiz has his haters and certainly has his flaws but if – at a little over the halfway point of the season – you were told Ruiz would produce at this rate, you’d take it no questions asked.

Both Carlos Ruiz and Danny Mwanga have an impressive history against the defending champs. Ruiz, the vet, has eight goals in 18 games against Colorado while Mwanga is batting 1.000, scoring 2 in 2 appearances. Le Toux has supplied the magic with 3 assists in five games. FC Delco product Jeff Larentowicz is having a huge season for the Rapids, netting four goals from the holding midfield position. A handful on the restarts and in possession of an impressive long shot, Larentowicz should play a role in whether or not the Rapids can get one by Faryd Mondragon.

INJURY REPORT: PHILADELPHIA UNION—QUESTIONABLE: FW Levi Houapeu (L ankle strain); PROBABLE: FW Veljko Paunovic (L hip strain) … COLORADO RAPIDS—OUT: FW Conor Casey (L achilles tear); PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); MF Brian Mullan (lower back spasms); DF Anthony Wallace (R quad strain); FW Omar Cummings (R ankle sprain); MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain); FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear)

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