Philadelphia Union coach Jim Curtin has the good kind of selection headache on his hands heading into Saturday night’s high-profile showdown versus the Seattle Sounders FC.
The Union (7-2-3) have won three straight overall and five in a row at home heading into this match and have gone 3-1-0 without No. 1 goalkeeper Andre Blake after he suffered a groin injury in their 3-0 victory over Montreal on April 20.
Matt Freese and current starter Carlos Miguel Coronel have deputized well in the Jamaica international’s absence, with Coronel starting the last two matches after Freese went down with an oblique injury in Philadelphia’s 2-0 win over FC Cincinnati on May 1.
Blake returned to practice this week, and while he is hopeful to play in this match, he is also not willing to rush himself back and risk aggravating an injury that could render a keeper useless.
“I feel good, but this was my first day back with the team, so I’m kind of feeling it out,” Blake told the Delaware County Daily Times on Wednesday. “Tomorrow I’m going to get back at it, and it’s really a day-to-day situation right now but I’m feeling pretty good.”
“He looked great today, really good with his feet, showed comfort kicking balls,” Curtin added. “He looked like Andre in goal with his hands. We’re optimistic that he could return against Seattle. Having said that, Carlos has done a good job stepping in. … I think he’ll be available and ready to go for Seattle.”
Philadelphia is coming off a 2-1 victory last Saturday at Toronto FC, where Jamiro Monteiro scored the go-ahead goal on 68 minutes, slotting a pass from Kacper Przybylko past Quentin Westberg. Przybylko has factored in a goal in four straight matches and proving a quick study since cracking the rotation last month.
Seattle (7-4-1) also enters this contest in excellent form, riding a five-match unbeaten streak (2-3-0). The Sounders have won back-to-back contests after holding off Orlando City SC 2-1 at home Wednesday. Raul Ruidiaz and Handwalla Bwana scored in each half as Seattle moved into second in the West, two points behind LAFC ahead of a four-match road swing.
“I have a lot of confidence in that group,” coach Brian Schmetzer told the Seattle Times. “You could look at this game and say, was it our best soccer performance? There were things we could do better. … One thing that team possesses is and always does – and is going to help us on the road – is they don’t like to lose. They put us under pressure and our guys didn’t wilt.”
Schmetzer will likely hand a start to Bwana since Jordan Morris was forced off in the second half of Wednesday’s victory and not expected to be available for this match. Nicolas Lodeiro registered his MLS-leading seventh assist on Bwana’s marker, and the Uruguay international has 23 assists in 41 matches since the start of last season.
Blake made four saves in last year’s lone meeting as the Union recorded a 1-0 victory on Fafa Picault’s goal in the 93rd minute, overcoming a red card to Jack Elliott in the 89th.
(Andre Blake photo courtesy Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports)
(Sounders celebratory photo courtesy Seattle Sounders FC official Twitter account)