Wednesday, June 23, 2010

SOUNDERS FC: Seattle first team to visit Union’s new stadium

2,842 miles. That is how much further the Sounders will travel in 2010. Already packing more frequent flyer miles than any other MLS team at 49,740, the nearly 5,000 mile round trip to Philadelphia for this Sunday’s match will have a surprising bonus.

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The Sounders road trip is special because they will be the first team to play in the Union’s new stadium, the 18,500 seat PPL Park. So far this season the Union have either been on the road or playing at a temporary facility. The stadium is located on the waterfront in Chester, Pennsylvania, about 16 minutes from downtown Philly.

Like the majority of the MLS stadiums, PPL park features real grass (Qwest Field is one of two which use artificial turf) and the stands are built as close to the field as FIFA regulations will allow. This should make an exciting and intimate place to watch a game.

The last time these two teams met was on Opening day of the 2010 season at Qwest Field. The Sounders cruised to a 2-0 win despite taking a bit of a physical beating from a Union squad over-excited by their first MLS game.

This game looks to be no different as Seattle (4-6-3, 15 points) has out scored their last three opponents six goals to one. The Union (2-7-1, 7 points) is 1-2 over their last three games and have only played 10 games to Seattle’s 13. The Union also has the lowest point total in the league.

Many losses do not mean that the Union’s offense should be overlooked. Philly has a home-heavy schedule for the remainder of the season and the opening of their new stadium could be the motivation they need to pull out another three-goal performance.

Notable players in gold and blue include former Sounder Sebastian Le Toux. The forward has scored five goals and made three assists this season and leads the Union in scoring. The other hot foot on the Union squad is 2010 number one overall draft pick. Danny Mwanga. The rookie has three goals and one assist in seven appearances this season while fellow first year player Roger Torres has three assists in 10 appearances.

Looking at the rest of Philly’s lineup, Goalkeeper Chris Seitz has allowed the most goals in MLS (21) for a GAA of 2.10. This bodes well for a Rave Green offense that is just coming into form. Remember Seattle's three-goal shutout against the Revolution's third string goalie, Bobby Shuttlesworth a few weeks ago? Seattle is looking at a similar muti-goal opportunity with Seitz in goal.

On the Sounder’s roster, Pete Vagenas is ready to play, as is Nate Jaqua. The 6’1” forward has been out of action since an abdominal injury forced Jaqua onto the Injured Reserve list in March. Since then the Sounders have recorded a league-leading 86 corner kicks, several of which may have been converted into goals had Jaqua been healthy enough to play.

The Sounder’s coaching staff does not expect Osvaldo Alonso (quadriceps) or Brad Evans (knee) to be available for Sunday’s match, but both should be coming back to form in the coming weeks.

Sunday’s game will be broadcast on ESPN2 starting at 2 p.m.

Reach Galen Helmgren at