Union welcome quick turnaround after tough stretch


Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Posted: 10 a.m.

By Ryan Bright
CSNPhilly.com Contributor

CHESTER, Pa.Under typical circumstances, the Union wouldnt appreciate having to play two matches in four days. In fact, they may even despise the notion of putting their health on the line and their fitness to the test.

But after going winless in their last three tries, including a red-faced 1-0 road defeat at the hands of the last-place Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, a quick turnaround and a chance to grab points against Sporting Kansas City on Wednesday night at PPL Park is a welcomed opportunity.

Its a short week but our guys are going to be ready for this battle, said coach Peter Nowak. Kansas City got a couple points right now and its given them confidence. Its going to be a battle. Facing Kansas City is always a battle.

Similar to the contest against the Whitecaps, the Union, at 6-4-4, will be facing a club desperate for a result and gaining momentum. Standing at the bottom of the Eastern Conference with a record of 2-6-4, Sporting Kansas City is coming off back-to-back wins and is undefeated in the last five games.

According to Nowak, the key to victory is tempering the oppositions fast start and holding the pace of the game in the Unions possession.

The teams that need points, they start the game hot and really try to get an early goal, said the coach. Vancouver did, scoring in the 12th minute and then falling back, waiting for a counter. We have to be patient and figure out how to break them down. We cant play a wide-open game.

Led by Teal Bunbury and Kei Kamaras three goals a piece, Sporting KC likes to spread the wealth in terms of goals, with five players earning more than one score on the year. For Nowak, defending such an attack starts with mental preparation.

We need to predict and anticipate where the ball is going and the next step against us, said Nowak. We need to recognize it and shut it down.

For the Union, the past couple weeks have seen them begin to slide. Despite earning a plethora of solid chances at home against Real Salt Lake -- a 1-1 draw -- and missing the frame against the Whitecaps, the now second-place squad is looking for someone to step up and finish the ball to avoid a third disappointing result.

Helping in that cause could be the return of striker and adept finisher Carlos Ruiz, whose Guatemalan National Team was ejected from the Gold Cup in the quarterfinals by Mexico on Saturday. Ruiz missed three club games, but scored twice in the tournament.

I'm happy to see my teammates, the coaching staff, said Ruiz, who is second on the team with three goals. Im back and ready to help my team, Philly. We have two games at home and were looking forward to winning those six points.

However, with newcomer Veljko Paunovic, who made his Union debut on Saturday, now in the mix, the Unions forward line is more crowded than ever. That gives Nowak an opportunity to potentially rest Ruiz in preparation for the long haul, while handing other players a chance to contribute.

Its good to have Ruiz back and were going to have to work him back in, maybe give him a couple days off, said Nowak. Well see how this week goes. Well see where we are with the strikers, maybe give him a couple days off and have him ready for the rest of the season.

On whether Ruiz would dress on Wednesday, Nowak was undecided.

Im not sure yet, he said.

Ruiz didnt view rest as an option.

Im ready to go, he said. Its not the time to rest. After the season, well have two months to rest. Were in a position to make progress and stay in the first position.

Also returning to the active lineup will be midfielders Gabriel Farfan and Amobi Okugo. Farfan, who has a goal on the year, missed Saturdays game with a quad pull, while Okugo lost four games as a result of a high-ankle sprain.

We have a couple home games right now, said Nowak. Amobi is coming back, Gabriel Farfan is coming back.

Its important to have everyone up and running. Were going to shuffle the deck.

E-mail Ryan Bright at ryanbright13@gmail.com

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