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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Playing with Fire: What to look for in preseason game No. 2 (w/ video)

The second real installment of the Philadelphia Union’s preseason comes Thursday when they meet the Chicago Fire at 4 p.m. in Clearwater, Fla. (Livestream below and available on Union’s YouTube channel.)

As manager Jim Curtin mentioned in a conference call Wednesday, the preseason opener in the rain against Jacksonville Armada last Saturday, a 1-0 loss, turned out to be a glorified training exercise. With trialists new to camp and Roland Alberg having just touched down in the States, the performance was understandably disjointed, not helped by 30-minute shifts of players that prevented anyone getting much of a rhythm.

With a thinner roster this time around, the Union should deploy more cohesive units. So what to look for? Here are five things:

- What does midfield look like sans Alberg? Curtin confirmed that Alberg is unavailable, having returned to the Netherlands to sort out paperwork. Against the Armada, he started in central midfield next to Tranquillo Barnetta in front of Vincent Nogueira. What will that look like today? Does Nogueira slide up with Warren Creavalle or Brian Carroll holding? Or does Leo Fernandes get a chance?

- Another dose of Ilsinho. Even in limited time, the Brazilian proved he can do special things with a soccer ball. An extended runout with the first team or something closer to regulars should bolster the amount of info the club can collect to arrive at a decision.

- In the defense. Curtin Wednesday declared that the battle involves four guys. Having either Anderson Conceicao or Josh Yaro take steps toward developing a rapport with Richie Marquez would be beneficial, but seeing either play alongside Ken Tribbett isn’t damning.

- Separation on the wings. Curtin spoke highly of Chris Pontius Wednesday. We all know what Sebastien Le Toux can do, and then there’s sorting out the contributions of Walter Restrepo and Eric Ayuk before determining if Alberg or Fernandes would be required on the wing.

- A goal against grown-ups. A 5-0 training win over the United States Under-17s was nice this week (and symbolic for spanking the team coached by John Hackwor…I should stop there). But a goal against adults would be nice, and that focuses not just on CJ Sapong but the other attackers. Presuming Curtin rotates in 45-minute shifts (as he progressed in last year’s preseason), the onus is on whomever starts as a forward in the second half, probably Fabian Herbers, unless another trialist emerges.

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