Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By JOEL HOOVER
While the Philadelphia Union’s 3-0 victory over the rival New York Red Bulls was cause for celebration Sunday, not all of the news was good after the match—especially on the injury front.
Winger Danny Cruz’s 36th minute departure due to a lower leg injury sustained in a challenge with New York’s Lloyd Sam provided some initial concern after the match. Manager John Hackworth confirmed Wednesday that the injury is a “pretty nasty bone contusion” and that Cruz is questionable for the weekend clash with Western Conference contenders FC Dallas.
“He’s been evaluated and had an MRI,” Hackworth said of Cruz. “While he doesn’t have a fracture, he can’t train right now.”
With Cruz possibly out for the Dallas clash, players like Antoine Hoppenot, Leo Fernandes, and Don Anding have all been floated around to step into his wide position of the left of the Union midfield. The trio combined do not have a single MLS start to their names this season, but Hackworth believes they are all capable options to step in and contribute to a thinning midfield.
“We have guys who are ready,” he said. “A lot of those guys give you similar things to what Danny does.”
“We’re not counting (Cruz) out yet. If I know Danny well, he’s going to do everything he can to put himself in a position to be back on the field for Saturday.”
A longer absence for Cruz would mean joining both Kleberson and Michael Lahoud among those currently sidelined for the Union due to injury. While Lahoud is continuing to progress in recovery from a hernia injury, Kleberson’s return from a thigh problem is still going slowly. The Brazilian has been sidelined since departing the Union’s 1-1 draw with Toronto on June 1, and still does not appear to be returning to action any time soon.
“Kleberson is not at the same place that he was last week, and that’s a negative,” Hackworth said. “You would think that he would be progressively getting better, but that’s coming along a lot slower.”
The 34-year old has made just six appearances this season with four starts after being dealt to the Union by Brazilian club Bahia in exchange for Freddy Adu.
Here are more notes from the Union’s weekly press conference:
DANIEL’S GOLD CUP DEPARTURE MEANS OPPORTUNITIES FOR OTHERS
While Jack McInerney’s departure to the Gold Cup for the United States has been reported but not confirmed, Keon Daniel is a confirmed participant in the summer tournament for Trinidad and Tobago.
The midfielder has been a mainstay this season, appearing in all 16 of the Union’s league games and making 12 starts in those matches. With an important slate of games coinciding with the Gold Cup in July, his departure is being viewed as an opportunity for other players to step in and contribute.
“We’re going to miss (Daniel), but I think the most logical player (to replace him) would be Michael Farfan,” Hackworth said. “I think it’s an opportunity for Farfan to come back to a more natural position for him.”
Hackworth was quick to praise the “fantastic” performance Farfan gave Sunday as a substitute in place of Danny Cruz, especially given Farfan’s dip in form in the 2013 season compared to his breakout season of a year ago. Though not the playmaker of last year, the midfielder has been a utility piece as a part of a “better” squad, according to Hackworth.
Though Farfan was the first name mentioned, Hackworth also said that players like Roger Torres and Leo Fernandes may also have a chance to play in place of Daniel. Between them, Torres and Fernandes have played in a combined three league matches all season. But with trips out west to Real Salt Lake and Houston in the coming weeks, Hackworth believes options will be key.
“It’ll be a tough stretch of games to put the same eleven on the field the whole time,” Hackworth said. “We’ll take it game by game and see how guys are and how they recover. That will dictate what we do.”
PPL BECOMING A FORTRESS AGAIN
After beginning the season just 1-2-2 at home, the Union have been much better at PPL Park in the past month, winning three straight home league matches and four in all competitions. With the four-year anniversary of the stadium opening coming up this week, it’s a fact that Hackworth is very pleased with.
“We said it early in the year that we wanted to try and make this place a very difficult place to play,” Hackworth said of PPL Park. “I think we’ve done that and are continuing to do that.”
In 2011, the one season the Union have made the playoffs in their four-year history, the team lost just once in 17 regular season home matches. While such a successful record has not been attained this year, the increasing success at home has coincided with the Union’s rise to second in the Eastern Conference. Hackworth also added that the process of building home success has been based around transforming the team’s performances as well.
“I think we’ve changed the way that we are evolving as a team,” Hackworth said. “I think we are playing better soccer…we’re attacking more. It’s not just about being hard and being good on both sides…we’re really putting an emphasis on being a team that puts the other team on their heels a bit.”
- Hackworth declined to comment on the reported news that Jack McInerney has been selected for the U.S. Gold Cup roster, stating that he and the staff have not received any personal word yet.
- The Union’s match with FC Dallas kicks off Saturday at 5:30 p.m. at PPL Park. Hackworth noted that the Union will have to be wary of the threat provided by the size of Blas Perez and Kenny Cooper up front for Dallas.
What do you make of these notes? Are the Union in trouble if Cruz, Daniel, and Kleberson are out of action at the same time? Do you see these absences as a chance for Farfan, Torres, or others? Have the Union made PPL Park a tough place for visitors again?
Share your thoughts below.