The Philadelphia Union are set to make their 2012 debut at PPL Park on Saturday as they will look to rebound from a disappointing opening match with a home tilt against the Colorado Rapids.
Philadelphia got off to a terrific start during its opening match of the season, grabbing the opening goal against the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field. But it all fell apart for the Union as Peter Nowak's men finished second-best to their Western Conference counterparts on the back of three unanswered goals from the Timbers.
"There are certainly a couple of goals where it is unfortunate situations," Union defender Danny Califf said. "Overall if you look at the game, it wasn't so poor. There were some positives both offensively and defensively. It's their home opener and they brought it."
One of the more unfortunate circumstances of the match came from Portland's equalizer. A header from Andrew Jean-Baptiste was not properly dealt with by Zac MacMath, and the rookie defender's effort slipped underneath the Union goalkeeper and into the back of the net.
Following the offseason departure of veteran goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, a major question surrounding Philadelphia was how the club would cope with a young stopper between the pipes. There were some growing pains in the Union's debut season in MLS with Chris Seitz in goal, and MacMath's gaffe in Portland proved that there may be some more this season.
Mondragon's departure was just one of the many offseason moves made by the Union front office. The club dealt its leading scorer, fan-favorite Sebastien Le Toux, to Vancouver Whitecaps FC. With Le Toux out of the picture, someone will need to step up and shoulder the bulk of the offensive responsibilities.
Freddy Adu was widely viewed as the player expected to step into that role, but the young American attacker failed to make much of an impression in his 74 minutes of action at Jeld-Wen Field.
Colorado experienced the total opposite from Philadelphia last weekend as the Rapids earned a 2-0 win over the Columbus Crew to start the 2012 season on the right foot.
It was a great start for Oscar Pareja as he begins his new career as an MLS head coach. Replacing Gary Smith, a coach who led Colorado to MLS Cup glory in 2010, was always going to be difficult, but Pareja certainly seems to have the support of the locker room.
Drew Moor ran over to the new head coach to celebrate after bagging the opening goal against Columbus.
"Oscar let us know before the game that he was a little bit nervous today, which is understandable as it's his first head coaching job as a professional," Moor told The Denver Post. "We all wanted to score an early goal to calm the nerves. He means so much to us. He's come in and made some great changes, and everybody just loves that he's here.
"To be able to celebrate that first goal with him was pretty special. ... We just wanted to let him know, 'Hey, we're here with you, all the way.'"
The play of Kosuke Kimura could also help Pareja ease into his new position. The defender provided assists on both of Colorado's goals against the Crew, the first multiple-assist game of his career.
"Kosuke will always tell you he could be a winger if he wants to be," said Quincy Amarikwa, who scored Colorado's second goal with a sensational shot from distance. "And he's got an engine; he runs for days."