The Philadelphia Union have never earned a point on the road against the Columbus Crew. An exciting international addition to the roster could help them change that.
Jose Kleberson could debut for Philadelphia on Saturday as it tries to avoid a fourth loss in as many visits to Crew Stadium, where Columbus has gone 10 consecutive matches without losing.
The Union (2-2-0) had won two straight before giving up a late goal last Saturday to lose 2-1 at New York, though they did claim a 2-1 victory over Colorado on March 10 in their only other road contest this season.
"You go on the road in this league, and these are tough environments," coach John Hackworth said. "You know you're playing 12 men, or it at least feels that way. We've proven that we can go get points on the road this year, we've proven that we can play even when we're not really playing our best."
Philadelphia may see the MLS debut of Kleberson, the Brazilian who has joined the club on loan from Esporte Clube Bahia. The 33-year-old midfielder has seen extensive international experience, including 32 matches for the Brazil national team.
With Hackworth displeased by Philadelphia's inability to maintain possession, Kleberson could be a big boon in the middle of the field and may play Saturday. Hackworth, though, said he's still adapting to his new environment and team.
"He's certainly a guy that has a good sense about spacing and tactically, where he can find the ball," Hackworth said. "His touch is exceptional. So if we feel like he's the best choice for us, he's available for selection on Saturday."
Columbus (2-1-1) hasn't played since March 23, winning 2-1 at D.C. to snap United's 18-match home unbeaten streak.
The Crew are 7-3-0 at home since losing 2-0 to Sporting Kansas City on July 14, 2012. They posted a 1-1 draw against San Jose on March 16 in their only match at Crew Stadium this year.
"We always pride ourselves on playing well here, so we'll be looking to pick up three points," defender Chad Marshall told the team's official website.
Josh Williams notched his second goal of the season in the victory at D.C., and Ben Speas scored the first of his career to continue his impressive start to the season.
Speas also recorded an assist when he replaced the then-injured Eddie Gaven in a left midfield spot against Vancouver on March 9. Gaven has since returned, but the 22-year-old Speas has remained in the starting lineup with him.
"I just try to go out there and be effective," Speas said. "I try to focus on myself and trying to be consistent, be dangerous when I get the ball. I'm not really thinking about starting spots or who's healthy or who's injured, I just go out and do my thing."
The Crew are 5-2-0 in this all-time series after winning two of three matchups last season. Their 3-0 home record over the Union includes a 3-2 win Sept. 29 on an 87th-minute goal in the only meeting at Columbus last season.
Jairo Arrieta scored twice in that game, and he should be back in the Crew's lineup after missing their last match while on international duty with Costa Rica.