Tribbett facing another Toronto test
CHESTER >> With a little reluctance, Ken Tribbett navigates into a conversation about his last meeting with Toronto.
That affair was a roller coaster condensed into 45 minutes on the field, featuring a goal scored and three allowed to a rampaging Toronto attack, one that shelled the Union defense so lustily that Tribbett was withdrawn at halftime.
If Tribbett derived any lesson from that difficult afternoon, one of the low points of a solid rookie season, it’s the need to learn and leave behind the past.
“Obviously it wasn’t my best performance,” Tribbett said Wednesday. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to play well against them.”
A red card last week to Josh
Yaro, with whom Tribbett has platooned at the rightcenter back position all season, thrusts Tribbett into the crosshairs for the Philadelphia Union’s voyage to Toronto this week. Given the result of his last encounter with the Eastern Conference leaders, redemption is an apt objective.
“Ken’s a guy we’ve leaned on heavily this year,” manager Jim Curtin said. “He’s had a lot of good games for us. No secret, the Toronto game was a difficult one for him. A lot of the instances where we gave up chances last time against Toronto were actually off of balls in our attacking half of the field that were turned over quickly or there was a second ball that went bouncing and we fell asleep for a split second. I think Ken learned from that game.”
The cerebral Tribbett has taken the Toronto stumble in stride. He’s only played one of five games since — when Yaro returned to his native Ghana for the burial of his mother — but the Drexel grad has treated it like many other learning experiences in his first MLS campaign.
That this particular tutorial was meted out by two of the most lethal forwards
in MLS — the Europeanexperienced Jozy Altidore and reining MVP Sebastian Giovinco — makes it more resounding. Altidore has rounded into form with eight goals in nine games since a midseason leg injury and, with Giovinco having missed the last two games with a leg strain, the American figures to be the prime target of Tribbett’s defensive energies Saturday.
“When you play against a big strong guy, you’re supposed to maybe stay off, don’t wrestle with him so much,” Tribbett said of Altidore. “So I’ve learned that. If I can’t go and win the ball right away, then maybe just take a step back and watch the ball instead of getting into a wrestling match.”
Within the Union’s ranks, Saturday is another chance for Tribbett to edge ahead of Yaro in the back-andforth competition for playing time. Curtin isn’t a big squad rotator, particularly on the backline. So Yaro’s red in Portland last week, which featured a soft first yellow card that Curtin decried Wednesday, is a chance for Tribbett to reestablish a place in the lineup for the final four games of the regular season. Yaro is also dealing with a concussion, going through the league’s protocol this week.
“Both of us are true competitors,” Tribbett said. “We both want to play, and in
training every day, we’re working hard to earn our spot.”
••• With Yaro, Tranquillo Barnetta was the Union’s other practice absentee Wednesday thanks to swelling from a knee-to-knee collision in Portland. Curtin said he’ll have the knee looked at, but “I don’t expect him to miss the weekend.”
Maurice Edu is in the selection picture for the Toronto trip after playing each of the last three weeks with Bethlehem Steel. Curtin, however, doesn’t see Edu as cover for the thin central defense corps this week unless of a serious emergency.
••• New signing Kevin Kratz isn’t with the Union this week while he secures his visa, but he did train last week. Curtin saw the chance to grab the 29-yearold German to add roster depth with some injury uncertainties in midfield and prizes his versatility in playing several different positions.
“He’s more of a thinker,” Curtin said. “He’s intelligent. He’s not a guy who’s 6-foot-4 and a bruiser and a tackler, he kind of does it by reading the game. Good feet, comfortable on the ball and again that decision making is what we like the best with him.”