The Union will be without stalwart right back Olivier Mbaizo for Sunday’s home game against Columbus (4 p.m., PHL17) because of the recent death of his father.
He has been excused to return to their native Cameroon, and since a FIFA national team game window starts after this weekend, he’ll stay there to join the Indomitable Lions for a home-and-home World Cup qualifying series against Mozambique.
Alvas Powell is likely to be the Union’s stand-in starter, a good opportunity for the veteran before he heads off to Jamaica’s national team to face the United States in World Cup qualifying on Thursday in Austin, Texas (7:30 p.m., ESPN2, Univision 65, and TUDN).
“Alvas Powell is a guy who’s been incredible in training, is a starter in MLS, and maybe had a decision or two go against him and could have just as easily been starting this last stretch of games,” Union manager Jim Curtin said Friday.
The Union will also be without forwards Cory Burke and Ilsinho because of injuries, and midfielder José Andrés Martínez because of a suspension for yellow card accumulation.
Columbus is the reigning MLS champion and beat Mexico’s Cruz Azul on Wednesday in the Campeones Cup, a rare win for an MLS team over a Mexican opponent in a game with a trophy at stake. But the Crew have been off the pace in league play this year, just 9-11-7 and five points out of the Eastern Conference’s last playoff spot.
As with Wednesday’s 1-1 tie at the New York Red Bulls, the Union have an opportunity to put a major dent in the playoff hopes of a team that’s currently on the outside looking in.
“Obviously, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the games are starting to go away — there’s not many of them left,” Curtin said. “Both teams will throw everything at it, and fortunately we’re at home, where we’ve had a good run of games.”
Tribute to Alex Ely
National Soccer Hall of Fame member Alex Ely, who won three U.S. Open Cups with Philadelphia’s Ukrainian Nationals in the 1960s, died Wednesday. A native of Brazil, he played with Pelé growing up and earned U.S. national team caps during his years here.
After his playing days, Ely became well-known around the region as a foreign-language teacher at Cardinal Dougherty and Archbishop Prendergast high schools, and as a soccer coach at Monsignor Bonner, Archbishop Carroll, and Swarthmore College.
Curtin met Ely some years ago at the famed United German Hungarians club in Oakford. Though the exact year is lost to history, Curtin recalled it was “back in the days when UGH was the place to play your high school games — it felt like as professional of an environment as you can get in the Philadelphia area.”
“A big name in Philadelphia history, and lived a long and incredible life,” Curtin said, “It’s always sad when a legend of our game passes, but we did have the opportunity to cross paths, and I know he did so much at UGH and for the game.”
As Curtin was speaking, a future Hall of Famer who used to be one of Curtin’s teammates was touring the Union’s training facility: longtime U.S. national team star DaMarcus Beasley.
“The conversations you have with these legends of the game, they stay with you,” Curtin said. “You can see real happiness in all of their voices when the sport that they love has grown so much and so quickly over the years. … It is sad, but also there is that little bit of happiness in that the game continues to grow as these legends pass away.”
» READ MORE: A look back at the Ukrainian Nationals’ glory days
Though it’s not official yet, The Post Cincy reported that Union technical director Chris Albright has agreed to become FC Cincinnati’s general manager. The Athletic reported that Albright will take the job as soon as the paperwork is completed, and will take assistant technical director Kyle McCarthy with him.
McCarthy, a former Villanova player and assistant coach, has been with the Union for six and a half years. He formerly served as the team’s director of scouting operations. Jon Scheer was promoted to director of scouting in late August, after being the Union youth academy’s director of talent identification.