Today sees a key matchup in the MLS Eastern Conference as the Philadelphia Union play host to Columbus Crew SC at PPL Park. The Union saw their impressive two-game winning streak come to an end in controversial fashion, losing 2-1 to D.C. United on the road on Saturday. A Red Card that never was and a penalty that was never clear determined the victory but the Union look to rebound against a Columbus side who now haveback-to-back draws.
This is the second time the teams have met this season and the Sons of Ben will be hoping to find some retribution following their 4-1 defeat earlier in the season at the MAPFRE Stadium. Ethan Finlay found the net twice in that game but the Union will be hoping now elusive winger Sebastien Le Toux has broken his goalless drought that he can perhaps find the net tonight.
The Crew currently have a four-game winning streak against the Union with the PPL Park residents last winning almost two years ago at PPL Park. But, there are several signs pointing to that streak coming to an end tonight.
If the Union are to make a playoff charge, they simply have to make their home games count. With the games coming thick and fast, it won’t be long until a season destiny is revealed. Curtin’s crew are currently only two points adrift of the top six in the Eastern Conference so there is no reason why playoffs should not be the aim here.
One of the main problems for the DOOPers this season has been finding the net. Scoring just 14 times this campaign, with the strike force netting only six goals between them. But recently, that’s all been turned on its head. There’s a real buzz watching the team move the ball around. Fabinho has become an important piece of the puzzle as his playmaking attributes continue to be highlighted, whilst youngster Zach Pfeffer also turns head with his bursts of pace and visionary play. But will they feature in tonights lineup?
When the two teams last collided, the Union were without new kid on the block Fernando Aristeguieta, the dominant Vincent Nogueira, or pacey Zach Pfeffer available. Having Nogueira back especially is absolutely crucial. The man can take control of the midfield and is much more of a ball stopper than the creative artistry we see in Pfeffer.
Parterning Nogueira and Brian Carroll seems to work well , but Carroll has played all 90 minutes in their last three fixtures so is due a break. Edu may well fill that void. In terms of a counter attacking game, defensive play is huge. Expect either Carroll/Edu and Nogueira to play in central midfield with perhaps Pfeffer and Le Toux on the wings.
The game plan may be more offensive minded this time around, by flooding the defence and allowing Fernando to stay ont he edge of the box, it allows for similar situations like we saw with Pfeffers late goal the other week. Fabinho could be the key to unlock this Columbus defense whilst the midfield maintaining shape will be imperative. If all of that comes together, we could be in for an old school shoot out. Expect both teams to score if you’re a betting man and perhaps a total of over 2.5 goals. My preiction?
The homefield advantage will be too much for an injury stricken Crew to handle. This time the boots on the other foot, it’s Columbus on the back page with Philadelphia having a lot more options when it comes to depth and style of play.
Philadelphia 3-1 Columbus