The Union have a chance to secure a playoff spot almost five years to the day since their last playoff birth was claimed. Oct. 15, 2011 was the last time the Union clinched a playoff spot; a 1-1 draw against Toronto FC in Chester secured the playoffs for the Union. This year, the Union can clinch in Chester again with a win against Orlando and a New England loss/draw. It’s Clinching in Chester time once again!
An the inconsistent Orlando SC team comes to Chester on Sunday in the most important game since the 2013 season. The Union can claim a playoff spot with one week yet to play by beating Orlando, and if Chicago draws or beats New England. So what can we expect from these two games Sunday afternoon?
Philly will need to bring their A-game against Orlando City. OCSC has been the textbook definition of inconstancy this season; however, they have some of the best attacking players in the league. Brek Shea, Kyle Molino, Carlos Rivas, Cyle Larin, Julio Baptista, and Kaka. If the Union had any one of these attacking players they’d be fighting for the top of the East. Orlando’s attackers are good, but their weak link is their defense. Since August, they have conceded 22 goals! The Union will need to find ways to score, and limit Orlando’s chances. The Union should mimic what DC United did to Orlando a few weeks ago!
DC hosted Orlando in a game where both teams playoff hopes hung in the balance. It was the beginning of the end for Orlando, and helped DC rise to a real playoff contender. To see full highlights of the game click here!
How did DC beat Orlando? By pressing, spreading the ball all around the field, sending in quality crosses, having wingers make effective runs into the box, and finishing chances! Does that not sound exactly how the Union play?! Fabinho and Keegan Rosenberry will have to defend agaisnt Orlando’s quick wingers. The Defensive midfield pairing, whoever is there, will need to press effectively. Chris Pontius and Fabian Herbers need to find the space behind the defense. Tranquillo needs to be the Tranquillo that he always is against Orlando. The striker, cough cough CJ Sapong, needs to have his finishing boots on to get tap ins.
The blueprint is simple. Stop them, play well in transition, and win! The Union have home field advantage, and know they can get in the playoffs if the win and get some help from Philadelphia’s best friends this week.
The Chicago Fire knocked out the Columbus Crew on Thursday night. They can do the same to New England on Sunday, and if they play their game, their last home game of 2016, they should be able to spoil New England’s playoff hopes! The way they can do that is by countering.
Chicago has been a counter-attacking team all season long, and it has paid some serious dividends for them this year. Even though they never looked like a contending team in 2016, they were always consistent in their style of play. Their play works well against over aggressive teams. New England is going to be plenty over aggressive on Sunday.
New England have to win both of their games and win them by large margins to make the playoffs. That plays right into Chicago’s hands. The Fire will counter New England and find space to attack in New England’s half of the field!
The Union are going to be in the playoffs after Sunday! I can feel it. So let’s sit back and soak it in Union fans. Almost five years to the day where the Union clinched a playoffs spot in 2011, they will clinch a playoff spot in 2016! Time to DOOP! Come back to Philly Sports Network for game recap, and a preview of the last game of the year against the New York Red Bulls!
Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Union Editor of Soccer Content
A passion for the beautiful game drives me.