An in depth look at Philadelphia Union’s 2017 opponents part 4

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The Union’s schedule has been out for a week! Now that there has been time to take in who Philadelphia will face, it’s time to take an in-depth look at each opponent! Here’s a look at the Union’s 2017 opponents part 4:

Redemption at Montreal?:

@ Montreal Impact.
Wednesday, July 19th. Time still to be determined.
2016 record: 11 wins 11 losses 12 ties.
2016 Eastern Conference Standing: 5th.
Strength: High-paced pressing game Weakness: Team defense.

The two-week break for the Gold cup ends in mid-July, and the Union head to Montreal. Philly will hope to find their first win in Montreal since 2015. They will want to avenge their last trip to their Canadian foes. a 5-1 trouncing, thanks to a Drogba hat trick a Piatti stunner, and a late goal. The Union wont have to worry about Drogba scoring three goals, but they have another attacking problem to solve.

Dominic Oduro turned himself into a consistent starter for Montreal last year during the playoffs. His impact was one that produced goals. In the five playoff game Montreal played in 2016, Oduro scored five goals! That production will be hard for the Union to handle, but there is a clear blueprint on how to stop Montreal. If you can keep the ball away from Oduro on the wing, and also away from Piatti in the middle, then the Union will have a better chance of winning. Last May the Union fought Montreal to a 1-1 draw. In that game they contained both Oduro and Piatti, and found a way to bring a point home. If the Union can do that, and take advantage of Montreal’s shaky defense, then they should be able to take at least a point.

Home-and-away with Columbus:

@ Columbus Crew.
Saturday, July 22nd. 7:30 pm.
2016 record: 8 wins 14 losses 12 ties.
2016 Eastern Conference Standing: 9th.
Strength: Quality attackers. Weakness: Bad defense.

Columbus was a giant disappointment in 2016. Their handling of the Kei Kamara-Federico Higuain perfectly sums up their 2016 season.

Kei was traded to New England, and Columbus went on to miss the playoffs after making the 2015 MLS Cup Final. The downfall of Crew SC last season was their defense. Columbus is revamping their defense in preparation for 2017, getting rid of ex-captain Micheal Parkhurst and keeper Steve Clark, and bringing in three new defensive signings. Columbus will look different on the defensive side.

By July, when the Union play Crew SC back to back, Columbus’ back line should be solidified. However, the Union can break them down by following the blueprint laid by last season. In 2016 the Union played Columbus three times and, won all three encounters by an aggregate score of 7-4. The Union took advantage of Columbus’ poor transition defense, which is what they should do this year as well. Even with the defensive additions Columbus brought in, the Union have the talent to hit the Crew on the counter attack. This strategy has worked against Columbus in the past especially on the road.

vs Columbus Crew.
Wednesday, July  26th. 7:30 pm.
2016 record: 8 wins 14 losses 12 ties.
2016 Eastern Conference Standing: 9th.
Strength: Quality attackers. Weakness: Bad defense.

The Union play Columbus again four days later at home. This game is the Union’s last against Crew SC in the 2017 regular season. The Union’s game plan should be similar to last seasons 3-2 thriller played at Talen Energy Stadium, all out attack! Columbus’ weakness is their team defense; when Columbus doesn’t have the majority of possession, they tend to lose games.

Highlights Union 3 Crew 2. June 1st, 2016.

The Union did concede three goals last season at home to Columbus last season, but their attacking positioning was on point. That’s how the Union can beat Columbus again this season. Obviously the Union want to play better defense, and they can if they keep better possession.  If the Union can control the possession at home, and get attacking contributions, especially from their wing players, then they should be able to pull out three points at home.

A tough late summer stretch:

@ New England Revolution.
Saturday July 29th. 7:30pm.
2016 record: 11 wins 14 losses 9 ties.
2016 Eastern Conference Standing: 7th.
Strength: Strong attacking players. Weakness: Team cohesion/defense.

The Union’s Final game against New England is at Foxboro, where the Union have had success over the past few years. Last season their dominant 4-0 win. That game shows how Philly can find success in 2017. The Rev’s have signed two new center backs this week, so their defense will be better than last year. However, a lethal attack, and smart build up play can propel the Union to victory in New England.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rm7VE0BQfag

New England will defend better in 2017, but if the Union can produce scoring chances the way they did last season in New England, they will be celebrating again. What kills New England is lack of possession, and lack of having the ball at their playmaker’s feet. If Nguyen, and Kamara aren’t on the ball, New England has a hard time creating chances. Limiting the Rev’s time on the ball, and creating chances from crosses, set pieces, and build up play is the blueprint on how to beat New England. If the Union follow this plan, they should be able to bring home points.

 

vs FC Dallas.
Saturday, August 5th. 7:00pm.
2016 record: 17 wins 8 losses 9 ties.
2016 Western Conference Standing: 1st.
Strength: Coaching/youthful talent. Weakness: Lack of true leader on the pitch.

The Union’s 2016 season started in Dallas last season. The eventual supporters shield winners, and US Open Cup winners, shut out the Union 2-0. Dallas has one of the best core of young talent in MLS. This offseason they didn’t lose any core players; however, they brought in a savvy veteran leader. Dallas acquired Javier Morales from Real Salt Lake. His presence, in the already talented squad, should produce wonders. Dallas hopes Morales will fill the leadership void that has hurt them in the past. How are the Union going to be able to stop this talented team?

The Union have struggled against Dallas in the past two seasons, especially on the left side. Fabinho has had bad games against Dallas, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the Union play Giliano Wijnaldum in this match. He’s younger, and will have had time to get used to MLS by the time this game comes around. The Union will need to play shut down defense across the board to stop/slow down Dallas. If the Union can sure up their defense at the start of the game, and find ways get possession, or counter attack, then they should be able to stop Dallas from coming to Philly and stealing points.

vs Montreal Impact.
Saturday, August 12th. Time still to be determined.
2016 record: 11 wins 11 losses 12 ties.
2016 Eastern Conference Standing: 5th.
Strength: High-paced pressing game Weakness: Team defense.

The final game against Montreal is a home match for Philadelphia. The Union know how to keep Montreal off the board in games; keep the ball away from Piatti and Oduro. The Union did a good job of this last season in their final game against Montreal, but Montreal stole a point from the game with a late goal. If the Union want to get all three points from this game, they will need to make sure they don’t give away easy late goals.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNQdNEg3Xs4

The U will find success if they can drive at Montreal’s defense. Creating chances, and taking what the defense gives you, is something the Union have done well against the Impact. The key factor in this game will be shutting down Montreal’s talented attack, and not falling asleep on restarts. If the Union can defend free kicks and corners well, they should be able to stifle Montreal’s attempt to get back into the game should the Impact fall behind.

 

@ San Jose Earthquakes.
Saturday August 19th. 10:30 pm.
2016 record: 8 wins 12 losses 14 ties.
2016 Western Conference Standing: 9th.
Strength: Offseason pickups. Weakness: Team cohesion.

San Jose’s ninth place finish was a disappointing one. The Quakes never seemed to get things in order in 2016, they are beginning to change this offseason! Five different signing were brought in to solidify spots all over the field. San Jose will be a very different team in 2017. The 2016 meeting with San Jose was an awkward game where San Jose were gifted a point.

The Union got off to a flying start against San Jose, but failed to acquire the three points thanks to giving up a late goal. The Quakes have the home game this season, and their renewed team will look to be pushing for the playoffs in 2017. They present a good fast attack, with Chris Wondolowski in the poaching inside the box. The way to beat them, is to take advantage of set pieces. The last two games against San Jose the Union have found the back of the net on either free kicks or corners. The Union will have to do that again this season at San Jose, if they can they should be able to bring home points!

 

@ Toronto FC.
Wednesday, August 23rd. Time still to be determined.
2016 record: 14 wins 9 losses 11 ties.
Eastern Conference Standing: 3rd.
Strength: Giovinco. Weakness: Defending the counter attack.

The final game against TFC is across the border at BMO Field. I predicted a tie for the first meeting between these two sides. This one, however will decide who wins the season series. Both teams will want to get a leg up on the other, as they should be starting to jockey for playoff positions. The Union will have to go into one of the toughest environments in MLS and find a way to leave with points. This was something they did very well at the end of the 2016 regular season.

Bedoya’s beautiful chip gave the Union the first half lead; however, bad defending in the second half saw Toronto equalize. Still, a point taken from Toronto, at Toronto, was important, and will be this season as well.  The Union need to do what they did last season to ensure at least a point. That is, sitting deep and counter attacking. If Philly lure TFC’s attackers far up the field, and spring a lethal counter attack, then they will be able to find success. Toronto tends to push their defenders too far forward in attacking instances, this is when the Union should strike. If they can do this as effectively as they did last season in Toronto, then they should be able to secure points that will be crucial down the stretch.

This eight game stretch is a difficult one late in the summer. If the Union can play well, they could find decent results. I predict they lose at Montreal, win both of the home-and-away games against Columbus, Win at New England, Lose at Dallas, tie vs Montreal, tie at San Jose, and lose at Toronto. This is a hard, and long, stretch the Union go through; three wins, two ties, and three losses. They end this stretch with 11/24 points, which is the worst ratio point ratio so far. It brings the Union’s season total to 43/78 points.

Be sure to check back tomorrow the final part of the in-depth look at the Union’s 2017 Schedule!

 

Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

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