The Union’s next five matches are crucial for their season. All are agaisnt familiar foes; four eastern conference matches, and the Union’s first US Open Cup match of 2017. The only away match is at NYCFC this afternoon. These matches are so important because if the Union want to find success this season they will need to get good results from these matches. The next month can complete a Union turnaround or crush all hope depending on results.
The Eastern conference is the more competitive conference this season, and the Union are right on the edge of the top six. Doing well in these games against conference opponents can propel the Union above the red line. An opening win in the Open Cup, allows for another suspense filled Cup run. This can salvage the season should the league results not go the teams way. So what should the Union expect to get from these five matches?
@New York City FC
This match looks to be one of, if not, the hardest match out of all of them. Union captain Alejandro Bedoya has been called into US men national team duty, which breaks up the Union’s pairing of Bedoya and Medunjanin. Warren Creavalle should slide in to play the eight for the Union. NYCFC have lost to Atlanta, and drew New England in their last two matches. That being said, they are still a dangerous team. David Villa still does amazing things, and the NYC supporting cast have helped in recent weeks.
This game will be a slugfest on the small field Yankee stadium. Both teams will look to move quickly up the field. If the Union want any points from this one they’ll have to stop David Villa, and dictate the flow of the game. I’m predicting a 2-2 draw. The Union will take that point into an off week, and prepare for their opening US Open Cup match.
vs Harrisburg City Islanders
The Union begin US Open Cup play against their ex-affiliate team Harrisburg City Islanders. Harrisburg defeated Reading United 3-0 in the third round of the Open Cup last week, and travel to Talen Energy Stadium to play the Union. Philly will be coming off of an off week to play Harrisburg, but the regular starters may not see the pitch. The Open Cup is a great place to give minutes to bench players, so they can prove that they are good enough to push the team. This can help the Union gain confidence. Players like Keegan Rosenberry and Josh Yaro could feature and get some valuable and tough minutes.
Prediction: Win in 90 minutes
The Union are a stronger team than Harrisburg, and while the Islanders will put up a fight it’s nothing the Union shouldn’t be able to handle. The bench players that feature for the Union are all good players, and if any starters feature they will be raring to go to get back on the field after an off week. I predict the Union win 2-0. Philly will then have to turnaround fast and face a rival.
vs New York Red Bulls
Philly Takes on the Red Bulls for the final time at home in MLS league play in 2017 in June. they will be looking to be building off of an Open Cup win, by gaining ground in the east. The Red Bulls always play the Union well, even if New York losses. Just look at the last meeting; The Red Bulls looked very good until they conceded 70+ minutes in. The Red Bulls press is scary good, and is something the Union will have to watch out for. Philly, on the other hand, will look to beat the press and hold possession to get the result they want.
Philly won 3-0 last time they played Red Bulls and I think New York will carry that into this match. Their press is usually a contributing factor in the goals they score against the Union, so if they do well with that, the Union will have a hard time. I predict a 1-1 Draw. The Union won’t have time to think of the two points dropped with DC coming to town.
vs DC United
DC United finish their games agaisnt the Union in late June. DC has been a very inconsistent team this season, and is are near the bottom of the east looking up. They will be in desperation mode, like the Union to climb back to relevancy in the east. In the two previous matches these two teams have played this season, each team dominated the other. The first match DC dominated and won; the second was a Union thrashing of DC. The third and final contest will probably be more even than the last two.
The Union will really need the three points, and are the home team. DC also really need the points so this match will be a tightly contested one. The crowd should give Philly the slight edge over DC. Having 17,000 fans cheering for the Union will give them the boost they need to beat DC. I predict a 2-1 win for the Union. They should be able to build even more off this result in the next week.
vs New England Revolution
New England come to town, to end the Union’s home stand, at the beginning of July. This will be the first meeting between these teams in 2017, and could stand to really help the Union. New England is another inconsistent team this season. They do well one week, then get blown out another week. The Union have done well against New England in the past at Talen Energy Stadium, beating them 3-0 last season. With good team defense and smart passing to break down New England this year could look similar to the last’s.
The Union will have the crowd, and the confidence flowing as they face New England. While the Revolution will be hungry for points, they will have trouble breaking down the Union’s stout team lead defense. I predict a 2-0 win for the Union. This would bring the Union to 24 points through 17 matches played in the league, which could be enough to turn the season around.
Where The Union Stand now:
|Orlando City SC||23||1.64||14||7||5||2|
|Columbus Crew SC||22||1.47||15||7||7||1|
|New York City FC||21||1.5||14||6||5||3|
|New York Red Bulls||20||1.43||14||6||6||2|
|Atlanta United FC||18||1.5||12||5||4||3|
|New England Revolution||17||1.21||14||4||5||5|
The Union are on the outside right now, but good results against eastern conference teams changes that. The Union also have a game in hand on half of the east right now; five of those teams are above the red line. The opportunity to rise up the standings is there. However the ability to make a run in the US Open Cup is also here for the Union.
If the Union can get past Harrisburg, they will likely play the winner of DC United and Christos FC (the only amateur side left in the tournament) in the round of 16. Should the Union win that match they will play one of these four teams in the quarterfinals: NYCFC, New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution or Rochester Rhinos. This road is one that is a fairly reasonable one. The Union should have their eyes fixed on a US Open Cup run.
Where the Union could be:
All in all, these five games should be approached the same way by the Union. Business as usual; one game at a time. While the club will keep this mentality, these games are not to be understated as “just another game.” These games are crucial for the Union’s 2017 aspirations.
Getting 8-12 points from the league games will put the Union in a prime position moving forward. Starting the Open Cup on the front foot, and giving some playing minutes to those who deserve it will help keep the squad confident as they go through the magic of the Cup. These games are ones the Union cannot drop many of. If they do all hope of taking something from this season may be lost.
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Follow me on twitter @TGing21 for Soccer Twitter fun! Coming soon: A preview of the US U-20’s World Cup quarterfinal clash with Venezuela. A recap US Men’s National team’s tune up vs Venezuela. A recap on how the Union did in NYCFC. Until then, peace out!
Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports