The Philadelphia Union’s recent play has been interesting to say the least. When at their best, they are competing toe to toe with Atlanta, and beating New York Red Bulls. When they’re missing players due to red cards and suspension, this team resembles one that cannot play the high pressure style that they like to play. It’s true that this Union team will only go as far as their central midfielders go. With another match without one of those players, and the Union coming off a huge confidence boosting win over Red Bulls to advance to the US Open Cup quarterfinals, will they be able to beat the fourth place team in the west? Our latest Philly Sports Network Union Crew Preview looks to answer that question!
I have to go by history here. I’m not going to count the Union’s 2-1 win over the Red Bulls in the U.S. Open Cup last week towards their current form. Year after year we get hyped up after those matches, think there is some correlation to their overall league play, and they come out and lay an egg. So coming off a 2-0 deflating home loss to Toronto FC, the Union have to start taking care of business at home again. As things stand now, the boys in blue will be in a four-way battle with New England, Orlando and Chicago for the 5th and 6th spots when it comes playoff time. With their constant disparaging play throughout the years (and in 2018) on the road, they must capitalize when they have the opportunity at home.
The Vancouver Whitecaps are standing in the way of those much-needed three points. They sport one of the most talented and balanced offensive attacks in Major League Soccer, but also field one of the league’s worst defenses, surrendering nearly two goals per game. They are in great form, losing only once in their last eight matches, and haven’t lost since May 5. Veteran Kei Kamara has established his presence on their front line but the strength of Vancouver’s roster is clearly its midfield. The trio of Alphonso Davies, Cristian Techera and Felipe Martins can cause havoc for the opposition and they’ll be looking towards a shootout Saturday night.
Haris Medunjanin will be sitting out the next few league matches so coach Jim Curtin has another decision to make about the midfield. Starting Ilsinho at the 10 did not work out. Borek Dockal was playing superbly there and it made no sense to move him out of that position. It has to be Derrick Jones or Anthony Fontana. It just has to be, right? Ilsinho has been great as a sub lately so keep him there. And for soccer sake start Burke again.
Having Ilsinho, Sapong and Accam as offensive subs is not the worst hand a coach could be dealt. But Saturday is about Seba. We miss him and will honor him for what he’s done on and off the pitch for Philadelphia. I think this will cause a little extra juice that Talen Energy Stadium has been lacking and it will hopefully feel like the good old days.
Prediction: Philadelphia Union: 4 Vancouver Whitecaps: 3
Union Man of the Match: Alejandro Bedoya
To provide some nuanced opinions on Philadelphia Union’s next match, I’ll go against the history (this feels weird) that Jeff mentioned. Sure, Philadelphia have a track record of performing at high levels during the Open Cup while falling short in league play. It’s also a known fact that other clubs really don’t pay much mind to the Open Cup. That was evident when Philadelphia beat Richmond Kickers who fielded a squad with a heavy reserve presence – a ‘B’ team of sorts.
But yet another fact is this: Philadelphia played a very well-rounded match against New York Red Bulls. New York fielded a competent squad as well. Yet Philadelphia and Jim Curtin were able to grab the W.
So why would I not expect more of the same consistent soccer Saturday night. The circumstances are priming the matchup against Vancouver Whitecaps for a memorable affair. The captain of long ago, arguably the most loved of all players to rock the blue and gold, will be honored. What a better way to show appreciation for Le Toux then by winning in front of your home crowd.
Medunjanin is still out. Which means one of the three midfield spots is open for either Derrick Jones or Anthony Fontana to make positive impacts. I’d personally like to see Jones grace the field due to his defensive mindset and sporadic offensive skills. However, seeing Jones as a consistent member of the match day 18 just doesn’t happen anymore.
In my mind, there’s no reason for a hiccup performance from Curtin and his squad. The expectations are high and fans are hungry for wins. The 2-0 loss to Toronto FC still looms large. A win will further bury that result in the past. Where it belongs.
Prediction: Philadelphia Union: 2 Vancouver Whitecaps: 1
Union Man of the Match : Ale Bedoya
As the Union honor Sebastien Le Toux as their first member of their ring of honor, the team actually playing will have to play with the tenacity and grit the fighting Frenchman did during his Philadelphia Union career. The Union play another of Seba’s former teams Vancouver Whitecaps who have been a team hovering around the top of the western conference all season. The Union get back to MLS play after a week off from league play. the stage is set for a huge statement win, but can the Union get a W?
Fresh off of their momentous win against Red Bulls in the round of 16 in the US Open Cup last weekend, Philadelphia found a good confidence boost heading back into league play. A damper to that confidence is the news of Haris Medunjanin receiving a two game suspension after he blew up after receiving a red card earlier this month in Atlanta. The Union’s midfield will be without their Magista, who was the Man of the Match against the Red Bulls. The Union will have respond by grinding out results without Haris. Against Vancouver the Union will have to pick the right man for the job.
With Warren Creavalle, Derrick Jones and Anthony Fontana fighting for the number six spot, all three bring different qualities to a match. Creavalle is a straight up monster in defense, breaking up opposition attacks. Jones shows some of the same qualities of Creavalle, but can also be a good option on the attack. Fontana brings an amazing work rate to the middle of the field. While he’s more an attacking option, he could frustrate Vancouver.
Whoever is picked will have to correct the mistakes seen in the last league match vs Toronto. There can be no through balls played behind the back line from the center of the pith thirty-forty yards out. A combination of any of these three and Captain Ale Bedoya should be able to put out Vancouver’s dangerous attack!
If the Union control the game in the middle of the field, then they will be able to get forward the way they like to. Vancouver’s defense has been somewhat of a question mark this year, so controlling the possession and pace of play will be the crucial factors of the Union getting their first league win in the month of June.
I see the Union being able to do this, and I think it will be because of the midfield tandem of Bedoya and Creavalle. I see the two central midfielders dominating the game, and getting a joint Man of the Match honors!
Prediction: Philadelphia Union: 3 Vancouver Whitecaps: 1
Union Man of the Match Alejandro Bedoya & Warren Creavalle
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Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports