The next five matches could make Philadelphia Union true contenders

The Philadelphia Union won at New England last Saturday to move up to fifth in the eastern conference standings. Now in a playoff spot, the Union have a stretch of five games over five weeks against eastern conference opponents. This stretch could make Philadelphia Union true contenders, should they build off their already high confidence with more wins.

CJ Sapong (Left) and Fafa Picault (Right) celebrate the Union’s win at New England. Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The Union’s five games are a split three home and two away matches; the first two come at home, the next two on the road, then after a week of a home finale. The schedule looks like this:

  1. vs New York City FC. Saturday, August 18th.
  2. vs New England Revolution. Saturday, August 25th.
  3. @ DC United. Wednesday, August 29th.
  4. @ Orlando. Saturday, September 1st.
  5. vs Montreal Impact. Saturday, September 15th.

These matches stacked like this presents the opportunity for the Union to gain ground on the eastern conference. This could secure Philadelphia’s spot in the playoffs; as well as, move them closer to becoming a contender in the east!

vs New York City FC. Saturday, August 18th

This Weekend the Union face a team that’s above them, NYCFC. This match is one where the Union will be riding a high of confidence against one of the most formidable foes that will play at Talen Energy Stadium this season! While the Union are playing well, this match may be one where they are knocked down a peg.

All season there has been one constant for the Union, dropping points to teams that are better/higher up the standings. New York City FC are likely to be one of these teams the Union have trouble against. NYCFC have played just one more match than the Union this season, but have 17 more points. They are one point behind first place Atlanta United in a two-way tie for second with their cross-town rivals New York Red Bulls.

Philadelphia will compete with NYCFC. However, with David Villa fresh coming off his injury, and the rest of their squad flying high. I think the Union will fall in the later stages of the match.

Prediction: Loss 2-1.

vs New England Revolution. Saturday, August 25th

Philadelphia will look to bounce back after a loss to NYCFC. They will have a full week to prepare for New England to come to town. The Union have the chance to complete a nine-point sweep from the Rev’s. This match will have a lot riding on it for both sides.

After losing to Philadelphia at home, New England has lost any type of advantage they could’ve had over the Union. They have dropped out of a playoff spot because of it. Should they want to get back in to the fight for a playoff spot. They’ll have to beat the Union at Talen Energy Stadium.

The Union looking for that sweep will be steaming after a loss. That coupled with the confidence of knowing how to play and beat New England, they’ll look to right get back to their winning ways. Philadelphia will be very organized and look to beat New England like they have before. Build play from the back and out-pass them. That coupled with a cumulative finishing touch, they should be able to get the W.

Prediction: Win 2-0.

@ DC United. Wednesday, August 29th

The Union will travel to DC United for a midweek clash that will make history. It will be the first time Philadelphia play in DC United’s new stadium Audi Field. With the playoffs being in reach for both sides, this match could be pivotal.

DC United have played the fewest games in the league while they waited for their brand new stadium to be finished. That coupled with having the majority of their remaining games at home, DC United have the biggest upside of any team fighting for the playoffs. Now that DC United have found ways to win a few games, they look like a totally different team than the Union beat back in April.

Philly beat DC United 3-2 back at the end of April which sprung a good stretch of games for the Union after that! This game will be completely different. A hostile environment awaits the Union, that coupled  with a team on the rise led by Wayne Rooney may cause problems. While DC is on the rise, Philadelphia is the more complete team. The Union should be able to win at DC, as they have done in the past. However, this time will be more difficult for the Union as this game is n the middle of a three game in eight-day stretch. I don’t see either team getting the full three points.

Prediction: Draw 2-2.

@ Orlando City SC. Saturday, September 1st

As September kicks off, the Union end a three game in eight-day stretch at Orlando City SC. Since the last time these two teams met, both teams trajectories have changed. Back in April when these teams met Orlando was in the midst of a winning stream and the Union were floundering. This time around will be the exact opposite.

Orlando City SC have fallen far. AS of right now they sit seven points behind the playoff pace, three weeks from now they could fall even farther. This side had so much promise early in the season. Dwyer, Kljestan, and Meram looked to be an all-star team in the making, but only Dwyer has lived up to the hype this season. The Union should be able to out-tactic Orlando, even in their house.

The Union beat down Orlando City SC in the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup. While the match was only a 1-0 win for Philadelphia, they were able to out-possess Orlando and made it hard for them to move up the field. The Union should be able to do this again to Orlando, who may have given up all hope as the calendar turns to September.

Prediction: Win 3-1.

vs Montreal Impact. Saturday, September 15th

The end of this important stretch comes after a long break in the beginning of September. After the Union play on September 1st, they get a 14 day break until they take on Montreal at home. This break is part of the international window that comes in early September. The US Men’s National Team will partake in games against Brazil and Mexico during that window! As both sides come back from their week off, the two sides will be ready for a fight for their playoff lives.

Montreal and Philadelphia are tied at the moment on points, but the Union hold the tiebreaker, and Montreal has played two more games. Philly will be looking to make sure they keep the tiebreaker against Montreal by beating them and sweeping the season series. Montreal have been an up and down team this year. When Their star Piatti goes off and carries the team they look good, the rest of the time they look mediocre.

This match will be one where The Union have boatloads of confidence. Posting what I believe will be a three game unbeaten streak, and having time to rest, will have this side raring to go. Montreal will be a tough opponent, and have pestered the Union at home in recent years. This time will be different, especially if this Union side is looking to breakthrough into a contender in the eastern conference. The job is simple win your home games; The Union should be able to do that in this match.

Prediction: Win 2-1.

Philadelphia Union true contenders?

With the season getting down to the nitty-gritty the Union will need to have a leg up on the teams close to them in the standings. These results do just that.

Should the matches go this way, the Union would have 10 more points over the five matches. This would put Philadelphia at 40 points having played 28 games. While the top of the east could also progress along with the Union over this stretch, the teams they need to get points from will do poorly.

Taking points from New England, DC, Orlando and Montreal will help the Union’s chances of making the playoffs. If they are able to take points from NYCFC as well, even though I predict a loss, would secure the Union as a playoff contender.

While there are still Important games on the schedule, this stretch could solidify the Union as a contender for the playoffs. It does not however make them true contenders once the playoffs start. Should Philadelphia want to be categorized as a contender to win a playoff game on the road, they’ll have to take points from Columbus (September 29th), New York Red Bulls (October 21st) and New York City FC  (October 28th). All of those matches are on the road.

The Union are trending up, but they are not true contenders until they take care of business against the teams around them, and then compete with the teams above them in the table.

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Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports