The Union are in uncharted territory. Philadelphia have won five games in a row across all competitions. They are 10 points above the playoff line and one point out of the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff spot. No, you’re not dreaming, the Union are looking like a contender. They travel to Orlando City SC with a chance to make some history. Should the Union win, they’ll break their record for most wins in a season (13 wins). Our Philly Sports Network Union Crew Preview id the Union can break their record for wins in a season at Orlando City SC.
Saturday night, the Philadelphia Union head down south to battle Orlando City SC. The boys in blue are clearly in their best form of 2018, and possibly the best form in the club’s existence. Five wins in a row (including one in U.S. Open Cup play), and outscoring opponents in that span 11-2, the Union have an opportunity this weekend to leap into fourth place in the Eastern Conference. The Columbus Crew, who currently sit in fourth place, have a much tougher task versus NYCFC on Saturday.
To put it mildly, Orlando City has been dreadful over the last three months, including only one win in their last 17 league matches. They have no shot at the playoffs and have conceded more goals (59) than any other club in Major League Soccer. The next closest teams are the Chicago Fire and Minnesota United FC with 52 apiece. Orlando also sports a laughable worst-in-MLS goal-differential of -21.
Granted, they’ve had stars miss a number of matches, but even when they’ve all been on the field together, their record is still unflattering. Forward Dom Dwyer is having a typical “Dom Dwyer” year, leading the club with eleven goals. Top on the club in assists with nine, is second-year Peruvian midfielder, Yoshimar Yotun. They are already looking to next year. Twenty-year-old midfielder, Pierre Da Silva, is now expected to get regular playing time, along with their newest signing, Peruvian International defender, Carlos Ascues.
Normally, if a club has three matches in a week, you’d expect a decent number of regulars to get the night off, or at least kept out of the starting lineup. The Union won’t play until September 15th at home against Montreal, so coach Jim Curtin can go full-bore with the same guys who played in Wednesday’s night win at DC. If they are in control of the game, say a two-goal lead by the 70th minute, I’d like to see Derrick Jones get a twenty-minute run for Medunjanin and even a fifteen to twenty-minute run for Accam on the wing. It would only make the club stronger in the long run. Alas, here it comes. I think the stout defense will let a few in this weekend, one being from Dwyer. This looks like an easy one going in, but I believe a little letdown is in store.
Prediction: Union 2 – Orlando City SC 2
Union Man of the Match: Borek Dockal
Lucky number 13. That’s the target for Philadelphia Union tomorrow night in Orlando. Their opponent? Well, there not much of a challenge. The Lions of Orlando City haven’t won since July 14th. Yet, their supporters are still hopeful that W’s will occur as the season wraps up. Perhaps the recent return of their captain Jonathan Spector and the two dynamic Peruvian playmakers in Pierre Da Silva and Carlos Ascues could spark a healthy finish to a rather lackluster 2018 campaign.
However high the enthusiasm may be inside the Orlando City SC locker room, it won’t be high enough to handle Philadelphia.
Yes, Philadelphia are set to play their third match over a seven-day span which means some players could show signs of fatigue. But let’s not forget the fact that Jim Curtin’s squad are playing their best soccer at the most opportune time of the season. A trip down south shouldn’t bother this club.
Orlando’s main goal scorer, American forward Dom Dwyer, will need to be contained – much like Wayne Rooney was Wednesday night in DC. Philadelphia’s back line, especially the center backs, have handled multiple matches against high-scoring threats with little trouble. I expect more of the same tomorrow night.
In terms of the starting XI for Philadelphia, I wouldn’t expect too many changes. Considering the extensive two week break in play following tomorrow night’s matchup, Curtin could throw out a very similar starting XI that we’ve grown used to seeing over this stellar 5-match win streak. If anyone will receive a break, expect it to be one of the wingers. But realistically, I’d be surprised if any changes were made.
Look for Philadelphia to dictate the pace of the game as their veteran midfield trio will hope to see a lot of the ball. All three of Curtin’s midfielders have put in solid work over the course of this season – quietly becoming one of the elite midfield groupings in MLS. Haris Medunjanin turned in perhaps one of his best all-around performances Wednesdaynight. Borek Dockal picked up his 13th assist last match, moving him up to second in MLS. Alejandro Bedoya put on yet another passing clinic while remaining highly effective with dynamic off the ball movements.
Expect more of the same tomorrow night from Philadelphia. There is no reason to foresee a let down from this club. They should earn three points without major hiccups. Hopefully Cory Burke can tack on yet another goal to increase his 2018 MLS tally to eight while his fellow country mate Andre Blake will look to earn his fourth consecutive clean sheet in net.
Prediction: Union 3 – Orlando City SC 0
Union Man of the Match: Borek Dockal
The Union are on the verge of making history, breaking their all-time MLS regular season wins record with a win at Orlando City tomorrow night. It couldn’t have come at a better time for Philadelphia. The Union are playing on a very high level, while Orlando City has given up much, if not all, hope for their 2018 campaign. While this would be a game where the Union would usually not take points from, I think this Union squad is determined to exercise the demons of past teams.
Philadelphia are trending up, and have been for most of August. This team has bought into the system, and have had enough time to gel, to the point now where everyone knows their role each game. The result of this has been more goals and wins. As they move on to play Orlando, the main stat that stands out is he Union’s ability to out-possess teams. The Union’s ability to pass around teams to keep possession is turning into their calling card. There have been times where the Union have looked like old-school Barcelona passing around teams, especially as they close out games. They should be able to do this against Orlando City SC.
Orlando are trending down, and have been for quite some time now. At the beginning of the season Orlando went on a run and looked like they were setting themselves up for a run at the playoffs in 2018. Then came the fall. Now they’re last in the East, and as Jeff said, they have only one win their last 17 matches. Orlando’s is only threatening when they are given time to possess the ball in the final third. The Union’s style of play has been to swarm teams when they try to pass around them around their box. The Union should have a game plan to dispossess Orlando when they look threatening.
This match is one the Union can play their game. As it’s been said, the Union will have two full weeks until their next match. This means that all of the players will be willing to give all they have to get another win. I see them doing so. The Union will out-possess Orlando, and frustrate them. This will cause Orlando to break their shape. When that Happens, I see Alejandro Bedoya, finding passing lanes to create offense for those ahead of him. The Union win this one and break their single season wins record.
Prediction: Union 2 – Orlando City SC 0
Union Man of the Match: Alejandro Bedoya
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Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports.