The Union fell to Montreal Impact at home last Saturday, and are now in a tough position. Philadelphia now play four games in 11 days that will determine if the Union’s 2018 campaign is a success or a failure. Our Philly Sports Network Union Crew Preview if the Union can bounce back Seattle.
Tonight’s match-up against the red-hot Seattle Sounders is a dreaded one. It’s a match-up that Union fans have fretted over ever since it was rescheduled months prior thanks to Seattle’s appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League. However, whether fair or not, Philadelphia must compete in a midweek cross-country showdown against MLS’ hottest team.
Seattle have won nine straight league matches, which is an MLS record in the post-shootout era. Yikes. All-time against Philadelphia, Seattle touts a 4-4-2 record with a 4-1-1 at home. Safe to say, the odds are stacked against the Union who are entering the match-up on just three days rest.
Borek Dockal will need to be in top form for Philadelphia to escape with a result. The Czech creative midfielder played Saturday night despite nursing an ankle injury but he didn’t look his sharpest. His touch was slightly off which disrupted Philadelphia’s timing. Union fans will hope his ankle is fully healed tonight as his skills will decided the affair.
Another important factor to weigh is Cory Burke and whether he receives the ball in useful areas of the pitch. At times during Saturday night’s 4-1 loss to Montreal Impact, Burke seemed to be the loneliest player on the pitch. He was continually isolated up top all alone which created problems for Union’s midfield when moving forward in the attack. Union fans will hope the offense gels a bit smoother tonight – however, in a hostile environment, that may be a tough ask.
Ultimately, the Union will want to earn a draw tonight. If they pulled off a home victory against Montreal Saturday night, this mid-week match-up would be irrelevant. But that’s simply not the case anymore. A point is needed tonight.
Prediction: Union 1 – Seattle Sounders 2
Union Man of the Match: Fafa Picault
Seattle Sounders are on a tear; winners of nine straight games. The Union are coming off what could be a soul-crushing home loss. These two facts are the things that make Union fans cringe, even more so than the 11 pm start time on a weeknight.
The Union looked like a past version of themselves last weekend, flashbacks to 2014-2015. The team was not playing well, lucked into an early lead, then got gutted by a Montreal side who out-smarted them by sitting deep and countering. Now the Union have to make a cross-country trip to battle hot Seattle. Now that the Union lost some ground on their playoff standing, they need to find a result in Seattle.
To do this comes at great risk, the US Open Cup Final is a week away. This game against Seattle and a home match against Kansas City before the USOC Final are now more important with the dropped points against Montreal. With this, what does this Union team do? Do you rest some starters against Seattle or against SKC?
I see the Union resting some players against Seattle, but only for injury concerns. Borek Dockal and Ilsinho should be nowhere near that turf field tonight. While they are both great creative options, they are both coming off injuries. It’d be better to have Anthony Fontana a run. Other than the number 10 role, I could see maybe resting Haris Medunjanin, Ray Gaddis and Jack Elliot. Their replacements being Derrick Jones, Fabinho and Mark McKenzie. Rotating four to five players in both matches before the Open Cup Final will help the Union compete in important games, while insuring that they aren’t too tired when they face Houston next week.
My predicted starters/bench would look like this:
Blake; Fabinho, Trusty, McKenzie, Rosenberry; Jones, Bedoya; Picault, Fontana, Sapong; Burke.
McCarthy; Elliot, Gaddis; Creavalle, Accam, Epps; Przybylko.
This 18 will be strong enough to fight the Sounders, while still resting some key players. This will allow some young homegrown’s to show what they are about Anthony Fontana and Derrick Jones have looked good in their limited time on the pitch this season, giving them ninety minutes will be good for their confidence and the team.
Bringing McKenzie and Fabinho on the back line is a bit risky, but when you give up four goals at home, some changes should be made. Having Jones playing D-mid ahead of the back four will help disrupt Seattle’s buildup play.
The attack will look the same as usual, and will be hungry to show that their pitiful performance vs Montreal was just a fluke. Cory Burke, who did very little last Saturday, will get back to his normal ways against Montreal. He is the key to securing points at Seattle. I see him bagging a goal, and playing close to 75 minutes. Then we’ll see the debut of new striker Kacper Przybylko for the last 15 minutes.
Seattle is one of the best teams in MLS, and are on a historical run to the playoffs. The Union won’t stop their run, but I do see them ending their long win streak, by securing a point on the road.
Prediction: Union 1 – Seattle Sounders 1
Union Man of the Match: Cory Burke
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Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports