Philly Sports Network Union Crew Preview: Union look to blot out heartbreak with win at Columbus

The Union look to blot out their heartbreaking loss to Houston in the US Open Cup Final this weekend. The Union head to Columbus to take on Crew SC with the chance to over take them for fourth place in the Eastern Conference. Our Philly Sports Network Union Crew Preview if the Union can bounce back in Columbus.

Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports.

Jeff Green:

The numbness from Wednesday night is still weighing heavily. I’m typically one to yell at my television during a debacle from the Union and I did, but briefly. Not long into the Open Cup Final, I wasn’t angry. I was disappointed and depressed. The lack of anything the boys in blue displayed that night was nothing short of deer-in-headlights. Jack Elliot was burned twice, Alejandro Bedoya’s name wasn’t mentioned until the middle of the 2nd half, and where the hell was Ilsinho?! The Union are 14 points ahead of Houston in league play, rested most of their starters last weekend, and were still unable to generate much of anything. A number of shots yes, but most misfired or had the pace of a snail stuck in honey.

Not great timing for the most important contest of the year on Saturday in Columbus, who the Union trail by only one point for 4thplace and a shot at hosting a playoff game. The Crew are tied for the third most home wins in MLS this season. They have not lost at home since mid-June. Columbus isn’t a streaky club; they are steady. Looking back at their 2018 slate, they haven’t gone on any notable winning or losing streaks. Their offense goes as striker Gyasi Zardes goes. He is fourth in Major League Soccer with 16 goals, tying the career-high he reached while with the L.A. Galaxy in 2014. The formidable midfield trio of Federico Higuain, Wil Trap, and returning fan favorite, Justin Meram, are one of the best in the league. Anchoring the defense is USMNT goalkeeper and Downingtown, PA native, Zack Steffen. They are strong all over the field and have been through many more matches with post-season implications than the Union.

How will Jim Curtin and the Union respond? They will either get down on themselves or play with a chip on their shoulders. Your guess is as good as mine. The only change to the starting line-up I can see would be Mark McKenzie filling in at center back for the suspended Jack Elliot. It will be interesting to see if the Union do pull off a win, if Curtin sticks with McKenzie rather than Elliot from here on out. I would be surprised to see Ilsinho travel to Columbus. If he wasn’t healthy enough to even come off the bench in Houston, there would have to be a good explanation for him being available this Saturday. This isn’t the typical Union team. They can bounce back with the veterans in their locker room. But I don’t think that will happen until they return home against Minnesota United FC. I’m simply hoping this doesn’t get too ugly.

Prediction: Union 2 – Crew SC 3

Union Man of the Match: Borek Dockal

Matt McClain:

Saturday night’s road match against fourth place Columbus Crew SC will define Jim Curtin’s coaching era in this town. Maybe I’m over hyping it a bit, but after losing in an US Open Cup final for a third time Wednesday night, he MUST win tomorrow night. He’s coached well this season, leading the Union to a franchise record in overall wins as well as a new record for road wins. But here’s the deal, can they win when it matters most? A win tomorrow would cement them into the fourth place slot, providing a much-needed home playoff game. Would the home playoff match pacifier the negativity stemming from yet another Cup loss? Probably not, but it would still be a monumental accomplishment for a team who entered the 2018 season with more doubters than believers.

Columbus, however, needs the win just as badly. With a stellar goalkeeper in Zach Steffen and a formidable midfield anchored by American and captain Wil Trapp, the Crew are certainly a tough team to beat – especially at home. As Jeff mentioned, their home record is noteworthy for sure, but the Union’s road record is at an all-time best. The main worry however, is not the players on the Crew’s roster. It’s simply how a team coming off a devastating shutout loss in a Cup final Wednesday night will bounce back, if at all. They are a resilient group, and if they were to have cracked, it would’ve happened by now. Several times this year, the Union have stumbled in some embarrassing fashions, ie the debacle at Atlanta and more recently the 4-1 blowout lose at home to Montreal. But they have managed to regroup and remain focused on the goal: a home playoff match.
Philadelphia’s back line will need to display a much better performance tomorrow night. At times Wednesday, they looked like traffic cones, allowing Houston to carve them up with ease. Despite the midfield earning over 60% of the possession for the majority of the match Wednesday, the defense couldn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
At this point, it’s far too easy to predict this team falling apart. It’s far too easy to use my platform here at PSN to spew hate and negativity after witnessing a third Open Cup final disaster. It’s far too easy to become a Kevin Kinkead. So I won’t. The Union have metal. It will be displayed tomorrow night. And they will head into next week with sole possession of 4th place in the Eastern Conference.
Prediction: Union 2 – Crew SC 0
Union Man of the Match : Andre Blake

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Peace out Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports.