Philadelphia Union take on NYCFC in season finale; a home playoff match is on the line.

The Philadelphia Union enter MLS’ decision day with a lot on the line. While they have made the playoffs, the Union can secure a home playoff match and move to third place with a victory over NYCFC. A loss at Yankee Stadium makes things more complicated. 

The formula for both the Philadelphia Union and NYCFC is simple going into the last match-day of the 2018 regular season, known as Decision Day. Win and you claim the 3rd seed in the East, as well as a home playoff game in the Knockout Round next Wednesday or Thursday. If NYCFC loses, they can finish as low as 5th. If the Union lose, they can drop all the way to 6th. The advantage NYCFC has is that a draw will also clinch them the 3rd seed, so it’s imperative the Union get the early lead in this one.

NYCFC will be looking for payback after they were shutout in Chester, 2-0, this past August. The problem for them is they’ve been in horrible form for the past few months. Since July 29th, which was twelve matches ago, their record is 2-6-4. So only two wins in their last twelve matches and they have been outscored during this stretch 20-14. NYCFC is not the scoring machine it used to be. Their defense has been solid at times – they just haven’t been able to score. During the aforementioned stretch, NYCFC has scored three goals only once. They are struggling and the Union should be ready to pounce. As bad as the club in the Bronx is playing, they still have immensely talented players all over the field and are always a tough out at Yankee Stadium.

Building out of the back starts with two players. The first is right back, Anton Tinnerholm. Aside from being a solid defender, the Swedish international has more than adequate offensive skills, contributing 4 goals and 6 assists on the season. The second is MLS All-Star defensive midfielder, Alexander Ring. In only his second MLS season, the Finnish international has established himself as one of the best midfield defenders in the league. Offensively, no player is having a better season for NYCFC than diminutive midfielder, Maximiliano Moralez. At only 5’3 and 115lbs, he makes the offensive engine go. Moralez has been out a month with a leg injury and his status for Sunday is uncertain. Up top is one of the most dangerous players in all MLS and that is David Villa. Missing almost a third of NYCFC’s matches this season, Villa has still been able to log 13 goals and 5 assists, and as Union fans have seen, can score from anywhere on the field.

Even though the Boys in Blue, the real/navy ones, scored five goals at home against Minnesota, that was three weeks ago. And if you take a look at their last four matches, including the U.S. Open Cup final debacle, the Union have been held scoreless in three of those four. Psychologically, it will be of great importance for them to score first and early this Sunday. The key to this contest will be the midfield. The Union are more physical than NYCFC and have demonstrated the ability to grind out matches for a full 90 minutes. NYCFC has several players small and quick enough to slip behind the Union defense. That’s why the trio of Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin and Borek Dockal must control the tempo of the match. I believe they will do just that and bring the Union home for the playoffs!

Prediction

NYCFC:2 Union: 3

Union Man of the Match: Cory Burke

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Mandatory Credit:  Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

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