The Philadelphia Union are in the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs, but have faltered in the last two matches heading into the playoffs. The Union are the sixth and final seed in the Eastern Conference in the playoffs. Now, the Union have to look ahead to the knockout round game, on the road at NYCFC.
The Union take on NYCFC three days after they lost in the Bronx in their season finale. This rematch can be a momentum builder redemption game for Philadelphia, but to get there they have to make some changes to get the win at New York City.
Rematch for redemption:
— x – Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) October 31, 2018
At the end of Decision Day the Union knew they had fallen, but did not know who’d they face. Once all of the dust settled, they knew a rematch with NYCFC was on the cards. The circumstance of this fall in the standings presents the best possible option for the Union to find revenge.
Going back to NYCFC after just losing to them three days ago, gives the Union the chance to find revenge, and redemption. Beating the team that just kick the total crap out of them would be a hell of a way to get revenge and find a sense of redemption. A win would be the result of a gritty performance, and could change Philadelphia’s momentum going forward.
A momentum builder:
Jim Curtin talking with reporters today. Said the game could be more of a street fight compared to what they’ve done this season.
Ilsinho will play an important role. Burke incident was just “in the moment”.
— Joe Tansey (@JTansey90) October 30, 2018
Should the Union find revenge and redemption, they will have built up some good momentum heading to the altar stages of the playoffs where they’d have to take on the Red Bulls in the next round. In preparing for the rematch Jim Curtin gave some insight into how the team can change their momentum.
Curtin said that the 34 games in the regular season are finished and are meaningless now. Essentially, he is instilling to his team that this is a fresh start for the team to go on an improbable run through MLS’ postseason. He let everyone know that Cory Burke will be the starting striker despite his tough match last Sunday. Curtin also said that Ilsinho will have a more elevated role in this match. Ilsinho was a second half sub in the last match when the match was already out of reach. Does this mean he could potentially start.
Whether this sense of motivation spoken by coach Curtin helps the squad will be seen on the pitch. However, these words could mean nothing if no changes are made to the way the Union play NYCFC.
Changes are key to victory:
These graphics from MLS and @OptaJack's NYCFC-Union box score are maps of touches by New York's Jesús Medina (19), Ronald Matarrita (22) and Alex Callens (6) in the center of the field from the edge of the Union's 18-yard box to the end line they attacked. pic.twitter.com/e5Fs7r7eQF
— Jonathan Tannenwald (@thegoalkeeper) October 29, 2018
NYCFC lived on the left side of the Pitch against the Union in the last match. They started their attacks wide to draw the Union out wide and then looked to cut back inside, or cross to the middle where there would be an open space. This worked well for NYCFC and helped produce two of their three goals in their victory over the Union last Sunday. A key to the Union’s victory in their playoff rematch will be how they deal with New York City’s ability to run the game this way.
In the post-game chat with the media last week, Alejandro Bedoya noted this as the reason NYCFC were able to have so much success so early. For the Union to stop this, their right side will have to be astute to the way City operate.
Whether it’s Ilsinho or Sapong on the right-wing they’ll have to pinch in, and help out with overloads. Keegan Rosenberry will have to stand strong to keep the ball wide, and force New York City backwards. Mark McKenzie will have to stay home so as not to let there be open space for David Villa to get in behind him. The play from Alejandro Bedoya will also be instrumental to how the Union deal with NYCFC’s attack. He’ll need to pick and choose the times he helps out wide and when he stays home. Any Union turnover should be played to him to so he can look to start the Union break.
One key change for the Union to negate NYCFC’s game-plan would be starting Ilsinho on the right-wing. The Brazilian’s ability to make something out of nothing could help keep possession for the Union, and could help them when they break New York’s pressure and look to move forward. This puts CJ Spaong on the bench, and allows for a more direct two striker option for late in the match should Philly need a goal.
Change’s have to be made if the Union want to make it past NYCFC and make a run in the playoffs. Here’s a look at the run the Union would need to make to get to MLS Cup 2018.
A look at the Unions route to MLS Cup 2018:
The #MLSCupPlayoffs are here!
Who's your pick to win it all? pic.twitter.com/tmrCaOMCNC
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) October 29, 2018
As the playoffs kickoff, the Union head to New York City FC. Should they get their revenge, and make it to the conference semifinals they have a two-legged home-and-away series with New York Red Bulls. If Philly beats the best team in MLS history, they’ll move on to the conference finals in a two-legged home-and-away series against either Atlanta, Columbus or DC United. Win that you’re in MLS Cup 2018.
However unlikely this run would be, how Philadelphia would it be for them to find a way to go on a run. All of the momentum is now against them, and while the Union have not been the best team in MLS, they have shown they can play good soccer.
They need a spark, to get them to play to their full potential. If that doesn’t come tonight at NYCFC, then the Union will be watching the rest of MLS Cup Playoffs 2018 like the rest of us.
Union vs NYCFC TONIGHT, 7:00 PM on FS1 &UniMas:
Be sure to catch the match tonight on FS1 and UniMas at 7:00 PM. If you’re walking your kiddos around for trick-or-treating the match will be streamed on the Fox Spots Go app! Don’t miss out on the Union’s third playoff appearance in their nine-year existence!
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Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Union Editor of Soccer Content
A passion for the beautiful game drives me.