The Philadelphia Union are in 1st place in MLS’s eastern confernece. They are coming off of beating eastern conference favorite Toronto FC up north. Now Philadelphia turn their attention to three straight home matches over the next 12 days, starting with a match against the streaking Seattle Sounders FC
The union are one of only two teams who are on a five game unbeaten streak (NYCFC being the other). This weekend Philadelphia will hope to extend that streak to six games by beating Seattle Sounders FC. The match against the Sounders starts a three-match-in-12-days home stretch for the Boys in Blue. With an opportunity to take nine home points in such a short stretch could prove vital to where this team lands at the end of the season.
Seattle Sounders FC are coming to Chester on Saturday riding a four game unbeaten streak where they have show that they have what it takes to grind out results. Three draws against San Jose LAFC, and at Minnesota was followed by an impressive 1-0 win last weekend against dark horses of the western conference Houston Dynamo. Seattle have gotten results in different ways over the last month. They have came from behind, started strong, fought while being a man down for the majority of a match and have been able to stifle opponents.
In this weekend’s match the Union have to answer yes to three questions if they want to keep the good times rolling. If they can do so, they will continue to show they are one of the best teams in MLS.
Can Philadelphia press Seattle into mistakes, and capitalize on oppertunities?
Philadelphia have been one of the best pressing teams this season, which has been a bit of a surprise. Ernst Tanner’s high paced pressing system is new to Philadelphia, but the team and head coach Jim Curtin have adapted to it, and they have been rewarded with a great start to the season. For the success to continue they will need to press an organized Seattle into mistakes.
Seattle play a 4-2-3-1 that punishes teams. Their attack is is ruthless with Raul Ruidíaz up top, with Nico Lodeiro playing the 10, and Jordan Morris using his speed to get in behind the defense on the wing. Christian Roldan has assumed the roll of Seattle’s do-all midfielder roll. Along the back line, Brad Smith and Kelvin Leerdam bomb up the field as outside backs, and Roman Torres and Kim Kee-Hee lock things down in front of Stefan Frei. The Union will need to do what they have done best this year, press Seattle into making mistakes and pass through the lines to create chances.
The Union will be able to do this on their home turf. Their strikers ability to be the first line of defense will make things difficult for Seattle’s center backs and for Roldan to run the midfield. Coulpe the work the strikers do with the never ending work rates of Jamiro Monteiro and Alejandro Bedoya, and the Union should be able to disposes Seattle and create dangerous counter attacks. I’d expect Jamiro Monteiro to have another huge night like he did against Toronto last week; if he does’nt have a great impact then this Union team may not be able to answer yes to this question.
Can the Union’s young, talented, defense stop Seattle’s attack?
Philadelphia have been one of the better defenses in MLS. When you look at how they were put together, it makes it all the more astounding. An experienced right back in Ray Gaddis, late round draft pick center back Jack Elliot, a homegrown center back Auston Trusty, and a left back from the German third division have put together a great showing in the first quarter of the season. Three of the four defenders are under 23, and are making waves. Will this young talented group will have to stop a scary Seattle side.
For the Union’s defense to stop Seattle, they will need to do it as a unit. The center backs will need to be strong, and the outside backs will have to know when to move up in attack, and when to hang back to stop any threat Seattle has on the wing. Another key will be The trio of Medunjanin, Bedoya and Monteiro will have to track the runs of Nico Lodeiro and Christian
Should the Union be able to do this then Philly should be able to make the games play into their hands. The Union’s strong home record, when they are able to play good defense only conceding five goals over six home matches. If they can keep up their structure and game plan, then they should be able to get the best of Seattle. This type of success would ring as a resounding yes to this question.
Can Philly beat another MLS Cup contender?
This is the major question the Union need to answer. Keeping up the type of play they have all season long helps answer the first two questions, but will the Union actually be able to keep themselves in the conversation of the true contenders in MLS?
Seattle sit just above the Union in MLS’s power rankings, and are just four points behind the high-flying LAFC team for best record in the league. While the best start in team history has put the Philadelphia in the spotlight, they have yet to really capture the eyes of everyone around the league. The win against Toronto helped that a bit, but a win against a Seattle side that is very strong would go miles to get this team the recgnition they want and deserve.
Beating Seattle won’t be easy by any stretch, but if the Union can continue to work their high pressing system to perfection, and are strong when Seattle finds a way to break the press, then Philly will be comfortable to dominate the game like they have for the majority of their home games this season. That’s how they can answer yes to this question!
After a huge road win in Toronto, it’s unlikely that Jim Curtin will make that many changes to his squad. However I see one change for this weekends match against Seattle. Sergio Santos will get his first start of the season for Fafa Picault. Santos is fully healthy, and his lethal ability to convert chances could help give the Union an early edge over the Sounders. The Brazilian will be paired with Kacper Przybylko up top.
The midfield diamond will remain the same, even with Marco Fabián looking rusty against Toronto. He’s the Union’s DP creator, and he needs to get minutes now that he’s healthy. Brenden Aaronson will come on for him in the second half should the Union want his tenacious two way abilities. Montiero ( who is putting in a new-comer-of-the year performance this season) and Bedoya remain the shuttlers, with Medunjanin as the base of the diamond.
The back line stays the same with Wagner, Trusty, Elliot, and Gaddis in the side. They have been stellar all season long, and while some have been asking for Trusty to get a rest, it’s unlikely to happen; Collin won’t start in Trusty’s place, and McKenzie is off with the US-U20’s to prepare for their upcoming U-20 World Cup. Carlos Miguel Coronel is still in net as the lone somewhat helathy keeper.
The bench offers great attacking options, and solid defensive ones should Curtin need to use them. MLS pool goalkeeper Charlie Lyon will be the backup keeper. While the Union will have Collin, and Mbaizo as their defensive substitutions. Warren Creavalle makes the 18 yet again now that Derrick Jones has been traded. The attacking options of Aaronson, Ilsinho and Picault will be there to help the Union make things difficult for Seattle’s defenders.
The Union have never lost to the Sounders at home in MLS play; Philly is 2-0-2 all time at home vs Seattle. We all know Seattle won the US Open Cup in Chester over the Union, but luckily this weekend’s match cannot go to 30 minutes of extra time should the match be tied at full time.
I see the Union keeping up with their tradition of not losing against the Sounders at home. Seattle has a midweek match at home vs Orlando City, while Philly will be resting. This could prove telling to how the Sounders handle two games in four days. Do they roll out their top squad at home on Wednesday night, and maybe rotate the squad on the weekend at Philadelphia? I think they will.
The absence of a few Seattle starters, coupled with the fatigued Seattle players that have to make a cross country trip having already played a match this week having doesn’t bode well for those in rave-green. Combine that with Philly’s rested squad that continually want’s to prove they are for real contender in MLS, will result in three more points for the Union this weekend.
Union: 3 Sounders: 1
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Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports