Winners of three in a row, Philadelphia Union return to Chester to begin a three-match home-stand while sitting comfortably in second in the Eastern Conference table.
A home stretch like the one that sits in front of Philadelphia won’t happen again until late August. By then the Eastern Conference table could shuffleboard teams up and down at will. But tomorrow, when Seattle Sounders FC appear on the pitch along the river at Talen Energy Stadium tomorrow evening, Philadelphia will still have a strong grasp to the number two spot, just one point behind regional rival DC United.
With continued success comes continued expectations. But not many predicted the Union’s dominance in the East this early in the MLS calendar year. So technically the Union have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If nobody expects greatness, the pressure is leveled. However, in the Philadelphia sports scene, winning is always priority which makes Saturday’s contest against a perennial Western Conference powerhouse an ‘ultimate test’ of sorts for Head Coach Jim Curtin and his club.
Philadelphia welcome a Seattle team with two straight wins and a neat five match unbeaten streak with three draws prior to the winning streak’s inception. Safe to say, both clubs are in good form. Seattle enters the match in second place in their own conference with 25 points (Union have 23 points.)
Despite the two points in hand for Seattle, Philadelphia are never an easy test when they play in Chester. They’ve lost just once in their six home matches this season so far, continuing to make Talen Energy Stadium a fortress along the Delaware River. But Seattle is a team which can never be taken lightly. They always contend. Hopefully, Curtin and his staff have been reminding his club of that fact over the past few days in training.
Last match, Philadelphia saw the return of superstar midfielder Marco Fabian from an ankle injury. Along with the Mexicans reemergence in the starting XI came the reappearance of the traditional midfield diamond and 4-4-2 formation. Philadelphia would win 2-1 at Toronto FC behind a Toronto own goal and a Jamiro Monteiro goal thanks to a beautiful assist from Kacper Przybylko. A road win in Toronto should provide extra momentum ahead of Saturday night’s home clash.
Seattle posses some dangerous offensive weapons in Jordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz, both forwards with team-leading four goals each. Luckily for Philadelphia while also disappointing for Morris, the American goal-scorer suffered yet another hamstring injury and did not travel to Philadelphia. Score one for the home side.
Morris’ absence will most definitely provide a sigh of relief for Philadelphia. A high-octane offensive athlete will not be on the pitch making life a bit easier for all eleven Philadelphia starters. Seattle now begin a grueling four match road stretch following their 2-1 home win against Orlando City SC Wednesday night. For them, this match at Philadelphia is of the upmost importance as they hope to squeeze points out of this difficult stretch of their schedule.
Expect a high intensity match Saturday night. If the weather remains dry and sunny, an offensive explosion from both sides could delight fans. Philadelphia should come out victorious and hopefully will continue the best start to a season in franchise history with a seventh home win in 2019.
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Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports