After humiliating Orlando City SC throughout the second half of Wednesday night’s 3-1 victory, Philadelphia will play host in the second straight match thanks to a unique MLS schedule hiccup.
When MLS announced the 2019 schedules, Philadelphia Union fans may have immediately, noted the first week of July being a bit ‘odd.’ Philadelphia became destined to clash with Orlando twice in just four days. Now, Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium could provide some fireworks on the pitch before the actual post-match fireworks thanks to Wednesday night’s overtly physical battle.
The question of the night following Wednesday’s 3-1 victory in Orlando hinted at the possibility of some retaliation of sorts. In other words, will any bad blood spill over into tonight’s match-up?
If I were still lacing up my cleats, I’d sure be trying to throw my weight around a bit more than usual.
But Union players Kacper Przybylko and Fafa Picault decided to focus on what’s most important during their post-match interviews Wednesday.
The striker duo, both lamented the importance of resting while continuing to perform at consistent levels as a team. Head Coach Jim Curtin also highlighted the importance of showing character by staying united as a team.
The messages seem clear from coaching staff to players: stick together, do your jobs, and results will follow.
“During the pre-game talk, we talked about having a positive response from Saturday,” said Curtin following Wednesday night’s win. “We showed character by sticking together and going into halftime tied was important. Teams of character find ways to get results on the road.”
Przybylko is a huge part of Philadelphia’s recent success too. “Kacper’s been excellent for us,” said Curtin of the 6’4” forward. “When we need a goal, Kacper seems like the guy that steps up in a big way. Really proud of him. But it starts with a lot of his defensive work.”
The size and defensive awareness Przybylko brings up top meshes well with fellow striker Picault, who’s smaller frame and blazing speed force opponent’s to make quicker decisions than normal, forcing chances for Philadelphia to spring forward offensively.
“Now is the time to be consistent and catch form,” said Picault. “It’s very easy to start to crumble when you go down, especially away, but it’s important that we stick together, and we’ve done that and gotten results.”
Now, the Union return to Chester and their ‘fortress on the river.’ “The three points in Orlando doesn’t mean much if we don’t follow it up with a really good performance here in front of our home fans,” said Curtin. “Guys are anxious to get home, it’s been a while.”
The July homecoming will be made more special by the reemergence of MLS All-Star keeper Andre Blake’s return to the club after carrying his home country Jamaica to the finals of the 2019 Gold Cup. Blake will replace the 20-year homegrown keeper Matt Freese who won his first MLS game in Orlando Wednesday.
But Blake’s return is also tainted a bit by the disappointing news surrounding Philadelphia’s best player so far this season, Jamiro Monteiro. Monteiro was savagely tackled from behind by Orlando midfielder Sacha Kljestan, who stabbed the back of Monteiro’s leg with his cleats late in the second half.
Monteiro exited shortly after, Kljestan received a red card and a one game suspension, and now both will miss Saturday nights match.
Which could be a killer blow for Philadelphia considering they have relied so heavily on Monteiro to spark offense while clogging up the central areas defensively.
Kljestan and Robin Jansson will miss Saturday’s re-match. The absence of two of Orlando’s stronger players should provide Philadelphia a chance at yet another win and three points. But they’ll have to do so without their MVP to date.
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Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports
Graduate of Pennsylvania State University ’16. Interests include sports and history. Follow on twitter for Philly sports news – @MMcClain_PSN
Philadelphia Union writer.