Three things the Union must do to advance to CCL quarterfinals

The Philadelphia Union took care of business in Costa Rica in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League (CCL) beating Saprissa 1-0. Now the attention shifts to the second leg in Philadelphia tonight. While Philly may have the advantage, head coach Jim Curtin has stressed the fact that winning the first match of a two-legged playoff is the same as “being up at halftime.” There are three things the Union must do to secure their spot in the quarterfinals of CCL

Union outlast Saprissa
Mandatory Credit: Scotia Bank Concacaf Champions League

Three things the Union must do to beat Saprissa in Leg-two

The Union does have the advantage heading into their second-leg match. However, they should not underestimate Costa Rican giants Saprissa. If the Union takes their opponents lightly, then they could make things much more difficult. Should Saprissa get an early goal, then the aggregate score would be tied. This would make the match one that could go to extra time or penalties. For Philadelphia, there are three things they have to do to beat Saprissa and secure their spot in the CCL quarterfinals.

1: Start their best available XI players

The Union had a bit of good news ahead of their second leg match. Striker Sergio Santos is now healthy enough to make the game-day squad for this match against Saprissa. In the first leg, Philly only had one healthy striker (Kacper Przybylko). Przybylko scored the only goal to give the Union their lead into the second leg. Now Philly has their second starting striker healthy. This gives Union head coach Jim Curtin the ability to choose to start what many have said will be the best XI players for Philly in 2021. 

If Curtin and the Union want to show they belong in this tournament and keep their strong home record over the last few seasons alive, then they will need to play their best XI players from the start of this game. With Santos being able to play, this could be a possibility. An XI of Blake; Wagner, Elliot, Glesnes, Mbaizo; Martinez, Montiero, Bedoya, Fontana; Santos and Przybylko would help Philly to push for a win in leg two. That coupled with a short-handed Saprissa side may make the scales tip further in the Union’s favor.

2: Tire out Saprissa’s thin roster

Saprissa could be without as many as four players who started in leg one last Wednesday night. They have players out due to injury, COVID-19, and travel restrictions that didn’t allow some players to come to the US from Costa Rica. Needless to say, Philly will need to take advantage of who is not there for Saprissa. They can do this by playing their style of play. Especially at Subaru park over the last few seasons, the Union has imposed their will against their opponents. They’ll look to do this again tonight.

The Union was able to dominate the style of play down in Costa Rica in leg one. In the second leg, they should be able to do that and more. To tire out Saprissa, Philly will need to play well in possession. Making Saprissa chase the ball around will tire them out significantly. Assuming Saprissa will push for that tying goal, there may be opportunities for Philly to have a numbers advantage on the counter-attack as well. The Union will need to take advantage of when they can possess the ball and when they can catch Saprissa out on the counter-attack. Doing this to perfection will lead to a Union win, and it will show that the Union will play to win the game from the first whistle.

3: Play to win the game from the jump

In the past, the Union would have treated this game as one where they would need to sit back and defend for 90 minutes. Now, Jim Curtin and his team show they want to win every time they step on the pitch. If the Union comes out and is content to sit back and not try to impose their style of play on the match, then it will allow Saprissa to be comfortable and push for the important goal they need. The goal for Philly is to not allow the visitors to gain any semblance of comfortability at Subaru park. For the Union to do this they’ll need to play their style of soccer.

The Union could easily push for the win early on in this second leg. If the Union can score a goal early in the match, it will make things that much harder for Saprissa to get back into contention. This will make the visitors push higher and commit more number less forward. This giving Philly more opportunities to spring a lethal counterattack to get more goals. The job is only halfway done for Philly; however, they have the mentality as style to win this second leg and secure their spot in the quarter-finals of the Concacaf Champions League! 

 Can Philly make more history?

If their first-choice starting XI starts the match, if the Union can tire out Saprissa’s thin roster, and if Philly pushes for the win from the beginning of the match, then they will win and be off to the quarter-finals of CCL. If they don’t do those three things they will allow Saprissa to become a bit more comfortable and possibly push to keep their CCL hopes alive. 

What will happen? You’ll have to tune in to find out! If you’re watching from home you can catch the action on Fox Sports 1 (FS1): Our Philly Sports Network crew will be live from Chester covering the match for you as well, don’t miss a second of what could be some historic action!

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Mandatory Credit: Scotia Bank Concacaf Champions League