The Philadelphia Union find themselves amid four game unbeaten streak. On that run they’ve taken 10 points from a possible 12. Can they make that 13 points from 15 this weekend? If the Union can beat the banged up Timbers, then they will bring this unbeaten with them on the Nations League break.
Can Union keep streak alive vs banged up Timbers?
While the Union have been on a good run in their previous four matches, this fifth and final match before the international break is crucial. Getting a win, or at the very least points against Portland would be huge for momentum heading into a two week break. With Philly’s current form, and Portland’s injury’s, there may just be a formula for the Union to get the win.
Union’s current form
Philly have been in great form in their past four games defensively, and have been able to score just enough goals to not lose. Over their last four Philly has scored five goals and conceded just once. They’ve kept clean sheets in three of the last four against Chicago, Red Bulls and DC. The defense has been stout, but the lack goal scoring could be a big issue.
The Union have only scored six goals this season. Six goals from seven matches is not anywhere near good enough should the Union want to stay at the top of the eastern conference standings. When looking at the roster and seeing guys like Kacper Przybylko, Cory Burke and Sergio Santos leading the line, the expectation is that each of those guys should get close to double digit goals in a season. The problem seems to stem from the creation of goal scoring opportunities.
We’ve seen the Union do a good job of creating crosses; their outside backs have been fantastic at this in 2021. However in the middle of the pitch things have been inconsistent. Jamiro Monteiro has moment of brilliance, like last week, but he also has games where he isn’t able to be a dynamic 10. Dániel Gazdag could be that guy, but we’ll have to wait until after the Euros to see if that is the case. Anthony Fontana still has a chance to show what he’s got against Portland should he be called upon.
No matter who is on the field for Philly, they will have to deal with a Portland side who is short-handed but still playing like a top western conference team these past few weeks.
Portland’s winning despite injuries
Portland currently have 10 players who are listed as out on their injury report, and others who have been questionable to come back for the match against Philadelphia. Probably the biggest name on that list is Sebastian Balnco who will not make his 2021 debut in Philly after coming off of an ACL injury he suffered back in September of 2020. Another big name on the injury report Diego Chara. He was crucial in shutting down Philly’s attack in their last match up, and it looks unlikely that he’ll factor in this match. This coupled with injuries on the backline and having three inured goalkeepers make the Timbers very short handed heading into their last match before the break, but you wouldn’t know it based on their last two results.
Portland has beaten San Jose and LA Galaxy in consecutive weeks to end a downward spiral. They now look for points on the road at Philly to solidify themselves at the top half of the west at the break. Even with their injuries they still have players that can get the job done. Their attack is still led by Diego Valari who defys the test of time. While their strikers are mostly injured, wingers Jeremy Ebobisse and Darion Asprilla are above average, and midfielders Eryk Williamson and Yimmi Chara are good in the attack. The main weakness of Portland is down their left side.
Kyle Pinnell of Rose City Review spoke on the latest Doop by the River podcast and said that if the Union wants all three points that they should attack down their right-wing and go at Timbers left back Claudio Bravo. Bravo likes to go too far forward at times and in transition moments can struggle to find his mark. Look for the Union to utilize this with Bedoya and Mbaizo out on the right flank. Both of these teams are seated in a playoff position in their conference and with little east-vs-west matchups in 2021 this one should be a cracker!
For the Union to stay at the top of the eastern conference, they’ll need to keep winning. With a rare matchup against a western conference opponent, they’ll not have the luxury of taking points from an in conference for this week. Dropping or taking no points from this match is unacceptable for a team like the Union.
Portland plays a similar style to Philly. They both thrive in the transitional moments, so this match should be very back and forth. While my exact prediction from the latest Doop by the River podcast can’t come true, I still think the score line will be the same.
I see the Union winning 2-1 in a tight match. The first half will be both teams feeling themselves out, and not converting chances. Then there’ll be three goals in the second half. One from the Union’s Sergio Santos, who comes off the bench to get the games first. The next comes from Portland’s Darion Asprilla who’ll score a wonder goal. The final goal will come from Kacper Przybylko in the final 10 minutes of the match to give the union a 2-1 win.
Will that actually happen? We’ll have to watch on Sunday night to find out!
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Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH