The Union is riding their high from that Jakob Glesnes goal in Atlanta over the weekend. While that goal helped salvaged a point, Philly dropped one place in the standings. Now they sit in third and welcome Columbus Crew SC to Chester on Wednesday night. Can Union beat Crew SC for the first time since 2019?
Can Union beat Crew SC?
The Union has been on a good run of form, before and now after the break. However, they will need to win their home games to truly be a contender in the eastern conference. Now the Columbus Crew comes to town on a short week. Can the Union do what they haven’t done since 2019 and beat Columbus? Let’s see by taking a look at the last three Union-Crew matches, and look at the Crew’s current form and find three keys to a Union victory!
Union lost two and draw one in last three matches vs Crew
Philly failed to get a win against Columbus in 2020. They played two times in Columbus last year and lost both times. The first game was a dull 1-0 loss where a Lucas Zelarayan shot was deflected past Andre Blake. The second match was all Union on the stat sheet but not on the scoreline. The Union lost that match 2-1 even though Philly had nine shots on target. These losses were a huge hit to the supporters’ shield hopes that luckily didn’t take that trophy from Philly.
This year the Union opened up their season against the Crew and drew 0-0. It was the final match the Union will ever play at Mapfre Stadium, and it was a bit of a rough game. Both sides had just played their first CCL matches on the midweek, and the players were nowhere near fit. It was clear that both teams had quality but it was too early in the year to really see it. Fast forward to this coming Wednesday, and things should be much more exciting, as both teams are coming into their own.
Columbus Crew are still coming into their own in 2021
Columbus Crew is looking like one of those MLS teams that starts a season off okay but is visibly easing their way into the season. Through eight games they sit in fourth place on 14 points. They are one point behind Philly and look to make a real push on Wednesday night.
The Crew is on a three-game winning streak, in which they scored two goals in each game and only conceded two goals in those three matches. Columbus looks to possess the ball and smother teams through their midfield three of Darlington Nagbe, Liam Fraser, Lucas Zelarayán. They are a very good group and dominate games for Columbus. When they are on, they can win a match with their play. Couple that with a future front three of Derrick Etienne, Gyasi Zardes, and Kevin Molino (who came off the bench for Columbus in the last match) and you have a very dangerous front six.
Columbus’ defense could be their weak link. They have been playing winger Pedro Santos as a left-back. That is a huge weak link as he offers more going forward than in defense. The rest of the backline is solid as can be for Columbus. Right now, Columbus is starting Evan Bush in goal while Eloy Room is on international duty. This could be something the Union could take advantage of in this match as well. No matter how you slice it, the Crew is a very good team that hasn’t played to its full potential in 2021. For the Union to get a win in this match, they’ll need to follow the three keys to victory.
Three Keys to a Union victory
For the Union to get this win at home they’ll need to keep pace with New England at the top of the eastern conference, then they’ll have to execute the following keys to victory.
1. Stay awake on set pieces, and recycled balls
The Union showed they struggled against Atlanta on defending set pieces and on reworked balls that come from those opportunities. Columbus scored both goals last week against Chicago Fire off of opportunities just like that. The Union needs to be more diligent in those situations.
Philly has shown they are a great defensive team through the run of play. Now they will have to get better on set pieces. Getting to the ball first and clear it up the field to stop the chance. Doing this against Columbus will help the Union find its way to three points.
2. Limit the Crew’s midfield touches
The Crew’s midfield three looks to dominate games, and has all of the skill to create attacks from nothing especially when other teams have numbers pushed forward. The Union has a swarming midfield four that should be able to stifle Columbus’ three, but that is easier said than done.
Of the three midfielders, Nagbe and Zelarayan are the two who are the most dangerous. Their ability to create an attack off of a quick turnover is easy for them. They can make one pass that takes three defenders out of plays. Philly will need to have Flach on Zelarayan and a combination of Bedoya and Monteiro on Nagbe to have a better chance at getting the win.
3. create chances on the transition moments and on set pieces
Columbus has conceded in five of their eight matches this MLS season. Each goal has been scored as a result of a transition moment or a set-piece. This is the Union’s bread and butter. They thrive in the transition to spring a counterattack and have shown they can score off of set pieces this season.
Doing so against in this match is the thing that will put Philly over the top to getting three points. Subaru Park is allowed to have a full capacity crowd, which will likely play a factor as well. Columbus could be tired from traveling and playing on the weekend. When the Union has moments to strike they need to take them, it will lead to goals vs Columbus.
I see this match as a closely contested one as all Union-Crew games are, however, I see a lopsided scoreboard. A midweek game smack-dab in the middle of a busy summer schedule for MLS teams means that the team that travels usually has the disadvantage. I see the Union winning this game 2-0. The Union’s game plan plays right into the weak spots of Columbus’, so it will produce two goals. The Union will redeem themselves on the defensive end by putting in another impressive clean sheet shift. If it happens you heard it here first!
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Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH