The Union is on a six-match unbeaten streak. Some would say they are getting hot at the right time, with five matches left in their 2021 season. With only three weeks left in, Philadelphia has little room for error. Can they have a short memory about dropped points and move on to Minnesota to keep their unbeaten streak alive?
Be a Goldfish
If you’ve watched the hit TV show, Ted Lasso, then you will undoubtedly remember the question Lasso posed to his then struggling defender Sam Obisanya. For those who haven’t watched the show, the question that the American coach asks the young Nigerian goes as follows: “You know what the happiest animal on earth is? It’s a goldfish. You know why? It’s got a ten-second memory.” Obisanya stands there flabbergasted, saying nothing, then Lasso tells him: “Be a Goldfish.” Sam goes on to learn from his mistakes not thinking about them when moving on to the next play. It’s become a mantra of sorts for that character and his arch on the show. But why am I saying all this, we’re supposed to be talking about the Union and not some show that I just binge-watched.
The Union needs this same mentality as they head into a very important week. Especially, after giving up a late equalizer to Montreal in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time last weekend. It can be easy to dwell on the fact that Philly was outplayed in Montreal and essentially lucked into a lead in the second half only for it to be lost on the last kick of the game. This group cannot dwell on the what-ifs.
Speaking of what-ifs, Philadelphia has a huge match this coming weekend against Nashville SC. That match, for all intents and purposes, will determine who will be in second place in the east when the season ends. It could be so easy to overlook the midweek road trip to Minnesota and just worry about a match that will determine playoff seeding. Instead, they need to look at the game at hand. Philadelphia has traveled out to Minnesota; they take on the loons Wednesday night that is huge for both teams.
Minnesota cannot be overlooked
Minnesota United is only the second western conference team the Union faces in 2021. Back in May, Philadelphia put the beatdown on a weakened Portland Timbers in Chester, this match will be different. The Loons are as close to full health as they can be, and the game will be in their house. Minnesota has been a fringe playoff team in the west; getting most of their points from the bottom half of the western conference. Coming off of a 1-0 win over Austin FC, Minnesota United looks to win their second straight to keep their playoff hopes alive.
The Loons sit in seventh place in the west, and they’re in a fight for playoff their lives late on. After this match vs Philly, Minnesota plays LAFC (currently in 9th place) and Vancouver (currently in 8th place). Could they possibly overlook this match against Philadelphia and look to these very important matches? That’s probably unlikely. Especially when you look at how this Loons side plays.
Minnesota is a defense-first team. They are solid and organized in the back, only giving up 1.2 goals per game. They know if they can control the game that their defense can keep their opponents from scoring. The problem for the Loons comes from their attack. They only score 1.1 goals per game; their lead scorer, Robin Lod, has been playing out of position as a striker. Things are seemingly not clicking in the attacking third for Minnesota, which is something the Union will need to focus on in this interesting match.
Philly will need experience from the jump and youth in relief
The Union knows they need to be at their best to get points in Minnesota. Something that will help with this will be getting some very important pieces back. Both Andre Blake and Jose “El Brujo” Martinez returned to training after missing the match in Montreal. Blake was recovering from a minor injury, while El Brujo was held out since he played two days before. Having these two players back will greatly help the Union’s defense and raise the chances of getting points in Minnesota.
One big question that will still need to be answered by Jim Curtin is who plays at striker next to Kacper Przybylko in this match? Sergio Santos seems to be close to a return but not ready yet; the same goes for Cory Burke. Davo was mentioned on Curtin’s midweek presser, but not in a good way. Curtin said there are other players ahead of Davo right now; he even mentioned he’d play some players out of position if it gives the Union their best XI from the start of games. This to me says that we’ll see Daniel Gazdag starting at striker in the next match. Not only this, but I’d expect an experienced XI with youth coming in to help close the game out.
I see this potential starting XI:
Blake; Wagner, Glesnes, Elliot, Mbaizo; Martinez, Flach, Bedoya, Monteiro; Gazdag, Przybylko.
This means that the Union will need to rotate mid-game to manage players’ minutes and health ahead of the weekend. Luckily this means they’ll have a youthful bench with homegrowns that can come in and bring another level of energy. Having a Sullivan, Aaronson, or McGlynn come in with a half-hour or so left in a game could flip it on hits head. This seems to be the best formula for a cross-conference game, but we’ll see if Curtin feels the same way come game time.
What is a desirable outcome?
I’ve been harping on this a lot over this past month, but having a World Cup qualifying mentality will help this team push for good results to secure the best possible playoff spot. This would mean that Philly HAS to get a point on the road and win at home. If Philly can keep this momentum that they have produced over this six-game unbeaten streak then they can keep the streak alive while maximizing their potential to get the highest possible seed in the playoffs. This would mean they HAVE to at least draw in Minnesota.
Another road draw would be fine. Getting a point on the road this late in the season is great for potential playoff seeding, and it would make the fight for second place within striking distance. Should Philly take a point from Minnesota, they’ll keep pace with Nashville. Nashville has a league-leading 15 draws in 2021. If Philly can get a point from a difficult game in a hostile environment at Minnesota, then they’ll be right where they want to be.
If you’re mad about getting a point on the road and want to see this team push for a win, that is 100% understandable. The Union should push for a win every time they step on the field. I believe that this Union team pushes for three points each time they step on the field. All I’m saying is that if Philly can only get two points from back-to-back road matches, that is okay, and actually sets things up for success rather than disappointment.
It sucks when your team doesn’t win, but seeing the bigger picture will help us analyze what these results actually are. We gotta be goldfish, and above all else, do what Ted Lasso does every day:
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Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH