Philadelphia Union

Union ready to start playoff run vs Red Bull

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In less than 24 hours, the Philadelphia Union begins what they hope will be the first of four matches in the MLS Cup Playoffs. Philly kicks off its 2021 playoff campaign Saturday afternoon against the only team they’ve ever beaten in the playoffs, New York Red Bulls. The Union is now a playoff regular in MLS’ eastern conference, but they have never been able to make a real run past the first round or conference semifinals. Could this 2021 Union squad be the one to do so? They appear ready to start a playoff run!

Mandatory Credit: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

Union ready to start playoff run

The Union has a very favorable side of the bracket and the 2-seed, which means they could play the majority of their games at home. Aside from 2020’s Supporters Shield winning side, Philly has the best opportunity to make a playoff run. This team has had a belief in itself and the system they run all of 2021. While there have been ups and downs this team is the readiest it has ever been to make a playoff run.

Philly has been consistent on the defense side all season. Their back four playing in front of Andre Blake has been a consistent group who knows what to do to frustrate oppositions. The midfield has been high energy all year. Their ability to press the opposition has been the lynchpin to the team securing second in the east. The only main question has been in the attack.

Kacper Przybylko has been hot-and-cold all year, scoring 12 goals. He’s been the only consistent starter for the Union all year as Sergio Santos and Cory Burke have been dealing with injuries for most of the 2021 season. This is the one thing that could derail a Union playoff run. However, Burke and Santos are both healthy coming into the first match against Red Bull. A strong partnership or a single striker with a super-sub appearance could be enough to get past the playoff opposition.

All in all, the Union will go on a playoff run if they can continue their belief in themselves and their system of play. Execution from the players chosen on the day of the playoff matches will be what determines if the Union will be able to make a run. This will begin with a playoff rematch against New York Red Bulls.

Union vs Red Bulls in the playoffs again

Philadelphia takes on Red Bull in the first round, and the match won’t be a cake-walk. It will be an intense affair with a lot of back-and-forth play. Both of these teams love to press and tackle. Philly and New York are top-two in successful tackles per game. These teams showcased one of the crazier playoff matches back in 2019.

The Union won their first-ever MLS Cup Playoff match back in 2019. Their comeback 4-3 win in extra time off of a Marco Fabian cross-turned-winning-goal was a wild rollercoaster ride. Could this match be the same? For the Union’s sake, hopefully not.

They went down early in that 2019 match and fought back, but that was a less defensively disciplined team. in 2021, this Union side has shown they can control the midfield and frustrate the opposition’s attack. The fact that Philly has been able to implement two different formations and continue to find ways to win, could show that this team is one that can dominate a team like Red Bull.

The Union beat Red Bull once at home and drew them twice away in 2021. They are so familiar with this Red Bull team that they know how to break them down. Both sides love, love, love to play a counterattacking style. The tipping point will be who can play that style the best. The Union’s home-field advantage will most definitely play a factor in avoiding what would be a disappointing upset.

Can the Union avoid upset?

The Union is on track for a playoff run that could see them play the majority of their games at home where they have been a force. The path to the eastern conference finals is one where they’ll face teams that they have beaten at home. Being able to avoid an upset will be to come out firing against the New York Red Bulls.

Jim Curtin has a tough decision to make in terms of how they start the match. Will they go back to the 4-4-2 diamond since Sergio Santos is healthy, or will they stay in the 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree formation with Gazdag and Monteiro at the duel-10’s?

I’d think Curtin doesn’t throw Santos into this game from the very beginning, and they start out in the Christmas tree formation. This will allow Gazdag and Monteiro to operate in the attack while overloading the midfield against Red Bulls. This will allow for Sergio Santos, and Ilsinho (who will be in the gameday roster) to come on later in the match and create a change and a spark. This could be the playoff formula to win multiple one-off games in front of their home crowd.

I see the Union winning their first-round matchup 2-1 over Red Bull. Daniel Gazdag scores first, Red Bull equalize, and Sergio Santos comes off the bench to net the winner in the second half. This really could be the start of a special playoff run that Philly has never been able to go on.

Don’t miss out on the action as the match kicks off Saturday, November 20th at 2:30 pm EST. You can watch it on the website and app, as well as TUDN, or TUDN’s Twitter account! Make sure you’re a part of what could be this historic playoff run! Also, get even more hype with our Doop by the River playoff preview podcast:

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Doop on Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire

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Philadelphia Union Editor of Soccer Content

A passion for the beautiful game drives me.

Twitter: @Tim_Lovenguth

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