Philadelphia Union Preview: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

Holy cow, we’re already talking about week four already? It’s amazing how quickly the season has gone by in just these few weeks. The Union is off to their best start in team history, taking seven points out of the first three games, the most recent result being a solid 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes. Philly now gets to sing Take Me Out to the Ball Game up in the Bronx as they take on reigning MLS cup champions New York City FC.

Take Me Out
CHESTER, PA – DECEMBER 05: Philadelphia Union Midfielder Jose Martinez (8) and New York City FC Midfielder Maxi Moralez (10) battle for the ball during the second half of the Major League Soccer Cup Playoffs match between New York City FC and the Philadelphia Union on December 5, 2021, at Subaru Park in Chester, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

These teams have seen a lot of each other since New York’s entry into the league with many wild games going on between them. The last time these teams saw each other, New York was walking out of Suburu Park with a 2-1 victory in the eastern conference finals against a Union side heavily depleted due to Covid protocols. With both teams mostly healthy, this should be a very interesting matchup. Let us look at how NYCFC has fared this season, the player to watch out for, and the prediction for this matchup of eastern conference rivals.

2022 MLS Season

NYCFC has had a busy start to the year, having played a total of six games in all competitions. In the team’s three league games, they have a record of 1-1-1, which is good for four points at this point in the season. The team is also in the 2022 Concacaf champions league via their 2021 MLS cup win.

In the three CCL games that they have played, they are 3-0, scoring nine goals while only giving up one with their second leg of the quarterfinal matchup against Guatemalan side Comunicaciones coming Tuesday night. They are up 3-1 on aggregate in this series and by the time this article comes out, they will have most likely advanced to the semifinals to await the winner of the Seattle-Club Leon series.

X-Factor

The player that the Union will absolutely have to look out for on NYCFC should not surprise anyone in the slightest. It’s their often maligned but insanely talented striker Valentin Castellanos. The man that Union fans love to hate is the player that has absolutely been the thorn in the side of most MLS teams in his time so far in this league.

This season has been a bit of a different story, with Castellanos having three goals and two assists in three champions league games but having no goals or assists in any of the three league games that he has played to this point. While he may not have scored yet so far this season in the league, he does not have to get onto the score sheet to make an impact on the game.

The one thing that Castellanos does better than others is draw defenders towards him, which frees up a ton of space for his teammates to run onto. He will hustle up and down the field to do whatever it takes for his team to win, even if he does not get on the score sheet. His ability to influence the game is something that often gets overlooked and one of the reasons why he quietly went on to win the golden boot last season. He is a player that absolutely will need to be watched tightly and neutralized if the team is to walk out of the Bronx with at least a point.

Prediction

Predicting any Union away game is tough, but it gets even tougher when it comes to an away game at Yankee Stadium. With the field being a bit narrower than most, it alters any team’s game that comes in. I do think that this will truly be the biggest test for the Union at this early stage of the season.

Mikael Uhre was held out for precautionary reasons from the game against San Jose, so his status is certainly up in the air. The good news for the team is that they will get Julian Carranza back from his one-game suspension for the two yellow cards against Montreal. I think he starts up top with Cory Burke given the field dynamics and the fact that Sergio went the full 90 minutes against San Jose.

It’s always tough picking against the team and while I would absolutely love to see a win here, a draw is the most realistic situation here. I am going with a 1-1 draw for the Union. First Pitch, I mean, Kickoff is on Saturday is at 1:00 pm.

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Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire

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