After what felt like a long two-week international break, the Union finally kicked off again under the bright lights of the soob against Charlotte FC. With both teams bringing in a winning streak, it was going to be a battle to see if the Philadelphia Union could continue their winning streak and establish their dominance on the east, or if Charlotte was finally going to get that notable win they were looking for. Both teams certainly had their chances, but in the end, it was the Union pulling out a 2-0 victory, their fourth straight of the season, and their third consecutive clean sheet.
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After a solid victory like that, the Philadelphia Union has no time to rest on their laurels as the Columbus Crew come into town, who are fresh off their first loss of the season, a 1-0 result against Nashville. Can the Union continue its winning ways and extend its lead on top of the eastern conference? Let us look at the Columbus Crew, how they have fared this season, their player to look out for, and the final score prediction for Saturday night’s game in Chester.
2022 MLS Season
After a season in which they just narrowly missed the playoffs, the Crew came into this season with a different mindset. With a coach like Caleb Porter, who does not miss the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, one can expect a number of improvements to a team that won MLS Cup as recently as 2020. Columbus did in fact bring in a few new players and said goodbye to some familiar faces. All the moves aside, it has been a mixed bag of results for the Crew.
They started off the season with a comprehensive 4-0 victory over Vancouver at home, setting a solid tone for the season. Their next game was a bit different as they traveled to San Jose, where they quickly took a 3-1 lead after being up a man for most of the game. Despite this, they coughed up a two-goal lead to end with a 3-3 draw, a game that Caleb Porter admitted was not the team’s best as they gave up both goals to San Jose on set pieces in the final 15 minutes.
They came back home the following week to beat Toronto FC 2-1 in a game in which Toronto took the lead and appeared to have things in control, only for Columbus to come crawling back. The next week saw the team travel to Red Bull Arena, where it looked like they were going to lose to NYRB after conceding a goal with about 10 minutes to having their talisman Lucas Zelarayan hobble off with an injury.
Despite this, they found a way to draw the game 1-1 with a stoppage-time equalizer from Darlington Nagbe. And in their most recent game, as stated earlier, the Crew welcomed Nashville into their stadium only to have Nashville shock and awe Columbus with a goal outside the run of play. The Crew has been a tough team this year to get a good read on as every time they seem to get things figured out one week, they end up doing something mind-boggling the following week.
The one-man that has the Columbus Crew constantly ticking and the one who the Union needs to look out for is none other than the talismanic number 10, Lucas Zelarayan. Every time the Philadelphia Union plays Columbus, I always look out for the diminutive attacking mid as he controls the entire Crew offense and is the one who gets everyone involved in the game. So far this season, in five league games, Zelarayan has four goals and two assists which are pretty good numbers at this point in the season.
The Union has shut him down before and I absolutely believe that this will be the key to winning the game. If the defense can shut him down and not allow him to get service out to their wingers, the Crew offense will sputter. With a man like this, all he needs is one small moment of brilliance to either rip a goalazo or thread a perfect ball into their wingers/strikers and contribute in that manner. I believe that Jim Curtin will utilize either Jose Martinez or Leon Flach to cover him as much as they can while limiting his effect on the game.
While Zelarayan is a dangerous player and the Crew are a team that can strike at any time, the Philadelphia Union are absolutely on fire right now and it’s hard to pick against them. Daniel Gazdag has scored in four consecutive games now with Julian Carranza getting on the scoresheet as well last week. This is all mostly without the services of DP striker Mikael Uhre, who came in as a sub against Charlotte and created some solid chances.
I am not sure if Uhre will get the start against the Crew, but one thing is for certain, Julian Carranza will absolutely be leading the lines for the Union. It is absolutely going to be a nail-biter as all Union-Crew games are, but I have a pretty good feeling about this one. I see the Philadelphia Union coming out with a 2-1 victory and extending this winning streak to five games. Game time is 6 pm on Saturday night!
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