Can Union Stay Top-Tier Throughout a Hectic May?

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

As the calendar flips to the month of May, the Union know they are in for what could be their toughest test of the season. The Union will play at least seven games, possibly an eighth if they progress in the US Open Cup, in the month of May. With the possibility of playing eight games in 28 days, a question arises. Can the Union stay top-tier throughout a hectic May?

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych

Can Union Stay Top-Tier?

The Union has been one of the best teams in MLS this season. Their 5-1-2 record through eight games has them atop the east and only behind LAFC, and Austin in the Supporter Shield standings. The Union is a top-tier team in MLS this season, but with their upcoming schedule, a slump wouldn’t be all that surprising. Here’s a look at the matches the Union plays in the month of May.

  • @ Nashville SC | May 1
  • @ LAFC | May 7
  • @ Orlando City (US Open Cup Round of 32) | May 10
  • vs New York Red Bulls | May 14
  • vs Inter Miami | May 18
  • @ Portland | May 22
  • (Possible US Open Cup Round of 16) | May 24/25
  • @ New England | May 28

It starts today with a clash against Nashville SC and ends with another away trip to Shield holders New England Revolution. Five road games, two home games; the first four against top teams in MLS, and the last four could prove difficult because of burnout. Let’s take a look at these matches and see how the Union could fair throughout this crazy stretch.

Opening a new stadium

It all begins today down in Nashville. Nashville SC has had a rough eight-game road trip to start the season. They moved conferences, yet again, and now play in the west, so their road trip felt even longer. In their first games, they won three, drew two, and lost three. They open their brand new Geodis Park this afternoon against the Union, can Philly spoil the party?

The Union hasn’t looked their best in their last two matches against Toronto and Montreal. Is this the match where they snap back to their winning ways? If so they’ll likely headline MLS news leading into week 10. Getting the first win in Geodis park would be sweet for Philly, and could show they’re top-tier through week nine, but what about after that?

Three against the top teams in MLS

In the weeks that follow the match against Nashville SC, Philly goes to LAFC, then to Orlando SC for the Round of 32 in the US Open Cup, and finally back home to take on New York Red Bulls. They play three matches against three of the league’s best sides in an eight-day stretch. This will be a true test if the Union is going to stay top-tier through May.

LAFC is the top team in MLS. Through eight games they boast the best points-per-game (2.38) and have a 6-1-1 record. The showdown next weekend could be branded as an MLS Cup preview, just 10 weeks into the season. Philly follows that up with a match just three days later to open their US Open Cup play. The Union goes to Orlando City to hopefully start some Cup magic on Tuesday May, 10; it will likely be a slugfest of a match in which the team that creates and converts better chances through different styles of play will move on.

The Union ends this tough three-game stretch with a weekend home match against a New York Red Bull team that is showing they may just be legit in 2022. Red Bulls is a team that is very similar to the Union in terms of style of play, and now results. New York has played one more game than Philly but has a 5-2-2 record with a +8 goal differential. This match will be one where the team that executes the high press better will win the game. Can Philly go through this grouping of matches and stay top-tier? They will need to get some kind of positive results from this stretch as the end of the month isn’t any easier.

Tough games to end a hectic month

Just four days after their contest with Red Bulls, the Union play a rare midweek league match against Inter Miami CF. Miami started their season off in a slump but has recently come out of it a bit winning four of their last five. This match should be the “most winnable” for the Union, but we saw how they fared against Inter last season.

Philly goes back on the road that weekend to take on the reigning western conference champions Portland Timbers that weekend. Another tough away road test for Philly, but Portland has been a shell of what they were last season. The Union could pull off a win here and show that they are indeed top-tier heading into the final week of the month.

That final week of the month could be a two-match week for Philadelphia. The Round of 16 for the US Open Cup is scheduled for Tuesday, May 24, and Wednesday, May 25. If Philly beat Orlando they’ll play the winner of Inter Miami CF and South Georgia Tormenta FC on one of those days. If not, then they’ll only have to focus on a weekend away match at Shield holders New England Revolution.

The Revs haven’t fared the best this season so far through nine weeks. Their lack of reinforcements to their team that won the points record last year has led to their poor start, and the Union could look to exploit that in their final match in May. After this game, the Union, and MLS has a two-week break for international play. The Union should go all out and take advantage of a weaker Revolution side to end their hectic month. After all these games, will the Union still be a top-tier team in MLS?

How will the Union fare?

It’s going to be a very rough go for Philly in the month of May. They will be up for each and every game they play, but Jim Curtin will have to utilize the depth of his squad if they are to stay top-tier in MLS. If I’m being honest here’s how I see the Union doing in the hectic month of May.

  • @ Nashville SC | 1-1 Draw
  • @ LAFC | 2-1 Loss
  • @ Orlando City (US Open Cup Round of 32) | 3-2 win After Extra Time
  • vs New York Red Bulls | 1-1 Draw
  • vs Inter Miami CF | 2-0 Win
  • @ Portland | 1-1 Draw
  • (Possible US Open Cup Round of 16) | Match vs Inter Miami CF – 2-0 Win
  • @ New England | 2-1 Win

Getting nine points from six league games on this stretch would be great, advancing through two rounds of the US Open Cup would be even better. Because of the Club’s ambition to win everything in 2022, I think the Union will actually drop a bit in their league form. They may drop to third, fourth, or maybe a bit lower. This will likely have some saying they aren’t top-tier.

While the team may drop a bit in the standings, progression in the Open Cup, and also getting tested by the best teams in the League before the halfway point of the season will give Philly an advantage later on in the season. May will be hectic, and Philly may fall from the top-tier of the league, but they will still be a force to be reckoned with when the calendar flips to June.

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych