Union got the ball rolling last week with a 2-0 win over Portland, their first win in almost two months, and they look to get a string of wins together as they take a road trip to New England to face the Revolution. Here are 5 things to watch ahead of the game!
5 Things to Watch: Revs vs Union
Wagner’s Departure Will be a Dark Day
It’s been on the minds of Union fans everywhere, and it’ll continue to be until the day eventually comes but Kai Wagner leaving will, in my opinion, be the darkest day the club has seen. I understand Union has lost cup finals and other club legends over the years but Kai Wagner’s skill and influence on the team is at the level of irreplaceable, no matter how good Matt Real could turn out.
Wagner has been putting in stellar performance after stellar performance so far this season and he has such an influence on how Philly plays in every game. His defending is easily the best on the team, his creativity is higher than most of Union’s midfielders, and just the way he makes it look so effortless, he truly is one of the best players in the entire league.
Philly finds itself in a major issue when the day eventually comes to bid Kai goodbye. It’s not like if Martinez was to leave and they have either Bueno as a full-time replacement or moving Flach to CDM. Philly only has Matt Real as the backup right back to replace Kai and we have no idea where Real is at and what he can offer to Union.
Philly has just received a nice pot of money from the Brendan Aaronson transfer to Leeds and while it’s not clear how the team will reinvest that, I’d imagine a decent wedge of it will go to finding and buying Kai’s replacement, or at the very least, a solid backup option if Real impresses.
Struggling New England
New England isn’t looking great right now in the East, although given how the East is a complete mess right now, they still only sit 9th and are a single point outside of the playoffs. Throughout the season, New England has swapped between a few different formations but they have now seemed to settle on a 4-2-3-1 formation with Adam Buksa leading the line.
In terms of their style of play, New England tries to play quite positively and loves to dominate possession, they’re averaging 54.3% possession this season, and have also scored 21 goals so far. However, their defensive record is the reason they’re struggling, they’ve conceded 22 goals this season, and are currently bottom for both total interceptions and total tackles+interceptions this season. Just like the Portland game, this is a defense that Union has to take advantage of.
Will Uhre Return and Save This Team?
With a lot of teams having to play a mid-week game this week in the USOC, including Philly’s opponents New England, Union ended up getting a full week’s rest since returning on Monday from Portland. This is key to Philly because it’s allowed Mikael Uhre to be monitored all week to see if he’ll be ready to go this weekend, and my bet is that he’ll be back to play in New England.
Philly has really struggled without Uhre over the last few games, and I know they managed to win last time out without him and Santos grabbed a goal (finally), but it’s clear that Philly and their front three play much better when Uhre is in the side compared to being out of it.
Uhre, Gazdag, and Carranza seem to have built great chemistry together in the small number of games they’ve played so far. I pretty much want anything other than watching either Santos or Burke play for more than 15 minutes, I just can’t take it anymore
New England’s Stars to Watch
I usually try to not go with the usual suspects for this part of the article but I have to with New England because most of their squad have just been bad this year. However, I will give you a little treat this week because of me picking the obvious players, I’m actually going to tell you three players to watch out for. Those players? Carles Gil, Adam Buksa, and Brandon Bye
A former league assists leader, Comeback Player of the Year winner, and an MVP winner, Carles Gil has found himself amongst the top talented stars in the MLS since joining New England back in 2019. Gil has once again put incredible performances together this season that sees him sitting at 3 goals and 5 assists this season and the highest average rating of all MLS players (according to Sofascore) with an average rating of 7.88. Gil will be looking to attack Martinez from the first whistle and I have to back the playmaker to win that battle given how Martinez has been pretty lackluster so far this season.
Adam Buksa has been a star for the Revs this year and has led the line with fantastic performances throughout the season that has seen him net 7 goals so far this campaign, which puts him in the top 5 goalscorers, alongside Philly’s own Daniel Gazdag. Buksa is on his way to being one of the best strikers in the MLS and he’ll give Union’s backline a tough game in this one.
The third and final star to watch for this game is defender Brandon Bye. Bye is a crucial player to New England at both ends of the pitch and he’ll be a huge target for Philly to shut down in this game. Bye currently has 2 goals and 4 assists to his name and is at least top 5 in almost all defensive action stats on the team while not making a single error. His battle against Kai Wagner will be the most interesting one to watch and will probably be the key to either team winning the game.
I have high hopes coming into this game for Philly, they played much better against Portland than they had in their previous 5-6 games and actually looked like a team challenging for the top spot in the East.
With Uhre potentially coming back into this game, and the Revs having quality attacking options of their own, I’m predicting an entertaining, goal-ridden game that ends in a 3-2 Union win. Gazdag, Uhre, and Carranza getting the goals for Philly, with Buksa getting both for the Revs.
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Mandatory Credit: Diego Diaz/Icon Sportswire