Philadelphia Union preview: Empire state of mind

Another week and another Union draw that feels like it should have been a win. This is the mindset crossing several Union fans’ minds after the 1-1 home draw against FC Cincinnati this past week. While FCC did frustrate the Union at times, the Union had several chances that were wasted or just not converted by many a player on the roster.

Union
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)

Philadelphia Union vs NYCFC

There is good news for the Union, as they are starting to approach a congested week or so in the schedule so they can put this game behind them. Coming up this weekend is a team that Union fans are awfully familiar with and despise for a few reasons, NYCFC. Let us take a look at how NYCFC are doing since the two teams last played, the player to watch out for, and a score prediction for this weekend’s game.

2022 MLS Season

At the time of the last preview article, NYCFC was in a bit of a funk. They were going through schedule congestion with CCL and it was showing with some of the results on the field. Since they were bounced from the champions league, this team has been on an absolute tear up the standings, currently sitting with a record of 8-3-3 or eight wins, three losses, and three draws which is good for twenty-seven points and first place in the eastern conference with a game in hand on the Philadelphia Union.

The biggest shock though came within the last few weeks as head coach Ronny Deila left for Standard Liege in the Belgian topflight and NYCFC gave a hefty sum of money for the coach. Despite this loss and a potential Taty Castellanos transfer hanging over their heads, the team has been able to keep consistent and ride the instability in the east all the way to the top of the conference.

X-Factor

At this point in the season and the matchups with NYCFC, I do not think I need to beat around the bush with the player to watch out for on this squad. It’s none other than frustrating yet insanely talented striker Valentin Castellanos. Through eighteen games across all competitions, the Argentine has contributed eleven goals and five assists which is a rather good tally considering his struggles in the league at the early part of the season. If you have read anything about Castellanos or seen any of their games, I do not think I need to tell you how good he is on and off the ball.

His ability to stretch the field in any direction is one of his biggest assets. He thrives on the holdup play and sucking a defender in, which gives his teammates the space to run off him. With his speed, he has the ability to do a give and go, slotting home a cool finish and putting a smug smile on his face. He will fight tooth and nail to get to any ball, showing a tenacity that any fan would love to see in a player.

The Union will need to keep an insanely close eye on him as they did in the first matchup or he will make the defense’s day a living nightmare. If the team can keep a consistent defensive game going, the goals on the other side should come but that does mean that they will have to shut down one of the best strikers in the league.

Prediction

It is starting to feel like more of the same with this Union squad. This past weekend it was another game in which they should have put away more chances to expand on their lead and the other team finishes on a broken moment against the run of play to equalize, depriving the Union of two points that would be separating them from the rest of the east at this point in the season.

Coach Curtin himself hinted at some hopeful transfers in the summer, stating that they are just one player away from truly taking over this conference. If I am Ernst Tanner, having seen this past month or so, I am absolutely making sure that there is an option or two to sign this summer. It is only a matter of time before this team truly breaks out. While that might make this writer seem like a broken record, it must be said that the way this team is playing shows that they have the potential to break a game open, but it remains to be seen.

I think there might be some changes in the midfield for this game, but I do not foresee any changes up top. Carranza frustrated this NYCFC defense the last time and with Uhre fully healthy, he has the ability to truly stretch this back line. I am feeling a 2-1 victory against NYCFC, which would be a good birthday gift for yours truly. The game kicks off Sunday at 6 pm.

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Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire

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