The Philadelphia Union is in an excellent position with only 10 matches left to play. Sitting in first place in the east and contending for the top spot in all of the league through 24 games isn’t too shabby. Philly is in the endgame now. Can they push themselves and be the best team in MLS?
Union has 10 matches left to play
With only 10 games left to play, Philly’s path is clear in front of them. Five home matches, five away; three games against teams currently in the playoffs, seven vs teams on the outside looking in. Going on an unbeaten streak at this point would bring success, possibly in a historic fashion; dropping points from winning or drawing positions would lead this team to ruin.
|vs Chicago – Saturday, Aug. 13 – 7:30 pm ET
|@ Dallas – Wednesday, Aug. 17 – 9 pm ET
|@ DC – Saturday, Aug. 20 – 7:30 pm ET
|vs Colorado – Saturday, Aug. 27 – 7:30 pm ET
|vs Atlanta – Wednesday, Aug. 31 – 7 pm ET
|@ Red Bulls – Saturday, Sept. 3 – 7 pm ET
|vs Orlando – Saturday, Sept. 10 – 7:30 pm ET
|@ Atlanta – Saturday, Sept. 17 – 3:30 pm ET
|@ Charlotte – Saturday, Oct. 1 – 7 pm ET
|vs Toronto – Sunday, Oct. 9 – 4 ET
Five home matches and five away
Philadelphia’s final matches are split between five home and five away matches, and when you look at them a bit closer you can see the opportunity the Union has. Philly’s five home matches are against teams fighting for the playoffs; which presents the chance to stay undefeated at home. There are 15 points left for the taking, can the Union get most if not all of them en route to a push for the Shield and the east top seed?
The away games will prove more challenging. The Union has shown they can play their game on the road but also can struggle if they’re knocked off their game. In the final five away matches there are teams that can knock them off their game. Difficult environments will be challenging as well. However, there are 15 points on the table away from home as well. Getting above nine points might be what’s needed to achieve the history they’re chasing.
Let’s break down the opponents even further.
Three matches against teams in current playoff position
The Union only plays three teams in current playoff positions. One is this weekend at home against Chicago, the next comes on this upcoming Wednesday night at Dallas, and the final one is on Labor Day weekend when Philly travels to Red Bull. The matches will be the toughest for Philly, but they should be winnable games.
Philadelphia is better than the three of those teams. To beat Chicago they’ll need to limit Chicago’s attacking touches out wide and in the attacking third. To beat Dallas they’ll need to control the midfield to keep the ball from Arriola and Ferreira. Beating Red Bull at Red Bull will take a higher intensity and the ability to win the pressing battle.
Do that, and Philly comes away with a minimum of seven points from a possible nine and they’re flying going into playoffs.
Seven matches against teams outside of playoffs as of now
Philly’s favorable schedule sees them play seven of their last 10 matches against teams currently below the red playoff line. They play at DC, vs Colorado, Atlanta home and away, vs Orlando, at Charlotte, and vs Toronto. There are 21 points on the table against these teams, can the Union take a vast majority to solidify the top east seed and a Supporters’ Shield push?
The Union needs to win at DC and at home vs Colorado, both teams are struggling in their respective conferences. They’ll need to take at least four points from their two matches against Atlanta and find ways to get points from their home match vs Orlando and away at Charlotte. The toughest match might be the final one against Toronto, whose Italian stars are here to drag them to the playoffs.
All in all, Philly should get between 15-18 points from the possible 21 available from these opponents. Doing so will keep the pressure on in the Shield Race and should give Philly the top spot in the east.
Dropped points would lead to ruin
Looking at the Union’s remaining schedule, I can see the Union getting 22-25 points out of a possible 30 to end the season. This is crucial in the race for both the eastern conference top spot and the Supporters’ Shield. Philly’s rivals at this point in the 2022 season are NYCFC and LAFC, and both have an advantage over Philly.
NYCFC and LAFC both have a game in hand over Philly to be played in September. As of now, NYCFC could only tie Philly on points with that game in hand. Philly has the tiebreaker over them with goal differential and head-to-head wins this season. LAFC is a different story. They are six points up on Philly, with a game in hand, in the Shield race. If the Union drops points in this final stretch it will be fatal to their hopes of both winning the east and pushing for their second-ever Supporters’ Shield.
Only time will tell how the Union fare, but their final 10 matches are favorable for a Philly unbeaten run. Philly has gone on some win streaks before, but if they want to be the best team in MLS, they’ll need to not lose in the final 10. If they can do this, then a first-place finish, and possibly the top spot in all the league might just be within reach.
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Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire