The Philadelphia Union is back in the Concacaf Champions League (CCL) in 2023, and they have aspirations to win the whole thing. After Seattle Sounders became the first MLS side to win CCL last year, the Union will be one of five clubs representing MLS to hold up that mantle. Philly starts that quest and takes on El Salvadoran side Alianza FC in the Round of 16.
Philadelphia Union at Alianza FC
Philadelphia has already traveled to El Salvador to prepare for their first leg of the CCL Round of 16. They’ll take on Alianza FC in the historic Estadio Cuscatlan. The match should be an interesting one as these two teams have never played against one another.
Back in 2021, Philly was a debutant in this competition and had to go to Costa Rica giants Deportivo Saprissa. They went down to Costa Rica and got a gritty 1-0 win to take momentum and start a run to the semi-finals. Will we see a Philly team that is miles better than their 2021 version make another deep run?
The team the Union will face, Alianza FC is nine games into their 2023 season. They are top of the table in the Primera Division in El Salvador with Five wins, four draws, and no losses. Philly will have their hands full with a team in flying form that has scored 13 and let up just two. Can the Union give them their first loss?
A short turnaround; a huge opportunity
Philly played their second MLS match of the season on Saturday night in Miami. They didn’t look like themselves in a 2-0 loss, and now have a very quick turnaround for their CCL match in El Salvador. The team didn’t take a day off after the loss, getting right to training in Miami on Sunday afternoon for their match on Tuesday.
The team flew down to El Salvador on Sunday evening and has continued training there today. They had their walkthrough of Estadio Cuscatlan this afternoon and are readying for the fight they’ll get from the Primera Division leaders.
I know the 2023 season is only two weeks old for the Union, but this match could be one that defines the year for the team. In their first two matches they have looked a bit sluggish to start games, and didn’t show well on the road. A quick start, and a road win at Alianza would right the ship, and could boost the team’s confidence a lot as they continue this hectic year!
Can Philly become champions of Concacaf?
The Union are one of the five MLS sides that are equipped to make a deep run in this tournament. Their team chemistry is at an all time high as they don’t have any new players to integrate into their starting XI. Their additions have been to bolster their depth players for competitions just like this one, could it be that this team is a CCL champion in the making?
The pieces are there for them to be just that, but it will take some great performances to do so. Their Round of 16 opponent Alianza is no sloutch, and should they progress they’ll likely face a good Liga MX side in the quarter-finals and then maybe even LAFC in the semi-finals.
Now it the time for the Union to step up and show MLS, and the entire Concacaf region who they are in 2023. This team is built to be a jugurnaut; falling short of at least a CCL semi-final would be a disappointment. Getting a good win on the road to Alianza would set the tone that the Union mean business in 2023. I predict a gritty 3-1 win for the boys in blue in El Salvador!
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Mandatory Credit: Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire