International Duty, Injuries, and Suspensions leave Union with a thin roster for Matchday 5

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Coming off a last-minute loss caked in controversy last Saturday night in Montreal, Union will look to right the ship one week later against Eastern Conference foes Orlando City SC.  And while the Union is returning home to Subaru Park where they’ve won 11 regular season games in a row, Philadelphia’s depth will be tested once again with a number of players unavailable due to International call-ups, Injuries, and suspensions.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Call-Ups, Injuries, and Suspensions – Players unavailable for Union on Saturday Night

It’s 2023 and the MLS season is once again affected by the league’s firm stance on continuing MLS play while a majority of other leagues around the world take a break for international play.  As a result, Union will have to prepare for their matchup against Orlando City without several starting and depth players. 

Of those unavailable on Saturday night, the following will miss the meeting against the Lions due to International Duty selection: Damion Lowe (Jamaica), Daniel Gazdag (Hungary), Jose Martinez (Venezuela), Richard Odada (Kenya), Quinn Sullivan (USMNT U-20), Jack McGlynn (USMNT U-20), Brandan Craig (USMNT U-20).

In addition to the seven players off representing their country, Union will be without forward Julian Carranza, serving a suspension for receiving a Red Card in Saturday’s match against Montreal, and will likely still be missing three-time Goalkeeper of the Year, Andre Blake to Injury.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Which Players are Available against Orlando City SC

We’ve established who won’t be in the lineup come Saturday night, but what options are left, who can Head Coach Jim Curtin even use to fill the holes in the lineup left by those unavailable? Here’s everyone that will be available: 

GK – J. Bendik, H. Trent
DEF – J. Elliott, J. Glesnes, N. Harriel, O. Mbaizo, M. Real, A. Sorenson, K. Wagner
MID – A. Bedoya, J. Bueno, L. Flach,  A. Perea, J. Raffanelo, J. Torres
FWD – C. Donovan, N. Pierre, M. Uhre

Admittedly, at first glance of all those that will be missing from the roster on Saturday, it was difficult not to wonder if Union will be left too thin to keep their impeccable home form going against Orlando. But after looking at what players are available for selection, you can see the work Philadelphia did in the off-season to build depth in their squad, and how that might be implemented on Saturday. 

CHESTER, PA – JULY 16: Philadelphia Union Forward Mikael Uhre (7) reacts to scoring a goal during the second half of the Major League Soccer Match between the New England Revolution and Philadelphia Union on July 16, 2022, at Subaru Park in Chester, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

How Union Might Line Up against Orlando

Tactical Flexibility is something Head Coach Jim Curtin has been touting this season, even throwing a 3 Center Back system into the repertoire for consideration.  While I don’t think Union has the personnel for that this weekend, here are two ways I could see Philadelphia lining up.

4-4-2 diamond

The 4-4-2 Diamond has become what Union fans are accustomed to in the last year.  Uhre and Carranza up top with Gazdag playing just behind them saw the trio produce some of the best numbers out of any front 3 in the league last season.  But if Union wants to line up in the 4-4-2 on Saturday, 2 of those front 3, as well as their defensive midfielder, will need to be covered by other names on the roster. Here’s how I think that would look:

Uhre Donovan


Flach Bedoya


Wagner Elliott Glesnes Harriel


Bench: GK: Trent. DEF: Real, Mbaizo, Sorenson. MID: Perea, Rafanello. FWD: Pierre

Here’s what I like about this lineup; The backline will be strong.  Whether you put Harriel or Mbaizo on the right side, the biggest plus is that Jim has his first-choice backline, whoever that may be at the current moment.  Martinez at the 6-position in defensive midfield is a tough one to replace, but I like what Bueno has shown so far this season when he’s gotten his chance and think he’ll be up for the opportunity.

Alternatively, Andres Perea is someone that could start in the position, but with the limited number of options off the bench, I thought Perea was someone that could be used well as a sub in this game, either coming on late to tighten up the midfield defensively or as fresh legs to run at a tired defense.

Christmas Tree

Although I think the 4-4-2 Diamond could be pulled off with this personnel, the more I think about it the more my gut leans toward Jim reverting back to the Christmas Tree in this game. Here’s how I imagine that setup would look with the names available


Torres Perea

Flach Bueno Bedoya

Wagner Elliott Glesnes Harriel


Bench: GK: Trent. DEF: Real, Mbaizo, Sorenson. MID: Rafanello. FWD: Donovan, Pierre. 

Once again, no matter who takes up the right side, Jim has his most preferred options in defense at his disposal.  The reason I lean towards the Christmas Tree a bit more is the lack of depth at forward.  Starting Both Donovan and Uhre would leave only Nelson Pierre, who has yet to debut for the first team, as the lone option off the bench.  On the other hand, this would leave the midfield bench options to just 1 player, another that’s yet to debut for the first team in Jeremy Raffanelo.

Mandatory Credit: El Parcero Philly

Orlando will be without essential names of their own

Union won’t be the only team in Saturday’s matchup missing essential players. Here are all the names Orlando will be without:

International Call-Ups:Wilder Cartagena (Peru), Alexander Freeman (USA U-19), Michael Halliday (USA U-20), Pedro Gallese (Peru), Favian Loyola (USA U-19), Facundo Torres (Uruguay), Tomas Williams (USA U-20).

While a draw can feel like a win at times, especially with such a thin lineup, make no mistake that Union fans will want to leave Subaru Park with only three points after disappointment in Montreal. Whether it’s the 4-4-2 Diamond, the Christmas Tree, a combination of the two, or a new wrench thrown in together, It’s clear that Union will need to rely on new Faces on Saturday to get the job done. 

The Union has set its foundation on building its academy and trusting the next man up, and I’m hoping to see those opportunities given and made the most of on Saturday.  Be sure to tune in to see what Starting XI takes the field for Philadelphia against Orlando City on Saturday, March 25th at 7:30 pm EST in Chester, PA.

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, El Parcero Philly, Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire