Last Saturday night Philadelphia Union had what might be its most convincing win of the season when they beat CF Montreal by a score of 3-0 at Subaru Park. The U’s 4th consecutive clean sheet at home extended its win streak to four straight games, and its unbeaten streak to nine, both for the first time in the 2023 season. It wasn’t just the players in their best form on Saturday night, as the fans provided their team with one of the best atmospheres many have seen at Subaru Park – ever. Now Union will travel West hoping to extend their unbeaten streak to double digits against San Jose Earthquakes before heading into the CONCACAF Nations League International break.
Union VS San Jose Earthquakes preview
Union and San Jose’s history is relatively short. The two club’s first matchup took place in 2010 and they’ve had a total of 13 meetings overall. While the record over all 13 games is pretty split, with Union winning five, San Jose winning four, and four games ending in a draw, Union have not lost to San Jose in their previous seven meetings dating back to the Fall of 2013, with the Union winning four and drawing in three of those showdowns. In their most preview meeting, Union beat San Jose at Subaru Park by the score of 2-0 on the back of goals by Daniel Gazdag and Cory Burke.
2023 MLS Season So Far
At almost the midway point of the 2023 season, San Jose is off to a great start considering where this team has been in the last decade. 16 games into the campaign, and San Jose has six wins, five draws, and five losses for a total of 23 points which is good enough to currently have them sitting at 5th in the Western Conference. If the season were to end today, 5th place in the West would be San Jose’s best finish since the 2011 season when they won the MLS Supporters Shield. Luchi Gonzalez has got this team playing with a lot of confidence and getting results, especially while at home.
Coming into Saturday’s match against Union, San Jose has a record of one win, two draws, and two losses in their previous five games, which is probably one of the least exciting stretches of their season thus far, to be honest. Of those five matches, San Jose only played one of those games in front of their home crowd, which is where points go to die for this Earthquakes team. While San Jose has earned a total of 17 points through seven unbeaten games at home, they’ve only managed to muster up six points across nine games while on the road.
Offensively, San Jose relies on two names to score goals – Jeremy Ebobisse and Cristian Espinoza. Forward Jeremey Ebobisee, though he may be having a slower season than some would expect, has six goals so far this season, which is two behind team leader Cristian Espinoza’s eight. Cristian Espinoza also leads the Earthquakes in assists with three, with former Union midfielder Jamiro Monteiro coming in second with two helpers himself.
Defensively, San Jose has tightened things up from previous seasons. 19 goals conceded is good enough to be the 8th lowest in MLS this season. The last time San Jose ended a season in the top ten in the least amount of goals conceded was 2016 when 40 goals against was good enough to be 3rd best in the league. San Jose has had to split time in net between JT Marcinkowski and Daniel. Daniel has gotten the start in San Jose’s previous three games and has only given up 1 goal in across those 3 games.
This might feel like a bit of a cop-out, but my X-factor for this week is going to be whoever plays in the place of suspended Jose Martinez. Whether it’s Leon Flach, Jesus Bueno, or maybe something outside of the box, whoever steps in for Jose Martinez is going to play a vital role in this game. We’ve seen a significant drop in energy and overall confidence in play when Jose Martinez has been missing from this lineup.
To be fair, there are very few players on the planet that bring the energy that El Brujo brings to the pitch. But regardless, someone needs to step up and make it difficult for San Jose’s midfielders to receive, carry, and move the ball, while also acting as the starting point to many of Union’s attacks through the middle of the pitch.
If it were my call, which it isn’t and probably never should be, I’d call on Jesus Buneo to get his second consecutive start. I love what Bueno has shown every time he’s gotten minutes for Union this season, and I think he brings a lot of the same energy that Jose Martinez has.
On the other side of the ball, I’m going to go with former Union midfielder Jamiro Monteiro. For obvious reasons, Monteiro is going to want to have an impact on this game, having missed his only opportunity to play against Union since leaving Philadelphia and joining San Jose last season because of suspension.
While Monteiro has yet to score this season, he does rank near the top of the team’s leaderboard in assists, expected goals, expected assists, progressive carries, progressive passes, progressive passes received, total shots, shots on target, total completed passes, key passes, passes into the final third, shot-creating actions, and goal creating actions.
Jamiro Monteiro will also benefit from the prospect of having both Cade Cowell and Niko Tsakiris back in the lineup on Saturday after returning from U20 USMNT duty.
Line-up-wise, this one is another tough one to predict. While they did get a few players back from U20 USMNT duty as well, Union is still a bit light in the midfield with Jose Martinez out on suspension and Ale Bedoya is still unlikely to start while continuing to battle an injury.
In addition to that, both Andre Blake and Damion Lowe will be leaving for International duty in the CONCACAF Champions League after this game, and Jim Curtin has recognized the injury risk associated with playing such a high amount of games in a relatively small amount of time, so it’s possible to see some to rotation in at least one of those positions(hint – it very likely won’t be Andre Blake).
But at the same time, don’t fix what’s not broken, and Union hasn’t lost in nine games. If I had to give my best guess, I’d bet Union will line up in the same 5-3-2 they’ve rolled out the last bunch of games. Uhre and Carranza up top with a midfield trio of Gazdag at the 10, and some combination of Leon Flach/Jesus Bueno and Jack McGlynn. Wagner and Harriel as wingbacks, with Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, and Damion Lowe at center back.
I’d love to see Brandon Craig get some minutes after his fantastic display at the U20 World Cup, but I think it’s more likely he gets his first sight of the pitch this season off the bench as opposed to starting. Oh – and Andre Blake in net of course.
I don’t by any means think this is going to be an easy game, and I hope the Union isn’t already looking ahead to the International Break before taking care of business in San Jose on Saturday night. I think this is a game Union is going to have to grind and scratch a result out of, maybe even having to come from behind. But if they can do so, they’ll extend their unbeaten streak to 10 straight games and five straight wins overall.
I’m going with a 2-1 Uniwin on the road in San Jose, on the back of goals by Julian Carranza and Daniel Gazdag. If Union can manage to head into the break with another three points, they’ll be putting pressure on the rest of the league to keep up with Cincinnati and Nashville in the Supporters Shield Race. Make sure to tune in to MLS Season Pass on Apple TV this Saturday at 10:30 pm est to see Union try to unbeaten run going.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union