After snapping their 9-game unbeaten streak with a 2-1 loss to San Jose Earthquakes and a 10-day break in action, Philadelphia Union will look to get their streak going again on Wednesday night, this time on the road against Orlando City SC. And while Union will be getting back the likes of Jack McGlynn, Quinn Sullivan, and Brandon Craig who are returning to Philadelphia from international duty, they’ll simultaneously see a few names depart from the ‘available for selection’ list for a while, an issue that seems to be recurring for Union this season.
Union vs Orlando City SC preview
Over its 8-year history, Union definitely has an edge over Orlando City. Across 17 MLS meetings, Orlando City actually has earned just as many draws as wins against Philadelphia with an overall record of 5 wins, 5 draws, and 7 losses.
Over the last 10 meetings between the two Eastern Conference clubs, Orlando has only won 2 of those clashes – unfortunately one of those wins came early this season, when Orlando beat Union with 2 first half goals in Chester, PA, breaking a lengthy unbeaten streak for Union at Subaru Park.
For many, that game in late March feels light years away from how the team is playing now, going unbeaten in 9 of their last 10 games and looking to right their wrongs after dropping all 3 points to Orlando at home earlier this season.
2023 MLS Season So Far
Orlando has had a season of ups and downs so far. While they have 3 wins, 3 draws, and just 1 loss in their last 7 games, Orlando failed to string two consecutive positive results in a row in the 7 games previous to that.
Now, 17 games into the season, Orlando has a record of 7 wins, 5 draws, and 5 losses, which brings them to 26 total points, good enough to currently sit in the 7th spot in the tight Eastern Conference playoff race.
Offensively, Orlando finds themselves in the top half of the league in terms of goals scored with 23, but are near the bottom in Expected goals and total shots, making me think that Orlando tends to overachieve at times. On the defensive side of the ball, Orlando currently sits 5 best in the league in terms of Goals allowed with just 20 goals against.
In terms of X-factors for Wednesday night’s game, I’m going to go with the backup keepers for each team, in a similar nature to the two team’s first meeting this season. With both Andre Blake and Pedro Gallese missing Wednesday night’s match, that sets up the perfect show-down between two backup keepers once again, this time with Union in much better form.
For Orlando, you’ve got Mason Stajduhar, who’s coming off a 3-1 loss on the road against New England in his most recent start. For Union, it’s former Orlando City keeper, Joe Bendik who will get a chance to earn some revenge for Union against the team that beat them earlier this season and for Bendik to get back at his former team.
For Stujduhar, he’s only started a total of 2 games this season, 1 of which was a win on the road against Joe Bendik and the Union. Stujduhar has given up 4 goals on 10 shots faces across 2 starts. And for Bendik, he’ll be making his 3rd start and 4th appearance in MLS play this season overall. In his previous 3 games played, Bendik allowed 5 goals on 8 shots faced.
Before I can predict a lineup, let’s talk about who’s actually missing from the squad. First things first, Andre Blake and Damion Lowe are both on international duty with Jamaica, and Daniel Gazdag will miss Wednesday’s game as he’s just returning from international duty of his own and won’t be ready to go in time, though he should be good for Saturday. So how does the Union lineup Wednesday night?
I’d like to think they’ll stick to the 5-3-2 formation that kept them earning points through 9 straight games, even with a few names missing. Up top, we should see both Julian Carranza and Mikael Uhre start, even with 2 games in 4 days this week. In the midfield, we have Jose Martinez who will also be available for selection after missing the previous game due to yellow card accumulation, Leon Flach, and Jack McGlynn who’s just returned from another impressive outing with the U20 USMNT.
In defense, this is where things get tricky. I think we could see that iteration of the back 5 with Oliver Maize and Matt Real as wingbacks and Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, and Jakob Glesnes as the 3-center back group in front of Joe Bendik in net. Brandon Craig is the name I’d love to see in the lineup, coming off a strong showing while away with the U20s, and Damion Lowe being away on international duty, but it’s a lot to ask to throw him in for his first start while on the road.
As far as predictions on the pitch go, I think this is going to be a tough game for Union. While Orlando only has a record of 3 wins, 3 draws, and 3 losses at home, Union aren’t exactly killers on the road, coming into this road match with a record of 3 wins, 1 draw, and 4 losses while away from home.
The loss of Andre Blake, Damion Lowe, and Daniel Gazdag will leave sizable holes in the lineup. I think Union would feel great walking out of this one with a 1-0 win, but a draw might feel just as good considering the circumstances. I’m going to go with a 1-1 draw, take the point on the road, and head home to play in front of a sold-out crowd against a Messi-less Inter Miami. Be sure to tune into MLS Season Pass on Apple TV to catch Union takes on Orlando City on Wednesday night at 7:30 pm est.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union