Saturday night’s eventful win against Tijuana was Union’s first ever in Leagues Cup play. 2 Red Cards to Tijuana, a saved penalty from Andre Blake, and a brace from the foot of Juliana Carranza led Union to a 3-1 win and 3 points in the standings. Now Union will turn their attention to Queretaro F.C. on Wednesday night, with an opportunity to secure the top spot in Group East 1.
Union vs Queretaro Preview
2023 Season So Far
Like Tijuana, the sample size to base Queretaro’s current squad on is really small – smaller in fact. Because of a match postponement, Queretaro has played just two games into their 2023 Apertura campaign. Across the two games, Queretaro has 1 win and 1 loss, with both games being played on the road.
In those games, Queretaro has scored 3 goals and conceded 4. Federico Lertora, Angel Sepulveda, and Camilo Sanvezzo have each contributed a goal so far this season, with Lerotra being the only player having both scored and cashed in an assist in the first two games.
In addition to that, Lerotra is near the top on the team in stats such as Total Passing Distance, Passes into the final third, progressive passes, and passes received.
Through just 2 games, 1 win and 1 loss has Queretaro in 13th place so far in this young season. Though Queretaro has the 4th best Expected Goals Allowed total at just 2.5, they are also sporting the leagues worth Expected Goals after 2 games.
They’ve also taken the second least amount of shots in the league, Have the least shots on target in the league, have the second highest average shot distance in the league, and have the second lowest total shot-creating actions in the league.
Queretaro has only played 2 games to the rest of the league’s 3. But even their /90min stats aren’t very impressive. This is a team Union should score a goal or two on, and most importantly, keep from scoring.
One player I’m thinking could be a potential game-changer for Queretaro is 36-year-old midfielder Pablo Barrera. While Barrera has yet to get a goal contribution in the first two games of the Apertura season, he was one of the most influential players in Queretaro’s squad last year.
Though Barrera was ranked third on the team in goals with 3, Barrera’s vision and passing are where he can really leave his mark on the game, leading the team last season in:
Assists (6), Expected Assists (7.0), Expected Assisted Goals (7.3), Progressive Carries (89), Progressive Passes (120), Progressive Passes Received (202), Shots from Free Kicks (6), Passes into the Final Third (78), Passes Into The Penalty Area (39), Crosses Into The Penalty Area (28), Goal Creating Actions (9), Touches (1617), Take Ons Attempted and Successful Take Ons (38 successful out of 100). But the most impressive stats from Barrera’s previous campaign, are his Shot Creating Actions (133) and Total Carrying Distance (6735), which are over double the amount of the next closest player on the team.
While Barrera hasn’t had as much influence on things early on in the season, I’d expect Queretaro to turn to the veteran Midfielder to attempt to break down a really tough defense at home.
On the other side of the ball for Union, I’m gonna go with forward Mikael Uhre. Uhre got some rest on Saturday night, with Quinn Sullivan being rewarded with his third straight start in the Union lineup. Jim Curtin expressed in his Press Conference on Tuesday that Uhre is good to go for Wednesday night and will be back in the starting XI.
Though Uhre hasn’t hit the strides many had hoped in his second season with Union, he’s still a really important player in the Union attack and poses a threat at any time. Particularly, the long, darting runs that pull defenders out of position could prove to be helpful against a backline that’s still finding their footing amidst a new season, and a team that’s got 4 players over the age of 32 in their starting XI.
This should be a game the Union can find rhythm in moving forward against a team that allowed the 5th most goals, and the second most errors leading to a shot in Liga MX last season. Im looking for Mikael Uhre to get in behind the defender early in the game, stretching the field and pulling defenders out of position. Even if Uhre isn’t on the score sheet tonight, I could see him playing a big role in goals being scored.
So we’ll probably see a different iteration of the starting XI come Wednesday night. Andre Blake will be in the net, as he should be. Based on what Jim Curtin said in his press conference, I think Union will go to a back 5 system for the first time since June 10th against San Jose, before Damion Lowe left for International Break with Jamaica. But with the likelihood of Queretaro playing with two strikers up top, Curtin says he likes the idea of having 3 Center Backs to help stymy the visitors going forward. So I’d expect a back 5 of Kai Wagner, Damion Lowe, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, and Olivier Mbaizo.
The midfield once again is where we could see a few different names. Jose Martinez and Daniel Gazdag are probably the two easiest to pencil in, and the 3rd could be a toss-up between Jack McGlynn our Jesus Bueno, who both started against Tijuana on Saturday, or we could see Leon Flash return to the lineup, after missing out against Tijuana from some maintenance on an injury Curtin has previously said Leon will need to monitor and deal with all season. I’m leaning towards Leon Flash being that final piece to the midfield, as long as he’s fit and ready to go.
As far as what’s going to happen on the field, I really can’t imagine anything other than a Union win in this one. They’re at home, in a building they’ve only lost one game in over an absurd amount of time, and the opponent at hand is one in which they should handle quite easily. But Union still needs to take this game seriously and get the job done, leaving Subaru Park on Wednesday night with the top spot in the group locked up.
We know how CONCACAF-y these games can get, so Union needs to stick to their game plan, stay away from getting sucked into the chaos, and just grind out a win and move on to the knockout round. I’m going to go with a 2-0 Union win, with goals scored by Daniel Gazdag and Mikael Uhre. It should be a fabulous night for some soccer at Subaru Park, but if you can’t make it down, make sure to watch the Blue and Gold clinch their spot in the Leagues Cup Knock Out Round tonight at 7:30 pm est on MLS Season Pass Via Apple TV.
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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union