A big save from Andre Blake and a game-deciding PK from Jesus Bueno against Red Bulls made it two Penalty Shootout wins in a row for the Philadelphia Union. Now, they’re on their way to the Leagues Cup Quarter-Finals where they’ll host a rematch of the group-stage meeting against Liga MX’s Queretaro at home on Friday night.
A 4th consecutive win at home in Leagues Cup play would see the Union through to the Semi-Finals, where they would host the winner of Charlotte and Miami at Subaru Park next Tuesday. Even though the Union gave Queretaro a classic Subaru Park Smack Down with a final score of 5-1, Queretaro have looked much better since being embarrassed by the Boys in Blue and have Semi-Finals aspirations of their own.
Philadelphia Union vs Queretaro FC betting odds
Philadelphia Union -205 | Draw +360 | Queretaro FC +500
Philadelphia Union vs Queretaro FC Betting offers
Queretaro’s Leagues Cup Journey so Far
Coming into Leagues Cup, Queretaro were only 2 games into their Apertura season and there wasn’t much of a sample size to go off of, besides them not finishing very high in the standings in the previous few seasons, including a last-place Aperture finish just one season ago.
So starting their Leagues Cup campaign with a humbling 5-1 defeat at the hands of Philadelphia Union made it seem like their run was over before it would ever really get going. But since that 5-1 defeat, the team has been able to get some key pieces back, tighten games up a lot more, and has continued to edge out close games all the way to the Quarter-Final, where they’ll get their chance at revenge on Union.
After losing their opening game at Subaru Park, Queretaro turned around to edge out Tijuana with Emanuel Gularte being the lone goal-scorer in the match to send his team through to the knock-out stage as the second-place team in the group.
Queretaro would be matched up with Liga MX’s Pumas, and once again were able to keep the game tight and find the lone goal in the 74th minute from Angel Sepulveda to send Queretaro through to the round of 16.
There, Queretaro would run into the New England Revolution. And while New England were probably the favorite to go through, especially playing at home on their pitiful turf field, it was Queretaro that was able to edge out a close game once again, this time beating their opponents on Penalty kicks.
In this game, it was Jaime Gomez Valencia that scored for Queretaro which now marks 4 different players to score goals in the tournament. And while they did give up a pretty late goal to New England which forced PK’s, that was the first goal Queretaro had given up in 258 minutes of play, just 11 minutes short of 3 full games.
While Queretaro aren’t hypnotizing their opponents to sleep with ball possession and stringing fluid passes together, they are doing just enough to keep games close and find a goal when it’s needed. Despite making it all the way to the Quarter-Finals, Queretaro rank as one of the lowest teams in Leagues Cup in stats such as total ball possession, shots on target per match, accurate passes per match, and big chances missed. The big saving grace for Queretaro, has been the re-integration of #1 goalkeeper Fernando Tapia, who missed the 5-1 loss against Union in the group stage.
The guy I’m looking at to most impact Queretaro’s destiny tonight is goalkeeper Fernando Tapia. While he might not have made a different in the 5-1 meeting between Queretaro and Union in the group stage, he’s surely made an impact on the Liga MX’s side improbable run to the Quarterfinals since then.
With 2 consecutive clean sheets against Tijuana and Pumas, boasting 5 saves in 1 knock, 6 in the other, and a penalty kick save to boot, Tapia has been Queretaro’s best player in Leagues Cup by far. With a save percentage of 92.3% and Fotmob rating of 8.32, almost an entire full point above the second highest rated player in his team, Tapia is the one full of confidence in this Queretaro side, and getting to him early could be the key for Union.
The Union love to score at home, we could talk all day about the records they’ve broken over the last year and a half while playing at home, but let’s just leave it to – They score loads of goals. That being said, we’ve seen games where Union can get stuck in and have trouble unlocking the defense, specifically in knock-out competition-type games. So if Union are having another one of those matches, Tapia might be the most confident player in Queretaro’s side, and I’m sure he’d love the opportunity to play spoiler at Subaru Park.
After Jim Curtin’s press conference to preview the Quarter-Final matchup against Queretaro, there are some bits and pieces of injury news to cover before trying to predict a lineup for tonight.
First things first and the bad news – Daniel Gazdag is going to miss Friday night’s match against Queretaro with a Grade 1 knee sprain suffered against Red Bulls. The good news – he is feeling better, and it’s hopeful that he might be ready for Tuesday night’s Semi-Final if Union are to advance, but he’s definitely not ready to go for Friday night.
The one other update, although one for future games and not ready to go for Friday night, is the progression of Union captain Ale Bedoya. Bedoya is back to full training with the Union squad, but it sounds like he’ll be held out Friday night and that any future games in the competition are much more likely for an introduction back into the squad.
So where’s that leave us for a predicted lineup? Let’s start with the easy one – Andre Blake in net. I feel good about that one being a lock.
In the backline, I think Union will stick with a back 5 to deal with the 2-striker setup Queretaro has been rolling out since their 5-1 loss to Union. Kai Wagner, Damion Lowe, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, and Nate Harriel makeup that back 5 for me. It’s always a toss-up between Harriel and Mbaizo on who gets the start on the right, but on top of Harriel putting together some solid defensive performances, he’s also starting to show a bit more offensive upside as well, scoring 2 towering headers in Leagues Cup, and showing confidence in his shooting ability from outside the box as well.
The midfield is where it gets a bit tricky, but I think last matches formation makes this a little easier to wrap your head around. With Uhre starting on the bench, Gazdag played as the second “striker” in the 5-3-2, although he was playing behind Carranza a bit, whereas Uhre typically stretched the field for his striking partner. That left Union with a midfield of Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, and Jack Mcglynn.
While I didn’t love what that midfield brought against Red Bulls, I think it’s an easy way to keep things similar without Gazdag. The one switch I would make in this all, is bringing in Jesus Bueno for Leon Flach. I think this guys has been so extremely good for Union, bringing lots of aggression, energy, and hardwork top the midfield, and has shown a lot more of his attacking potential in the last few games as well. To me, Bueno offers what Leon Flach does, with a bit more of a confidence, demanding presence, and attacking-upside. Roll out a midfield of McGlynn, Bueno and Martinez, with Carranza and Uhre up top.
Score prediction for Union vs Queretaro
As for a score prediction, I don’t think this game will be anywhere near as easy as the first meeting with Queretaro was, but Union should take care of business on Friday night and punch their ticket to the Leagues Cup Semi Finals. They are the better team in this matchup, and as long as they take it seriously, execute their gameplan, limit mistakes and capitalize on opportunities, there’s no reason Union should lose this game, especially at home.
That being said, things are always easier on paper than they are on the pitch, as beating DC and Red Bulls proved to be, but I have confidence that Union will keep it rolling and get it done tonight. The Leagues Cup magic hasn’t run out on Union yet, and it doesn’t feel like Friday is the night that it does – but that is purely based on vibes.
5 things to watch for in Philadelphia Union vs Queretaro
- Who steps up in Gazdag’s place?
While Union do have a number of options to replace the hole left by Daniel Gazdag, I don’t think it’ll be as drastic of a change as some might think. As I said before, the lineup against Red Bulls was, unfortunately, an indication of how Union could lineup without Gazdag in his normal midfield position. Don’t overthink it. Union should be able to produce plenty of opportunities to score, even without Gazdag.
- Is tonight the night we see Tai Baribo?
I’ve got to be honest, I’ve tried to figure out if Baribo is eligible to be added to the Leagues Cup roster between rounds and…I just can’t quite find a definitive answer. So unfortunately, I’m not sure if Baribo will be involved tonight, which is a shame. I’m sure a player like Baribo would be great to throw at tired defenders late in the game, especially without Gazdag in the team. I’m not sure if it’s a roster-rules Leagues Cup thing, or a transfer paperwork Union thing, or a “He’s just not ready for gametime” thing, but I haven’t seen or heard anything that Tai Baribo will be included tonight – but I also haven’t heard that he ISN’T included tonight…
- Looking for bounce-back performance from Damion Lowe
Damion Lowe has been one of the biggest surprises of the 2023 season so far, and the only off-season acquisition that’s worked out the way Union and head coach Jim Curtin had hoped. He’s been so good for Union, bringing such high amounts of passion, aggression, assertiveness, hard work, dedication, and love to this club, he truly has been an incredible signing. But the last game against the Red Bulls might have been his worst performance for Union thus far. That being said, Damion isn’t one to let a bad performance bring him down, and I’m sure it’s only motivated him more to come out and give a top-notch performance against Queretaro on Friday
- Keeper Duel – Andre Blake Vs Fernando Tapia
Knock-out style matches are typically pretty tight, low-scoring games. Nobody wants to lose, which means mostly everyone is scared of conceding the first goal. Because of that, opportunities on net can come at a premium, and tonight we’ve got two of the best goalkeepers left in the competition going head to head. Tapia has been a saving-grace for Queretaro in Leagues Cup since their 5-1 defeat to Union, and we all know the importance of Andre Blake in Philadelphia. If Queretaro can manage to keep the game scoreless early on, we might have a good ole-fashioned goalkeeper duel on our hands.
- Keeping the Fortress Protected
Since losing back to back home games in September of 2021 to New England and Club America, Union have a home record of 35 wins, 5 draws, and 2 losses. In those 42 games, Union have outscored their opponent by a total of 104 Goals Scored, to 24 Goals Conceded. It’s one of the hardest places to play, and in big part it’s due to the home fans. There is no reason that Union should lose this game tonight, especially while at home. So if you can make it out, it seems like we’ve got a beautiful Friday of football on the menu, but if you can’t make it down to Subaru Park, be sure to tune into MLS Season Pass via Apple TV for all the actions starting at 8pm, and keep tabs on PSN for all things Union.