Match Preview: Union look to climb Eastern Conference Playoff Standings vs. FC Dallas

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Union’s 0-0 draw against LAFC on Saturday wasn’t the game we all hyped it up to be in our head after last season’s MLS Cup Final, but it wasn’t an awful result either.  I think we all would have loved to see the Union pocket all 3 points for the first time against LAFC after all the close games and heartbreak of years past.  But grinding out a draw against the champs, earning your first clean sheet in over a month, and doing so on short rest amongst the busiest season in club history is something positive Union can take with them moving forward as they look to climb the Eastern Conference table as much as possible before playoffs arrive.

The next hurdle in Union’s season is an out-of-conference opponent, FC Dallas.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

MLS Season So Far

After finishing 3rd in the Western Conference on 53 points last season, you’d have to imagine that being in the final playoff spot on 39 points with 5 games left to play has Dallas a bit panicked about how this season is turning out.  The good news for Dallas is that spots #4-#11 in the Western Conference are separated by just 6 points, there’s plenty of movement in the table still possible but of course. It also means Dallas has the opportunity to find themselves on the outside looking in come the end of Decision Day

In their previous 5 matches, Most of Dallas’ positive form has come from playing at home this season, having a record of 7 wins, 5 draws, and just 3 losses for a total of 26 points while at home.  Unfortunately for Dallas, they’ll be playing on the road on Wednesday with a record of 3 wins, 4 draws, and 7 losses for a total of 13 points away from home. Despite having just 2 wins in their previous 7, FC Dallas has only lost 1 game in that timeframe, after losing 6 of the 8 games previous to that.  

Across their 29 games this season, Dallas has scored a total of 34 goals which is tied 7th for lowest in MLS, and have a total Expected Goals of just 31.7, 5th lowest in MLS.  Dallas’ low-scoring totals have a lot to do with their lack of creativity and chance creation this season

Dallas ranks in the bottom 5 teams in the league in stats such as Total Shots (2nd lowest), Shots on Target (4th lowest), Shots from Free Kicks (3rd lowest), Key passes (4th lowest), Passes into Final 3rd (Lowest in MLS), Passes into Penalty Area (5th lowest), progressive passes, Shot Creating Actions (2nd lowest), Progressive Carries Into final 3rd (4th lowest), Progressive Carries into Final Third (4th lowest) and progressive passes received (2nd lowest). 

On the other side of the ball, maybe defense is the thing keeping Dallas in playoff contention.  Just 33 goals conceded this season, low enough to be the 3rd least amongst all MLS teams.  Part of the reason Dallas has such success keeping goals off the board can be attributed to the lack of shots they allow to be put toward their net(118 – 8th best) and the rate at which their keepers save shots put on net (72.9%, 7th best).

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union


When it comes to Dallas, they’ve got one main man.  A few guys can step up to help out from time to time, but almost everything this team accomplishes on the score sheet can be traced back to one name – Jesus Ferreira.  12 goals and 2 assists for a total of 14 goal involvements.  The next highest goal scorer on the team is Jader Obrian and Bernard Kamungo both with 4 goals, so Ferreira probably has the most potential to change the result of this one.

On top of out-scoring the rest of the team, Ferreira also has double the Expected Goals total as the next closest player on the team, is first on the team in Shots Taken (52), Shots on Target (19), and is 2nd in Expected Assists and Expected Assisted Goals. 

Jesus Ferreira has 3 goals in their last 5 games but has 9 goals in the previous 7 games.  Part of the reason Ferreira has so much luck putting balls in the back of his net is his ability to create that luck himself.  Jesus Ferreira also leads the team in shot-creating actions (80), Goal-creating actions (9), Touches in the attacking penalty area (81), and is 2nd in carries into the penalty area and progressive passes received.  The Union will have to do a good job of keeping Ferreira from receiving the ball in dangerous positions.  

The Union is dealing with some injuries coming into this game and the final stretch of the regular season which gives some other names the opportunity to come in and make an impact down the stretch.  One of those names is Jesus Bueno. 

The 2023 season has been Jesus Bueno’s coming out party, finding himself more playing time with Union and relishing that opportunity so much so that he received his first Venezuelan International Call-Up this Summer. 

With Jose Martinez still questionable for Wednesday and Leon Flach out indefinitely, there’s a  big hole in the defensive midfield position that’s going to need to be occupied come Wednesday night. 

I’m not calling for Bueno to go out and score a goal, but if he can put a performance like his last against LAFC together, Union might be on their way to consecutive clean sheets for the first time in MLS play since Late May/Early June against Montreal and NYCFC.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Predictions for Union vs. Dallas

As far as the lineup goes, there are a number of question marks in the team as far as health and fitness go.

Julian Carranza is still in concussion protocol, though those situations can change quickly with timely evaluations.  Of course, it’s not something you want to rush back and should be over-cautious with. Jose Martinez is likely to be involved in tomorrow’s game. Much more likely in a role off the bench as he continues to deal with a bone bruise issue. Lastly, Jakob Glesnes is still battling a potential sports hernia injury.  He’s not going to be 100% and they’re not certain he’ll be completely ready to go yet, but Jim Curtin said that if this were a playoff game Jakob would be playing, which tells me the injury isn’t too serious.

Because of this, I think Jim Curtin will go with a similar lineup as he did on Saturday night against LAFC with a few minor tweaks – Andre Blake in net, with Kai Wagner, Damion Lowe, Jack Elliott, and Oliver Mbaizo making up the back 4.  Jesus Bueno, Jack McGlynn, Ale Bedoya, and Daniel Gazdag make up the diamond in the midfield, and Mikael Uhre and Tai Baribo get the start at forward together. 

Union should win this game, though there have been a lot of games this season that Philly should have handled with ease and were anything but.  Coming off the back of a clean sheet against a tough LAFC team with a few injuries on their side, Union should feel better about themselves on the defensive side of the ball and like their chances of keeping a clean sheet on Saturday. 

I kind of anticipate this to be a low-scoring game with Union needing to grind out an ugly goal in order to get 3 points, but that’s probably fine by me.  Keep the clean sheet, earn a 1-0 win at home, keep climbing the standings, and hope you get hot at the right time to make another deep run in the playoffs.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union