Union set for leg 2 of CCC matchup against Pachuca; Can they survive and make the quarterfinals?

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

After a 0-0 draw at home in leg one of the Concacaf Champions Cup Round of 16, the Philadelphia Union heads to Estadio Hidalgo Tuesday night to take on Pachuca in leg two. CCC is no easy tournament, and when MLS and Liga MX sides are matched up, it historically has gone the way of the Mexican teams. However, MLS teams have made strides to overcome those hurdles. Could the Union be one of those teams and find a way to move on to the quarterfinals?

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Union vs Pachuca Leg Two Preview

This matchup comes in just the fourth week of the Philadelphia Union’s 2024 season, but it is already one of the biggest matches of the year. Philly is in this international competition for the third time ever, and each of the first two times, they made a run to the semifinals. Now, they’re hoping to beat a Liga MX side early on in the competition to make it to the quarterfinals.

Both sides have their strengths. Pachuca’s lies in their attack; they have scored the most goals in Liga MX’s Clausura season, 25 goals through those 11 league games. Their scoring prowess has them in 4th place in the standings, yet they couldn’t score on Philly in leg one. That wasn’t for the lack of trying though as they peppered Philadlephia’s goal with 18 shots, just three of which were on target.

The Union’s strength, as it has always been under head coach Jim Curtin, lies in their defense. As Curtin mentioned in his pre-match press conference, his team is the only team to not concede a goal to Pachuca this year. It’s the team’s springboard, but their defense has been shaky to start this season allowing eight goals in five matches.

So what will hold? Philly’s defensive stoutness or Pachuca’s goal-scoring prowess? We’ll have to wait and see, but both teams will be well-rested for this upcoming match!

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Well rested teams

Pachuca played this past weekend in a league match that saw them pick up a rare loss at home. This may have been because manager Guillermo Almada rested a lot of his players; four players in the starting XI, and three others on the bench had three-digit numbers, a sign that they were academy players. Almada played a completely different XI on Saturday in that loss, resting all of his starters for Tuesday night’s CCC match.

Philadelphia was going to go about things differently, They were going to play eight of the same players from their starting XI from leg one; however, the Union’s match this past weekend against Seattle was postponed after five minutes due to torrential downpours. So Philly got some forced rest, which Curtin alluded to as helpful for his team.

With both Philly and Pachuca being rested it will give the star players from both sides the chance to become heroes and move their teams to the quarterfinals of CCC. For Pachuca, this will likely be seen on their left flank. They like to play in a 4-2-3-1 and create overlaps on the wings to create scoring chances. Oussama Idrissi and Bryan Gonzalez did well to do that in leg one, but no goals came of their build-up.

Players like Nathan Harriel, a right back forced to play centerback in leg one, will need to be aware of that danger. Harriel will likely slot back in on the right side to deal with that danger now that Elliot and Lowe are back from suspension! This one will likely have both teams’ best XIs going head-to-head in a tied match to determine who moves on and who goes home! Who will come out on top?

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

The away goals advantage

It was easily seen in leg one that neither team could take advantage of their chances. Pachuca was the more dangerous team but failed to get a goal they desperately coveted. The 0-0 scoreline is more advantageous for Philly. They were able to stop Pachuca from getting an away goal and now are in a position to nab their own away goal to hold the tiebreaker.

Should Philadelphia and Pachuca both score and make the aggregate score 1-1, Philly would advance to the quarterfinals thanks to the away goals tiebreaker. While Pachuca is the better-attacking team, Philadelphia will likely be the team pushing to score in this one.

Jim Curtin said the goal is to score and not concede, pretty mindblowing tactics I know. One thing that will be a major help will be the return of striker Julian Carranza. Curtin confirmed that Carranza will feature but wouldn’t say from the start or off the bench. Any time the Union has Carranza on the field they will look more goal-dangerous.

The one thing Philly doesn’t want is a shootout-style match that they’ve been a part of a few times this season already. If they can weather the storm in the first 15 minutes, defend well as a unit, and then look for counter-attacking opportunities, then they may just be able to move on to the quarterfinals. I feel this match will have goals in it; I have a feeling the Union concede first, but then get two goals from Gazdag and Carranza to move on to the quarterfinals!

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Game info and Best Philadelphia Union Bets

Who: Pachuca Club de Futbol vs Philadelphia Union, 0-0 after leg one

Where: Estadio Hidalgo, Pachuca de Soto, Mexico

When: Tuesday, March 12, 8:15 PM EST

How to Watch: FS1

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union