Philadelphia Union looks for first win in over a month vs Orlando City

The Philadelphia Union is back in action taking on Orlando City SC tonight! Philly returns home after a 2-2 draw on the road down in DC last weekend. Home matches at Subaru Park used to mean three points on the regular for Philadelphia, but in recent times, the Union has seen a drop in form. Two losses in their last two home matches saw the talk about Philly go from Shield contenders to playoff hopefuls. Now Orlando City comes to town, and both clubs are desperate for points for different reasons.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union vs Orlando City Preview

Philadelphia has played 10 matches of their 34-game MLS season. Through those matches, Philly has three wins, five draws, and two losses. The theme of this team has been resiliency. Philadelphia has conceded first in seven of those 10 matches, including their last five straight games. The defense has been subpar, but the fight is there to get back into games.

Orlando is another story entirely. They are in the bottom five of the entire league, and second-to-last in the Eastern Conference. Their start to the season was similar to the Union’s, juggling Concacaf Champions Cup and MLS play. Through 10 MLS matches they have scored 11 goals and let in 18. This match is one between two struggling teams, the difference being Philly has the resiliency to come back and Orlando has not shown that trait.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Orlando City’s Season So Far

Before the start of the 2024 MLS season, Orlando City SC was pegged as a powerhouse in the Eastern Conference. They have a distinct style of play in a 4-2-3-1 formation under head coach Oscar Pareja. They love to get scrappy in the middle of the field and push the ball to wide-attacking players to create chances for a loan striker. In his sixth year in charge of the club, Orlando has underperformed mightily.

This season so far for Orlando seems to be paralleling the failed transfer of their star striker Duncan McGuire. McGuire seemed to have completed a move to English side Blackburn Rovers, only for an administrative error on transfer deadline day killing the move. Orlando had already signed a DP striker replacement, Luis Muriel when McGuire, unfortunately, returned with the team. This created a controversy about who would be playing up top.

Add in early season fixture congestion, and poor performances stacking up after a 5-0 loss to cross-state rivals Inter Miami, and the team was in freefall in early March. Since then, Orlando has won just two matches. They sport a record of two wins, three draws, and five losses with a negative seven goal differential from their first 10 matches.

While Orlando is currently in the basement of the East and MLS, a win against the Union could propel them just outside a playoff place (That’s MLS for ya.) Philadelphia will need to be ready for a scrappy game, one that they were not prepared for last season when Orlando won at Subaru Park.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Union’s current dip in form

Philadelphia was on a seven-game unbeaten streak to start the season just three weeks ago. Then they had to play three games in eight days against RSL, Seattle, and DC. Taking just one point from those three games, and losing the two matches against Western conference opponents at home knocked Philly to ground a bit.

Now, the Union begins another three-game in eight days taking on Orlando at home, NYCFC at home midweek, and then New England away next weekend. This presents Philly an opportunity to get back to winning ways starting with this match against a struggling Orlando City team.

Jim Curtin and the Union experimented last weekend in DC with a flat 4-4-2 formation. This formation brought success in a win at Portland on the road earlier in the season but did not bode well vs DC; Philly concealed two goals in the first half, prompting a shift back to their more comfortable 4-4-2 diamond shape, later on, to help salvage a draw. In this upcoming game against Orlando, Philly will likely go back to their preferred formation to get things in order.

This Union team is resilient, but we have not seen them dominate a game outside of a 2-0 win vs Minnesota. Philly will need to take a page from the game plan they had in that match where they swarmed their opponent, made it hard to play forward, and hit them on the counterattack. If they can play that way against Orlando, then it may be enough to frustrate their struggling attack and get Philly back to winning ways!

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Can the Union get back to winning ways?

With Orlando and Philly struggling, this game has huge implications in the Eastern Conference even in this early spot in the season. However, the Union will be without some major players in this match as goalkeeper Andre Blake is out due to his knee injury, and Julian Carranza is out due to a yellow card accumulation suspension. Because of these absences, here’s how I expect Philly to lineup.

Predicted Starting XI:

GK: Oliver Semmle;
LB: Kai Wagner, CB: Jakob Glesnes, CB: Damion Lowe, RB: Nathan Harriel;
CDM: Jose Martinez,
LM: Jack McGlynn, RM: Alejandro Bedoya
CAM: Daniel Gazdag
ST: Mikeal Uhre, ST: Quinn Sullivan

Jim Curtin did say that striker Tai Baribo was impressive in training this week, so I’d expect a rare cameo from him off the bench in this game. Other than that, expect to see this Union team use few subs as they have a congested stretch coming up.

Orlando also has starting centerback, Rodrigo Schlegel, out because of a red card suspension, so their shaky defense will be without their main pillar. Because of this, I expect the Union to look to be on the front foot attacking a weakened Orlando City defense. While it might not be a clean sheet, I do expect Philly to get back to their winning ways in front of another sellout crowd at Subaru Park!

Predicted Result: 3-1 Union Win

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union