Match Preview: Jim Curtin and Co. confident Union will avoid 4th straight loss at home for first time in club history

It’s a bit strange to sit here in mid-May and say that tonight’s match is important, but after losing 3 consecutive games at home for the first time since 2012, getting a positive result against NYCFC seems imperative for Philadelphia Union and their 2024 season. 

Plenty of fans are reaching for the panic button, and those that aren’t quite there yet will surely be closer than they have over recent years if Union drops their 4th straight at home – something that’s never happened in this club’s history.

Weirdly enough, Jim Curtin isn’t the only one who has a sense of confidence that this team will pull themselves out of this rut soon.  While clearly frustrated by the results, that type of mindset was mirrored by players like Mikael Uhre and Damion Lowe in the locker room after the defeat to Orlando, with Uhre saying “We know what we have to do to get out of these spells. 

It’s about working hard and being together because that’s the only way we’re going to do it”, and Damion Lowe points to the professionalism and experience in the locker room as a reason to suggest they’ll turn this around.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Preview By The Numbers

Current Form: last five matches:Philly: D,L,L,D,L.New York City: W,W,W,L,W.
Expected Goals:Union: 19.3 (5th best)NYCFC: 18.3 (6th best)
Goals Conceded:Philly: 19 (Tied 9th best)New York City: 14 (Tied 4th best)
Expected Goals Allowed:Union: 14.2 (10th best)NYCFC: 15.2 (Tied 10th best) 
Top Goalscorers:Philly: Gazdag-7, Uhre-4, Carranza-4New York City: Rodriguez-5, Fernandez-2, Martinez-2
Assists:Union: Sullivan-4, Bedoya-3, Wagner-2NYCFC: Wolf-3, Fernandez-2, Rodriguez-2
Score First Percentage:Philly: 36%New York City: 42%
Concede First Percentage:Union: 64%NYCFC: 58%
Percentage of Time Leading per Game:Philly: 19%New York City: 27%
Percentage of Time Trailing per Game:Union: 36%NYCFC:30%
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

3 Keys to the Game

1) Stop the self-inflicted wounds

Jim Curtin has been open about the fact that uncharacteristic goals are shooting this team in the foot right now.  Not only are they conceding way more goals than they’d like, but the nature in which they are conceding often kills momentum and deflates the energy in both the team and the players

Turnovers leading directly to transition the other way, goals at inopportune times, and giving up 8 goals from outside the box are just a few things Jim Curtin mentioned the team needs to put more focus on in the games ahead

2) Control possession – In your own way

Philly have had over 50% of possession in each of the last 3 games that they’ve lost at Subaru Park.  Much of that comes down to playing from behind and seeing their opponents park the bus in front of net, forcing Union to control possession, get up the field, and try to break down a low block. 

Philadelphia has seen success over the years by letting the other team control the majority of possession, defending well, and then hitting the other team on the break while they’re too far up and chasing the game.  It’s almost like Union is getting stuck into its own trap right now.  If they can manage to achieve key #1 above, that should help Philly control the game the way they want.

3) Front Three Reunion 

Scoring goals isn’t really the biggest problem for Union right now, but missed chances are amplified when you’re playing from behind and need to score multiple goals.  In desperation, Philadelphia has found a way to get it down after falling behind time and time again. 

But as Jim Curtin mentioned in his press conference yesterday, this next run of games is the first time this season that his front 3 of Daniel Gazdag, Mikael Uhre, and Julian Carranza will all be available and healthy together.

“When this front 3 get’s going, you’ve seen what can happen”

-Union head coach Jim Curtin
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Lineup Prediction

While Andre Blake is officially listed as “questionable” for tonight’s match against NYCFC, Curtin said he isn’t quite ready so I’d expect Oliver Semmle to get the start once again.  Olivier Mbaizo should be available, but Markus Anderson isn’t ready to be included yet.  Here’s my predicted Starting XI to face NYCFC

GK: Oliver Semmle
RB: Nathan Harriel, CB: Jack Elliott, CB: Jakob Glesnes, LB: Kai Wagner
CDM: Jose Martinez
RCM: Quinn Sullivan, LCM: Jack McGlynn
CAM: Daniel Gazdag
ST: Julian Carranza, ST: Mikael Uhre

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

Score Predictions

Union desperately needs 3 points.  Things inside the locker room are much calmer than things in the stands, but I don’t know how much longer that confidence will last if Philly doesn’t get it back on track soon.  I think Philadelphia will have a better performance tonight and will snap the losing streak, but won’t walk away with 3 points. I’m going 2-2 in a back-and-forth game.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

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Mandatory Credit: Philadephia Union