Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Columbus Crew SC

Photo: Daniel Studio

Who: Philadelphia Union (9th place, 23 points, 6-9-5) vs. Columbus Crew (6th place, 31 points, 10-10-1)
What: 2017 regular season game
Where: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pa.
When: Wednesday, July 26 at 7:30 pm
Whistle: Ismail Elfath; Peter Manikowski, Logan Brown; Jose Carlos Rivero
Watch: MLS Live, TCN
Pregame: Tune in for the PSP Pregame Show with Mike and Peter before the match!

Following the international break, Philadelphia Union have put on two absolutely lethargic displays on the road over the past week in losses at Montreal Impact and Columbus Crew. Tomorrow, the Crew will again take the field against the Union, this time in Chester.

Ahead of the road trip, it was agreed that, with the Union’s backloaded schedule, they needed to earn points against these two beatable opponents. But that didn’t happen, and now tomorrow’s match – injuries, international absences, and all – looks like a must-win for the Union if they want to maintain any hope for a playoff spot.

Possible Columbus lineup

Scouting report: Columbus Crew SC

As Adam Cann noted in his ever-sagacious tactical analysis, Columbus dominated the wide areas in their 1-0 win over the weekend. Indeed, the Crew’s shift to a 3-4-3 paid major dividends as wingbacks Harrison Afful and Jukka Raitala were able to push high and find space behind the Union’s wingers where they could link up with talented attackers Justin Meram and Kekutah Manneh.

On defense, the Crew stymied the Union’s attack by stepping up to take away any link between the defense and the midfield line. As a result, the Union defenders saw plenty (ie. too much) of the ball in their own half with little idea or opportunity to move it upfield.

Look for Columbus to use the same strategy Wednesday night. After all their domination last weekend, a 1-0 scoreline (off an own goal) is an indication of the Crew’s lack of a killer instinct in the final third without playmaker Frederico Higuain. They will no doubt be eager to take their chances better tomorrow.

  • Suspended: None
  • Int’l Duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: Gaston Sauro (left PCL surgery), Ben Swanson (right ankle surgery), Federico

    Projected Union lineup

    Higuain (right knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: Niko Hansen (hernia surgery)

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Zero shots on goal is never good. Without C.J. Sapong, Fafa Picault, Roland Alberg, and Chris Pontius, plus the starting debuts of rookies Marcus Epps and Adam Najem, the Union were bereft of how to break down the Crew’s solid game plan.

While Epps and Najem had some promising moments, their greenness showed through often. It will be interesting to see whether Alberg, coming off his one-game suspension, steps back into the starting lineup or if Curtin continues to give Najem minutes. With the season slipping away, the latter option may be favored by Union fans already looking to 2018.

Columbus head coach Gregg Berhalter seemed content to sit at the midline when the Union had the ball and force Philadelphia’s defenders to spur the attack. Again, as Adam Cann noted, the Union were able to break down the Crew when Jack Elliott and Josh Yaro stepped forward with the ball to give the Union a numerical advantage in the midfield and get the ball forward.

Once the ball made it to the Union’s playmakers, namely Haris Medunjanin, Columbus’ swarming central midfielders and a pronounced lack of movement from Philadelphia made it impossible for the Bosnian to dictate play. If C.J. Sapong and Fafa Picault return to the fold on Wednesday, it will give Columbus much more to handle. If the two remain sidelined, it will be up to the Union’s young depth to step up and be more active and aggressive.

And hopefully get a shot on goal.

  • Suspended: None
  • Int’l Duty: M Chris Pontius (USA), GK Andre Blake (Jamaica)
  • Injury Report: OUT: Fabian Herbers (sports hernia surgery recovery), Derrick Jones (concussion); QUESIONABLE: Fafa Picault (left hamstring strain), C.J. Sapong (right ankle sprain)
Key Matchup

Alejandro Bedoya vs. Will Trapp

While Bedoya put in his typical workman shift, he failed to give the Union the forward impetus they so sorely lacked. On Wednesday, it will again be on the U.S. international to provide space for Medunjanin and a creative outlet for Najem versus Columbus’ staunch central midfield led by Trapp.

Player to watch

Justin Meram

The Michigan native and Iraqi international has come into his own over the past few seasons. With Frederico Higuain out for the foreseeable future, Justin Meram has become the creative force of the team, lighting up opponents with terrific goals and drawing defenses to open up space for teammates. He gave the Union plenty of fits Saturday and will be the one pulling the strings in Chester if the Union again fail to control the game.

Prediction: Philadelphia 1-1 Columbus

The Union find a goal, but its not enough versus a potent Crew attack that will certainly be looking to attack the Union’s soft width.



  1. I can’t wait to watch this game.

  2. Who: Philadelphia Union (9th place, 23 points, 6-9-5) vs. New York Red Bulls (6th place, 31 points, 10-10-1)

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    Any idea who the ref is for the game? I don’t see it on Frequently that’s more important in determining the outcome than what teams are actually playing.

    • I think they’re picking a season-ticket holder at random to be the ref. Bring your whistle, just in case.

    • They were late putting the media guide up. Just went out (and article updated) and refs are: Referee: Ismail Elfath. AR1 (bench): Peter Manikowski; AR2 (opposite): Logan Brown; 4th: Jose Carlos Rivero.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Thanks, Steven. Now I need to go back and find prior Union games that Elfath has called (although I think it’s been awhile).

      • Adam Schorr says:

        I could be wrong, but I think it’s because Rivero is normally the ref in this crew. I wonder if the refs are rotating too to keep legs fresh in these 2 games a week stretches.

  4. Tim Jones says:

    I would guess Onyewu instead of Yaro.

  5. Who I’d rather see, but know will never happen…. Najem at CAM, gooch at cb over yaro, fabinho at LM, rosenbury at RB.

  6. This assumes that fafa and sapong remain out injured

  7. el Pachyderm says:

    Preparing to watch the very clearly better team with better ideas better organization and better players play against the other team that doesn’t represent those qualities too well.

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