Match previews / Union

Match preview: Philadelphia Union v. New England Revolution

Photo by Paul Rudderow

Who: Philadelphia Union (8th in the East, 26 points, 7-9-5) at New England Revolution (10th in the East, 23 points, 6-9-5)
What: 2017 regular season game
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
When: Saturday July 29th, 7:30 PM
Watch: The Comcast Network, MLS Live
Whistle: REF: ISMAIL ELFATH, AR1: Peter Manikowski, AR2: Logan Brown, 4TH: Jose Carlos Rivero

After looking like things might be coming together at the end of June and early July, the inconsistent Union dropped two straight matches in impotent fashion to short-handed conference foes Montreal and Columbus. They rebounded against the Crew in the second leg of a quick home-and-home on Wednesday, looking dominant in stretches, lucky in others, and showing the cracks of what a stressful season can do to team cohesion, perhaps more outwardly than ever before.

As the team attempts what seems to be a perennial late-summer climb up the standings to snatch the last playoff spot, the next squad in their way are the New England Revolution. A win could draw them level with Orlando City in 7th place.

Scouting report: New England Revolution

The Revs broke a winless streak that nearly stretched two months on July 22nd in their last league match with a 4-3 win against the LA Galaxy. The streak is a bit misleading, considering the run included matches against conference leaders Toronto and New York Red Bulls, as well as the Union, sandwiched around U.S. Open Cup ties and the departure of regular starters for Gold Cup callups. Regardless, the cloud lingered over the squad as they dropped in the table. Their breakout against the Gals is a nice encapsulation of what the Revs are: potentially fatal in the final third and always poised to be a sieve in the back four. The highlights show a team capable of real inspiration and unrelenting offensive force, as well as one that gets pulled out of shape far too easily to be taken seriously.

Kei Kamara, Lee Nguyen, and Diego Fagundez all have awesome hair (Exhibits A, B, and C, respectively). In addition, they have the potential to be among the most creative group of midfielders and attackers in the league, and that’s not including recent Gold Cup call-ups, Kelyn Rowe and Juan Agudelo. More often than not, as their standing in the table reflects, they fall short of this potential.

The Revs should line up in their diamond midfield 4-4-2 and ping the ball around in ways meant to find space on the wings for their great one-v-one dribblers. This will be a direct challenge to the Union fullbacks, who have been good but not always great this year.

  • Injury report: M –  Diago Kobayashi (hamstring)
  • Questionable: None
  • Suspended: None
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

The Union posted their eighth clean sheet of the season on Wednesday assisted by the work of backup John McCarthy. Andre Blake’s injury, sustained in a Gold Cup final loss midweek, means McCarthy will get at least two more starts to build on his 2017 success as the Jamaican international recovers. In the midweek win, the team had stretches of possession and calm that have been far too fleeting this season, so perhaps it’s prudent to expect more of the same as Jim Curtin is a coach who likes to ride a hot hand.

However, it will be interesting to see what happens as Chris Pontius returns from national team duty this week with a winners’ medal around his neck. It remains to be seen if his time in Bruce Arena’s camp will help him out of his club slump (after scoring a career-high twelve goals last season to go with six assists, the Union winger has matched his assist count without finding the back of the net even once), but he is a team favorite and will likely see the field over the weekend.

Expect the Union’s trademark 4-2-3-1, and frankly expect it to look identical to Wednesday.

  • Injury report: Andre Blake (GK, right hand laceration), Maurice Edu (M, left ankle/tibia), Fabian Herbers (M, sports hernia surgery recovery)
  • Questionable: Fafa Picault (M, hamstring), Derrick Jones (M, concussion)
  • Suspended: None
Key matchup: Haris Medunjanin v. EVERYONE AND NO ONE

Haris Medunjanin was identified early by the coaches of Union opponents as the most dangerous offensive weapon for the Boys in Blue. Given time and space, as well as the speed of wingers like Fafa Picault, Medunjanin can unlock even the best defenses with a single pass. Recent matches have seen the midfielder press out of the Union offense, with teams allowing him to shuttle passes to Ray Gaddis, for example, instead of allowing him time to pick up his head and split lines. This isn’t rocket science strategy and though the responsibility falls on the entire squad to give him multiple passing options and permit him time to be truly dangerous, the Union will win if Medunjanin plays a part in the build-up and will lose if he doesn’t.

Players to watch: John McCarthy

The stars are aligned for the Union backup right now. He has played quite well in his appearances this season and seemed to have addressed his two key flaws from seasons past: distribution and positioning. As a result, the drop-off between injured superhuman Andre Blake and the local darling has narrowed. If McCarthy can somehow shepherd this side through the next few matches with poise and a few clean sheets, expect the front office’s decision about whether to shop Blake to become interestingly more difficult.

Prediction: Philadelphia 2 – 0 New England

The Union have outscored the Revs 11-2 in their last five meetings (including a 4-0 win in Foxborough last summer) dating back to 2015. Coming off a midweek win, the team should be confident and assertive in earning a much-needed road win.

4 Comments

  1. Andy Muenz says:

    According to the preview on MLS.com, Nima Saghafi will have the whistle rather than Elfath (I didn’t think he’d call 2 Union games in a row).

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Was gonna question that too. After multiple reds in favor of the Union I would have been a little concerned it may go the other way

  2. 2-0 Union?! I predict a 2-1 loss.

  3. scottymac says:

    2-0? Bold. Spicy. I like it.
    .
    Wouldn’t rush to bet the mortgage on that score though for a team that’s been shutout 4 times on the road and only score two or more once, against last place D.C.
    .
    “In the midweek win, the team had stretches of possession and calm that have been far too fleeting this season, so perhaps it’s prudent to expect more of the same as Jim Curtin is a coach who likes to ride a hot hand.” – Not sure what this means unless the hot hand is Saghafi and doling out reds. You’d think a team up a goal and a man at home could be calm on the ball and control a game. I’m not sure you can extrapolate that to Saturday. They’re on pace for 42.5 points, so I agree it’s a must win. They all are at this point.

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