Match previews / Union

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs. FC Dallas

Photo: Daniel Studio

Who: Philadelphia Union (9th place, 26 points, 7-10-5) vs. FC Dallas (2nd place, 34 points, 9-4-7)
What: 2017 regular season
Where: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pa.
When: Saturday, August 5 at 7 pm
Watch: TCN, MLS Live
Whistle: Ricardo Salazar; Jeffrey Greeson, Kyle Longville; Jorge Gonzalez; VAR: Hilaro Grajeda

Philadelphia will enter this match in desperate need of a win. Unfortunately, they will be opposed by one of the premier teams in the league in FC Dallas.

For the Union, the friendly confines of Talen Energy Stadium are a welcomed sight. They have struggled mightily on the road, amassing just six of a possible 33 points. At home, though, Philadelphia are winners of six of their last seven.

Unlike the Union, Dallas are more than comfortable as the visitors. They’ve lost only two of their nine games away from Toyota Stadium. Hmm, is that what good teams can do?

Both sides are coming off embarrassing defeats last weekend. While the Union lost 0-3 in Foxborough, Dallas were blown out 4-0 while hosting Vancouver.

With both sides having a full week to recover, one team seems more likely to stabilize than the other. The MLS schedule has finally normalized after midweek contests and international tournaments. Philadelphia’s last match with one week of rest came back on June 25 against D.C. United.

If the Union are to have any hopes of climbing back into the playoff race, a statement will need to be made this weekend. Their schedule is much more difficult from here on out. Beating a quality team like Dallas will go a long way toward convincing the fans and themselves they are capable of a late season run.

Scouting report: FC Dallas

Mirror images 

Projected Dallas lineup

Much like Philadelphia, Dallas’ goal scoring burden rests primarily on the shoulders of just two players. While the Union have C.J. Sapong and Fafà Picault, the visitors rely on forward Maximiliano Urruti and winger Roland Lamah to find the back of the net.

Similar to Sapong, the Argentinian Urruti has already set a career high with 11 goals so far in 2017. His previous high was 10 with the Portland Timbers in 2014. The 26-year-old has also assisted on five goals this season, also a personal best. The mirror with Sapong doesn’t stop there. Just like the Union’s forward, Urruti is a strong defensive contributor who helps the team transition to attack quickly.

Picault’s opposite is also shining in his first year in MLS. Lamah, born in the Ivory Coast, is a Belgian international who’s scored eight goals in 19 games. The left winger offers true speed on the outside and has helped Dallas cope with the departure of Fabian Castillo.

Philadelphia’s back line will have to focus on shutting down these two talented attackers. If they can, they will be in good shape. No other Dallas player has more than three goals so far this season.

The big “D”

If scoring isn’t Dallas’ forte, defending certainly is.

They have allowed the third fewest goals in MLS, continuing a hallmark of head coach Óscar Pareja’s side.

With 23 goals allowed this season, a number certainly inflated by the 4-0 defeat last weekend after suffering a red card, Philadelphia will have to be clinical in finishing. They may not have many chances.

Making the situation even more difficult is the fact that Dallas will be able to feature their preferred back line for the first time in quite a while. Matt Hedges returned from international duty with the United States last weekend. The MLS All-Star and Dallas captain has been a rock at the back since debuting in 2012. The 27-year-old is a hulking presence but has deceptive quickness that will make Sapong’s night difficult.

Dallas will also be bolstered by the return of fullbacks Maynor Figueroa and Hernán Grana, who both missed the last contest serving suspensions for yellow card accumulation. The experienced Figueroa is a great defender, also filling in at center back when needed. Grana, also a 2017 All-Star, is their marauding right back. The Argentinian will bomb up the flank looking to exploit the space between Giliano Wijnaldum and Picault.

  • Injury report: None.
  • Suspensions: Carlos Gruezo (red card)

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

The No. 10? 

Projected Philadelphia lineup

Head coach Jim Curtin will once again have to answer the organization’s most pressing question.

Who is their No. 10?

There are three choices: Roland Alberg, Ilsinho, and Adam Najem.

This probably isn’t the opponent to throw an unpolished rookie into the fire. Najem cannot yet be relied upon to break down a stellar defense. His moments may come later in the season, but not this weekend.

That leaves two. Roland Alberg is the option with the biggest upside. He has the ability to steal a match with bursts of pure talent. He did so against Sporting Kansas City, and no side may resemble Dallas more than the Western Conference leaders. Just like that contest, this is a game where any points would be a theft.

But after back-to-back subpar matches, Ilsinho is the safer choice. Another poor performance would doom the Union. Expect the Brazilian to get the start. He offers a higher defensive work rate, and his skill on the ball could unlock Dallas’ defense. If he recaptures the form he displayed against D.C. United and Houston earlier this season, the Union will have a chance. If not, Alberg will be a late game substitute trying to find that moment of brilliance.

The captain(s)

Alejandro Bedoya is the Union’s best all around outfield player. His motor is unquestioned and his defensive work can often isolate the opposing No. 10.

But the Union need what Bedoya displayed with the national team at the Gold Cup.

He has the skill to impact the game in the attack. His smart runs and precise distribution in the box will be the difference between a win and loss against Dallas.

As of late, he has spent too much energy in his own half than in the opposition’s. Bedoya needs to find time and space in dangerous areas. After returning from international duty, his partnership with Haris Medunjanin has taken a step back. There isn’t the same disconnect as in the earlier portions of the season. When the Union were playing their best, however, the two midfielders looked to be of one mind.

If they can find that form again, the team will be better for it.

  • Injury report: Out – Maurice Edu (M, left ankle/left tibia surgery), Fabian Herbers (F, sports hernia surgery recovery), Andre Blake (G, right hand laceration)
  • Suspensions: None.
Key Matchup: Mauro Diaz vs. Alejandro Bedoya

One player, though, may prevent Bedoya from getting forward in the way the Union need.

Midfielder Mauro Diaz returned to Dallas’ starting lineup on June 23 after suffering an achilles injury late last season. The dynamic No. 10’s absence was the biggest reason the team from Texas failed to progress through the Western Conference playoffs.

He is the type of player that will require all of Bedoya’s attention, leaving little opportunity for the Union’s captain to attack. Bedoya must find the balance between the two, and it will be an extremely fine line.

Kellyn Acosta

Dallas’ third and final MLS All-Star is a stud. The 22-year-old has emerged as a star in this league this season while shining for the Gold Cup-winning United States. Kellyn Acosta is the prize of Dallas’ prolific academy, and the midfielder ranges from defense to offense, impacting games in both. Fortunately for the Union, but unfortunately for us, this may be the last time Acosta suits up against Philadelphia. A European transfer looks like it will occur sooner than later.

Prediction: Philadelphia Union 0-1 FC Dallas

Until the Union beat one of the league’s premier sides, the assumption is they can’t.

Dallas are far too good in their own end to expect Philadelphia to create enough chances without having a true No. 10. With Acosta, Diaz, Urruti, and Lamah, the visitors will find a goal. That is all they will need.

10 Comments

  1. Another factor in the current state of the Bedoya-Medunjanin partnership might be that the Bosnian has played virtually every minute of the season, in the midfield, and is over 30. And he had no off-season down time.

  2. It’s just steamrolls one thing into another. They get off to a horrible start, then Curtain can’t take Haris out. But then when Haris is burnt out, they are desperate to win again. Same thing every year with this team.

    • See CJ Sapong last year. Curtin absolutely ran him into the ground.

      • Jimmy boy has run CJ into the ground again this year. 1 goal from open play in the last 12 matches he’s played not counting a few PK’s he’s made in that time frame. He’s run Ray into the ground as well.

  3. Will anyone else be booing Kellyn Acosta?

  4. Buccistick says:

    Nick, you observe that — compared to our other options at #10 — Ilsinho “offers a higher defensive work rate.” Sadly, of course, you are correct. And if you listen very carefully, you will hear us groan in collective acknowledgement. An even fainter echo will follow. That just helps us echo-locate from the depths of the barrel to which we’ve scraped.
    .
    Admirable restraint to lavish a full paragraph on Acosta without reminding us his involvement in SuperBlake’s injury. Yes, cszack4, I look forward to booing his every name announcement and touch tomorrow night in Talen Energy Stadium.
    .
    To AVR, and beyond!

  5. pragmatist says:

    3-1 Union win. Why? Because they are a frustratingly confusing team.

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