Match previews

Match Preview: Philadelphia Union vs. San Jose Earthquakes

Photo: Daniel Studio

Who: Philadelphia Union (7th place, 4 points, 1-1-1) vs. San Jose Earthquakes (10th place, 3 points, 1-2-0)
What: 2018 regular season game
Where: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pa.
When: Saturday, April 7, 7:00 p.m.
Watch: PHL 17, MLS Live, NBC Sports California

Philadelphia Union are eager to post their first win since opening day versus San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium. The Union have not only not won since their first game – they haven’t scored either and actually have yet to score against an 11-man squad. Against a dynamic but undisciplined team like San Jose, the Union must find a way to create through the midfield and break the scoring drought.

Projected San Jose lineup.

Scouting report: San Jose Earthquakes

San Jose began the year with a bang by drubbing Minnesota United at home before losing their last two games to Sporting KC and New York City FC, respectively.

Under new head coach Mikael Stahre from Sweden, the Quakes have been plenty capable of scoring goals, but just as happy to concede them too. While San Jose’s attack is superbly juiced to rush up the field, their defenders have a terrible habit of sitting back and not closing out the ball. And it’s led to some absolute bangers beyond the 18 from Kevin Molino and Graham Zusi.

On the other side of the field, the Union will be focused on Vako Qazaishvili, the talented Georgian midfielder who spends much of the game playing like a third striker, while MLS all-timer Chris Wondolowski lurks like a poacher on the backside.

  • Injury report: None
  • Suspended: None
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

The Union gave up their first goal of the season – and then let in two more – to the usually docile Colorado Rapids attack. Some were thanks to mental errors or unlucky deflections, but against the quick and dynamic San Jose attack, the Union must be disciplined and keep their shape. It will be an interesting chess match between Jim Curtin and Stahre to see how the Union counterpress versus a Quakes team ready to run behind the defense.

The real storyline, though, is the Union’s lack of scoring opportunities. They’re not just missing shots. They’re not even taking them. As Adam Cann once again brilliantly noted in his game breakdown, the Union have been poor at exploiting mismatches in the midfield and slow to respond to finding space in the final third of the field.

New signing Borek Dockal must be better at getting on the ball and finding his teammates – namely, David Accam. With Dockal benign so far in his MLS career, teams have been able to key in on Accam and take him out of the game and, with him, the Union’s whole attack. The reintroduction of Fafa Picault fresh off his three-game suspension should open up the field more, but it will be on Dockal to create those scoring chances.

Projected Union lineup.


  • Injury report: D- Richie Marquez (sports hernia); D – Fabinho (meniscus)
  • Suspended: None
Key matchup

Nick Lima vs. David Accam

Both Columbus and Colorado were able to bottle up the lightning that is David Accam. San Jose surely took notes for how the two sides were able to double (and triple) team Philly’s big offseason acquisition without being punished. Lima is a formidable foe and a talented two-way player. If the Union win this game, it’s because Accam got the better of the San Jose right back.

Player to watch

Fafa Picault

The Union’s right wing has been… not great in 2018. With plenty of miscommunication, crowding from Dockal and Alejandro Bedoya, or poor play from Fabian Herbers, the job will be handed back to Fafa Picault on Saturday. Union fans will finally be able to see how the team’s two speedy wingers challenge backlines together. It will be for naught, though, if no one can get them the ball.

Prediction: Philadelphia 2-1 San Jose

San Jose, like the Union, are still figuring things out. Philadelphia’s team defense has been stout, but were challenged by Colorado’s MLS 1.0 offense. While San Jose is a much more tactical and composed team, they do like to stretch defenses and the Union’s young backline must be tuned in for 90 minutes. San Jose’s defense, however, has been absolutely exploitable in three games this season, and there should be space for the Union midfield to finally pick out some dangerous passes for the team’s front line. A tap-in from C.J. and Accam’s first goal in blue should see the Union through to three points.


  1. Tim Jones says:

    As pER PRO. Referee Dave Gantar AR1 Phil Briere AR2 Jason White 4th Allen Chapman VAR Jorge Gonzalez

  2. Has apathy set in with the fan base already? Is this just general early malaise? A big game tomorrow with s few goals will help to energize us all.

    • On the one hand, it’s silly to be apathetic just YET. The offensive difficulty was entirely predictable based upon how late they signed Dockal. Virtually all players take a little while to adjust to MLS, and there’s no reason Dockal should be any different. Plus, he isn’t the only major piece they added, and our presumptive starting right winger has been suspended. The team could well start scoring in May after some time to figure each other out. It’s actually been impressive how well our Baby Back Line has played overall.

      On the other hand, many years of Union frustration have conditioned us to this, for which the franchise has only itself to blame. And hearing that your Sporting Director interviewed for another job does not exactly help matters.

      • True – the entire attacking midfield for the first 3 games were either new players or bench players – that actually makes me feel a little better.
        Don’t like the idea of our best soccer mind leaving either, but have to admit that he probably would feel that USMNT would be his dream job.
        That said, if Earnie leaves and the skid continues, there’s no easy way to hold Curtin accountable nor replace him. If Earnie’s here, he can challenge Jim on his strategy/subs and if Jim had to be let go, Earnie could assume temporary coaching responsibilities until a new coach is found. If he leaves, things definitely get messier.

  3. Show me something offensively. If Dockal can not show something that gives me a glimmer of hope that he can create and direct this offense at home with fafa now in the line up Unio fans are in for another disappointing season. If Fafa Accam and Sapong don’t score at least a combined 2 goals against San Jose traveling from the west coast then I see no hope for this team. Curtin should be fired with anything less then 3 wins in the next 6 games. A tie on Saturday is a total failure.

  4. UnionGoal says:

    Not worried about this game. Unlikely they lose. Union wins over past two years come at home. Possible they draw but still…home game.
    Issue are road games. Can’t make playoffs without better road record.
    What’s that?
    Oh I need patience, do I..young back line, new players need time to gel, sugarman not spending, injuries, yadayadayada
    Every team faces problems. Union have enough talent. With Union, I see zero leadership, little chemistry and zero drive to win currently. All correctable. They can do this with current players and talent can override poor coaching…will they?
    To those who say don’t worry about playoff we are rebuilding, well
    Mls playoff bar set pretty low and if you don’t want to win, why play?
    Frustrated UnionGoal

    • That’s why I say anything less than a win Saturday is total failure. I agree they must learn to win away or they will never get out of their unending pattern of coming up short in important games. I have said it since Curtin started . He is vanilla ,uninspiring, uncreative, has no passion ,boring , conservative, minor league coach. No other owner would put up with his mediocrity. Even the worst of the major Philly sport teams have a winning cycle where you see progress developing and can be certain things are getting better after being bad for some time. I do not see this happening while Sugarman is the primary owner of this team and Curtin as the head coach. Union soccer is the ultimate old boys club unwilling to go out of its comfort level to make coaching changes. As other people have said they have enough talent today to gel make and win a round of playoffs and build on improving next year. With the right leadership. Curtin must be fired no owner in any other Philly sports would accept his performance this long.

  5. John Harris says:

    It’s the ownership. It’s all the ownership. It’s always been the ownership. Stop holding us hostage.

    • UnionGoal says:

      Totally disagree. Bedoya Sapong dochal and Blake. An academy and Usl team.
      A usmnt player as SD.
      Stop dumping on sugarman. Are there things he could do like paving parking lot and at least some development of surrounding property? Sure.
      But team loss isn’t on him.
      Talent there to get somewhere better than their past two years.
      Not a fan of owner but that isn’t issue. Losses don’t fall on him.

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