Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union v. Real Salt Lake

Photo: Earl Gardner

Who: Real Salt Lake (6th place, 13 points, 4-1-5) vs. Philadelphia Union (8th place, 11 points, 3-2-5)
What: 2018 regular season game
Where: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, PA
When: Sat., May 19, 7:30 pm ET
Watch: PHL17, ESPN+
Whistle: Chico Grajeda; Cory Richardson, Jose Carlos Rivero; Jorge Gonzalez

Mother’s Day weekend was a weekend of firsts for the Philadelphia Union:

  1. First win in Montreal
  2. First goal for Cory Burke
  3. First red card for Cory Burke
  4. First right-footed goal for Haris Medujnanin
  5. First left-footed assist for Ray Gaddis

Ok, the last two are a stretch (and #5 might not even be true), but in a season going sideways, milestones are milestones. The next milestone for the Boys in Blue could come this weekend against Real Salt Lake, a team (believe it or not) whom the Union have never beaten. The Union were undone by this nonsense in 2013, wasted this gem by Andrew Wenger in 2014, were undone by this nonsense in 2015.

The place from which the Union are looking to remove themselves in this series comes from the German, “schneider:’

Schneid – U.S. Slang, a losing streak (as in sports)… “to get off the schneid”

“a term originally used in the card game of gin, meaning to prevent an opponent from scoring any points. “Schneider” entered the vocabulary of gin… probably via Yiddish, where it means “tailor.” Apparently the original sense was that if you were “schneidered” in gin you were “cut” (as if by a tailor) from contention in the game.”

Scouting report: Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake come to Chester for the first time since July of 2016, sitting in 6th place in the Western Conference. Their head coach, Mike Petke, is familiar with the Union’s digs though: before heading west, he was the head coach of his hometown New York Red Bulls.

Last weekend, the Kings of the Canyons dispatched 10-man D.C. United 3-2. Whether in a 4-2-3-1 with Luis Silva up top or the 4-3-3 that did United in, RSL live and die by attackers, Joao Plata and Jefferson Savarino, and midfield engine, Albert Rusnak. Yes, Kyle Beckerman is still on the side. However, without his trademark dreadlocks, is it really Kyle Beckerman?

Nick Rimando is a name that casual observers will know, too. Though the national team keeper has had two notable stinkers this season (5-1 at home to LAFC and 4-0 on the road at NYCFC), he’s still among the league’s best shot-stoppers.

  • Injury report. None
  • Suspended. None.
  • International duty. Richie Ledezma (U.S. U20s)
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

After an emotional week for Union supporters, with Sebastien Le Toux’s retirement, two disinterested losses, and one “glimmer of hope” victory in Montreal, the team return home for a crucial three game stretch.

Head Coach Jim Curtin changed five players from his team’s midweek dreck. The results were (combined with a Montreal team whose defensive pedigree is suspect, at best) inspiring, if cautiously so. Because Cory Burke’s red card precludes him from making an encore performance at forward, Saturday’s lineup is surprisingly hard to predict.

Will C.J. Sapong return? If he can’t go, will Jay Simpson return? Will Jack Elliott take his spot at center back, or will Mark McKenzie try and build some post-Canadian momentum? Fafa or Ilsinho? Epps or Accam? Fafa or Accam? Finkle or Einhorn?

After the aforementioned five changes in Stade Saputo, anything is possible.

  • Injury report. OUT: Richie Marquez (D, sports hernia surgery), Josh Yaro (D, concussion) QUESTIONABLE: C.J. Sapong (left hip and quad contusion)
  • Suspended. Cory Burke (F, red card vs. Montreal)
  • International duty. Matt Real (U.S. U20s)
Player to watch

Borek Dockal

Who is Borek Dockal? Is he the slow-to-react, late-to-check, even-later-to-pass-with-that-unnecessary-extra-touch disappointment who’s shown up in most of his Union appearances? Or, is he the red-faced, lava-in-his-veins, match-tilting protagonist who almost single-handedly eviscerated the entire D.C. United squad in front of a sunny, Gladiatorial Chester crowd several weeks ago?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Prediction: Philadelphia 1 – 1 Real Salt Lake

Not until the Union string together a series of good performances is it safe to trust them for points in any match. Given their history with Real Salt Lake, that trust should feel even more precarious.

The Union will take a victory any way they can get it, though, even if it means some generosity from the officials. Given their history in that regard, perhaps the Union are due.

At least that outcome might give fans, media, the league, and all of global soccer-dom an encore of the famous,  “Hand these out, Trey” press conference. Here’s hoping.


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    RSL, Atlanta, Minnesota, LAFC are the teams the Union have never beaten. They’ve blown leads late against the first two and have not even scored a goal against the latter two (granted, they haven’t actually played LAFC yet).
    I’d feel a lot more confident for Saturday if the Union had a striker at full strength who has actually played more than 30 minutes in a game.

  2. The reason the XI is so hard to predict is that “disinclined to use his bench” Curtin will be in direct conflict with “don’t alter a winning lineup” Curtin. So we have no idea which one will win.

    I guess I would guess the following:
    1. Curtin tends to be cautious in bringing people back from injury — though Fabinho the other week was an exception — so I would guess Sapong will NOT start.
    2. Whether Simpson starts, or Accam or Picault plays as a false 9 depends on whether Curtin has any faith in Simpson whatsoever, I suppose. (I would really like to see what the guy can do for the $623K we are paying him.)
    3. Picault will surely start somewhere.
    4. Accam will surely start somewhere also, because Jim is stubborn like that.
    5. McKenzie DID do enough to start and will probably get the nod (though I would prefer to see Jack back).
    6. Gaddis was outstanding and will certainly be back at L back.

  3. Chris nice work. The “inquiring minds want to know.” and the “…is it really Kyle Beckerman?” are classics. Brilliant.

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