Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union – New England Revolution

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Who: Philadelphia Union (7th place, 27 points, 8-3-11) vs. New England Revolution (6th place, 29 points, 7-8-7)
What: 2017 regular season game
Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, MA
When: Saturday, August 11th at 7:30 pm
Watch: ESPN+, PHL17
Whistle: Allen Chapman (REF), Nick Uranga (AR1), Jason, White (AR2), Marcos DeOliveira (4th), Christina Unkel (VAR)

On Saturday, the Union turned a throwaway match in Hipster Ground Zero (an approximately 4,800 mile round trip) into a travel nightmare two days before the most important match of the team’s season. It was shambolic, as evidenced by the this quote from the team’s captain (*NSFW).

After Wednesday’s thumping of the Chicago Fire in the U.S. Open Cup Semifinal, the Union can feel lucky their penny-pinching ways didn’t cost them a great opportunity. That, once again, the team seemed to have a plan on paper that they couldn’t execute in reality (The Plan: marginalized players could get meaningful time in a match where the team were overwhelmingly likely to lose anyway in order to rest starters for a more important and eminently winnable match midweek… The Reality: have the most important players not only make the trip but also play meaningful minutes AND subject them to cross-country travel the morning after the match instead of the immediate red eye flight) is par for the course in Unionville, and a source of ongoing frustration for players and commentators alike.

The next most important match of the Union’s season is Saturday, a 6-point contest against the New England Revolution.

Scouting Report: New England Revolution

For years, it seemed the New England Revolution had some of the United States’ most creative players. For all of those years, however, it seemed the same team from Boston (well, outside of Boston) had some of the United States’ most incongruous results: so much talent, so little to show for it. Then, the answer to the league-wide question, “What will it take for New England to actually fire Revs Head Coach, Jay Heaps?,” was answered (losing by a touchdown to Atlanta United was the answer, by the way) and change began.

Change has been slow, for sure, but beware Union fans: these are not your early 2018 Revs.

The Union’s 2-0 season opening victory seems like a lifetime ago, and without Kellen Rowe (in new coach, Brad Friedel’s, dog house and on the trading block), Lee Nguyen (off to LAFC after his own time in limbo), or Krisztian Nemeth (back to Sporting Kansas City after no more than two cups of coffee in the great Northeast), there aren’t nearly as many familiar faces in the red, white, and blue.

Though improved (they are ahead of the Union in the standings, after all), the Revs have only won 3 matches since the beginning of May and have shunned possession in many of them (most recently owning a Celtic v. Barca-esque 34% of the ball in a loss to Red Bulls two weeks ago). They’ve come out in a 4-2-3-1 like the Union, but also a 4-1-4-1 in spots, and tend to attack down the right side through Juan Agudelo or the overlapping Andrew Farrell.

Expect a Revs side unable to hold the ball or the lead, but capable of enough firepower to snuff out the Union.

  • Injury report: OUT: Chris Tierney (D, ACL)
  • Suspended: None.
  • International duty: None.
Scouting Report: Philadelphia Union

Though this match will likely get lost in the news cycle of the Union winning Wednesday’s semifinal and Ernst Tanner accepting the Union’s vacant Sporting Director position, it is a fixture with enormous playoff implications. No team is dead in the water in the Eastern Conference yet (not even D.C. United, considering how many home matches they have left in the beautiful, though already crumbling, Audi Field) and every match against a conference opponent has double value.

Considering the Revs’s aforementioned preference for soccer without the ball, expect the Union’s veteran midfield regulars and “Fabian Herbers and his 2nd Act” (*Author’s note: If you think “Fabian Herbers and His 2nd Act” is a good band name, so do I and I call dibs. With my blessing, however, you can use “McTrusty and The Back Four” as your own) to do their best version of keep-away in this match. It’s also fair to expect another start for C.J. Sapong, considering Cory Burke’s monster outing in the Philadelphia heat on Wednesday and that the Revs give up two thirds of their shots on goal from smack dab in the middle of the 18 yard box, the space from which Sapong netted his goal midweek ,and from which he nabs nearly every single one of his tallies.

At the back, particularly after Fabinho’s rough night on the Portland turf and Mark McKenzie’s ongoing injury, the t-shirt for the match will read: Gaddis & Trusty & Elliott & Rosenberry. That group posted a shut out against the Fire, therefore: Rinse and repeat, please.

  • Injury report: OUT: Ilsinho (M, Quad strain), QUESTIONABLE: Mark McKenzie (D, Knee contusion)
  • Suspended: None.
  • International duty: None.
Key matchup: The Union v. Traveling

The Philadelphia Union have won 3 matches away from the friendly confines of Talen Energy Stadium in 2018. Given the team’s abysmal record all time away from home, this is a significant step. Taking that theme even further, there is only one team in Major League Soccer against whom the Union have an all-time winning record on the road. That team? The New England Revolution.

This match, despite its place in the schedule, the August heat, and the soulless void that is Gillette Stadium, is an opportunity ripe for the taking.

Prediction: Philadelphia Union 3-3 New England

Admiral Ackbar, he of Return of the Jedi fame and meme-for-life status, was right about this game: “It’s a trap!

4 Comments

  1. Of the 3 games this week, this is probably the most important. While Wednesday’s win was good, it is also meaningless unless they also get the win in Houston when they will be playing again on short rest (4th game in 11 days including a midweek game in Seattle). The 2 games against New England and the game against Montreal will go a LONG way towards determining whether the Union make the playoffs. To my mind, they need at least 7 points from those 3 games which means at least a point on the road in New England Saturday.

  2. “Christina Unkel (VAR)”. Relative of Ted, or did Ted transition? Either way, I want to see her as center ref, just to see if she does the same dramatic point-to-the-penalty-spot.

  3. Heading to Gillette Stadium for the match. Actually stopping there on the way back from vacation in Maine. Couldn’t watch the Portland or Chicago matches. Hoping to keep the good times rolling. (If I were a real eagles fan i guess I’d say something here about the NFL championship).
    .
    I don’t know what to feel about this Revs squad as of late. Based on travel and fatigue I don’t expect much lightning from the Chester blues. Could be a very boring draw in the rain.

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