Season Previews

Five Union games to watch this season

Photo: Paul Rudderow

It’s time for Philadelphia Union to begin their season. They have a new system with new players to implement it. It’s anyone’s guess as to how this season will go, but after a long and active offseason for the Union, fans will finally find out.

Starting with the season opener, here are five Union matches to mark on your calendars.

Philadelphia Union vs. Toronto FC – Saturday, March 2
  • Where: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pa.
  • Time: 1:00 PM

Obviously, it is the Union’s season opener. That’s reason enough to watch this match. However, it’s not just Union fans who should tune in on Saturday. Every MLS fan should watch as well. The Union still have so many questions, and we will finally see some answers when they host Toronto at home. Marco Fabian will make his MLS debut and show the league whether or not he is truly a Best XI caliber player. Union head coach Jim Curtin will reveal who he prefers in the diamond midfield. Sergio Santos will show us his chops up top. The list goes on.

Keep in mind, we’ve seen the same formation and style from the Union for the better part of four years. On Saturday, we’ll see a shiny new system, and we’ll see how well it works.

Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls – Saturday, June 8
  • Where: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pa.
  • Time: 7:30 PM

It’s the Red Bulls. That should be reason enough to watch this one.

But if you’re still on the “I don’t care about Red Bulls, the Union have no rivals” train, there are plenty of other reasons to watch this match in June. First, it’s a great test for the Union at home. The reigning Supporters’ Shield winners are one of the best teams in MLS. Some would even say they are the best. The season will have been well underway at this point, and if Jim Curtin still has his job, this match will be a great litmus test.

For the more tactically minded among us, this match is going to be a can’t-miss as well. With the Union employing former Red Bulls Salzburg Academy Director Ernst Tanner’s new system, Philadelphia and New York play very similar styles. Both sides focus on transition from offense to defense (and vice versa) more quickly than the other side. It will be very interesting to see who comes out on top.

An additional note: PSP will be announcing an event for this match soon. Stay tuned for that!

New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union – Saturday, June 29
  • Where: Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, Ny.
  • Time: 7:00 PM

This match is a must-see for one reason: Rematch.

The Union were absolutely embarrassed at Yankee Stadium last season, losing twice in a row to NYCFC there with the same exact score. In the days before this game, players and coaches alike will tell the media that it is just another game, that they don’t care about last season. But if Jim Curtin isn’t using the ghosts of NYC FC matches past to motivate his squad, then he’s doing something wrong.

Yes, playing on a baseball diamond is trash. Yes, NYC FC should change their field. But as it stands right now, NYC FC play at Yankee Stadium, and it’s very possible that they will host the Union there in the playoffs once again. This match will give us an idea of how that might go.

Philadelphia Union vs. Atlanta United – Saturday, August 31
  • Where: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, Pa.
  • Time: 7:30 PM

Atlanta United are the best team in MLS. Period. True, the black-and-red lost Miguel Almiron this offseason, but they replaced him with Argentinian midfielder Pity Martinez, who arguably makes them an even more lethal squad.

The Union’s press is designed to neutralize lethal attacks and even the playing field no matter who the opposition is. This match will be a great test for the Union’s new system. It’s always good to see how you stack up against the best in the league.

Columbus Crew S.C. vs. Philadelphia Union – Sunday, September 29
  • Where: Mapfre Stadium, Columbis, Oh.
  • Time: 5:00 PM

This will be the Union’s penultimate match of the season. It will be their last road match. It will also likely have heavy playoff implications.

Both Columbus and Philadelphia made a lot of changes this offseason. Columbus signed new head coach Caleb Porter, while Philadelphia implemented their new system. By this point in the season, fans will probably know where both changes stand, but the early adaptations to said changes will still have late-season implications for both sides.

Both sides will likely be competing for a spot in the playoffs, and even if one or the other is securely in the playoffs, the Eastern Conference is tight. A win, loss, or draw could all have a profound effect on conference standing. It could be the difference between the Union hosting their first home playoff match and the Union traveling to Yankee Stadium to face NYC FC and lose for the second time in four days.

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