Match previews / Union

Match preview: Vancouver Whitecaps vs. Philadelphia Union

Photo courtesy of the Vancouver Whitecaps

Who: Philadelphia Union (4th in the East, 13 points, 4-1-3) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (1oth in the West, 5 points, 1-2-5)
What: 2019 regular season game
Where: BC Place, Vancouver, BC, Ca.
When: Saturday April 27, 5:00PM ET
Watch: PHL17, TSN, ESPN+
Whistle: Chris Penso; Eric Boria, Gianni Facchini; Michael Radchuk; Chico Grajeda, Mauricio Navarro

The Union are about to get into one of the thicker parts of their schedule, with three games in eight days. Best of all they’re starting out with a long road trip out to Vancouver, setting the team up for the joys of international travel even before they set foot in BC Place.

But other than the grueling road trip what can the Union except? Will this be a the team we saw in Cincinnati, or the one we saw in Los Angeles?

Scouting report: Vancouver Whitecaps

Possible Vancouver Lineup

Vancouver surprised everyone, including themselves, with a win over LAFC last weekend, and it is an impressive feat. Bob Bradley’s Californians are a formidable opponent for any team in North America.

But don’t get it twisted: the fact that Vancouver beat LAFC says more about MLS’ manufactured parity than it does about the strength of the Canadian team. They needed a lucky rebound — against the run of play —to win that game.

Other than that brief moment, the Whitecaps season has been quite unimpressive. With only six goals scored after eight games, they’re tied with New England for second worst goal-scoring record in the league. (Atlanta is worst with five.)

Things looks slightly better for Vancouver at the other end of the field. Ever since losing to Houston 3-2, when head coach Marc Dos Santos tried a three man formation, the same back line has started in front of keeper Maxime Crépeau. And together they haven’t allowed any team to score multiple goals against them. That’s not nothing, and in front of a home crowd that could be a tough nut for the Union to crack.

  • Injury report: Michael Baldisimo (M, left ankle), Jasser Khmiri (D, left knee), Andy Rose (M, facial fracture), David Norman Jr. (M, right foot surgery)
  • Suspended: None
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Possible, but not probable, Union lineup

Right off the bat, let’s do some housekeeping with this roster.

Blake is out, not much to talk about there really.

Sergio Santos and Marco Fabián are both “questionable”, so in theory they could be fit for this weekend. But it seems doubtful that the Union would ship two recovering players across the country to play on turf, especially with a dense schedule after Vancouver. So count them out as well.

And of course Kai Wagner missing (at least) one game for a reckless challenge at the end of the game against Montréal.

The Union could, and likely will, simply swap each missing player out for the next man in line. So Coronel for Blake, Aaronson for Fabián, and Real for Wagner. Maybe Freese for Coronel, or Fabinho for Real. That’s safe, that’s smart and it will probably work. But it’s not interesting. And the Union have the opportunity to do something interesting. Something like the lineup on the right.

As discussed, Vancouver is a weak team. Allowing more shots on goal than any other team in MLS, they’ll have a hard time controlling a frontfooted lineup like this. And other than 34 year-old Haris Medunjanin, this is a young lineup. Exactly what you want travelling across the country and playing on turf. Plus Derrick Jones returning to the site of his MLS debut would be pleasingly poetic.

  • Injury report: Andre Blake (GK, right groin); Questionable: Sergio Santos (F, left quad), Marco Fabián (M, ankle)
  • Suspended: Kai Wagner (red card vs. Montréal)
Key matchup

Fafà Picault vs. Whitecaps defense

The winger-turned striker has struggled so far this season. A soft opponent like Vancouver could give him the space he needs to break out of his slump, and the Union need him out of his slump. But the Canadian defense won’t make it easy, he’ll have to earn his return.

Player to watch

Carlos Miguel Coronel

The Union’s attack hasn’t been what it needs to be this season. So if the Union want any kind of chance in this game, the defense needs to come up big. That puts a lot of pressure on a backup keeper, but if Coronel is up to the challenge and keeps a clean sheet there’s reason to believe the Union could find that rarest of things, an MLS road win.

Prediction: Vancouver 0 – 2 Philadelphia

A draw wouldn’t be surprising, but a win is very much within the Union’s grasp. To put it another way, this road trip is more like the one to Cincinnati than the one to LA. If the team can keep it together they could be on their second win-streak of the year.


  1. Jones is done. He’s not playing this year unless there are a ton of injuries. Honestly I’d be surprised if he starts in an Open Cup game.

  2. The boys are playing well but I’m chalking this up with the last Galaxy match. Just want ’em to come home healthy and ready for Cincy on the 1st.
    In my perfect world we’d leave Haris and Bedoya at home to rest their bones. Here’s to hoping Jimbo doesn’t run our best [available] XI into the ground.

  3. Huge “NO!” on that Union lineup for me.
    1) Real is young and talented. You get him on the field with Wagner out.
    2) Where is Bedoya? If you want to rest any midfielder I think it should be Haris.
    3) Last game, Aaronson was on the left and Monteiro was in the middle and did well.
    4) Starting Burke and Przybylko up top is redundant.
    Now, given this is away at the start of a 3 game in 7 day stretch, if you want to give Mbaizo (for Gaddis) or Jones/Creavalle (for Haris) a shot it is a good chance to do just that. Also, I would consider starting Accam, who really hasn’t gotten on the field after having back-to-back good games.
    For my money (4-1-2-1-2):
    Coronel, Real, Trusty, Elliott, Gaddis, Jones, Bedoya, Monteiro, Aaronson, Burke, Accam
    Bench: Freese, Collin, Mbaizo, Medunjanin, Creavalle, Picault, Przybylko
    Note, latest injury update has Blake and McKenzie out. Santos, Fabian, Fontana, and Ilsinho listed as questionable.

    • This lineup looks perfect to me. You don’t want to change TOO many things at once, especially for a very winnable match on the road. With this lineup, you’ve made the changes you are obliged to make (e.g. Real for Wagner), and then one that you aren’t obliged to make, which is Jones for Medunjanin. He should be young and hungry, and here’s his shot. I like giving Accam a chance against a team that is a shot-fest. Monteiro and Aaronson and Elliott are young and energetic, and Trusty just had a game off.

      The two guys you’re leaning on here are Captain Bedoya and Ray Gaddis. I’m fine with that. Maybe rest each of them in one of the upcoming matches.

    • If the Union lined up like that, I’d be absolutely sure that Curtin had been abducted, his place taken by an in-disguise PSP writer or reader.

  4. If we are going to play a 3-back with a fullback as a CB, but Real and Mbazio have started as CBs this year. I think Gaddis is more of a game state 3-back CB.

    Everything out there has been indicating that Jones does not look like an MLS caliber player.

  5. There is 0.0% chance the Union play this way.

  6. Colin Stein says:

    Hi Jim,
    Good one. Ray playing in the center of a back 3.
    Is this the first of April again?

  7. Um, huge NO on Ray holding the middle of the three CB set……….I like the idea of rolling out a 3-2-3-2…..but never with Ray in the middle of the park! That’s just crazy talk………

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