Match previews / Union

Match preview: Philadelphia Union at Orlando City SC

Photo by Paul Rudderow

Who: Philadelphia Union (1st place, 32 points, 9-5-5) vs. Orlando City (8th place, 21 points, 6-3-8)
What: 2019 regular season game
Where: Orlando City Stadium, Orlando, FL
When: Wednesday, July 3 at 7:30 pm
Watch: ESPN+
Whistle: Referee: Christopher Penso, Assistant Referees: Jeremy Hanson, Mike Rottersman, 4th Official: Elvis Osmanovic, VAR: Edvin Jurisevic

Despite holding on to first place in the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia Union haven’t won a match in almost a month. Following a late downer to D.C. United in the U.S. Open Cup, a sloppy draw against a New England Revolution, and a Bronx collapse against New York City FC, Jim Curtin and company are in Orlando tonight looking to get back on track. It’s the first of two matches against Orlando City in four days, with the Lions visiting Chester on Saturday night.

Scouting report: Orlando City SC

After a mediocre start to the season, Orlando is in good form of late, winning five of its last seven matches in all competitions. Now, two of those matches were in the U.S. Open Cup and two were against the bottom two clubs (FC Cincinnati and Columbus Crew) in the Eastern Conference, but winning is winning, and it’s more than the Union have done over the last few weeks. The Lions are currently out of a playoff spot in 8th place, but unlike all the other clubs around them, they actually post a positive goal differential (+2). They rank 5th in the conference with just 22 goals conceded this season so, despite high profile attackers, shootouts haven’t been very common.

One of those attackers is Portuguese legend Nani, who is 5th in all of Major League Soccer with eight goals in just 15 matches this season. He typically lines up on the left wing, where he has also tabbed six assists. Whoever starts for the Union at right back (which could even be the newly acquired teammate of Nani) will have a tall task. Canadian Tesho Akindele (six goals, one assist) has filled in nicely in the absence of Dom Dwyer and is coming off a goal in Orlando’s latest win.

Unfortunately for Philly, Dwyer is returning tonight, having been away with a hamstring injury and the birth of his daughter. The Lions actually posted a 5-1 record in the Englishman’s absence, but he’s a proven MLS scorer (78 career goals) and posted three in his first five matches of the season. Yes, Orlando has only found the back of the net 24 times in 2019, but the Union will still have plenty to deal with in the attack this week.

On the other end of the pitch, it may just be more about confidence for the hosts right now. Defense isn’t exactly Orlando’s bread and butter, but its coming off a clean sheet and shut out a very strong Montreal side early last month. Couple that with generally good form and return of a designated player, and you have to think the Lions will be raring to go at home tonight.

Injury report:

OUT:  Cristian Higuita (M)

QUESTIONABLE: Joao Moutinho (D)

Suspension report: None
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

To put it mildly, Jim Curtin’s lineup at Yankee Stadium did not work. Say what you will about the shrunken pitch and the Union’s recent history there, but the fact is they let in four goals and blew two leads. Andre Blake’s stint with Jamaica in the Gold Cup definitely does not help things, but you have to wonder if Curtin is pondering a change on the backline in Orlando tonight. Maybe, especially with two matches in four games, Mark McKenzie or Aurellien Collin wouldn’t be such a bad idea. Maybe, even though he just joined the group, giving RJ Allen a shot against players he’s trained with all season wouldn’t be crazy.

Curtin doesn’t necessarily have to make a defensive change, but the Union haven’t kept a clean sheet since the middle of May and now would be an awfully good time to post another one.

Marco Fabian also didn’t start in New York, despite (as far as we know) being back to full fitness. With Ilsinho doing most of his damage off the bench this season, expect Fabian to get the bulk of the playing time tonight on the road. It would also be a great time for the Mexican to put one in the back of the net, as he’s scored just one goal in the run of play so far this season and the strikers have cooled off a bit. Curtin also has a decision to make up top, but regardless of what combination of Fafa Picault, Kacper Przybylko, and Sergio Santos we see tonight, someone is due for a strong performance. Newly-signed Andrew Wooten is not eligible for either of these matches against Orlando.

It may come down to formation or it may come down to simply playing better, but tonight is one of those matches where Union supporters will be eagerly awaiting Curtin’s lineup. Four winless matches would officially be a slump for the Eastern Conference leaders.

Injury report

OUT: Andre Blake (Int’l, G), Warren Creavalle (M), Olivier Mbaizo (D)

QUESTIONABLE: Ilsinho (M), Michee Ngalina (F)

Suspension report: None
Key matchup: Hunger v. Confidence

The Union attack will be itching for goals in a hostile environment tonight. On paper, it’s first place vs. eighth place and a great opportunity for a breakout. On paper, Orlando doesn’t have the type of defense you lose sleep over. So far this season, the Union have scored more goals than every club in the league except LA FC. But, given respective form and confidence levels, Philly is visiting Orlando at just about the worst possible time. Orlando will be as confident as ever in the back and unusually, questioning the visitor’s ability to score may be reasonable tonight.

Player to watch: Marco Fabian

Let’s cut to the chase: Marco Fabian’s season has been disappointing thus far. Yes, injury has been a part of it and yes, the Union are a deep side with plenty of options in the midfield, but this is supposed to be the face of the franchise here — the international star. As long as he’s healthy, it’s fair to expect a bit more production out of him. He’ll be on the road against an inferior opponent tonight and it feels like a great opportunity to get things going.

Prediction: Philadelphia Union 1 – 1 Orlando City

The Union should be expecting at least four points out of this doubleheader with Orlando. A true MLS Cup contender would get at least four points. That being said, Philly has never won in Orlando (one loss, three draws) and is in shaky form. The hosts will be at full strength and are playing well. The good news is, despite the positive form, Orlando has lost two of the last three league matches at home and didn’t score in those two losses. It also lost both matchups with the Union last season.

I see Philly getting a tough result on the road tonight and winning on Saturday night at home.

One Comment

  1. If Fabian does not start tonight, then I suspect there is some other issue keeping him from playing. He is apparently healthy, is the team’s highest paid player and not starting him means either 1) starting a rookie in his place or 2) playing your best left midfielder out of his strongest position. I don’t believe that we have yet seen Fabian, Monteiro, Bedoya and Harris start as our midfield four.
    It is time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *