Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs New York City FC

Photo: Marjorie Elzey 

Who: Philadelphia Union (3rd place, 55 points, 16-10-7) vs. New York City FC (1st place, 61 points, 17-6-10)
What: 2019 regular season game
Where: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester, PA
When: Sunday, October 6th, 4 p.m. (simultaneous kickoff around the league at 4:23 p.m.)
Watch: PHL17, ESPN+
Whistle: Referee: Drew Fischer. Assistant Referees: Jeff Hosking, Gjovalin Bori. 4th Official: Fotis Bazakos. VAR: Geoff Gamble.

It’s hard to believe the season finale is already here in Chester.

The Union face New York City FC, who have already locked up first place in the Eastern Conference. Even with a home playoff game secured, the Union still have everything to fight for, looking for a win and an Atlanta United loss or draw to secure second place.

It will be interesting to see how both sides line up in this matchup. The Union will be without captain Alejandro Bedoya due to his quad injury and NYCFC might look to rest their key players in preparation for the playoffs.

Scouting report: New York City FC

Union fans should be familiar with the Pigeons, though their 4-2 loss earlier in the season was played in the outfield of Yankee Stadium. The question is whether NYC will put out a full-strength side (with two-plus weeks before their first playoff game) or whether their star players will be watching from the bench.

NYCFC is still a dangerous side without their stars. They continued their rise to the top of the east without Heber for stretches of the season. In the first matchup of the season, Union fans saw the emergence of Valentin Castellanos, who scored twice for NYCFC that night. Maxi Moralez was also a thorn in the Union’s side during the first meeting, but I would be surprised if he features in this match.  So with all of NYCFC’s stars presumably being spectators, who should Union fans be on the lookout for?

A face who didn’t feature much in their first meeting is young midfielder Ismael Tajouri-Shradi. The young Swiss has seen his role and playing time fluctuate with his time at New York City. When he is on the field, Tajouri-Shradi is lethal on the attack, finding himself in good positions high up the field. He is more focused on the attacking side of the ball, but can get back defensively when needed.

A constant that has always been in the NYCFC lineup is goalkeeper Sean Johnson. The third choice USMNT keeper has had a quiet but steady season. Johnson seems to be overlooked by most, but has made some big saves to earn points for NYCFC this season, a large part to their rise to first. NYCFC does prefer to play out of the back, much like the Union, on goal kicks. Distribution from the back will be a common and important part of the regular season finale.

Injury report:

OUT: James Sands (D), Anton Tinnerholm (D), Keaton Parks (M)

DOUBTFUL: None

QUESTIONABLE: None

Suspension report: None
Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Mark McKenzie comes back from injury, and then the Union lose their captain to injury the same match.

The biggest question for the Union is how bad Bedoya’s quad strain is long-term, but that’s another story. For this matchup, it’s how the Union change their lineup to deal with his absence. Does Marco Fabian make his return to the starting lineup with Jamiro Monterio sliding back next to Haris Medunjanin? Or will Brenden Aaronson slid back in at the 10 with Monteiro and Fafa Picault as wingers? Or does Andrew Wooten play the wing? The Union have many options, and its up to Jim Curtin to pick the right one.

Another important decision in the lineup this week is the bench. Marco Fabian and Andrew Wooten have been the go to choices in attack for Curtin, but after them there aren’t many attacking options with Sergio Santos still sidelined. Warren Creavalle can help see out games and provide stability in the midfield if needed, but who joins the bench this week? My money is on an Anthony Fontana sighting, the midfielder has shown well in his brief appearances with the Union, showing his willingness to recover defensively and show his attacking skill.

A welcomed sight for the Union this week will be a strong performance from goalkeeper Andre Balke. The MLS All-Star hasn’t had the season he dreamed of, giving up some shaky rebounds and failing to bail his team out with big saves. A clean sheet, or at least a strong performance from Blake will give him and the rest of the team a much needed confidence boost heading into the playoffs.

Injury report

OUT: Matt Freese (GK), Sergio Santos (F), Alejandro Bedoya (M)

QUESTIONABLE:  None

Suspension report: None
Key matchup: A rested team vs a tired team

The Union returned from their long road trip on Monday, with almost all of their starters playing in all 3 games. NYCFC will be a fresh team playing their starters with some reserve players. Those reserve players are looking to prove something to Dome Torrent before the playoffs, a dangerous situation for a potentially tired Union team.

Player to watch: Jamiro Monteiro

With Bedoya out, someone in the Union midfield is going to have to step up. Monterio hasn’t looked like himself since the All-Star break, and also could use a strong performance heading into the playoffs. If he does line up deeper in this match, it will be key for him to help start attacks and not get caught to far up the field, leaving the Union open to NYCFC counter attacks.

Prediction: Philadelphia 2-1 NYCFC

I went with a 2-1 prediction before San Jose and it paid off, now it won’t of course. Even with a tired side, the Union will be motivated to get 3 points in front of their home crowd and try to reach 2nd place. They’ll need to overcome a NYCFC side that looks to prove why they should be in the squad for the playoffs.

6 Comments

  1. Old Soccer Coach says:

    in re: Monteiro.
    .
    in 1961 the Cincinnati Reds had a rookie pitcher named Ken Hubbs. He started the season 10-0. He finished the season with about that number of wins only. He illustrates the phenomenon “first time through the league.”
    .
    Monteiro has a couple of signature moves, one on defense and the other on offense. With both, the first time you play him he takes you completely by surprise.
    .
    Now there is tape, and many teams have already played him. The element of surprise is gone. they know to be aware of being tackled from the backside of the ball. And they know to expect the double cutback.
    .
    he remains pacey, and he covers high volumes of ground defensively. and, while not Ilsinho with the ball at his feet, he can attack a defender 1 v 1 successfully.

    • Wasn’t he also injured around that time? Perhaps also related?

    • Part of the problem is that teams can simply double team him and Curtin is not coaching himself out of that problem yet.

      Our best player can only do so much when teams are allowed to cheat towards him from the left because they know they don’t need to worry about our RB getting the ball.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      This is 100% right, Old Soccer Coach. From my seat, he’s also trying too much to make something happen on the ball when a quick pass might make more sense. He’s got a team around him and sometimes doesn’t use them.

  2. Micah Bertin says:

    Just finished watching the open practice. I really hope to see Fontana on the pitch at some point on Sunday. He’s looking sharp, fit and kept finding the back of the net.

  3. I’d like to see the team back in a 4-4-2 for this one. The 4-2-3-1 hasn’t looked dangerous lately. Haris, Monteiro, Aaronson and Fabian in the midfield. Przbylko and Wooten up top. Wooten over Fafa mostly because I’d like to see Wooten get going, particularly since we may need him to come off the bench and bag a goal in the playoffs. Fontana comes on for Aaronson or Fabian, and Creavalle is there if we’re leading late.

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