Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs FC Dallas

Photo: 215pix

Who: Philadelphia Union (2019: 16-11-7, 55 points, 3rd place in the East) vs. FC Dallas (13-12-9, 48 points, 7th place in the West)
What: 2020 regular season opener
Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
When: Saturday, February 29th, 6 p.m.
Watch: PHL17, (Philly metro area only), ESPN+ (outside Philly metro area)
Whistle: Referee: Robert Sibiga. Assistant Referees: Jason White, Eric Weisbrod. 4th Official: Elton Garcia. VAR: Kevin Terry Jr.

It’s finally here folks: the MLS regular season is finally upon us.

The Union travel to Dallas for their first matchup of the year, facing a side looking to lead MLS in the youth movement.

It will be interesting to see how both sides line up to start the year, as both have key injuries. Kai Wagner will be out for Philadelphia, and several key Dallas players, Paxton Pomykal and Matt Hedges, have missed time due to injuries.

Scouting report: FC Dallas

The Union don’t have to wait long to see a familiar face, as Fafa Picault was traded to Dallas in the off-season. It will be interesting to see how the Union contend with the speed of “the Gazelle.”

If you were following the USMNT during January camp, you would know that FC Dallas was the most represented club in camp with four players (Reggie Cannon, Jesus Ferreira, Brandon Servania and Paxton Pomykal), with Pomykal withdrawing due to a lingering groin injury. It will be interesting to see if Pomykal will be on a minutes restriction as he starts to get back into full match fitness.

Even with a limited Pomykal, Dallas can be a dangerous side. Cannon was one of the best players at USMNT camp in January and will look to control the right side of the field. Cannon and Picault on the same side can cause problems for the Union, especially if they can prevent Matt Real from pushing farther up the field and getting into the attack. Another young star who impressed at January camp was Ferreira. The young striker has pace but looks to hone in on his finishing ability, much like the Union’s Brenden Aaronson.

Back in defense, Dallas has some under the radar veterans. Union fans may remember Reto Ziegler from last year’s match when he struck a free kick over the wall and in for Dallas’s lone goal. Other than Ziegler, Ryan Hollingshead and Matt Hedges have been a solid defense pairing the past few years in MLS. Hollingshead and Hedges had been rumored for USMNT looks, but neither saw an opportunity arise. A strong suit for both is their ability on set pieces, being the target men for Dallas corners and free kicks. The last line of defense for Dallas is young goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez. After making a case for the starting job last season, Gonzalez is looking for another strong year, and hoping to make a case to be included in the USMNT Olympic roster.

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Most of the Union squad is fit and has a full preseason under their belt to start the year. Kai Wagner is the only player officially ruled out, while Andrew Wooten may miss out due to a lingering quad injury.

The biggest question for the Union will be how Matt Real handles Cannon on the road. Real hasn’t had much experience, but he has filled in for Wagner on occasion, and made some substitute appearances last season. It will be a dangerous and exciting matchup as both Real and Cannon like to push up in the attack. Real has to be careful not to get caught up too far upfield to help prevent Dallas counter attacks.

Another important decision in the lineup is who gets the start at the 6? Warren Creavalle got the start in the last preseason friendly, but manager Jim Curtin says that was mostly to get him fitness minutes. I would not be surprised to see newcomer Matej Oravec get the start, as the Union look to see what they have in their newest signing in a competitive match.

The last thing to watch from a Union perspective: the strikers. Kacper Przybylko and Sergio Santos are looking to build on their new strike partnership, which saw them make good runs in the last preseason game, they just couldn’t get the timing of their passes right. Also looking to help in the attack is Brenden Aaronson. After his USMNT call up and start, it’s time to see if Aaronson can be the driving force for the attack, as he has been given the keys to the offense this season.

Key matchup: The Dallas right vs the Union left

I have a feeling this match will be decided between Reggie Cannon and Matt Real. Whoever makes the fewest mistakes and can recover defensively will win their positional matchup, and most likely the match.

Prediction: Dallas 2-1 Philadelphia

I have faith in Matt Real, but I think Reggie Cannon is too much for him to handle, especially in a season opener on the road. It’ll be a tight match but I think a Dallas counter attack finds a late winner.


  1. Sean, I think this is a reasonable assessment and prediction. Having said this, I actually like Union’s chances on the road against home teams that don’t sit back because it plays into their counterattacking style.
    So while I think the odds lean in the direction of your prediction, I’m optimistic that this could still go Union’s way. And if it does, I predict it will be the result of opportunistic counterattacks paired with clinical finishing.
    If it doesn’t, I’ll point to rustiness in front of goal and a lack of team cohesion.
    Yeah, so I have no prediction. 🙂
    I’m just looking for an entertaining game where I see the promising makings of a team that is going to be fun to watch, moments of brilliance and hope for the future. Getting a result would be a great start.

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    Like Dave Zeitlin said on the All 3 Points pod – 12-0 Union!! HA! Seriously though, I have no clue what to expect… so I’m just gonna watch and enjoy.

  3. Caveats from the preseason match in Clearwater..
    Sean Griswold is right on the money with the first goal. it came from Fafa on the right side on a feed out of the center on a counterattack.
    The other two Dallas goals came on outside channel to outside channel direct balls from Hollingshead attacking Jack de Vries who was gamely trying to play left back.
    Dallas will catch them on the counterattack. It’s a matter of how well the CBs manage to handle it. Tanner’s system demands that they be perfect.

  4. Sibiga. Ooof.

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