Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs. NYC FC

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: Philadelphia Union (2020: 0-1-1, 1 point, MLS is Back: 0-0-0 0 points) vs. NYC FC (0-2-0, 0 points, MLS is Back 0-0-0 0 points)
What: 2020 MLS is Back Tournament Group A match
Where: ESPN World Wide of Sports, Orlando, Florida
When: Thursday, July 9, 9 a.m.
Watch: ESPN, ESPN app
Whistle: Not available at time of publication

Does it feel like Christmas in July for anyone else? The Philadelphia Union will return to our lives in less than 24 hours.

The Union and NYC FC will face off in the Orlando bubble, the second game of the tournament and the first 9 a.m. game.

It will be interesting to see how both sides line up to start the tournament, as most players are now healthy due to the coronavirus break. Jim Curtin did mention that a few of his players have small injuries, but could participate in training today.

Scouting report: NYC FC

The Union and Andre Blake won’t have to worry about David Villa shooting from midfield this year, but they will have to worry about star striker Heber.

If you haven’t heard about Heber, the guy scores… a lot. The 2019 Newcomer of the Year notched 15 goals and 4 assists last season, in just 22 appearances. NYC FC isn’t lacking playmakers, with Maxi Moralez returning this year, although he has been critical of the MLS bubble. The 33-year-old Argentine completed 2019 with seven goals and 20 assists, so there’s a good chance a NYC FC goal starts with him. To round out their attack is Alexandru Mitrita, another newcomer to the NYC FC attack, Mitrita tallied 12 goals and three assists in his 29 appearances. If you couldn’t tell, NYCFC likes to score.

Where New York City may be weaker as a unit is back in defense. Alexander Callens, Maxime Chanot, Anton Tinnerholm and Sebastien Ibeagha should make up the back four on Thursday morning, with Tinnerholm and Callens being the leaders. One of the advantages this group has is that they have played together for a long time, Ibeagha is the newest member, playing for NYC FC since 2018. While this group doesn’t do anything particularly bad, something always seems to go wrong. A catastrophic mistake leads to a goal, someone turns it over too easily, an unnecessary red card happens, it’s basically a more experienced 2018 Union backline.

With their star studded attack and experienced defense, how did NYC FC start the season with 0 points? New coach Ronny Delia was named coach in early January, suggesting the team hadn’t adjusted to his systems yet. In their only 2 games this year, they fell 1-0 both times, to Toronto and Columbus respectivey. New York hasn’t yet scored a goal in 2020, which makes it even better for the Union to play them first, keep their attack hopefully rusty.

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Most of the Union squad is fit with Kai Wagner returning to fitness and Kacper Przybylko being fully fit after recovering from COIVD-19. Jim Curtin did say that Sergio Santos, Andrew Wooten and Michee Ngalina all have small injuries, with Wooten and Ngalina expected to be back in training today and Santos a possibility for tomorrow morning.

The biggest question for the Union will be who’s starting at defensive midfield and the center back pairing. Curtin said yesterday that both Warren Creavalle and Jose Martinez are both playing well, but I would prefer to see Martinez start and see if he can be as effective as he was against LAFC. Matej Oravec should also make the bench, and hopefully see time with the added substitutes during the tournament. As for the center backs, I would like to see Jacob Glesnes and Mark McKenzie start, solely to see if they can build off their performance 4 months ago in LA. Also I feel that Glesnes has more speed to deal with the NYC FC attack than Jack Elliott, for me Glesnes and McKenzie would have to make a mistake for Elliott to see time.

An advantage the Union will have is squad depth. Jack de Vries has been singled out by Curtin many times in the run up to the tournament, so look for him to get some playing time. The Union have also brought Olivier Mbazio, Matt Real, Cole Turner, Matt Freese and Anthony Fontana to Orlando, meaning they can’t play for Union II until the Union are eliminated. With all of these players travelling, the Union are two to three players deep in every position on the field and can survive an injury if one occurs.

Key matchup: Fitness. Fitness. Fitness.

Neither team has played a competitive game in four months, and no amount of training or intrasquad scrimmages can replicate a live match. It’s gonna be sloppy and ugly, and probably turn in to a track meet in the second half. I think all that running helps a team like the Union with young subs and who like to press their opponents.

Prediction: Philadelphia 2-1 NYC FC

After an ugly first half that ends o-o, I think the Union make the right subs, like Sergio Santos coming in the second half, and a track-meet matchup really helps them. The speed will lead to goals and chaos, much like the LAFC game, where the Union fared pretty well for themselves.


  1. Nycfc have always been a tough opponent but I have faith we can win this match. Will be fun to watch.

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    Love being able to play NYC on a real field. I think that bodes well for the U tomorrow. I like a win, but at worst a draw. This will set us up nicely to advance out of the group. VERY EXCITED to watch the game… at work 🙂

  3. After a ton of thought…
    I’ve decided to come out from behind my pseudonym/avatar. As the game kicks off again I figured this was as good a time as any to put to rest one phase of posting here and begin a new phase of posting here.
    My kids were in the pipeline the last three years and I figured it was best to not be critical of so much stuff while they were playing in the PreAcademy. So much happened those three years and quite honestly, I am thankful it is behind us.
    As an intellectually honest and passionate man and a man who stands by my truth and speaks my truth I’m going back to posts using my name.
    So…honest question.
    Is it too much to ask at the moment for the team to…. Just Play Well?

    • I can’t say if it’s too much to ask. I will say, at this moment, I don’t care how anything looks except for seeing a Union kit on a footy pitch against another team. I’m probably going to shed tears at kickoff. By half time I’ll probably be dropping a profanity laced rant under my breath and will be calling for multiple heads. But right now, I just want to see Blue and Gold on green.

      GO UNION!

    • Tim Jones says:

      It may well be too much to ask for the first match.
      It probably will be for NYC FC as well.

  4. Tim Jones says:

    Referee: Armando Villarreal
    Assistant Referees: Eduardo Mariscal;, Matthew Nelson
    4th Official: Robert Sibiga
    VAR: Tim Ford
    Copied from the preview now (3:30 pm Weds.)available on the MLS website.

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