Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs Orlando City SC

Photo: Earl Gardner

Who: Philadelphia Union (2020: 2-1-1, 7 points, MLS is Back: 2-0-0 6 points) vs. Orlando City SC (2-1-1, 7 points, MLS is Back 2-0-0 6 points)
What: 2020 MLS is Back Tournament Group A match
Where: ESPN World Wide of Sports, Orlando, Florida
When: Monday, July 20, 8 p.m.
Watch: ESPN, ESPN app
Whistle: Not available at time of publication

The final group stage game for the Philadelphia Union is here as they face off with Group A shockers Orlando City SC. Although both teams have advanced to the knockout stages, expect strong teams to be fielded as this match still means a great deal to the regular season standings. The winner will also not have to face another 10:30pm kickoff time.

Scouting report: Orlando City

Orlando City have been a revitalized team under new coach Oscar Pareja. Entering the tournament as a team who had only won 11 of their last 61 games, Orlando City has now won 2 in a row and has rediscovered their offense. Under Pareja, the Lions have become a more possession-oriented side, being able to string passes together and build up and score total team goals.

Last year, Nani was the main provider of goals for Orlando, leading the team in goals (12) and assists (10). Dom Dwyer and Chris Mueller also contributed to the offense, with 7 and 5 goals respectively. Thus far in MLS is Back, Chris Mueller has had a breakout, scoring 3 of the team’s 5 goals. To help feed their forwards, Orlando added Mauricio Pereyra in August of 2019. Only appearing in 6 matches last year, Pereyra was able to notch 3 assists and now helps to keep possession and improve Orlando’s passing game. Also improving Orlando’s midfield is Uri Rousell. Think of Rousell as a younger and more defensive-minded Haris Medunjanin, being able to link play effectively and backtracking defensively.

In defense, Orlando City has another similarity to the Union in outside back Ruan. Ruan likes to push up the field and contribute offensively, much like Kai Wagner, and was able to notch 5 assists last season. Commanding the center of the defense is Robin Jansson, who started 28 games last year for the Lions, contributing to a club record 7 clean sheets. In goal is new man Pedro Gallese, who was acquired by Orlando in January and is the Peru national team goalkeeper. So far, Gallese has been able to make big saves when his team needed them, much like Andre Blake for the Union.

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Most of the Union squad is fit: Sergio Santos and Michee Ngalina have returned to full training, and only Andrew Wooten is questionable for the match. Jim Curtin did say that the Union will field a competitive lineup, though Jose Martinez will be missing due to suspension.

The biggest question for the Union will be who’s starting at the center back pairing. Curtin has been rotating through the pairing through the first 2 games, with only Mark McKenzie not yet seeing the bench. Glesnes and Elliott may get the start tonight just for McKenzie to get a needed rest. It will also be interesting to see how the Union utilize their subs in the match: Anthony Fontana and Ilsinho are almost certain to feature, in addition to a possible appearance for Matej Oravec.

Squad depth could be the most important thing for the Union in this match. With a deep squad and younger players on the bench, the Union should look to have the match comfortably in hand around 65 to 70 minutes, allowing to rest some key starters and allowing those deeper on the roster to see some playing time before the knockout rounds. It will also be interesting to see how the midfield changes without Martinez. Warren Creavalle can fill his defensive responsibility, but whether he can help push the Union midfield and attack higher up the pitch will be the crucial question.

Key matchup: Midfield Battle.

Whichever team controls the midfield will probably win this game. Will 3 matches in 12 days catch up to the players and slow the overall pace of the game? Will a slower pace help or hurt the Union press? Will Creavalle be a more stabilizing force than Jose Martinez? Can Orlando still play possession while facing the Union press? There’s a lot of questions for both midfields, and whoever can answer them more quickly will have the upper hand.

Prediction: Philadelphia 1-1 Orlando City

This game has a 1-1 tie written all over it. Kacper Przybylko scores an equalizer in the 75th minute and Orlando City is happy to see a draw out and win Group A on goal difference.


  1. ESPN says Mike Tyson at 20:00.. Nothing like watching Mike Tyson -which is better then low level professional boxing- for an evening but I’m hoping Verizon just hasn’t updated the programming. Mike Tyson… my favorite of all sporting athletes. Captivated me. Second being Tiger Woods….come on Union wrap up the set with a strong cleaner match. Win the Group.

    • YouTube TV has it updated to the Union game

    • pragmatist says:

      My problem with Tyson was that his fights were over in 2 minutes. You’d drop $60 on PPV and it would be over before you finished a beer.
      Hard to argue with Tiger. But if watch his highlights from 1999-2002, you can understand why his back ended up in pieces. So much torque on his spine on so many swings from deep rough.
      I always loved watching Griffey Jr. I’ve never seen anyone make any game look so damn simple and smooth.
      As for the game (you know, why we’re here!), I am guessing that the listings weren’t updated. Well, I’m hoping that’s what it is. I have no desire to watch the game on Twitter again. I appreciate that we *can* watch on Twitter, but I don’t want to have that as the only option.
      If Warren starts, I fear for a slow, boring game. He has a very specific role on this team, but adding dynamic playmaking is not it.
      Just get through the game with no injuries and/or suspensions and we’ll call it good.

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        Griffey Jr was one of my absolute favorites as well. And I’m glad it’s on ESPN, those commentators were awful last game.

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