Match previews / Union

Match preview: Columbus Crew SC vs Philadelphia Union

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Who: Philadelphia Union (2020: 13-3-5, 44 points) vs Columbus Crew SC (10-5-5, 35 points)

What: 2020 MLS Regular Season

Where: MAPFRE Stadium, Columbus, OH

When: Sunday, November 1st at 3:30 p.m.

Watch: ABC

Whistle: Not available at time of publication.

The first time these two teams met in Columbus it was a battle to claim the top spot in the Eastern Conference, with Columbus able to claim top spot after a 1-0 win almost two months ago.

Now, it’s Philadelphia atop the conference and holding one hand on the Supporter’s Shield.

Columbus can still catch Philadelphia and take the top spot, but they would have to win all three remaining games and win all three by a healthy goal difference. They would also need Philadelphia to drop their last two matches, and lose by deficits larger than they have faced all season.

A Union win would see them claim the top seed in the Eastern Conference, and allow them to put their second hand on the Supporter’s Shield, claiming the trophy.

Scouting report: Columbus

Columbus was one of the major surprises at the MLS is Back Tournament and in the early stages of the resumed regular season, only posting 2 losses from their first 15 matches. Since then Columbus has had issues with injuries and their offense has begun to dry up, as they’ve posted 3 losses in the past 5 games. Lucas Zelarayan and Darlington Nagbe are beginning to return from injury, appearing in Columbus’ last game against DC United. Zelarayan has been the main provider for the Crew’s top scorer Gyasi Zardes and his 11 goals so far this season, while Nagbe has been dominant in midfield breaking up opposition attack and possession, while being the engine of the Crew offense as well.

To add to Columbus’ midfield prowess is Designated Player Pedro Santos who has contributed 7 goals and 6 assists so far this year. Youness Mokhtar is another designated player in the midfield, but has so far failed to make much of an impact  this season, posting 3 goals and an assist in 18 appearances. Last but not least is longtime Crew midfielder Artur, who also serves to keep the opposition attack at bay and keep possession for the Crew. He can also get up into the attack on occasion, notching 1 goal and 3 assists so far this year.

The biggest surprise for the Crew so far this season is just how good their defensive unit has been, giving up the fewest goals in MLS so far with just 17. Jonathan Mensah has been the rock of the unit, playing every minute so far for the Crew. Milton Valenzuela has also been a familiar face in the back on the outside. Valenzeula is also a threat to get up into the attack, much like Philadelphia’s Kai Wagner. Harrison Afful has also been a constant on the outside, although he is much less of a threat to get higher up the field. In goal is Eloy Room who has made big saves when his team has made them, but does make the occasional mistake on an easy shot.

Injury report: Out: Vito Wormgoor, Fanendo Adi, Aidan Morris

Scouting report: Union

Last time out was a whirlwind for Philadelphia, they had just come off one of their biggest wins over Toronto FC to take control of first in the Eastern Conference, and then found out their starting defensive midfielder, Jose ‘El Brujo’ Martinez tested positive for COVID-19. The result on the field was not pretty for the Union, largely being outplayed by ten-man Chicago for large portions of the match. The return of Jamiro Monteiro and the expected absence of Martinez should allow the Union to be more prepared to deal with Columbus.

Expect Jack Elliott to once again start in defensive midfield in place of Martinez, offering a solid defensive option compared to playing Alejandro Bedoya or Monteiro out of position. Elliott is also a weapon on defending set pieces as he is another tall target to clear balls along with Jacob Glesnes and Mark McKenzie in the back. This will be the first time Columbus will have to deal with Kai Wagner and Ray Gaddis, and the overall Union first choice defensive unit, Wagner missed the first game due to injury. It is unclear whether or not Andre Blake will be able to play Sunday afternoon after sustaining an injury late in the Chicago game, expect an update late Friday afternoon or on Saturday.

A group who has re-found their form lately, and largely to Sergio Santos, has been the strikers. Before the Toronto game, the group had only combined for one of the Union’s previous six goals. Since then the group has provided five of the team’s last seven goals, with three different strikers tallying. Santos provided three against Toronto as we all know, and Kacper Przybylko and Cory Burke both found the net against Chicago. Przybylko has also turned into more of a provider this season, setting up many of Santos and Aaronson’s goals during the year. Enough also hasn’t been said of the groups abilities to defend set pieces and create counter attacks. Przybylko has been so effective clearing the ball from the box then jumping into the attack, and Andrew Wooten made a vital goal line clearance Wednesday night against Chicago.

Injury report: Out: Matthew Real. Questionable: Warren Creavalle

Key matchup:  Midfield fight

Both of these teams matchup so evenly in midfield, with both sides being very comfortable without the ball and dictating the pace of play when they do have posession. Martinez will be a big miss for Philadelphia, and it will be interesting to see if Nagbe and Zelarayan are healthy enough to make a start for Columbus.

Player to watch: Kacper Przybylko

Przybylko got the monkey off his back with his penalty kick goal on Wednesday night, but I get the feeling he needs one from the run of play to feel like he’s truly back. He has put in 8 goals so far this year so his production is a little down for last year, but he has provided more assists and link up play to make up for it.

Prediction:  Philadelphia 1-1 Columbus

Last time I predicted the Union would be playing for hardware they lost in the MLS is Back Semifinals. Hoping for a reverse jinx here and they actually get the win. Columbus is gonna be a tough out, so a draw really wouldn’t surprise me.

Philadelphia: -156
Columbus:  +117
Draw: +247


  1. According to MLS website, Blake is out Sunday with a fractured hand. My thought is that they should keep him out next week even if it’s healed so he can avoid international duty and any associated quarantine.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      This is just my take on it, but it sounds like he’s going to be out at least the last two games for sure. Hopefully, that plus any break before the playoffs is enough. He’s been back in form BIG TIME this season and definitely stole us some points this season. Need him healthy.

  2. “Ma Ma Ma…Make. Make. Be your Future.”
    Ty Webb.
    As for Andre Blake. Sad for him, but glad this team has Bendik as a backup. No Excuses.
    A win would be nice but I’ll take a point in Columbus.

    • The Zen philosopher Basho once wrote…….”a flute with no holes is not flute…..and a donut with no holes……is a danish!”……nananana!

  3. where are you getting these odds? they are way off. Should be more like :
    Columbus +115
    Tie +245
    Philadelphia +200

    Time to let Matty Ice step up. If he sucks we have bendik for the playoffs, but this is a great chance to let freese seize the day

  4. I’m ok with a point in this match, home I want 3……..but a point and then win at home…..I am cool with.

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