CONCACAF Champions League / Match previews / Union

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs Deportivo Saprissa


Who: Philadelphia Union (Major League Soccer) vs. Deportivo Saprissa (Costa Rica Liga FPD)

What: 2021 Concacaf Champions League.

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, Pennsylvania

When: Wednesday, April 14 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern

Watch: FS1

Whistle: Referee: Fernando Guerrero. Assistant Referees: Alberto Morin, Pablo Hernandez. 4th Official: Jorge Perez

It was a night to forget when the Union last left the pitch at Subaru Park on November 24, ending their run for MLS Cup with a 2-0 loss to New England Revolution. From that bitter end almost 6 months ago, the Union kick off 2021 at home with a chance to make history and advance in the Concacaf Champions League for the first time ever.

Holding a 1-0 lead heading into the second leg, especially with a vital away goal, the Union have put themselves in a good position to advance. Throw in the fact that Philadelphia was undefeated at Subaru Park until their playoff exit, their odds get even better, especially with the added bonus of having fans in the stands.

Despite all of the chips falling Philadelphia’s way, Deportivo Saprissa should not be brushed aside so easily.  The team has struggled in the Costa Rican league as of late, and will be missing a number of players due to injury and COVID related issues. Due to their short roster, a number of players from the team’s under-23 squad will be making the trip and playing in Chester tonight. Saprissa is coming in as a side with nothing to lose and players looking to make a mark, they won’t hold anything back.

Scouting Report: Deportivo Saprissa

The Union have already had a taste of El Monstruo Morado (The Purple Monster) on their own turf in Costa Rica, now they’ll see a much different version of The Purple Monster with many key players either injured or missing the match due to COVID related restrictions. In total Saprissa will be without 8 players, including their two starting centerbacks from last week, Aubrey David and Kendall Watson, out due to COVID related issues.

Saprissa will still have the added benefit of playing this competition while in season, even though their form has not been great. Even though the side they will be bringing is younger and less experienced, Saprissa will have the added motivation of a potential come-from-behind upset of Philadelphia on their own turf. Nothing can reset a season like a win like that in international competition.

Injured:  Marvin Angulo, Ariel Rodriguez, Orlando Sinclair, Esteban Rodriguez

COVID Related: Fabricio Aleman, Mariano Torres, Aubrey David, Kendall Waston.

Scouting report: Union

The Union were able to go down to Costa Rica last week without most of their striker corps, and still came home with a 1-0 win in one of the toughest places to play. The Union will now be happy to see that at least one more striker being able to play a part, as it looks Sergio Santos will be included in the matchday 18. Expect Anthony Fontana to still start alongside Kacper Przybylko tonight, as Cory Burke, Jack De Vries and Ilsinho are still unavailable for the match.

A major part in the Union’s win last week was the play of their midfield four. Alejandro Bedoya and Leon Flach were able to cover ground and keep up the usually Philadelphia press against Saprissa’s defense throughout the match. Jamiro Monteiro also helps to reover defensively and find attacking lanes for Fontana and Przybylko to run into. Finally there is Jose “El Brujo” Martinez, the defensive rock of the Union midfield diamond. Dealing with an ankle injury most of preseason, Martinez was able to power through and last a full 90 minutes in the Costa Rican heat. If those four are able to replicate a similar performance tonight, the Union will be a tough side to beat.

Finally we arrive to the Union backline. Jack Elliott and Jacob Glesnes will most likely be the starting centerbacks after keeping a clean sheet in Costa Rica, and allowing very few open looks on the night. A large part of the Philadelphia clean sheet was a goal line clearance from left back Kai Wagner, who will have to keep his emotions in check after a hard tackle in stoppage time last game. Lastly there is Olivier Mbazio, who provided the assist on Kacper Przybylko’s goal with a beautiful cross. Mbazio will need to be on his best defensively as well to keep another clean sheet.

Injury Report:  Out – Cory Burke, Jack De Vries, Ilsinho

Suspension Report:  None

Key Matchup Union mentality

The last time the Union were on this field in a must win game, it did not end well. They were favorites in the playoff game and were met with disappointment. Arguably they should be favorites tonight, and should look to not repeat the same mistake of last November.

Player to Watch: Alejandro Bedoya

Bedoya was the engine running the Union press and attack down in Costa Rica. A similar performance and the Union will be heading into the next round of Champions League.

Prediction:  Philadelphia 2-0 Saprissa

I just don’t know where the Saprissa goals are going to come from with all of their absences. Anthony Fontana will get back on the scoresheet, and Alejandro Bedoya’s hard work will be paid off with the second goal.


Philadelphia Union:    -143

Deportivo Saprissa:   +350

Draw:   +235


  1. el Pachyderm says:

    tick tock. tick tock.

  2. pragmatist says:

    As a lifelong Philadelphia sports fan, this has all the makings of a Charlie Brown kicking-the-football scenario. I will try to suppress all of my deep-set cynicism and hope that this generation of sports teams is finally able to flip the narrative.
    That caveat aside, I am concerned about Wagner and Martinez. I think Kai can be a professional, but the refs will be looking to make sure this game doesn’t get out of hand, and they will be prone to overreacting to basic physical play. And Martinez has a habit of being a bit reckless, which could lead to a quick card.
    Talent vs. Talent, we have the edge. But I am concerned about the external factors that can pop up, because they seem much more likely tonight than in most matches.

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    One thing to remember, this is NOT a must win game. While a win would be nice and a lead gives the team a cushion, a draw sees them advance as well (and a 0-1 loss means 30 minutes of free soccer with PK’s potentially to follow).

  4. I feel all 3 paragraphs could have been plucked from my own mind, boy, do I feel the same as you

  5. Just finished City vs. Dortmund. Let’s hope Philly channels some inner Man.City.

  6. That was supposed to be a reply under pragmatist

  7. No extra time in Concacaf, would go straight to PKs should they lose 1-0

  8. No extra time in Concacaf, would go straight to PKs if Union lose 1-0

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