Match previews / Union

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs New York City FC

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: Philadelphia Union vs. New York City FC

What: MLS Regular Season

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, Pennsylvania

When: Saturday, May 1st, 7:30pm

Watch: PHL17, ESPN+

Whistle: Not available at publication

Coming off a big midweek win in the CONCACAF Champions League in Atlanta, the Philadelphia Union return their focus back to MLS league play when they host New York City FC on Saturday night. Despite being in close proximity to one another, New York and Philadelphia’s only meeting of the shortened COVID season last year came at the MLS Is Back Tournament, a 1-0 Philadelphia win. While NYCFC lead the all time series, they’re 8-4-1 against Philadelphia, new coach Ronny Delia won’t be too familiar against the Union as their only meeting was at MLS Is Back.

Scouting Report: New York City FC

It’s been an up and down start to the MLS season for the Pigeons, starting the year with a 2-1 loss on the road to DC United. They then scored a lot of goals off set pieces against FC Cincinnati, winning their home opener 5-0. While NYCFC haven’t opened against the strongest opposition in MLS, outscoring opponents 6-2 and averaging 3 goals a match is not a bad start.

However, City may be without their leading goal threat as Valentine Castellanos is reportedly refusing to play for the club to force a transfer move. To make matters worse, normal leading striker Heber is out with a knee injury. One item of good news for New York is attacking midfielder Maxi Moralez is back to full fitness for the year, leading that midfield, and driving the attack.

There are also other goal threats in the City midfield, notably Jesus Medina who notched a brace last time out against Cincinnati. Ishmael Tajouri-Shradi is also an attacking threat that NYCFC can bring off the bench if need be. In defensive midfield the Pigeons have a pair of young Americans protecting their backline, with Keaton Parks and James Sands helping link the backline and the attack. Both players can cover a lot of ground and shoot from distance, much like Philadelphia captain Alejandro Bedoya.

NYCFC hasn’t had much turnover within their defensive unit, adding only new face Gudmundur Thorarinsson at left back. In the center, it’s the always stable pair of Alex Callens and Maxine Chanot, a pair of physical and aerial threats. On the right is Anton Tinnerholm, another long-time NYC player who is a threat to advance down the flanks.

Injury Report:  Out – Thiago Andrade, Heber, Tony Rocha, Geidon Zelalem

Suspension Report:  None


Scouting report: Union

Philadelphia is coming off of arguably one of the biggest wins in club history, a shocking 3-0 win in Atlanta during the first leg of the Champions League Quarter-finals. It will be interesting to see how much turn over the Union starting XI will have after traveling and playing a full 90 minutes just 4 days earlier. Coach Jim Curtin has even admitted that Philadelphia is putting more of an emphasis on the Champions League this early in the season, but it remains to be seen if a comfortable lead heading into the second leg will change that strategy. Jose Martinez should be a penciled in starter, as he will be unavailable next Tuesday due to suspension, and Anthony Fontana can easily slot in to any midfield spot if need be. Another expected change to the starting group should come in the attack, with Sergio Santos expected to start along side Kacper Przybylko after a strong appearance of the bench Tuesday night.

The Union backline will be looking for some improvement with its passing and possession so far in the year. The back four of Olivier Mbazio, Jack Elliott, Jacob Glesnes and Kai Wagner have proven to be hard to score against, only allowing 2 goals from 5 matches so far. That stat could be misleading though, as Philadelphia was on the back foot against Atlanta to start, and if not for goalkeeper Andre Blake would have almost certainly lost their clean sheet. Stuart Findlay could see some action on Saturday to get his legs under him.

Injury Report:  Out – Ilsinho, Jack De Vries

Suspension Report:  None


Key Matchup Union fitness

Since their home opener 2 weekends ago, this will be the Union’s 5 match in that span, a tall task for a team that hasn’t rotated it starting lineup much. Philadelphia will need to see what some of their new off-season signings and newly promoted homegrowns can offer from the bench, or even in the starting XI.

Player to Watch: Jose Martinez

By now Jose Martinez, or El Brujo, has proved how important he is to Philadelphia in linking up play and helping put out defensive fires. His ability to keep disciplined has been tested early this year, and he’s been able to pass so far. Philadelphia will need El Brujo at his best to contain Moralez, and will need him to keep emotions in check against an opponent where games usually get physical.

Prediction:  Philadelphia 2 -1 New York City FC

The Union will be looking to make Subaru Park a fortress again after falling to Inter Miami last time on their home pitch. Despite being on short rest, Sergio Santos’ good form continues and Philadelphia grind out their first league win at Subaru Park of the year.


  1. Play the kids!!!
    Union have 5 games between 5/1 and 5/15
    The season is coming at us fast and furious
    We will need to do some squad rotation regardless, and I reeeeeeaaaaally want the focus to be on Tuesday (no lead is safe in Leg 2).
    Rest our starters for Tuesday.

    • Fontana in for Bedoya/Mont, Burke in for Muffin (nice to see Burke/santos pairing)

      if Eliot playing cdm Tuesday, then sit him today or bring him on late at cdm.

  2. Would hope to see some squad rotation this game, but don’t want to underestimate NYCFC and drop points at home.
    I would like to see Burke start with Santos – Burke needs minutes to get up to speed. Kasper can come off bench if need be.
    Would also like to see Montiero rested the first half, then swapped for Bedoya at half-time to keep them both fresh for ATL.
    With a forced rest for El Brujo midweek, the only other guy that might need a rest is Wagner. I would start him, but maybe he comes off early if the game is well in hand.

    • Look at the big picture and listen to what Jim Curtin has said.
      1. Curtin has said that the rookies are not ready for big games. He said before Columbus I think, but I may be wrong.
      2. de Vries is out, so Matt Real, Fontana, and Cole Turner are the only available midfield subs. Curtin was ready to put Quinn Sullivan onto the field in Atlanta when Monteiro began stretching his legs at the end.
      3. Union 2 are away to Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon. that is a condition and experience opportunity for the deeper reserves. figuring out what, if any, first-teamers went west will telegraph who might be on the bench against the Cityzens tomorrow night.

  3. Andy Muenz says: is showing Ismail Elfath on the whistle.

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    This game matters. I understand Champions League is first and foremost on many people’s minds but find themselves buried in the table and people will also be pissy there too.
    I’m unsure the solution, but they need to garner these three points…

    • It matters, but there’s signficant prize money that goes with making the Champions League Semi-Finals, and there’s a long season to make up room in the table.

      The big problem is through a combination of squad construction and injuries, the Union really don’t have the horses to rotate as much as they’d need to. There’s too many young players on the roster that are about a year away from really playing meaningful minutes in MLS.

      • Chris Gibbons says:

        This is true, but it’s also true that only a handful of teams in the works can put out a competent second team in instances like this. It’s a lesser of two evils choice.

  5. Stuart Findlay needs to get minutes on the field next to Glesnes, to prepare for Tuesday when Elliott will be at the DCM for Martinez.
    Leon Flach needs a rest, if he had to talk Curtin into it Tuesday, which to me says either Fontana or Real start at left mid.
    I expect Bedoya to start but be subbed off, maybe as early as halftime.
    Substituting for Monteiro in a timely fashion would be useful for Tuesday, but it unclear to me who the third midfield sub might be.
    Cory Burke needs minutes and having Santos ready for Atlanta seems to me a rarity. They won’t sit Kacper now that he may be getting hot. They may sub for him early, but the question will be with him, if the other two strikers are splitting the game in some fashion.

  6. Prediction:
    Burke – Santos
    — Fontana —
    Flach – Bedoya
    — El Brujo —
    Wagner – Findlay – Glesnes – Mbaizo
    Brick Wall
    Then sub Real for Bedoya, Kacper for Burke, Monty for Fontana, who moves to striker if Santos needs a break. Finally, bring Elliott in near the end for El Brujo if we have a 2+ goal lead near the end… give him a little time there in prep for Tuesday.

  7. Coach doesn’t like to make more than two changes from the last MLS match. Something something statistics something, I forget. I think Bedoya and Monteiro may get a rest, they could use one.

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