Match previews

Match preview: Orlando City SC vs Philadelphia Union

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Who: Philadelphia Union (2021: 6-3-5, 23 points, 2nd place in the East) vs. Orlando City (6-3-4, 22 points, 3rd place in the East)

What: 2021 MLS Regular Season

Where: Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL

When: Thursday, July 22 at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern)

Watch: ESPN

Whistle: Referee: Alan Kelly, Assistant Referees: Eric Weisbrod, Jeremy Hanson. 4th Official: Kevin Broadley, VAR: Jose Carlos Rivera

This past Saturday, the Union returned home and put in an impressive performance against DC United.  This win was big as it followed a less than stellar three game road trip and elevated them to second place in the Eastern Conference.  They can turn it into a streak  on Thursday at 7:30 as they meet the third place team, the Orlando City Lions, at Exploria Stadium in Orlando.  

This nationally broadcast match is the first of two meetings between these clubs this season. The Union hold a 4-3-5 lifetime record against Orlando.  The last time they played was almost exactly a year ago during the MLS is Back tournament and resulted in a 1-1 draw.

Scouting Report: Orlando City FC

There were high expectations for Orlando City  this season and as we near the halfway mark, these expectations have been largely met.  They sit in third place, only 5 points out of first place and with a game in hand. The Lions brought back most of their players from 2020 and have, at times at least, looked to be one of the dominant teams in the Eastern Conference.  They are coming off a draw with Toronto but lost their previous two games.

Orlando comes at you in a 4-2-3-1 formation. They typically build out of the back and through the wings employing a “purposeful possession” based philosophy; – but aren’t afraid to hit one over the top if the opportunity presents itself. 

On paper, Orlando has a stacked offensive lineup but has been a bit anemic lately.  They suffer a bit from the continued absence of forward Daryl Dike while he was on loan at Barnsley early in the season and now performing international duty.  Midfielders Maurico Pereyra and Chris Mueller have both been having down years resulting in a lack of creativity in the attack.  Nani, however, is having an “in the MVP conversation” kind of a year with seven goals to his credit.

Not unlike the Union, Orlando’s defense has been solid and keeps them in the game. Their defense likes to push teams wide and use their fullbacks to control the play.  With fullbacks Ruan injured and Mouthino just back, Orlando has not had the production they typically get from that position. Kyle Smith has been stellar defensively but does not get forward like Ruan.

Injury report:  Antonio Carlos (D) Ruan (D)

Suspended:  None

Scouting report: Union

The Union looked like who they are supposed to be on Saturday.  They pressured the ball, forced turnovers and jumped into transition.  Both goals were scored by the much maligned striker corps – including Sergio Santos’ second in as many games.

With Gazdag’s excellent performance against DC, he has earned his spot at the 10 and the midfield may finally look like its end product.  Jameiro Montero’s return from suspension should find him back in his preferred spot on the left side of the diamond. With Bedoya and Martinez filling out the diamond and Leon Flach available to rotate in, the Union’s midfield is ready to dominate.

Up top, Corey Burke is still not available as continues his stint on team Jamaica for the Concacaf Gold Cup Tournament.  So Sergio Santos, who is getting into a bit of a groove, and Kacper Przybyłko will take the reins again.  There is also the possibility of an ilsinho sighting. As mentioned, Orlando’s defense is stout so they will have to take advantage of any opportunities.

Orlando has a lot of attacking talent so the back line will need to keep up the solid work.  Andre Blake is also with the Jamaican National team so the Union will bring in a backup again. The starting goalie  has not been announced but the smart money is on Coach Curtin sticking with the hot hand of Joe Bendik following up on his last strong performance .

Injury Report:  OUT: Jack De Vries (F); Anthony Fontana (M); 

Suspension Report:  None

Key Matchup:  Union Defense vs Orlando FC Attack

Orlando hasn’t been lighting it up offensively but they have a lot of talent looking to break out.

Player to Watch: Daniel Gazdag

We all liked Gazdag last week at the 10.  Now, with another week with the team and the full contingent of midfielders, he is ready to produce.  It is important that he get sufficient touches and that he and Monteiro maintain good spacing.

Prediction:  Philadelphia 2-1 Orlando

Moneyline: 

Philadelphia Union:    +280

NY Red Bulls:   -120

Draw:   +250

Index funds are for chumps. If you want that Lambo, bet it all on the Union – especially at these odds. (Please see disclaimer.)

One Comment

  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Looking at those odds, I’d have to say a draw is much more likely than the Union beating NY Red Bulls… 🙂

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