Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Columbus Crew

Photo by Marjorie Elzey

Who: Philadelphia Union (10-9-7, 39 points, 5th place in the East) vs. Columbus Crew (9-7-11, 34 points, 9th place in the East)

What: 2021 MLS Regular Season.  

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, PA

When: Sunday, October 3 at 4:00 p.m. (Eastern)

Watch: PHL17; PhiladelphiaUnion.Com

Whistle: Not available at time of publication.

The Union look to extend their three game unbeaten streak Sunday afternoon at 4:00 PM, as they host the Columbus Crew in Subaru Park.  The Boys in Blue were able to pick up a road point on Wednesday in a sloppy 1-1 draw against the Red Bulls. In that match, the good guys frustratingly returned to their previous middling form following two crisp games vs. Orlando and Atlanta.

These teams have already met twice this year. Back on June 23, Jamerio Monteiro scored the lone goal and the Union pulled out a hard fought win, and on opening day way back in April, the teams battled to a 0-0 draw.

Prior to those matches the Union had lost three straight to Columbus. 

Scouting Report: Columbus Crew

The reigning MLS Cup champs started the season slowly, turned it around a bit and then inexplicably lost 8 of 9 games in August and early September. They are now unbeaten in their last three MLS matches so perhaps have turned the corner again. Add a midweek win against Cruz Azul in the Campeones Cup and their confidence should be high.

With 34 points they find themselves in 9th place – but not too far off the pace in the congested Eastern Conference standings.            

The Crew are full of quality players, but any analysis of Columbus has to  start with Lucas Zelarayan, the central attacking midfielder who can both score and create. He has been injured but is expected to play against the Union, and is complimented up top by a bevy of talented players: Darlington Nagbe, back from an early season injury, has the ability to distribute and break a press, Winger Pedro Santos brings his speed and savvy directly to the attack, and Gyasi Zardes continues to contribute with 7 goals this year.

Defensively, The Crew have been uncharacteristically generous allowing 36 goals this season.

Injury report: Not available at time of publication.

Suspended:  None

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

With just eight matches yet to play in the 2021 campaign, the Union find themselves in 5th place tied with four other teams at 39 points. This is simply the state of the Eastern Conference this year – just 12 points separating the 2nd and 9th place teams (New England is up somewhere in the stratosphere). The Union’s play is characterized by their stingy defense, giving up an Eastern Conference-tying low of just 26 goals in that many games (Nashville has given up 26 goals but in 27 games). As a result, they are competitive in every game – it’s just a matter of getting the offense moving.

There are a couple of probable changes in the lineup.

In the midfield, Jose Martinez will be out for yellow card accumulation following his silly foul against the Red Bulls, so Leon Flach will get the call again to fill in at the number six. Flach is capable, but will have to deal with Zelarayan, et al – though he has done well in this, his more natural position. His sliding over will open a spot for Daniel Gazdag to resume as the team’s 10, moving Jameiro Monteiro back to the 8. Gazdag has not impressed much thus far, but for the Union to succeed they’ll need a contribution from that position. 

Columbus tends to not press heavily and will settle back into a block so the Union will have to improve upon their build-up.  

Injury Report:  OUT: Corey Burke (F); Ilsinho (M)

Suspended:  Jose Martinez (M)

Key Matchup:  Leon Flach vs Crew Midfield

Flach has been much maligned for not contributing enough to the attack. His job Sunday, in a more natural position, will have nothing to do at all with attacking – just stopping the Crew. 

Player to Watch: Kacper Przybylko

Przybylko has always been a streaky player and with 3 goals in his last 3 games (though none on Wednesday) perhaps he is in a streak. With Santos playing at a high level, the Union strikers might be interesting to watch.

Prediction:  Philadelphia 3-1 Columbus

A brace plus an assist from Gazdag. You heard it here first.


Philadelphia Union:    -180

Columbus Crew:         +425

Draw:                              +300

A somewhat surprisingly wide spread. 


  1. Mbaizo will now be out as well due to his father’s passing. So pencil in Powell at RB.

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