Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs Nashville FC

Photo by Paul Rudderow

Who: Philadelphia Union (2021: 12-10-8, 46 points, 3rd place in the East) vs. Nashville FC (11-16-3, 49 points, 2nd place in the East)

What: 2021 MLS Regular Season.  

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, PA

When: Saturday October 23 at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern)

Watch: PHL17; ESPN+

Whistle: Not available at time of publication

With just four games remaining in the 2021 regular season, the Philadelphia Union meet up with Nashville FC in a battle for a second seed in the Eastern Conference. Kick off is at 7:30 PM, or thereabouts, in the homey confines of Subaru Park.

The two teams last met on July 3 in Nashville with frenemy C.J. Sapong scoring the game’s lone goal in just the second minute. The Union were giving up a lot of early goals at that point in the season but have since stifled that habit. 

This match looms large.  With only four games left in the regular season and only three points separating the two, the teams will jockey for position in the table.With New England and first place out of reach, it all comes down to the seeding for home field advantage and matchups.  

Scouting Report: Nashville FC

In just their second season since being “promoted” to MLS, Nashville is making a strong showing for themselves. Sporting a balanced team full of veterans and strong defense, they have earned sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference. Interestingly, they have drawn their last five matches (the league record is 6 straight draws).

Anchored by perennial all-star and USMNT centerback Walker Zimmerman, Nashville leads the Eastern Conference with just 27 goals allowed in 30 matches (Seattle has allowed one less in the Western Conference). Zimmerman is flanked by longtime defender Daniel Lovitz and helped with excellent goalkeeping by Joe Willis.

The Union get a break as Hany Mukhtar, Nashville’s leader in both scoring (14) and assists (9), will miss the game due to yellow card accumulation. Former Union striker CJ Sapong will try to fill that gap. Sapong was on a torrid goal scoring pace earlier this season but has since cooled off scoring just one in the last nine games. Dax McCarty, another longtime veteran will hold down the center of the midfield.

Injury report:  Not available at time of publication

Suspended:  Hany Mukhtar (F), Luke Haakenson (M)

Scouting report: Union

The Union will come into this game feeling a bit let down after two straight disappointing matches, those where they lost leads and dropped a total of 5 points. Depending on your viewpoint, the defensive lapses that allowed three goals on Wednesday night can be seen as either worrisome or anomalous. If anomalous, then the Union should come out strong against Nashville.  

One positive that came out of the last match was finally seeing some ROI from Daniel Gazdag. Perhaps this will give coach Curtin the confidence to put him at the 10, Montiero at the 8, and revert back to the 4-4-2 diamond where the Union play at their competent best. Assuming Sergio Santos can return from his hamstring tweak, the Union can field their best eleven.

Injury Report: Out: Cory Burke, Ilsinho

Suspension Report:  None

Key Matchup:  Union Defense vs Nashville FC Defense

The two best defenses in the East square off.  Will be interesting to see who makes the first, or only, mistake.

Player to Watch: Daniel Gazdag 

Gazdag showed some flashes in the past but never really broke through. After his excellent play, including a brace on Wednesday against Minnesota, he should be brimming with confidence and ready to contribute.

Prediction:  Philadelphia 1-0 Nashville FC

A low scoring affair.

Moneyline: 

Philadelphia Union:    +105

Nashville, FC:   +250

Draw:   +240

Draw your own conclusions

6 Comments

  1. This is a HUGE game for the Union, not so much from a playoff standing (although that is big too), but they need to find a way to beat a team that will cede possession to them if they want to make a run deep into the playoffs.

  2. If we win today the last two games don’t matter and we head into the final stretch of the season on a good note. The final stretch is full of winnable games – if we play well. So starting with a win on Saturday is everything.

  3. Atomic Spartan says:

    Silver lining from the loonatic game: in the past when the U have laid a rotten egg, they have come back strong to clean things up. They’ll need to tonight. C’mon the U.

  4. The Professional Referees Organization website is running late. They have only partially updated the USLC list of assignments for today with a promise to complete the list later, but have not yet issued anything at all for today’s MLS assignments.
    .
    I will try to check back later this afternoon.
    .
    One explanation for a delay might be that someone flunked a covid test and assignments are being juggled. That guess is completely without any supporting evidence.

  5. Here are the game officials.
    .
    Philadelphia Union vs Nashville
    Subaru Park (7:30PM ET)
    REF: Armando Villarreal
    AR1: Kyle Atkins
    AR2: Diego Blas
    4TH: Kevin Broadley
    VAR: Jorge Gonzalez
    AVAR: Matthew Nelson

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