Match previews

Match preview: New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Who: Philadelphia Union (14-11-8, 53 points, 2nd place in the East) vs. NY City FC (14-8-11, 50 points, 4th place in the East)

What: 2021 MLS Regular Season.  

Where: Yankee Stadium, New York City, NY

When: Sunday November 7 at 3:30 p.m. (Eastern)

Watch: PHL17; ESPN+

Whistle: Not available at time of publication

It’s the last game of the regular season, the fin de siecle and last hurrah. The campaign’s coda, epilogue and denouement. It’s a culmination… and so forth.

The Union will bring down the curtain on the 2021 season on Sunday, November 7th at 3:30 PM in Yankee Stadium against New York City FC. As it is Decision Day, all the teams in the Eastern Conference play simultaneously – the Western Conference teams play at 6:00 PM. 

But fear not!

There is more Union soccer in the near future. Both teams have clinched a playoff spot (along with New England and Nashville, with six teams vying for the final three spots in the Eastern Conference). As a result, this game is all about seeding and home field advantage for the playoff matches which begin on November 20.

The two teams have already met twice this year, both times at Subaru Park. In the first match in May, the Union lost handily after allowing a 5th minute goal and receiving an early red card on Jose Martinez. In the second go around in mid-August, the home team pulled out a 1-0 win after Ale Bedoya headed in a second half game winner.

Scouting Report: New York City FC

NYCFC is coming in hot after winning their last three matches – of course those wins came against Inter-Miami, Chicago and DC United. Prior to that, the Pigeons were winless in the previous 6 – so draw your own conclusions.

Like their last nine matches, NYCFC has had an up and down season. Regardless, one thing they can do is score goals.

Their 55 tallies is second in the Eastern conference (only New England has more). As the lone striker in the 4-2-3-1, Valentin Castellanos has managed to score 18 on that total, leading all of MLS and making him the prime candidate for the Golden Boot award (he also unofficially leads the league in taking dives). He is fed the ball by Jesus Medina and the diminutive Maxi Morales, who has contributed 10 assists as he buzzes around the pitch.

Defensively they are solid but not spectacular. James Sands and Maxine Chanot anchor their backline. Excellent wingback Anton Tinnerholm is out for the season with an injury but, as always, there is solid goalkeeper play from Sean Johnson.

Injury report:  Out – Anton Tinnerholm

Suspended:  None

Scouting report: Union

The Union have not only secured a playoff spot, but also a home playoff game. They control their own destiny Sunday too, so a win will clinch second place and allow them to play at home through the playoffs  – unless or until they run into the New England Revolution, who have run away with first place.

The Boys in Blue looked sharp last Saturday in their 2-0 win over the hapless Cincinnati. Of course, Cincinnati has that effect on teams. With their new and now favored “Christmas tree” formation, the Union were able to utilize their two attacking midfielders, play through the middle, and not rely entirely on hopeful crosses.

Unfortunately, the Union have not fared well at Sunday’s venue, Yankee Stadium – in six matches, they have five losses and one draw. At this point, the blockage is mostly mental. To break through, they will need another strong performance by their twin #10’s.

Daniel Gazdag continues to grow and his best game of the season last week, and the league noticed by putting him on their Team of the Week. If Jameiro Montiero is unable to play with a knee injury, expect Paxton Aaronson to get the call again.

The only real roster question is whether Jack McGlynn or Leon Flach gets the call at the left midfielder spot. Flach has been solid throughout but McGlynn showed a lot last week, especially going forward.

Injury Report:   Not available at time of publication

Suspension Report:  None

Key Matchup:  Union vs Yankee Stadium

As mentioned above, the Union have not had positive results in the Bandbox in the Bronx. Whether it’s the small pitch or just something mental, they will have to come out and play smart and with intensity.

Player to Watch: Daniel Gazdag 

Gazdag has been steadily gaining confidence as his play improves. The change in formation seems to have helped him bloom – like a flower. Fans should expect a great match from him.

Prediction:  Philadelphia 2-1 NYC FC

The Union finally break the curse.  McGlynn scores his first MLS goal.


Philadelphia Union:    +320

NYC FC:                      -125

Draw:                           +290

I  know what I’m doing with my paycheck.


  1. Essentially the Union need a result at Yankee Stadium, either Sunday or in a later round of the playoffs.
    And based on the MLS announcement today, the Union’s goal is to win 2 MLS cups in the next year (MLS Cup 2022 will be played one year from today).

  2. Diamond Life says:

    That bandbox is the greatest home field advantage in the league. You turn it over or have your MF overrun and it’s in your net in a blink. Tati the diver in line for the golden boot.

    Not much of a chance I’d say. Hope somebody else takes them out-I’d rather face NE. They match up better.

  3. Anyone know if the pitch is going to have the “Baseball season” size or be a bit bigger with no reason to not remove the pitcher’s mound?

  4. Congrats to Paxten, Jack, and Quinn all being selected for the U-20 US team!

    • They’re not departing until after the game Sunday and their last game is the 16th (which is the same day as Jamaica, Cape Verde, Cameroon, and Venezuela all have World Cup qualifiers) so hopefully all should be back for the first playoff game.

      • Hopefully MLS notices that the Union have a lot of players gone over the international break and don’t make them play one of the 11/20 games.

      • If I had to guess I would say that the Thanksgiving game will be in New England (since that game can’t be on the Sunday afterwards due to the Patriots) so the 4v5 game in the East will be one of the Saturday games.

  5. According to the Union Facebook page Monteiro has been training fully the last couple of days.

    • Monteiro is good but he entirely checked out by now. PU needs a real DP.

      I wrote a chant about this. A bit of a rant, actually, but we have all been schooled by the ownership. It’s morally difficult to stay a fan of this team.

      Meanwhile, Bedoya pants slowly around the filed and JP continues to call players by their first names. Drives me crazy. Where is Tommy Smith when you need him?

  6. Update on injury report. Here is the URL to the info on the Union Website.
    The game guide under press box lists Santos as out.
    Curtin points out that risking a Santos re-injury is unwise. The subtext is that they have until at least 11/20 to get him healthier.
    He also says that Cory Burke is not close to 90 minutes match fit.
    He made no comment on Alvas Powell or Ilsinho. To me, the logic of the comment about Santos applies.
    I acknowledge the cogency of Andy Muenz’s earlier point that getting the second seed allows a decent chance of a second playoff game with home field advantage, but follow the logic of focusing more on the certainties of the present than the possibilities of the future.

  7. Assuming the Professional Referees Organization website follows season-long practice, the referee assignments for Decision Day will not be posted until Decision Day itself, probably mid-morning. The eastern Conference will probably go up earlier than the west.
    here is the site’s URL.

  8. It is just silly that soccer is played at Yankee Stadium.

    Not up to us, though, so GO UNION!

    And, please, please, please, lost those horrific light blue jerseys with the yellow shorts. Simply the worst, and that is saying a lot in a history that includes some really bad uniform designs. Remember the beige thing? I hope not

    But I do have a signed Danny Mwanga jersey!

    I think today’s game will be dull, as Curtin will be playing for a tie, and so will NYFC.

    A happy Sunday to all.

  9. Here are the ref assignments.
    New York City FC vs Philadelphia Union
    Yankee Stadium (3:30PM ET)
    REF: Guido Gonzales Jr
    AR1: Jose Da Silva
    AR2: Ryan Graves
    4TH: Ismir Pekmic
    VAR: Chris Penso
    AVAR: Gjovalin Bori

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      Thanks! Any injury report yet?

      • Don’t know about an injury report, but starting 11 has Blake, normal back 4, Martinez, Flach, Bedoya, Monteiro, Gazdag, Przybylko.
        Bench is Bendik, Powell, Harriel, Findley, Bueno, Burke, and the 3 kids going to the U-20 tournament this week.

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