Match previews

Match preview: NYCFC vs. Philadelphia Union

Photo: Stephen Speer

Who: Philadelphia Union (2022: 2-1-0, 7 points, 2nd place in the East) vs.NYCFC (1-1-1, 4 points, 7th place in the East)

What: 2022 regular season; Week 2

Where: Yankee Stadium, New York, NY

When: Saturday, March 19, 2022 at 1:00 p.m. (Eastern)

Watch: PHL 17, ESPN+

Whistle: Referee: Ted Unkel; Assistant Referees: Frank Anderson, Kathryn Nesbitt; 4th Official: Luis Arroyo;VAR: Jon Freemon

The Philadelphia Union go back on the road Saturday to meet Eastern Conference rivals New York City FC at the baseball field they call home, Yankee Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1:00 PM.

The last time the two teams met was the Eastern Conference Finals way back on December 5. That match was played in Chester, PA and the home team looked a lot different, the starting lineup ravaged by Covid. Only four of Saturday’s presumed starters – Harriel, Martinez, Gazdag and Flach – were on the field that fateful day as NYCFC squeezed out a 2-1 win on the way to becoming MLS Cup champions.  

Last regular season, the teams met three times with each team earning a win and drawing the third game. Overall, the Union is 5-10-2 against NYCFC but are winless (0-5-2) in matches at Yankee Stadium.  

Scouting Report: NYCFC

NYCFC only has one win in three MLS games thus far but seem on the upswing.

Last week they dispatched Montreal 4-1 after a cake walk in the CONCACAF Champion’s League first round (Costa Rica’s Santos de Guapiles offered little resistance). They then had to squeak past Guatemala’s Comunicaciones – falling asleep after building what appeared to be an insurmountable 3-0 lead. While the engine may (or may not) be humming, they have put a lot of miles on it thus far, playing six games to the Union’s three since the MLS season began – not to mention the two trips to Central America. 

The Pigeons play an aesthetically pleasing style of football and have good players up and down the roster – but it all starts with the diminutive midfielder Maxi Morales.

Morales, even at the ripe old age of 35, still has endless energy as he zips around the field handling the ball and creating opportunities. The player who is the main beneficiary of this largesse is Valentin Castellanos. Castellanos, last year’s Golden Boot winner and perhaps the least popular player outside of the Bronx, has been shut-out in MLS play so far but has 4 goals and 3 assists in the 4 regional matches.

If you want a glimpse into his quality, check out his long distance free kick goal on Tuesday at Comunicaciones – even Jakob Glesnes is impressed.

Injury Report:  Out: Anton Tinnerholm

Suspended: None

Scouting report: Union

Watching the Union play San Jose last week gave a reassuring sense of deja vu: solid defense coupled with just enough offense to earn the win.

However, all those missed opportunities and a lack of finishing do not conjure nice memories. Ahead of the new season, the Union upgraded their striker corps but thanks to delayed visas, red cards, and nagging injuries, fans have yet to see the new group together in action. It appears that while Carranza will be ready Saturday, Uhre might still not be fully fit and will miss his chance for some debut at-bats.

All that said, the Union are still off to their best start ever earning 7 points out of a possible 9.

Other than who starts up top – probably Carranza and Burke with Santos off the bench – the rest of the starting squad will maintain the status quo. Nathan Harriel had another solid game at right back (and was selected for the MLS Team of the Week bench) so it is unlikely Mbaizo will supplant him anytime soon. 

Injury Report:  Doubtful: Stuart Findley, Mikael Uhre

Suspension Report:  None

Key Matchup:  Union vs Yankee Stadium

The Union have not fared well at Yankee Stadium. Will they be able to overcome the compact field, the lack of a single victory and now, the tiny MLS Cup banner staring down at them? Tough call.

Player to Watch: Valentin Castellanos

Union fans obviously would prefer this to be Mikael Uhre, but the Quad Gods did not look down upon them kindly. Castellanos may be a player fans love to hate – but he is good. Without an MLS goal this campaign and finally on his home turf, he will be itching to get on the stat sheet (and pump up his purported trade value for a long-rumored transfer).

Prediction:  NYCFC 1-2 Union

The Union are due for a Yankee Stadium win and NYCFC will have tired legs after their globetrotting.

Editor’s note: It’s worth noting that last year, when the tables were turned and the Union were marauding through the CCL with a regional Golden Boot candidate and the rested City came to town, it was the visitors who goaded Jose Martinez into a foolish red card and walked away victors. My have the turn tables, as Michael Scott once said.

Moneyline: 

Philadelphia Union:  +380

NYCFC :                    -145

Draw:                         +280

For you degenerate gamblers…Spread is a bit bigger than what one might expect.

14 Comments

  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Personally, I think the Union should just refuse to play another game at Yankee Stadium (or any other baseball field). It shows what a joke MLS is that they are willing to accept a team playing in a stadium that does not meet CONCACAF regulations. If NYCFC can’t play their CCL home games there, they shouldn’t be allowed to play MLS games there either.
    .
    Of course it was also ridiculous that MLS had an article on their website this week suggesting that it would be a good idea for Messi and Neymar to come play in the league someday. How can they possibly be surprised that they are considered a retirement league when they court aging stars to come and collect a paycheck?

    • +1 on the CCL issue. I didn’t realize that Concacaf wouldn’t let them play there. It would be funny if it weren’t so sad.

    • Clown Garber….
      It’s ALL about the money… And City Group.

      Make EVERYONE ELSE have a soccer only stadium before EXPANSION, right Don?

      Clown Garber.

      11 players tested positive, all at once, 2 days before the Union would have played MLS CUP 2021 in Chester, as well.

      Clown Garber.

      In Herr Tanner we trust.
      Curtin too.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Actually, MLS Cup would have been in Portland regardless. Union would only have hosted if Portland had lost their conference final.

  2. Homeless FC

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    I’d take a draw in this match in a hearbeat.
    .
    I’m still sewered that fugazee bullshit of an MLS team beat them and won MLS Cup.
    .
    with their index card sized banner they unveiled inside Yankee Stadium last week.
    .
    So goddam weak.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      Given the history in Postage Stamp Field, I too would take a draw happily. But, given the history from last year’s valiant but failed effort from our USL team to *almost* get to MLS Cup anyway… I would much prefer to serve them a two-fisted trouncing. Show them what they would have got if we’d fielded full strength, and make sure they know they don’t deserve a bigger banner.

      • a technicality, Deez Nuggs.
        .
        They could not have been a USL team, since the Union II had withdrawn from the league in July or August of 2020 when they did not ante up for 2021.
        .
        My quibble does not diminish your underlying point in any way. For 70 minutes the kids and the second defense gave the citizens everything they could handle. A Proud night.

  4. I know this is an insignificant, first-world problem but I do have a request for our esteemed Managing Editor Peter. Can PSP standardize their use of the team record format- W-L-D vs W-D-L? Different writers use different formats. It’s mostly a problem when describing a team’s recent form when I don’t know which format is being used. In this one, the writer uses W-D-L for this season’s records, then W-L-D when describing Union’s all time record vs NYC. Thank you for your consideration of this weighty matter.

  5. It is what it is says:

    Generally speaking, they never get a result there.
    What, 2 draws iirc?

    Biggest home field advantage in the league.

    Tati the diver destroys them again.

  6. Was thinking more about the whole retirement league thing.
    I definitely agree that we don’t need mid-caliber has beens or ex-world classers Higuain-ing around the pitch at a snails rate for 80-90 minutes.
    But if a Messi, Luis Suarez or any other elite finisher is willing to come to MLS as a sub for the last 25min try to light things up, I am not against that at all.
    Similarly, if a team has a young back line and wants to bring in a Sergio Ramos type for a couple years to help mature them, I’m not against that either.
    We can say that MLS has evolved past that, but at the Club America game in Chester, the U’s first sub was making $70K/yr and Club America’s first sub was making $4M/yr.

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