Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs New York City FC

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: Philadelphia Union (6-1-8, 26 points, 3rd in East) vs New York City FC (8-3-3, 27 points, 1st in East)

What: MLS Regular Season, Week 16

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, Pennsylvania

When: Sunday, June 26th, 6:25 p.m. kickoff

Watch: FS1, FOX Deportes

Whistle: Not available at time of publication

The 2022 season rolls along as New York City FC come to town to take on the Philadelphia Union in a nationally televised Sunday night showdown on the banks of the Delaware River.

First place in the Eastern Conference will be on the line as the Union sit just one point behind New York in the standings.  Depending on how the second place New York Red Bulls fare in their match earlier in the day at LAFC, the Union could end the week in first place by taking all three points.

Although being separated by just one point in the standings, these teams have had much different stories to tell thus far in the season.

Having to balance both Champions League, Open Cup and MLS early on in the year, New York earned just one win through their first five MLS matches.  However, after being bounced from Champions League in early April, the Cityzens’ MLS fortunes have taken a sharp turn for the better, going undefeated in their last nine matches (7-0-2).

The Union, on the hand, put in their best start to an MLS campaign in club history, going undefeated in their first six matches (5-0-1).  Remarkably, the Union are now on a seven-match unbeaten run; however, they have just one victory to their name during that stretch (a 2-0 away win at Portland), with draws in the remaining six.

While Philadelphia’s one loss this year is the fewest in MLS, their inability to turn draws into wins is beginning to become a concern.

Scouting Report: New York City FC

New York has made the MLS Cup Playoffs in six straight season, and they certainly look on track do so again in 2022.  However, one fairly sizable hurdle they will need to clear is the loss of the loss of their 2021 MLS Cup-winning head coach, Ronny Deila, who departed from the club on June 13 to become the manager for Standard Liege in Belgium’s first division.

After being Deila’s assistant, Nick Cushing has taken over on an interim basis.  Naturally, the question has arisen as to whether the team can maintain the same success they enjoyed under Deila.

“We are mid-season and we don’t have a lot of time to start implementing new ways of playing and new ideas,” Cushing said. “What we have done has worked for us, we have a methodology in our group and we have worked towards that the last 18 months and it has helped us win MLS Cup and it has helped us with the league position that we have got.”

In his first game as interim manager last week, Cushing’s side fought off a heavy attack provided by the Colorado Rapids and were able to earn a 1-1 draw at home.  Cushing will be looking first his first three points when he comes to Chester on Sunday.

As Cushing said, his team has been successful and there is not much, if anything, that needs to be changed.

He has a full, proven arsenal at his disposal, starting with 2021 MLS MVP finalist and striker Valentin “Taty” Castellanos.  He’s found the back of the net seven times in 12 MLS matches this year, all of which he has started.  Castellanos has been heavily linked with numerous European clubs this summer, but no deals have materialized and he remains with New York for the time being.  The Union defense will have their hands full with him on Sunday.

Brazilian teenage forward Talles Magno has evolved this year from promising young player to a game-changing stud.  He has six goals and four assists across all competitions this season, including his stunning equalizer last week against Colorado.  He is usually slotted in as a winger in New York’s 4-2-3-1.

Rounding out the attack is New York’s seasoned No. 10 Maxi Moralez.  He hasn’t found the back of the net in MLS thus far this year, but he’s contributed with three assists.  His vision and skilled passing have perpetuated the 35-year-old’s success in MLS and he remains one of the best No. 10’s in the game.

Do not overlook New York’s defense, though.  They have allowed 10 goals all year, with four of them coming in one match against Toronto back in April.

Injury Report: Anton Tinnerholm (OUT, Achilles), Gabriel Pereira (OUT, lower body), Kevin O’Tolle (QUESTIONABLE, head)

Scouting Report: Philadelphia Union

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.

At this juncture in the season, it is clear who the Union are: a stout defensive team who struggle to score.  As difficult as that identity has been for many a Union fan to accept, that identity has them sitting at third in the East with +9 goal differential and just one loss to their name.

However, there is no denying that the Union find themselves in a bit of rut.

The team’s inability to find that second goal appears to be their kryptonite.  They’ve scored two goals in just seven out of their 15 matches this year and have yet to net three in one game.

With the possession-conceding style that head coach Jim Curtin has deployed for the last few years,  the lack of goals isn’t all that surprising.  The balance of success for the Union is in the ripe and ruin so to speak, in that it’s a very slim margin.  They don’t generate a ton of chances.  And to score multiple goals in a match, their ‘hit rate’ on those chances needs to be exceptionally high, and it hasn’t been.  They generated five shots on goal last week against Cincinnati and found the back of the net once.  As a stand alone statistic, scoring on 20% of your shots isn’t all that bad.  But when you’re only generating five shots on goal, 20% only yields (checks math)… one goal.

There’s still much optimism that the Union’s trio up-top of Mikael Uhre, Julian Carranza, and Daniel Gazdag can change the team’s goal-scoring fortunes. They have each individually, and collectively at times, provided moments of brilliance that warrants such optimism.

Yet, based on the first 15 weeks of the season, the Union’s ability to keep goals out of their own net is their key performance indicator and their best chance at earning hardware this season.

Center backs Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliot have each had their slip-ups this year, but overall, they remain two of the most solid center backs in MLS.  They also have the privilege of playing in front of MLS’s best goalkeeper in Andre Blake.

Injury Report: Mikael Uhre (QUESTIONABLE, quad)

Key Matchup: Jose Martinez vs Maxi Moralez

El Brujo will have his hands full with Moralez in this match.  Maxi is clever and Martinez needs to stay poised.

Player to Watch: Taty Castellanos

The Union are one of four teams yet to allow a goal from outside the box this season (Columbus, Chicago, LAFC).  A player of Castellanos’s caliber could end that.

Prediction: Philadelphia Union 1 – 1 New York City FC

“They are who we thought they were!” – Dennis Green

16 Comments

  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Anyone know how much NYCFC’s first team played midweek in the Open Cup?

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      A handful started, like Castellanos, but a few key pieces didn’t –> Maxi, Talles. I was meaning to go back and watch the thing. 3 red cards. Sounds bonkers.

  2. Wouldn’t it be great if they played a 4-3-2 with Flach free & told him to sit in Moralez’s pocket all night?

  3. Haven’t seen anything on Curtin’s weekly update. I see above Uhre is questionable again. Does anyone know if this is up to date information meaning he hurt himself again?

    • I think this may just be a carry over designation from the past few weeks. However, Sergio Santos will not be available due to issues with obtaining a green card.

  4. OneManWolfpack says:

    Uhre is questionable again? Come on man

  5. Deez Nuggs says:

    As much as I don’t want another draw… this one I might take. NYC is dangerous.
    .
    First time we played them, we got them on a temporary rut. This time, are we just maybe lucky enough to catch them again? They drew Colorado in MLS and lost to RBNY in the Open Cup since losing their manager. Maybe the brief shakeup results in the U taking the points?

  6. Sounds like Uhre is in full training so assuming him as a starter. My magic 8 ball says “it is certain” to be the breakthrough game at home!! I’ll be there cheering them on…

    • Magic 8 Ball….. just terrific.

      That was the only present one of my son’s wanted one Christmas. He’s 37 now and attends every Union game with me!

      The Magic 8 Ball says YES.

  7. Tim Jones says:

    Whistle update:
    .
    hiladelphia Union vs New York City FC
    Subaru Park (6PM ET)
    REF: Armando Villarreal
    AR1: Matthew Nelson
    AR2: Jose Da Silva
    4TH: Guido Gonzales Jr
    VAR: Jorge Gonzalez
    AVAR: Mike Kampmeinert

  8. FCdelcofella says:

    Can’t believe santos is still having issues. Uhre…. Grow a set son. See ya PM .
    Thank God.

  9. FCdelcioboyz2012s says:

    Let’s go U!
    Bye,bye pm… you won’t be missed.

  10. PaulContinuum says:

    Asterisk champs come to Chester. ******* forevermore.
    /
    A story of haves and have-nots. LAFC signing Gareth Bale. Union sign…Michael Uhre, whereas lately if you even POINT in his direction, he’s injured. Like the scene in Moneyball; there are rich teams and there are poor teams, then there’s 50 feet of crap, and then there’s US.

    • Bale is worth $3.3 million… so is Andre Blake, an MLS lifer who the local team got for free. Julian Carranza was worth $6 million when Miami signed him, and the U got him for $50k. Which team is the smart one?

    • SoccerDad says:

      I’m curious to see how Bale’s visa situation works out. It takes 6-8 weeks for Uhre to get a work visa, and people (The Athletic) are saying that Bale could be available for LAFC’s July 7 game.

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