Match previews

Match preview: Columbus Crew vs Philadelphia Union

Who: Philadelphia Union (2022: 7-2-8, 29 points, 3rd place in the East) at Columbus Crew (5-5-6, 21 points, 9th place in the East)

What: 2022 MLS Regular Season, Week 18

Where: Field, Columbus, OH

When: Sunday, July 3, 2022 at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern)

Watch: PHL17; PhiladelphiaUnion.Com

Whistle: Referee: Nima Saghafi, Asst Referees: Nick Uranga, Kevin Lock; 4th Official: Eric Tattersal; VAR: Geof Gamble; AVAR: Johnathan Johnson

There will be a picture of Wednesday’s Union game against Chicago in the dictionary next to the entry for “Trap Game.” 

Following the exhilarating NYC FC match, the first-place Union went into Chicago and looked tired and uninspired against the last place Chicago Fire. But now they emerge from the trap, leave Chicago and travel to exotic Ohio where they meet the Columbus Crew Sunday evening.

As mentioned, the Union are tied with Montreal and New York Red Bulls atop the conference (though technically in third place as those teams have more wins) and just a single point above NYC FC.  Columbus on the other hand is mired in 9th place just below the playoff cut-off line. They are however unbeaten in their last four matches.

The Union beat Columbus at home back on April 9th, 1-0, with the lone goal coming off the hands of Columbus goalkeeper Eloy Room in just the second minute. Last season, the Union were able to handle Columbus; they won two and drew one, including a 3-0 win on October 3. 

Scouting Report: Columbus Crew

The Crew have been battling some injuries and recently changed their formation from their familiar 4-2-3-1 to a 3-5-2 to better employ their available players. Crew coach Caleb Porter’s system revolves around creating numerical advantages and then working combination plays. Nothing groundbreaking there but to make that system run, it all starts with Lucas Zelarayan. The central attacking midfielder has been injured but just made his return.  He can both score and create and has a menacing shot from outside the box. Zelarayan has a team-high four goals and four assists this season. 

Defensively, the Crew have been stingy giving up just 18 goals (third best in the East).  In the offseason they revamped their backline adding Milos Degenek out of the Serbian league to pair up with stalwart center back Johnathan Mensah and moved Pedro Santos from his normal winger position to left back.

As a note, the Crew just signed forward Juan (Cucho) Hernandez from the Premiere League for a team-record transfer fee.  He will not be available to play on Sunday.

Injury report: Out: Not Available at time of publication

Suspended:  None

Scouting report: Union

Well, the Union are tired, their bench is short, they lost their star defensive midfielder due to a red card infraction, they just lost to the worst team in MLS and they are back on the road on short rest. But all is good. They are still atop the table, have given up the least number of goals and have still only lost two games.

The team will once again be without the services of Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan, Jack McGlynn and Brandan Craig as they continue their run in the 2022 Concacaf Championship U-20 – and with Jose Martinez out following two yellows in the Chicago game, the lineup and perhaps the formation will look a bit different than usual.

The last time Martinez missed a game, Jack Elliott filled in at the base of the diamond but he looked a bit out of place.  Leon Flach can play that position but then who fills in at the midfield? Bueno, who’s missed time with injury recently? It’s why Curtin makes the big bucks. 

Most importantly, the Union have to pick up the energy and intensity.  This is true for any club but is especially true for the style of play they employ.  

Injury Report:  Questionable: Sergio Santos

Suspended:  Jose Martinez

Bonus Key Matchup: Lucas Zelarayan vs Leon Flach/Jack Elliott

One of the best No. 10’s up against, well, not our best.  Will need to keep close tabs and remember, Zelarayan is a free kick specialist.

Player to Watch: Mikael Uhre

Still waiting for him to break out.  He has had a few goals but they have been more of the opportunistic type (nothing wrong with that) but would be helpful to finish some of the opportunities he has thus far bungled.

Prediction:  Philadelphia 1-1 Columbus

Yup, a tie.


Philadelphia Union:    +185

Columbus Crew:   +140

Draw:   +210

Closer than expected


  1. Union have to play for more than 30 mins to get a result. i’m not so optimistic about earning points

  2. I have 0 faith this is anything other than an ugly loss or an ugly tie at absolute best.

    • I will say one thing. I am under no impressions that Real or Turner are anything more than U2 starters/career MLS backups at this point. But if Curtin doesn’t even trust them to give us 30 competent minutes when the team is absolutely up against the wall in terms of fixture congestion, missing pieces and international absences – then what is the point of spending money on their contracts?

      So if it is as absolutely out of the question for Turner to play 45 minutes as the 6 or Real 45 minutes as an 8 or LB, then why? What are we doing. Then we should be signing players that we actually try to give us the bare minimum of competence when we are at the complete end of our rope.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        You mean like Jack McGlynn, Paxton Aaronson, and Quinn Sullivan?

      • Yeah it looks like players like Brendan Aaronson and Sergino Dest would just miss out on age requirement, but Yunus Musah and Gio Reyna would be eligible and that would be awesome.

    • pragmatist says:

      I’ll take an ugly tie after Wednesday.

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    Thanks in large part to the Union players (12 of the teams 25 goals), the U-20’s will be busy Sunday playing for the CONCACAF U-20 championship against…The Dominican Republic. Both teams also qualify for the Paris Olympics. First time for the US since 2008. Mexico was upset in the quarterfinals by Guatemala on PK’s so won’t be going to the Olympics or to the 2023 U-20 World Cup.
    So the kids won’t be in Columbus Sunday, but they will be trying to bring home some hardware.
    And here’s an article that focuses specifically on the Union homegrowns written before last night’s game:

    • Kudos to the whole team for an outstanding game last night. They took it to Honduras right away and didn’t leave the game in doubt. And all four Union players started and played well. Will be sure to give them a standing ovation on Friday night!

      It’s a shame the U-20 World Cup doesn’t get more pub because that’s the tourney they’ll most likely be playing in. The Olympics of course is U-23 and the US a lot of good players eligible (Musah, Pepi for example).

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Don’t forget that by the time the Olympics roll around, everyone currently over 21 won’t be eligible (beyond the 3 overage players allowed).

  4. Columbus is a team we should beat… hands down. But the “Trap” has never worked, and Curtin needs to focus on WINNING not trying to tie or worse yet losing to last place teams like Chicago and Toronto (at the time).

    Just ridiculous.

    This team may be in the Top 4… with 2 loses… but we are going NO WHERE with the Trap, Schmap… and lack of motivation to win. PERIOD.

    This ‘paper tiger’ could have been like New England last season… way out front.

    8 TIES….. EIGHT.

    A sure sign this club is NOT MOTOVATED TO WIN despite all that Herr Tanner has done to make us a winner.

  5. Cuchi Cuchi Cucho says:

    This team has proven time and again that without a serious window that addresses the deficiencies in the diamond and provides better on top than Burke & Santos they are nothing more than: “others receiving votes.”

    They do not take advantage of turnovers quickly (the playmaker in this scheme) nor do they complete quality passes or control tempo well enough to score more than 1 a game-and that doesn’t win you much in any league.

  6. Tim Jones says:

    Union now lie third in the table behind Montreal and NYC FC as of Noon Saturday.

  7. Steve101 says:

    I see all this doom and gloom here. I’m curious how you all felt after we beat nashville on PKs in the playoffs and earned the right to host the Eastern Conference Championship in Chester(before MLS put the fix in). I think you’re lying to yourself(and us) if you say you didn’t believe we could win it all. That it was our year. This is largely the same team except we’ve unarguably upgraded our strikers. Gazdag is starting to show that he can be the creative playmaker that we’ve been longing for(despite some early season criticism). The theme of my comment is that this team has problems but it certainly is not broken. I personally believe that this roster can deliver a championship. I think one of our biggest problems is Jim’s substitutiom mentality. By not playing the kids earlier he may have protected their growth and done what’s best for them. Maybe it’s why they flourishing with the u20s. But it is also undeniably why this team was out of gas on weds and will likely be in trouble again on Sunday. It’s fine to be critical but this team is far from being a lost cause.

    One more note. I love Jack Elliott. He’s my favorite player but he can’t be the 6 for this game. Flach has all the tools to succeed there. I understand wanting to start findlay but he needs to change the formation to do it otherwise Elliott is going to be set up to fail.

    Here’s to getting a surprise result tomorrow.

  8. The challenge we all have as loyal supporters from before 2010 is that this year’s team appears to be a ‘paper tiger’… simply the best roster EVER for this team and yet we seem to be misfiring constantly.

    Sure Urhe, Carranza and Gaz have not yet ‘GEL’. Sure Blake ranked at top of league again, sure our defense is excellent, shot blocking and overall strong. Sure top 4 teams IN THE EAST, sure only 2 losses (to 2 last place teams away games) and sure 8 ties, EIGHT… most of which we gave up the lead without fight….. Plus relying on last minute heroics to win games when this ‘paper tiger’ should be dominating totally… just like the last game against Chicago.

    To me it’s the same thing since Curtin took over. The difference is that Herr Tanner and the Academy have provided all we need to WIN… and we are NOT.

    Ties are NOT WINS…
    they are ‘partial loses’.

    Just because the team ‘won’ 2 years ago or last year, good squads… but again, failed in the big games.

    And how many expansion teams have won MLS Cup that have come after 2010? Well, we all know. That’s the painful part of being a loyal Union fan…. with salt in the wound last year when Clown Garber refused to delay the COVID game against NYCFC!

    Until we stop the Trap-Schmap… take possession and play the way this squad was built… 4-4-2 not a diamond and certainly NOT a freakin’ Christmas Tree… but a far more agressive, wide spread field with pin point passing this club is capable of, resulting in more goals… NOT sitting back while a last place team has 62% possession, and then our defensive quarterback looses his head AGAIN for no reason!

    Coaching has nothing to do with this, correct?

    And pa-lease… ‘a surprise result’?

    This should be a slam dunk. Not a surprise result!

    THÀTS exactly what I’m mentioning about coaching squarely responsible.


    Sorry but I can already hear it next weekend from Sec 114….

  9. 0-0. Just ended. This was a moral win after all the people absent.

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