Match previews / Union

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs FC Cincinnati

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: FC Cincinnati (Eastern Conference fifth seed) vs. Philadelphia Union (Eastern Conference first seed)

What: MLS Cup Playoffs, Eastern Conference Semifinals

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, Pennsylvania

When: Thursday, October 2oth, 8 p.m. (kickoff 8:08 p.m.)

Watch: FS1, Fox Deportes

Whistle: Timothy Ford (REF), Nick Urango (AR1), Jeremy Kieso (AR2), Marcos DeOliveira (4TH), Mike Kampmeinert (AVAR)

As Philadelphia fans know, it’s a playoff matchup between two teams of a similar build on Thursday night in Chester.

There will be many familiar faces on the Cincinnati side of the field, with former Union technical director Chris Albright installing the Philadelphia model in Cincinnati. The Ohioans feature Union alums like Ray Gaddis, Alvas Powell, Sergio Santos, and Head Coach Pat Noonan.

Philadelphia has been dominant at home in 2022, going through the regular season without recording a single defeat at Subaru Park. Cincinnati was able to escape Chester with a draw early in the season however, and then handed Philadelphia their largest defeat of the year (at that stage) in Cincinnati in August.

Despite collecting 19 wins in 2022, Philadelphia could not add one over Cincinnati.

Scouting Report: FC Cincinnati 

After several years of struggling in MLS play, Cincinnati started the week off celebrating their first ever MLS playoff win as they came back to defeat New York Red Bulls 2-1.

Pat Noonan has been able to introduce a style of play eerily similar to that of Philadelphia, with a preference to not have possession and defend well. In keeping true to their Philadelphia spirit, Cincinnati also gets to claim their first playoff win in club history against the Red Bulls, and in a match where they came from behind in keeping with the theme.

Looking to put the ball in the net for Cincy is star Brandon Vazquez, with the young forward scoring 18 goals during the season along with the playoff game winner last Saturday. Alongside him is the Brazilian Brenner who has notched 18 goals as well. Former Union man Sergio Santos could be an option off the bench, as local fans know his speed can be a game-changer in a tight match. Feeding the attack is Luciano Acosta, who notched 10 goals and 19 assists in the regular season.

Shielding the backline for Cincinnati are Junior Moreno and Obinna Nwobodo, who will look to win balls and bring physicality to the center of the field. Operating as wing-backs are Alvas Powell on the right and Alvaro Barreal, with both looking to be involved in attack. Ray Gaddis is a more defensive minded option off the bench, while Ronald Matarrita can be a more attack minded switch. In the center Cincinnati sports the trio of Geoff Cameron, Matt Miazga and Nick Hagglund, who have become a solid defensive line in the league. In goal is young keeper Roman Celentano, who kept five clean sheets on the year.

Injury Report: Out: Kenneth Vermeer, Beckham Sunderland

Suspension Report:  None

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

Another year of playoff action for this Philadelphia squad has finally come. The Union will be looking to avenge their Eastern Conference Final loss to NYC FC last year with another deep run.

Helping the Union cruise to an unbeaten home record in the regular season has been their three-headed monster in attack. Julian Carranza notched 14 goals and nine assists while Daniel Gazdag put together 22 goals and nine assists. Gazdag will be looking to prove he belonged in MVP finalist voting after not making the top five earlier this week. Mikael Uhre put together a productive year for a newcomer, scoring 13 goals and six assists.

Jack McGlynn and Jose Martinez will likely join Gazdag in the midfield, with McGlynn filling in for the injured Alejandro Bedoya. The club captain’s availability off the bench is in doubt with a nagging hip flexor injury, making his midfield spot an area of concern for the Union. Leon Flach will also start in the midfield as a more defensive presence, while Paxten Aaronson and Quinn Sullivan continue to be options off the bench.

The backline for Philadelphia has been putting together a historic season, giving up the fewest goals in an MLS campaign. A large part of the success is the center-back pairing of Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott, with Glesnes recently winning MLS Defender of the Year. All-Star Kai Wagner has been a threat in the Philadelphia attack as well as great defensively, collecting 15 assists from his left back position. Right back will likely feature Olivier Mbaizo, with Nathan Harriel an option off the bench. In net for Philadelphia is three-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake, who collected 15 clean sheets this season.

Injury Report: Questionable: Alejandro Bedoya

Suspension Report:  None

Key Matchup: Offense creating defense

Philadelphia and Cincinnati facing off is like two rams bashing heads. Two sides familiar with one another will lead to a low scoring affair. Whichever side is able to effectively press and turn the other over in an advanced position will have the best chance at a win.

Player to Watch: Mikael Uhre

It’s Uhre’s first taste of MLS Playoff action and he has been in-form the second half of the regular season. A good showing from the forward group will be needed for Philadelphia to advance.

Prediction:  Philadelphia Union 1-0 FC Cincinnati 

This game has extra time, maybe even penalties, written all over it. A defensive battle between teams that know each other well will be decided by a lone goal from Philly.

Philadelphia = -145
Cincinnati = +360
Draw = +285


  1. So curious to see if Jim has any tricks up his sleeve or if he runs it back with Jack at right midfield. Really concerned about Jack’s weak transition defense in this one.

  2. Looking at past results, Cincy has not kept a clean sheet on the road since May. Can’t see them keeping the Union off the score sheet tonight. The contest is going to depend on our backline and keeper being their usual stingy selves. I really hope your prediction of a 1-0 finish is wrong, Sean. I’m going to be in the stands, and I don’t think I’ll make it if the margin is that thin for 90. If this goes to pens, I’m going to need a stretcher.

  3. The thought of Mcglynn and Mbaizo getting back on defense, on the same side is a bit nervy. I’d rather see Sullivan start with Mbaizo to offer some speed there. If we go up a goal, we can bring in Harriel. If we need a goal and Cinci tries to park the bus, we can bring in Mcglynn and Pax for added creativity.

    Has Bedoya’s status been updated? He’s had nearly 2 weeks to rest, he may have skipped practice just as a precaution.

  4. All kinds of mistakes in this article-i’m excited too! only one I’m going to correct is that Gazdag scored 22 goals! (club record)

    • Brenner scored 18, and Lucho scored 10 with 19 assists.
      I don’t see a low scoring game. Cincy gives up far too many chances for the Union not to get at least 2 goals (unless they forget their finishing boots tonight).

    • Yeah was wondering, all the stats seemed to be about 1 or 2 off

    • Sean Griswold says:

      Sorry about that! Those should all be updated with the MLS stat sheets. Apparently ESPN doesn’t update their MLS stats too often

  5. Acosta was a HUGE pest against NYRB without any answers from the Pink Cows… He always has been. But as the true catalyst for FCC, he must be shut down in Chester.

    Mr. Martinez… DO NOT allow Acosta to get under your skin, and make his time in Chester just miserable! That shuts down Brenner and the rest.

    3-1, Union move on to host Montreal Oct 30 in Chester!

    GO L-A-G… bury LAFC and we host MLS Cup in Chester, Nov 5th.


  6. Hoping we come out of the gates attacking, with confidence that we will be able to net a couple goals in regular time if we get hit on a counter attack. Need absolute discipline from defenders so that if/when sergio santos comes on we have fouls to give. Big game for mbaizo in particular after last years errors. lets go!

  7. I am looking forward to this game tonight. I imagine the atmosphere at Subaru will keep us fans in the stands warm throughout the game despite temperatures in the 40s.
    I understand the caution that many people feel the Union need to take when facing FCC and I mean no disrespect to FCC as they have done a great job this year but … F that!
    The Union have to come into this game confident. They need to play like they SHOULD win this game. They should play this game as it is a stepping stone to where they want to get, winning MLS Cup. They can’t look past the opponent on the field but they should get on top of FCC and put it beyond doubt as soon as possible.
    I think Gazdag, Carranza, and Uhre unleash tonight and the defense reminds people we have 5 of the league’s best defensive players. I think McGlynn will make magic on the field if he has to start for Bedoya. Otherwise I can see Ale getting involved in the scoring if he starts. Again, I think FCC has some good players and will build on this season but I think this is a one-sided victory for the Union if they grab the opportunity. I see Gazdag and Carranza scoring in the first half and Uhre and either Gazdag or Bedoya scoring in the second to win it 4-0.
    Let’s see which Union team shows up tonight. I, for one, am excited to be there for the ride.

  8. The Union Jack says:

    News for folks heading to the game. President Biden is coming to town for a fundraiser. Air Force expected to land 5:30 and then motorcade travel to Old City.

  9. In his presser Curtin said Bedoya will not start and may be on the bench. So probably McGlynn, right? Will be there to see MLS Cup chase, take 2, commence!!

  10. OneManWolfpack says:

    The longer this game is scoreless the worse-off the Union are. Score early. Set the tone and never look back. And for the love of god when you get your chances… BURY THEM

  11. PaulContinuum22 says:

    Blake and Glesnes win MLS regular season awards!
    Young Player: Jesus Ferreira (Dallas)
    MVP, Newcomer, Comeback Player, MLS Works Humanitarian and Coach winners still to come

  12. Gruncle Bob says:

    This one is an okole squeezer for sure. Go U!

  13. It looks like this is the 4th time Timothy Ford has had the whistle for a Union game. Most important of those relative to tonight was the last time FCC came to Subaru Park for the 1-1 draw back in June. He also was there for the 0-2 Union win in New Jersey and the 2-0 home win against Charlotte back in April.

  14. Live at the game. This is brutal,between the horrendous ref and our out of sync kicking the ball downfield to nobody in particular. Man they gotta pull this out. 55th minute…

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