Match previews / Union

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs Columbus Crew SC

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: Philadelphia Union vs. Columbus Crew SC

What: MLS Regular Season

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, Pennsylvania

When: Saturday, February 25th, 7:30pm

Watch: Apple TV

Whistle: Ref: Lukasz Szpala; Assistant Refs: Adam Wienckowski, Diego Blas; 4th Official: Ian Mckay; VAR: Kevin Stott

The start of the 2023 MLS regular season, and the beginning of Apple’s reign over MLS broadcasting rights, is finally here. The Eastern Conference Champions Philadelphia Union will play host to Columbus Crew SC, who are hoping a new coach and some new faces lead to a brighter future in 2023. Philadelphia will be looking toward a repeat of last season, with hopes of a better ending than in Los Angeles last November.

Scouting report: Columbus Crew SC 

It’s been a big offseason in Columbus, which started with the Crew relieving Caleb Porter of his coaching duties and prying Wilfried Nancy from Montreal as their new head coach. Nancy, who led Montreal to a second place finish in the Eastern Conference last season, wasted no time turning over the Crew roster. Captain Jonathan Mensah was sent packing to San Jose, while midfielder Artur was also traded away to the Houston Dynamo. Attacking left back Pedro Santos also left the team, signing with D.C. United in free agency. Another departure on the left attacking side was Derrick Etienne Jr left for Atlanta United.

To replace all the departures, Columbus did add some pieces into their depth, with Christian Ramirez joining from the Scottish Premier League and Jimmy Medranda filling Pedro Santos’ hole in the starting XI as a left wingback.

Despite some key departures, Columbus has a very strong attacking group, consisting of MVP candidate Lucas Zelarayan and striker Cucho Hernandez. Both players are a threat to score, especially on the counter with Zelarayan looking to feed Hernandez in behind. Zelarayan is also a threat from set pieces just outside the box.

In midfield, longtime MLS veteran Darlington Nagbe will be running the center for the Crew, along with Aidan Morris. Both will look to keep possession and slow the game down as much as possible, if a counter attack isn’t possible. Nagbe has been one of the best passers in MLS for quite a while, but may be hampered by age as he adds another season to his belt. On the left will be the newcomer Medranda, who will look to get into space and swing crosses in while covering ground.

In defense is a pairing of three with Josh Williams on the left, Philip Quinton in the center and Milos Degenek on the right. In goal for the Crew will be Evan Bush, he will filling in for usual starter Eloy Room, who is unavailable for the match.

Injury report: Eloy Room – Out

Suspension report:  None

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

The Philadelphia Union are looking to get past their bitter ending to the 2022 season and continue their 11 game unbeaten streak at Subaru Park. The Union will take solace in that their entire starting lineup is returning, with several players now having a year of familiarity with the squad under their belt. Despite their returning starters, the Union did lose some important depth players. Third striker Cory Burke left in Free Agency for the New York Red Bulls and backup goalkeeper Matt Freese was traded to NYCFC. Homegrown midfielder Paxten Aaronson was transferred to Eintract Frankfurt early in the offseason as well.

Philadelphia was able to replace that depth in places, as the team traded for midfielder Andres Perea, striker Joaquin Torres and defender Damian Lowe.

The Union also bring back their stellar defensive line as Defender of the Year Jakob Glesnes and his centerback partner Jack Elliott. All-star left back Kai Wagner also returns along with right back Olivier Mbaizo. Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake also returns in goal.

The Union also return their midfield diamond, with Alejandro Bedoya, Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, Jack McGlynn and Daniel Gazdag all returning to the side. Perea, Quinn Sullivan and Jesus Bueno will provide depth in the midfield.

Up top is the lethal combination of Julian Carranza and Mikael Uhre, who powered the Union through the playoffs with help from Gazdag. Torres will assume the third striker role, as Chris Donovan and new homegrown Nelson Pierre will provide depth.

Injury report: None

Suspension report:  None

Key matchup: Fitness

The first game of the year is always a tough one to get through. Whoever is able to spread the field and keep their fitness and endurance throughout the game will end up dictating possession and pace.

Player to watch: Alejandro Bedoya

Bedoya missed out on bringing an MLS Cup to Philly last season as he battled injuries late in the playoffs. Will Bedoya be able to go back to the fountain of youth and run the Union midfield from his shuttler position?

Prediction:  Philadelphia Union 1-0 Columbus Crew SC

Philadelphia keeps their home beaten streak going in the new season with a lone goal from Julian Carranza.

Philadelphia = -145
Columbus = +350
Draw = +285


  1. Damn! Saw this show up in my feed, and I was like, yes! This is always one of my favorite reads/ pre-game prep/ hype-train / etc rituals!!

  2. One small correction to start before my comments. It’s an 11 game winning streak at home. Their unbeaten streak is 19 going back to the COVID game in 2021.
    Last year the Union were a Room mistake away from playing 2 scoreless draws against Columbus. But it was less than a week after the second one where the floodgates opened with the 7-0 win against DC. I’m hoping that this year the 1-0 prediction is conservative, given that the Union will have basically the same squad as last year whereas Columubus seems like a brand new team. So I’m thinking it will be a comfortable 3-0 win.

  3. It is so good to see these articles back. It feels like it has been too long since the last one. Thanks for bringing them back.
    I agree that the Union look to be in good position to grab three points against the Crew. I think the continuity on the Union’s side, plus playing at home will be huge for the Union. I really like the idea of starting off the season with a celebration at Subaru Park.
    My prediction is a 3-0 Union victory. I think Gazdag and Uhre score in the first half and Carranza gets one in the second. C’mon, the U!

  4. It is great to start another season with all of you again, but I swear if they show Bale at any point of this broadcast, I’m going to lose it.

    • If you haven’t read the Q&A in The Athletic with Jim, it sounds like he agrees with you.
      “ Soccer gods do exist because Bale scores that goal. he scores against the USA (at the World Cup), and then I’m sitting here in the first week of preseason in our Clearwater hotel and I have to watch Gareth Bale golf. Like, he’s golfing! This m———– is just rubbing it in and he’s a hell of a golfer. I’d probably love to hang out with him, but I’ll hate his guts for the rest of my life. That’s the beauty of the sport, you know?”

  5. The Union Jack says:

    Great to have the PSP crew back. Always liked reading your articles and the insightful comments that accompany them. This is a great web page. Keep up the freat work.

    Looking forward to a tremendous season with the Union and lifting a couple of trophies.

  6. Crew's Control says:

    Only twice in their history, I believe, have they ever won an opener.

    Traditionally slow starters….I still expect a big game from Uhre tonight.

    Nancy is an excellent tactician, but maybe they jump on the newbies and sneak a 2-0 win out.

  7. Bummer that Room is out. He’s an offensive force for the U.

  8. PaulContinuum22 says:

    No. Come. From. Ahead. Loss. That’s not too much to ask, is it? 🙂

  9. Will someone please help an old fart do whatever I need to to watch this team play this season!?!?!

    I’m not an apple guy…what the he// do I need to do?

    • FCdelcofella says:

      Just like everything else in 2023…. Open your wallet! That’s what it’s all about. Forget about the kids and low income families in SE PA that’ll never watch this team. Shame. Mls sold itself to the 1%ers.

  10. Theres only one more free game scheduled (next week) but you have to sign up for apple tv (just search for “mls season pass”, or “apple tv” on google (theres also an easy link on the mls website) and click on sign up. You can watch the next game for free after signing up but after that you will have to pay $15 a month or $99 for the year. Bastards! I tried to watch the free broadcast today and it lagged so much it was unwatchable. Only slightly redeeming thing is that the games will be broadcast on 97.5 radio. ( on the 97.5 fanatic app for free if there is a flyers or sixers game at the same time)

    • They’ve only announced which games are free through the March 18th weekend. There will be more free games in future weeks.

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