Match previews

Match preview: New York City FC vs Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: New York City FC vs Philadelphia Union

What: MLS Regular Season Matchday 15

Where: Citi Field Stadium, New York, NY

When: Saturday, May 27, 7:30 p.m. (Kick-off 7:39 p.m.)

Watch: Apple TV MLS Season Pass

Whistle: REF: Guido Gonzales Jr, AR1: Jose Da Silva, AR2: Gianni Facchini, 4TH: Adam Kilpatrick, VAR: Kevin Stott, AVAR: Tom Supple

The Union might play another 100 years and never get over their last loss against New York City FC.

The Pigeons haven’t beaten a full strength Union in years, but beat 18% strength Union in the 2021 Eastern Conference Finals. Since then, it’s been all Doop, all the time. Outside of this fixture, the hosts have lost four of their last five in the league, but are still unbeaten in 10 at home.

Lies, darned lies and statistics, as it were.

Scouting report: New York City FC

Former talisman Taty Castellanos has been spending his time ripping through the Spanish first division. The MiniCityzens did not replace the striker in the offseason however and find themselves with a gaping hole in their attack as a result.

Last time out, a draw in Orlando against the Lions, they trotted out a 4-2-3-1. Against Cincinnati the week before, a 3-4-2-1. When FC Dallas came to town a few weeks prior to that, it was a 4-3-3. That they’ll be home against a Union side that’s fiddled with its own brand of formational changes though, expect the Pigeons to lean on what makes them good: a 4-2-3-1, where triangles abound and counterattacks, on a different baseball field than their regular one, are just a quick ball and a few steps away.

Injury report: Pelligrini (Questionable), Morales (OUT)

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

The Union are still predictable in a lot of ways: very right-sided, situationally pressing, and opportunistic on the counter.

What’s changed however is how they achieve those things, moving from a 4-4-2 to variations on odd-numbered back and midfield lines. Though their passing charts don’t look all that different given the changes (and as Alejandro Bedoya once said, “formations don’t matter”), the location of their passing triangles and diagonal runs has changed for opponents – and changed what’s required of them to prepare for the Boys in Blue.

Another thing that hasn’t changed year over year is the amount of winning the visitors have been doing: unbeaten for a month in league play and climbing the standings.

Injury report: Bedoya (OUT), McGlynn (OUT), Sullivan (OUT), Craig (OUT)

Match up to watch: Jose Martinez vs Everybody

Though his antagonist is gone (City midfielder Maxi Morales, off to the Argentine league), City know that the Union’s heart lies deep in their midfield – from whence emotions flow. However, with the stoic Leon Flach to protect him, Martinez has channeled his passions and found his groove of late. If City can pester him enough, and his only MLS red card came against this same team, they might be able to shake him.

Then again, they might just unlock The Warlock.

Players to watch: Mikael Uhre

Uhre has played well lately, but doesn’t have a goal to show for his efforts recently. Baseball fields are small though and counterattacking teams can slip behind into dangerous spots more quickly as a result.

Or, precisely what Uhre was brought here to do.

Prediction: New York City FC 0 – 2 Philadelphia Union

City might be unbeaten at home in 10 matches, but this isn’t really a home game for them: it’s at Citi Field, where the Mets play. That, and they don’t have a striker per se while the Union’s backline still has multiple Best XI players on it – plus three attacking options already halfway to double-digit goals.

It’ll be a slog, but the Union keep their streak going, putting more distance between themselves and their rivals in the standings.


  1. Thanks for the background and overview. I wish McGlynn was available for this game. His distribution on the smaller field would be so helpful. We’ll have to survive with Martinez, Elliott, and Glesnes to find those long passes.
    I think the Union will shift back to their 4-4-2 to adapt to the smaller field. I’m hoping for more continued goal scoring and hope for a 3-1 Union victory as they find Uhre behind the NYCFC back line early which will make room for Gazdag and Bedoya to get a few.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      I’m not sure the Union switch formation. Once something seems to be working, Jim doesn’t like change.
      Now I’m going to sound contrary for the sake of it, but the situation calls for Flach not McGlynn. The tight confines of the pitch mean Jack would have far less time to pick up his head and find a sweet pass. It’s not his strength. On the flip side, turnovers turn into danger much faster so Flach’s defensive pressure is a blessing in attack as much as protection.

  2. This is the Union’s first trip to Citi Field. Will be interested to see how Curtin & co. respond in the smaller space. They’ve had decent results on the road at Yankee Stadium in recent years — a win last year and a draw at the end of 2021.
    With width not as valuable, do you go back to a four-man back line, or do you stick with the five at the back that’s been defensively stingy? Or, thinking of it from a personnel perspective, would you rather start Damion Lowe or one of Joaquin Torres, Andres Perea, Matt Real, or Jesus Bueno?
    Something I’m watching is that the Union have picked up quite a few injuries in the first part of the season — most are muscular, in the 2-3 week range. They largely avoided those kinds of absences from key players in ’20, ’21, and ’22.

  3. Are Citi Field dimensions as narrow as Yankee Stadium?
    Either way, play that 3-5-2 no matter what. Love the idea of Wagner and MBiazo down the wings, not having to worry about defense with Flach, Martinez. Glenes, Elliott, Lowe worried about defense.
    Urhe is ready to break out. I can feel it. The way he shields the ball and muscles his way to get off a shot…. perfect against the freakin’ pigeons. Destroy them like Randy Johnson’s fastball.


  4. NYCFC are undefeated at Citi Field. This will be a tough game for the Union. I could see them go back to the 4-4-2 given the congested week. Then go back to the 3-5-2 for Wednesday against Charlotte.

  5. Sucks they try to charge to watch on TV. I watched every game the last few years on Ch. 17. Now I think I have seen one game all year. Greed took over. Push real fans away from a sport that is still growing in the US. I don’t even pay to watch The Eagles!!!Thanks MLS for ruining a good thing. Hope you enjoy losing fans!

    • Do you pay for cable TV?
      Seriously…Season Pass costs less than what it costs to go to ONE Union game at Subaru Park with a guest.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Yeah, but Apple TV coverage is trash. It would be one thing if somehow it was a step up or even the same coverage as PHL17, but it is basically like jumping off a cliff in comparison.

      • I miss JP.

  6. Season Pass costs less than attending one game…. The Union (and MLS) still need maximum exposure to grow the game in the USA and many can not fit a poor product like Apple TV into their household budget.I pay for the Premier League on Peacock but that is a higher quality entertainment that is still on regular cable TV. The League badly misjudged with this move(owners’$$ grab?) and needs to find a middle ground to sustain growth in casual fan(and soccer diehards)interest. FYI: Founding Member in 2010.

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