Match previews / Union

Match preview: Nashville SC vs Philadelphia Union

Photo: Stephen Speer

Who: Nashville SC vs Philadelphia Union

What: MLS Regular Season

Where: GEODIS Park

When: Wednesday, July 12, 8:30 PM

Watch: Apple TV MLS Season Pass

Whistle: TBA

After looking like a juggernaut getting up to speed, two consecutive away defeats have slowed Philadelphia Union down significantly. Injury to Kai Wagner and the loss of Andre Blake to international duty have contributed to the Union’s problems, but those absences don’t excuse the performances of the remaining players. The offense has been passive and the defense lacking intensity and focus.

Now facing a formidable Nashville SC, in a third-straight game away from home, the Union are confronting the possibility of their first three-game losing streak since 2018.

Scouting report: Nashville SC

For all the woes betiding the Union these past two games, they are not the only team scuffling a bit—Nashville is just 1–3–0 in their last four games, including losses to Columbus, Montreal, and Chicago. The common denominator among all those games was they were away from home. Nashville beat DC United, 2–0, the last time they lined up at GEODIS Park.

The story of Nashville is Hany Mukhtar. Since arriving in MLS, Mikael Uhre’s former Brondby teammate has emerged as the class player in the league. Already an MVP and possibly snubbed for a second award, Mukhtar is what makes Nashville successful. Without him, the team is stout defensively but lacking any bite. With him, they are always just a magic moment away from something spectacular.

Though Mukhtar started the season in scintillating form, he has really cooled off. He hasn’t scored since his hat trick against St. Louis SC on June 17, though he did assist one of Randall Leal’s goals against DC. If Mukhtar stays quiet, the Union’s chances of grabbing a point or three go up by a lot. If he’s on form, the Union will be struggling, much like they did against Thiago Almada and Riqui Puig.

Injury report: OUT—Nick DePuy (lower body injury), Anibal Godoy (international duty)

Scouting report: Philadelphia Union

While the Union’s offense has been below par, it simply must be said: Joe Bendik has cost the team points these past two games. The team’s defensive structure is predicated on the goalkeeper being able to save a reasonable number of shots. Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott are both excellent at putting out fires, but they can’t prevent or block every shot. The keeper needs to pick up some slack, or else the entire team is pulled back closer to its own goal.

Thankfully, defensive stalwart Kai Wagner looks set to return from injury and play in Tennessee. While neither Nate Harriel nor Matt Real did terribly filling in for the German, it’s become clear how much the team relies on his positioning and passing, to say nothing of his service from wide positions, to help the offense move down the field. Without him, the team has looked devoid of ideas with the ball, and Daniel Gazdag hasn’t been involved enough.

Similarly, it is probably not a coincidence that Leon Flach started while Wagner was out. Jim Curtin clearly feels the team needs defensive presence on the left side without Wagner. With Wagner returned, perhaps Jack McGlynn will play from opening kick, which should also help grease the offensive wheels.

Injury report: OUT—Andre Blake (international duty), Damion Lowe (international duty)

Matchup to watch: Hany Mukhtar vs Jose Martinez

El Brujo did not manage to win his battle against either of the miniature midfield maestros, Almada and Puig. Mukhtar presents a different sort of challenge. If Martinez is able to better combat what Mukhtar is trying to do, the Union will have a chance to get something from the game.

Player to watch: Joe Bendik

If Joe Bendik can make saves at even a league-average rate, the Union will probably be fine. Unfortunately, Bendik hasn’t been able to do that for a couple of years, at least. Barring an unexpected improvement in his play, the Union are playing with a handicap. And no, Holden Trent is not going to start. Beyond the fact that he is a rookie with no MLS minutes to his name, he’s also recovering from a broken finger. It’s just not his time yet.

Prediction: Nashville 1–0 Philadelphia Union

There are lots of ways that the Union could get a win. But until the team shows they have woken back up, offensively, it would be folly to predict one. And, given the goalkeeping situation, it seems inevitable they will give up one goal, at least.


  1. Here’s the officiating group.
    REF: Sergii Boiko
    AR1: Corey Rockwell
    AR2: Walt Heatherly
    4TH: Joshua Encarnacion
    VAR: Daniel Radford
    AVAR: Eric Weisbrod
    Also worth noting that both Bedoya and Martinez are a yellow card away from a suspension.

  2. DOOP or Poop?

  3. Since Jim refuses to give other goalies a try, despite the obvious, does anyone really believe Joe Bendik will stop Muktar or losing tonight?

    Seriously stupid and counterproductive to developing a real back up for Blake… just like always.

    Don’t play the #1 Draft Pick, after not drafting anyone for how many years, and make our future about the past, and honoring a formally great MLS goalkeeper with the start after his past 2 performances?

    This is insanity. We are doing the same thing for years, since Blake arrived, and then trade the only real backup (Freese) we developed for 14 years?


    • Andy Muenz says:

      Do you really want to start a rookie keeper if he’s still recovering from a broken finger?

      • Well, yes. Blake wore a club once. Bandage it up and let’s go.

        Or how ’bout Rick?

        There is no one else?

        And I’m the only to notice it?


      • Andy Muenz says:

        I don’t think Rick has a first team contract.
        There’s a big difference between Blake playing through injury and a rookie to make his first start under similar circumstances.

      • Trent is on the bench, broken finger and all?

        So if Bendik is injured he’d have to play…. but not start?

        Not sure I understand, but it’s late.

  4. And I bet they wear those GDamm SoCal Surfer kit too!

    Thank God Unkle is NOT the ref tonight.

  5. Oh yeah…. A buddy of mine lives in Stuttgart… and the local rumors are that’s where Kai will end up… or NOT. They are just balking at the price.

    I believe Kai’s hometown is near Stuttgart, and we have heard no other rumors, other than Leeds or Zagreb, which were last year at this time, when Marsh was still coach at Leeds and they weren’t relegated yet.

    Either he wants to start to raise his kids at home, or he’ll stay a few more years and be our Captain?



  6. Pay whatever it takes to keep Wagner. Start anyone in goal other than Bendik. Curtin just got a 3 year extension despite losing every cup final the team has ever been in, so I think we’re stuck with him.

  7. Evildunk99 says:

    I’d actually be okay if Brujo and Bedoya got yellows to reset the slate for the final third of the season.
    Come on Bendik, just make one save of importance. Mukhtar is going to try one of those curlers from the corner of the box… please just be ready for it!
    Need to get Gazdag going again. Find a way to get him touches, I think he likes when McGlynn is on the field. They seem to work combos together more frequently.
    If no brain farts from Glesnes and Elliot, I think we can get a point, 1-1.

  8. Ya know what?

    All this agony… but at well past the middle of the season, maybe we’re just NOT that good.

    But more likely and plausible is the league figured out Gazdag, and only the 3-5-2 staved off more ‘figuring us out’ for a while, but they did.

    Missing Blake is a distraction when really Tanner put Bendik in this position, without any options available IF this former All Star goalie had nothing left…. and sorry everyone, he doesn’t. He looks like a deer in the headlights if you really watch him… and if we have no other options but to use him… Shame on us.

  9. Start Brooks Thompson! He’s great, Bendik has no confidence, and Hold’em is hurt. Give the kid a chance!

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