Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs. Queretaro

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: Philadelphia Union vs. Queretaro

What: 2023 Leagues Cup quarterfinals

Where: Subaru Park, Chester, Pennsylvania

When: Friday, August 11 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern

Watch: Apple TV – MLS Season Pass

Whistle: Not available at the time of writing

Philadelphia Union continue to advance in the knockout stage of the 2023 Leagues Cup tournament. They will host a third consecutive familiar opponent, Queretaro. In their last meeting just two weeks ago, the Boys in Blue put the Roosters to the sword 5-1 courtesy of a Daniel Gazdag hat trick (two penalty kicks), Nathan Harriel’s other Leagues Cup headed goal, and a Jack McGlynn late strike.

Should the favored Union overcome the clear pitfall of the obvious trap game, they would play the winner of the quarterfinal between Charlotte FC and Inter Messi Miami that will be played tonight in Ft. Lauderdale.

Of course, that illustrates the trap perfectly.

Scouting Report: Queretaro

If you look beneath the surface, it is not surprising that Queretaro are one of the two Mexican sides to survive to the quarters. They finished tenth of 18 in the 2023 Clausura, after having survived a horrible 2022 calendar year. They are succeeding in the face of deep ownership uncertainty. Currently they are under temporary ownership that may devolve into management by the league if no permanent new owner(s) emerges in a timely way.

But the off-field adversity seems to have rallied the team, as did getting shellacked in their opening match by Philly.

They execute an organized defense with dedication and have managed to get a goal somehow in each of their last three matches. They play a 4-4-2. At times their defenders move forward aggressively, as Jaime Gomez did against New England in the round of 16 and Raul Sandoval as well in the group stage against Tijuana. They won a penalty shootout after a 1-1 draw to squeak past the Revs and into the quarterfinals.

Although Queretaro’s 2022 calendar point total was used to seed them into the tournament, it undersells them. The Union and its fans should not expect an easy match.

Scouting Report: Philadelphia Union
"I think [this game] will be too quick," manager Jim Curtin said in his prematch press conference.

Daniel Gazdag is almost certain to miss the match with a grade 1 knee sprain picked up against New York Red Bulls. Even with him, the Union have recently been in a scoring slump. On the current roster there is no obvious understudy for his particular skill set and contribution. Joaquin Torres has consistently fizzled. Tai Baribo is in country and practicing but has the same level of familiarity with the manager’s requirements that Gazdag himself had two Aprils ago when he first arrived. On Tuesday night, Mikael Uhre replaced Gazdag, who had started as more of a second striker than his usual No. 10 role.

Another concern is the wear and tear of the season on the starting group. “Queretaro Two” will be the 35th match of the season, and the Union will be playing on the third day following their last match – not the fourth because of the weather postponement this past Monday.

The Mexicans have only six matches under their belts, not the Union’s 35. It is doubtful that they will pressure the Union’s defenders as effectively as did Red Bull Tuesday because they are not at three-quarter season game fitness. But their style is also to come hard after their opponents. And they know they showed badly their first time in Chester.

While without Alejandro Bedoya — who remains sidelined — the Union still plays the narrow diamond effectively, but play it better with their captain. And Gazdag has been crucial to Union attempts to play possession through the middle into the offensive third and the box.

The 3-4-1-2 produced the first result against Queretaro. Likely the Union will start the match that way, saving adaptations for need as it develops. Nathan Harriel has probably earned the start at the right wing back. Now that Leon Flach is available again, the question in the midfield lies between McGlynn and Bueno, which trio will better counter the Mexicans’ quartet. And it may be time to give Julian Carranza the first 60 minutes off, starting Sullivan next to Uhre up top.

Matchups to Watch: Kai Wagner and Nathan Harriel versus Queretaro’s outside backs.

Reading Mexican intentions will be the key. Wagner’s soccer IQ is reliably adaptable. Harriel’s adaptability to Queretaro chaos is probably better than Olivier Mbaizo’s, which is why we think he will get the nod. And Mbaizo will be an effective injection of pace and offense off the bench later on.

Player to Watch: Damion Lowe

The execution speeds of Lowe’s techniques should not be placed as heavily under pressure as they were against Red Bull. He should be able to play a greater role starting the attack from deep. Without Gazdag the Union will need even more from him to hit the roosters on the counter.

Prediction: Philadelphia 2-1 over Queretaro

Home field will turn the tide in a close, hard-fought contest. And Andre Blake’s shot-stopping quickness will set the stage.


  1. Here are the officials:
    Referee:Mario Escobar
    Ast. Referee 1:Luis Aroldo Ventura
    Ast. Referee 2:Humberto Panjoj
    Fourth official:Julio Luna
    VAR:Benjamin Pineda
    Ast. VAR:Ricardo Montero

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Just looked up Escobar on Wikipedia and he is from Guatemala. He officiated both the 2019 Gold Cup final and the 2020 CCL final. (Unfortunately, the Mexican team won both those games…hopefully the US is due for a win.)

  2. It’s time to stop calling the team from Ft. Lauderdale Inter Messi Miami and just call them Messi because that’s pretty much all they are based on what I can tell from the league’s website. Actually, are there any players left in the league besides Messi?
    One reason a lot of the Mexican teams haven’t been showing as well as expected may have to do that the tournament doesn’t mean much to them. 6 of their top clubs have already qualified for Champions Cup so the only thing teams like Monterrey are playing for is a bye in the round of 32. For a team like Queretaro, though, this is their only chance to qualify. So expect them to come out tough tonight.

    • I agree, tonight may be tough. I watched Queretaro against the Revs, the were the better side.

      Messi is not Miami’s entire team. For me, Busquets is equal or netter at his position as Messi is at his. He is the personification of an effective, graceful midfielder, even at his age.

  3. Would like to see the Union give McGlynn a look at playing #10 tonight. He is technical, calm and has excellent vision.

  4. PhilliBear1872 says:

    Beer in hand ready for the Philly game tonight.
    Will get another few in before kick off, what’s the predictions for the game tonight?

    Come on Philly

  5. Murphthesurf says:

    C’mon the U!
    Play smart, no unnecessary yellow cards tonight, will need everyone to beat Messi and Company!
    ( then possible revenge against LAFC)

  6. santo bevacqua says:

    it will take lots of football skill,,, ditch the soccer skill it does not exist…beware—– the globe plays football the mls plays soccer. Go union

  7. Andy Muenz says:

    When they said knockout game someone took them seriously and knocked out the power at Subaru Park. Indefinite delay until kickoff. (This never happened when it was PPL Park or Talen Energy Stadium.)

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