Match previews / Soccer on TV / Union

Match preview: New England Revolution vs Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Who: New England Revolution vs Philadelphia Union

What: MLS Cup Playoffs Round 1, Game 2

Where: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.

When: Wednesday, Nov. 8, 7:00 p.m.

Watch: Apple TV – MLS Season Pass, FS1, Fox Deportes

Whistle: REF: Drew Fischer; AR1: Ian McKay; AR2: Adam Garner; 4TH: Alex Chilowicz; VAR: Daniel Radford; AVAR: TJ Zablocki

Philadelphia Union look to put away rival New England Revolution and advance to the next round of the MLS Cup Playoffs tonight, traveling up to Gillette Stadium for the second match of the best-of-three series.

The Union hold a one-game lead in the series, having beaten the Revs in Chester last Saturday thanks to a flurry of first-half goals.

To advance, they’ll need to do something they’ve never done before in franchise history: win a playoff game on the road. And they’ll need to do it while coping with absences from key players, including two of the club’s star defenders.

Scouting Report: New England Revolution

This is do-or-die time for New England.

The Revs laid an egg in the first game, falling behind to the Union by three goals after just 37 minutes. A second-half consolation goal by Gustavo Bou only added gloss to the scoreline.

The health of star attacker Carles Gil will be key for New England. The trio of Bou, Gil, and Tomas Chancalay offers a potent attacking threat, but Gil was forced off after just 23 minutes in the first match after picking up an injury. Gil is back in training and expected to be available tonight.

Will interim manager Clint Peay make any changes to his starting group? The midfield three of Mark-Anthony Kaye, Matt Bolster, and Noel Buck performed ineffectively in the first match, so maybe there’s room for Nacho Gil, Tommy McNamara, or Emmanuel Boateng to get the start.

The real issue for New England is in goal, where inexperienced keeper Jacob Jackson has made serious errors in each of his last two starts. The other option is veteran backup Earl Edwards Jr., who’s started ten matches for the Revs this season.

The hosts are hard to beat at home in the playoffs, with 13 wins and seven draws in their 20 total home playoff matches.

Injury Report: OUT:  Dylan Borrero, Brandon Bye

Scouting Report: Philadelphia Union

The Union have the upper hand in the series, but there remains cause for concern.

Star left back Kai Wagner will be unavailable, as he’s suspended for three matches for using a racial slur against Revs attacker Bobby Wood during the last playoff game. He joins reigning Defender of the Year Jakob Glesnes, who’s recovering from sports hernia surgery, on the sidelines.

Meanwhile, the club’s leading scorer, Julian Carranza, has picked up a mild hamstring injury, and will be a game-time decision. With a possible Game Three waiting in the wings on Sunday afternoon, will Union manager Jim Curtin risk Carranza on the road tonight?

In defense, left back options include Nathan Harriel (with Olivier Mbaizo coming in at right back), Matt Real (little-used), and Leon Flach (not typically used at left back). Up top, Quinn Sullivan could pair with Mikael Uhre, while Chris Donovan and Tai Baribo are less likely options.

Philadelphia has struggled on the slick turf in New England in recent years, with just four wins in their last 15 visits to Gillette Stadium.

Injury Report: OUT: Jakob Glesnes; QUESTIONABLE: Julian Carranza

Key Matchup: Mentality

These teams are very tactically familiar with each other, as this is the third consecutive meeting between them. At this stage, what might separate them is the desire to get a result. Can the Union dig in against a backs-to-the-wall Revs side and get a result, or will they be comfortable setting up a Game Three at home?

Player to Watch: Mikael Uhre

The DP striker had a down year, but he got on the scoresheet in the first match against the Revs, and his running suits the speedy surface. If Carranza is out, he’ll be expected to carry the scoring burden.

Prediction: Philadelphia 0-1 New England

Expect a tight affair between these two familiar sides, but Philly’s absences in the back leave them vulnerable.


  1. The Union should not even try to win tonight. Their best chance to win the cup involves getting Wagner back as soon as possible and that means against Orlando/Columbus/Atlanta in the conference finals rather than waiting until MLS Cup.
    Their best strategy is to start the 11 lowest ranked players on their squad and tell the players to try and injure as many New England players as possible. If the games ends 11 on 5 due to 6 red cards, then fine. Is this morally reprehensible? Absolutely. But the conditions setup by the combination of the stupid playoff format and the terms of Wagner’s suspension make it the strategically optimal thing to do.

    • I mean, if the Union obviously went out and attempted to injure everyone on the Revs, Jim Curtin would be suspended for a year. So I’m not sure it’s actually strategically optimal.
      I can see a case for resting Carranza if he’s 50-50 for a game on turf, though.

      • please; he is trying to be sarcastic, and he is! Peter dont be so righteous

      • I’m just gaming it out, Santo, no righteousness intended.

      • As I said, setting out to injure players is morally reprehensible and Curtin is not that type of person.
        But as far as trying to win the game, I really do think it is optimal to make sure they don’t win due to the terms of Wagner’s suspension. It really should have been either specifically through the conference semis or specifically through the conference finals (with a provision to tack on a game to a future MLS season he may play for each round the Union don’t advance to where he would have been suspended)
        So not only shouldn’t Carranza play, neither should Bedoya (another game 4 days later), nor Martinez (a yellow tonight followed by a yellow on Sunday would mean a suspension). Ideally I would also rest Blake given some of the knocks he has taken this season along with one or two others.
        Remember, we learned 2 years ago that MLS doesn’t care if teams are able to field their top lineups for playoff games. So the Union should remember that the ultimate goal is to give themselves the best chance to win the cup, not just the best chance to advance through this series.

      • I agree with Pete. Obvious deliberate attempts to injure would provoke a seismic reaction from the league.
        And in game it would risk and provoke deliberate attempts at counter-injury.
        Part of the Wood controversy is that he retaliated against Gazdag late in the first half for having scored the first goal against New England.
        Younger folk do not remember the realities of bean ball wars in the majors before helmets and the current rules.
        If a player broke the code, the next guy up from his team was going to get drilled. If the violation was severe, the ball would be behind his shoulders, where his head would be as he tried to fall away.

    • I’m not going to rehash our back and forth from the other post… but I will say this – I hate this playoff format as much as you do Andy.


      But the best way to win a best of 3 series is to win in 2 games. Going to game three means a team (either one) can play for PKs in game 3. NE could keep 11 behind the ball and play for PKs. And after last season’s final, I’d rather avoid PKs.


      Don’t start injured players. But putting less than the best 11 (available) out there is asking the soccer gods to frown on you in game in 3. Play your best team and try to win in 2.


      Finally, once again, I agree with you that this format stinks. It is an abomination.

      • Oct, the situation has changed a bit. Even if the best way to win this series is to win tonight, the best way to win the cup is to get Wagner back as early as possible. If they advance tonight, they can’t get him back until the MLS cup final. If they have to play Sunday, they would get him back for the conference final.
        Would you rather play an extra home game against New England Sunday? Or would you rather have to play in Orlando or Columbus (or home against Atlanta) with Wagner on the field?
        At this point I’d like to see them maximize their chances for DECinPHL

      • I have less faith in a Game 3 than you do. I see NE playing for PKs and the U struggling in PKs. Call it PTSD from last year.


        With respect to the suspension – regardless of winning in 2 or 3, Wagner will not be back for a semi against Cincinnati. I’m more worried about a semi against Cincinnati than any conference final against Orlando.


        I still can’t fathom that you would prefer the Union lose in game 2 – when anything could happen in a game 3 – even if it is to get Wagner back for the conference final.


        OCTinPHL is not October in PHL – but I do like your DECinPHL. 😉

      • I realize there is risk in going to game 3, although the current Union have some positive experience at PK’s winning 2 of 3 times already this year with both wins coming at home in the League’s Cup.
        But for me I’d really hate it if they win tonight, somehow beat Cincinnati, and then lose a close game in Orlando or Columbus without Wagner where they might have won with him had they lost tonight.

      • Jose blanco says:

        Oct.. I agree! U gotta wrap it up in game 2. Andy, you’re thinking way ahead when we aren’t even out of this series yet. You want to throw this game with taking the chance and crossing our fingers that we win the third all to get Kai back in the semis rather than the finals. None of this matters if we don’t get past this series first. Also, Kai’s absence doesn’t make or break this team. It takes 11 players to win a game, not 1. He’s not Messi coming into Miami. Martinez would be a bigger loss for me in terms of the team as a whole. We just need to win tonight and wrap this series up.

      • @Jose – agree Martinez is more important (defensively) than Wagner.

      • And I wouldn’t play Martinez tonight (although Curtin is). If he gets a yellow tonight, he is one away from suspension and we’ve all seen how that goes with him having 3 suspensions for card accumulation this season.

  2. We’ll get a sense what sort of mental state the Union have been left in following the Kai suspension, Bedoya’s imminent quasi-forced departure and the injured Glesnes. Do they rally around one-last go for the captain? Or is all the gas out of the tank after two long and brutal seasons in which nearly every game that could be played was played.

    I’m not expecting any real tactical shifts. We don’t have the center backs for a 3-5-2. Maybe Flach gets the nod at left back. I expect the diamond to remain the same and hope Sullivan gets the start over Donovan at the top.

    While my enthusiasm for this team – frankly this league – has been put to the test, I’m still clinging to a little bit of hope that the boys have a go and get to the next round. Can’t help it.

    • My enthusiasm for the league is long gone (and that has nothing to do with the suspension beyond the fact that the terms of it encourages the Union to lose tonight).
      The only reason I have any use for the league is because of my support for the Union. If I was flipping channels and noticed a random Atlanta-Miami (Florida) or Dallas-San Jose game or the like, I would be a lot more likely to stop and watch if it was an NHL game compared with an MLS game.

      • It still has its moments. I watched the ends of the Red Bull – Cinci match that ended in pens and the Whitecaps – LA match in which the ref hockey checked a Whitecaps player that resulted in a goal that was eventually chalked off for offside and resulted in an explosion of violent gestures from the Whitecaps coach that saw him ejected from the grounds. Not gonna lie. It was entertaining.

        Overall, I enjoy the sport too much not to watch. I just wish MLS would leave the damn thing alone a little bit. I really hope this best of three series gets binned. It’s terrible.

      • Andy, surely, you’ll be watching the latest Messi money grab, er I mean friendly between NYFC and Miami? /s

      • Eric, I was thinking about it, but then realized I’ve never watched grass try to grow at night so I think I’ll go outside and do that instead.

      • Meanwhile USL sign a CBS contract which is very helpful. “I’m just waiting on a friend…”

      • Another reason why MLS sucks. Game advertised as 7pm starting at 7:25. We rushed home from dinner to make sure to get home in time and now we have to sit around and listen to Tony Crapola.

  3. I have no confidence they will win tonight regardless of any tactics Curtin uses, legit tactics not foul play I mean. Always up for a lucky break but I am planning to be at the last home game of the season on Sunday to say goodbye to Ali.

    In order to get Kai back they have to get by Cincinnati away and that ain’t happening, so no use talking about whether we get Orlando in the finals. Anything can happen ofc, but it is not likely.

    • Cincinnati will be shorthanded too with Miazga losing his shit worse than Wagner. And they will be 3 weeks between games and we saw how well that worked for the Union in 2020. So I don’t think a win there is completely out of the question.

      • You have a point there, but that doesn’t have as much impact on them. Missing Acosta for example would be major for FCC.

    • Cincy is also without their third Starting centerback due to a season ending injury.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *