Match previews

Match preview: Philadelphia Union vs Charlotte FC

Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Union

Who: Philadelphia Union vs Charlotte FC

What: MLS regular season match

Where: Subaru Park

When: 7:30 pm Saturday, June 22nd

Watch: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+/ Listen in on 97.5 FM


REF: Alexis Da Silva

AR1: Adam Wienckowski

AR2: Tyler Wyrostek

4TH: Lukasz Szpala

VAR: Fotis Bazakos

AVAR: Kevin Lock


Deja Vu. It’s a rematch from about a month ago. On May 25th, the Philadelphia Union and Charlotte FC played out a 0-0 draw. Since then, Charlotte has gone 2W-1L-1D, climbing up to 5th in the East with 21 goals scored and only 20 allowed. They most recently gained back-to-back wins against Atlanta and DC and tied Orlando after going down a man. 

Conversely, the Union has gone 2D-2L and suffered consecutive losses, with each winner coming in stoppage time. They sit at 10th in the East, just outside the playoff picture, with 31 goals for and 29 allowed. The Union will face an uphill battle due to injuries and international duty, whereas Charlotte will field a relatively full-strength side.


Scouting Report: Charlotte FC

Not much has changed for either team since they recently played one another. It appears the Charlotte offense, which has been largely quiet this season, has woken up some. They have netted 6 goals in the last three games. Club record and DP signing Liel Abada bagged a brace against Atlanta bringing his total to 3 on the year, this moves him up to second leading scorer on the team, tied with Patrick Agyemang. Leading scorers, Kerwin Vargas and Brandt Bronico, have also netted in recent games. Vargas and Agyemang remain the focal points of Charlotte’s attack. So far, Vargas has 4 goals and 2 assists and Agyemang has 3 goals and 2 assists.

 Additionally, their vaunted defense has been breached in several previous games. After the May 25th matchup with the Union, CLT gave up 3 goals in a loss against the Red Bulls, 2 in the Atlanta win, kept a clean sheet versus DC, and then conceded two again in the draw with Orlando. The Orlando game did include a first-half red card to Scott Arfield and Charlotte managed to score soon after. One common thread in all those games was Smith’s use of the 4-3-3 formation. This typically allows greater freedom in attack, while leaving holes open in defense, especially in the middle of the field. That could explain the higher scoring and conceding. He switches between that and a more defensive-minded 4-2-3-1. Head Coach Dean Smith may opt to stick with the 4-2-3-1, especially since the Union are one of the higher scoring teams in the league. He utilized it to great effect on May 25th, severely limiting the Union’s scoring chances. 

Either way, Charlotte leads the league in clean sheets with 8. The backline is one of the most organized in the league and netminder Kristijan Khalina is among the best in the business. Charlotte will be able to call on the majority of their starters as their squad has not been affected by the international window. Veteran Canadian midfielder Arfield will miss this game due to suspension. Another midfielder, Junior Urso, may miss the match due to injury, along with young American attacker Brandon Cambridge. Aside from that, Smith will be able to choose his pick from their squad. Khalina, Andrew Privet, and former Burnley man Ashley Westwood have still played every minute so far this season. Those players are no doubt a large reason for the team’s typically ironclad defense.

Injury Report: Junior Urso, Brandon Cambridge

Suspended: Scott Arfield

International Duty: N/a


Scouting Report: Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia has suffered two bitter losses over the last week. Conceding a goal in added time against any team with 9 men on the field is unacceptable, but to do so against Miami in particular left a bad taste. Then the Boys in Blue followed it up by throwing away a draw against Cincinnati- also in added time. Both of those games should have yielded a result. The Union continues to make things difficult for themselves this year.

However, there is one bright light that should give the DOOPers some hope: Tai Baribo. After nearly a year of relative inaction, the TAM signing was seemingly buried under the depth chart. But, with thematic resonance, in his first start following Julian Carranza’s departure, the Israeli striker shined and bagged a brace. Hopefully, Baribo is capable of performing at that level consistently. 

Charlotte’s defense will likely be more organized tomorrow than Cincinnati’s was on Wednesday. Remember; Miazga and Robinson were unavailable, so Cinci’s backline was not at full strength. Meanwhile, Charlotte can still rely on Adilson Malanda and Andrew Privett. Privett in particular is having a sneaky good season. 

It will be interesting to see if Jim Curtin will stick with the 3-5-2 setup or revert back to the Diamond. He indicated in the post-game presser that the lineup was due to player availability and with Blake, Bedoya, Gazdag, Lowe, and Martinez all still unavailable it would be unsurprising if there were few to no changes. Tactically, employing a 5 man midfield could allow the Union to either counter or overrun Charlotte’s numbers, depending on their setup of course. On the other hand, this will be the 3rd game in a week for the Union and Curtin may need to rotate due to fatigue. 

Injury Report: Alejandro Bedoya

Suspended: N/a

International Duty: Andre Blake, Daniel Gazdag, Damion Lowe, Jose Martinez 


Key Matchup: Union attack vs Charlotte defense

Despite the team’s struggles this year, the Union has typically been able to find the back of the net. While Curtin had started to key in on the defensive issues in the May 25th game, by sacrificing that offense for necessary defensive stability, the international window and injuries may force his hand to remain with a more attack-oriented lineup. That being the case, the Boys in Blue should have plenty of opportunities to test just how good the Charlotte defense is.


Player to Watch: Tai Baribo

After a year with little to show for, Baribo slotted right into the team on Wednesday. He will look to continue his good form back at Subaru Park on Saturday against a tougher test: the Charlotte defensive unit.


Prediction: 1-0 Philadelphia

The hard-nosed Charlotte defense makes it difficult for the Boys in Blue overall, but the Union backline holds firm and bolsters the team, leading to a tight match and, ultimately, a gritty win at home. This one feels like a set-piece goal will decide it. Jakob Glesnes gets his first from a Kai Wagner corner kick. 


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Go Charlotte. Best thing right now for the Union is to continue the tailspin and give management incentive to invest more in the team when season ticket sales plummet.

  2. My section seats selling for 20% of my season tix cost on seat geek.

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    For anyone going tonight, they have said they are allowing people to bring in either 1 sealed plastic bottle of water or 1 empty reusable bottle that can be filled inside the stadium.

  4. Andy Muènz says:

    Biggest change in the starting lineup is Andrew Rick making his debut. Sullivan and Bueno are in for McGlynn and Mbaizo.

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