Preview: Philadelphia Union (a).
When? Sunday September 19, 1 p.m. PT, 4 p.m. ET and 9 p.m. BST.
Where? Subaru Park, Philadelphia, PA.
How can I catch the action? The game will be broadcast on MLS Live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and DAZN for residents of the United States. Radio broadcast is available on 104.1 Real Radio, Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM in Central Florida. The game is being broadcast on Sky Sports Football for us UK folk.
Pennsylvania is undoubtedly my favourite US state that I've never visited. That's wholly because I'm a fan of both 'The Office' and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Speaking of 'The Office', there's a rather apt quote that I would point Oscar Pareja's Orlando City towards; 'you miss 100% of the shots you don't take - Wayne Gretzky - Michael Scott'. Orlando City need to take a shot in Philadelphia. Their disastrous defeat at the hands of CF Montréal has inadvertently increased the pressure on this game. Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica. Wait, no sorry. Orlando City. Beets. Philadelphia Union. Geddit? Hilarious, right?
In all seriousness though, this is a huge game for Orlando City. It's not quite do or die, more like do or make it a whole lot harder than it needs to be. Philadelphia slipped below the line for the first time this season during the week. Make no mistake though, this will still be a tough game. Jim Curtin's team are a well drilled unit, with plenty of quality in forward areas. This could be an interesting game all round. So, without further ado, let's get straight into it.
Philadelphia Union's style
As I've already alluded to, the Union are a very well organised team; they have the 2nd best defence in the east, with only 24 goals conceded. They concede at a rate of 1.04 goals per game, though you do have to wonder if there's an element of good fortune to these numbers. After all, Philadelphia has an XGa of 1.27 overall, which rises to 1.6 away from home. Their defensive record at home, however, is miserly; they concede at a rate of 0.75 per game at home (figure 1), which equates to 9 in total. They haven't conceded more than 1 goal at home since May 1st, which is only 17% of their home games.
In terms of the way they approach games, they like to start on the front foot. Particularly at home. Philadelphia has scored the first goal in 58% of their home games. This is a team that has plenty of quality in forward areas. It's not all about their defensive attributes. They average 12.9 shots per game at home, and complete an average of 9.6 dribbles. The likes of Leon Flach (2 dribbles, 3 key passes vs. New England) have impressed in recent weeks.
They have goals all over the field; Kacper Przybylko (6), Cory Burke (4) and Sergio Santos (4) have all been among the goals this season. The Union have chalked up 28 goals in total, which isn't prolific, but they clearly have goals all around the team; with 11 players having scored so far this season. It is worth noting, however, that only 6 of those 11 have more than 1. They have goals all over, just not a lot. Although, when you combine that fact with a solid defence, it's easy to see why this game is going to be tricky.
Figure 1 shows a selection of goal scoring/concession statistics for the Union.
Figure 2 details the goal scoring averages for the Union on the season so far.
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Philadelphia Union are without Ilsinho, due to a hamstring injury. Alejandro Bedoya and Sergio Santos are both listed as questionable. Bedoya, however, did feature in their midweek Champions League defeat to Club America, so should be available (though he was substituted late on).
As for Orlando City, Mason Stajduhar and Sebas Mendez are both listed as out. Alexandre Pato could return, according to Oscar Pareja, even though he is listed as out. Nani and Andres Perea are both suspended.
Possible starting XI
The Union like to set up in a 4-3-1-2 formation, which often becomes a 4-3-3 in moments of offensive transition. Despite his inclusion on the injury report, Alejandro Bedoya played midweek, so should be available. If not I can see Paxton Aaronson deputising. Otherwise they'll remain unchanged in what is a must win game for them.
The German-born forward has netted 6 times for the Union so far this season. Przybyłko has a very high conversion rate of 18.2% from 33 attempts. He's a very good finisher, who doesn't always need asking twice. He's scoring at a rate of a goal every 282.5 minutes, which isn't exactly prolific though it's steady. He has already scored against us this season.
Philadelphia doesn't head into this match in the best of form; a run of 1 win in their last 7 across all competitions has seen them fall below the line and crash out of the Champions League. Their 8-8-7 has them sat 9th in the east.
Orlando, on the other hand, are in a rotten patch of form themselves. Consecutive defeats soured a run of 7 straight games undefeated. The Lions are currently 10-8-6 and have dropped to 3rd in the east.
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