Preview: Philadelphia Union (h).
When? Saturday July 23, 4.30 p.m. PT, 7.30 p.m. ET and 00:30 BST.
Where? Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL.
How can I catch the action? The game is being broadcast via MLS Live on ESPN+ and DAZN for residents of North America. In central Florida, it's Fox 35 Plus and LionNation TV. Radio commentary is available on 96.9 The Game and Accion 97.9. The game is not currently scheduled for UK broadcast.
After the glitzy affair of the Arsenal game, it's back to reality with a vitally important home game against Philadelphia. The Lions gave a good account of themselves against Mikel Arteta's Gunners, and can certainly take confidence from certain aspects of their performance.
The nature of the draw in Atlanta left something of a bitter taste in the mouth. Orlando showed a rather disconcerting lack of ambition in that game. I worry, slightly, that the Arsenal game has added more miles to already weary legs. Hopefully I'm wrong. The fact that the likes of Junior Urso and Mauricio Pereyra were rested gives me hope. I guess time will tell.
This game is vitally important in the context of securing a home play-off berth. So, I'd like to see us attack this fixture.
The Union are flying right now, and they'll certainly be difficult to contain. Philadelphia have the 4th most shots on target per match, with 4.9 (figure 1) and scored the 6th most goals per match (1.6). They're an attacking outfit with pace and quality in forward areas. Expect to see lots of interplay between the likes of Julian Carranza, Paxten Aaronson and Leon Flach (figure 2). Daniel Gazdag will also look to profit from the space created by his 3 colleagues in attack.
The Union aren't a possession based team at all; they rank 27th in MLS for average possession. They are, however, built on very strong foundations; in the form of a particularly miserly defence. Transition is key to the Union, like transitions were important to George Lucas in 1977. Who doesn't love a fadeaway scene? Expect Philadelphia to win the ball and hit Orlando quickly.
Figure 1 shows Philadelphia's shots on target per match ranking.
Figure 2 shows Philadelphia's passing matrix vs New England, whole 90.
Philadelphia have almost a fully fit squad from which to choose, with Jack Elliott the only doubt. Alejandro Bedoya is suspended.
As for Orlando City, they are without Mason Stajduhar. Adam Grinwis is a doubt. Other than that it's a clean bill of health.
This section will be updated as new information becomes available.
Possible starting XI
Philadelphia are flying right now. And with a full rest week I imagine they won't change anything from their recent win over New England:
Wagner has 5 assists to his name. The left-back adds balance to the defence and attack. He's played 60 accurate crosses (at a success rate of 30%), his crossing has been a profitable outlet for the Union so far; he's created a whopping 50 chances for his teammates. Wagner has also completed 39 interceptions and 17 tackles, which reinforces his importance to the team defensively. Probably one of the best full-backs in the league.
The Union head into this game in decent form, having won 4 of their last 6, including that famous 7-0 over D.C. United. The Union are currently top of the east with a 10-9-2 record.
Orlando City, on the other hand, are 8-6-7. The Lions currently sit 5th in the east, following a run of 3 undefeated.
*All statistics courtesy of fotmob.com.
Cover image and top player image courtesy of Orlando City SC.
Line-up graphic courtesy of chosen11.com.