The Philadelphia Union will hit the road Saturday to take on expansion club Minnesota United FC for the first time ever.
We’re getting into desperate times for the Union. With 31 points after 27 matches played, they are closer to the bottom of the table than they are to the playoff red line. However, they are only 6 points out from that line. That doesn’t sound too bad until you realize most of the teams competing for that last playoff spot have at least one game in hand. With seven games left in the regular season, the Union need wins, not just at home, but on the road too.
And they have an opportunity to do just that this weekend, as they take on MLS newbie Minnesota United FC. MNUFC have played like you’d expect an expansion club to play. The Loons are sitting in next-to-last place in the Western Conference with only 25 points after 25 games played. The Union could only manage a draw at home against the MLS’s other expansion side, Atlanta United FC, in their last match, but MNUFC is not as dangerous.
The boys in blue are riding a four-game winless streak, and have blown leads by allowing stoppage-time goals in two of their last three games. Joshua Yaro will miss the match due to red card suspension, but as he was involved in both of those blown leads, that may be more of a blessing than a curse. The other suspension the Union have to deal with hurts much more: Alejandro Bedoya is out due to yellow card accumulation. This will give either Derrick Jones or Warren Creavalle a chance to log some minutes. This would have been a perfect opportunity to get Maurice Edu into the lineup, but despite getting some minutes against Bethlehem Steel FC lately, the timetable for his return is still unclear.
Another question in forming the starting XI is who will play in the number 10 spot. Head coach Jim Curtin has been bouncing back and forth between Ilsinho and Roland Alberg. Ilsinho is more dangerous in possession, but Alberg is better at finishing chances on goal. Whoever gets the nod should be able to feast on a Loons’ back line that have given up the most goals in MLS so far this season.
MNUFC is weak in the back, despite having MLS veteran Bobby Shuttleworth tending the goal. But they do have guys who can score. Their top scorer, striker Christian Ramirez, has 11 goals this season, but luckily for the U, he is listed as questionable with a left hamstring injury and could miss this game. In that case, one of their next-highest scorers, Abu Danladi, will most likely move up from his midfield spot to become the number 9. Midfielder Kevin Molino shares the Loons’ number 2 scoring spot as he and Danladi have five goals each. And Minnesota recently upgraded their midfield by acquiring occasional US Men’s National Team player Ethan Finlay from Columbus Crew FC for allocation money.
It will be the job of Oguchi Onyewu and Jack Elliott to prevent these guys from getting shots on goal. I suspect we’ll see Giliano Wijnaldum remain at left fullback, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Keegan Rosenberry starting at right fullback again after his solid performance against Atlanta United FC in the Union’s last match.
The Union have been pathetic on the road this season, with only one win and four draws in 13 games. And that one road win was back in May when they defeated DC United 4-0. Can they finally get another road win this season? It depends on which version of this Jekyll-and-Hyde team shows up. I suspect we’ll see the Union play down to their opponent once again, but ultimately take advantage of the Loons’ porous defense and take the 3 points:
UNION 2, MNUFC 1