It has been a little over two years since FC Dallas last faced the Philadelphia Union. That game was early February of 2020 when the world was just beginning to realize there was some sort of pandemic on the horizon.
Thankfully, we have some friends on the SBN network that are here to help preview the Union. Today we welcome Joe Lister from The Brotherly Game for our Three Questions series (though there is a bonus one in this one).
(Note: you can see our responses to their questions on their site)
BDS: The Union were for a while, a good stout defensive team that could frustrate you into either a loss or a draw. But now the attack has come alive in recent weeks. What has changed there?
BG: Really, Mikael Uhre just needed to click. The front three of Uhre, Julian Carranza, and Daniel Gazdag has been arguably the best in MLS this year. Gazdag and Carranza both had MLS experience, though Gazdag’s was a few months last year and Carranza’s was sitting on the bench in Miami. Once Uhre got his feet under him, the trio has really been unstoppable.
Add that with Kai Wagner, a left-back currently third in the league in assists, as well as Jack McGlynn’s passing and the backline’s progressive ideology, and the Union have become an offensive powerhouse.
BDS: How has this group handled these quick turnarounds on the schedule this season? Is there any concern that this could be a bit of a trap game?
BG: Philly hasn’t had a lot of midweek play thus far. Admittedly, they haven’t been great on Wednesday nights (case in point, a 1-0 loss away against a then last-place Chicago), but it’s not their greatest weakness. The team was somewhat hampered by Jim Curtin’s lack of lineup rotation, but that’s really changed since the squad’s U-20s returned from the Concacaf Championship. Throughout the season, Curtin’s been better with making earlier substitutions, making slight lineup adjustments, and subtle tweaks to keep the squad fresh.
I think that Philly is done with trap games for the rest of the season after giving up three goals to F.C. Cincinnati, so for the Union, I’m not worried about the ‘trap’.
BDS: I’ve thought for a while that the Union were actually the one team that could catch LAFC for the Supporters’ Shield. What are fan expectations for this team right now? Do they care about the Shield or would they rather go on a deep playoff run?
BG: Fan opinion is very mixed on the Sheild right now. Everyone agrees that the Cup is the team’s priority, but some fans are still holding out hope for the Sheild. I personally think that it would take a lot to finish the regular season on top of the East and the West, especially given that LAFC is six points up with a game in hand. That being said, I don’t think that it’s impossible, but some cards really have to fall the Union’s way.
Philly already won the Shield in 2020, so fans are really looking to win something different and more meaningful right now. An MLS Cup victory is the standard for this team, and the supporter’s really won’t take anything less.
BDS: What kind of lineup should we see out of Philadelphia on Wednesday?
BG: Curtin will likely roll out his best XI. The one question mark is whether or not he’ll start Jack McGlynn or Leon Flach at the no. 8. I personally think that McGlynn is more suited for this match, but I don’t think that Curtin’s on my side here. Nate Harriel may also start at right back, but it seems Olivier Mbaizo has really locked that spot up in recent weeks. My starting XI prediction from back to front, left to right is: Blake; Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes, Mbaizo; Martinez; Flach, Bedoya; Gazdag; Uhre, Carranza