As the winless streak grows longer for the Philadelphia Union they have finally returned home with hopes of putting it to bed.
The Ins and Outs
Philadelphia Union (0-2-2) vs Portland Timbers (3-1-1)
When: Saturday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time – Talen Energy Stadium (Chester, PA)
Where to watch: TCN, ROOT Sports NW
Streaming: MLS Live
PRO Referees: Robert Sibiga, Adam Wienckowski (AR1), Kyle Longville (AR2), Jorge Gonzalez (AR4).
Coaches: Jim Curtin (Philadelphia Union) – Caleb Porter (Portland Timbers)
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The Philadelphia Union are finally back in the friendly confines of Talen Energy stadium:
After a month away from home thanks to the international break and two straight road games the Philadelphia Union are back in town in what is being labeled the “Home Opener Part DOOP“. Since it was 20 degrees during the actual home opener against Toronto FC which the Union drew 2-2 the organization is giving the fans a redo. The other plus side to hyping up this homestand is the hope that the fans will come out in force to cheer the Philadelphia Union onto a massive win over the Portland Timbers to stop their two-game losing streak.
The Union will need all the fan support that they can get as the Timbers come to Talen in first place in the western conference while also possessing the league’s most dangerous attack behind the power of Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi. On a normal day they’d be tough to stop but with Richie Marquez questionable for this game due to a concussion, it will be an even taller task for Andre Blake and co. this time out. For the Portland side of things, I’d like to turn it over to Jamie Goldberg of The Oregonian for our first installment of…
The opposition corner:
Chuck: If you had to pick one member of the Union who Portland should watch out for, who would it be and why?
Jamie: CJ Sapong. Even though Sapong has been used mostly as a substitute this season, he has managed to score in three-straight games for the Union. Sapong has shown that he can be a dangerous goal scoring threat in this league and the Timbers will have to pay attention to him. Portland has dropped points after conceding late goals in each of its last two games and Sapong could look to take advantage of that if he comes on as a late game substitute Saturday. Whether it is off the bench or in the starting lineup, Sapong could cause the Timbers problems.
Chuck: After dropping valuable home points to New England should we expect a more motivated Portland team in Philadelphia?
Jamie: I don’t think their motivation is going to change. The Timbers were definitely motivated against New England. That said, I think Portland will be looking to learn from the draw against the Revolution as the club heads to Philadelphia. The Timbers have been one of the most dangerous attacking teams in MLS so far this season, but they weren’t able to find a second goal and put the game away when they had the chance against New England. Portland has also conceded late goals in back-to-back games, which has cost the club points. I think the Timbers will be looking to put in a complete 90-minute performance as they try to steal a win on the road at Philadelphia.
Chuck: What’s your prediction for the match and who scores for each team?
Jamie: I think the Timbers are capable of rebounding in this game. I will predict a 2-1 Timbers win with Sapong netting Philadelphia’s lone goal and Fanendo Adi scoring at least one for Portland.
Joshua Yaro and Maurice Edu will miss this game with their respective injuries. John McCarthy and Richie Marquez could also miss the match due to concussions. Marquez may pass concussion protocol but hopefully, Jim Curtin will hold him back since it’s early in the season. It is also unknown if Curtin will try some new tactics but I’d assume that we’ll be back to the standard 4-2-3-1 shown below:
Keys to the game:
Block out the criticism: Right now everything that the Philadelphia Union do is being criticized by fans and that can get to you on the pitch if you think about it. With people even calling for Jim Curtin’s job, this is the time when the team must band together and support their coach. Only they can silence the critics but dwelling on them isn’t the answer.
Don’t let Darlington Nagbe beat you: The Portland Timbers have a host of attacking options with Adi, Valeri, and Sebastian Blanco. But Nagbe is due for a big game and the Philadelphia Union need to give him the proper attention or he will make them pay.
Free the attackers: The Philadelphia Union need to show creativity in the final third but as Alejandro Bedoya has admitted that he isn’t a playmaker, this may mean inverting the midfield triangle to get Haris Medujain higher up the pitch. Medujain had six key passes against DC United while also registering a shot on target of his own. With Portland’s defense being their only true question mark, it is important that the Union pressure them early and often. It can go a long way towards securing a much needed home result.
Score prediction: there will be goals in this one so I’m predicting a 2-2 draw. Portland has shown that they’re vulnerable on the road and coming from the West Coast to the East Coast should give the Union the edge here. The Portland goals will come from Blanco and Valeri while the U will be poweref by a brace from CJ Sapong who looks to score in his forth straight game.