Philadelphia Union look to get on track as NYCFC come to town

Apr 8, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union forward Chris Pontius (13) heads the ball against the Portland Timbers during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 8, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union forward Chris Pontius (13) heads the ball against the Portland Timbers during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

Tensions are reaching a boiling point as the Philadelphia Union are still winless as they prepare for their sixth game of the year.

The Ins and Outs

Philadelphia Union (0-2-3) vs NYCFC (2-1-2)

When: Friday at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time – Talen Energy Stadium (Chester, PA)

Where to watch:  ESPN, ESPN Deportes

Streaming: MLS Live (Blacked out in the USA)

PRO Referees: Jose Carlos Rivero, Peter Manikowski (AR1), Kevin Klinger (AR2), Allen Chapman (AR4).

Coaches: Jim Curtin (Philadelphia Union) – Patrick Viera (NYCFC)

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As the Philadelphia Union prepare for their second of three straight home matches, they’d like to hope that this game will go better than their matchup with the Portland Timbers. In that game, the Philadelphia Union were punished for each mistake that they made and they will need to clean things up against NYCFC. Each loss makes everyone press a bit more and with how dangerous NYCFC can be in attack, having a clean gameplan is important.

If the Philadelphia Union want to turn their form around and hopefully make an appearance in the playoffs, making Talen Energy Stadium a fortress is a must. It will be tough in a matchup with NYCFC that usually includes more cards than goals. The Philadelphia Union will hope for a repeat of the last NYCFC visit to Talen, which the Union won 2-0.

To learn more about NYCFC let’s catch up with Chris P. of NYCFC Nation.

Opposition corner:

Chuck: NYCFC is quite the Jekyll and hyde team where you never know exactly which team will show up. Which team do you think will make the trip South to Philadelphia?

Chris: Considering the mood in the locker room following the loss at D.C. you can expect Vieira will have his players coming out very aggressively in the first half. I expect them to try and push the ball into the final third early and often, and depending on the lineup Vieira sets out there will be some darting runs up the wings.

Chuck: Even though the Philadelphia Union are struggling mightily, who do you think is the biggest threat to NY (either scoring offensively or contributing heavily to a clean sheet)?

Chris: I’ll start with the defense, I think if Vieira sticks to the 4-3-3 we’ve seen almost all season then you have to put Onyewu on Villa. If Onyewu can successfully shut him down, or deny him opportunities he’ll get angry and will be prone to making stupid mistakes. I’d also keep an eye on Rosenberry, if he can shut down Wallace and Matarrita on the left side then NYCFC will struggle.

On the offense I’d say Sapong, if he doesn’t press when they’re not in possession, as he’s prone not to, then you can expect to see a lopsided possession stat. Though if Lloyd Sam taught him anything last week all it takes is one good run to force defensive errors.

Chuck: Who’s the key guy to watch on NYCFC in this one?

Chris: Obviously David Villa, he’s been stopped early on this season and only has three goals, all of which have come in the two games against D.C. United. As I mentioned earlier if Onyewu can shut him down then expect to look for guys like Jack Harrison and Rodney Wallace on the attack.

Defensively: keep an eye on Maxime Chanot, he’s been excellent at reading the opposition and can cut off a through ball before it becomes a problem.

Chuck: Match prediction and scorers for each team(s)

Chris: I don’t think this will be a pretty game by any standards, I expect Philly to resort to long balls and NYCFC to try and force their way up the middle. I can see NYCFC giving up a quick counter to Sapong and Maxi Moralez finding open space and finding the back of the net for a 1-1 draw.

Possible lineups:

Joshua Yaro is healing slowly and there are currently no updates on Maurice Edu. John McCarthy will also miss this match as he continues to recover from his concussion. Don’t expect changes to the formation either as Jim Curtin said that the team will stick to the standard 4-2-3-1. The only change that I’m expecting is that Ilsinho will make way for Fabian Herbers in the starting XI which will look something like the one below:

Keys to the game:

Quick starts are needed: NYCFC has scored eight goals this year but five of those have been scored in the first half of matches. If the Philadelphia Union are able to get out on the front foot like they did in the Portland match, they could be well equipped to nab a point in this one. If NYCFC scores early, the Union will have to avoid deflating like they did in the Portland game as well, hopefully, Jim Curtin will have that ironed out this week.

Attack the center of the pitch: Even though Alexander Ring covers a ton of ground in the center of the park, it is still the weakest part of the NYCFC defense thanks to an aging Pirlo in the middle. This would be the perfect game for Jim Curtin to deploy Derrick Jones in more of a shuttler role than a destroyer role to get the ball up the pitch and show his attacking talents which have been stifled since he came up from Bethlehem. Jones has an eye for goal and this would be the perfect game for him to showcase it.

#FreeHarisMedunjainin: Lost in the defeat tot the Timbers was that Haris Medunjainin registered his first assist for the Philadelphia Union. It was a beautiful corner delivery that found the head of Richie Marquez to put the Union up 1-0. While that scoreline didn’t hold, Medunjainin was quietly excellent on the day. Leading MLS in chances created, Haris will be integral in the Union finding a way past NYCFC this weekend.

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Match prediction:

I’m calling for the first Philadelphia Union win of the season. NYCFC aren’t particularly good on larger pitches away from Yankee Stadium and I belive that the Union will be able to use the extra space to their advantage. Haris Medunjainin will open his scoring account for the Union and along with C.J. Sapong, he will lead the team to a 2-1 victory. NYCFC’s goal will be scored by Tommy McNamara.