The latter half of the 2017 MLS season is upon us and the Union sit at 6-8-5 in a season full of ups and downs, but they look to move up the Eastern Conference table with some very important fixtures in the coming weeks. MLSSoccer.com has calculated that the Union have the toughest remaining schedule among the rest of the teams in the MLS.
This Saturday, the Union are away at Mapfre Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, as the team tries to chip away at the 5 point gap between them and the Crew. The Columbus Crew currently sit 7th in the eastern conference with 28 points, where the Union sit 9th with 23 points. This will be the first time the two teams meet this season, but expect it to be a very hard-nosed match as both teams will be fighting for points. Both the Crew and the Union sit in the lower half of the table, but are very close to breaking into the upper half, which calls for a very intense and high energy match.
On Wednesday, the Union took a trip up to the great white north to take on the Montreal Impact in which they lost 2-1 in a very sloppy and disappointing game for the boys from Philadelphia. They had many chances that they didn’t convert, and had many instances of very poor defending. The Union will need clean that up and be sharp defensively to keep the Crew’s stud, Ola Kamara, off the scoring sheet. Kamara is not having as impressive as season as he did in 2016, but he still has a team leading 9 goals for Columbus and is a very lethal scorer. Kamara’s best trait is his pace and movement off the ball, so the back four will need to be vigilant and communicative throughout the entire 90-minute game in order to keep the striker in check.
Columbus plays a very attacking style of play where they like to build out of the back and incorporate many players into the attack whilst getting lots of men forward. This could leave them vulnerable to a counter-attack style of play that we saw a lot of in the game the Union played against Sporting Kansas City last Thursday in which they tied 1-1.
The Union will be without Fabian Herbers who underwent sports hernia surgery, along with Alejandro Bedoya who was granted time off for the birth of his second child, with the addition of Chris Pontius who is currently with the USMNT as they are moving into the semi-finals of the Gold Cup. Expect to see the Union try to use width and pace to their advantage through Fafa Picault and counter attacking threats through CJ Sapong and Jay Simpson. With cleaner defending and more clinical decisions in the final third, hopefully the Union can come away with points to bring back home and face off against The Crew yet again on Wednesday, July 26th.