Saturday’s match at Talen Energy Stadium between New York City FC and the Philadelphia Union could be a playoff preview, though the Union still have work to do just to reach the postseason.
Philadelphia sits tied for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, just one point ahead of the seventh-place New England Revolution. The Union (9-11-3, 30 points) got a crucial victory over the Revolution last Saturday, capping off a huge week for the club that also advanced to September’s U.S. Open Cup Final after defeating the Chicago Fire in the Aug. 8 semifinal.
Despite this recent success, Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin warned that “we’ve accomplished nothing yet” with still over two months remaining in the MLS regular season.
“We have set ourselves up for success in terms of being in the [U.S. Open Cup] final, set ourselves up to be in a playoff spot, but... week to week in this league, in this Eastern Conference, how quickly things can change,” Curtin said.
Last week’s Union lineup saw striker C.J. Sapong return to his old wing position, rather than the attacking central midfield role he has often played for Philadelphia. It seems likely that Sapong will again be deployed on the wing against NYCFC, especially since Fabrice-Jean Picault will miss the match due to caution accumulation.
Ilsinho will be another option for the Union, as Curtin said the Brazilian midfielder will be “available for selection this weekend, barring a major setback.” A groin injury has kept Ilsinho out of action since July 11, costing him six matches in all competitions.
Any type of spark is needed for the Philadelphia attack, which has managed just 32 goals all season. By comparison, New York City’s top four scorers (Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, David Villa, Maximiliano Moralez and Jesus Medina) have themselves combined for 33 goals.
Due to injuries and lineup shuffling, last Sunday’s 3-2 win over Toronto FC marked the first time all season that New York City (14-5-5, 47 points) had all four of those players in the starting lineup, and Tajouri-Shradi (two) and Villa (one) combined for all three goals. It’s possible, however, that the quartet may not be together on Saturday, as NYCFC can’t help but look ahead to a big Hudson River Derby match on Wednesday against the New York Red Bulls.
“Three games in 10 days, and maybe I make a little bit of rotation,” New York City head coach Domenec Torrent said. “Because, for me, it’s the best way to have everybody involved. ...Some players play every single day and maybe need to rest a little bit.”
NYCFC goalkeeper Sean Johnson is expected to return to action this weekend, after missing the last two games with a shoulder injury.
—Field Level Media