As the Philadelphia Union prepare for a difficult visit to the Portland Timbers on Saturday night, they have to balance the additional obstacles of a congested schedule and the chance to win a major trophy.
The Union’s game at Providence Park comes four days before their U.S. Open Cup semifinal at home against the Chicago Fire. As a result, Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin admits it might not be an ideal starting lineup that takes the field on Saturday night.
“That’s probably the most important one for us right now, looking at a semifinal at home,” Curtin said. “(It’s) a big opportunity for us to try to lift our first silverware. So we’ve kind of built almost backwards from that one in terms of how we’ll handle Portland.”
Even if an altered team is expected, it may be difficult to predict what such a thing looks like for Philadelphia (8-10-3, 27 points), since lineup changes have been a feature of its season. Both forward CJ Sapong and winger David Accam were projected starters when the season began. But each featured in substitute roles in at least half of their July appearances.
From a competitive perspective, Philadelphia can’t afford to treat any game as an afterthought. They enter the weekend in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, one spot and one point beneath the playoff line, with Montreal and New England sitting on 28 points.
Meanwhile, Portland (9-3-7, 34 points) continues to ride the longest active unbeaten streak in the league, which is now at 14 games after last weekend’s 2-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo. The Timbers currently sit fourth in the West with two or more games at hand on every other team in the conference.
Substitute Fanendo Adi scored the winner in that one, in what was his final game for the Timbers before making official a move to 2019 expansion side FC Cincinnati.
Adi had found himself relegated to a bench role this season behind Samuel Armenteros, who has seven goals, all since May 19. But Adi was still a valuable option for Portland coach Giovanni Savarese, who now will have to consider others, including perhaps a new signing.
“We are always open with our club that wants to continue to look (for new players), and for me the players always have to perform,” Savarese said. “It’s normal for every club. You have to continue to see how you can improve either from within, or if you need to bring someone in.”
—Field Level Media