Skip to content

Oppo Research: 5 Things about Philadelphia Union

Joe Lister of Philadelphia Soccer Now tells us about the Philadelphia Union's offensive threats, the team's depth — and why he thinks they'll lose.

Julián Carranza and Dániel Gazdag are besties | Courtesy Philadelphia Union

In this edition of Oppo Research, Hudson River Blue spoke with Joe Lister of Philadelphia Soccer Now to learn more about the Philadelphia Union, New York City FC's opponent on Saturday. Here is your NYCFC vs Philadelphia preview.

1. Philadelphia's senior players are regressing

Hudson River Blue: Philadelphia returned many key players this season, including Kai Wagner and Julián Carranza. Eleven games into the season, how has that helped the team with the added experience of head coach Jim Curtin?

Joe Lister: At this point in the season, the Union could sell just about everyone on the roster and nobody would care. Wagner's looked alright. Carranza has been good. Curtin has been handed a stale roster and has done little with it. You're right in saying the Union returned a ton of talent — it's what they've done for the last few years.

That 2022 MLS Cup Final run was too much of a drug for the front office to let go of. However, that group has lost its magic and has gotten worse as the league's gotten better. To more directly answer your question: Bringing back Wagner, Carranza, et al., has been the worst decision the club has made in years.

2. Offensive threats are stepping up

HRB: Philadelphia averages 1.9 goals per match, which is tied for second-most in MLS. What led to this high-powered offense?

JL: The offense, weirdly enough, has been the one decent part of this squad. Normally, the Union are a defense-first, offense-second team. This year, it's the opposite. Carranza is looking good, hence the rumors that he won't stick around in MLS through the end of the season. Quinn Sullivan, older brother of Cavan, has been a revelation this year. The 20-year-old has really improved on the wing and as a striker and become one of the Union's most reliable playmakers.

Dániel Gazdag, the No 10 who almost only scored from penalty kicks last year, has figured out how to score from the run of play. That change has been huge for Philadelphia. The Union still need forward Mikael Uhre to find his footing. If he can, this Union team could be pretty solid.

New York City FC asks MLS to investigate assault allegation
New York City FC head coach Nick Cushing categorically denies that he punched any Toronto FC player or staff member.

3. Philadelphia's depth

HRB: Both teams will have just three days off and the rest heading into Wednesday’s game. With an additional match on Saturday as well, how will that impact the match?

JL: The Union have played a few extra games in the last few weeks as they play catch-up with the rest of the league. A match against Seattle that was canceled in March was replayed two weeks ago. Pair that with the quick turnaround to Wednesday, and the minutes are starting to add up for the Union.

That being said, Philadelphia does have some solid depth. If Curtin wants to make one or two swaps to start the game at each position, the Union's level of play wouldn't change too much. I'm not sure about NYCFC's depth, but the quick turnaround could behoove Philly.

The 50 most valuable soccer clubs in the world: New York City FC at #20
European heavyweights dominate the Top 10, but a new report from Sportico places 20 MLS clubs in the Top 50.

4. The X-Factor(s): Julián Carranza, Dániel Gazdag

HRB: What’s the X-factor that could decide this game?

JL: Carranza and Gazdag. If one of them can find the net, it's easy to assume someone else will, as well. I've just about quit on this backline and assumed they'll give up two goals, so the Union's attack will be huge.

Dániel Gazdag: Philadelphia's all-time leading goal scorer

5. Predicted score, Starting XI

HRB: Prediction time: Starting XI? Final score?

JL: Philadelphia loses this game 1-3. The Union have dropped their last three games at home and show no signs of letting up.