2016 MLS Season Preview: Philadelphia Union

As the 2016 MLS season edges closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what Philadelphia Union will be looking to achieve this year…

Philadelphia Union endured one of their most disappointing year’s in MLS in 2015. A ninth placed Eastern Conference finish and 18th place finish overall is the lowest in their short history so far. The season started slowly with just one win from their opening 11 games and they never strung a run of games together in an inconsistent campaign. The Union did manage to reach the final of the US Open Cup, where they agonisingly lost on penalties to Sporting Kansas City. But in MLS, it was a year with few highlights to reflect on and it’s certainly a case of onwards and upwards from now on. All that has gone before needs to be brushed under the carpet so that head coach Jim Curtin can rebuild and focus on achieving better results in the future.

Last season’s finish:

Eastern Conference – Position: 9th – P34 – W10 – D7 – L17

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What needs to change this year?

Philadelphia Union have never been as defensively poor as they were in 2015. They leaked 55 goals, which is more than they have conceded in any other season previously. The offseason has seen the Union revamp their squad, giving it a very different look, with 15 players departing and 12 new faces coming in. They’ve signed six new defenders in an attempt to steady the ship and give themselves strength in depth at the back. But it isn’t just defensive issues that need addressing. They had the least potent attack in the Eastern Conference last year, scoring 42 goals – only four teams scored less across the whole of MLS. Jim Curtin must find a way for his side to be more competitive offensively as well.

Key changes to squad:

Ins: Matt Jones – Goalkeeper,  Anderson Conceicao – Defender, Joshua Yaro – Defender, Keegan Rosenberry – Defender, Taylor Washington – Defender, Cole Missimo – Defender, Ken Tribbett – Defender, Chris Pontius – Midfielder, Walter Restrepo – Midfielder, Roland Alberg – Midfielder, Ilsinho – Midfielder, Fabian Herbers – Forward

Outs: Zac MacMath – Goalkeeper, Ethan White Defender, Steven Vitoria – Defender, Cristian Maidana – Midfielder, Andrew Wenger – Midfielder, Fred – Midfielder, Michael Lahoud – Midfielder, Zach Pfeffer – Midfielder, Fernando Aristeguieta – Forward, Conor Casey – Forward

Key Player:

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Chris Pontius – Midfielder – The experienced 28 year old arrives at Philadelphia Union after six successful years with DC United. He’s just the type of player the Union need in the centre of the park and he will bring with him the kind of winning mentality that’s been missing. The likes of CJ Sapong and Sebastien Le Toux up front should benefit from having Pontius in the side.

One to Watch:

Roland Alberg – Midfielder – The Dutchman has signed from Eredivisie side ADO Den Haag where he made 105 league appearances, scoring 22 goals and making 16 assists. He’s likely to slot straight into the Union side and could bring valuable experience having played for a number of years in Europe. At the age of 25, he’s approaching the peak of his career, so the Union will be hoping they’ll see the best of him.

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Predicted Finish:

Eastern Conference – 9th – Philadelphia Union are certainly doing everything they can to make things work in 2016 with so much offseason activity. With so many changes, it’s going to take time for this team to gel. That’s not to say that things won’t fall into place eventually, but there are numerous other teams in MLS that appear to be in better shape than Philadelphia right now. It’s easy enough to point out the areas that need improving – they’re clear for all to see – but it’s a whole different task putting it into action and getting results on the pitch. The Union would be proving a lot of people wrong if they were to break into the top six this year, so it would certainly be a pleasant surprise if they could take the league by storm.

What are you expecting from Philadelphia Union in 2016?

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MLS Preview and Prediction: LA Galaxy vs Philadelphia Union

Competition: Major League Soccer – LA Galaxy vs. Philadelphia Union

Venue: StubHub Center – Saturday, June 20 – 22:30 ET (03:30 BST – Sunday, June 21)

Match Odds: LA Galaxy 4/7 – Draw 3/1 – Philadelphia Union 9/2

Match Preview

LA Galaxy welcome Philadelphia Union to StubHub Center on Saturday night for the only meeting between these two sides in the 2015 MLS regular season.

The Galaxy come into this game looking to end a run of three games without a win (D2, L1), although they picked up a valuable point in a 1-1 draw away at the Columbus Crew last time out.

Bruce Arena’s side have struggled to get going in 2015 so far as 22 points from their opening 17 games currently leaves them sixth in the Western Conference and clinging on to a playoff spot.

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LA have only won two of their last ten matches (D5, L3) and also lost their 23-game unbeaten streak in MLS regular season home matches when they lost 1-0 to Vancouver Whitecaps in their last match on home soil.

Philadelphia Union arrive in Los Angeles off the back of a two-week break from MLS action. Their most recent league fixture was a disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to New York City.

Before that defeat, the Union had been on an impressive run of form that had seen them secure wins over DC United, New York Red Bulls and Columbus Crew.

Picture courtesy of philadelphiaunion.com

Photo courtesy of philadelphiaunion.com

Jim Curtin will be urging his side to try and replicate the performances from those games in order to try and get something out of a game that he knows will be tough despite the Galaxy’s stuttering start to the 2015 campaign.

Both sides successfully secured their place in the fifth round of the US Open Cup in midweek, but attentions will now turn back to MLS as LA and Philadelphia continue the fight for playoff places in their respective conferences.

The last meeting between these two saw the LA Galaxy run out as convincing 4-1 winners over Philadelphia. The Union have only ever beaten the Galaxy once in seven attempts (D1, L5), which came via a 2-1 success on the same ground back in July 2012.

Team News

LA Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Perk (ankle) remains out, while Todd Dunivant (leg) and Edson Buddle (groin) are both doubts. Bradford Jamieson IV will be tested before the game to see if he’s recovered from concussion.

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Philadelphia Union will be without Steven Vitoria and Antoine Hoppenot (both hamstring), while there’s also doubts over the fitness of Sebastien Le Toux (knee), Michael Lahoud (leg), Fernando Aristeguieta (leg) and Conor Casey (leg).

Key Points

LA Galaxy’s last five in MLS: W/W/D/L/D

Philadelphia Union’s last five in MLS: W/W/L/W/L

Key Stat: Philadelphia Union have failed to win nine of their last 10 away matches in MLS.

Key Player: C. J. Sapong – He’s been excellent recently, netting three times in his last four matches. The Union will be looking to him for inspiration if they’re to get anything out of this one.

Photo courtesy of mlssoccer.com

Photo courtesy of mlssoccer.com

Score Prediction

LA Galaxy 2-1 Philadelphia Union – The Galaxy should just edge this because of their home advantage. The Union don’t tend to travel particularly well and that could be their downfall.

Union boss labels Red Bulls midfield as ‘best in league’ ahead of weekend clash

Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin has admitted how difficult it will be to cope with the New York Red Bulls when they meet for an MLS clash at Red Bull Arena on Sunday evening.

“As you look ahead, it doesn’t get any easier with having to go to New York, a rival game, and then also DC at their place, so there will be a little bit of a revenge factor in that one,” he said in yesterday’s press conference.

“So two games coming up on the road against rivals in the Eastern Conference. Obviously every game is a big one in our league because anybody can beat anybody but New York will certainly be a tough task.”

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The Union boss was full of praise for Sunday’s opponents and despite a convincing 3-1 victory in preseason over the Red Bulls, Curtin knows it’s going to be tougher this time around.

“The team that’s in very good form, a team that high presses all over the field, I think the team that has the best midfield in the league going right now between Dax (McCarty), Sacha (Kljestan) and Felipe (Martins).

“A team that if I’m being honest gave us a lot of issues in the preseason even though the scoreline was very much in our favour.

“They created a ton and were very good against us, so a team we respect, we know that are going to be good, a coach I’m very familiar with in Jesse Marsch and any time you go on the road in this league, it’s difficult to get a win but that’s going to have to be our task.”

Can Philadelphia Union get a positive result against the in-form New York Red Bulls at the weekend?

MLS Preview and Prediction: Philadelphia Union vs DC United

Competition: Major League Soccer – Philadelphia Union vs. DC United

Venue: PPL Park – Sunday, May 17th – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST – Monday, May 18th)

Match Odds: Philadelphia Union 7/5 – Draw 23/10 – DC United 19/10

Match Preview

Philadelphia Union take on DC United at PPL Park on Sunday evening in an MLS clash between two sides at opposite ends of the Eastern Conference.

The Union have statistically been the worst side in MLS this season, other than Montreal Impact, as they sit one place above the bottom of both the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings.

Jim Curtin‘s side have also conceded more goals (21) than any other team – that’s seven more than the next worst defence, which is Houston who have let in 14.

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Philadelphia’s most recent outing saw them comfortably swept aside in a 3-0 defeat away at the Vancouver Whitecaps, extending their run of consecutive defeats to four games – the Union have won just one of their opening 11 games (D3, L7).

The only points the Union have picked up in the last nine games came courtesy of a win and a draw in back-to-back games against fellow strugglers New York City.

By stark contrast, DC United’s start to the season has been excellent as six wins, three draws and one defeat from their opening ten games is enough to see them at the top of the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings.

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Ben Olsen will be delighted with how efficient the performances of his DC team have been, conceding fewer goals (8) than any other side so far, and they’re now unbeaten in their last eight games (W5, D3) with the most recent success a 2-1 victory at home to Orlando City last weekend.

Chris Rolfe has led the line well with three goals and three assists, but the key to DC’s success so far has been the overall team ethos as nine different players have already contributed to the 13 goals they’ve scored this season, showing that the load has been shared equally.

DC United won both of the games between these two sides in 2014 by a 1-0 scoreline. Philadelphia’s most recent victory over DC was a 2-0 win back in August 2013.

Team News

Philadelphia Union are suffering with a very long list of absentees which only adds to their ongoing problems. Rookie Richie Marquez will miss the game through suspension following his red card against Vancouver. Steven Vitoria is struggling with a knee injury and loanee goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre is likely to deputise in goal once again as John McCarthy continues his recovery from concussion. Fernando Aristeguieta (international duty), Andre Blake (knee) and Mike Lahoud (leg) are all unavailable, while C. J. Sapong remains out for non-footballing reasons. Antoine Hoppenot (hamstring) and Fred (hamstring) are also doubts.

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DC United will be without the injured Steve Birnbaum, Collin Martin and Markus Halsti. Forward Fabian Espindola missed the Orlando game with a slight knee problem but could return to the squad for this clash.

Key Points

Philadelphia Union’s last five: D/L/L/L/L

DC United’s last five: D/W/W/D/W

Key Stat: Philadelphia Union have won just two of their last 18 games in MLS (D6, L10) combining the end of the 2014 with start of the 2015 season.

Key Player: Perry Kitchen – The 23-year-old hasn’t missed a single minute of the MLS season so far and has been a vital component in the DC United machine at the heart of the midfield. His performances are one of the reasons that DC have been so hard to break down.

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Score Prediction

Philadelphia Union 0-1 DC United – DC United will expect to win this one against a Philadelphia side that are struggling at the moment with both casualties and form. It’s tough to see any other outcome than a DC victory.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Philadelphia Union vs New York City FC

Competition: Major League Soccer – Philadelphia Union vs. New York City FC

Venue: PPL Park – Saturday, April 11 – 16:00 ET (21:00 BST) – Live on Sky Sports 5

Match Odds: Philadelphia Union 11/10 – Draw 12/5 – New York City FC 12/5

Match Preview

Philadelphia Union welcome New York City FC to PPL Park on Saturday for an Eastern Conference clash with the hosts still looking for their first win of the 2015 MLS season.

The Union have suffered three straight defeats since opening their campaign with two draws and now find themselves at the bottom of both the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings.

Philadelphia head coach Jim Curtin will have a job on his hands to motivate the players after a devastating defeat away at Sporting Kansas City last weekend – the Union were leading 2-1 until the 90th minute before two SKC goals in injury time saw the game slip through their hands in the blinking of an eye.

PHOTO: Philadelphia Union look on helplessly (Picture courtesy of Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

PHOTO: Philadelphia Union look on helplessly (Picture courtesy of Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports)

Despite the loss, there were some definite positives for Philadelphia to take from the game, especially for Fernando Aristeguieta as he notched his third goal of the season and is leading the line well.

New York City suffered a 1-0 defeat at home to Sporting Kansas City in their last game but they weren’t in action last weekend so they should be fully refreshed and head coach Jason Kreis has had a significant amount of time to prepare his players for this one.

New York are undefeated in their two games on the road this season and coming up against a side yet to record a victory as yet, they will expect to travel back home with at least a point to show for their efforts.

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The visitors are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference and a win could see them up to as high as second place depending on other results, so it’s an important game and a chance to put themselves in a solid position.

As New York City are new to MLS this season, these two sides have never met before, but they will get to know each other quickly as they will meet again at the Yankee Stadium next weekend and this game presents an opportunity to gain a psychological advantage going into that game.

Team News

Philadelphia Union will be without midfielder Fred as he serves the final game of his suspension. Fellow midfielders Cristian Maidana, Eric Bird and Vincent Nogueira are all doubts for the game due to injury, while striker Conor Casey could return to action following an abdominal strain.

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New York City will be without long-term absentee George John and defender Shay Facey could miss out with a groin injury.

Key Points

Philadelphia Union’s form: D/D/L/L/L

New York City’s form: D/W/D/L

Key Stat: Philadelphia Union have only won one of their last 12 games in MLS when combining the end of the 2014 season with the start of the 2015 campaign (D5, L6).

Key Player: David Villa – The Spaniard hasn’t fully kicked into life for New York City just yet but if he can start to perform to the best of his ability then NYC will be a real force.

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Score Prediction

Philadelphia Union 1-1 New York City FC – The Union will be desperate to stop the run of three straight defeats against a New York City side that wouldn’t be massively disappointed to pick up a point on the road.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Chicago Fire vs Philadelphia Union

Competition: Major League Soccer – Chicago Fire vs Philadelphia Union

Venue: Toyota Park – Sunday, March 29 – 17:00 ET (22:00 BST – Live on Sky Sports 1)

Match Odds: Chicago Fire 6/4 – Draw 23/10Philadelphia Union 7/4

Match Preview

Chicago Fire host Philadelphia Union at Toyota Park on Sunday evening in an all Eastern Conference clash as both sides look for their first win of the 2015 MLS campaign.

The Fire have had a slow start to the season, losing their first three games and they already find themselves rooted to the foot of both the Eastern Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings.

Philadelphia suffered their first defeat at home to FC Dallas last weekend having previously tied their opening game at home to Colorado before an entertaining 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake a week later. The Union are currently seventh in the Eastern Conference.

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Chicago have struggled to find the net in the early stages of this season but Harry Shipp did manage to notch their first goal during the 2-1 defeat at San Jose last time out.

Head coach Jim Curtin has only seen his Philadelphia side pick up one win out of their last ten games in MLS if you carry over from last season’s fixtures, and they will be desperately trying to pick up three points against a Chicago side that appear to be there for the taking.

The Fire have an even worse recent record in MLS, with just one win in their last 12 games and head coach Frank Yallop has got a lot of work to do in order to turn things round.

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The last meeting between these two was a 1-1 draw back in October. In-fact, all three of last season’s games between Chicago and Philadelphia ended in a tie.

Team News

Chicago Fire will be without long-term absentee Mike Magee. Midfielders Patrick Nyarko and Razvan Cocis are also out, while Shaun Maloney and David Accam are away on international duty. The Fire have signed midfielder Víctor Pérez on-loan from Spanish side Real Valladolid, so he could make his debut.

Philadelphia Union have survived the international duty exodus, but do have a long list injuries. C. J. Sapong, Cristian Maidana, Eric Bird, Sheanon Williams and Conor Casey are all out. Goalkeeper Andre Blake is also unlikely to return to the squad following knee surgery a month ago. Zach Pfeffer will miss out through suspension.

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Key Points

Chicago Fire’s form: L/L/L

Philadelphia Union’s form: D/D/L

Key Stat: There has never been a goalless draw between these two sides.

Key Player: Fernando Aristeguieta – With two goals from his opening three games, he is Philadelphia’s main goal threat and Chicago have got a job on their hands trying to contain him.

Score Prediction

Chicago Fire 1-2 Philadelphia Union – Chicago Fire have had a poor start and the Union should edge out their first victory of the season and heap more misery on Frank Yallop’s men.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Philadelphia Union vs FC Dallas

Competition: Major League Soccer – Philadelphia Union vs FC Dallas

Venue: PPL Park – Saturday, March 21 – 16:00 ET (20:00 GMT )

Match Odds: Philadelphia Union 23/20 – Draw 23/10 – FC Dallas 12/5

Match Preview

Philadelphia Union take on FC Dallas at PPL Park on Saturday in gameweek three of the 2015 MLS season. 

The game was originally scheduled for Friday evening but was postponed due to snow, so will now be played on Saturday instead.

Philadelphia Union have drawn their first two games, although only a late Alvaro Saborio penalty narrowly denied the Union of their first win of the 2015 campaign in last weekend’s trip to Real Salt Lake, which ended 3-3 after a pulsating game.

FC Dallas are currently top of the Western Conference and Supporters’ Shield standings and as the only team that has won their first two games of the 2015 season, they will be full of confidence.

Philadelphia Head Coach Jim Curtin will probably see last weekend’s draw with RSL as a more positive result than the opening day 0-0 draw with the Colorado Rapids, but this game should be the toughest test so far and will provide a good marker of where the Union currently are.

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FC Dallas are a strong side, so if Philadelphia can secure all three points then it shows that they need to be taken seriously, although the Union haven’t won any of their last four home games in MLS, so they’ll need to break that trend.

Dallas edged a 1-0 victory on the first day of the season thanks to an injury time winner from Blas Perez against San Jose Earthquakes and then sealed an impressive 3-1 win over Sporting Kansas City at the Toyota Stadium last time out.

The trip to PPL Park will mark the first game on the road for head coach Oscar Pareja and his Dallas side who will be looking to continue their 100% winning record in 2015 by making it three out of three.

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Philadelphia have never beaten Dallas in eight attempts in all competitions (D5, L3), so they will be making history if they can secure a win on Friday night.

The last game between these two sides was a 1-1 draw in the US Open Cup in August 2014. FC Dallas came out on top in the last MLS clash with a 2-1 win in July 2014.

Despite the home advantage, Philadelphia Union will probably be seen as slight underdogs against a Dallas side that have made an extremely impressive start to the new campaign.

Team News

Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Andre Blake is out with a knee injury and forward C. J. Sapong is also unlikely to feature as he has a fractured cheekbone. Midfielder Danny Cruz is suffering with a hamstring strain and missed the game with Real Salt Lake, so he may not be available.

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FC Dallas will be without defender Stephen Keel who is out with a foot injury. Dallas are likely to remain unchanged from the lineup that beat SKC last weekend.

Key Points

Philadelphia Union’s form: D/D

FC Dallas’s form: W/W 

Key Stat: There have been four red cards in seven MLS meetings between these two sides, so we could be in for a feisty encounter.

Key Player: Blas Perez – The experienced forward has notched three goals in his first two games of the 2015 season and he’s hit the ground running. Philadelphia have got a job on their hands to stop the 34-year-old.

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Score Prediction

Philadelphia Union 1-2 FC Dallas – FC Dallas have enjoyed the perfect start to the season and Philadelphia will make life difficult for them, but the visitors should just about edge this one.

Preview and Prediction: Columbus Crew vs Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union visit the Columbus Crew Stadium on Sunday night and will be hoping to leave with three points to follow up their 2-1 win against Sporting Kansas City, and end the season on a high.

Columbus Crew will be looking secure the third playoff seed to avoid playing in the wildcard game, and will need to win to fight off Kansas City, whereas the Union’s season will definitely finish on Sunday.

The Union comes into the game having only won one in their last six. And the Crew hasn’t conceded in their last four matches at home.

Columbus’ home form: Played 16 – Won 8 – Drawn 4 – Lost 4

With the Crew having already secured a place in the playoffs, it makes for intriguing viewing to see just what side Gregg Berhalter will put out. But we expect a strong team.

Columbus will want to end the regular season on a high heading into the post-season, while Philadelphia will want to spoil the party, so hopefully we’ll get some goals.

Philadelphia’s away form: Played 16 – Won 4 – Drawn 4 – Lost 8

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Key Player: Federico Higuain – Sensational this year, expect him to finish strong too.

Key Stat: Columbus Crew have won their last five at home. Can they make it six?

Columbus’ last five: W/W/L/W/W

Philadelphia’s last five: D/L/D/L/W

Prediction: Columbus Crew 1 – 1 Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia have it all to do against Kansas City

Sporting Kansas City host Philadelphia Union tonight, with both sides coming into the game in very different positions.

Kansas City are currently joint-leaders of the Eastern Conference, whereas the Union sit second from bottom in ninth place.

The Union are looking to end a club-record nine game winless streak, but it’s a difficult task against last year’s MLS Cup winners.

Philadelphia have only won one game this season, beating New England 1-0 back in March, and have now lost their last three on the bounce, and have scored just one in their last four.

The Union have scored a goal from open play for six matches, and are in real trouble as they take on an ever-dangerous Kansas City side.

Sporting have won their past two games, keeping a clean sheet in both, and have now shutout their opponents in four of their last five games.

A well organised Kansas City side are clear favourites for this game, and they are yet to lose at Sporting Park this season.

They beat 10-man Montreal Impact on Saturday, in a dominant display that saw English forward, Dom Dwyer score his second brace of the season against Montreal.

Dwyer has now scored six goals this season, and is looking a real threat. Don’t be surprised to see him on the scoresheet once again.

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(Photo: Dom Dwyer is looking increasingly dangerous for SKC)

The Union played with a 4-4-2 formation in Saturday’s 1-0 loss to DC United, but they failed to control the middle of the park and suffered as a result.

This could punish them again tonight, as Oriol Rosell has been brilliant for Sporting, and completed 160 of his 166 passes on Saturday, the highest percentage ever recorded in MLS since Opta began collecting statistics before the 2011 season.

Sporting manager, Peter Vermes was  full of praise for Rosell: “His biggest quality is that he finds himself always in the right positions to receive the ball in space, and always with options once he gets the ball. He knows before he gets it where he wants to play it, so from that perspective that’s one of the reasons why he’s been good in our team.”

The Union have it all to do, but they were in a similar position lasts season when they came to Sporting Park on a five-game winless run, and took all three points in a 1-0 victory.

A result that prompted a three-game unbeaten streak, and Philadelphia desperately need something to go their way again tonight.

Union midfielder Maurice Edu thinks that they just need a bit of luck to go their way: “I think we have to keep our heads up, maybe sometimes is just going back to the basics and grinding results.”

“We are a team that likes to play, but sometimes the best teams do not win the prettiest ways… sometimes it’s just a fluke goal or a set play and you just grind the rest of the game and maybe that is what we need right now,” he added.