We're just three days away from the start of the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs that kicks off on Saturday, November 20, with the Philadelphia Union against New York Red Bulls presented by Independence Blue Cross. Kick off from Subaru Park is set for 2:30 p.m. ET with the match available locally on PHL17 as well as on Univision, TUDN and MLSSoccer.com. Ahead of the big showdown, we're taking a look at three reasons why the Boys in Blue can make a long run in the postseason.
Defense Wins Championships
When you look at the last decade of MLS Cup Champions, a strong defense is crucial to making a deep run to the lifting the Cup. Three of the last four title winners allowed just two goals in their postseason run with the 2019 Seattle Sounders allowing five which included an epic 4-3 extra time win to kick off the playoffs.
The 2021 Philadelphia Union follow that defense first mentality embodied by Jim Curtin and racked up 12 shutouts this season. Led by reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake, the Union allowed the third-fewest amount of open-play expected goals across the league. The Union defense has been even more stingy at Subaru Park with opposing offenses held without a goal for the last 393 minutes. During that stretch the Union have racked up four shutouts with key plays from Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes and Olivier Mbaizo.
In addition to stopping the offense from scoring, the Union backline isn’t afraid to put their own numbers on the scoreboard as well with the starters contributing eight goals and 10 assists.
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Subaru Park is going to host an epic chapter in the Philadelphia Union vs New York Red Bulls rivalry in the 2021 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs on Saturday, November 20th at 2:30 pm ET. You do not want to miss this one, so get your tickets now!
Peaking At The Right Time
Besides not allowing a goal at Subaru Park since mid September and not dropping a league match since early September, the Union have been rolling at home. During the hectic October run the Union shot up from fourth in the Eastern Conference to finish second only to the record-setting New England Revolution.
During that stretch run the Union also faced adversity with forward Cory Burke and Sergio Santos unavailable due to injury but the swap to the 4-3-2-1 hit its rhythm when they needed to. It led to an offensive attack that is averaging 1.88 goals scored per game over the last eight contests compared to 1.27 over the first 26 games of the season).
With No. 10’s Jamiro Monteiro and Daniel Gazdag clicking plus an in-form Kacper Przybylko, the Union are peaking as they head into the postseason.
Experience and Hunger
2020 was a historical year that brought home the first trophy in the club’s history. Confetti rained down at Subaru Park but three weeks later the Revs put an end to the celebration. Since that moment, the Union have been eyeing a return to the playoffs to finish off their unfinished business. That hunger saw them as the final remaining club in MLS in the Concacaf Champions League.
With team captain Alejandro Bedoya calling the shots on the pitch and an ever hungry Jose Martinez joined by Leon Flach, opposing teams won’t enjoy attacking down the spine of the pitch. On the wings, MLS All-Star Kai Wagner and Olivier Mbaizo can quickly cut out an attack and lead their own.