After a comfortable 2-0 win last weekend over Charlotte FC, the first place Union are full of confidence as a talented but stumbling Crew side arrives in Philadelphia. Caleb Porter’s team started the year strong with seven goals in its first two games. Since that high point, they are 1-2-1, and suffered their first shutout of the year last weekend against Nashville SC.
Unlike the Union, Columbus prefers to have the ball to control a match. A solid midfield base of Darlington Nagbe and Artur help release converted fullback Pedro Santos up the wing, then hard runs from a group of fast wingers who are dangerous in 1v1 matchups opens the pitch for Miguel Berry, Gyasi Zardes, and MLS March Player of the Month Lucas Zelarayan.
Zelarayan and Daniel Gazdag have been two of the best No. 10s in Major League Soccer this year even as they approach the game with different mindsets Both players can create and finish, but how they find the ball and what they do without it offer a study in contrasts. Zelarayan is looking to create early then drift around to find a lane for a shot near the box. Gazdag has become exceptional at hunting second balls and triggering a high press behind the strikers (just ask Charlotte FC goalkeeper Kristijan Kahlina).
While Columbus has struggled for goals in recent matches, Philly has seen all four top strikers play well enough to be in the conversation to start even as new Designated Player Mikael Uhre awaits his first MLS tally.
Uhre has been very impressive in his three appearances off the bench, creating a big scoring chance in his first showing against Montreal and rounding Kahlina last Saturday only to tap the ball slightly too wide to finish.
Union fans may see Uhre’s first start this weekend, though the strong showings from Julian Carranza and Sergio Santos against Charlotte could lead Curtin to stick with what worked.
By The Numbers
The Crew’s underlying numbers are impressive: They have taken the second most shots in the league (82) and allowed the fewest (40). Based on AmericanSoccerAnalysis’ Expected Goals model, Columbus’ 4.80 Expected Goals Allowed is fourth best, behind only the league’s three undefeated squads, Philly, Chicago, and LAFC.
Philly has taken fewer shots and allowed far more, though this may be more a function of style of play than a knock on the club’s execution. The Union don’t need the ball to be successful, and they’ll tolerate long shots against the best goalkeeper in MLS. Despite sitting in the middle of the pack in terms of shots created, Jim Curtin’s team has the fifth best Expected Goals number despite taking at least 12 fewer shots than any other club in the top eight.
Get your tickets today so you don’t miss your first place Union back in action, with kickoff on April 9 set for 6:00pm.
Next Home Game
Philadelphia Union wrap up their home stand at Subaru Park with a battle against the Columbus Crew on Saturday, April 9th. You won't want to miss out on the energy of the crowd as they cheer on the Boys in Blue!