Philadelphia Union continues its journey in the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs as the club hosts Nashville SC. Ahead of the Eastern Conference Semifinal battle presented by Independence Blue Cross on Sunday evening Head Coach Jim Curtin discussed how he plans to break down a defensively sound Nashville squad and the importance home field advantage will have. These are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
Breaking Down Nashville
The Union are coming off an historic match against the rival New York Red Bulls courtesy of the latest goal in MLS history when center back Jakob Glesnes delivered in the 123rd minute. The celebrations have turned back to focusing on the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals when Nashville SC comes to Subaru Park. The match is the culmination of a mult-month battled between the two sides who finished tied on points in second place in the East. The Union won more matches than Nashville SC overall and as a result the final showdown between the two sides will be in front of the Union faithful. Curtin spoke about the challenges they will face when trying to break down a defensively sound Nashville.
“I don’t anticipate a high scoring game, you have two great defensive teams,” Curtin said. “The chances will be few and far between.”
Curtin did point out that while the visitors are defensively sound, you cannot overlook their ability to counter attack which was on full display against Orlando City SC.
“They are excellent at playing forward quickly and they can really pick you apart with their passes. They are really clinical on their transitions.”
Nashville’s record reflects their defensive abilities, having conceded the fewest goals on the road in the league and racked up 18 draws in the regular season. Curtin attributes a lot of their offensive success to MVP Finalist, Hany Mukhtar.
“I think in the last 18 games he has 11 goals and 8 assists, so he’s impacting almost all of their goals in a positive way.” Curtin said when talking about the forward. “They don’t lose often they have a ton of draws, they’re a really tough team to beat.”
Powell Steps Up
When the Union signed veteran MLS defender Alvas Powell, the idea was to bring in another defensive leader to help guide the young Union to reach new heights. On Friday evening, Powell was thrust into the spotlight with a start in place of Olivier Mbaizo. With 13 playoff games in his career plus MLS Cup, Powell was clutch and shutdown the right side of the pitch against the Red Bulls. Curtin explained how impactful it is to have a player with so much experience at this point in the tournament.
“He has a ton of experience and he’s still young. He also has intentional experience where he’s played in the biggest moments. He knows what pressure is, he’ll die on the field for the team to win.”
Powell will need a similar performance on Sunday against Nashville SC’s wingbacks as Mbaizo remains in the health and safety protocols.
The Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs continue for the Union on Sunday, November 28, with the Philadelphia Union against Nashville SC, presented by Independence Blue Cross. Kick off from Subaru Park is set for 5:30 p.m. ET with the match broadcast on ESPN and ESPN Deportes.