Philadelphia Union start their 2022 postseason run on Thursday night when they host FC Cincinnati in the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Subaru Park. FC Cincinnati advanced to the semifinals this past weekend with a very tough 2-1 come from behind victory against the New York Red Bulls. With plenty of rest from their eleven day break, the Boys in Blue look to keep their season alive and their undefeated streak at home going as they make a push towards the MLS Cup. These are our Founders Brewing Co. Pressing Points.
After finishing the long, 34 game regular season that spans over 9 months at the top of the table, the Union face a tough task at home against a hot Cincinnati team coming off their first round win. The Union have struggled against Cincinnati this year, but Coach Curtin has lots of confidence in his squad to get the job done.
“[Cincinnati has] confidence, they’re brave, they’re a good team, and they’re not afraid, so we have to do our job to limit their chances, to be very strong defensively, to win the battle in both redzones… We know that we’ll create chances at home over the 90 minutes, so hopefully we can be clinical in front of goal,” Curtin said. “We respect the opponent very much, they’re a great team in the attack, but we also have a great defensive team, so it’ll be a really good matchup, but at home, it’s on us to play our way.
Even after having such a dominant season, failing to advance in the playoffs and make a deep run would be nothing short of disappointment. This team has one goal now, and that’s to bring an MLS Cup trophy to Philadelphia for the first time in the club’s history. Coach Curtin knows what’s at stake and has made his message very clear to his team
“Really proud of the group to get to the final eight, recognizing now that we’re three wins away from lifting the MLS Cup, is something that these guys have worked very hard to put themselves in a position to do. We’ve had a lot of records and accolades this year, and all of the goals against and goals for, and win total is all nice, but this group only wants one thing, and that’s to go out on the field Thursday night, and get a victory and start our playoff run the right way.”
Brick Wall Blake
Andre Blake has been a force of nature this season in goal as he has recorded a career high fifteen clean sheets on the season. With the dominant season that he’s had, he became the first goalkeeper in league history to be named twice a finalist for the Landon Donovan MLS MVP. Other than the Union goalkeeper, no other goalkeeper has been named a finalist for MVP since 2004 when Joe Cannon was nominated. Curtin spoke Tuesday about how dominant of a player Blake has been this year for the Union and how vital he is to the team.
“I’m really proud of the season he had, the defense in front of him worked their tails off to play a role in Andre getting the recognition, but to see where he’s gone from draft pick, to best XI type goalkeeper, to All-Star, to goalkeeper of the year, to now being talked about as an MVP just speaks to how great of a player he is and how lucky we are to have him here in Philadelphia. He’s a real winner and has become such a great leader in our locker room, and I love working with him everyday, he’s truly a special talent.
The Brick Wall has been an integral piece to the Union’s success this season, as he has also filled in as captain when Alejandro Bedoya has been injured. Blake also boasted his best save percentage of his career this year at 79.4%, saving 100 shots and only letting up a mere 26 goals over the course of the 34 game season. With Bedoya potentially sidelined for the first match against Cincinnati, Blake is ready to lead this team to a deep run in this year’s playoffs.