The 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs are almost here! Philadelphia Union will begin their postseason campaign as the hosts of the first match of their best-of-three series against New England Revolution on Saturday at 5pm. Tune in for free on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV to watch their playoff push begin!
The team had their final training before meeting New England again on Friday morning, and afterwards, Head Coach Jim Curtin met with the media, previewing their first round schedule.
The real season starts
Philadelphia Union finished the regular season fourth in the Eastern Conference with a 15-9-10 record. Now, they’ll head to their sixth consecutive postseason with a clean slate.
“Now, the real season starts. The players are excited. We obviously face a familiar opponent, having played them in the last game of the season – that makes the preparation still involved and detailed, but it's one that we're not gonna have any big surprises I think from from either team really,” Curtin said.
“Two strong teams who worked very hard all season to get home field advantage, and now in the best of three series, we know that they have to beat us at least once in this building to move on and that's something that's very hard to do. We need our fans to be as loud as they normally are, Subaru Park is a very special place and we now look to go on another memorable MLS Cup playoff run.”
It’s likely Head Coach Jim Curtin will have his entire group available for selection on Saturday against New England, welcoming back José Martinez to the group this week after picking up a ‘knock’ during international duty with Venezuela and suspension from yellow card accumulation. Despite a long list of players who’ve faced various ailments over the past month including Martinez, Jesús Bueno, Olivier Mbaizo, and Leon Flach, the only player who’s ‘day-to-day’ is Jakob Glesnes.
“That's how it's been for the last 2 plus months, he’s been navigating a sports hernia so it becomes the issue of pain tolerance and what makes sense, and what doesn't lead to even further damage,” Curtin said.
“We’ll be intelligent with that, we'll speak with Jakob and see where he's at. But overall, we have a good group of centerbacks to choose from so whoever is called upon will be ready to go.”
Glesnes is an important fixture in the team’s deep centerbacks group that have been utilized in a multitude of formations and pairings as of late. Though he didn’t give away his backline gameplan, Curtin gave some insight on how he might structure his defense this weekend.
“You like to get familiarity in your group. Depending on opponent, home or away, you can go to three center backs, you can play with your normal two, which is my preferred way. So we'll make a decision,” Curtin said.
“Not gonna give [Head Coach Clint Peay] any headstart but yeah, it's a good, good problem to have, tough decision to make. But again, our group is a group that’s together whether we play three, whether we play four. We'll see. But at the same time, we have a great, stable center backs to choose from.”
Scouting New England
Curtin and his team knows well the strengths of the visiting New England squad, who recently defeated Philadelphia 2-1 on the road at Gillette Stadium on Decision Day. With the loss fresh in their memory and diligent prep work already completed ahead of their most recent meeting, the team’s week looked a bit different than usual.
“We played them in the last game of the year, so a lot of the work that has been done, we're just kind of adding some layers and pieces to, in the event that maybe New England makes a change or subs different or whatever plays a different formation,” Curtin said.
“Overall, familiarity is a good thing, and it will lead to, I think, a really competitive series. We have a good opponent knowing that starts with Carles Gil, Gustavo Bou in good form. They have a good backline, they're organized, and they're tough to play. So, the margins will be tight.”