Michael Farfan was the difference-maker back in 2013 when Pumas UNAM and Philadelphia Union first met. This time around, Pumas will be looking to figure out their away form as they go through the gears early in the LigaMX season.
For the Union, this is a chance to tweak some tactics and figure out which players are ready to be key pieces down the stretch as they chase the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Pumas is likely to come out in a 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1 shape against the Union. On the road, they’ve played with two very tight banks of four behind a pair of attackers that float around and try to find the right moments to press.
In a recent match against Monterrey, Pumas looked vulnerable up their left side, where the left center back didn’t like to rotate out to when the fullback was pulled out wide. The Union have a lot of speedy attackers that could explode through space if their opponents don’t shift the back line as a unit.
That tight eight in back, however, means Pumas can counterattack and send a lot of numbers forward in a hurry. Additionally, players may pop out of the back line unexpectly, forcing the Union to be on their toes after turnovers. This is a positive for Philly since it will force them to execute in defensive transitions, a phase of play emphasized by Jim Curtin and Ernst Tanner this season.
Pumas last won a league title in 2011 when they picked up the Clausura in LigaMX. They have traditionally been a powerhouse in Mexico, collecting seven LigaMX titles, one Copa MX win, and three CONCACAF Champions League trophies.
Jorge Campos spent time with Pumas, and Bora Milutinovic, who went on to coach the United States Men’s National Team, also first arrived in Mexico as a Pumas player back in 1972.
The Mexico City side is without Alan Mozo, who was called up for his first U23 camp with Mexico, but despite missing a few pieces they will bring a talented side to Philadelphia.
This will be wonderful opportunity for both the Union and Pumas to evaluate the depth of their rosters and figure out who can help turn 2019 into a big one for these clubs.
The Union and Pumas face off at Talen Energy Stadium at 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 7. The match will be streamed live on PhiladelphiaUnion.com