Philadelphia Union is headed to Ohio for a win-or-go-home Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup against FC Cincinnati in the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs on Saturday night. Don't miss the action starting at 8PM with MLS Season Pass on Apple TV!
There’s a spot in the Eastern Conference Final on the line and Head Coach Jim Curtin’s squad has been busy preparing for the test to come since defeating New England Revolution in the first round.
“Overall, we're ready to go. It's been a while since we played a game, but I know the guys are anxious to get after an opponent that isn't themselves,” Curtin said on Tuesday at training.
“I think in some of the stretches of this year, we played seven games in this amount of time so it's definitely different. But guys got to rest up and recover; we’ll be fully ready to go and give our best in Cincinnati and try to move on to this thing.”
Saturday will mark 20 days since Philadelphia’s 1-0 road win at Gillette Stadium due to the FIFA international window and the pause left the team without seven players for training in Chester due to call-ups to their respective national teams. Despite the absences, Curtin and the contingent that remained stateside continued their diligent prep, while keeping the group scattered abroad looped into their upcoming game plan.
“It's been a unique week of preparation, obviously. We have really low numbers in training, and we will have one day to really prepare on Friday to get everybody together,” Curtin said.
“We're doing the best that we can with that, sending video clips to the guys that are on their national teams just to keep them focused on a tough opponent in Cincinnati. Obviously, they're away representing their countries right now and they have big games that they're doing really well in, but we also want to give them a little bit of information that can help them prepare for this game too.”
Though the break brought the challenge of training depth, it proved beneficial for striker Julian Carranza, who had ample time to comfortably return to the pitch after suffering a hamstring injury in Game 1 of their best-of-three Round One series.
With the team’s top goalscorer back in the lineup, Curtin is expected to be without only two starting pieces for the matchup, missing 2022 Defender of the Year Jakob Glesnes due to a sports hernia surgery that left him out for the season and left back Kai Wagner who has two games remaining on a league-issued suspension. On Tuesday, Curtin also shared that midfielder Leon Flach will be out for the rest of the team’s postseason campaign because of a persistent sports hernia injury that now requires surgery.
FC Cincinnati will be missing integral weapons in their defensive arsenal as well, namely 2023 Defender of the Year Matt Miazga who is out due to yellow card accumulation after picking up three cautions in the first two games of postseason play. 31-year-old veteran defender Nick Hagglund remains on their injured list after suffering a season-ending hamstring injury in the first game of their Round One series against New York Red Bulls.
It’s been just over two months since the pair's last meeting on September 16th where José Martinez and Daniel Gazdag netted goals for a 2-2 draw against FC Cincinnati at Subaru Park. After that match, Cincinnati saw just one loss, finishing the regular season with a momentous stretch that secured the club the 2023 Supporter’s Shield with 69 match points. Their historic 20-win season earned Head Coach Pat Noonan 2023 Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year honors, the league announced on Tuesday.
So far in the postseason, Noonan, a former Philadelphia Union assistant turned head coach, led his team to a 2-0 Round One series finish against New York Red Bulls that culminated in a 7-8 shootout win.
“When we play Cincinnati, whether it's in the regular season or in the playoffs now, the history is there that it's usually a one play game. So the team that does better in both boxes offensive and defensively will be the team that comes out. It could come down to a restart. It's going to be a really tight game and we hope to come out on top," Curtin said.