Philadelphia Union will host Nashville SC for U Thank U Night presented by Independence Blue Cross on Saturday night. The contest marks the final regular season match at Subaru Park -- don't miss Saturday's action with MLS Season Pass on Apple TV starting at 7:30PM ET!
Saturday’s game is paramount for Head Coach Jim Curtin’s squad, as a win would help solidify their chances at claiming a top-four spot in MLS playoff seeding, granting them home field advantage in the first round of the 2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. The team currently sits at third place with 54 points after defeating Atlanta United 3-2 on Wednesday night, now hosting a seventh ranked Nashville SC team desperate to boost their positioning.
Philadelphia emerged from their most recent Eastern Conference battle victorious after the team’s trio up front found their rhythm in the final stretch of the first half, scoring three momentous goals in just over 10 minutes to build a lead Atlanta couldn’t chase down. The team’s top three goalscorers in Daniel Gazdag, Mikael Uhre, and Julián Carranza each hit the back of the net, marking the first time all three have contributed goals in the same match this season. The last time they'd done so was on August 31st, 2022, also against Atlanta.
Oppositely, Nashville has endured a dry spell as of late, playing two straight games without a single shot on goal. The team lost a nearly three months long home winning streak on Wednesday, falling 1-0 to Orlando City. The result marked their their first loss at Geodis Park since July 12th.
Of Nashville's 36 goals scored this season, last year's league MVP Hany Muhktar has contributed 15, outpacing any of his teammates by at least 3 times their total. He’s only scored two goals since the team's Leagues Cup Final appearance on August 19th, which finished in an historic 1-1 shootout battle against Inter Miami FC that went to a penalty shootout. Without his offensive contributions, the team has only claimed one winning result since then, defeating Sporting Kansas City on September 20th.
“With Nashville, it starts with Mukhtar coming off of that line, and we have to do a good job protecting against him. They don't concede a lot, but and you know, their offense isn't firing on all cylinders right now. But they have a group that can break out at any moment,” Curtin said.“When you talk about [Teal] Bunbury, Fafá [Picault], [Jacob] Shaffelburg, [Hany] Mukhtar, leading the line for them, when they get going, they’re as hard to play against anybody in the league.”
Despite their offensive blunders as of late, Nashville’s backline has cemented itself as one of the best in the league, conceding the fewest number of goals in 2023 with 29. Favorably for the Union, Nashville will be without 32-year-old starting defender Daniel Lovitz after he picked up a red card violation in stoppage time on Wednesday.
“Their foundation, similar to us, is defense first – I think that's clear. That's what makes it difficult because I always say when the weather gets cold, and the games get hard, Nashville is one of those teams that can roll up their sleeves and can match the intensity. That's why they're successful and really good at what they do. So they're similar to us in that regard,” Curtin said.
Curtin’s squad enters the match with momentum, after persevering through injuries and exhaustion to claim a draw and a win within the last week. They’ll look to close their 2023 home calendar with a three point boost in front of the Union faithful before entering the international break then their Decision Day match against New England Revolution.
“It's going to be a really tough test. I think there's a bit of light at the end of the tunnel for both teams as well. We've had brutal schedules and now play each other, and then that international break before the final game of the season is probably welcomed for both teams, even though we’ll both miss some players to national team [call-ups].”