The Philadelphia Union’s face a quick turnaround as they host the Chicago Fire on Wednesday night at Subaru Park. Coming off a huge win against Toronto FC on Sunday night, Head Coach Jim Curtin took time Tuesday to address the media about what to expect. Here are a few of the key takeaways from the presser.
Top of the table
With the blowout victory over Toronto FC the Union climbed their way to the top of the MLS table. The win spoke volumes about the big game mentality the Union have brought to this season and shows what they are capable of doing down the stretch. The timing of their dominant showing could not have been better with the announcement there will be a Supporter’s Shield given out this year after all and the Union in position to bring it home. The effort was led by Sergio Santos who became the Union’s leading scorer on the year by netting a hat trick on the day. Strikers naturally have their ups and downs, but the hot streak that Santos has been on cannot be overlooked with the MLS naming him the Player of the Week. His strong play at striker has been a major factor in the Union’s success of late, but not to be overlooked is Kacper Przybylko who provided the assist on three of the five Philadelphia goals. The forward continues to make an impact even in these matches where he is not scoring, that leadership and impact will be crucial for the Union’s big dreams for the end of this season.
In a season that has been anything but normal, teams have faced only a handful of teams over the course of the year in an effort to limit travel and the potential threats of COVID-19. The Union have seen their fair share of the Revolution as well as multiple looks at Toronto, Cincinnati, Montreal, and the rival New York Red Bulls. Wednesday’s match against Chicago will be the only time these two squads face off against each other this year, outside of the club friendly that took place in early February. This Chicago team is more of a handful than their point total reflects with manager Raphaël Wicky pushing the club in the right direction. They are strong in possession with the ball creating a lot of chances and they are well-organized defensively pressing well together as a team. Curtin’s side is not taking the Fire lightly as this match up will feature some familiar faces in CJ Sapong and Fabian Herbers. Both players are having strong 2020 campaigns for the Fire, and the Union loyal know exactly what these two are capable of.
The entire second phase of the MLS season can simply be characterized as non-stop action. The last few of weeks have been, and will be, nothing outside of that established norm with the Union playing three games in and eight day stretch. The need for resting players has never been more important than this season as we have seen injuries pile up across the league. The Union have made it clear that there will be no resting down the stretch of the season. Jamiro Monteiro will be the exception to that rule but not by choice as the midfielder will miss Wednesday’s match due to yellow card accumulation.
While the club intends to put its best Starting XI on the pitch to claim the hardware, the team has kept a watchful eye on guys like Santos who racks up a lot of minutes and sprints as much as anybody on the field there. However, these guys are both built for this kind of workload and riding hot streaks that the Union certainly do not want to break the momentum of. The team is viewing the week off between Columbus and New England as well as the international break right before the playoffs as a key time for all players to get some much-needed rest. Historically the league has been able to manage the international break by having the season wrap up before players report to their respective national duties. This obviously has not been possible with the pandemic shifting the season back, and all teams are going to have to deal with players traveling internationally right before the playoffs. The requests have already come in for the Union players expected to be called up for their national team with significant interest coming from Jamaica unsurprisingly.
The Union will face off against the Chicago Fire at Subaru Park this Wednesday October 28th at 7:30pm when they try to keep a hold of the top of the MLS table. The contest will be shown on PHL17 as well as PhiladelphiaUnion.com.