First place Philadelphia Union are the frontrunners to win the Supporters’ Shield as the calendar turns to November and just two matches remain. The Union look to get even closer to their first hardware as they square off on the road against Columbus Crew will kickoff at 3:30 PM on ABC.
While the Union claimed a 2-1 win to take a three point lead in the standings, it came at hefty price. Goalkeeper Andre Blake fractured his hand after jamming it on the goalpost and will miss not only Sunday’s match but the finale against New England too. Blake has been unstoppable in net and should be in the MVP discussions as a result so the club will be hoping for a quick recovery ahead of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
Veteran Joe Bendik is slated to get the start against the Crew with Homegrown Matt Freese as the backup according to Head Coach Jim Curtin. While the club will miss Blake, Curtin said the group is confident in Bendik who brings over 180 matches of experience in big moments.
Sunday afternoon will be the second meeting between the Union and the Crew, with Columbus being responsible for one of the Union’s three losses this season. After what was seemed to be an impressive season for the Crew, the injury bug hit the squad hard and saw them drop three of their last five games. Last time out they fell to D.C. United by a 1-0 margin and only managed to get off one shot on goal the entire match. The Crew have been missing a key piece with their leading scorer Gyasi Zardes sitting out the last two matches due to a minor knee injury. Columbus rotated their lineup against DC and surprisingly Coach Porter wasn’t too upset when his team didn’t get a result. Porter stated, “You’re looking at individuals who did well. This game always was going to set up the Philadelphia [Union] game.” It is safe to say that the Crew have their sights set on taking away the Supporters’ Shield glory from the Union.
Players to Watch
Joe Bendik: The goalkeeper will have some huge boots to fill in goal replacing Andre Blake and could be the hero should the Union claim the Supporters’ Shield.
Jonathan Mensah: Mensah is one of the best defenders in the League and in the running for the MLS Defender of the Year alongside Union homegrown Mark McKenzie.