On Sunday Philadelphia Union take to the road in what could be the biggest statement match in club history as they travel to the Columbus Crew. Head Coach Jim Curtin addressed the media about what to expect for the game. Here are a few of the key takeaways from the presser.
Blake injured, Bendik set to step in
Unfortunately for the Union they will be without goalkeeper Andre Blake as Curtin said the keeper’s injury will force him out of the next two matches against Columbus and New. It was a freak accident where Blake hit his hand on the post that led to him fracturing a bone in his hand. There is hope within the Union that this will not be a season ending injury and that he could return for the playoffs. Dre will be in good hands with the training and medical staff the club has. Curtin has praised them this season for the work they have done in keeping players on the pitch and allowing the team to keep a core group together while other teams have run into injury issues. The time off between Columbus and New England as well as the international break should give the Jamaican captain time to heal before returning to play; but it remains clear that his health is the top priority and that the club will not rush him back and risk further injury.
There is no overstating the importance of this loss with Blake giving another Goalkeeper of the Year worthy performance on the year. In his absence Joe Bendik will take the reins as the last line of defense for the Union. Bendik has over 180 MLS matches under his belt, having played in some big games over his career. Curtin and the Union have full confidence in his ability in the net and his leadership while Blake is recovering.
The Supporters’ Shield
After a very gutsy performance against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday night the Union moved within one win of securing the club’s first ever Supporters’ Shield. The team kept their undefeated streak alive and well at Subaru Park on a night that saw all five substitutes called into important parts of the match. Toronto’s loss to NYCFC has given the Union a three-point cushion with a massive goal differential to help their cause. With two games to go, including the Revs at Subaru Park, a win coupled with loss or draw by Toronto could see the Boys in Blue the Supporters ‘Shield.
Though there is a lot on the line don’t expect the Union to stray from their normal course, their mindset is only focused on Columbus right now. The Crew are a formidable team that got the better of the Union on the road last time these two saw each other. This is expected to be another tightly contested game for the full 90 minutes, but the Union are up to the challenge looking to lock up that top playoff spot.
Though having such a deep and talented team has been a blessing and epitomized the Union this season, it does provide a challenge during international windows like the one coming up. The Union will have quite a few players called upon, having already received requests, that will likely be making the trip overseas to represent their country. At the best of times this creates an obstacle for teams having players in and out of the lineup, but this year the hurdle is magnified. Travelling internationally now means that players have an increased risk of being exposed to COVID-19, as well as having to follow the necessary quarantine period on their return to the team. For the Union it has thus far been the usual suspects that are called upon when national duties come up that will have to decide what they want to do. Curtin said that the decision is totally out of the hands of the Union as FIFA trumps the MLS. The only solace that comes from this is knowing that this is not unique to the Union and that the entire league will have to deal with this. The hope of course is to have everyone safe and healthy and back in time for the playoffs next month.
The Union will face off against the Columbus Crew on the road this Sunday November 1st at 3:30pm ET in a nationally televised clash on ABC.