Philadelphia Union II takes a two-game winning streak to Ohio in hopes of a regular season sweep in MLS NEXT Pro action against FC Cincinnati 2. Kick off from the Queen City is set for 6 p.m. ET with the match streamed for free on MLSNEXTPro.com.
When FC Cincinnati 2 and Philadelphia Union II take the pitch on August 7, expect an intense, heated, and physical affair.
But don’t expect a high-scoring one.
Both clubs are in the bottom five in MLS NEXT Pro in goals scored, and neither has found a key to unlock their attacks even when they are playing well on the defensive side.
That defensive solidity has come more often for Union II — Brandan Craig, Cole Turner, Nathan Nkanji, and Frank Westfield have all taken big strides forward this year. Inconsistency in the defensive midfield role — less in performance than in available personnel — has made shutouts hard to come by, but Union II have recently handled Toronto FC II and Columbus Crew 2 well, only giving up goals in extremely difficult circumstances.
For Cincy 2, Harrison Robledo has been the primary creator this year, with Avionne Flanagan pitching in from an outside back role.
Cincy 2 is good at creating width but finishing plays has been a struggle. To control the match, Union II will need to ensure their defensive structure is tight so Cincy’s breaks don’t put the defense in odd-man situations.
Going forward, Union II will once again look for one of their many talented young attackers to step up. Against league leaders Columbus Crew 2, It was Stefan Stojanovic taking center stage with a stunning late winner. Recent matches have seen Nelson Pierre step up his game as well, and Union II still has another gear to hit if Bajung Darboe and Jose Riasco hit their stride.
Head Coach Marlon LeBlanc can also call on MLS NEXT All-Stars Daniel Krueger and Andrew Rick now that the MLS NEXT season has concluded. This flexibility should help a young side that often needs to ride in-form players to produce results.
Since the Union II match is the day after the Union take on FC Cincinnati, LeBlanc may also be able to use Union players that don’t get minutes for the first team. Matt Real has proven he can be an elite MLS NEXT Pro player, and Philly’s collection of talented homegrowns have been ferocious when called upon for Union II play, as exemplified by Quinn Sullivan’s wonderful performance against TFC II recently.