Orlando City heads into Philadelphia for the final match of the 2017 MLS season. In other words, soon the 2017 Lions can’t hurt us anymore. Even though this game means absolutely nothing, it would still be nice to go out with a win. On the other hand, a loss gives Orlando a higher draft position.
My advice: enjoy the game. It’s the last time we’ll see some of these players in purple. Whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing, each player who pulls on that jersey with the lion crest is a part of the history of this club. Each one is a thread in the tapestry that makes Orlando City SC what it is. Every team has its legends and its more forgettable players, but if and when this team finally lifts the MLS Cup, every player and every game will have been a brick in the path that got the Lions there. So savor it, and take a moment to remember each player.
So, what’s different about the Philadelphia Union since these teams met way back in March?
Eugene Rupinski: Not a whole lot honestly, which is supremely concerning for Union fans. They're still out of the playoffs. There are still a lot of questions surrounding the defense and the overall direction of the club going forward. The successful teams in the league adapted and grew over the course of the season, and unfortunately for the Union and their fans, they seemed to regress.
What was the biggest reason the 2017 Union failed to return to the postseason?
ER: Lack of consistency. Sometimes the Union's defense looked like a stone wall. Other times it gave up too many opportunities. Sometimes the Union's offense would click and players would step up, other times everything was left up to CJ Sapong to try and solve by himself. Sometimes it all would come together and the Union would play as well as any team in the league, and other times they were... the Union.
The Union also failed to capitalize on opportunities they were presented, both on the pitch and off. They just couldn't seem to ever seize upon a chance they were given when an opposing star player was out or when presented with goal-scoring opportunities.
Is there any chance this game is watchable with both teams having nothing to play for?
ER: Maybe. I mean these teams don't like one another, and there are bound to be guys playing for jobs next year who want to impress. I'd anticipate guys playing hard and hopefully showing some fight in a game that has zero meaning to anyone but the guys on the pitch. It won't be Real Madrid vs. Barcelona, but it could still be entertaining. Hopefully both of our teams can find things to build on for 2018.
Injuries?/Suspensions?/Projected starting XI?/Final score prediction?
ER: Injuries: Ken Tribbett (left Achilles strain), Maurice Edu (left ankle/left tibia surgery), and Fabian Herbers (sports hernia surgery) are out. Warren Creavalle (right hamstring strain) and Joshua Yaro (right knee contusion) are questionable.
Suspensions: Keegan Rosenberry is suspended by the team for “inappropriate conduct on social media.”
Projected Starting XI: Andre Blake; Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Jack Elliott, Ray Gaddis; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Fafa Picault, Roland Alberg, Chris Pontius; CJ Sapong.
Final score prediction: 1-1 draw. The perfect ending to a season neither club should be happy with.
Big thanks to Eugene from The Brotherly Game for answering our questions about the Union.