For the third time this season and the first time in Orlando, Orlando City and the Philadelphia Union will square off. The Union will arrive into Orlando City Stadium flying high, having won their past four matches in the league and five overall, including their Open Cup semifinal victory over the Chicago Fire. The Union also dispatched the Lions from the Cup competition the last time these two teams met.
Orlando City has recently started trending younger as the season draws to a close, taking a page from a Union playbook that has paid dividends after giving young players minutes early and often in 2018. That same roster has clicked and we’ll see a different team from Orlando’s 2-0 victory back in April, even though the roster may look similar.
To provide an update on the Union, Co-Managing Editor Matt Ralph of SB Nation’s Brotherly Game has returned to offer some insight.
Philadelphia’s season has turned around from the beginning of 2018. What’s changed for the Union since then?
Matt Ralph: The players are mostly the same, the head coach is the same, the technical staff is the same. Two recent changes though have been putting Cory Burke up top with CJ Sapong out wide and pairing Jack Elliott with Auston Trusty on the back line. Both moves have paid huge dividends — Burke has scored in all but two of his starts and Sapong is excelling with less pressure on him to score goals (he had a goal and an assist in Wednesday night’s 2-0 win in D.C.) and the back line has kept three clean sheets. I don’t know how long it’s going to continue, but it’s been a fun run for a fan base that had little belief early in the season.
The Union’s away form has been superb recently, winning four of their last five matches on the road. What’s the secret to that success?
MR: Momentum is a powerful thing because it builds belief and confidence, something this team hasn’t had in a very long time. After going nearly an entire year without a win away from home, they now have five away wins after winning three total in 2017 and 2016.
Borek Dockal has quietly been a great addition, racking up 13 assists and five goals in league play. What can we expect from him this weekend?
MR: Dockal has been key to the Union’s success finding goals, particularly away from home. Though much of what he does doesn’t show up on the score sheet, the assists he’s collected have been the result of his creativity and technical ability to set up his teammates. Early in the season, he wasn’t on the same page as his teammates but now he has been and he’s been a big reason why the Union have been able to rack up wins.
What injuries/suspensions will keep players out this weekend and what is your projected lineup and predicted final score?
MR: There aren’t any to report in terms of players who will factor into the game Saturday.
Projected starting XI: Andre Blake; Raymon Gaddis, Auston Trusty, Jack Elliott, Keegan Rosenberry; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Fafa Picault, Borek Dockal, C.J. Sapong; Cory Burke.
Score prediction: I said 1-1 on the podcast before the Union won handily Wednesday in D.C. I’m going to stick with that prediction even though I feel a little more confident coming off another win.
Thanks to Matt for stopping by again and dropping the info bombs on us about the Union.