After a 2-0 road win over the Columbus Crew on Saturday, Orlando City is back in action with yet another Wednesday game. This particular midweek game will be against the Philadelphia Union, whom Orlando will also be playing on Saturday for some strange scheduling reason.
Ahead of the game I spoke with Matt Ralph of SBNation’s Brotherly Game, and he was kind enough to bring me up to speed on the Union’s season. You can read my answers to Matt’s questions over at their place.
It’s been a very strong season for the Union so far, and they currently sit on top of the Eastern Conference with 32 points. What’s been going right for the Union up to this point? What has been the biggest factor in their success?
Matt Ralph: A lot hasn’t been going well in their last two games, but overall I’d say they’ve been strong defensively (prior to the NYCFC game) and have been lights out in the second half thanks to super sub Ilsinho, who has feasted on tiring defenses all season when he’s come off the bench. They haven’t gotten enough out of their two biggest off-season signings — Marco Fabian and Sergio Santos — but they’ve gotten enough offense by spreading the goals around have been really strong in the middle of the pitch with Alejandro Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro, and Haris Medunjanin. Homegrown midfielder Brenden Aaronson has also played a lot and contributed quite well in Fabian’s absence.
While Philly does sit on top of the standings, things have gotten a little bogged down recently with the team winning two of its last eight in all competitions. Is there one thing in particular that you can point to as a reason for that?
MR: They aren’t surprising people anymore like they were earlier in the season with their shift in approach and formation, and there is a lot more film on their key newcomers to MLS (Monteiro, Kacper Przybylko, Kai Wagner, Aaronson, and Santos). They’ve also struggled to break down teams that have bunkered in against them and have struggled at times finishing in front of goal, something they addressed with the signing of Andrew Wooten, who won’t be eligible to play until the secondary transfer window opens.
Marco Fabian was acquired from Eintracht Frankfurt and was one of the team’s big signings in the off-season. How has he adjusted to life with the Union so far?
MR: It’s been a season to forget so far for Fabian due to a two-game red card suspension early in the season and an ankle injury that has limited his playing time. When he’s been out there, he has been less than convincing, but much of that has been because of the start-stop nature of his first season in MLS so far. Some are already calling him a bust, but given the circumstances it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he couldn’t be considered a bust for how little he’s played and how much he is making as the highest-paid player in franchise history.
Are there any injuries, suspensions, or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection on Wednesday? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
MR: Andre Blake will be out for sure on Wednesday and will likely also miss Saturday even if Jamaica loses to the U.S. in the Gold Cup semifinal on Wednesday. Warren Creavalle has been hurt since he injured himself in training camp for Guyana preparing for the Gold Cup (such a bummer for him) and reserve right back Olivier Mbaizo recently underwent surgery for a tear in his meniscus.
Projected Starting XI: Carlos Miguel Coronel, Ray Gaddis, Jack Elliott, Auston Trusty, Kai Wagner, Haris Medunjanin, Jamiro Monteiro, Alejandro Bedoya, Marco Fabian, Fafa Picault, Kacper Przybylko.
Score prediction: 1-1 draw.
Many thanks to Matt for the insight into the Union.