Welcome to your match thread for a rare Thursday night match-up between Orlando City SC (6-3-4, 22 points) and the Philadelphia Union (6-3-5, 23 points) at Exploria Stadium (7:30 p.m., ESPN, ESPN Deportes). This is the first meeting between the Eastern Conference rivals in 2021, with the return fixture set for Subaru Park on Sept. 19.
Orlando City is 3-4-5 in the 12 MLS meetings with the Union since the club joined Major League Soccer in 2015, and 3-5-5 in all competitions. The Lions are 1-1-3 in the series at home. The teams last met in the group stage of the MLS is Back Tournament in 2020 with the game ending in a 1-1 draw after a Mauricio Pereyra goal canceled out a strike by Ilsinho. That draw allowed the Lions to win Group A in the competition.
The teams met in what was then known as Talen Energy Stadium on July 7, 2019, with the Lions and Union drawing 2-2. Dom Dwyer and Santiago Patino brought Orlando back from 1-0 down but Kacper Przybylko poached a goal in the 90th to capture a share of the points for the Union. That match was postponed by MLS on the night it was set to take place — a move that Orlando City fought against — and instead was played the next day.
The two teams had met just a few days earlier on July 3, ending in Orlando’s 3-1 home loss against the Union. Chris Mueller and Przybylko swapped goals in the first half before Robin Jansson was sent off moments before the break. Afterwards, the 10-men Lions gave up two more goals — one to Przybylko and the other to Fafa Picault — and then went down another man with Sacha Kljestan seeing red.
The teams drew 2-2 in a wild finish on Sept. 1, 2018 in Orlando. Just when it looked like Picault had lifted the Union to victory with a strike in the 88th minute, Scott Sutter equalized in stoppage time to salvage a point for the Lions. Dwyer and Cory Burke also scored in that match.
The Lions and Union played twice in Philly in 2018, including a USOC match July 18, 2018, won by Philadelphia, 1-0 on a goal by Alejandro Bedoya. The Lions prevailed over the Union in Philadelphia on April 13, 2018 by a 2-0 score. Dwyer and Mueller provided the offense.
The teams split their two matches in 2017, with the home side prevailing both times. The Lions won 2-1 at Orlando City Stadium on March 18 as part of the team’s hot start. Cyle Larin scored a brace to lead the Lions. C.J. Sapong scored for Philadelphia. The rematch was an ugly 6-1 Philadelphia win in the season finale for both teams. Dwyer gave Orlando its only goal, while Earl Edwards Jr. (in his first MLS start) was beaten twice each by Ilsinho, Picault, and Sapong.
The Lions were 1-1-1 against Philadelphia in 2016. The team’s first road victory in the series came on Oct. 16, 2016, as the Lions roared, 2-0. Carlos Rivas and Julio Baptista scored. The teams played to a 2-2 draw on May 25 in Orlando, as Ken Tribbett made the Lions pay for Kaká’s missed penalty in the first half by scoring an equalizing goal off a corner kick. Kevin Molino and Larin scored for Orlando City, and Tranquillo Barnetta also scored for the Union. Barnetta’s free kick in the 89th minute gave Philly a 2-1 win on March 8 of 2016, with Adrian Winter scoring for the Lions on the road.
Orlando City enters the match having gone three games without a win (0-2-1) but is sporting a 3-1-2 record at home in 2021. The Union are good at getting road points this season, going 2-1-4 away from Subaru Park. Philadelphia is unbeaten in its last two matches (1-0-1) after a 2-1 win over D.C. United on Saturday.
The Lions have struggled to put the ball in the net the last few games, with only three goals scored in the last three matches — one of those from the penalty spot. It will likely take more than one goal to beat a team as potent as the Union.
Przybylko is the man to watch up top for Philadelphia. He can make things happen with very little space with his powerful shot. He and Burke are tied for the team lead in goals (4) although the latter is away with Jamaica in the Gold Cup. Sergio Santos is also dangerous, with three strikes so far in 2021. Jamiro Monteiro is Philly’s best set-up man with four assists this year.
Orlando’s midfield will need a strong showing. Jim Curtin’s team has prioritized strong play in the middle of the pitch to turn over opponents and create transition opportunities. Orlando played well out of the back against the Union last season in the MLS is Back match-up but Oscar Pareja’s team has a lot more game film available since that meeting. Pareja said this is a Union side with which his squad is well acquainted.
“We played a couple of friendly games during the off-season. It’s a rival that we know well,” he said. “For us (it’ll take) the same commitment, the same responsibility. (We’re) eager to come back to our place and get points and keep fighting for the higher spots in the conference. We’re getting this opportunity after the good result in Toronto and a good performance, so we’re optimistic.”
For Orlando, Daryl Dike remains with the USMNT on Gold Cup duty. None of the Lions are listed as out, but Alexandre Pato, Sebas Mendez, Ruan, and Antonio Carlos are all listed as questionable with lower body injuries. Philadelphia is missing three Jamaicans — goalkeeper Andre Blake, forward Burke, and Alvas Powell — to international duty. Ilsinho (groin surgery) is listed as questionable but is nearing a return. Anthony Fontana (concussion protocol) is also listed as questionable and Jack de Vries (concussion protocol) is listed as out.
Mandatory Match Content
- Our Intelligence Report features a scouting report on the Union courtesy of Joe Lister of SBNation’s Brotherly Game blog.
- This week's PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions for tonight’s game and a preview of the match with Matt Ralph from Brotherly Game.
- David Rohe listed his three keys to victory in the match for Orlando City.
Orlando City (4-4-2),
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kyle Smith.
Midfielders: Mauricio Pereyra, Andres Perea, Uri Rosell, Benji Michel.
Forwards: Nani, Chris Mueller.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Michael Halliday, Antonio Carlos, Rio Hope-Gund, Joey DeZart, Silvester van der Water, David Loera, Alexander Alvarado, Tesho Akindele.
Philadelphia Union (4-4-2 diamond)
Goalkeeper: Matt Freese.
Defenders: Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo.
Midfielders: Jose Martinez, Jamiro Monteiro, Daniel Gazdag, Alejandro Bedoya.
Forwards: Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos.
Bench: Joe Bendik, Matthew Real, Stuart Findlay, Aurelien Collin, Quinn Sullivan, Leon Flach, Paxten Aaronson, Cole Turner, Jack McGlynn.
Ref: Alan Kelly.
AR1: Jeremy Hanson.
AR2: Eric Weisbrod.
4th: Kevin Broadley.
VAR: Jose Carlos Rivero.
AVAR: Jozef Batko.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes.
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Acción 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Streaming: WatchESPN, ESPN3.
Enjoy the match. Go City!