Coming off the back of an intoxicating U.S. Open Cup victory in front of the Exploria Stadium faithful, Orlando City will now try to maintain the momentum it has built over the last month. The Lions are riding a five-game winning streak with four of those victories coming in MLS play at a time when OCSC has really needed them. This week presents one of Orlando’s toughest tests of the season, as the Lions travel north to face off with the Philadelphia Union, who are flying high and racking up absurd scorelines on almost every team they play.
A visit to the Union means that I took the time to speak with Joe Lister, one of the assistant editors over at SBNation’s Brotherly Game. As usual, Joe did an excellent job of catching us up on how things have been faring for Philadelphia lately.
When we last spoke in July, you highlighted the Union’s defense and rightly so. Given some of the absurd scorelines Philly has put up over the last month and a half, talk to me a little about the team’s offense. What has made the Union so potent at that end of the pitch?
Joe Lister: Mikael Uhre. He hasn’t been scoring a ton, but he is netting goals and assists. What’s been greater is how he’s worked with Julian Carranza and Daniel Gazdag. The three of them have just clicked so well, and they work well around the box. Each has their own strengths, and they’re able to combine to make MLS’ best scoring machine.
Julian Carranza has 14 goals and nine assists, and looks more and more like a thoroughly excellent piece of transfer business. Is he the best newcomer on this team or would you pick someone else for that honor?
JL: It’s Carranza. There weren’t a ton of additions this year (it’s really just been Uhre and Carranza), but Carranza’s been consistent throughout. When the offense was struggling, he was the one scoring goals. Now, he’s a part of a greater system, but still a huge highlight and signing for the club.
The Union are currently level with LAFC in the Supporters Shield race, although LAFC has a game in hand. With Philly having already won the shield in 2020, is winning it this year something that is important to the fans, or is it now seen as something that doesn’t mean as much in the grand scheme of chasing an MLS Cup?
JL: MLS Cup is first and foremost, but the Shield isn’t not the goal. Jim Curtin has said in the past that Philly is happy to let LAFC make mistakes so that the Union can win the Shield. With LA’s form in dispute, a two-trophy run isn’t out of the question.
Any injuries, call-ups, suspensions, etc. that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
JL: No injuries, the team should be healthy.
Lineup: Andre Blake; Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo; Jose Martinez; Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya; Daniel Gazdag; Mikael Uhre, Julian Carranza.
3-1 for the home side on Saturday, I think Philly gets it done.
Big thank you to Joe for the insight into this week’s opponent. Vamos Orlando!