Your recently crowned U.S. Open Cup champion Lions will face off against the Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia Union Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Subaru Park. Philadelphia has been a dominant club in MLS play this entire season, leading the Eastern Conference with a 17-4-9 record and 60 points, eight more than Montreal, which is second in the conference. The Union are also one of only two teams to have already secured a playoff spot, along with LAFC. Let’s jump into the numbers behind Philadelphia's commanding play so far this season.
The Philadelphia offense has really turned things around after an average start to the season. The Union are first in goals (63) and tied for fifth in total scoring attempts (397). The main reason that Philadelphia has one of the better offenses in MLS is because of its ability to create good scoring chances and then finish them with accuracy. The side from the City of Brotherly Love is seventh in shot-creating actions (607), while reaching league-high numbers in goal-creating actions (105) and assists (66). The Union are able to take advantage of these chances by being extremely precise in their scoring opportunities, ranking second in on-target scoring attempts (160), and first in accurate shooting percentage (40.3%). This has helped the Philadelphia offense overachieve more than other squads have been capable of this season, ranking fourth in goals-expected goals ratio (+6.7) of any MLS club.
The Union have by far the most intimidating defense in MLS this year. Philadelphia has only allowed 21 goals through 30 matches played this season, which is 10 fewer than the Columbus Crew, who have conceded 31 goals — the league’s second fewest. The main problem for opposing teams when playing the Union is that their defense has no major weak points to try to attack or exploit. Philadelphia currently ranks in the top three in every major defensive statistical category except for shots against, where it still ranks in the top 10, only allowing the ninth fewest (117) of any club. The Union have been the best at producing blocks (489), while ranking second in tackles (577), clearances (606), and pressures (4,532), and they are tied for third in the league in interceptions (484). The Lions will have to look for alternative ways to attack this Philadelphia defense if they are to have any success on the offensive end this Saturday.
Players to Watch
Midfielder Daniel Gazdag has led the attack for the Union offense this season. Gazdag is dangerous offensively for a midfielder as he has the second-most goals (18) of any midfielder in MLS, which makes him a major threat beyond helping to set up scoring chances for his attacking teammates. He not only leads the Union in goals, but he is also second in total shots (45) and shots on target (28), while having the second-best accurate shooting percentage (62.2%) among Union players with more than 10 starts. Forward Julian Carranza has the second-most goals (14) for Philadelphia, but this can mainly be contributed to his extremely high volume of shots taken (77), as he is well off the pace of the rest of his teammates, ranking fifth in accurate shooting percentage (39.0%) among players with more than 10 starts. A welcome surprise for Philadelphia this season has come from the foot of defender Kai Wagner, who has helped with offensive production by leading the team in both crosses (87) and assists (13).
Wagner has also provided great help to the club where you would traditionally expect him to help, on the defensive side. Wagner has been very good when the opposition pushes the ball up field. He ranks first in interceptions (72) and blocks (89). Midfielder Leon Flach has also made a great impact to the Union defense. Flach has been productive all over the pitch, ranking fifth among Philadelphia players in blocks (42), third in interceptions (62), and first in tackles (82) and pressures (617). Goalkeeper Andre Blake has been among the league’s best this season. Blake has conceded only 21 goals and has made 93 saves on 112 shots on target faced for a stellar save percentage of 83.9%.
That’s what I found on the Philadelphia Union. Let me know what you think about this upcoming match in the comments and, as always, go Orlando!