Last Saturday, the Black & Gold pulled out a 1-1 road draw at Vancouver. Despite the positive result, Columbus was officially eliminated from playoff contention after New England and Portland finalized a 1-1 draw on Wednesday. With the playoffs officially in the rear-view mirror, the Crew can focus on continuing to solidify head coach, Caleb Porter’s vision for the team as it moves forward to the 2020 season.
Porter & Company have two more matches in the 2019 campaign, the first being today at MAPFRE Stadium versus the Philadelphia Union. Philadelphia and Columbus last locked horns way back on March 23rd, with the Union earning 3-0 victory. Who scored the first two goals for Philadelphia on that evening? None other than current Columbus Crew attacker, David Accam. The clash will be the home finale for Columbus, with a 5:00pm kickoff. To prepare for the tilt, let’s take an in-depth look at Jim Curtin’s Union squad.
Philadelphia at a glance
Record: 16-9-7 (55 points, 2nd in Eastern Conference)
Leading scorer: Kacper Przybylko (Forward) – 15 Goals
Assist leader: Haris Medunjanin (Midfielder) – 10 Assists
Philadelphia Union Expected Starting XI
How the Union Play
As most head coaches tend to do, the Union’s Jim Curtin has used a multitude of formations throughout the season. He implemented a 4-4-2 diamond formation at the start of the season, which yielded mixed results. Depending on the opposition, Curtin has also successfully utilized 4-2-3-1 scheme. As the season progressed, the 4-4-2 diamond found its way back into the gameday lineup and the squad responded with one positive result after another.
A diamond midfield allows for numerical superiority through the center of the pitch. All four midfielders are integral in the attack and they provide cover down the center of the field defensively. Haris Medunjanin and former USMNT regular, Ale Bedoya have been the catalysts of making this formation succeed. We will have more on Medunjanin momentarily.
The Union were known for being underachievers in recent seasons, causing the fan base to grow restless. However, a stalwart throughout the clubs down years, was the excellent play of goalkeeper, Andre Blake. He was a breath of fresh air for a team that struggled to consistently earn positive results. Ironically enough, this seasons success in the standings has seen a statistical decline for Blake. In fact, it has been the Jamaican internationals worst year thus far for save percentage and total saves made.
Who Should Crew Fans Watch Out For
The man making it happen for Philadelphia is Kacper Przybylko. The former Polish youth international is a physical forward with a nose for goal. He possesses the height, size, and skill needed to be a threat in the air and with his feet. Przybylko isn’t afraid to mix it up with opposing teams on or even off the field.
Recently, after a win over Atlanta United and with a match against Supporter Shield winning LAFC on the horizon, the big man was riding a wave of confidence, he emphatically stated, “LAFC, I wish you a lot of luck. This is our house, this is our stadium, we have great supporters and we’re waiting for you guys.” And wouldn’t you know it, Przybylko scored the opening goal of the match a mere 3-minutes into the game.
At only 26 years of age, the vagabond striker has dawned a variety of jerseys during his 8-year professional career. Perhaps, Kacper has finally found his long-term home in Philadelphia? In 25 matches this season, he has contributed 15 goals and 4 assists. If the Crew want to earn a positive result in their home finale, neutralizing Przybylko will be critical.
The rock of Philadelphia’s midfield has undoubtedly been Haris Medunjanin. The 34-year-old former Bosnian international hasn’t missed a single minute of action this season. And according to mlssoccer.com, he leads the league in completed passes and completed passes in the opponent’s half. His ten assists lead the Union. Though, even more critical is the interchangeability he possesses as it pertains to diamond midfield. He facilitates, creates, and breaks up opposition attacks. He has been the unsung hero for the Union.
How the Crew Win
Philadelphia has plenty of incentive to play for a win, while Columbus has just pride to play for and the potential to battle for spots on next seasons roster. The Union are coming off a high of beating the Supporters Shield winning Los Angeles Football Club earlier this week. Keeping their second-place status in the Eastern Conference will behoove them immensely during the MLS Playoffs, so they will be playing to win.
Caleb Porter is a “hate to lose” type of coach and it can be assured that many of his players want to make amends for what has been an underwhelming 2019 campaign. Whichever one of these two mentalities win out over the 90 minutes will ultimately decide how this game concludes. The Crew can win if they play as a unit and with the fighting spirit that we have seen more consistently over the last two months of the season.
The goal for Columbus should be to get Eloy Room is long-awaited shutout. Columbus has thrown away at least a dozen points during the last ten minutes of various games this season. And while the Crew have only lost once since Room debuted, several of the games that ended in draws had the post-game feel of a loss. If midseason acquisitions Luis Diaz, Youness Mokhtar, Romario Williams or even Jordan Hamilton can put their stamp on the game with creativity in the attacking-third of the field, Columbus should certainly be able to earn a win to close out the 2019 home season.