Preview: Philadelphia Union vs Nashville SC

The playoff run continues!

Nashville SC kicked off their run in the MLS Cup playoffs with a 3-1 win over Orlando City SC. Tomorrow, they will travel to Subaru Park to take on the Philadelphia Union. Will Nashville get revenge for their last defeat against the Union? Will Philadelphia need another piece of Glesnes magic to advance?


Philadelphia Union

The Union not only come into this game high of a late winner from Jakob Glesnes but with a few clear advantages. They come in with three additional days of rest and will have a raucous, sold-out, crowd at Subaru Park. Nashville has struggled at times on the road. Will they be able to overcome the Union crowd?

The Union’s match against the Red Bulls wasn’t the prettiest, most free-following game of soccer but it was a fascinating tactical battle between two teams that like to pack the midfield and press to create opportunities. There were a ton of physical challenges as each team looked to seize control of the midfield.

In their match against New York Red Bulls, coach Jim Curtin was without fullback Oliver Mbaizo and midfielder Jamiro Monteiro who were both out due to league health and safety protocols. Monteiro is out of protocols and will be available for selection, while Mbaizo is still listed as questionable. Monteiro should slot right back into the 11 and if cleared, I would expect the same for Mbaizo.

Up front, Kacper Przybyłko will lead the line for the Union with Dániel Gazdag and Jamiro Monteiro.Przybyłko will look to bounce back from a subpar performance against the Red Bulls where he missed a clear sitter late into extra time. He will need to bounce back if the Union are going to beat a defensively stout Nashville team.

In the midfield, Leon Flach and Alejandro Bedoya should line up either side of José Martínez. The three of them will look to dictate Union’s play and create those numerical miss-matches in an attempt to win the ball back. They will try and nullify Nashville’s ability to break in transition and cut off service to Hany Mukhtar.

At the back, Jack Elliot and Jakob Glesnes have the tough task of marking a red-hot Hany Mukhtar. Curtin was effusive in his praise of Mukhtar in the prematch presser.

“Mukhtar is a special player. When I see Mukthar play it reminds me of Cuauhtemoc Blanco,” he said. “He’s special and he sees the game a little bit different.”

The Union defense will almost certainly have a game plan for Hany Mukhtar. So has everyone who’s played Nashville this season. It’s rarely worked.

Nashville SC

The Boys in Gold got their first win of the season against Orlando City at the most important time of the season, a single-elimination playoff game. Now, they take on a Philadelphia Union team that is responsible for their most recent defeat.

While they lost last time out at Subaru Park, Nashville SC should take a lot of confidence from their previous match against the Union. They went up to Philadelphia without Hany Mukhtar who was suspended for yellow card accumulation; Daniel Lovitz and Dax McCarty out with injury; along with Walker Zimmerman and C.J. Sapong being rested. Losing that game on a penalty with that many key contributors missing should bode well for the upcoming matchup.

Against Orlando, we saw mostly the first choice starting 11 – the notable exception being Dave Romney, who is still dealing with a left calf injury. In the prematch press conference on Friday, head coach Gary Smith said Romney is recovering well and that he is “fully committed to having Dave in the group” for the match on Sunday.

If Romney is again unable to start, I expect to see a similar setup to what was deployed against Orlando City. Alistair Johnston was moved back into the right-side center back position and Eric Miller was pushed out to the wingback position. Johnston has been a revelation for Canada in a back three and looked just as good on Tuesday night. While not the first choice defense, it should still be able to shut down the Union attack.

Dax McCarty andAníbal Godoy are the clear first choice midfield and will be the lynchpin to Nashville’s success against the Union. Philadelphia likes to create numerical miss-matches in the midfield to dictate tempo and control the flow of the game. McCarty and Godoy will have to win those battles and transition quickly once they create turnovers. Nashville’s ability to quickly move up the field will be critical.

In the attack, Hany Muhktar will partner up top with C.J. Sapong as Randall Leal operates underneath them to supply service and create space. Sapong is the outlet in transition. His hold up play will allow Mukhtar to join the attack while dragging defenders out of position.

Sapong flawlessly executed that plan against Orlando flawlessly and if we see more of it tomorrow, Nashville should be able to win the game.

Availability report

Pod Picks

Ben Wright

Score: Philadelphia 0-1 Nashville
Scorers: Walker Zimmerman
MOTM: Walker Zimmerman
Bold Prediction: Zimmerman scores on a second-half set piece

Jonathan Slape

Score: Philadelphia 1-2 Nashville
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar, Randall Leal
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville gets a winner from Randall Leal late in the second half

Andy Simmons

Score: Philadelphia 1-1 Nashville
Scores: Hany Mukhtar
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: 5-4 in penalties for Nashville. Joe Willis stops the 5th penalty for the Nashville victory

Lucas Panzica

Score: Philadelphia 1-1 Nashville
Scorers: Walker Zimmerman
MOTM: Walker Zimmerman
Bold Prediction: Willis saves penalty for the win

Davey Shepherd

Score: Philadelphia 0-2 Nashville
Scorers: Hany Mukhtar,Aníbal Godoy
MOTM: Hany Mukhtar
Bold Prediction: Nashville goes up in the opening 25 and never looks back.

Fan Forecast

Match Info

Teams: Philadelphia Union (2nd) vs Nashville SC (3rd)
Odds: Philadelphia (+100), Draw (+225), Nashville (+270) via BetMGM
Date: Sunday, November 27th
Time: 4:30 PM Central, Subaru Park, Chester, Pennsylvania
TV: ESPN
Radio: 4.9 The Game 2 (English); El Jefe 96.7 (Spanish)
Forecast: 50°/31°. Sunny. 0% chance of rain. 45% humidity

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