Nashville SC are set to open GEODIS Park on Sunday, with Philadelphia Union the first opponent to visit the new venue. Nashville’s 2021 season ended at the hands of the Union, with the penalty shootout loss still fresh on the minds of fans. To get a better look at the Union, we spoke with Joe Lister of Brotherly Game.
Broadway Sports Media: Philadelphia are back at the top of the table. They’ve been one of the most consistent teams in MLS over the last few years. What is going right for them?
Joe Lister: Defense, defense, defense. They Union have consistently been one of the best in Major League Soccer at preventing goals. At first, Jim Curtin relied very heavily on goalkeeper Andre Blake, but now he’s supported by Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott, two centerbacks that rarely let anything slip through. On their sides, Kai Wagner is one of the best — if not the best — leftbacks in MLS. Nathan Harriell is still growing as a defender, but he’s shown massive potential over the past few months.
On top of that, the Union’s offense is clearly starting to click. Jim Curtin, a former MLS center back himself, is a defensive minded coach. Alongside that, Philadelphia has never had a championship level no. 9; the closest they’ve come is CJ Sapong or Fafa Picault. Daniel Gazdag is a really solid no. 10, and Julian Carranza is making magic happen at his no. 9. Once Mikael Uhre clicks, it’s game over for the rest of the league.
BSM: Julian Carranza looks like he’s bounced back in Philly after a really tough time in Miami. How has he acclimated and what do you think his ceiling is?
JL: Jim Curtin recently compared Carranza to Taty Castellanos, to which most people said something along the lines of “ehhhh really?” I don’t think that Carranza is Castellanos right now, but his ceiling is very high. At bare minimum, I would expect him to register 15 combined goals and assists this season, which is solid considering he barely played down in Miami.
Since he’s so fresh and new, I don’t know how high he can go. But if he continues to play like he has, the Castellanos comparisons aren’t far off, and Europe might not be either.
BSM: Obviously Nashville and Philadelphia have history after last year. How do you think they match up now? What are ways that the Union can break down Nashville, and vice versa?
JL: Quite frankly, this is going to be a very low scoring affair. Both teams are defensive minded, and neither offense is clicking as they would like to at the present. I like Hany Mukhtar and CJ Sapong, but by the numbers, they aren’t playing well enough right now to get behind the Union’s backline.
On the flip side, you might see some action down the sides as Wagner and Harriell try to push the ball towards Gazdag, Uhre, and Carranza. But again, Uhre is struggling, and the Union hasn’t exactly been the attacking prowess they want to be these last few games. It’s tough to see the scoreline anything beyond 1-0 or 2-0.
BSM: How important is it for players and fans to ruin GEODIS Park’s debut?
JL: It isn’t the end all be all, but it would definitely be nice. Philadelphia and Nashville are very competitive when they face each other, and last year’s playoff game definitely comes into play a little bit. It would be great for the Union to get another one up on NSC, but I’m sure that Jim Curtin will say that the points are the first concern.
Side note: I love the stadium. Absolutely stunning.
BSM: Do you have a lineup/score prediction?
Lineup: Traditional 4-Diamond-2 for the Union (4-1-2-1-2)Blake; Harriell, Glesnes, Elliott, Wagner; Martinez; Bedoya, Flach (maybe McGlynn); Gazdag; Carranza, Uhre
I think this is 1-0 for the Union. I told Club and Country that Daniel Gazdag would score the game’s only goal in the 34′, and I’m sticking by that.
Thanks to Joe for giving us a look into the Union. Make sure to follow him and everyone else with Brotherly Game on Twitter @BrotherlyGame.