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The Other Guys: Philly Playoff Edition

We spoke with Joe Lister of Brotherly Game about this weekend’s playoff opponents

SOCCER: MAY 15 MLS - New York Red Bulls at Philadelphia Union
Fabio enters the first round playoff matchup with Philadelphia in better scoring form in earlier meetings.
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

New York Red Bulls fans will feel all too familiar with Philadelphia Union after Jim Curtin’s team handed the Metro some of their more frustrating results this year. But much like the Red Bulls, the Union had some summer turbulence that has resulted in slightly different team from the one that kept Gerhard Struber’s boys in check earlier in the season.

To help explain what to expect from the Red Bulls’ first round playoff opponent, we turned to Joe Lister (@Joe_Lister21) of SB Nation sibling site Brotherly Game for a few questions...

From afar it seems the second half of the Union’s season somewhat mirrored the Red Bulls, with a late summer slump followed by autumn dominance. Is this accurate? What was the story of the Philadelphia Union as the playoff race tightened?

The Union looked mediocre at best mid-season, going from competing for a top playoff spot to falling below the line for a week or two. However, after falling below the playoff line, they’ve gone on a rampage. Not only is the team as a whole in good form, individual players who the team needed to click have also looked strong. Daniel Gazdag recently had two goals in as many games for Hungary, Alejandro Bedoya has smelled blood in the water and is playing at his best all season, and the Homegrowns have looked strong in their last few appearances. The team really put in the work to earn their home playoff spot, and unless the international break slowed them down, they’re going to be a very difficult team to beat.

Philadelphia had the better of this season’s fixtures against the Red Bulls but the games were tight and competitive. Has anything about Philadelphia’s tactical approach changed that would potentially open this game up? Or will this be another battle of two strong pressing units canceling each other out?

When the Union played the Red Bulls earlier in the season, they were running a 4-diamond-2 formation (4-1-2-1-2). Since then, Jim Curtin and his staff have moved to a 4-3-2-1formation, which has worked well for the team, and they’re expected to showcase it against the Red Bulls. It works well when the top three are playing well, and as noted before, Daniel Gazdag is already looking great. If Kacper Przybylko and Jamiro Montieiro can stay solid, I’d expect this formation to challenge RBNY a bit more.

The Red Bulls last played against the Union in September — which feels like an eternity ago after the chaos of the playoff race. Have any new players emerged from Philadelphia’s vaunted development system in the season’s final months? Any players who have come back from injury or otherwise emerged in the team over the home stretch?

Curtin is giving the Homegrowns some more minutes, especially Jack McGlynn and Paxten Aaronson, however, it’s unlikely they’ll start. Sergio Santos and Cory Burke were both injured since that match, but they are just about back to full strength. Again, Santos and Burke most likely won’t start, though one of them (probably Santos) will come in in the last 10-20 minutes of the match.

Projected Lineup

Blake; Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes, Mbaizo; Flach, Martinez, Bedoya; Montiero, Gazdag; Przybylko

Prediction

I think the Union takes this one 2-0. Goals from Jamiro Montiero and Kacper Przybylko boost the Union over the edge while Andre Blake earns yet another shutout.