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New England limps into Philly seeking a result as playoffs slip away

The Revs haven’t won in seven matches, and they’ve lost both vs the Union this season

MLS: New York City FC at Philadelphia Union Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

With just ten matches remaining in the 2018 season, the Revolution find themselves desperately trying to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Now in 7th place, four points back of both Montreal and Philadelphia and only two ahead of a hard-charging DC United, there’s very little margin for error.

Next up is the Union, who have already defeated New England twice this season. A third loss would be devastating to the Revs’ playoff hopes, which already rely on outside help.

First Meeting: March 3, 2018, at Talen Energy Stadium

Result: Union 2, Revs 0

In the opening match under first-year manager Brad Friedel, New England unveiled a brand-new, high-pressure attacking scheme that sought to create chaos and turnovers in the opponent’s defensive half, ideally leading to scoring chances. Despite not producing any goals, it seemed effective early on until a first-half red card to Antonio Delamea reduced the Revs to 10 men for the rest of the match. The Union scored a goal on either side of half time to win 2-0. Delamea was subsequently benched for much of the season’s first half, allowing veteran Jalil Anibaba to slot in at centerback for the majority of 2018.

Second Meeting: August 11, 2018, at Gillette Stadium

Result: Union 3, Revolution 2

The Revs fell behind 2-0 in the first-half by failing in set-piece defense, allowing two Union goals by center back Jack Elliott. New England clawed their way back after the break to tie the match 2-2 on goals by Andrew Farrell and Wilfried Zahibo, but Philly scored the winner moments later. A senseless handball in the box by Delamea resulted in a penalty, and the ensuing PK was easily converted by winger Fabrice Jean-Picault for the final scoreline.

New England generally outplayed the Union, winning the possession battle 56%-44% and outshooting their rivals 26-13. However, they dropped all points to fall below the red line for the first time since Week 3.

Philadelphia Union: A Closer Look

Overall Record: 10-11-3, 33 pts, 34 GF, 39 GA, -5 GD

Standing: 5th in Eastern Conference (5 points above red line)

Current Form: W-W-L-W-L

Home Stats:

Record: 6-4-2, 20 points (1.7 points/match), +6 GD

GF: 20 (1.7 GF/match)

GA: 14 (1.2 GA/match)

Primary Formation: 4-2-3-1

The Union are healthy and in good form, as manager Jim Curtin has done a great job rotating personnel while making a run to the US Open Cup final yet again. Centerback Mark McKenzie is questionable due to a left knee sprain and hasn’t made the matchday lineup since July. Forward Cory Burke and attacking mid Borek Dockal are in top goal-scoring and goal-creation form. Netminder Andre Blake is coming off a shutout over high-powered New York City FC.

Team Leaders (at home):

Goals:

Dockal - 5

Ilsinho - 5

Sapong - 3

Assists:

Dockal - 6

Bedoya - 3

Picault/Ilsinho - 2

Passing %:

Bedoya - 90.3

Medunjanin - 87.9

Gaddis - 87.6

Goalkeeping (overall):

Blake

Save % - 68.9

GA/gm - 1.63

Shutouts - 6

New England: A Closer Look

Record: 7-9-8, 29 pts, 38 GF, 40 GA, -2 GD

Standing: 7th in Eastern Conference (5 points below red line)

Current Form: L-L-D-L-L

Road Stats:

Record: 1-5-5, 8 points (0.7 points/match), -7 GD

GF: 16 (1.4 GF/match)

GA: 23 (2.1 GA/match)

Primary Formation: 4-2-3-1

New England will be without Homegrown defensive midfielder Scott Caldwell, who picked up his first-ever red card in last Sunday’s loss at DC United. In his stead, does all-star Zahibo get another chance alongside Luis Caicedo, or will newcomer Cristhian Machado finally get a start? The latter has made just one appearance and played a total of three minutes since arriving in late July.

New CB Michael Mancienne started in place of Anibaba and played well for 90 minutes at Audi Field. He’ll likely get another start. Once again, former captain Claude Dielna and Gabriel Somi didn’t even make the match-day eighteen vs DC United. Brandon Bye made a third consecutive start at left back.

On a positive note, New England’s set piece defending was adequate enough to prevent any goals by the Black and Red in that department. Offensively though, the Revs need to find a way to get Teal Bunbury back in form, as they’ve not lost when he’s found the back of the net.

Team Leaders (on the road):

Goals:

Penilla/Bunbury - 5

Zahibo/Fagundez - 2

Assists:

Fagundez - 4

Penilla/Agudelo -2

Passing %:

Delamea - 83.3

Caldwell - 81.2

Caicedo - 80.1

Goalkeeping (overall):

Turner

Save % - 65.3

GA/gm - 1.67

Shutouts - 4

Match Analysis

The Union’s attack runs through Medunjanin or Bedoya and playmaker Dockal, favoring the right flank. The ball usually ends up at the feet of CJ Sapong, Burke or the Brazilian winger Ilsinho, who are quite effective at creating scoring chances (but not necessarily finishing them). The Revs’ backline and d-mids will once again have their work cut out for them, especially rookie Bye, Zahibo or Machado and centerbacks Delamea and Mancienne.

Philly is also strong in the air, so New England will need to be better at second balls. Unlike the Revs, the Union have been good at defending set pieces and keeping possession in the attacking half.

Conversely, New England might find success on the counter, as Philly has struggled defensively shutting those down. Additionally, if the Revs can be patient and possess and pass effectively in Philly’s defensive half, they may be able to generate their own scoring chances with through balls against an average Union backline.

Match Facts

This is the 23nd all-time regular season meeting between these conference rivals and the final one this season. Philadelphia leads the series with a 12-6-4 record, including a 7-3-2 advantage at home. New England is winless in six of their last seven matches vs the Union, including three in a row in Chester in which they’ve been outscored 8-0. New England’s last result on the road vs Philly was a 1-0 victory in 2015. They actually had two away wins that year, the other being a 2-1 defeat of the Union.

How to Watch

Kickoff: 7:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, August 25, 2018
Venue: Talen Energy Stadium, Chester PA
TV: NBC Sports Boston (Boston); PHL17 (Philadelphia)
Radio: 98.5 The Sports Hub (Boston); WTEL 610 AM (Philadelphia)
Streaming: MLS Live (now available on ESPN+)