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Union v. Revolution: Know Thine Enemy

We go behind enemy lines to learn about the Philadelphia Union.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at New England Revolution Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The New England Revolution play the Philadelphia Union tonight in the first round of the knockout stage. We spoke to Joe Lister of Brotherly Love to get some insight about the Revs’ opponent.

TBM: The Union went unbeaten in the group stage, beating NYCFC and Miami and ending with a draw to Orlando but didn’t win the group on goal difference. Overall, what worked well for the Union and what is something they need to improve on to make a deep run in the knockouts?

BG: Overall, the Union’s midfield is still pretty top-tier and their striker core is solid. Brenden Aaronson, Ilsinho, Jamiro Montiero, Kacper Prxybylko, etc. are going to be offensive the difference makers against the Revs, as they are in all games.

Something that disturbed me about Orlando (and probably should’ve had me worried after NYCFC) is that the backline/defensive midfield didn’t look great and forced Andre Blake to make too many saves. Eventually, he let one through, leading to only one point against Orlando. If the backline and the midfield can fix their communication, it’s hard to see many balls getting through them + Blake. Without that, however, the Union are vulnerable.

TBM: Kacper Przybylko did the bulk of the scoring last year, with 15 goals in the 2019 campaign and then scoring by committee from the midfield. Can the big striker carry the bulk of the scoring again or is there someone in particular in the starting lineup that can help him out?

BG: Przybylko is still going to be the main man up top this season, however, look for help from Aaronson, Ilsinho, Montiero, and Sergio Santos. The Union is going to get a lot of their goals from people who you wouldn’t necessarily expect to score (case in point, Jakob Glesnes against LAFC and Alejandro Bedoya against Orlando).

In short, Kacper is still going to get the most goals and is still going to be the dominant force in the front, but he’s going to have plenty of help from a talented midfield and other strikers.

TBM: Philadelphia seems like a well-rounded team right now, does the team have a glaring weakness and if not which is the area or player that needs to improve during the rest of 2020?

BG: Again, I’m most worried about the backline and their communication with each other and the defending midfielders. Hopefully, this will improve as Jose Martinez returns to the lineup this week, however, there’s still going to be cause for concern if they cannot iron out that kink in the system.

However, it’s important to note that the Union mostly just makes these mistakes during any commotion in the box. Therefore, as long as they can keep NE from getting too many players too close to the goal, there shouldn’t be as much cause for concern.

TBM: Give us your lineup/Injures/Predictions/Etc.

BG: Jose Martinez is returning from suspension this week, which is very exciting, so expect him in the #6 position in the back. Up for grabs is whether or not Curtin starts Glesnes or Jack Eillott since he’s been rotating them in past games, though I expect to see Elliott play. You might also see Andrew Wooten come in for a few minutes towards the end as he comes back from injury, though I don’t see him making a major impact. Michee Nglina will probably be absent, though he wouldn’t have seen much time, if any, anyways. With that said, here’s my lineup prediction.

Blake

Gaddis - Elliott - McKenzie - Wagner

Martinez

Bedoya - Montiero

Aaronson

Santos - Przybylko

I can see this ending in a 1-1 tie which goes to PKs, but I would expect the game to finish before it gets to PKs with a 2-1 finish, though that score could honestly go either way. My prediction is that the Union win 2-1 to move on to the next round.

Thanks to Joe for answering our questions. Be sure to visit Brotherly Love to see how we answered his questions.