Philadelphia Union is on the road this week as they head over the conference lines and take on Nashville as the hosts are opening their brand-new stadium. Here are 5 things to watch ahead of the game.
CHESTER, PA – NOVEMBER 28: Philadelphia Union keeper Andre Blake (18) celebrates with defender Kai Wagner (27) and defender Jack Elliot (3) after winning the game between Nashville SC and Philadelphia Union on November 28, 2021 at Subaru Park in Chester, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)
5 Things to Watch Nashville vs Philadelphia
A True Game of Two Halves
The Union has hit a bit of a slump in their season so far but it’s nothing to start overreacting about. The first-half performance against Montreal was fantastic and they should have been two or three goals up at halftime but the finishing and final touches just weren’t there.
The second half was a lot trickier for Philadelphia as Montreal made adjustments in the game and the Union lost their edge and advantage. Those are just things you can’t let happen when you face an inform side like Montreal and they paid the price, at least it was only a draw, which isn’t a bad result against a very much improving Montreal team.
If Philadelphia can find a way to string together two halves of great performances, they’ll be a very difficult side to beat. The Union have all the talent going forward and their defensive talent is also there, they just need to find a way to perform consistently over 90 minutes.
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Julian Carranza – The Wonderkid
Remember when most of the fanbase started freaking out and losing their minds, in a negative way, when Julian Carranza was signed on a loan deal from Inter Miami? Funny how overreacting isn’t the way to go huh?
Since coming to the Union during the offseason, Julian Carranza has been an absolute star for Philadelphia and it’s tough to imagine the Union not making the move a permanent one when the season finishes. Carranza already has 3 goals and 2 assists to his name but it’s not just his goalscoring/assisting talent that’s impressed me.
Carranza’s willingness to chase down and press anything from the front is a dream to a coach like Jim Curtin and the system he plays. Julian plays with so much energy and passion that he just fits the city of Philadelphia and its residents, everyone in every sport talks about certain players fitting the Philly way/style and Carranza is exactly that. Honestly, he could end up turning out better than Mikael Uhre…
Nashville Still Finding Their Feet
While the Union has taken on two very inform teams in their last two games, they’ll be going up against a team that’s struggled to find any consistency but I imagine that’s down to the fact they’ve been forced to play their first eight games of the season on the road.
Nashville is very much like Philadelphia in the way they are happy to sit back, defend, and then hit their opponents on the counterattack. They’re averaging just 42.3% possession in their eight games so far but that may not be an accurate number for Nashville given they are yet to play at home this year. Nashville has also only scored eight goals so far this season, one of the lowest in the league, but they’ve assisted all eight goals so they do play some good team-based football when they go forward.
Their usual formation is a variation of either 3-5-2 or 3-4-2-1 but they did start the season with a 4-3-1-2 formation and maybe that’s the more attacking formation they go with now that they are playing at home.
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Ones to Watch – Hany Mukhtar and CJ Sapong
In what I think is a first for this segment of my weekly articles, I’ve selected both forwards for Nashville SC as their stars to watch for the Union game. While Nashville hasn’t played the most attacking football in the league, they have been extremely efficient when going forward and that’s thanks to the partnership Sapong and Mukhtar have formed.
Hany Mukhtar has been Nashville’s best player so far this season as he’s notched up 2 goals and 2 assists. If Nashville plays 2 up top, he’ll slot in alongside Sapong as a central striker, but if Nashville plays 1 upfront, then Hany will fall back and play as a CAM alongside Randall Leal, just in behind Sapong.
CJ Sapong on the other hand is their main striker and will play as a central striker no matter what formation Nashville plays. He also has 2 goals this season and has benefitted massively from both Leal and Hany’s great offensive play. While Sapong doesn’t contribute much to the buildup play, other than some nice holdup play, he can be a real goal threat when Hany and Leal are providing quality balls through the channels and into the box.
I’ve actually been surprised at how decent my predictions have been over the last two weeks. I’ve picked multiple correct goalscorers, scorelines, and overall results but I still wouldn’t advise ever going along with my predictions…
Anyway, for this one I can’t see it being a similar game to either of the Toronto or Montreal games, both teams are defensively sound and enjoy hitting the other on the counterattack, so it’ll be interesting to see which one wants to have the majority of the ball during the game.
Nashville is opening their brand spanking new stadium so the crowd will be up for it and it’s the first chance the Nashville home crowd has had to back their boys since the season began, so that could be a huge factor in this one. I can see a 1-0 win for either side, if it’s Philadelphia winning, I think Uhre will finally find the back of the net, and if it’s an unfortunate Nashville win, I can see Sapong being the goalscorer.
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Mandatory Credit: Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire