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Three questions with Philadelphia Soccer Now

One of our former SB Nation colleagues fills us in on Saturday’s opponent.

Last Updated
4 min read
Morgan Tencza / Sounders FC Communications

We often overlook the Eastern Conference here at Sounder at Heart. Until a final they just don't play many games against the Sounders. That's probably why you're a bit unfamiliar with the Philadelphia Union, one of the three best teams from 2018 to the present (along with Seattle and LAFC).

Philly has emphasized their strong developmental system in constructing their roster, which creates funds to sign international quality talents. Unlike the West's best at that, the Union also win games.

For Philadelphia Soccer Now, Joe answers Three Questions ahead of Saturday's 4:30 PM PT match on MLS Season Pass. Union are 1-0-5 in all comps so far this year. Seattle is 0-1-1.

SaH: Philly is in the Concacaf Champions Cup. How has that impacted squad rotation? Are they going to take it easy on Seattle?

PSN: I wouldn't say Philly will take it easy on Seattle, but the Sounders aren't the priority right now. Based on how the Union has lined up in the past, the club seems to care more about CCC play now than early MLS matches. The Union will probably roll out a B+/A- starting lineup and throw its starters in at the end.

That being said, the Union's rotation has looked really good thus far. And with centerbacks Jakob Glesnes and Damion Lowe suspended for Tuesday's game against Pachuca and available against Seattle, I think the Union's backline should be relatively fresh. The real rotation will come up top, and the most interesting part of the lineup will be to look at Quinn Sullivan, Julian Carranza, Mikael Uhre and Chris Donovan. The depth across the Union's attack varies in talent some, and that will likely be the most important factor.

SaH: Five competitive matches into the season the Union have only a single win. They score a ton, but what's with Andre Blake's supporting cast?

PSN: Blake himself was out for three games, which certainly didn't help the Union. Philadelphia's had this incredible ability to score at the death, which is great, but it also means that it's coming from behind nearly every game. The Union can't seem to score the game-winner first, they're always forced to follow up with a goal that will only earn them a draw.

It's still early in the season, so the team might be ironing some kinks out. I also think that the CCC is taking a bit of a toll, even if it's not always outwardly visible. The Union play to hold a draw until that draw is gone, and then they'll turn on the burners for another goal. Maybe they're fine with earning one point at a time at this juncture of the campaign?

SaH: What player is key to Philly getting its first W in league play?

PSN: This might be a dumb answer, but it depends on who's in the starting lineup come Saturday. If he's starting, youngster Quinn Sullivan will be a crucial piece to the Union's attack. The same goes for Blake in goal, who earned a shutout against Pachuca in his first game back from injury. If he can hold another shutout, I think the Union can earn their first win. If Sullivan looks good on the wing, I think the Union can score enough to get a win.

Do I think the Union get any result other than a tie? Not really. But that's why they play the games.


PSN: In two games, Seattle's earned just one point to start the season. Was this expected for the Sounders?

SaH: Preseason expectations both locally and nationally were that the Sounders would be a top 2 team in the West and challenge for the Shield, because the West was supposed to be weak. That's still possible, of course, as we're only two matches in.

It's just not likely. The lack of scoring, and in particular the inability to create big chances in good spaces, is troublesome. The poorer teams just set in a double-deep block, preventing most attacking quality from the Sounders. And now their three best dribblers are injured, creating even bigger holes in the attack.

PSN: Seattle looked to be the better team against Austin last week, with four shots on goal and 1.4 xG. What kept Seattle from finding that goal?

SaH: Most of those shots were speculative and at range. In addition, Austin blocked 9 shots. Eight teams in MLS take nine or fewer shots per game so far this season. Seattle is averaging 19.5. All the deep numbers say that the Sounders should have a good attack, though probably not great. To be good there needs to be bite from the men that get the final touch and the creators have to get the three capable forwards more than a couple dozen touches a game. No team is going to be great at scoring when their leading shooter is a DM.

PSN: We're only two games in, but how have the Sounders been defined this season, either by their style of play, their in-game abilities, etc.?

SaH: The defense that has defined the Sounders from '09 to the present remains strong. This is despite the fact that they are starting a backup keeper, and last year's Defender of the Year finalist (Yeimar) hasn't played, nor has MVP candidate defensive mid João Paulo. Having a strong defense that dominates in such a fashion is a credit to the coaches.

In the attack they're more balanced, but there are issues on the left. They aren't creating the overloads necessary there to get someone free on goal and they aren't releasing Léo Chú and Jordan Morris into space. The right is supposed to be the side better at possession, but the Roldans aren't creating danger.

PSN: Will Seattle have any notable absences? What are your score and lineup predictions?

SaH: The out list is long. Too damn long.

Stef Frei, João Paulo, Albert Rusnák, Pedro de la Vega, Nathan, Reed Baker-Whiting and Braudilio Rodrigues are all out.

Yeimar should play.

I think this could go 1-1. Philly's defense is weak enough so far that Seattle could get a goal.