The handful of remaining players that were part of Orlando City’s roster last year will not have fond memories of Talen Energy Stadium. The last time the Lions made the trip north to take on the Philadelphia Union, they were summarily smashed, 6-1 in the consolation game that was the final match of the 2017 season for both sides.
But much like Orlando, Philadelphia has undergone a makeover since last year’s finale (though not nearly as drastic), adding new faces to the attack and midfield and giving some new faces minutes on the back line. For more information about Orlando’s opponents on Friday night, we turned to Matt Ralph, Managing Editor of SB Nation’s Union blog, Brotherly Game, for some more information. I also answered some of his questions and you can find those over at their place.
The Union have been shifting toward a youth movement, particularly on defense. How have the kids fared so far this year?
Matt Ralph: Auston Trusty, 19, was the starter coming out of camp and he’s shown why the Union didn’t bring veteran Oguchi Onyewu back. He and second-year player Jack Elliott, 22, have forged a solid partnership anchoring a back line that has only conceded one goal to a player not named Dominique Badji (he had a hat trick against them in Colorado). Right back Keegan Rosenberry, 24, has had a bounce back year so far after a disappointing second season last year and an injury to Fabinho at left back has given 18-year-old Matt Real an opportunity to shine. They are officially the youngest back line in league history but they still don’t really seem like kids to me because both Real and Trusty have been part of the Union organization as academy players since they were 10 years old. They also don’t really look or play like kids. In fact, Jim Curtin said the other day that talking to Mark McKenzie, another 19-year-old defender on the team, felt to him like talking to a 35-year-old.
It’s still early in the season, but how have new attackers David Accam and Borek Dockal affected the Union’s offense to this point?
MR: Not as much as many were hoping/expecting. Dockal was a late arrival so it’s somewhat understandable that it’s taken time for him to adjust to a new country and find some rhythm with his new teammates. He had his best game so far against San Jose and delivered a really nice hockey assist on their only goal, but it’s not a good look to see him visibly frustrated with his teammates. Accam has been mostly disappointing so far — he was so ineffective last game, Curtin had no choice but to sub him off. On a team like the Union where the budget is razor thin, players like Accam and Dockal, who they do spend some money on, have to produce. They already have a $500,000 paper weight riding the bench (Jay Simpson); they can ill afford to have two more expensive players on the field underperforming.
What are the expectations for Jim Curtin and Philadelphia in 2018? Is there a real belief that this could be a playoff team?
MR: Expectations were pretty low coming into the season and the first four games have done little to change that. I don’t think anyone who follows this team closely would express too much confidence in them making the playoffs since the team isn’t really that much different personnel- and performance-wise than the team that dropped points at home and couldn’t win on the road last year.
What injuries/suspensions will keep players out this weekend and what is your projected lineup and predicted final score?
MR: Fabinho and Richie Marquez are both still recovering from surgery and Josh Yaro has been dealing with an injury. Those three, along with third string goalkeeper Jake McGuire, were the only players on the first team roster who either didn’t dress for the first team game or get minutes with Bethlehem Steel FC (nine first-team players were in the starting XI for a 1-1 draw with Charleston Battery on Sunday) last weekend.
Projected lineup would be the same as last week: Andre Blake; Matthew Real, Auston Trusty, Jack Elliott, Keegan Rosenberry; Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin; David Accam, Boreck Dockal, Fabrice-Jean Picault; C.J. Sapong.
Final score projection is a 2-1 win for Orlando.
Thanks again to Matt for taking the time to field some questions about Friday night’s opposition.