By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer
The fact that this is the most important game in club history is not lost on Jim Curtin or his players. The Union might be down 2-0 on aggregate, but their quest to become the first MLS team to win the current format of the Concacaf Champions League is still very much on as they take on Mexican side Club America at home.
Curtin stated quite bluntly at his pre-game press conference, “It’s all or nothing now. I won’t sit here and say it’s easy. It takes a lot of players working hard and tough decisions from the staff to field a roster and utilize subs the right way and juggle the different rules and competitions.”
It cannot be overstated how difficult it’s been for the Union to get as far as they have. They’re no stranger to beating the odds, and although it’s an intimidating game looming on Wednesday, Curtin made it clear that that’s no excuse for anyone to count them out. “A team with nothing to lose is a dangerous team,” he stated.
The Union have had 12 days of rest since their last game, a 1-0 loss against the New England Revolution. Brazilian winger Ilsinho is the only Philadelphia player that’s doubtful for this matchup, due to struggling with a thigh injury. No other players are reported injured or will be suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
The Boys In Blue are back at full strength, and have had ample time to strategize how to play against Club America, a team they only faced for the first time in the first leg of these semifinals. Their key players are back from international duty, they’re back on home turf, and the infamous chip that often spurs them to grind out results when it counts is on their shoulder.
However, that strategy will most likely involve sacrificing much of their defensive stability in order to put goals in the back of Club America’s net. The Union aren’t known for their balance, so when all of their energy is going forward, it will leave them vulnerable to a Club America counterattack, which could lead to an essential away goal for the visitors. The home team will put so much effort into garnering some offense that Club America could best them simply by sitting back, remaining calm, and maintaining discipline and composure.
Predicted Lineup: Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo, Jose Martinez, Alejandro Bedoya, Leon Flach, Jamiro Monteiro, Sergio Santos, Kacper Przybylko
- It goes without saying that the Union will be putting all the heavy hitters in the starting lineup for this game. Curtin experimented with different pairings and formations during league play, but this is no game for playing around. Fans will get to enjoy the tried-and-true back four with the midfield diamond made up of Martinez, Bedoya, Flach, and Monteiro. Kacper Przybylko and Sergio Santos are the most reliable striker combination for this matchup, and all focus will be channeled into getting the offense going.
Score Prediction: Similar to how Fred and George Weasley predicted that Ireland would win the Quidditch World Cup, but Bulgaria would capture the Snitch in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the Union will win, but Club America will still advance to the CCL final on aggregate. It’s entirely feasible for the Union to scrape together a 2-1 win, but already being 2-0 isn’t an easy thing to overcome.