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By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer
Coming off of a thrilling 3-0 win against Columbus Crew, the Union travel to Cincinnati to add three more points to their standings, where they currently sit in third place.
The big roadblock for the Union in this game is the significant absence of starters. Kai Wagner won’t be available for selection due to a red card suspension, while the rest of the unavailable players are away with their national teams for World Cup Qualifiers. Andre Blake and Alvas Powell have been called up for Jamaica, Jose Martinez for Venezuela, Daniel Gazdag for Hungary, Olivier Mbaizo for Cameroon, and Jamiro Monteiro for Cape Verde.
Jim Curtin stated, “We’re going quite a bit shorthanded with missing 6-7 starters. Others will have to step up as they know they will be called upon to do.”
With Wagner’s suspension, it’s entirely likely that Curtin will switch up his normal backline formation, changing from a back four to a back three. Whichever one he decides to go with, it’s clear that Leon Flach will be the man tasked with covering the left side of the field as a left-back or wing back.
“His versatility was part of his appeal when he came here,” Curtin said of Flach’s ability to play different positions. “We know wherever we put him on the field he’s a no-nonsense player that does his job and really executes.”
The midfield will be shaken up even further with the absence of Martinez, leaving Curtin to possibly fill the number six position with Alejandro Bedoya, who normally runs the center of the midfield.
“If [Bedoya] does play the six, it is something he’s done,” Curtin said. “His versatility again helps us a great deal.”
While there are a substantial number of options Curtin could employ to fill in the gaps (resting almost entirely with the Homegrowns), the Boys In Blue know that they’re in for a battle in Cincinnati. Although their opponents have only collected 20 points in 27 matches, Curtin is by no means counting this game as an easy win.
“We have a tough task,” The Union manager admitted. “They have an incredible fan base and a beautiful stadium, so that alone will be enough for the guys to know it will be a hostile environment. The guys in Cincinnati are going to want to impress [their interim coach] and are fighting for contracts next year. They are able to play a little more free whereas we are fighting for every point. They’ve played a lot better soccer than their record shows.”
Predicted Lineup: Joe Bendik, Matt Real, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Stuart Findlay, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya, Quinn Sullivan, Paxten Aaronson, Sergio Santos, Kacper Przybyłko
Score Prediction: The Union have tons of momentum after their thrilling victory against Columbus Crew, but they’ll be playing mostly with the B team for this game. It probably won’t look as smooth and uniform because many of these players haven’t been able to stretch their legs on the field in a while, but a 2-1 win is more than enough to keep the fire hot.