Everything had set perfectly for the Philadelphia Union. As they sat through a weather delay during halftime at Columbus, New England scored twice in the second half to beat NYCFC. Montreal tallied in the 81st minute to forge a draw with Atlanta. Knowing the results, the Union just needed to win the final 45 minutes against the Crew and they would be playing for the top seed in the Eastern Conference on October 6.
Knowing and doing are two very different things.
An intensely lackluster second half against Columbus ensued. A Crew side that was averaging 1.09 goals per match netted twice in the final 21 minutes amid defensive breakdowns and Philadelphia’s inability to maintain possession. The end result quashed the Union’s chances at taking the top seed and left them in a position where they need help to even gain the second seed.
The seeding is critical. Pulling in the second seed means you play all your postseason matches at home through the conference semifinals. It means instead of having to go to Atlanta for the semis, it would be in Philadelphia. In order for that to happen, the Union, currently tied for second with 55 points, needs to have a better result than Atlanta FC on Decision Day in order to claim the second seed as ATL holds the tiebreaker with 17 wins to 16 for Philadelphia.
And the Union has to play NYCFC with Atlanta getting New England at home. Getting that extra playoff home match is a tall task indeed, complicated by a quad injury to team captain Alejandro Bedoya, who likely will miss the finale.
Philadelphia Union Odds As the Club Looks for Offensive Mojo?
The Union has been lauded this season for having multiple players that can score at any moment. Eight players have scored four or more goals. For players have eight or more assists. While Kacper Przybylko has become the indisputable top target, having that many players with scoring ability can only serve Philadelphia well. While the offense fell short, mustering just two goals, both against San Jose, on the road swing, playing the final regular season match at home and then getting either the six or seven seed in the first round of the playoffs at Talen Energy Stadium should bring the scoring mojo back.
It’s the defensive side of the pitch that causes worry though. As we documented back in August, the Union are conceding goals rather alarmingly. With the loss at Columbus, Philadelphia has now given up a goal in 10 consecutive matches. They have had only one clean sheet since May. Can they post four and five goals in a match against postseason teams? Yes, they’ve done it. Can they also get caught flatfooted and lose 2-0 to teams that are out of the postseason picture? Yes, they’ve done that too. The defense needs to tighten up for any sort of a playoff run.
Those making the odds have noticed as well. After rising to a money line of +1000 earlier this month, the Union have been downgraded to a +1600, which, given the state of the defense, may still be generous. As for the Decision Day match against NYCFC, oddsmakers still like Philadelphia playing at home, setting them at a -116 for the match. A lot will be determined by how much the Union comes out with a fire to prove the road trip was a blip and not the norm as well as how much NYCFC plays its top game knowing that the top seed is locked up.
A win is a must in this match, even though seeding is almost locked in. A loss could very easily see Philadelphia being a home dog in the postseason come October 19-20.