Game: Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup 4th Round: Philadelphia Union vs. City Islanders FC
Date: Wednesday, June 15th
Venue: Talen Energy Stadium
All-time Record: The third ever match-up in the U.S. Open Cup for these two sides is Philadelphia Union’s first match in this year's tournament. The Union are coming off of two consecutive years of being in the Open Cup final. Their current attempt at getting over that hump starts with facing a team who was their affiliate club from 2010 through 2015. The City Islanders and Union played each other in a friendly each season, but only twice previously in competitive encounters, obviously in the U.S. Open. Both of those were won by Philadelphia, most recently in 2014 by a 3-1 scoreline. The other meeting was in 2012, a 5-2 victory. City Islanders, however, have a 4-4-1 record all-time against MLS clubs in the U.S. Open, so they are not to be taken lightly.
What City Island FC Will Look Like: Including two matches in this year's U.S. Open, CIFC have only been shut out twice in 15 matches. They can score goals - 22 total so far. The flip-side is that they have conceded 24 goals this year. There have been 5.5 goals per match in this match-up history, so I’d expect fireworks. From some of the film I’ve seen they play a pretty direct style, focusing on getting the ball to their central forward. One of these such targets is former Union man Aaron Wheeler. I’d venture a guess that Wheeler will be in the lineup due to his experience playing against MLS competition.
What Philadelphia Union Will Look Like: Jim Curtin said during his press conference that while some starters will rest, some will play because they aren't taking their opponent likely. The Union are playing to win the tournament. Deducing from that, it would seem unlikely that Andre Blake would be thrown in goal considering he just played Monday night in Santa Clara, CA in the Copa America Centenario against Uruguay. The rest of the team has had off since June 1st, when they defeated Columbus Crew SC 3-2 at home. The rest would dictate they'd play their preferred XI, but Jim Curtin has to be mindful that they have a league match on Saturday on the road against New York City FC. Joshua Yaro is still hurt, and Eric Ayuk is still away with the Cameroon National Team. My guess is that Union's back line will remain the same; Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Ken Tribbett, and Keegan Rosenberry. The midfield is where I expect the rotation to take place. Leo Fernandes played against City Islanders earlier this season with Bethlehem Steel, so he might be tabbed for this one. Also, Ilsinho may start to see how many minutes he has in him at his current fitness level coming back from injury. Warren Creavalle and Vincent Nogueira should start this one, with Brian Carroll taking Creavalle's spot on the weekend. I think Tranquillo Barnetta should start, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Curtin tries Roland Alberg out to find out how many minutes he's got in him as well. Fabian Herbers started to find his feet as a sub the last two matches before the hiatus, so it wouldn’t shock me if he gets the start here, though I would still start CJ Sapong.
What to Expect: The Union will come out refreshed and wanting to win this match convincingly. I think they will go for the game's throat in the first half, and allow for some tactical experimentation in the second half. The Union have been playing a high-pressing style so far this year, and I’d expect their rested legs to do a lot of that. They're going to test the USL side out. Again, I’d expect lots of goals; these teams meeting in this tournament make that happen. In the event that Curtin experiments with his starting XI and they aren’t leading, I’d expect starters to come in between 60-65th minute to ensure victory. Jim has been known to save subs for later than that, but his message in the press conferences has been clear that he wants to win the tournament, and it would be hard to do that if they don’t win Wednesday night.