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Only a couple changes to Union lineup expected for NYCFC showdown

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With the second leg of the Champions League on Tuesday, head coach Jim Curtin says he will make a couple changes but won’t be rotating much

Matt Ralph

Hopes that Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin would rotate his squad with multiple young homegrowns were somewhat dashed on Friday with comments Curtin made in a press conference with reporters.

“We’re not going to rotate and change 7-8 guys; that’s a recipe for disaster in our league and the data shows that,” Curtin said.

He did say that he’d make a couple changes to the lineup for the league match that falls three days before the second leg bout with Atlanta United in the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals.

“We have to take points at home against a very good New York City team, a couple new faces will will certainly get minutes,” Curtin said. “Everybody has to be ready when called upon to do their job like they have been all season.”

One leading candidate to crack the starting lineup is Scottish center back Stuart Findlay, who was slowed by injury in preseason and has been working his way to full fitness. Anthony Fontana will likely feature in the starting lineup after coming off the bench in the Champions League match in Atlanta and the league match at home against Inter Miami last week.

Other players who could be in line to get minutes would include left back Matt Real and midfielders Cole Turner, Quinn Sullivan and Jack McGlynn. Jack de Vries is still questionable after only recently coming out of concussion protocol and Ilsinho is out with a groin injury.

While the Union have had a strong opening to the club’s first ever Champions League campaign with three straight clean sheets while outscoring opponents 8-0 the Union have only one point and one goal through their first two league games.

Curtin said the approach to both competitions is the same.

“I don’t think there’s been a difference in the intensity of the games, it’s not like one feels more important than the other, these guys want to win every time they go out on the field,” he said.

Today’s game will be the fifth in 17 days for the team in all competitions.

“Of course it’s hard right now when it’s game Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday but that’s how it is for a short period,” defender Jakob Glesnes said on a call with reporters Friday. “I feel now this period we have reacted very well so we just have to do the same the next week because we know it will be tough.”

The Union hasn’t hosted NYCFC since a Decision Day loss in 2019 that was the last regular season loss at home before last Saturday’s defeat to Inter Miami. The only meeting between the Eastern Conference rivals ended in a 1-0 win for the Union in the opening match of the MLS is Back Tournament in Florida on a goal by Alejandro Bedoya and late game heroics from Andre Blake to secure the clean sheet.

NYCFC is coming off a 5-0 win over FC Cincinnati in which they scored all five of their goals on set pieces.

“We’ve practiced a lot on on defending set pieces this week in a very short week, as much as we could,” Curtin said, noting that new assistant Frank Leicht has taken over coaching both offensive and defensive set pieces. “And also on our own attacking restarts, we can always improve it and try to work to get better.”

Tonight’s game kicks off at 7:38 p.m. and will be broadcast live locally on PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com and on ESPN+ out of market.