After scuffling through the month of July and starting August off with a 25-shot, one-goal performance against a 10-man Chicago Fire, Sergio Santos couldn’t be returning to the lineup for the Philadelphia Union at a better time.
Santos hasn’t exactly had a banner year for the Union this year, but when he’s been on he’s been on with goals in a pair of wins and a late equalizer to stun the New York Red Bulls when his team was down a man.
Though he’s started just 9 of the Union’s 17 games this season, his performances against Toronto FC last year could land him a spot back in the starting XI tonight for a Union team in need of a dominant (winning) performance ahead of two big road trips to Conference-leading New England and Mexico City for Concacaf Champions League.
Santos scored the lone goal for the Union in their 2-1 loss to Toronto FC in Connecticut last season and then exploded for a hat trick on the return fixture to Subaru Park three weeks later. In both matches his pace was too much for a back line anchored by veteran center back Omar Gonzalez.
Sergio served a one-game suspension against Chicago Fire for violating league rules when he kicked a ball into the stands against Orlando City. He was allowed to play against Inter Miami but the suspension came a week later after review by the MLS Disciplinary Committee.
“Sergio back off of the suspension now really helps gives us a ton of speed and behind, which is his strength and he really helps us in the transition,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “Sergio was upset that he couldn’t contribute in the last game I think you know he would have helped us tremendously. But now, he’ll get his opportunity, and I know he’ll come through for us and, and help us in the attacking part of the field for sure.”
Tonight’s match will mark the first time since the first week of July that Curtin has both Santos and Cory Burke as weapons. He can start one and bring the other off the bench to menace tired defenses. The Union won only once during that five-game stretch with a loss and three draws.
Their only win — against DC United — was also the only time they’ve scored more than one in their last six matches.
“We want to try to play the game on our terms to push the tempo of the game,” Curtin said. “To finish off our transitions that we’re able to create.”
Tonight’s game kicks off at 7:38 p.m. and will be broadcast live on PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com locally and on ESPN+ for out of market viewers.