Goals are on everyone’s minds as the Philadelphia Union return home to Subaru Park down 2-0 on aggregate to Club América in the second leg of the Concacaf Champions League semifinal tonight.
But head coach Jim Curtin will need to balance the need to score first and score more than once with the simultaneous need to keep a clean sheet. Any goal from the visitors would put them through as a first tie-breaker.
“It calls for us to be aggressive,” Curtin said in a Zoom call with media on Tuesday. “It calls for us to be disciplined though and not concede because if you concede then you got to score four, which is a real uphill battle.”
The best case scenario for the Union will be to get an early goal, but the longer the game remains scoreless the danger will be there for the back line to get stretched thin. That’s where center backs Jakob Glesnes and Jack Elliott, one of the top pairing’s in MLS this season, will be even more important.
“We know that they have a quality team so we have to be on from the first second to the end,” Glesnes said after training on Monday. “We know it will be a hard game but still we have a chance now to win this game and go to the final.”
That final as Curtin has said repeatedly in media availabilities since the team’s first ever Champions League run began way back in April would put them one win away from a Club World Cup. But that would also take the Union becoming the first team from MLS to win the competition in the current format, which sets up a scenario tonight where the Union really have nothing to lose.
“Everyone around the club and us especially want to go to this final,” Glesnes said. “Everyone who plays soccer wants to play a final and win something.”
Club América is in fine form since taking the 2-0 win in the first leg at home in August. They’re unbeaten in the five games since with four wins while conceding just twice in that span. By contrast, the Union has just one win in their last four games since playing at Azteca in Mexico City and only three goals to their name.
“They have a ton of talent so it’ll take a perfect performance from us to push through,” Curtin said. “I still believe that that is something that is possible.”
Wednesday night’s game is at 9 p.m. and will be broadcast live on FS1.