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After a bittersweet conclusion of the 2023 Leagues Cup, Philadelphia Union’s form in the MLS has been topsy-turvy. The club resumed their league campaign with an emphatic 3-1 win against DC United. However, in the very next game, they were shocked by Toronto FC and were on the receiving end of a 3-1.
The 2022 MLS runners-up bounced back with a stellar 4-1 win against the New York Red Bulls and were held to a draw in the last game against FC Cincinnati. Now the focus shifts to Charlotte FC before the club hosts Los Angeles FC this weekend in a repeat of last season’s MLS Cup final.
Charlotte FC may be dangling in the lower half of the table, only ten points clear off the bottom, but they are an unpredictable side that is known to frustrate the opposition. The club is just three points away from the final playoff qualification spot and they have two games in hand. Charlotte FC have also played four league games after a disappointing Leagues Cup campaign.
They resumed their league season with a massive 2-1 win over Los Angeles FC and followed it up with three consecutive draws against Orlando City, Nashville SC, and DC United. The team might be up for another draw considering their next opponents.
The bookmakers have backed Charlotte FC with better odds in this fixture. It may be a tad surprising but the spectators saw how this club beat the defending MLS Champions a few weeks ago. However, lightning may not strike twice and the desire and desperation of the Philadelphia Union can guide them to a narrow win in this fixture
Charlotte FC are one of the newer teams in the MLS, hence there is not a lot of history between the two sides. Including the fixture that took place earlier this season, these two clubs have only met thrice in the league.
The first couple of meetings came in Charlotte FC’s debut season last year. At Subaru Park, Philadelphia Union beat the visitors 2-0, courtesy of goals from Julian Carranza and Daniel Gazdag.
In the reverse fixture, a scintillating performance from Daniel Rios enabled the attacker to score four goals as Charlotte FC walloped the visitors 4-0 and avenged their loss in the previous fixture that season. The Union finished with ten men after Kai Wagner was sent off in the 71st minute.
This season, in the third match between these two clubs, the margins were slender as Philadelphia Union clinched all three points with a 1-0 win that came after Kristijan Kahlina scored an own goal in the 70th minute.
After drawing 11 out of 27 games in the league season so far, Charlotte FC have registered the second-highest number of stalemates across both divisions in the MLS. Only New York City FC (13 draws in 29 games) have drawn more.
Against Philadelphia Union, Charlotte FC will have the home advantage. However, the hosts have failed to capitalize on this advantage on multiple occasions in the past. In 14 home games, Charlotte FC have lost just three.
It may look like a prolific record, but they have only managed to win four out of 14 games in their own backyard so far. Collecting just seven points out of a possible 21 has left them out of the playoff spots as the regular season inches closer to its conclusion.
Charlotte FC registered a third consecutive draw in the last game against DC United after both sides fired a blank. The hosts dominated possession but could not convert that into something substantial due to their weak performance in the final third.
During the entire match, Charlotte FC attempted 14 shots. Astoundingly, only two were on target. Brandt Bronico and Enzo Copetti attempted these shots in the first half as the hosts completely switched off after the break.
After dropping quite a few easy points, Charlotte FC will be kicking themselves if they miss out on the MLS playoffs this season. The club is still within striking distance of the final qualifying spot but the next three games are going to be extremely challenging.
After facing Philadelphia Union, Charlotte FC will have two back-to-back away games. The first will be against the prolific FC Cincinnati this weekend and the next will be against MLS Cup contenders New England Revolution on the last day of this month.
At the end of the season, Philadelphia Union will be eager to nab a decent finish before heading into the playoffs. Winning the MLS Supporters Shield would have been the ideal way to enter the knockouts, but FC Cincinnati are favorites to win that.
As things stand, the Union are 11 points behind FC Cincinnati as the curtains start to descend slowly over the regular season. However, second place is only three points away and that will be the top priority for the visitors now.
Philadelphia Union will look to build on their decent away record and clinch all three points against Charlotte FC. As things stand, the Union have the third-best away record in the Eastern Conference after losing seven, winning five, and drawing two of their 14 games on the road.
The Philadelphia Union defense has been quite robust in several games this season. Coach Jim Curtin’s implementation of a three-man defense has enabled the club to ward off various threats on multiple occasions in the recent past.
In the match against Charlotte FC, Curtin may have to alter his tactics as Jack Elliott will be suspended. The defender received a second yellow in the 94th minute of the game against FC Cincinnati. It will be a big blow for the visitors as Elliott is a regular starter and a good defender.
While the club deals with its defensive woe, the attacking department has not raised any concern. Wagner has been consistently good and has wreaked havoc down the left flank throughout the season. The German winger created the most chances for the Union again in their last match.
Right next to Wagner, Gazdag has been in sensational form. The attacking midfielder has bagged 12 goals and five assists in 25 appearances this season. The Hungarian has scored three goals in the last four matches and will be eying another in the match against Charlotte FC.
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With an interest in strategy and mathematics, applying that to sports writing was the natural progression. A writer at night and the founder of a gaming company, Nikhil’s previous experience includes working with ESPN for five years. His specialization includes soccer, basketball, tennis, and esports betting. Email: [email protected]More info on Nikhil Kalro
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