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Philadelphia Union are one of the in-form teams in the league and currently sit on top of the MLS Eastern Conference table with a game in hand over second place New York City FC. Orlando City are on one of their poor runs this season with only one win from their last five games in the MLS. Before taking on Philadelphia Union, they’ll be facing English Premier League giants, Arsenal, in a friendly.
The game against Arsenal should help lift a squad that is in need of some energy after a few underwhelming performances. The two sides have met each other 16 times before with Orlando City slightly ahead in the head-to-head record with six wins over Philadelphia Union’s five. Five of the matches have also ended in draws. Despite Orlando City’s superior record, it’s hard to look past Philadelphia Union in this match. They’re clearly the favorites heading into this one.
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Orlando City have another psychological edge heading into this match, having won 2-1 in the previous encounter between the two sides back in May in the US Open Cup. They dominated the first half of the game with plenty of chances falling to Junior Urso, who couldn’t find his shooting boots and should’ve probably had a hat-trick. But they were rewarded with two goals in quick succession in the second half, one from Ercan Kara and a 30-yard screamer from Andres Perea. Stuart Findlay got a consolation goal for Philadelphia Union in the 77th minute but Orlando City managed to hold on and were richly deserving of the victory.
They had 12 shots to Philadelphia Union’s 10, five on target to Union’s four and 56 percent of the possession. There is no reason historically, or in the recent past, for them to fear what Philadelphia Union offer despite Union being one of the best teams in the league this season.
Before the equalizer from Atlanta United’s new signing, Juan Jose Porta, in the 71st minute, Orlando City looked like they had the victory in the bag; still, it almost seemed like good fortune for them to get away with a draw by the end, as Atlanta United launched a barrage. They’ve now drawn their last two matches, which has seen the gap between themselves and the teams on the top of the Eastern Conference grow further apart. They now sit in 5th place, which isn’t too bad, but they have a bunch of teams breathing down their necks to try and grab those playoff spots.
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They’ve got a goal difference of -4 at the moment and their underlying numbers aren’t that much better. If we look at the difference between their expected goals and their expected goals against, we’ll get another negative number and it’s far worse at -6.7 according to FBRef via Statsbomb. Only Toronto FC, who are second last on the table, have a worse expected goal difference than Orlando City. Soccer is of course about results but with many games still left in the league, it wouldn’t come as a big surprise if Orlando City aren’t able to sustain it and all it takes is a big loss against a good side for things to implode.
They have conceded 30 and the expected goals against suggests that’s about right, at 30.6 In their last game. The flurry of chances towards the end suggested that this team is still not one that can hold onto leads and are quite fortunate to be holding onto games.
In recent games, the games have been quite low scoring with Orlando City only conceding two goals in three but the underlying numbers suggests that they’ve had their fair share of luck in these games and a side like Philadelphia Union could expose them. They’ve also got a game in hand over Columbus Crew, who are a point behind them. It’s hard to see them have good fortune for too long.
Gaston Gonzalez has been out since early May and undergone cruciate ligament surgery. He is expected to return towards the end of the year.
Philadelphia Union showed their resolve against a good New England Revolution side and had to suffer a little for their victory against Bruce Arena’s side. They didn’t dominate possession, having only 44 percent of the ball, but had more shots on goal and on target to get an important victory that sees them sit at the top of the Eastern Conference table.
They had to fight back in this one after going a goal down in the 61st minute but two goals in quick succession in the 75th and 79th minutes changed the nature of the tie and gave them a victory that has given them a three-game winning streak.
Philadelphia Union seem to have got their mojo back after a 7-0 thrashing of DC United a few weeks ago. This is a side that is still mostly reliant on its strong defense for a position higher up the Eastern Conference table as was evident in the game against New England Revolution but they were on a weird run prior to that without a lot of wins.
That win seems to have brought out a sharpness in them and some of the confidence back. They’ve still got New York City FC on their tail, who probably remain the strongest team in the conference with a game in hand, but they’re now six points ahead of third-placed New York Red Bulls, which suggests that they’re clearly a step ahead of the rest of the sides in the conference.
They’ve conceded the least amount of goals in the Western Conference, only 15 up to this point. There’s been some good fortune involved with the underlying numbers suggesting that they should’ve conceded 25 so far, which would still be the second best underlying numbers in the Eastern Conference but the reason they haven’t is their goalkeeper Andre Blake.
He’s had a ridiculous save percentage of 84.8 and +4.5 Post shot expected goals +/- rating. All this metric means is that he’s saved 4.5 goals that were expected to go in. That destructive midfield has helped them but without Andre Blake they wouldn’t be in top of the table. A good goalkeeper can go a long way in big knockout matches, which is what they’ll hope he brings to the team later in the season.
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|Teams||Orlando City vs Philadelphia Union|
|Location||Exploria Stadium, Florida|
|Time||Saturday, July 23 at 7.30pm EST onwards|
|How to watch||ESPN+, DAZN, Fox 35 Plus, PHL17|
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Varun is a web journalist who has been writing on sports for 13 years. He took a shine for the MLS during the 2021 season and has been following it and writing about it since, alongside his work involving the English Premier League, La Liga, and the Serie A. He is deeply interested in soccer analytics and strategy and has aspirations to move into coaching at some point. Email: [email protected]More info on Varun Shetty
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