CHESTER, Pa. — For the first time since 2017, the Philadelphia Union are atop Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference. Although it may only be May, Jim Curtin’s side took advantage of a midweek home match against FC Cincinnati and continued a good run of form.
Kacper Pryzbylko scored in his second consecutive start, Fafa Picault registered his first goal of the season, and the team earned their fourth clean sheet of 2019.
“It was an important win for us tonight in a match that we have earned the right to play in,” Curtin said. “We had a slow start to the game, credit to FC Cincinnati for pressing us early. We raised our level a great deal in the second half and got our goals.
“[Kacper]’s been excellent for us. I think his movement off the ball, his ability to hold the ball up especially with one of the better centerbacks in the league like [Kendall] Waston on his back was good. It’s not easy to go back-to-back 90-minute performances but he held up. You can see his quality, his layoffs, the few opportunities he needs to score goals. He’s done a great job.”
The Union had to wait until after the hour mark to break the deadlock, but once they did they kept the pressure on. Ilsinho’s introduction iced the win as he set up Picault for his first goal. It was three points for the Union who easily could’ve looked at tonight as a trap game.
“Every guy on this team has contributed in some way, it shows how good our depth is and that we can rely on it going forward,” Curtin said. “Nobody really cares at who is in first place in May so now we have to avoid the dips that can happen in an MLS season.”
Cory Burke and Marco Fabian remained out of the 18-man squad but Pryzbylko and midfielder Jamiro Monteiro both put in Man of the Match performances. Monteiro helped run the show in midfield while also showing physical defense in helping shut down FCC’s creative players.
Picault became the ninth Union player to score a goal this season, the most by any team in MLS so far. Its continued a trend for the Union that when a player comes into the lineup or retakes his place in the starting XI, he can make an impact when called upon.
“It’s great,” Picault said. “The year is long so the more guys scoring goals, the better off this team is going to be. The responsibility of the attackers is to score more goals so we want everybody to be involved. Whether it’s the offensive players or the defensive players, more goals are going to help us win matches.”
The Union remain home this weekend as they take on a struggling New England Revolution side on Saturday. Kai Wagner is expected to return to the starting XI after suspension, but no player has been guaranteed a starting spot just yet.
“You’ll see us use our depth again for sure,” Curtin said. “We need fresh legs and the hardest thing with three matches in a week is always dealing with the last one.
“You will see some new faces out there I imagine as we get set to take on a New England side who is dangerous and rested.”