For the sixth time this MLS season, the Philadelphia Union will face the New England Revolution, but this time it will be a do-or-die situation for both teams, with a spot in the Eastern Conference semifinals up for grabs.
Jim Curtin’s team is coming off a sensational regular season, lifting the first trophy in club history and posting an undefeated record (9-0) at Subaru Park. The club coincidentally defeated Bruce Arena’s Revs in Chester to clinch the Supporters’ Shield crown earlier this month and will be favored on Tuesday night (8p.m., ESPN) after going unbeaten (4-0-1) against New England this season.
The Revolution will be brimming with confidence though after eliminating the Montreal Impact on Friday in the Eastern Conference play-in round. Gustavo Bou and Carles Gil each scored in the match, continuing to form a strong partnership.
While the odds may be against New England on the road, the Union have yet to be in their current position before of being the No. 1 seed in the East. All in all, it should be a great contest from Subaru Park with a date against Orlando City looming for the victor.
The Union have owned this matchup over the past few seasons, last suffering defeat to New England in July 2017. Since then, Curtin’s squad have gone 8-2-0 against the Revs, outscoring them 20-6.
Players to Watch
Brenden Aaronson has blossomed into a top young star in MLS, which is why the 19-year-old will be moving to Red Bull Salzburg come seasons end. Aaronson has been a vital playmaker for the club this season and will aim to end his Union career for now on a high note, but first that means delivering a strong performance on Tuesday night.
Bou is coming off a strong outing against the Impact, where he scored the winning goal in stoppage time and set up the opening goal, scored by Gil. The Argentine hasn’t delivered the same production as he did in his first MLS season, but will need to be influential if the Revolution want to pull a shock in Chester.
Matchup to Watch
CARLES GIL VS. JOSE MARTINEZ
Carles Gil looks to be finding his own in the late stages of 2020 after missing large parts of the season through injury. Not only did he score against Montreal, but the Spanish midfielder is key for the Revolution’s build-up play offensively. Jose Martinez has been one of the Union’s underrated players this season, bringing aggressiveness and physicality to the heart of midfield.
Sergio Santos may not be a big name compared to other MLS forwards, but the Brazilian has been a top scoring option for the Union in 2020. Santos doubled his production in his second MLS season, scoring eight goals and registering two assists in 21 matches. His mixture of pace and physicality could stretch the Revolution’s backline and allow chances for himself and his teammates.
Adam Buksa has put in a decent first season in MLS, but now has a new opportunity to shine for the Revolution. The Polish striker scored six goals in 23 matches this season, with two of those coming in the last five appearances. Buksa failed to score in any of his appearances against the Union though and will need to pose a threat against MLS Defender of the Year finalist, Mark McKenzie.
These two teams have seen a lot of one another in 2020, but this sixth and final meeting is shaping up to be the most tightly-contested of the bunch.
The Union will look to dictate the tempo and press New England when in possession, while also using the creative ability of Monteiro and Aaronson to set up forwards Kacper Przybylko and Sergio Santos. Defensively, the Union rely on Mark McKenzie and Ray Gaddis for leadership in the backline, while Andre Blake’s is set to return in goal after recovering from a hand injury in the final matches of the regular season.
The Revs will feel they have the best chance to knock off the Union in this match, knowing they have both Bou and Gil available to start from the opening whistle. Both players will look to put the Union backline under pressure and make things difficult for what has been a top defensive corps this season.
The longer the Revolution stay in the match, the better chance they have of pulling the upset, but the Union will be eager to score early and often to put the tie out of reach in front of a limited number of home fans.