Crew-Union Preview

National Sports

Jim Curtin says Philadelphia Union face a real test of character on Sunday when they host fellow MLS Cup hopefuls Columbus Crew.

Philadelphia have taken seven points from their last three matches and occupy one of the Eastern Conference playoff spots.

The Crew are five points behind their opponents, having also won two and drawn one of their last three, and enter this game on a high after lifting the Campeones Cup in midweek.

With the games ticking down until the end of the regular season, Curtin acknowledged the importance of this weekend’s showdown at Subaru Park.

“We said it against New York Red Bulls and we’ll say it again with Columbus, these are great teams that are now fighting for every point,” he said.

“There’s not many games left and one of the hardest things to do is play your best in a big pressure game against a good opponent that has a little bit of desperation to get three points.

“It will be a real challenge and they will put in a lot for the game but the challenge is can we use that against them. We want to take as many points as possible.

“The end goal is to host a playoff game, not just get in. Every point is going to matter down the stretch and every player is going to have a role; the message is to be ready.”

The Crew maintained their good form with a 2-0 win over Mexican champions Cruz Azul to win the Campeones Cup last time out.

Head coach Caleb Porter will now be looking to add to that international silverware with a second straight MLS Cup triumph.

“I’m so proud of the players that we’re able to put another trophy in the trophy case,” Porter said. “A trophy is a trophy – anytime you can win one, you’ve got to win it.

“It’s just a great win. It’ll help us with confidence and belief. This legacy of players they continue to put trophies in the trophy case. I said that when I got here, that’s what we were going to do.”

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Philadelphia Union – Jamiro Monteiro

The Union do not have the best of goalscoring records against Columbus, scoring just twice against them since September 2019. He may not score many – just seven to his name in four MLS campaigns, in fact – but both of those goals against the Crew came courtesy of Monteiro.

Columbus Crew – Gyasi Zardes

Zardes has scored twice in his last two appearances for the Crew and leads the team’s scoring charts this term with seven in total. After missing the win over Cruz Azul with a hamstring problem, the United States forward should be raring to go against an opponent he has gone two-and-a-half-years without scoring against.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– The Union have not lost any of their last five home matches against Columbus (W4 D1), keeping a clean sheet in each of the last four meetings at Subaru Park. The Union have never kept five straight home clean sheets against a single opponent in their MLS history.

– Philadelphia have not conceded more than one goal in their last 12 home games (W8 D3 L1) after conceding multiple goals in the first two such games (L2) in 2021. The Union have won all six games when managing to keep a clean sheet in that span.

– Columbus have failed to score a goal in eight matches away from home this season. Only Austin FC have more games without scoring on the road (nine).

– Against no other team has Monteiro scored more times in his MLS career than the two he has managed against Columbus (also two against CF Montreal and Toronto FC).

– Zardes has scored Columbus’ last three MLS goals; however he has not scored against Philadelphia since May 2018, one of his two goals against the Union in his MLS career (one for LA Galaxy and one for Columbus). Among all teams he faced more than ten times, he has only scored fewer goals against D.C. United (0 goals in 11 matches).

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