A historic match will take place Saturday, September 9, as the Philadelphia Union take on Minnesota United for the first time ever. These two titans of soccer will butt heads in a battle for regular season obscurity. With not much on the line at this point of the season, for both Minnesota United and for the Philadelphia Union, Saturday’s match will be more of a chance for players to showcase their value to their respective teams. Philadelphia, sitting in 9th place, is only 5 points from the last playoff spot. Atlanta, in 6th place, has 3 games in hand, however, and would need a major collapse to allow the Union to surpass that playoff spot. Montreal, tied at 36 points with Atlanta, has 1 game in hand on the Union and is playing terrific soccer at the moment. Meanwhile Minnesota measures 12 points below the last West Coast playoff spot. For an expansion team, Minnesota United shouldn’t have expected to do much better, however. Saturday’s game should showcase youth on both sides, though it is possible the Union show up at full strength to continue the battle for the playoffs.
It hasn’t been a pretty season for Minnesota. However, in a difficult and tightly fought Western Conference, the playoffs were always a long-shot for the newcomers. Without the appeal of a manager such as Tata Martino (manager of East Coast expansion side Atlanta) it was difficult for Minnesota to bring in talent outside of the expansion draft. With the second worst goal differential (beaten only by the dismal D.C United) Minnesota has seen more than its share of defensive woes. In its last 13 games, Minnesota has recorded just 2 shutouts, all while being shut out 6 times. In its last matchup, however, Minnesota defeated East Coast contender Chicago Fire despite being outshot 20-8.
The Union on the other hand do not look much better. The last 4 results have not gone according to plan for the Union with 2 losses and 2 draws taking the Union to the edge of the playoff precipice. The draws might have been the hardest for Union fans to swallow, as both games should have been wins for Philadelphia. Against San Jose, Josh Yaro committed a foul in the last 30 seconds to concede a penalty and equalizing goal. While against Atlanta, it was a red card for Yaro that took the Union down to 10 men. Tyrone Mears finally broke the Union down in stoppage time in that game to tie-up the match. With only 1 win on the road it is a do or die for the Union. If the Philadelphia side go back without 3 points it might as well be curtains for Jim Curtin’s playoff hopes.