After over two hours of tight, tense soccer, Jakob Glesnes unleashed a sublime long-range kick to put the Philadelphia Union up 1-0 in the final seconds of stoppage time over the New York Red Bulls on November 20.
For the second time in three years, the Union is in the conference semifinals. For the first time in franchise history, they’ll host the semifinal round.
Philadelphia rode a strong second half into the second seed in the Eastern Conference and will host Nashville SC on Sunday, November 28. Nashville booked their semifinal ticket with a 3-1 win over Orlando City at home on Tuesday night.
Philadelphia Union vs. Nashville SC preview
The two teams split their two match-ups in the regular season, with each team securing a 1-0 win at home. Nashville won in July, while Philadelphia was victorious in October. The victory was part of a five-game winning streak the Union rode to close out the regular season and secure that second seed. Nashville spent a good portion of the 2021 season in the second spot, watching the New England Revolution disappear on the horizon on their way to the Supporters Shield.
Philadelphia finished the regular season with 14 wins, 12 draws, and 8 losses. Nashville ended 2021 with a 12-18-4 record, equaling the Union’s 54 points. However, Philly finished ahead on the table due to having more wins.
Despite the record difference, Nashville outperformed the Union with a +22 goal difference (55 for, 33 against) compared to the +13. Philly scored 48 goals and conceded just 35.
These two teams play different styles and will make for a very interesting game. The Union likes to counter and run with their excellent midfielders. Nashville will try to dominate possession and attack constantly.
Potential X-factor, Defense
In the playoffs, goaltending can make a difference. If the Union’s defense can hold, that puts a lot of value on Andre Blake. The 2020 goalie of the year has played very well again this season.
Yes, the team has lost two excellent MNT contributors in Mark McKenzie and Brendan Aaronson. However, the Union still finished near the top of the table. This season, they actually won a playoff game, while working into the CONCACAF Champion’s League semifinals.
Nashville has not defended as well in the past few weeks. Tuesday night against Orlando City, they allowed a goal in the first 20 minutes for the fifth straight match. If Joe Willis concedes an early goal on Sunday, that will give the Union, who aren’t as offensively potent as last season, a tremendous boost in confidence, and Subaru Park will rock.
Also, if the game does go to PKs (we can’t expect another Golazo in the waning seconds again, right?) Blake has saved three of six PKs, the best record in MLS this season. Nashville only stopped one of five attempts from the spot.
Philadelphia Union vs. Nashville SC odds, MLS betting Caveat
The Union are favored in Sunday’s match with odds of -105 at DraftKings Sportsbook PA. Nashville SC has moneyline odds of +310 while a draw is set at odds of +240.
Betting knockout stage soccer is a bit different from betting the playoffs in other sports. Books only use the full-time result (the 90 minutes plus stoppage time) to determine winning tickets in MLS betting. So for those who had the Union ML on Saturday, Glesnes’ missile from the parking lot elated hearts but didn’t do a thing for bankrolls. Those tickets were lost.
This I don’t quite get. I’ve asked our friends at the sportsbooks to clarify this stance, to no avail. This time next year, they’ll get a lot more bets on the 2022 World Cup and if we get another rush of Late Goal Summer, there’s probably going to be a lot of upset customers. To avoid this, ignore the three-way ML and bet on a team to advance.
Lead image credit: AP Photo/Chris Szagola