Philadelphia, Minnesota each searching for a spark (Sep 09, 2017)
Two clubs struggling to hold on to slim playoff hopes square off Saturday night as Minnesota United FC hosts the Philadelphia Union at TCF Bank Stadium. Both clubs are one notch above the bottom spot in their respective conference tables.
Minnesota (7-14-4, 25 points) is just three points ahead of bottom-dweller Colorado in the Western Conference, while Philadelphia (8-12-7, 31 points) is tied with Orlando City, three points ahead of DC United in the Eastern Conference.
Minnesota is coming off the first road win in the club's MLS history, a 2-1 defeat of the Chicago Fire. Rookie forward Abu Danladi played a big role in the win, moving up from the midfield to the forward spot to fill in for injured striker Christian Ramirez, who is likely to miss this week's match as well. Danladi scored both Loons' goals.
Duluth-born midfielder Ethan Finlay will make his first home match for Minnesota United. Finlay played at TCF Bank Stadium with Columbus Crew SC earlier in the season in a match Crew SC won 1-0. Finlay already found success with his new club, notching a goal and two assists in his first two matches.
The Loons have been respectable at home, going 6-6-2 in 14 matches. That bodes well against the Union, who are just 1-8-4 on the road this season.
Minnesota head coach Adrian Heath believes his club is starting to jell.
"I just think that it's a time thing," he said. "I've said this on numerous occasions this season: putting so many players and pieces together in a very short period of time, they're getting to know each other a little bit more.
"I just think we're better now than we were at the beginning of the season. No disrespect, but I think we've got a better group than we had at the beginning of the season. And I think that's shown in performances and results."
Philadelphia hopes that past success against expansion clubs will continue. In the first meeting between the Union and a new expansion side, the Union holds an all-time 3-1-2 record, including a 3-0-1 stretch in the last four meetings.
"It's more about us, defending well and defending as a team," Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake said.
Philadelphia will be without Alejandro Bedoya, who will serve a one-game suspension for yellow card accumulation, and Joshua Yaro, who is out with a red card suspension.
In their absence, the Union may look to rookie Jack Elliott. The fourth-round pick from West Virginia logged 1,992 minutes this season, the most by any Union defender and third-most by a Philadelphia outfield player. Elliott recorded a goal or an assist in two of his last three matches.