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Match Preview: Charlotte FC at Philadelphia Union

June 21, 2024 - Major League Soccer (MLS)
Charlotte FC News Release

Charlotte FC will wrap up a stretch of three matches in eight days in Philadelphia this Saturday. A win over D.C. and a draw with ten men against Orlando have put The Crown comfortably in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.

Now back on the road, CLTFC will look for a strong finish to a tough stretch of matches.

Match: Charlotte FC at Philadelphia Union

When: Saturday, June 22

Where: Subaru Park

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

Watch: Away Match Watch Party at Caswell Station; MLS Season Pass on Apple TV - How to Watch & Listen

Listen: WFNZ 92.7 FM (English) & WOLS 106.1 FM (Spanish)

For all other radio station affiliates in the Carolinas, click here.

Previous Matches:

Charlotte FC 2 - 2 Orlando City SC (Major League Soccer | June 19)

FC Cincinnati 4 - 3 Philadelphia Union (Major League Soccer | June 19)

Eastern Conference Table: For the full live table, click here.

5. Charlotte FC - 29 points, 19 GP

6. Columbus Crew - 27 points, 16 GP

7. Toronto FC - 24 points, 19 GP

8. Nashville SC - 23 points, 18 GP

9. Atlanta United - 20 points, 18 GP

---------- Playoff Line ----------

10. Philadelphia Union - 20 points, 18 GP

Hard-Working Identity

This week's three-games-in-eight-days stretch has demonstrated Charlotte FC's identity under Head Coach Dean Smith. A gritty 1-0 win over D.C. United, followed by a gutsy draw down a man for more than 50 minutes against Orlando City (the longest amount of time a team has gone down a man and not lost the game in more than two years in MLS), was indicative of how this team can get results.

"I think we're humble enough to know that we have to work extremely hard to be a successful side," said Smith in this week's pre-match press conference. "And we're quite happy and comfortable to go and do that."

A league-leading eight clean sheets and winning by just one goal in six of the team's eight wins are evidence of that approach.

This weekend, quite simply, is another chance to prove that identity. After two very difficult matches at home, Smith and his players have to travel up to Philadelphia on short rest after playing down a man for an extended period.

Some rotation may be up Smith's sleeve, but the bottom line will always be the hard-working identity. If the team can show up at Subaru Park with that same energy and grittiness, they'll put themselves in a good position to bring home points.

The Opponent

Charlotte FC just played the Philadelphia Union at home on May 25, so the reverse fixture is coming back around quickly this weekend.

Here's what I wrote back then to familiarize everyone with the Union's recent history (skip to below to see a breakdown of their 2024 season so far).

The Philadelphia Union have consistently been a preeminent Eastern Conference team in recent memory. Over the last five seasons, the Union have finished in at least the top four of the Eastern Conference every year and finished first in 2020 and 2022 (including a Supporter's Shield title in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season).

Head Coach Jim Curtin and Sporting Director Ernst Tanner can be credited heavily for Philadelphia's dominant rise. Curtin took charge of a mostly struggling team in 2014 and, with an emphasis on youth development and smart (but frugal) spending, brought them to the heights of the last five years.

Their playing style is characterized by defensive organization and very direct attacking play. They most often set up in a narrow 4-4-2 diamond (or a 5-3-2) designed to get the ball forward to the strikers quickly and effectively, picking up second balls and generally bullying their way through teams.

However, 2024 has not treated the Union well. They sit below the playoff line in 10th place and, very uncharacteristically for a usually dominant home team, have not won a game at Subaru Park since late March (five losses and two draws).

Additionally, the lineup CLTFC will face on Saturday is weaker than normal due to both injury and international duty. Philadelphia will likely be missing star number ten Daniel Gazdag (Euros with Hungary), ever-present defensive midfielder Jose Martinez (Copa America with Venezuela), three-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake (injury and potentially Copa America with Jamaica if healthy), and long-time captain Alejandro Bedoya (injury that forced him to miss Wednesday's match).

That is a whole lot of absences of key players. Desperate teams are dangerous, but Saturday presents a good opportunity for Charlotte FC to pick up valuable points on the road.

The Season So Far

CLTFC started the season well with a gritty 1-0 home opener win over New York City FC. After a rocky three-game road trip that only resulted in one point, the team returned home to Bank of America Stadium to down defending MLS Cup Champions Columbus Crew (2-0) and draw defending Supporter's Shield Champions FC Cincinnati (1-1).

Results continued to be up and down from there during a frustrating April. The team won a thrilling back-and-forth home match against Toronto courtesy of a late Patrick Agyemang match-winner, but they lost their other three matches in disappointing fashion.

However, a busy May reignited Charlotte's form. The team notched three wins, two draws, and one loss over the course of the month. Even an away loss to the Red Bulls at the end of the month didn't dent the players' confidence, as they have been in-form throughout June.

A big away win over rivals Atlanta United and a gritty 1-0 home win over D.C. United, coupled with a valiant home draw this Wednesday after playing down to ten men for 52 minutes, have shot CLTFC up to a comfortable fifth place in the standings.

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