After reaching the semi-finals of the 2021 MLS Cup playoffs, high expectations were set for Philadelphia Union when heading into the new season, and they've unquestionably lived up to the hype thus far.
Placed in 1st position of the Eastern Conference division, the 2020 Supporters' Shield champions have been shutting teams out and became the last team to suffer a defeat throughout eight domestic games played in the 2022 season.
"To start like this is something that gives confidence to our group, but at the same time, I don't think we've played great yet," commented Jim Curtin, the team's head coach. "I think we've been good in all the games, we've been certainly sound defensively, but we're not a finished product, which I really, really like at this stage."
Despite the team's early success, it's evident that coach Curtin isn't willing to jump the gun and "jinx" his side with too much praise. However, we must face facts and give credit to this Philadelphia squad that has obtained their first 5-game winning streak in the club's history that joined the MLS in 2010.
"We're not a team that's peaking right now and has still almost 30 games in front of us," Curtin continued. "I like where this groups at. I think we have the defensive part right. I think we have the grittiness right, the fight. We have the fans behind us, which helps tremendously. But this team has another level I think it can go to, and it's up to the coaching staff now to challenge them, to push them and get the most out o them and not get comfortable."
Struggles Versus Montreal
Although they're sitting proudly on top of the Eastern Conference table, Philadelphia Union revealed their struggles when drawing with CF Montreal last time out.
In what should have been a chance to claim another three points on home turf before an extensive road trip ahead ended with a lack of creativity in the final third for Curtin's early-season MLS frontrunners.
The usual counter-attacking decisiveness and well-thought organization we've witnessed from Philadelphia this term weren't present. A testament to the U's counterplay is seen through their statistics, as they possess the lowest average possession from any other team across the initial eight games of the 2022 season. However, the sniper-like counter-attacking style was absent when Montreal visited Subaru Park.
With that said, Curtin and company didn't lose the game, and they can subtract positives from this result. There is room for improvement, and the Philly coach is entirely aware that his team is still building towards the elite level required to be a dominant team in the MLS.
Back on the Road in Nashville with Tempting Betting Odds
Pennsylvania sports betting enthusiasts should be running to the sportsbook window or opening their betting app to take a piece of the action in the Union's upcoming fixture with Nashville SC. The available odds of +250 are holding exceptional betting value for a team who've delivered so many positive performances.
Nashville will own home-field advantage. Although they've only played two domestic games at Nissan Stadium, they did suffer defeat to Cincinnati, who's notably bottom of the Eastern Conference division. From a betting perspective, it's difficult to ignore the plus money value we're receiving on Philadelphia Union.
Nashville will debut their new stadium (Geodis Park), and although the home crowd atmosphere can play its part, the surroundings of the new grounds will be just as new to the home team as they are for Philadelphia.
The U's allowed an extra two points to slip away in the Montreal fixture, and we can pinpoint this mistake to the creative chances given up by Daniel Gazdag. Should Gazdag initiate his regular exchanges with the forwards, I believe Philly can cause Nashville some unwanted problems. However, we must highlight the lack of mistakes that Nashville make.
I don't expect a high-scoring affair to play out at Geodis Park, and I wouldn't be stunned if these two sides create a stalemated 0-0 or 1-1 draw. But, if one team can generate a surprise attack and perhaps a late-game winner, it would have to be the counter-attacking prowess that Philadelphia has delivered on numerous occasions this term.