There’s a replay of the 2021 Eastern Conference final this weekend and the Philadelphia Union look a solid pick for a draw in New York.
Who do Bettors Favor?
MLS fans checking out the odds ahead of this game at the best online sportsbook will find that NYCFC, playing their first home game of the MLS season, are the strong favorites for this fixture, rated at -150 by most sportsbooks. There has been some support for the draw at +280, while Philadelphia are regarded as big outsiders at +400 as they travel east to take on their Conference rivals.
|NYCFC v Philadelphia Union|
How Does the Head to Head Record Look?
NYCFC were relative latecomers to MLS so these two local rivals haven’t racked up as many head-to-head encounters as some in the Eastern Conference, but the New York club has dominated.
Of the 17 games these two teams have played against one another, NYCFC have won ten, while Philadelphia have won five. Two games have ended in ties.
NYCFC have also won five of their last eight fixtures, though the most significant of those came in December last year in the Eastern Conference. Alexander Callens gave Union the lead shortly after the hour mark, but goals from Maxi Moralez and Talles Magno secured a 2-1 win for Philadelphia.
NYCFC Finally Off the Mark
The defending champions have had a slow start to their MLS campaign though their schedule didn’t do them any favors. Kicking off with a west coast swing wasn’t ideal, although they were able to play their CONCACAF Champions League tie in Los Angeles ahead of their game against Galaxy.
Their opening day defeat in LA was followed by a disappointing draw with Vancouver, but after a successful home quarter-final win against Comunicaciones in the Champions League, they finally secured an MLS win, scoring four in a comfortable win over Montreal.
Philadelphia Solid in Three
After finishing second in the East last season – ahead of NYCFC – Philadelphia ultimately lost out to their New York rivals in the Conference final but will be aiming to go further this time around.
Unlike Saturday’s opponents, they’ve had a relatively gentle introduction to the new season, with home games against Minnesota and San Jose, and a trip to Montreal, from which they’ve earned a healthy seven points. Disappointingly, neither of their main attacking signings, Mikael Uhre or Julian Carranza have made an impact so far, and Carranza was sent off in their second game, against Montreal.
MLS Big Game Team News
The defending champions went into this week missing only long-term absentee Anton Tinnerholm, who has been out since October with a ruptured Achilles tendon. The trip to Guatemala City in midweek may mean coach Ronny Deila will have to rotate his squad a little for this game.
For Philadelphia, Julian Carranza will be available again, having served his one-game suspension for that red card against Montreal, so Jim Curtin will have a full squad to pick from, which means making a decision over whether Carranza, Uhre or both will start.
Betting on NYCFC versus Philadelphia
This NYCFC team is not very different to the roster that won the MLS Cup last season, and the retention of key striker Valentin Castellanos means that they should still be as effective in 2022, while Thiago Martins is an excellent center-half addition. Philadelphia also did some good business in the offseason and both will be expecting to go the distance again this season.
We shouldn’t read anything into the disparity in points after three games. Yes, Philadelphia are undefeated, but they have had relatively simple fixtures so far, while NYCFC have faced two good Western Conference teams on the road, as well as having to play four Champions League games.
Those additional early-season commitments have worked against MLS rosters with many players not yet up to full fitness in the early weeks of the season, and it puts a major demand on squad depth, even for a big club like NYCFC. Thus far, Union have been able to play one game a week against moderate opposition as they ease themselves into the season, but Saturday’s opponents have been on their travels again this week, with only four days between their Guatemala fixture and this game.
That additional workload could cancel out much of the home advantage for NYCFC, and while Philadelphia’s mediocre record on the road makes them hard to pick as winners here, I think they can earn a point. With fatigue a potential factor for the home side and goalscoring an issue for the visitors, it could also be worth counting on a low-scoring game in this renewal of a fascinating Eastern Conference rivalry.
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