After a 1-1 draw at home, Nashville SC (11W-3L-16D, 49 pts.) heads back on the road to face the Philadelphia Union (12W-8L-10D, 46 pts.) on Saturday night in what could be a pivotal moment in the race for the Audi 2021 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The Boys in Gold are unbeaten in their last six matches, four of which have been on the road. Meanwhile, Philadelphia just saw a six-match unbeaten streak snapped on Wednesday night on the road at Minnesota United FC.
Nashville sits in second place in the Eastern Conference, and with the Union just three points behind in third place, the result of this match could determine the trajectory of the race for home field advantage in the playoffs.
Here’s everything you need to know about Saturday’s match:
Date: Saturday, October 23
Time: 6:30 p.m. CT
Location: Subaru Park (Chester, Pa.)
Stream: Click Here
English Radio: ESPN 94.9
Spanish Radio: El Jefe 96.7
Rotation Ready – Nashville SC will be without two attackers on Saturday after Hany Mukhtar and Luke Haakenson were suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
However, Head Coach Gary Smith says this match will provide a good opportunity for some players that have been clamoring to prove themselves.
“We’ve got games coming up mid-week again, so there might have been a little bit of rotation anyway,” Smith said. “I’d have loved for [Hany] to have been there, of course. But that’s not to be the case. One door closes, another one opens. Somebody else gets the chance ... We’ve got one or two players sitting in the background who are hurting over the fact that they’ve not been on the team, and they’ve not been getting minutes, and I would hope that they see this as their opportunity to try and say, ‘you’ve been wrong.’”
Grind it Out – The matches are coming fast and furious near the end of the 2021 regular season.
Nashville SC is in the midst of a stretch of five matches in 15 days before a week-long break leading into MLS Decision Day 2021. Philadelphia is playing a similar gauntlet of matches as the season winds down.
Smith says both teams will be making tough decisions with regards to rotation, stamina and lineups for this match.
“[The Union] will be delighted to go back home, I’m sure,” Smith said. “But it doesn’t alter the fact that we’re all going into our third game in a week. There’ll be some choices that are made on players for both teams, I’m sure, that can have a big impact on the game. Lots of rotation and too much can lose some continuity and some core foundational pieces. Not enough rotation and you get those lethargic performances. I would imagine [Philadelphia Head Coach] Jim [Curtin] will be thinking about it just as much as I am.”
Scouting the Union – The 2020 Supporters’ Shield winners have had a strong 2021 season. Led by top goal scorer Kacper Przybylko (10 goals) and anchor defender Jakob Glesnes, the Union have climbed to third place in the Eastern Conference.
Even when key players have been out due to injury or international duty, Philadelphia has successfully relied on Homegrown talent such as 18-year-old Paxten Aaronson to carry the weight. Aaronson was one of four Homegrowns that helped beat FC Cincinnati 2-1 on the road on Oct. 9 while the Union were missing eight players on international duty.
Nashville and Philadelphia met on July 3 at Nissan Stadium, with the Boys in Gold winning 1-0. CJ Sapong scored in the opening minutes on a blistering counterattack to take the early lead, and Nashville held on for the win from there.