They’re sitting in third and fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings, separated by just a point. They’re ranked second and third in the league in ESPN’s MLS Power Rankings. When evenly matched teams like the Crew and Philadelphia Union get together, games can be decided by intangibles. If there is one intangible the Crew must rely on in this game, it is composure. The Crew must maintain their composure against The Union.
Why do I say the Crew must stay composed? Because Philadelphia is not shy about playing a physical game-they’re unafraid to knock down an opposing player. They’re aggressive. The type of aggression that can frustrate an opponent and take them out of their game. Wednesday night, FC Dallas players were hitting the turf on a regular basis. Some were undoubtedly embellishing, but a lot were not. I’m not saying they’re a dirty team. Nothing of the sort. They’re simply unafraid to be very aggressive.
MLS has assigned Jon Freeman to referee the match. His only other Crew game this season came when he was in charge of their early-season match with Charlotte. Crew fans will remember this as the game Will Sands was lost for the season to a knee injury. Although Freeman is not one to hand out a lot of yellow cards (his 3.75 per game is only 20th among MLS referees), but he ranks 8th in the amount of fouls called. This could really be an advantage for the Crew if those fouls lead to free kicks.
Looking back on their Wednesday night game, I thought FC Dallas made things easy for Philadelphia, because they looked hesitant to shoot when there appeared to be an opportunity. The Crew will not give them that luxury. Cucho, Diego Rossi, and their teammates will not be shy about testing Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, who has just one clean sheet since June 3rd.
Although the teams appear evenly matched, I’m not convinced Philadelphia isn’t beginning to wear down. The game against Dallas was their 44th of the season across all competitions. That’s already six more than 2022 when they made a run to the MLS Cup final where they lost to LAFC. They’ve scored just once in their last two games and recently needed a furious comeback to get a draw with Charlotte. If the Crew can maintain their composure, play their game, and put Philadelphia back on their heels, they have a great chance of coming away with three very important points.