As the hype reached its peak in the past few weeks following the amazing playoff run by the Flyers and the hot start to the season from the Phillies pitching staff, it was easy for the Union to be the odd man out in the Philadelphia sports landscape.
Now that the Flyers trail their series 3-1 and the Phillies pitching staff has gone cold, it’s time for all eyes to start focusing on Chester and Talen Energy Stadium, where the Union have had one of the hottest starts of the MLS season through the first six matches.
The Union (3-3-0) sit in second place in the Eastern Conference in the young season, on the backs of one of their strongest defensive units in club history. Goalie Andre Blake currently ranks sixth in the MLS in save percentage (78.1) and as a unit the team has allowed just seven goals, tied for third in the East.
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Blake has started in all six matches for the Union, registering 25 saves on 32 shots. He’s already totaled the same amount of starts he had all of last season, while guiding the Union to one more win and with a better goals against average (1.17).
“Andre [Blake’s] been excellent,” Curtin said. “In every game he’s had a special save. He’s done that in our wins and in our losses to keep us in games. It gives our center backs confidence and it gives our team confidence that we can be aggressive as a team and Andre will be there to make the save he’s supposed to make as well as the special ones that keep you in a game.”
Up next for the Union are New York City FC (1-2-3) led by potent goal scorer and international legend, David Villa. Villa ranks ninth in the MLS in scoring with four goals on the season. The Union are hoping they can limit Villa’s impact on the match by sticking rookie Joshua Yaro on him for the majority of the match.
In the Union’s 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders (2-3-1) on Saturday, Yaro had the tough assignment of sticking national star Clint Dempsey and held him to no goals on just three shots. Jim Curtin talked about the 2nd overall pick’s potential matchup this weekend.
“[It’s] no easy task,” Curtin said about Villa. “Villa does a good job rather he’s the high guy as the No. 9 as a target or whether he plays out wide and he comes in at your blind spot on the shoulder. He’s as clever a goal scorer as there’s been in our game and lives kind of on the edge.”
As a team, NYCFC has played poorly of late which could work in the Union’s favor. They haven’t won a match since their first game of the season and are coming off of a 3-2 loss to the bottom-dwelling Columbus Crew (1-3-2).
The Union return to Talen Energy Stadium for Saturday’s match. The match will air at 4 p.m. on ABC.