After their last-gasp heroics against the Red Bulls, the Philadelphia Union’s playoff run continues on Sunday, as they entertain Nashville SC at Subaru Park (Kickoff Start Time: 5.30pm ET; Live on TV: ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN5 & TVA Sports). Will they beat the visitors at this venue for the second time in 2021? This preview seeks to answer that question, along with this MLS game’s predictions and we culminate with advised betting picks.
For Philly, it was a good regular season. Without ever threatening to land a glove on runaway Eastern Conference winners New England Revolution, the Union always looked one of the likelier types to make the playoffs without much of a fuss and that’s exactly what they did. Getting to the playoffs is one thing, and time and time again, we see teams impress during the regular campaign only to flounder once the knockout soccer begins, but Jim Curtin’s men made a solid start to the postseason, overcoming a decent Red Bulls side. It may have taken them until the last knockings in extra time, but overall, Philly dominated and were worthy winners.
Nashville enjoyed a typically solid regular season, so much so that they finished level on points with Sunday’s hosts, scoring more goals and conceding fewer. They also came into the postseason as the team that lost the fewest number of games in the east, remaining undefeated at Nissan Stadium.
Home advantage suits Philly
The Union are at their best at Subaru Park, where they won 11 out of 17 during the regular season. Only the New England Revolution won more home games in the Eastern Conference than Jim Curtin’s men, who also had the best defensive record at home, conceding only ten goals. They kept an impressive nine clean sheets, which tells us that Philly knows how to shut teams out.
Nashville knows how to travel
Just like the Philadelphia Union were the best home team bar the regular-season winners in the east, the Nashville boys were the second-best travelers in the division, collecting a promising 21 points on the road.
Sunday’s visitors weren’t quite as solid as they were at home, but they lost just four out 17 away from the comforts of Nissan Stadium, which tells us that Smith’s men know how to dig in and stay in the fight. Interestingly, no team in the east conceded fewer away goals than Nashville, who shipped a very neat average of 0.88 goals per 90. They also kept seven clean sheets.
Time for the decider
This will be the third renewal of this fixture this season and, as things stand, the pair are locked together with one victory each. In the initial meeting, back in early July, Gary Smith’s men got the job done thanks to the quick thinking of C.J. Sapong, who was alert from the start and pounced in just the second minute. A tight game followed, but the hosts held on to their lead.
Philly got their revenge in the reverse fixture, when the boys from Music City traveled to Subaru Park. There was once again just the one goal scored, though this time the game wasn’t as tight, as Nashville struggled to make their presence felt, conceding 1.6 expected goals, replying with just 0.3. The visitors don’t give much away and they are one of the tighter units in MLS, so the Union will have to work hard to earn another victory, but unless Smith’s men can offer more in the final third than they did last month, they are going to struggle to come out on top.
Philadelphia Union vs Nashville SC: How to bet this MLS playoff game?
From a betting point of view, this isn’t the most straightforward of games. For one reason or another, a case could be made for both. Both have several plus points, though one thing that is hard to get away from is Nashville’s lack of offensive power on the road.
With both teams looking solid, it would be little surprise if a low-scoring fixture unfolded at Subaru Park, but when push comes to shove, the hosts have more about them in terms of attacking power, and it is that attacking power that can make the difference. On that basis, Philly probably warrants slightly stronger favoritism and thus a play on the hosts to get the job done appeals.
Main man to have his say
Few players have impressed more for the Philadelphia Union than Kacper Przybylko, and he can make the difference on Sunday. Philly’s hitman notched 12 times during the regular season, averaging 0.41 goals per 90 minutes. If anybody is to make the difference in what should be a tight game then it’s likely to be the Polish forward, who averages a pleasing 2.10 shots per 90 minutes, not to mention 0.39 expected goals.
Big games call for big players and the man who often delivers in big moments for the hosts is worthy of support in the anytime goalscorer betting lines market at a bigger price than usual. So these are the betting picks and predictions for this MLS playoff preview: