Eastern Conference’s big boys clash as Philadelphia Union host New York City FC at Subaru Park on Sunday in the MLS (6pm ET; TV: Live on Fox Sports). Both teams will be looking to extend what are already impressive unbeaten runs, while both go in search of the winning thread having tied last time out.
It’s hard to criticize the efforts of the Philadelphia Union this term. They’re just a point off top spot in the east, while they come into this fixture unbeaten in five. If we were to be super critical of Sunday’s hosts, or at least if we were to highlight where they’ve not done so well of late, then we’d have to pick up on the fact that though they are very hard to beat, they have started to struggle to get their noses in front, tying four of their last five. As a result, they have slipped ever so slightly from what was a very lofty perch, now sitting third, a point behind the visitors, who currently occupy top spot.
While Philly have stuttered a tiny bit in recent weeks, being held on a few occasions when they were expected to get the job done, NYCFC have picked up the pace, winning four of their last five Major League Soccer fixtures. OK, they were halted by the Rapids last time out, tying 1-1 in front of a home crowd, but that is the only blemish on an otherwise perfect recent record. It’s probably fair to say that right now, the squad from the Big Apple is the team to beat in the east.
Still going strong at home
There is just one team in the Eastern Conference to remain unbeaten on home soil and that team is the Philadelphia Union, who have won three and tied five at Subaru Park. Sure, it’s a bit disappointing that they’ve been held as many times as they have, but they’ve built foundations from which to build.
Why are they unbeaten? Defensive strength. Only four times has Andre Blake been breached in the Philly goal at home, keeping a clean sheet in four out of eight. Not only have Sunday’s hosts kept the goals down to a minimum, but they’ve also prevented teams from creating too much, conceding an average of just 0.82 expected goals.
Mixed bag on the road
NYCFC may be the best in the business as things stand in the east, but their away record is patchy. Fortunately, they have won each of their last two on the road, beating D.C. United and Minnesota, though they have won only two out of five, while an average of four goals scored during that time is hardly inspiring.
Defensively, they’ve been sturdy, conceding only three times, keeping a clean sheet in three out of five, including in each of their last two. While New York City FC have not been prolific winners, the boys in sky blue can keep teams quiet which, as their league position points out, clearly counts for something.
Lack of home wins
Somewhat strangely, home teams haven’t exactly enjoyed themselves in this fixture in recent times. There’s been no home win in three, with both Philly and NYCFC winning away from home once each during that time. Only one of the last seven renewals of this fixture has gone the way of the hosts.
Five of the other six have been won by the visiting team. When the pair met earlier this campaign, it was the Union who emerged victorious, winning by two goals to nil at Yankee Stadium. For those interested in trends, the goals have often shied away from this fixture in recent times, with only one of the last six renewals producing more than two goals. Both teams have scored in just one of those six too.
Goals to stay away
If we look at the betting lines with the chief stateside sports betting sites and sportsbooks ahead of this game, on the moneyline, there’s little between the pair, and that seems about right. We are talking about two of the best in the division right now, and both are hard to get the better of so a solid case can’t really be made for either at the current odds. However, a case can be made for ‘Under 2.5 Goals’.
For starters, Philadelphia’s relative success at home has been largely built on a solid defensive effort, as opposed to an explosive attacking one. As a result, plenty of low-scoring games have taken place at Subaru Park. In fact, all of the Major League Soccer games that the Union have played on home soil this season have contained less than three goals. Similarly, four of NYCFC’s five traveling fixtures in MLS this term have produced a maximum of two goals.
Along the same lines, ‘Both Teams to Score – NO’ appeals too. As touched on already in this preview, with predictions, in recent times it has been a rare occasion that this pair both get on the scoresheet, while neither have carved out a habit of both scoring and conceding in their respective home and away games this season.
Both Teams have scored in just one of NYCFC’s five away games, while Philly have scored and conceded in only 50% of their home games. The fact that we’re talking about the two best teams in the Eastern Conference in terms of xG against only strengthens the claims of a game that lacks goals.
So our MLS matchup predictions for this Philly vs NYCFC preview conclude with these two betting picks suggestions: