Last year’s beaten MLS Cup finalists, the Philadelphia Union, crash into this season’s runaway Supporters’ Shield winners and MLS Cup favorites FC Cincinnati in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
Jack Collins here from The Game Day to look at Saturday's second Eastern Conference showdown in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs.
FC Cincinnati vs. Philadelphia Union Odds
FC Cincinnati vs Philadelphia Union betting lines are current as of Friday, Nov. 17, at 10 am ET at bet365 Sportsbook.
- 3-Way Moneyline: Cincinnati (-110) • Tie (+280) • Philadelphia (+250)
- Total Goals: Over 2.5 (-143) • Under 2.5 (+110)
- Both Teams To Score: Yes (-150) • No (+110)
FC Cincinnati vs. Philadelphia Union Match Prediction
FC Cincinnati 1-0 Philadelphia Union
When these two teams met for their first match of the year in April, a singular Lucho Acosta goal was the difference in a tightly fought encounter.
Matt Miazga was arguably the best player on the pitch that day, marshaling the Cincy backline beautifully en route to a shutout, but he misses this game due to a suspension from an accumulation of yellow cards. FCC will be without the newly-crowned MLS Defender of the Year.
That absence will give Philadelphia hope – as will the last meeting between the two, which took place at Subaru Park back in September, where the Union were able to race into a 2-0 lead.
Granted, they were pegged back in the second half, but the fact they were able to break through a full-strength FCC back line should give them confidence they can do the same to a rotated one.
But in the absence of Kai Wagner – who's serving a three-game suspension for violating the league’s on-field antidiscrimination policy – they know a critical part of their attacking unit is missing.
Wagner’s dead-ball ability will be particularly missed. However, Jack McGlynn stepped up again in his absence to provide a wicked delivery that led to Chris Donovan’s series-winning goal in the previous round.
Philadelphia have been here, and been successful, before. Last season's Eastern Conference champions were mere seconds away from winning the MLS Cup before Gareth Bale’s last-gasp heroics for LAFC took the game to penalties.
Philly and Cincy met in last year’s Eastern Conference Semifinals, too, in a scenario that eerily mirrors this one.
In 2022, Philadelphia came into that game as the top seed in the East, while Cincinnati edged a fourth-fifth seed first-round tie against New York Red Bulls to give themselves a shot at the Union.
At Subaru Park, the game was decided by a single goal, with Leon Flach’s first of that season turning out to be the decider. Philadelphia then cruised through the Eastern final to set up that dramatic final-day showdown with LAFC.
Cincinnati hope a reverse in seeding equals a reversal in fortunes here. They lost just twice at TQL Stadium in the regular season – and one of those losses, to RBNY, was dramatically avenged last round when they hammered the Red Bulls, 3-0, in the first leg on home turf.
There’s another factor that can’t be ignored in this: This Supporters’ Shield-winning version of Cincinnati is powered by general manager Chris Albright and head coach Pat Noonan, who were both previously a part of the Philadelphia Union setup.
Noonan was an assistant to long-serving Union head coach Jim Curtin before being named the man to take the helm at Cincinnati ahead of the 2022 season, when he led them to their first-ever playoff berth.
It’s worth noting Curtin has adapted some tactics from his former assistant, too.
While the Union's formation has evolved through the season, both games against Cincinnati saw Curtin use a mirror image three-at-the-back to try and match up against the devastating ability of Noonan’s wingbacks and keep the games tight.
And, for most of those games, it worked – both games were incredibly tight – although it remains to be seen if Curtin will feel comfortable using that system without Wagner available to play left wingback.
Two very good sides. Two managers who know each other inside out. Two teams that utilize many of the same tactical tweaks. Two brilliant number tens.
There’s not much in this one, and when that’s the case, it’s often best to err to the side who have been better throughout the campaign: Cincinnati, by the smallest of margins.
FC Cincinnati vs. Philadelphia Union Best Bet
Total Goals: Under 2.5 (+110) • bet365 Sportsbook
At this stage of the playoffs, things get tighter, and as better teams come together, the desire not to lose comes to the forefront.
The in-season matchups were tight, last year’s Eastern Conference semifinal was tight, and I expect this one to be as well. A singular goal could prove the difference again, making the under 2.5 goals bet tempting.