Jim Curtin Philly Union

The Philadelphia Union’s starting XI on Friday night will look much different from their perceived strongest team.

With the return leg of their Concacaf Champions League semifinal series against Club America looming on Sept. 15 when the rest of MLS has midweek fixtures, the Union and New England Revolution are meeting during the international break at Subaru Park (7:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+).

Philly will be without several key players against the Shield-leading Revs, who also won’t be full strength.

“The odds are against us, we understand that,” head coach Jim Curtin told media on a virtual press conference. “But this group usually has a strong response when that is the case.”

Philly will be without Andre Blake, Jose Martinez, Olivier Mbaizo, Jamiro Monteiro, Daniel Gazdag, Cory Burke and Alvas Powell (international duty), as well as Jack Elliott (suspension) and Ilsinho (injury). New England won’t have Matt Turner, Tajon Buchanan or Adam Buksa (international duty), though superstar midfielder Carles Gil may make his return from injury.

It’ll be a youthful flavor for the Union around Kacper Przybylko, Alejandro Bedoya and Jakob Glesnes.

“It’s not about who’s not here, it’s about who is here,” Curtin said. “It’s about trying to get a result against a very strong New England team.”

The last time Philly faced New England they weren’t full strength, though that was a purposeful decision. They opted to rotate their lineup ahead of the CCL first leg against Club America, starting the likes of Paxten Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan, Stuart Findlay and Jack McGlynn. The Union lost 2-1 at Gillette Stadium that day.

“There’s no secret, just with the numbers we have available, there will be a number of young players on the field. No question,” Curtin said. "The good thing is they were able to play against New England in New England and they performed well. We lost, but they performed well. … I guess what I’m getting at is it won’t be a complete shock, the speed of the game and the quality of the (Revs) players.”

Philadelphia have slipped to fifth in the Eastern Conference standings, only two points ahead of seventh-placed D.C. United. The Columbus Crew and Atlanta United sit below the playoff line only five points adrift with 12 matches left. The Union hope to avoid a playoff chase and aim to climb back up the table, just three points behind second-placed Orlando City SC.

Stealing a result against the Supporters' Shield leaders without so many regular starters wouldn’t be a bad way to move forward.

“We need the Sons of Ben to be loud, we need the entire stadium to be going crazy in support of these players on the field,” Curtin said. “It only gives them more belief and energy. I know our fans will have our backs tomorrow, and we’re going to need them.”