New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union | 2018 Knockout Round Preview

New York City FC vs. Philadelphia Union
Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs — Knockout Round

Yankee Stadium — Bronx
October 31 — 7 pm ET

Three days after meeting on MLS Decision Day presented by AT&T, New York City FC and the Philadelphia Union return to Yankee Stadium for Wednesday night's Knockout Round showdown in the Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.

As a result of that 3-1 victory Sunday afternoon, NYCFC earned the No. 3 seed in the Eastern Conference, while the Union, who could have wrapped up the third seed -- and home-field advantage -- with a win in the Bronx, dropped to sixth.

The Eastern Conference foes split a pair of regular-season meetings, with each holding serve at home. Cory Burke and Ilsinho scored second-half goals in a 2-0 win at Talen Energy Stadium on August 18.

After their 3-1 win against the Union on Sunday, New York City FC have won 5-of-their-last-7 league meetings with Philadelphia (5-2-0). Since 2015, they are 3-0-1 at home in MLS play against the Union.

This is the first postseason meeting between NYCFC and the Union.

New York City FC

NYCFC put forth a vintage performance, especially in the first half, en route to a convincing 3-1 win over the Union Sunday night at Yankee Stadium.

The Cityzens took the game to Philadelphia, racing out to a two-goal lead after just 10 minutes: Maxime Chanot latched onto a Maxi Moralez corner kick and scored his first goal of the season and second all-time against the Union in the 8th minute; two minutes later, Auston Trusty directed a Ben Sweat corner into his own net as NYCFC was off to a dream start.

Burke pulled Philadelphia a goal back just four minutes later on Borek Dockal’s league-leading 18th assist of the year, but David Villa responded 20 minutes later with his 14th goal of the season, capitalizing on a calamitous few moments defensively for the Union.

NYCFC, which had won just one of their previous nine games and one of their last five at home, believe it’s a momentum-boosting victory that could carry over to the playoffs, especially since the game is at Yankee Stadium, where NYCFC was 12-1-4 during the regular season.

“It’s not about only the three points and get finally the third place, it’s about the good face we did today,” Villa said. “This is what we need to show in the playoffs.”

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: None
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: None

Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1, right to left)
GK: Sean Johnson — Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, Alex Callens, Ben Sweat — Alex Ring, Yangel Herrera — Jesus Medina, Maxi Moralez, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi — David Villa

  • Notes: Villa averages a goal every 182.8 minutes in league play against the Union, his fifth-worst minutes per goal ratio against any MLS club. … NYCFC won two of their last 10 MLS matches (2-5-3). However, they went 12-1-4 with a plus-26 goal differential this season, tied for the fewest home losses and best goal differential in league play.

Philadelphia Union

The second half was better, but the opening 45 minutes were ugly for the Union, in more ways than one. And an unusual trifecta certainly didn’t bode well for a Philadelphia side that could have wrapped up third place with three points.

“On a night where you miss a PK, you score an own goal and concede on a corner kick, your odds aren’t going to be good against a really good New York team,” Jim Curtin said.

Curtin said NYCFC “outcompeted” the Union from the opening whistle and the scoreline after 10 minutes was prime evidence.

Dockal set up Burke’s 10th goal of the season in the 14th minute, but the two were at the center of a heated exchange late in the first half, and again as the Union walked off at halftime. When the dust settled, Burke was off as a halftime sub and the Jamaican’s emotions turned to tears as he sat on the bench.

Curtin said it had more to do with Burke not putting in the work against the ball than the optics of a verbal altercation.

The Union lost to both the New York Red Bulls and NYCFC to end the regular season, but Curtin said there’s still belief his team can make a deep postseason run.

“Big picture-wise, perspective-wise, it’s still a strong season for us to make the playoffs,” Curtin said. “We know what the task is … it will be difficult, but again we’ve stepped up in tough moments before.”

  • Suspended: None
  • Suspended after next caution: None
  • International duty: None
  • Injury Report: OUT: M - David Accam (sports hernia surgery)

Projected Starting XI
(4-2-3-1, right to left)
GK: Andre Blake — Keegan Rosenberry, Mark McKenzie, Auston Trusty, Raymon Gaddis — Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin — C.J. Sapong, Borek Dockal, Fafa Picault — Cory Burke

  • Notes: 16 percent of the Union’s conceded goals this season came through penalties this season, the highest of any MLS club. … The Union lost their last two games of the regular season, by a combined score of 4-1. They had lost once in the prior 10 league games (7-1-2), conceding a total of nine goals.

All-Time Series (Regular season)


Referee: Robert Sibiga
Assistant Referees: CJ Morgante, Jason White
Fourth Official: Jose Carlos Rivero
VAR: Drew Fischer