The battle for Major League Soccer’s eastern conference title comes Sunday as the Philadelphia Union host NYCFC. The winner advances to MLS Cup 2021 to take on the Portland Timbers on Saturday. The Union are the second seed in the east and beat the New York Red Bulls in extra time in the first round before edging Nashville in the second round via penalty kicks. NYCFC entered as the fourth seed and knocked out Atlanta United before bouncing the top seed New England Revolution in penalties to reach this match. Here’s are storylines, how you can watch the match and more:
Philadelphia Union: The comfort of playing at home may just be negated by a massive issue that the team has dealt with all week. As our Chuck Booth explains, the team may be without several key players due to COVID health and safety protocols. Only nine players were spotted at training on Friday, just two days before the game. Manager Jim Curtain could not say definitely who would be unavailable, but those in the safety protocols include goalkeeper Andre Blake and former U.S. men’s national team midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. It’s safe to say if some of these guys can’t go, they face a massive uphill battle.
NYCFC: This may just be the year as Ronny Deila’s team continues to impress. They have gone seven matches unbeaten, with Argentine Valentin Castellanos continuing to grow into a star. He’s got 20 goals in 33 games so far this season and is a big reason why NYCFC have gotten so far, but the heart and soul of this club remains Maxi Moralez. The small, creative midfielder can set up his teammates and produce goals on his own. Curtain will have his defense zero in on Moralez, so if he can be decisive with his passing centrally, whether it is playing it forward and wide, then expect the visitors to have more than a quality chance to win it in regulation.
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How to watch and odds
- Date: Sunday, Dec. 5 | Time: 3 p.m. ET
- Location: Subaru Park — Chester, Pennsylvania
- TV: ABC and ESPN Deportes | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
- Odds: Union +300; Draw +240; NYCFC -103 (via Caesars Sportsbook)
If several key starters aren’t cleared in time, it’s unlikely the Union can pull this off. The visitors have the better talent going forward, and that makes all the difference. Pick: NYCFC 3, Union 1