Beast of the East: The Philadelphia Union went into the MLS playoffs with the first seed in the Eastern Conference

By: Brian Lines

The Philadelphia Union, Philadelphia’s professional soccer team in Major League Soccer (MLS), have had a wonderfully successful 2022 season. The Union have ended in the top five in the Eastern Conference in the MLS the past four years, coming in sixth the year before.

The Union finished the regular season this year on the top of the Eastern Conference (out of 14 teams) and second in the entire league, behind only the Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC). 

Waltonian | The Waltonian Source: Chris Szagola/AP Photo

Philadelphia had a 56% win rate in their 34 games of the season, with 19 wins, 10 draws and only five losses. They had the league’s highest goal difference with 46; the next highest was LAFC with 28. The Union had the most goals and assists in the MLS this season with 72 goals and 72 assists. 

Two standout players for the Union in the regular season were goalkeeper Andre Blake and midfielder Dániel Gazdag. Blake had the most clean sheets in the league this season with 15 and was named MLS Goalie of the Year. Gazdag has the second most goals scored in the league with 22 goals, only one behind Nashville’s Hany Mukhtar.

Additionally, Philadelphia’s coach, Jim Curtin, has been named the MLS Coach of the Year, and Jakob Glesnes has been named Defender of the Year. 

The Philadelphia Union had a bye week in the first round of the playoffs, then went on to beat FC Cincinnati 1-0 in round two (the Eastern Conference Semifinal).

While FC Cincinnati dominated the statistics of the game (holding more ball possession and having more shots than Philly), the Union kept pushing, and left-midfielder Leon Flach snuck in a goal in the 59th minute to secure the match. This was the first goal of the year for Flach, despite playing in every game of the season. 

The Union have never won the MLS cup since joining the league in 2010 and have never even played in the final. The Union played in the Eastern Conference final on Sunday, Oct. 30th against New York City FC (NYCFC); this a repeat of last season’s Eastern Conference final in which NYCFC defeated the Union 2-1 to go on and win the final against Portland.

The 2022 MLS Cup Final will be played on Nov. 5. The winner of this year’s Eastern Conference final will play the winner of the Western Conference final, which will be either Austin FC or LAFC. 

The Philadelphia Union have looked like a very good team for the last few seasons. I would draw the line of the upward-trending curve at the introduction of goalie Andre Blake in 2015. After a year or two of getting settled, Blake has been instrumental in the Union’s recent success.

Having a solid goalkeeper has allowed the Union flexibility when creating a strong defense and midfield. Now having such a strong defensive and controlling presence on the field, mix in the introduction of prolific goal-scoring players like Dániel Gazdag (joined in 2021) and Julián Carranza (joined this season) and you have a very dangerous team lineup. Additionally, the Union have secured a very talented coach in Jim Curtin. 

In my opinion, the Philadelphia Union are currently the best soccer team in the MLS. The other good teams like LAFC, NYCFC, Seattle and LA Galaxy have been far too inconsistent to claim that title. Whether or not the Union wins the MLS cup this year, they have had an extraordinary season, and are likely to continue to do well for years to come.


(Note: This article was sent to be published before the results of the Eastern Conference Final.)

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