Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin implored his side to start quickly when they head to Nashville SC for the first ever MLS game at GEODIS Park on Sunday.
The Union lead the Eastern Conference with 17 points from eight games, though they have surrendered one-goal leads to draw their last two games.
As Philadelphia prepare for a rematch of the East’s 2021 semi-final, which they won on penalties, Curtin knows his team must be quick out the blocks.
“The first 15 minutes are critical on the road in this league” Curtin said.
“We are excited to be the ones that get the opportunity to open it but at the same time we want to try to make 30,000 fans go quiet which is the hardest thing to do on our game.
“It is early in the season but I think it’s two of the better teams in our league getting together.
“We are a first placed team that has to go in there with confidence but we recognize: really good opponent, really strong.”
The Boys in Gold sit a point outside the Western Conference playoff spots after falling to a late defeat at LA Galaxy last time out.
However, they have been boosted by the news of extensions for Walker Zimmerman and Hany Mukhtar, who are keen to deliver success – starting against the Union.
“I wanted to stay here long term, this is where I belong,” Mukhtar said. “I’m here to help the team, we’re built to win, I’m here to win silverware.”
“We’re not going to get complacent,” Zimmerman added. “I know Hany, I know his mentality. We’re not saying we made it. No, this is just the beginning.
“I’ve always felt a responsibility to Nashville to deliver and that’s only increased now.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Nashville SC – Anibal Godoy
Anibal Godoy was in impressive form against the Galaxy, leading the team charts with an astounding 96.7 per cent passes completed.
Philadelphia Union – Julian Carranza
Julian Carranza netted the Union’s only goal of the game last match, taking his tally to three for the season – one behind leader Daniel Gazdag.
KEY OPTA FACTS
·All three meetings between Nashville and the Union took place last season, with each side winning a home regular season match, 1-0, before Philadelphia knocked Nashville out of the playoffs, 2-0, on penalties in last year’s Conference Semifinals following a 1-1 draw.
·Nashville brings a 19-match home unbeaten run to GEODIS Park (W10 D9) after becoming the fifth team in MLS history to go unbeaten at home through a full season (incl. playoffs) in 2021. Nashville last lost a home match in November 2020 against FC Dallas.
·Even with one point from their last two games, the Union’s 17 points after eight games is the best start to a season in team history. That is thanks to the team’s first five-match MLS winning streak (March 5-April 9), which included a joint-club record four straight shutouts.
·Hany Mukhtar has recorded at least one goal contribution in his last 10 home matches (incl. playoffs). The last team to hold Mukhtar without a goal involvement at home was the Union on July 3.
·All the scoring in games involving the Union this season has been done early as Philadelphia has not scored or conceded a goal after the hour mark in 2022. They’re one of three teams (LAFC, Minnesota) that haven’t conceded in the last half-hour of matches this season.