Philadelphia Union’s Deniel Gazdag, right, celebrates his goal with Alejandro Bedoya, center, during the first half of an MLS playoff soccer match, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in Chester, Pa. The Union won 2-0 in the penalty kick shootout after tying 1-1 in regulation time. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)
The Philadelphia Union and NYCFC clash in the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday, December 5th
The winner of this fixture will book their ticket to the MLS Cup
Find the odds, preview, and best bet below
The MLS Playoffs are coming down to the wire as the Philadelphia Union and New York City FC lock horns in the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday, December 5th. The kick-off is scheduled for 3pm ET at Subaru Park.
The winner will progress to the grand finale, where they will face either Portland or Real Salt Lake in the MLS Cup.
Philly beat Nashville in the conference semifinals in spot-kicks, while NYCFC also won in penalties against the top-seeded New England Revolution. This is the first time these two clubs have ever advanced to the conference finals as well.
As for their most recent meeting, it ended in a 1-1 stalemate in early November.
Philadelphia Union vs NYCFC Odds
Philadelphia vs NYCFC
PHI -0.5 (+180) | NY +0.5 (-210)
PHI +160 | NY +180 | DRAW +230
Ov 2.5 (+110) | Un 2.5 (-135)
All odds as of December 3rd at DraftKings.
Philly Facing Serious COVID-19 Problems
The Union has been hit with a brutal wave of COVID-19 ahead of this massive clash. A total of 11 players are in health and safety protocols, including starters Alejandro Bedoya, keeper Andre Blake, and defenders Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, and Jakob Glesnes. Several other substitutes will also be sidelined.
Philadelphia Union will be without 11 players, including six starters, for the Eastern Conference Final against NYCFC on Sunday as a result of MLS COVID-19 protocols pic.twitter.com/dfA57M0dB7
— B/R Football (@brfootball) December 4, 2021
That being said, Jim Curtin’s side is set to be field a rather under strengthened starting XI against NYCFC. On a more positive note though, Philly will have their leading catalyst up top available in Kacper Przybylko, while midfielder Jamiro Monteiro, who is their most creative playmaker, is also at full strength.
Last Sunday’s victory over Nashville was not easy for Philly, but to be frank, Curtin’s men should’ve come out victorious within 90 minutes.
The hosts had a total of 24 shots in the fixture, but just two found the target. Although the Union finished as runners-up in the East, they did struggle to score on a consistent basis, netting just 48 times in 34 appearances.
Philadelphia went down just before halftime when Hany Mukhtar found the net for Nashville, but Daniel Gazdag equalized not long after. The two teams remained in a stalemate through 120 minutes, with the visitors absolutely collapsing in penalties, missing all four of their attempts from the spot. Jack McGlynn and Jack Elliott meanwhile converted for Philly, sending them through to Sunday’s encounter.
NYCFC in Good Form
New York City pulled off the unthinkable on Tuesday and knocked off the best team in the MLS this season, beating New England in a goal-filled thriller. The positive result extended their unbeaten streak to seven games, dropping just four points during that span.
It was absolute mayhem from the get-go at Gillette Stadium, with Santiago Rodriguez scoring for NYCFC in just the third minute. Revolution hitman Adam Buksa however responded quickly with an equalizer.
NY’s Valentin Castellanos eventually put another goal away in the second half of injury time and surely thought he secured a win for his club. But, Tajon Buchanan scored at the death to send the game to PK’s.
It may have not been the most convincing way to win such a vital match, but Ronny Deila’s squad showed serious guts and composure. However, Castellanos, who won the MLS Golden Boot with 19 regular-season goals, will serve a suspension against Philly after being handed two yellow cards earlier this week.
… and now Valentín Castellanos is sent off minutes after his extra time goal 😅 pic.twitter.com/lqiGU7jjj9
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 1, 2021
Without their talisman, it will be a tall task ahead, but the fact their opponents are missing essentially their entire backline definitely makes things a bit more manageable.
Deila has a variety of options to replace the Argentine, including veteran striker Heber, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, and Brazilian, Thiago.
Philadelphia Union vs NYCFC Key Stats
Regular Season Record
Record in Last Five Games
Philadelphia Union vs NYCFC Prediction
Even though Philly has their key pieces in the final third, it’s extremely hard to side with them when their backline is this depleted. Wagner, Elliott, and Glesnes are absolute defensive mainstays for this side.
Although NYCFC is missing Castellanos, they have enough options to pick up the slack up top. Take the visitors to pull off the upset and secure a place in the MLS Cup next Saturday.
Pick: NYCFC (+180)