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Philadelphia Union lead at ‘halftime’ but aren’t underestimating Saprissa



Typically when you score three away goals in the first leg of an intercontinental competition you’re sitting pretty returning home, but in the case of the Philadelphia Union and their tilt with Costa Rican giant Saprissa they are still in for a potential dogfight after a conceding a late second goal last Tuesday.

“It’s only halftime right now and I’ve told that to our players,” head coach Jim Curtin said in a press conference at Subaru Park on Monday. “There still is a lot to play for 90 minutes, anything can happen. We set ourselves up in a good position for sure scoring three away goals.”

Quinn Sullivan, who helped spark the second half comeback with his team down 1-0 on an ugly own goal, was asked a lot about Saprissa and wouldn’t bite on questions of where they would finish if they played in MLS. He did offer insight into the team’s approach back at home, though.

“We definitely understand that this is a two leg series for a reason,” Sullivan said. “We’re confident at home, we’re confident with the fans that have our back but we know that the series is by no means over.”

Tactically, the Union will want to keep Saprissa off the board and look for ways to put the game out of reach on the counter. The longer Saprissa has a zero on the board the more risks they’ll have to take. At a minimum Saprissa need to win 2-0 to advance. If the Union score Saprissa would need to get three away goals to cancel out the Union’s tiebreaker advantage.

Through two games one of the brightest signs for the Union has been their attack. They have put the ball in the back of the net seven times all from open play (two goals against Chicago on Saturday were called back for offside). But as uncharacteristic as it is for the Union to be scoring without the help of penalty kicks, own goals and set piece execution it’s less characteristic for them to go behind in each of those games and concede four times over the course of two games.

“The message (to the players) is, yes, it’s great that we score these goals,” Curtins said. “But let’s not concede in the ways that we do and that’s not just the defenders and goalkeeping that’s the whole group. Our foundation is still defense.”

Tonight’s Concacaf Champions Cup match is slated for an 8:15 p.m. start and will be broadcast live on FS2.

Matthew Ralph is the managing editor of Philadelphia Soccer Now / Brotherly Game. He's covered soccer at all levels for many years in the Philadelphia region and has also written for, NPSL, PrepSoccer and other publications. He lives with his wife and two young children in Broomall, Pa., but grew up in South Jersey and is originally from Kansas.

Copyright © 2024 Philadelphia Soccer Now and Brotherly Game

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