MLS Union’s top defense fortified ahead of visit to Orlando City

The Philadelphia Union will head south to take on Orlando City on Saturday night for the first meeting of the season between the Eastern Conference foes.

Orlando City (8-7-6, 30 points) have won only once in their last six meetings with the Union, but they did earn a tie in three of the other five matchups. The Lions have scored a goal in each of their last 12 meetings with the Union.

The Union (10-2-9, 39 points) are riding a three-game winning streak and are unbeaten in their last four. They defeated the New England Revolution last Saturday 2-1 at home. Philadelphia’s defense is the best in the league, allowing only 15 goals through 21 games, and is getting a boost with the return of defender Jack Elliott after a two-game injury absence.

“He is back, which is great,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “We have the best center backs in the league. Jack and Jakob (Glesnes) for me are All-Star, Best XI players. And they are leading the best defense in the league, so to get him back is huge.”

Philadelphia, which is 4-2-4 on the road, might be getting a key defender back but captain Alejandro Bedoya is suspended due to yellow-card accumulation.

The Lions, who are 5-5-0 at home, have tied their last two matches, including a 1-1 decision at Atlanta United on Sunday. Mauricio Pereyra opened the scoring in the 10th minute, but Orlando City gave up the equalizer in the 71st minute.

Orlando City head coach Oscar Pareja was glad to grab the road point.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of things that we would like to get better,” Pareja said. “But in this stage of the season, this amount of games, the point is very valuable for us against a rival.”

The Lions made a big move to help bolster their attack, whose 26 goals leave them tied for ninth in the conference. Orlando acquired forward Nicholas Gioacchini from Stade Malherbe Caen in France.

Gioacchini was a member of the 2021 Gold Cup-winning U.S. Men’s National Team and could factor into the team’s 2022 World Cup roster. He has three goals and two assists in eight games with the USMNT.

–Field Level Media

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