Match Preview

Match Preview: Charlotte FC vs Philadelphia Union

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Charlotte FC is four matches into a critical six-match month of May. So far, the team has taken advantage of the opportunity, producing a Club record of four consecutive shutouts with three wins and one draw.

Now, CLTFC has a chance to keep the shutout and unbeaten streak alive against the visiting Philadelphia Union this Saturday.

Match: Charlotte FC vs Philadelphia Union

When: Saturday, May 25

Where: Bank of America Stadium

Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. ET

Watch: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV – How to Watch & Listen

Listen: WFNZ 92.7 FM (English) & WOLS 106.1 FM (Spanish)

For all other radio station affiliates in the Carolinas, click here.

Know Before You Go: For information on tickets, stadium entry, and more, click here.

Previous Matches:

Charlotte FC 0 – 0 LA Galaxy (Major League Soccer | May 18)

New England Revolution 0 – 3 Philadelphia Union (Major League Soccer | May 18)

Eastern Conference Table: For the full live table, click here.

5. Toronto FC – 22 points, 14 GP

6. Charlotte FC – 21 points, 14 GP

7. Columbus Crew – 21 points, 13 GP

8. Philadelphia Union – 17 points, 13 GP

9. D.C. United – 17 points, 13 GP

---------- Playoff Line ----------

Marrying Offense with Defense

Currently, Charlotte FC has arguably the best defense in the league. They’re tied for the second-fewest goals conceded in the league (13), trailing only second-place FC Cincinnati (11). The underlying numbers (as Caleb Adams broke down in this week’s For the Stats) also support CLTFC’s defensive performances, showing there is reason to believe the defensive excellence will continue.


However, Charlotte’s defensive foundations are carrying them up the table. The team has only scored 14 goals in the season, the third-worst mark in the Eastern Conference. The two that are worse? Chicago Fire FC in second-to-last and the New England Revolution in dead last. CLTFC, meanwhile, are sitting comfortably in 6th place.

The team is ultimately riding their defensive performances to points, especially recently with a Club record of four consecutive shutouts. However, in the long run, the team will need to find more goals and more chances to keep climbing the table further and avoid thin margins.

In Thursday's pre-match press conference, Head Coach Dean Smith fielded questions on the team's offensive productivity.

“We keep working on the principles where when a cross is coming in, where we want people to be ending up in the in the penalty box, our fixed positions when we're in possession, and also our movements when we're traveling up the pitch,” he said. “So, we're putting them in different scenarios and making them better and trying to make them better decision-makers.

“But it's the hardest part in the game: creating and scoring goals. That's why those players probably get paid the most money.”

It should be noted in this discussion that Charlotte FC have played the majority of their season with either one or zero Designated Players on the pitch. The most recent run of four unbeaten has come with the Club’s only DP, Liel Abada, sidelined due to injury.

Dean Smith has done an excellent job putting his players in a position to succeed with the squad they have. Reinforcements are planned to arrive in the summer transfer window, but in the meantime, Smith and his staff will keep working to increase offensive production to marry with their defensive excellence.

The Opponent

The Philadelphia Union have consistently been a preeminent Eastern Conference team in recent memory. Over the last five seasons, the Union have finished in at least the top four of the Eastern Conference every year and finished first in 2020 and 2022 (including a Supporter’s Shield title in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season).

Head Coach Jim Curtin and Sporting Director Ernst Tanner can be heavily credited with Philadelphia’s dominant rise. Curtin took charge of a mostly struggling team in 2014 and brought them to the heights of the last five years, emphasizing youth development and smart (but frugal) spending.

Their playing style is characterized by defensive organization and very direct attacking play. They most often set up in a narrow 4-4-2 diamond designed to get the ball forward to the strikers quickly and effectively, picking up second balls and generally bullying their way through teams.

“[Philadelphia is] a tough team to play against,” said Dean Smith. “They run the channels really well.”

Despite the success of recent seasons, Philadelphia has endured a tough start to the 2024 season. Before beating the bottom-of-the-table New England Revolution last weekend, the Union had lost four of their last six (only managing draws in the other two matches). Those four losses all came at home in what had previously been an impregnable Subaru Park.

Still, the Union remain a big threat and a hard team to play against. Daniel Gazdag – who plays as the number 10 at the point of the diamond – leads the team with nine goals already this season. He’s followed by the team’s first-choice striker partnership of Julian Carranza (6) and Mikael Uhre (4). Young Homegrown midfielder Jack McGlynn and left-back Kai Wagner pace the team in chance creation with four assists apiece.

“I've just recently watched their New York City game and their Real Salt Lake game,” continued Dean Smith. “And they created a lot of chances and only got one point out of the two games from my watching. They deserve more than that. So, I told the players that even though we're on a decent run ourselves, we've got to be very wary of the quality that they have.”


The Season So Far

CLTFC started the season well with a gritty 1-0 home opener win over New York City FC. After a rocky three-game road trip that only resulted in one point, the team returned home to Bank of America Stadium to down defending MLS Cup Champions Columbus Crew (2-0) and draw defending Supporter’s Shield Champions FC Cincinnati (1-1). Results continued to be up and down from there during a frustrating April. The team won a thrilling back-and-forth home match against Toronto courtesy of a late Patrick Agyemang match-winner, but they lost their other three matches in disappointing fashion.

However, a busy May has reignited Charlotte’s form. The team has risen to sixth place in the Eastern Conference following four consecutive shutouts, a Club record, to take three wins and one draw (10 out of 12 possible points).

Now, the team will be looking to finish May strong with another chance for three points at home against the visiting Philadelphia Union.

CLT vs PHI | May 25 at 7:30 | Bank of America Stadium

CLT vs PHI | May 25 at 7:30 | Bank of America Stadium

Four straight unbeaten matches
Three consecutive Clean Sheets at home
MAYhem has a whole new meaning — see you Saturday!