The Union will finally be back in action Saturday night in the MLS Cup Playoffs. After a 17-day break, the club travels to Cincinnati to take on the Supporters Shield winners. Can the Union punch their ticket to their third straight Eastern Conference final?

Unfortunately, long breaks are never a good thing. Long breaks in the midst of a playoff tournament are even worse. With MLS’ new playoff format and a FIFA-scheduled international break, MLS backed themselves into a corner with this one.

Fortunately for the Union, the break may have actually done more good than harm.

Reinforcements Are Here

In case you forgot, the Union is in the Eastern Conference semifinal after knocking out New England in round 1. However, the Union was without Jacob Glesnes and Julian Carranza. Fortunately for the Union, they still got the job without sending the series to 3 games.

Now, Jim Curtin confirmed in his press conference that Carranza and Glesnes are healthy and available for selection. Andre Blake, who suffered a knock while with the Jamaican national team, is also good to go. Curtin would also go on to add that forward Mikael Uhre has looked about the sharpest he has been in practice this week.

The only player out is Leon Flach, who had to get surgery on a sports hernia. The same injury that held Jacob Glesnes out for about 2 months. Of course, Kai Wagner is still serving his suspension and is also unavailable.

While Glesnes is back, it would not be wise to expect him to start. Glesnes was active in practice but did not do much work on the ball. The pairing of Jack Elliot and Damion Lowe held their own against New England. Expect them to get their chance at Cincy.

On the other hand, Cincinnati will be without their starting CB Matt Miazga, due to a suspension. Miazga was just named 2023 MLS Defender of the Year.

The Matchup Was Destined to Happen

If you are out of the MLS loop, perhaps it isn’t well-known that FC Cincinnati did not become the best in the league overnight. After finishing as the worst team in MLS for consecutive seasons, Cincy set out a clear way forward. That path was to copy everything the Union did.

This Cincy team is headed by sporting director Chris Albright and head coach Pat Noonan. Both were poached from the Union. Then, Cincy stacked up on former Union players such as Harris Medunjanin, Ray Gaddis, and Sergio Santos. Gaddis and Santos are still on the team today.

Now, where Cincy deviated from the path is their spending. Which is where they have their star-studded duo of Luciano Acosta and Brandon Vazquez. Acosta, who is expected to be named MLS MVP, and Vazquez could give the Union defense fits tomorrow. The two have been key in Cincy’s skyrocket to the top.

So, this game has more to it than just a playoff game between two conference foes. This game will decide if Cincy has dethroned and passed the club they built their success following. Or, if the Union’s golden era has one more push in them to get back to the MLS Cup.

 

Featured Image: Wes Shepherd/PHLSportsNation

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