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Preview | Loons Hope To Add More Woe To Philly’s So-So Start


Hello, fellow waterfowl enthusiasts. We hope this latest international break has allowed you a chance to watch at least one of the copious amounts of matches that were being broadcast from all across the planet. If you didn’t, I’ll say this (in my best dad voice)…I’m not mad…just disappointed. But, I’m certainly not here to belabor the point, as fatherly disappointment is one of the more effective tools in the shame game as it is. And, quite frankly, Loons fans shouldn’t feel any shame in their game at the moment, as the club has remained unbeaten through the beginning of 2024. Now, the Loons return to their regularly-scheduled MLS regular schedule, as they hit the road to face a perennial beast from the East that’s appeared at least somewhat vulnerable thus far in the Philadelphia Union. The former Eastern Conference champs have experienced a bit of up-and-down since taking LAFC to the brink back in 2022. Nobody would sneeze at their 4th seed finish in a competitive Eastern Conference in 2023, but 2024 has presented more questions than answers about Philly’s status as one of the elites in the East. So, let's go ahead and get into all that, cool? Cool.

|  Run of Form

Minnesota United FC (3-0-1)

Run of Form: W-W-D-W

While we are still broken up about Finland’s showing during the International break, the Loons have given the fanbase every reason to feel optimistic about the forecast for 2024. Previous to the short break that saw six Loons get the call-up to represent their home countries, the boys were able to nab their first home victory of the season with a 2-0 victory over the always-dangerous LAFC. Previous to that, the squad showed that the clutch gene is a bit more prominent in these 2024 Loons, with Bongi scoring the match-winning goal near the end of stoppage time for a thrilling 3-2 win over a tough Orlando City club. Now, much like Orlando, the Loons head to good ol’ Chester, PA to mess with one of the Eastern Conference’s most formidable foes, bringing  plenty of confidence that they can take on all comers with the form they’re currently showing. 

Philadelphia Union (1-0-3)

Run of Form: W-D-L-D

In all honesty, it may be too early in this new season to decipher if Philly will remain amongst that upper-tier of the Eastern Conference, but they at least enter this contest on a positive note. Union was able to get that pesky first win of the season this past Saturday with 3-1 victory over Portland Timbers, with Argentine Julián Carranza registering the brace to lead the way. Prior to the Portland match, though, it’s very much been a so-so start to the regular season with draws against Chicago Fire, Sporting Kansas City, and Austin FC. It’s also worth noting that, while not part of their MLS run of form, Philly’s foray into the round of 16 for the Concacaf Champions Cup was less than ideal, as they were shellacked by Liga MX side Pachuca on March 12 to the tune of 6-0. Now, with the Loons currently standing as the best in the West, it doesn’t appear this weekend’s matchup will make it any easier on Philly as they try to spark some momentum moving forward. 

|  Keys to the Game

Snuff Out The Spark

Yes, last week’s match is not this week’s match and the future has yet to be written. But, for a team trying to get more positive results, seeing Coach Jim Curtin, goalkeeper Olvier Semmle, and most specifically, striker Julián Carranza on the Team of the Matchday for Matchday 6 should still be taken into account by the Loons. For the Loons defensive third, they must key on Carranza and deny him the open scoring opportunities he was able to exploit against Portland. If not, it can only boost Philly’s confidence, and the boys know it would be wise to snuff out any spark that could ignite Carranza and the Philly attack. 

Right From The Start

The Loons early-season success has materialized in spite of missing one of the most important attacking pieces in this Loons puzzle in Bongokhule “Freaking” Hlongwane. While the South African phenom has been working his way back to starting XI shape, he’s proven just as dangerous to opponents in a reserve role after notching goals against both Orlando City and LAFC after being subbed on. With the international break in the rearview mirror, and a bit more training time for Bongi over the course of that break, will it translate into him reclaiming his spot in the starting XI? And, if he does, which spot or side will he occupy now with Sang Bin Jeong early season emergence? While those questions have yet to be answered, there is no question that Bongi getting the start isn’t absolutely necessary for the Black and Blue to earn a positive result against Philly. That said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt to see him out on the pitch giving Union’s defense all they can handle within the first 45 minutes of the match.

Finnish Strong

It shouldn’t be surprising, but it is worth mentioning that Teemu Pukki and Robin Lod have a strong connection. Not just as fellow countrymen, but as teammates on the pitch. Following a season that saw Lod go down with a season-ending injury, it’s been a lot of fun to watch the two fine Finns operate in this new-look Loons attack. That connection has been paying dividends too, with both already registering two goals apiece on the season. To compete with Philly in their house, let’s hope their time together with the Finnish national team over international break has only strengthened their on-field bond for scoring.


Philadelphia Union vs. Minnesota United FC

03.30.24 | Kickoff: 1:00 p.m. CT | MLS Matchday No. 7 

Subaru Park  | Chester, PA

Watch: AppleTV - MLS Season Pass, 1500 ESPN