MLS: Philadelphia and NYCFC resume battle

Eastern Conference heavyweights New York City and the Philadelphia Union clash at Citi Field on Saturday with the home team desperate to kick-start a playoff push.

New York, the 2021 MLS champion, was beaten by Philadelphia in last year's Eastern Conference final but has struggled this season. It is 10th in the Eastwasn Conference with just four wins from the opening 13 games.

Coach Nick Cushing, the former Manchester City women's team manager, has had to partially rebuild the team after the exits of their main attacking threat Maxi Moralez, goalkeeper Sean Johnson and Peruvian defender Alex Callens.

The team has yet to gel and go into the match after a four-game run on the road in which they collected just a solitary point.

Cushing told the players at the training ground, in a video released by the club, that the four matches had revealed a lot about the state of his squad.

"We've learnt a lot about ourselves, individually and as a team. Who we want to be is up to us," Cushing said. "If we want to be a proper team we can be. We can be a real special team but we can also be a real average team," he added, urging the players to 'invest' more in their efforts.

Last season, Philadelphia won both regular-season clashes with NYCFC and it certainly enjoys the upper hand in current form.

Jim Curtin's team is unbeaten in six games, winning four of them, and after a slow start to the season, influenced by its involvement in the Concacaf Champions League, the Union has moved up to fifth.

New York will have to keep a close eye on the Union's Hungarian attacking midfielder, Daniel Gazdag, who has six goals in 12 games.

While Philly has progressed in recent weeks, it is FC Cincinnati that is the pace-setter in the East, five points clear of Nashville SC.

Cincinnati heads to Colorado to face the Rapids having won three straight games and with just one defeat so far this season. Nashville, unbeaten in six, is in action on Sunday at home to the Columbus Crew.

Western Conference leader and defending champion Los Angeles FC has a bye week ahead of the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League final, away to Mexico's Leon on Wednesday.

That offers the Seattle Sounders a chance to take over at the top of the West if they can take care of business at home to the New York Red Bulls.

The Red Bulls have enjoyed a bounce in form since Gerhard Struber was replaced as coach by Troy Lesesne with the New Jersey side enjoying two wins at home and a draw at Toronto FC in three league games.

FC Dallas, fourth in the West, travels to fifth-placed San Jose.


© Agence France-Presse

Photo: Jose Martinez battles NYCFC's Nicolás Acevedo in the 2022 Eastern Conference final. Credit: Philadelphia Union

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