Week 19 of MLS NEXT Pro has arrived and the Game of the Week is an Eastern Conference bout between Philadelphia Union II and Columbus Crew 2 at Subaru Park in Chester, Pennsylvania. The action is set to kick off at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday.
How to watch
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After a three-game losing streak, the Philadelphia Union II bounced back with a thrilling 3-1 win last week over Orlando City B. Despite going down a man and Orlando City B tying the game at 1-1 in the 85th minute, two late goals from Union II sealed a morale-boosting three points.
Now Union II will look to build momentum from that victory and win consecutive matches for the first time since May. However, defeating Eastern Conference leaders Columbus Crew 2 is no small task.
That being said, Union II’s defense held dynamic Orlando City B forward Jack Lynn scoreless last week. Lynn is top three in goals this season with 12 and similarly Columbus Crew 2 forward Jacen Russell-Rowe is tied for first with 13 goals.
Look for Union II to bring that same intensity on defense from last week to this week in order to hold the Columbus Crew 2 talisman and its electric frontline at bay to secure a vital win.
Players to Watch:
Matt Real, defender - The 23-year-old full-back has proved to be a threat going forward with two goals in his last two matches. Look for the defender to net this third consecutive goal.
Nelson Pierre, forward - Similarly, Pierre scored last week as well and has four goals so far this season. If Union II are to pull off the upset, the electric 17-year-old has to step up and provide a spark for his side.
Christopher Donovan, forward - Donovan is the second leading scorer on the team behind Pierre with three goals, but also has two assists. If he and Pierre play off each other and combine to create chances Union II will prove a hard matchup for Crew 2.
The Eastern Conference leaders are coming into this game on a seven-match unbeaten run following a 4-1 over the New England Revolution II last week.
Crew 2 currently sits eight points ahead in the East standings and a win could push it to as high as 11 points. However, the team from Columbus can’t overlook a resilient Union II side.
Despite being on the road, Crew 2 both the offense and defense must continue their incredible form as the team has scored 19 goals and conceded two in its last six matches.
With the playoffs fast approaching, look for Crew 2 to ramp up its play to secure the top seed in the Eastern Conference.
Players to Watch:
Jacen Russell-Rowe, forward - Russell-Rowe is the joint leading goal scorer in the league with 13 goals and is the spear on offense for Crew 2. Expect Rusell-Rowe to put pressure on the Union II backline all match and hunt for another goal should he be on Crew 2 duties this weekend.
Michael Vang, midfielder - The 22-year-old scored two goals last week against New England Revolution II and will look to continue his stellar form this week by scoring his third goal of the season.
Noah Fuson, forward - Fuson has been a steady presence on offense for Crew 2 with seven goals. As the second-leading scorer on the team, look for the 22-year-old forward to break his four game scoreless skid.