Pressing Points | Midweek trip to Orlando – Philadelphia Union

The Philadelphia Union haven’t played a game since their June 10th contest in San Jose against the Earthquakes, where they fell 2-1, snapping a momentous eight-game streak without a loss. 
The Boys in Blue’s brief hiatus ends midweek, as the team will travel to Florida for a Wednesday night game against Orlando City SC, who presently hold a 7-5-5 record . 
Ahead of the team’s travel, Head Coach Jim Curtin spoke with the media, previewing the upcoming matchup.
Both the Union and their opponent will play short handed this week as players from each squad have been called up to represent their respective National Teams during MLS’s International Window.
For the Union, keeper Andre Blake, midfielder Daniel Gazdag, midfielder Richard Odada, midfielder José Martinez, defender Olivier Mbaizo, and defender Damion Lowe were all called up to play for their countries. Only half of that list will miss Wednesday’s game – Gazdag, who is with the Hungarian National Team, plus Blake and Lowe with Jamaica, are expected to be absent from the contest. 
“It becomes about now what we do with our group, which will be fresh, healthy, and fully ready to go. Obviously, you guys know the names that are unlikely to be there for both teams, at this stage, but we have to play these games in the international window. It’s a challenge on each team’s depth, and we believe we have good depth,” Curtin said.
Presser | Curtin ahead of traveling to ORL
Due Blake’s absence, the Union will need to field a new keeper for Wednesday’s game, which is something they’ve done only so twice so far this season. Blake, a team captain, has started 15 of the Union’s 17 games this season, allowing just 12 goals during that time period. 
On Wednesday, 34-year-old goalkeeper Joe Bendik will step in, earning his third start of the season.
“He’s an experienced backup, a guy that’s been a starter in this league for 100 plus games. This is the moment now that he’s earned and deserves,” Curtin said. 
“Obviously we all know how good Andre is and how important he is to our group, not only on the field, but in the locker room as a leader. But he is representing his country right now, and I know he’ll do a good job for Jamaica. In his absence, we know Joe will step up.”
Curtin was not shy to express his utmost confidence in Bendik, also nodding to the team’s Director of Goalkeeping Phil Wheddon and his renowned coaching aptitude. 
“We have the best goalkeeping coach in the league in Phil Whedon, and one of the best assistant coaches as well in Phil Wheddon. He’s just coming off of lifting the [Concacaf] Trophy with the [United States] Men’s National Team – congrats to [former Philadelphia Union assistant and present USMNT Interim Head Coach BJ Callahan] too,” Curtin said. 
“Overall, these are the moments as professionals you prepare for. Joe will get an opportunity now in our run of games and we know he’ll do a good job.”
As for Bendik’s backup, Curtin said 23-year-old keeper Holden Trent will claim that spot, despite a healing pinkie fracture.
“It’s fully healed and he trained fully today. So Holden, as of right now will be the backup. Obviously, Brooks Thompson as well, played some minutes last night with Union II. So we know where we’re at there,” Curtin said.
“It’s a strong group of goalkeepers and they’ll push each other to do a good job. But as for Orlando, Joe will be the one in goal.”
Next For the U | Wednesday at Orlando
During his press conference, Curtin was asked to detail his plan to control midfielder Mauricio Pereyra, Orlando City SC’s 33-year old Uruguayan designated player. He’s been a consistent starter for the team since 2019, totaling 37 assists and an average 81.5% accurate pass percentage since then.
“Pereyra is a great player, great attacking player, that actually is such a good soccer player. If you look at the last season, at the end of the year, he even played almost like a holding midfielder and did a great job for them there. In terms of connecting his passes and defending for Orlando, he is a proven playmaker in our league, so we’ll have to try to neutralize him as best we can,” Curtin said.
Favorably for the Union, Curtin anticipates Orlando City SC will be missing Facundo Torres, another impactful Uruguayan designated player who has recorded 5 goals and 3 assists over 15 games played this season.
Similarly to the Union, Orlando City will likely be without their starting goalkeeper, Pedro Gallese.
“It will be a test of each other’s depth and it will be a hard game and it always is when we get together with Orlando. Unfortunately, both games have been – I’ll just say – during international windows where both teams weren’t at full strength, but that’s part of this busy calendar that we have this year,” Curtin said.
Every match matters! In 2023, you do not want to miss your favorite matchups as the Union take on the best MLS has to offer! When we score, make sure you are there to get Subaru Park shaking!
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