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Philadelphia Union vs New York City FC: 2021 MLS Eastern Conference final preview, team news

Philadelphia Union and New York City FC go head to head on Sunday for a place in the 2021 MLS Cup final against Portland Timbers.

Nov 30, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New York City celebrate the victory against New England Revolution following the shootout in the conference semifinals of the 2021 MLS playoffs at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY
David Butler IIUSA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia Union host New York City FC in the Major League Soccer Eastern Conference final on Sunday (3pm ET), with an MLS Cup final against Portland Timbers awaiting the winner.

Eastern Conference champion will go to Providence Park

Timbers reached the third championship game in their history with a 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake on Saturday, Felipe Mora and Santiago Moreno scoring the goals for Giovanni Savarese’s men, who will host the MLS Cup final as they have a better regular-season record than both Philadelphia and New York City.

Union and NYCFC are both looking to make their first ever appearance in the MLS Cup final, and indeed have never previously reached the conference finals.

Union, NYCFC both in East final after shootout wins in semis

Philadelphia qualified for the MLS postseason after finishing second in the Eastern Conference, before Jakob Glesnes’ last-gasp strike saw them defeat New York Red Bulls 1-0 after extra time in the first round of the playoffs. Jim Curtin’s side then made it through the conference semi-finals by beating Nashville SC in a penalty shootout.

Meanwhile, New York City came fourth in the East, before seeing off Atlanta United 2-0 in the first round of the playoffs and also coming through the semi-finals on penalties, knocking out Supporters’ Shield winners New England Revolution after a 2-2 draw in Foxborough.

Philadelphia Union vs New York City FC: team news

Philadelphia Union:

Philadelphia Union’s preparations for the Eastern Conference final have been thrown into disarray by a covid-19 crisis that has left 11 players on the health and safety protocol list.

Alejandro Bedoya, Andre Blake, Kai Wagner, Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Joe Bendik, Cory Burke, Ilsinho, Alvas Powell, Sergio Santos and Quinn Sullivan have all been unable to train with the squad since Thursday, and their availability to face NYCFC remained unclear at the time of writing. Union were due to confirm their playing status on Sunday.

Because of the situation, Union have been allowed to add goalkeeper Greg Ranjitsingh and defenders Brandan Craig and Anton Sorenson to their squad on short-term agreements.

“We’ve stepped up in big moments all year long,” Curtin said on Saturday as he discussed Philadelphia’s difficult preparations for the NYCFC clash. “International absences, challenges of CONCACAF, players losing love ones, adversity on and off the field, this group always finds a way to step up. I expect this weekend to be more of the same. We’ve had a next man up mentality all season long and we will continue to do that.

“We will make our fans proud. If history has shown us anything, it’s that a group of men, or a group of women, with absolutely nothing to lose, can often times be the most dangerous.”

Valentín Castellanos, who was on target in NYCFC's semi-final win over New England Revolution, will be absent against Philadelphia Union.
Full screen
Valentín Castellanos, who was on target in NYCFC's semi-final win over New England Revolution, will be absent against Philadelphia Union.David Butler IIUSA TODAY Sports

New York City FC:

New York City have Anton Tinnerholm out with an achilles problem, while Keaton Parks is also unavailable due to what the franchise describe as a “lower body” injury.

The Boys in Blue will also be without striker Valentín Castellanos, who has scored in both their 2021 playoff games so far. The 23-year-old is suspended after being sent off for two bookings in the semi-final win over Nashville.

We have at least two, maybe three other players who can play that position and if I take Thiago [Andrade] in it as well, we can maybe also play a false nine,” NYCFC head coach Ronny Deila told reporters on Saturday as he assessed his alternatives for replacing Castellanos. “We have options.”


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