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Streaking Union square up against offense-challenged Nashville SC

The Philadelphia Union host Nashville SC on Saturday in Chester, Pa., in a possible preview of the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs.

The Union (15-8-9, 54 points) are in third place in the Eastern Conference, aiming for second place and home-field advantage for at least the first two playoff rounds. Seventh-place Nashville (12-10-9, 45 points) has clinched a playoff berth, but a drop to eighth or ninth place would put them into the single-elimination wild-card game.

Nashville SC could use any kind of positive momentum heading into the playoffs, with only a 1-5-4 record in their last 10 matches.

Their last result was a defensive struggle of a 1-0 home loss to Orlando City on Wednesday. The two clubs combined for 10 total shot attempts (8-2 Nashville), and Orlando’s Duncan McGuire scored on the match’s only shot on target.

“There were some signs early on there that made it look like it was going to be a better game,” Nashville SC head coach Gary Smith said, per the Tennessean. “I thought the group looked like fatigue had set in in that final 10 minutes of the first half.”

Low-scoring matches have been the norm for Nashville. The club ranks 23rd of 29 teams in goals scored (36), while allowing a league-low 29 goals.

By contrast, Philadelphia tallied three goals between the 39th minute and the halftime break in Wednesday’s 3-2 home victory over Atlanta United. Though Atlanta scored twice in the second half, Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin was pleased by the “full team effort” to close out the win.

“At this stage of the season, it’s important to stick together, to grind,” Curtin said. “Credit to the guys for doing that, and I think guys came off the bench and helped us.”

Philadelphia is unbeaten (2-0-5) in its last seven matches and owns a 10-1-5 home record this season. Daniel Gazdag scored his 14th goal of the season and Julian Carranza added his 13th against Atlanta.

Mikael Uhre and Jesus Bueno are questionable for Saturday’s lineup after leaving the Atlanta match with injuries.

Nashville’s Daniel Lovitz won’t play due to a red-card suspension.

The Union won the first meeting of the season, a 2-0 result in Nashville on July 12.

–Field Level Media

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