MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final combined XI


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The MLS Cup Playoffs Eastern Conference Final pits defending champions NYCFC against top seed in the East, the Philadelphia Union.

Hosting the match, the Union will be full of confidence after maintaining an unbeaten home record during the regular season as they finished level on 67 points with Supporters’ Shield winners LAFC. What’s more, Jim Curtin’s side enjoyed the best offensive and defensive records in the league and have already beaten FC Cincinnati 1-0 to reach this stage.

NYCFC, meanwhile, recovered from a mid-season wobble and are now on a six-game winning streak which includes victories over Inter Miami and CF Montreal in the Playoffs by a 6-1 combined scoreline.

It should prove a fascinating, entertaining match, full of twists and turns. To prove just how closely matched the two teams are, take a look at our combined XI:

Callens always steps up for NYCFC.

Callens always steps up for NYCFC. / David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

GK: Andre Blake (Philadelphia Union) – Sean Johnson is among the best goalkeepers in MLS, but Andre Blake is the best goalkeeper in MLS, as proven by his third Goalkeeper of the Year award. End of discussion.

RB: Anton Tinnerholm (NYCFC) – Tinnerholm was arguably the best right-back in the league prior to suffering an ACL injury, but the way he’s recovered so quickly to slot back in for NYCFC is truly remarkable. The Sweden international is a huge leader for his team.

CB: Jakob Glesnes (Philadelphia Union) – Like Blake, Glesnes is the best in the league in his position and has the accolade to prove it. What’s more, the Norwegian defender is something of a goal threat at the other end, so keep an eye on him on Sunday.

CB: Alexander Callens (NYCFC) – Jack Elliott could quite easily have slotted in here, but special attention must be paid to Callens. The Peru international is strong in the air, quick across the ground, and aggressive in the tackle, while he is similarly threatening at the other end to Glesnes. A big player who comes up with big moments.

LB: Kai Wagner (Philadelphia Union) – Arguably the best left-back in MLS, there’s a reason Leeds United are chasing Kai Wagner. The German is an incredible attacking force, creating 82 chances and providing eight primary assists during the regular season, and will provide the sternest test to Tinnerholm’s fitness yet.

Daniel Gazdag has been on fire in 2022.

Daniel Gazdag has been on fire in 2022. / David Kirouac-USA TODAY Sports

CM: Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union) – At 35 years old, Alejandro Bedoya is still going strong. In fact, the Union captain enjoyed one of his best campaigns to date, scoring six goals and providing six primary assists during 30 regular season appearances to help his side top the Eastern Conference by a distance. Bedoya embodies everything good about Jim Curtin’s side.

CM: Jose Martinez (Philadelphia Union) – It’s rare a holding midfielder appears on the fringes of the MVP conversation but that’s just how good Jose Martinez is. Aggressive, energetic, and skillful, the Venezuelan makes the Union tick and is an expert in getting under the skin of the opposition.

CAM: Daniel Gazdag (Philadelphia Union) – Yet another Union player who wouldn’t look out of place holding the MVP award, Gazdag set the regular season on fire with a whopping 22 goals and six primary assists. The Hungary international’s movement and energy are a nightmare for opponents on both sides of the ball and it’s now just a matter of time before he heads back to Europe.

Talles Magno is among the most talented youngsters in MLS.

Talles Magno is among the most talented youngsters in MLS. / Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

RW: Gabriel Pereira (NYCFC) – Pereira has only been with NYCFC a short time but he’s already notched eight goals in 26 MLS appearances. The Brazilian’s speed and skill have proven a very useful weapon, indeed, for Nick Cushing’s side, and the 21-year-old will no doubt be attracting attention from across the pond soon enough.

ST: Heber (NYCFC) – It may seem incredibly harsh to leave both Julian Carranza and Mikael Uhre off this team. However, those two are very much system strikers who help facilitate the Union’s bigger stars. Heber, meanwhile, has had to deal with injury and sitting behind Taty Castellanos, yet still rallied late this season and heads into this match with three goals in his last three games. The Talles Magno at No.9 experiment never should have happened while Heber was around.

LW: Talles Magno (NYCFC) – Speaking of Magno, he completes this all-NYCFC forward line of Brazilians. With his speed and skill, it’s easy to see why teams as big as Liverpool scouted Magno in the past and, this season, his end product has improved dramatically. The 20-year-old ended the regular season with eight goals and eight primary assists, while he scored another in the recent 3-1 Playoffs win over Montreal.

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