The Away End | Philadelphia Union with Greg Oldfield 


New York City Football Club travel to Subaru Park on Sunday to face Philadelphia Union in the Eastern Conference Final.

For this edition of 'The Away End' presented by Berkeley College & Rennert International, we spoke to Greg Oldfield, writer for the Brotherly Game.

What’s been your favorite moment covering the team?

I enjoy many of the little things, the energy in the locker room after wins, the team's cohesiveness, an Andre Blake save, seeing the Union's plan come to fruition, but my favorite moment has been witnessing my former teammate win his second MLS Coach of the Year award. I played with Jim for about 6 years growing up. He was a good player but also very quiet and shy back then. To see the leader he's become and the success he's had as a local player to now coach for the local pro team on the cusp of its first MLS Cup is mind-blowing. I'm not surprised because he's a great competitor as well as a great person.

How would you describe the team's 2022 Regular Season?

Historic. They've been good all year long, holding opponents to a record 26 goals against in a 34-game season, posting the second-best goal differential (+46), and tying for the best home winning percentage (85.3% 12-0-5). They've had their dips but maintained consistency throughout the season, and the explosion of offense has only made a stout defensive team more exciting. The buzz the Union have created throughout the soccer community has been the highest I've ever experienced, even grabbing the attention (sometimes negative) of non-soccer people. It's hard sometimes as fans, when we're in the thick of it, to remember that this level of success doesn't happen often nor last for long. So we're trying to savor every minute of it.

Who would you pick as Union's dangerman?

For me, it's always going to be Andre Blake because he has the ability to take over a game at any moment, and he's as locked in as he's ever been. NYCFC will get their looks, but when teams work so hard to create chances then realize they have to beat Blake, it can be deflating. We've seen it often this year and in previous seasons. I also expect Daniel Gazdag to have a strong influence. He's been excellent going forward, scoring a club-record 22 goals, but has also been instrumental in establishing the Union press.

What do you think will be the decisive factor in Sunday's game?

The Union press. The Union have no problem conceding possession, and NYCFC is a team that likes to have the ball, so I expect to see the Union lock down defensively and play their press/counter and counterpress game. If the Union come out with high energy and force turnovers early, they'll create enough quality chances between Gazdag, Carranza, and Uhre to find the first goal. And once they're ahead, they are extremely difficult to beat. If NYCFC scores first, however, the opposite could happen because the Union have not had the same level of success this season coming from behind or experienced coming from behind much. Individually, the Maxi Moralez-Jose Martinez matchup will be the most interesting.

For any of our fans that may be in Philly in the future, are there any spots you'd suggest they check out?

I love the history of Old City. Even though we went there for every school field trip, I still geek out over places like Independence Hall, Elfreth's Alley, the Betsy Ross House, and Franklin Court. It's fascinating to see what life was like during the developing years of our nation.

If you're looking for the best Philly-style pizza, go to Lorenzo's on the corner of 9th and Christian, right in the Italian Market. Tell Keith I sent you. He's a childhood friend, a soccer player, and even though he's a passionate Philly sports fan, he'll welcome any NYCFC fan.

Two weeks ago, we had the PL Fan Fest but for years my friends and I had our own Fan Fests on Saturday/Sunday mornings. Tir Na Nog (1600 Arch St, above Suburban Station) and Fado (1500 Locust) were hotspots. Brauhaus Schmitz (718 South St) sometimes has some good watch parties, and one of my former teammates, Brian, is a bartender at Ladder 15 (1528 Sansom St), and they have soccer friendly events throughout the year as well.

History, pizza, soccer, it's a winning combination anywhere.

For the City - Stories

Join us on our mission to empower NYC youth through soccer.