At the beginning of the year there wouldn’t have been any doubts about whether or not a Philadelphia Union supporter would have taken the regular season they just experienced. In fact most fans, at the beginning of the season, would have answered that exact question with a resounding, “Yes! Yes, we definitely would take that!” But after their strong mid-season, where the Union had taken up first place in the Eastern Conference, these same fans would likely be upset with how the season eventually unfolded. This melancholy, around the season, was only compounded by the Union’s 2-1 defeat to New York City FC on Sunday night.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Five things to take from the Union’s 2-1 defeat to the Citizens:
1. When the Union are forced into changes they often have a difficult time coping.
Sadly, the Union have proven this exact fact throughout the season. On Sunday, losing Kacper Przybylko, in the match’s warm-up, was the perfect example of their inability to cope with changes. Because of this, the Union were unable to adjust early in the match, and only grew into it once they had conceded NYCFC’s second goal (in the 22nd minute). Jim Curtin acknowledged that this was an issue for the Union in his post-match press conference, saying that the “warm-up and the first thirty minutes did not look good for us.”
2. NYCFC, and other sides, that deploy more attacking wing-backs are problematic for the Union defense.
Philadelphia has a problem tracking wing-backs. This problem begins when the Union attackers lose the opposition’s wing-backs in the build-up. An example of this was seen in the Citizens first goal. When in the 7th minute, Ilsinho lost Ben Sweat who was then able to play a low cross into the box, where Ronald Matarrita eventually applied the finishing touch.
Not tracking these wing-backs creates an issue for the Union, as the Union wing-backs, Ray Gaddis and Kai Wagner, have to defend a player on the overlap, while also marking another player. Forcing them into a decision, one that generally allows for the opposing wing-backs the time to get in a solid cross. That is why it’s so important to ensure that Alejandro Bedoya is healthy, as he offers something different from other central midfielders in this Union team. He gives the Union wing-backs some extra cover, as he sits deeper than a player like Jamiro Monteiro who is generally found further up the pitch.
3. Talen Energy Stadium did not feel like it’s usual atmosphere.
This Union side feeds off of a vibrant Talen Energy Stadium. But when Sons of Ben is getting out-chanted, by the opposition’s fans, the stadium becomes quite stiff and uncomfortable. However it must be noted, that the fans need something to cheer for, and when the Union start as flat as they had on Sunday, there just isn’t a reason for them to be cheering. The Union will need to get going early against New York Red Bulls if they want the stadium to be it’s usual vibrant self.
4. The Union were unable to capitalize on their goal-scoring opportunities.
The Union need to score on every opportunity they get, as they don’t seem to get as many opportunities as the other sides they play. This is especially true when playing top sides like NYCFC, where a side like City is arguably better than the Union. So when the Union create chances like the ones they had through both Andrew Wooten in the 28th minute, and Brendan Aaronson in the 57th and the 64th minutes, they need to be taken. On Sunday, if, and it’s a big if, the Union had scored on these opportunities they would’ve won the match 3-2.
5. Central Midfield is a problem for the Union when Alejandro Bedoya is not available.
Monteiro had one of his better performances of the season on Sunday, but not having the ability to play Bedoya was a huge problem for the Union. Bedoya plays an integral part in the middle of this Union side, as he provides extra cover for the back-line and assists in providing the early build-up necessary for the Union attack to be successful. Additionally, playing Bedoya allows Monteiro to be deployed further up the pitch, in a position where he seems to be more comfortable. For the match against NYRB the Union will definitely hope to have Bedoya healthy, as the midfield three of Bedoya, Monteiro, and Haris Medunjanin will allow for the Union to dominate possession and get their first ever playoff win.