The Philadelphia Union are approaching the seventh week of the 2018 MLS season with just one win in three matches at Talen Energy Stadium, or to some “The Fortress Under the Bridge.” Their lone road match resulted in a 3-0 shellacking in Colorado only to be reconciled with a 1-1 home draw against San Jose the following week. With just three goals scored through their first four matches, Jim Curtin’ Union team will welcome Orlando City SC and their offensive weapons to Chester in what Philly Sports Network is proclaiming a ‘must-win’ match for the boys in blue.
Union on scoring drought
The post-match press conference offered some similar reasons behind the lack of goals. “Just a night where the ball didn’t seem like it was going to go in,” said Curtin shortly followed by “I don’t think it was a lack of chemistry. We created a ton of chances.”
Whether the Union have a case of the yips when it comes to finishing their chances or the ball just isn’t bouncing the right way, Philadelphia is on a scoring drought. Which seems like a repeating problem under Curtin’s helm.
But scoring woes of season’s past were chalked up to a lack of offensive weapons which is not the case early on in 2018. David Accam, CJ Sapong, Borek Dockal, Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin, and the newly reinstated Fafa Picault provide Curtin with plenty of attacking options from which goals should be stemming from.
Union create and pass effectively despite lack of goals
Even in Picault’s absence, the team managed to see a lot of the ball in all four of their matches registering at least 55% possession in each match. And they passed the ball well so far too, ranking 6th-best in MLS with an 82.5% passing accuracy rating.
The impressive passing accuracy in the final third has been shaky though. Their two most impressive matches to date came against a New England team who rolled out a shaky back line and received two reds, one in the match’s first 25 minutes and the Western Conference’s San Jose Earthquakes this past weekend. Against New England, Philadelphia completed 285 passes with a 73% accuracy rating in the final third. Against San Jose, the number of passes skyrocketed to 402 completed in the final third. The Union finished Saturday night’s match with a 74% passing accuracy rating in the final third.
Which is good. Very good. But on paper, it looks unimpressive when those numbers are not accompanied with goals.
Home woes need to cease
Stats, whether impressive or not, can be thrown around all day. But what truly matters is results. Sure the Union pass well and portray themselves as a well-organized unit capable of building up sustained attacking play, but it’s all for not without goals.
Through their first three matches in Chester, only one resulted in a win. Since that win, week one, fans have voiced their displeasure at the lack of W’s at home. Nobody wants to see a tie at home. And Curtin must realize his team needs to win Friday night against a difficult Orlando team in order to quell fan concerns.
Bedoya, as the team captain, surely understands the concerns and his own. “I’m frustrated. It’s crap to tie a game,” said Bedoya Saturday night when asked about the team’s inability to secure a win at home over the past two matches.
Union look to win at home again Friday night
Some may say it’s a tad early to proclaim a match a must-win affair this early in the season. But Philadelphia fans have grown impatient and have stood idly by for too long to allow this season to become another mediocre campaign. The boos were extremely audible following Saturday night’s home matchup against San Jose. If I were Curtin, I would encourage my club to the fullest in order to leave Talen Energy Stadium with a W and cheers rather than another draw or even worse a loss and loud jeers.
Curtin has reviewed the tapes and is certain the goals are bound to come. “Everybody is going to talk about the fact that we haven’t scored enough goals, but I still look at the chances. We’re getting ourselves in good spot. We’re close,” said Curtin. “We have a lot of weapons in our attack. I don’t think it’s time to start pressing any panic button yet. If the chances stop then I think it’s a different discussion,” Curtin said.
In regards to Friday night, Curtin beat the drum so to speak for his club. “Having watched the tape with the technical staff, confirms a lot of what we saw the other night against San Jose. Overall really happy with the performance,” said Curtin. “A Friday night game on national TV, I think the guys will be ready. We’ll get it right Friday night,” declared Curtin.
See how the both teams compare below.
** ALL STATS COURTESY OF: www.whoscored.com
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Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports