So we’re midway into the 2015 MLS Campaign and it’s been somewhat of a rollercoaster for the Philadelphia Union. Some strange, strange transfer decisions, injury woes and poor performances followed by an emphatic Cup Charge and a couple of months of fantastic form. But where does that leave the team for the remaining games? We grade each unit on their opening half of the season below!
Before we grade the team though, we have to look at the teams current scenario. Two points outside of the play-off beth with more games played than every side bar the top two. The best side in the conference fell to the Union during the Open Cup round of 16 recently which saw the Union’s home record continue to improve. So a tale of two halves for the team of PPL Park, but what about the individual units?
Goalkeepers: Probably the weakest part of the Union’s outfit this season. The move for M’bohli was not only widely questioned but it was followed by a chain of questionable performances. Whilst his future in Philly seems to be non-exsistant, there does seem to be hope. Hometown hero McCarthy keeps impressing and Sylvestre has stepped in and performed when needed whilst Andre Blake recovers from injury and helps his international side. The problem is that the GK position is the most over-crowded in the roster and it would be difficult to pick a starter right now. If M’bohli leaves then Curtin would pick McCarthy on merit and loyalty whilst Blake would be the more consistent starter given his international record. We will evaluate all four of the Union’s keepers this season in an article within the next few days. But for now, given the fact that the Union have conceded many goals and many sloppy ones at that despite coaching options to add depth and talent, you have to realistically say it’s been the most disappointing position as a whole. Yes there have been flashes of brilliance and some tremendous saves to lay the foundations for something special. But in the first half of the season, special is not the word I would pick.
Defenders: Arguably the hardest position to judge, the Union defence do have to take some responsibility for their 31 conceded goals. Having said that, the emergence of Fabinho and Williams as wing backs has been nothing short of impressive whilst Richie Marquez continues to prove to the fans in the River End that he’s worthy of a starting position. One downside is that Edu keeps having to be called back to cover the CB role whilst Vitoria’s health and ability come into question more times than not. Overall it’s not that the Defence have been BAD this season,it’s just when they’re good, they’re fantastic and when they have an off day or miss the presence of a starter….*cough 5-0 cough*
This has easily been the strongest position for the Union this season, but not without some draw backs. You simply cannot under-estimate Maidana this season. He has consistently been the most pro-active player on the Union’s roster and his creative influence cannot be under estimated as week in and week out he is the puppeteer behind the show. Nogueira continues to rack up minutes whilst the emergence of academy star Zach Pfeffer has been great to watch. He has gone from an occasional substitute to a two time goal scorer and reliable option in the central area of the pitch as his speed and flair shine on the rainiest of nights. On the wings however, things run south. We expected the Union’s wing play to be formidable this season with Le Toux and Wenger commanding the flanks. Andrew Wenger has severely under-performed leaving a lot of work to the playmakers and strike force. Le Toux went on a recent hot streak before falling injured, an injury that on paper would leave the Union down and out. But Eric Ayuk has been incredible to stand in and perform to the level he has. Overall, the midfield unit has been very solid this season. A few adjustments could be mad here and there but overall, impressive.
We decided to leave Le Toux and Wenger in the midfielders section due to their roles being more RM/LM than wingers for the most part. Whilst it’s technically inaccurate, it leaves the forwards focus on the strike force of the Union, to evaluate the pro’s and con’s of the numerous faces who have appeared this season.
The Union strikeforce is a force that could have been. New boy Nando looked lethal when healthy but has spent the first part of his 6 month loan spell plagued with injury, leaving full responsibilities to CJ Sapong. Why? Casey doesn’t appear to be anywhere near match fit, Catic has been away from the team picking up minutes with the Islanders/ Railhawks and Hoppenot has vanished off the face of the earth. So does that bring the grade down? No, because Super Sapong has rescued it by racking up a phenomenal record in a short space of time. Clinical in front of the net and extremely consistent, CJ Sapong has carried the forwards on his back this season, these few days off have certainly been well earned! The Unit has performed very well overall, but has shown a desperate need for some extra bodies.