The Philadelphia Union earned a draw in Wednesday nights game against LA Galaxy. This tie has a different feeling from the tie against San Jose and was secured by the Union when Keegan Rosenberry netted his first professional goal to tie the game in 63rd minute. While LA seemed to have the better quality chances and appeared to be on the front foot for the duration of the game, the Union actually were statistically better; they had, more possession of the ball, more accurate passes, and out-shot LA 22 to 4! This Union team stayed in the game, and dominated it. Here are some ways that this performance will benefit the club going forward.
The Union did dominate LA statistically, and they also pestered Galaxy goalkeeper Dan Kennedy who played his first game back from injury. In the fourth minute the Union opened up the scoring as Vincent Nogueira pounced on a loose ball in the box, before his initial shot was blocked by defenders. The frenchman quickly regained possession, and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner of the net. Kennedy was caught in no mans land, he stepped forward to block Nogueira’s initial shot, but could not reset after his defenders did his job for him. He could not get over to the left fast enough for Vince’s second attempt, and the Union led at home early. A little later on, Kennedy’s bad form continued.
A Union corner was sent in and a decent header was put on goal. Kennedy did well to stop it, but when he fell to ground he lost control of the ball. Sebastian Le Toux poked the loose ball toward Keegan Rosenberry, allowing the rookie to smash it into the open net! I think it is safe to say that Kennedy was dealing with some rust coming back into LA’s lineup and the Union’s frantic play in the box gave Dan Kennedy fits..eventually leading to both goals. If they can do this every game, then they will be able to be successful in situations where they are outnumbered in the box. It gives the Union a grittier style, and sometimes that kind of style is one that needs to be utilized to get goals. The Union certainly benefitted from a more rigid style of soccer whilst LA’s fluency was a direct contrast.
The ball movement from the Galaxy was very good. Their two goals were results of accurate passing, fluid chemistry and great finishing. This type of play was a great test for young defenders Richie Marquez, Josh Yaro, and Keegan Rosenberry. The Union’s back line had to deal with Zardes starting break ups, runs in behind from both Keane and Dos Santos, and players like Gerrard, Magee, and Rogers making supporting runs and magnetic passes.
The Union adapted quickly, stopping attack after attack…holding the Galaxy to only 4 shots all game. When balls were played over the top of the back line, Marquez and Yaro were always ready to make recovery runs and stop attacks. The two young center backs also did a good job blocking shots for LA’s stars. The two goals from the away side were scored by an overlapping defender, Rogers, and an open winger, Magee. Zardes, Keane, Gerrard, and Dos Santos, were kept in check for all of the game which seemed like an almighty task coming into the matchup regardless of fatigue. LA’s stars did not get a clear look all night, and that is a huge credit to the young centerback’s, and the ever-impressive maturity levels of fullback Keegan Rosenberry.
Rosenberry had the night of his life on Wednesday. He performed flawlessly against the best attacking team in the league. He defended well, and did exceptionally well in shutting down LA players one on one. From winning duels against Irish international Robbie Keane and Giovani Dos Santos to going toe-to-toe with a dangerous Ashley Cole. This rookie took the ball away from top players, and then pushed play down the field. He had many transitions into an attacker against LA, sending in many crosses that were difficult to deal with.
The third overall pick in the MLS Draft created some great chances and helped the Union’s offensive weapons create space to direct a shot towards goal. His hard work was rewarded with a goal to put a cherry on top of what was a monumental game. This kind of production is so important for the Union going forward. The ability to stop an attacker in one on one situations, and then contribute to the Union’s attacking moves will be invaluable and being able to play both roles well is becoming more and more pivotal in MLS. Fans may have been hesitant on draft night..but they’re not anymore. Rosenberry’s game fits into the 2016 Union identity perfectly.
When the Union do not have the ball, they high press the opposition. When they do have possession, they spring to the attack quickly, looking to get as many players forward as possible. This system has proved to be successful so far and the Union get most of their chances by pressing so highly or hitting with a very hard counter-attack.
The fact that the Union actually have an identity is cause for celebration. In the past few years the Union have tried to establish one and failed..it could also explain why they struggled to get comfortable and sustain a good run of results. This 2016 team is comfortable with how they play, and have shown that their style can be adapted. If they need to absorb a lot of pressure, and then attack, to get a result, they can do that without panicking. If they need to be relentless in their high press to keep the opposing attack limited, they do so with confidence. The Union haven’t just established a new system..they’ve established a personality..a chemistry and a confidence that has become a large part of why the team has been successful thus far.
The point against LA Galaxy may not seem like much, but in comparison to the dissection performed by Galaxy last year, the match highlighted just how much progress the team has made. This Union team should take these lesson they learned against LA, and apply them to the game at Montreal this Saturday. The Union currently sit one point behind Montreal in the Eastern Conference, making this another big opportunity to establish an identity in the standings as well as continue to flourish on the field.
Photo credit: The Canadian Press