The Union Lost last Saturday night, and it was their worst beating of the season. Montreal scored five goals; Philly only found one goal after the game was already out of hand. Usually, we go through the match and dissect and analyze the game. But, this game was so poor, that if I go through every scoring play for Montreal I’ll have an aneurysm. If you want to see the dreadful highlights click here. The rest of this article will be looking at the Impact of the Union’s loss, and how they can turn around this recent cold spell.
The Union have struggled throughout June and July. In league play, the Union are 3-4-1 since June first. They lost a two game lead on every other team in the East. Philadelphia lost first place outright to NYCFC, lost second place to the surging New York Red Bulls, and are a full game out of the top of the East. If the season ended today, Philly would be not have a first round bye in the playoffs. At least they’d still be in the playoffs.
The Union would have a winner-take-all game against New England; the team the Union just lost to in the quarter finals of the US Open Cup. Things are not looking so great for the Union recently. They are a team that is trending downwards. They are now eighth in the entire league, and their chances of winning the supporters shield are slim-to-none. The weak link for this team is one that was their strength in the beginning of the season.
The Union’s team defense has been letting them down in the summer months, and there’re two main reasons why. In June and July the Union have lacked consistency throughout their backline. The Injury of Josh Yaro at the beginning of June forced Ken Tribbett back into the lineup. Apart from some minor slip ups in important game he’s been a fine centerback, but his entrance into the backline broke up the cohesion the Union had rolling at the end of May. The Fabinho, Marquez, Yaro, and Rosenberry back-four helped the Union tie a franchise record for games unbeaten. Then the Copa America break happened.
After the Copa America break the Union’s defense looked disheveled, but there was also a problem in their midfield. Vincent Nogueira left the Union, and his short term replacement is not the same type of player. The Union transitioned Tranquillo Barnetta from his normal number 10 attacking role to Nogueira’s place the number 8. He has played alright, and his move opened up a starting spot for Roland Alberg, but the midfield doesn’t click the same way it did with Nogs. The Union need a true number eight to drop deep, play defense, and start a break like Nogueira did. Barnetta is a decent short term fix, but Philly needs to find someone for the long term.
Hello long term! This morning the Union signed their fourth homegrown player, and their first player to go through their academy system, Derrick Jones is a 19 year-old who has risen quickly through the Union’s ranks. This winter he signed a contract with Bethlehem Steel, coming straight from the academy. He played well for Steel, and recently played for the first team against the Premier League’s Crystal Palace. He played well against the out of form English side; two weeks later he signed a first team contract with the Union. He is being compared to the ex-NYCFC midfielder Kwadwo Poku, and Columbus Crew’s Tony Tchani. It may be a while until he finds the eighteen, or the starting eleven, but the future is looking bright for the Union and their whole system. In the here-and-now, The Union need to find a way back to their consistant ways.
For the Union to find consistency again they need to step it up on the field. The Union have thirteen games left in the season, and only one week with a two games, Wednesday-Saturday. With the prep time they now have, The Union can hone in on each opponent for the week and find ways to break them down with their press. The Union’s press has been lacking in the recent months, and when the press fails the Union fail. Teams have found ways around Philly’s high press, and exposing holes and gaps in the Union’s defense. Case and point, last game. Montreal beat the press and made every Union player chase the play. The Union need to get back to their beautiful pressing ways, and play good covering team defense if they can do this they will get back on track.
The Union are in the home stretch of the season, and can still reclaim the top of the East if they focus on the teams ahead of them, and get back to pressing and playing sound defense. This team is not dead, the middle of the summer was a hard stretch, but it was not a death sentence. The Union found a “long term” solution to their number 8 problem, but still need someone else to push them over the hump this season. There are still a few more weeks in the transfer window, hopefully the Union can bring in another quality player to help this team continue their great 2016 run.
The Union take on a tough test at home this Sunday. Real Salt Lake comes to town looking to show that they are another great 2016 turn-around story. Check back later in the week for a full preview of the Union’s clash with Salt Lake! Peace out, and lets put the Montreal game behind us!
Photo credit: USA Today