The Union lost again last Sunday night, and a familiar weakness reared its ugly head. Team defense; the Unions defensive woes continue. The Union got beat by two second half goals that were world-class. Both goals could have been prevented by some smarter team defense. Philly looked good in the first half; they pressed Salt Lake and found more possession of the ball. With that possession the Union tried to create some build up play through their front four. This build up play payed off just before the half. Brian Carroll played a long ball into the streaking run of Fabinho. Fabi hit a beautiful one time pass to Pontius, who streaked into the box. He found Sapong who had a defender on his back. Sapong went to turn, and the defender tripped him, and drew a PK. Alberg stepped up and converted and the Union took a 1-0 lead into the half. The second half is when the Union fell apart.
As stated in the scouting report I compiled on RSL, Real Salt Lake dominate games when they have possession of the ball and when the ball is at the feet of their great attacking players. Yura Movsysisan, the veteran striker was injured and didn’t feature in this game. All the Union had to do was contain Joao Plata and Javier Morales. That is a hard task, but the Union did a decent enough job of containing them in the first half; the second half was a different story.
A minute after the second half Kickoff a ball was played towards Plata on the left-wing. Rosenberry tried to clear the ball but the ball when straight up into the air. Plata was able to run onto the ball, and charged into the box; Rosenberry got the ball off his foot but failed to clear it again. RSL’s Phillips sent the ball into the box and the ball was headed out by Marquez. His clearance went right back to Phillips who found the open Morales. Then it was a quick sequence, Morales to Plata to Phillips back to Plata; he hit a one-timed shot over Andre Blake that hit the underside of the bar and went in the net. RSL’s playmaker’s make plays, and when they are allowed to have possession they make teams pay. Six minutes later Salt Lake had another great spell of possession.
This possession showed five great passes from Real Salt Lake and poor team defense from the Union. Morales to Mulholland to Beckerman to Garcia, and after some dribbling back to Morales who had the time and space to Chip Andre Blake to give the visitors the lead. The Union pushed for an equalizer all game but couldn’t find the net; this was the one game where RSL didn’t concede off of a set piece or a second chance. The Union have a very big problem with their team defense, and it showed on both Salt Lake goals.
The first goal there were three failed clearance two from Rosenberry and one from Marquez. This allowed RSL to maintain their possession and to get Plata on the ball to do the special things he can do. There was a chance for Rosenberry to clear the ball out-of-bounds so the Union could regroup and get more players behind the ball to defend, but his clearance went to an opposing player instead and the play continued. The Second goal was a containing issue. There was a point where Carroll and Fabinho were doubling RSL’s right back Garcia in the corner near the end line. Instead of pressing him, the Union players allowed him to pick his head up and look for the open man, who was Morales. When the Union allowed Morales to pick up the ball, they watched him as he moved into the box and as he chipped Blake. No one took a step towards the dangerous attacker and the Union payed for it by getting no points from the game.
The Union need something to spark their defensive play. They need something to help them play like they did at the beginning of the season. Philly needs an actual number 8 to help the Union defensively, and to start their breaks in transition. Nogueira is gone, and the hole he left is now a gaping one. Barnetta doesn’t seem to be the right man to fill the hole, so what do the Union do?
According to multiple news outlets, the Union are in very advanced talks with US Mens National team midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. Bedoya almost joined Philadelphia last summer, but the deal broke down between the french team Nantes who Bedoya plays for now. Bedoya is not a natural number 8, but if he is going to be signed by Philly you have to think that that is where he will play. His defensive work was highlighted in this past Copa America tournament, where he played good defense for USA. Bedoya is usually a wide player, who is good in transition. I think the Union front office and Earnie Stewart see his defensive and transition play as one that could really benefit the Union. Will he be signed, and does he actually fill the Nogueira sized hole that has yet to be filled for the Union? Only time and the actual signing will tell.
The Union lose their second game at home this season off of two brilliant goals. The Union need to address their team defense to get back towards the top of the East. With good results from New York City, New York Red Bulls, and Toronto FC the Union fall to fourth in the East. They are only one win away from outright second, and have played one less game than both New York teams. The points are there for the Union, but they need to play better defense to get the results. the Union play next this coming Saturday at DC United, maybe they’ll have a new player by that time, and can get their second road win of 2016! look for a DC United preview, and possible new signing news here later in the week!
Photo credit: Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports