Union look to right ship durring three game home stand: Part 1 Portland

The Union fell at DC United thanks to a pitiful first half. The Union seem to fall asleep in the first half of games. They have let up four first half goals in their four games played. It’s been difficult for anyone in the attack get going in the first half of games. Because of this loss, the Union have sole possession of last place in the east. There is a bright side, the Union now have three straight home games, starting this Saturday against Portland. Portland poses a tough threat, but the Union need a point from this match to start to right the ship. Philly will look move back up the table during their three game home stand: Part 1 Portland. First lets unpack some things from the Union’s last match.

First off, a part from a bad sequence from Blake and Fabinho, and a questionable handball call on Marquez gave DC their only goals. If the Union could clean up those lapses the result would have been different. As far as player performances, Ilsinho and Medunjanin looked good moving forward; while Pontius, Bedoya and Simpson looked lost. The offense was off in the first half. Sapong’s addition got him his third goal, and Bedoya moving to the wing helped a bit. However, the attack couldn’t take advantage of all the chances created in the second half. Marquez’s concussion made way for Jack Elliot’s debut. Elliot did exceptionally well in a tough spot; If Marquez doesn’t clear concussion protocol by Saturday the rookie may make his first start. Let’s transition to how he Union can do well against Portland.

Philly was asleep in the first half and it came back to bite them, but they did look promising in the second half. They stifled DC’s chances and held possession, which lead to the Union dominating the possession and flow of the game. This could be the major take away from last weeks match when looking ahead to Portland.

The Union have had success against Portland at home in the past, but this Portland team may be the strongest ever to come to Chester. Their strikers, Diego Valeri and Fanendo Adi, combine for nine of the 13 Portland goals this season. The Union’s struggling, and possibly make-shift, back line will have a tough task; stop these two. If the Union can take target forward Adi and the creative Valeri off the ball, the better chances the Union have of not losing.

Note I said not losing, Portland have plenty of other ways to hurt teams. Nagbe, Blanco, Guzman and Chara are all dangerous when allowed to move into the attack. The main way to combat these players are to take away Adi’s hold up play, and keeping Valeri off the ball. The Union will need to know how, and when, to shift to combat both of these players. If they can keep bodies around both when Portland has possession, the Union should be able to limit their chances. The Union will need to do what they did to Portland last time they played at Talen Energy Stadium.

The last time the Union played Portland at home they won 3-0. The Son’s of Ben had some fun at the Timbers expense and everyone was happy. The Union won thanks to dominating possession, and putting the ball in the net. They will need to do that this Saturday agaisnt a much stronger group then they faced two years ago.

Pontius and Ilsinho will be key on the wings to hold possession. The wingers slow start to 2017 has been because of the lack of time on the ball. The Union have attacked down the center this season, and it hasn’t worked. With a fully healthy Ilsinho, and a determined Chris Pontius, the Union should look to spread Portland thin by attacking the wings.

It also has to be said that Sapong should get the start in this match; he has been the only consistent piece to the Union’s offense. With good service from the wings he could wreak havoc on the Portland defense. This would Benefit Bedoya’s, and Medunjanin, play as well service from the wings would allow for those players to make runs/ late runs into the box to create second chances something the Union have capitalized on this season. The Union need to get something going in attack. Attacking Portland out wide could be spark the Union’s offense, and help them keep the ball away from the Portland Playmakers.

This match will prove to be a big test for the Union, so early in the season. Back in January when I was predicting results I thought the Union would win this match. Now, I’d be happy with a tie; zero points from this match would be unacceptable, and would prompt me to think about changing formation/personnel. For now I see the Union lining up like this:

Starters: Blake; Fabinho, Elliot, Onyewu, Rosenberry; Medunjanin, Jones; Pontius, Bedoya, Ilsinho; Sapong.
Bench: McGuire, Gaddis, Tribbett, Creavalle, Fafa, Herbers, Simpson.

If the Union should happen to lose this match, and don’t get points more than four points from the two following matches, I think we could see a coaching change. I hope not, and the Union right the ship, but at some point the captain has to go down with the sinking ship.

The Union take on Portland at 7pm tomorrow night. I will be at the stadium to find some more Instagram content for Philly Sports Network, @ me on Twitter (@TGing21) if you are at the game and want to be included. I will also be live tweeting the match! The time to right the ship is now, hopefully the Union can patch up all of the holes in their vessel before it’s too late.

 

Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

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