What needs to change? Union’s troubles are manifested in an out of position player in 4-2-3-1


The Union lost their third in a row this past weekend. After getting the opening goal, the Union concede three that could have been contained. This horrific start to 2017 has provided the Union with last place in all of MLS. This slump is one that has carried over from 2016; the Union are winless since Aug. 27, 2017.  They are five points under the redline, and need to change their ways with NYCFC coming to town. It’s time to speculate. What needs to change?

It has to be said, that the Union need to make some changes to get better results. A good place to start is to look at personnel. The Union have rolled out the same lineup, for the most part, in all five of their games this season. It’s been:

Blake; Fabinho, Marquez, Onyewu, Rosenberry; Medunjanin, Jones; Pontius, Bedoya, Herbers/Ilsinho; Simpson/Sapong.

Looking at the teams struggles one personnel change makes the most sense. Bedoya should not be playing the 10. Both coach Curtin, and Bedoya, have said this is not his best spot on the field. So then why is he playing there? Wouldn’t it make more sense for Bedoya to play where he played last season, at the eight? I know, I know, Derrick Jones is the bright, shining, homegrown, star in that position. Even though Jones has been great this season, he may have to move to the bench for this team to start winning. His ball winning abilities and defensive help are good; however, he doesn’t offer that much moving forward. Bedoya knows how to get into the attack from deeper/wider situations.

So Bedoya could play the eight and force Derrick Jones off, but that would leave the entire middle of the field without a hounding defensive player. Bedoya has had a great career playing on the wing, so could he feature there for the Union? The Union’s wingers haven’t really shined so far in 2017. If Bedoya moved to the right side he’d be able to bring his tenacity, and attacking prowess to a spot that needs to be better. That being said, Ilsinho and Chris Pontius are both great wingers who have had slow starts. This Bedoya to the wing option, looks to be only if Jim Curtin thinks Derrick Jones can’t be taken off the field.

Realistically, the best place for Bedoya is the eight. At the end of preseason he played there, and was excited about building chemistry with Medunjanin, then the Union went to Jones forcing him higher up the pitch. Bedoya has stunk as the 10. He has trouble receiving the ball and almost always plays the ball backwards to set up the play. He doesn’t turn to take on defenders. The Union have been primarily a team that plays down the middle because of this. A 10 should be able to turn when on the ball, go up field, occupy defenders, and slip the ball to other attackers to create chances. A change is needed, but no one on the Union roster has this talent. Unfortunately, Tranquillo Barnetta isn’t coming back to Chester. So the Union don’t have a dynamic 10, so why not change the formation then?

The most obvious formation change for this team would be to move to a 4-4-2 formation. It could look something like this:

Blake; Fabinho, Marquez, Onyewu, Rosenberry; Pontius, Medunjanin, Bedoya, Ilsinho; Simpson/Herbers, Sapong.

This lineup would help the Union generate more in the attack, which has been lacking all year, and would help get the ball to their play making wingers. The two strikers would be able to run off of each other. If the ball went into Sapong he could find either Simpson of Herbers to create a quick chance. Service from the wingers, would give both Sapong and Simpson more chances to score. The middle of the midfield would be able to be the safety net for the offense, they’d be able to hold possession to find the forwards/wingers, and make late runs in the attack.

The Defense would be able to count on the structure of the midfield to help them out. The 4-4-2 structure can help stop counters faster than the Union’s current formation 4-2-3-1. The cluttered midfield helps block passing lanes that start counters. The Union have already changed to this type of formation in games.


Last Saturday the Union switched to a 4-4-2 while trying to find the equalizer versus Portland. They even brought Derrick Jones off, and moved Bedoya back. This has to be the formation they’re moving towards right? Wrong!

These changes don’t necessarily have to be within the formation, or personnel, apparently.


Jim Curtin said in his press conference Wednesday that the Union players and formation are something everyone has bought in to. While the whole idea of team camaraderie, and self-belief is good, it doesn’t mean much if it doesn’t have a good end product. Curtin said that players who have been slumping, like Chris pontius, still have full confidence, and that’s okay. Mainly because there is no other person ready to start their, since Fafa has been the odd man out these past few weeks. If Curtin want’s to stick to his guns that’s fine, as long as he finds ways to get this motivate this group to do their job to make the formation work.

The game against Portland saw this group start strong, for once, and then lose confidence as the match went on. After the change that saw Bedoya move back to the eight the Union fell asleep. A mis-mark on a set piece gave the Timbers the lead. The Union tired to push, but did so by committing too many players forward. While the chances were there, the finishing was not. Too many passes in the final third, including a header across goal inside the six yard box. That missed chance lead to the break where Andre Blake hd to stop Portland by committing a penalty. The Union lost 3-1 in a game where they had the upper hand. Changes need to be made before NYCFC comes to Chester tomorrow, but it seams Curtin will ride this formation and team to the ground.

The Union Take on NYCFC on Friday. Check back to Philly Sports network for a day-of match Preview; as well as, our MLS review for week six. Until then, peace out Union fans.

Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports