The Union’s last win was Aug 27th, 2016. It’s been seven months since the last time the Union celebrated three points from a competitive game. 2017 has started off less than ideally; after two draws the Union have lost three in a row. Tonight they face a New York City side who’ll look to move into a tie for first place with a win. Philly will have oppertunities to get their first win against NYCFC. The Union look to end their seven month winless slump tonight; how can they get the three points, and end the slump? The Union can get out of this slump by doing three easy things; keep bodies around Villa, press Pirlo when he’s on the ball, and attack the weak NYCFC back line.
The first way the Union can get the win is by keeping bodies around David Villa. Villa has five goals and three assists on the season already. the veteran has shown time and time again that if he gets on the ball NYCFC scores goals. The Union will have to take him out of the game Friday night. While this may seem like a huge ask, the Union should be able to do it.
Philly has done a great job of limiting oppositions strikers this season. A part from Cyle Larin, who torched the Union, Philly has stifled Giovinco, Jozy Altidore, Micheal Bradley, Diego Valeri and Fernando Adi in open play. They will look to do the same to David Villa. The Union’s defense is structured very well centrally. They will try to keep three bodies around the strongest/most dangerous attacker on the field. Since that is usually the center forward, a playmaking in the midfield the Union have set up a decent structure for the middle of the field.
On Saturday, we had to break the link Bradley provides between their midfield and attack.
— PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) March 16, 2017
When The Union defend a prominent player they do so as a team. The Union did this exceptionally well agaisnt Toronto. Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Micheal Bradley were all accounted for by multiple players in the clip above. The Union use three to four players to create triangles/squares around the danger players. Against Toronto, Three attacking players made a triangle around Bradley, and the defenders and central midfielders made squares around the two lethal attackers. The more important defensive to pay attention too for this match is the defensive/midfield pairing.
If Villa is towards the left side; Marquez, Fabinho and Medunjanin will look to cover him, while Jones and the rest of the midfield presses. If Villa is on the right side; Onyewu, Rosenberry and Medunjanin will cover. This formation allows Jones, and the other midfielders, to pressure the ball and win it before Villa can get on it. If the Union do this successfully they will have a better chance at winning.
What are the four cues our players look for to trigger high pressing?
— PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) March 10, 2017
Another key to success is the high pressing style, especially when Pirlo drops deep to get the ball. Pirlo is really only good for passing now-a-days. He has declined rapidly, as shown last week. in the second half, he coughed up the ball after receiving it deep in his own area. New York City recovered and went up field, but lost it again. Pirlo was out of position, and couldn’t react; DC was in on goal and made the most of it. Pirlo has made a lot of mistakes after losing the ball for NYCFC. The Union need to hound him to get the result.
As the video above shows. The Union do well when pressing teams in their own half. This should be a no-brainer for Philly. Wait for Pirlo to drop deep and when he’s passed the ball, attack. He will either give up the ball, or make a bad pass that could lead to chances. When he loses the ball, he doesn’t hustle back as much as he used to. This is the place where the Union can look to smash NYCFC and grab an easy goal.
Haris finished the match with 73 touches, 12 recoveries, 43 successful passes (team high), and 7 long balls.
— PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) March 15, 2017
The Union will also look to hit NYCFC hard when on the attack. The Union have been attacking heavy down the middle of the field, and that won’t change much against NYCFC’s suspect defense. As you can see from the video above, the Union do well when attacking quickly. This is the strong suit of Haris Medunjanin. He can play the Union attack into very dangerous positions. He did so agaisnt Toronto to give the Union their first goal of the season, but how can they do this against NYCFC?
The key to attacking the back line of NYCFC is by Haris pinging a ball into a danger area, and also Sapong’s hold up play. Haris can easily play someone in on goal against NYCFC’s defense that has given up chances by letting balls slip behind them this season. However if that doesn’t work Sapong will need to be used as the hold up man. Since the Union don’t have an actual playmaker at the 10 spot, they should look to Sapong to create. If he can receive the ball, and find the runs of his supporting attackers in the build up, then the Union will be in business.
These three keys are fairly simple, but they are crucial to getting the first win of 2017. Stop Villa. Hound Pirlo. Attack the back line. Get first win of 2017.
Since Jim Curtin wants to run the 4-2-3-1 formation, I expect the same lineup as last time.
Starters: Blake; Fabinho, Marquez, Onyewu, Rosenberry; Medunjanin, Jones; Pontius, Bedoya, Ilsinho; Sapong.
Bench: McGuire, Gaddis, Elliot, Creavalle, Herbers, Alberg, Simpson.
As much as I want to see the Union roll out Alberg, and move Bedoya to the eight, I don’t see them doing that from the start. The Union need this win, if they can stick to these three keys they should, finally end their longgggggggggg winless streak.
— PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) April 14, 2017
Be sure to look for Philly Sports Network on Instagram for cool content from the stadium tonight. I’ll also be live tweeting the key parts of the game from @TGing21. Also check back here tomorrow for a recap of all the MLS action from last week, and a recap of what will hopefully be the Union’s first win. Until then, Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports