The end result from this past match was less than ideal. A 2-0 loss has this Union team searching for what the right answer is. As the contenders from the east are pulling away, the Union will have to adapt to compete with them. There’s a lot that could happen to the Union to impose this change, but let’s look first at what this past game offered. Change came but so did another loss to NYCFC.
Your Starting XI tonight against @NYCFC. #JoinOrDie pic.twitter.com/aTbEmTTcvE
— PhilaUnion (@PhilaUnion) April 14, 2017
After Jim Curtin said that he preferred Alejandro Bedoya at the 10, even though it’s not his best position, the media and fans thought he would inevitably play there against NYCFC. Surprise! Curtin moved him back to the eight, dropped Derrick Jones to the bench and brought Alberg in to start at the 10. This change was a tactical one, to attack NYCFC’s weak back line.
This change seemed to pay off in the first half, the Union dominated play. They attacked, and when NYCFC had the ball, the Union pressed them into turnovers in their own half. Unfortunately this high intensity didn’t result in goals. Multiple opportunities came to the Union but no one could finish them. That has been another problem that the Union tries to address with the addition of Alberg. The Union have no true goal scorer. It’s what sets them apart from the rest of the league; the goals by committee are a huge hindrance to this team.
Having Alberg in, and Bedoya deeper made the Union’s attack more lethal, but at times both players did in characteristic things for their positions. Alberg was invisible at times in he match, and had times where he’d pass instead of take a shot. Bedoya looked more comfortable at the eight, but he played like a 10 for the first time of the season for the Union. He’d have his back to goal at midfield get on the ball and turn to take on defenders. He couldn’t do it in an advanced position, but did it from the eight position. These changes weren’t the only ones the Union made in this match.
Jack Elliot made his first MLS start replacing Oguchi Onyewu. Elliot’s addition was an interesting one. Onyewu would have brought his size, and physicality to combat David Villa. But Curtin went with the rookie Elliot because he can cover ground better than Onyewu. The rookies presence also helped free up Keegan Rosenberry to get forward more in the attack. Elliot had a tough task in his first start going up against Villa but the rookie did alright. Elliot and Marquez did enough to put out fires, while the attack went pressing for goals. The problem was, eventually the Union’s bending defense broke.
In the second half the Unions high pressing style ran out of gas. NYCFC we’re on the ball more, and they looked to counter. The first goal came when the Union lost all gas. NYCFC had decent possession but were dispossessed. Instead of clearing the ball, the Union let City take the ball back. A through ball was played through the lazy Union defense, and Jack Harrison was in on Blake. He beat the keeper to make the game 1-0. The Union’s response wasn’t great after the goal. Philly didn’t push the game at all after going down. Subs Herbers, Simpson and Najem (his MLS debut) didn’t do much to add to the attack. Lots of going forward with no purpose. Then NYCFC countered, and David Villa stuck the ball from half field.
50 yards out. FIFTY.
Just a ridiculous goal from @Guaje7Villa 🙊 https://t.co/YZY6UFo1Lv
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) April 15, 2017
We may have seen the goal of he year this past Friday in Chester. NYCFC cleared a half-hearted Union chance. Villa and Elliot chased the ball. The rookie got there first but couldn’t get enough of a header to clear the ball. It fell right to he path of Villa who was just in front of the center circle. The Spaniard hit the ball, as it was still in the air, as an attempt on goal. He tried this last season on the Union at Yankee stadium on a shot that hit the crossbar. This season, his strike carried through the air. Blake followed it and jumped to get a tip on the ball. Unfortunately he ball floated over Blake’s outstretched arm, and just under the bar. NYCFC was up 2-0 in the 90th minute.
BLAKE JUST GO CHIPED FROM HALF FIELD… DAVID F'ING VILLA 90th minute
— Tim Lovenguth (@Tim_Lovenguth) April 15, 2017
The game ended, and fans poured out of Talen Energy Stadium. They were furious, calling for Curtin’s head. Saying we want Sigi, referring to Sigi Schmidt the ex-sounders coach. Who knows if/when a coaching change will happen but more change is needed for this Union team to be successful. But don’t give up hope on this team yet.
Red Bull and the Sounders had bad starts to 2016. New York won the East; Seattle won it all. This Union team isn’t beyond saving. Whether it’s tinkering and inspiring from Jim Curtin, or if a new coach is brought in to impose change, there is still time to right the ship.
The Union play Montreal this weekend, another struggling team who just found their first win this past weekend. This is a must win game for the Union. A victory will help everyone exhale a bit. Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for a preview of the Union-Impact match, and for a look at how the rest of MLS did in week seven. Until then, peace out Union fans.
Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports