The Union have had a very poor last four games. Four straight losses, with a goal difference of -6 from those games give little hope for the Union’s young season. This weekend Montreal comes to town. The Union look to make an impact in the last game of a three-week hame stand.
Montreal just got their first win of the season last week; the Union will look to do so this week. Montreal’s first win came agaisnt an impressive Atlanta United side. Their play maker Ignacio Piatti returned from injury and made an immediate impact. After letting Atlanta open the scoring, Montreal won a controversial penalty. Piatti buried the opportunity and tied the game. As the game entered the second half stoppage time, it looked like it would end in a draw. Then Montreal got scored a wonder goal from a back heel deflection to find the winner. Montreal will carry that momentum with them to Philly, and hope that they can build on their first win after a tough start. Here’s some highlights from their win.
— Impact de Montréal (@impactmontreal) April 15, 2017
Against NYCFC, the Union showed the willingness to change a bit. Alberg came in at the 10, so Bedoya could play his best position (the eight), and Jack Elliot got his first start at center back for Oguchi Onyewu. The Union moved personnel around and pressed New York. The problem was, when they went down, they lost all fight. This means that Jim Curtin will have his hands full getting this team up to play at the level they can play at. Most of these guys were on the successful 2016 side, they will need to ban together to agaisnt Montreal. Here’s a glimpse of what Curtin said about these issues from his mid-week presser.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) April 19, 2017
One of the key ways the Union are going to push for their first win is knowing when to utilize their high press, and when to sit back. Philly did a great job of creating chances by pressing in the last match, but didn’t adapt as the game went on. In the first half the Union had plenty of chances created by their press, but couldn’t capitalize on the oppertunities. NYCFC saw what Philly was doing, kept more players back, and countered. This beat the Union. Montreal is an excellent counter attacking team as Curtin mentioned, which means the Union will need to adapt to succeed.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) April 19, 2017
In the highlights above you can see just how effective the Union’s press can be. The problem is, you can’t keep that intensity up for 90 minutes of a match. The Union will need to adapt, and drop back from time to time against Montreal. They will have to put bodies around Piatti to stop him during Montreal’s build up. This change-up will help the Union keep their shape, then when the break down the attack they can build their own. Using both the high press, and sitting back to keep their shape. There has to be a balance for success. Philly did both last season, and it payed dividends. They will need to do that again this year.
Philly has the players to both press and keep their shape and create counter attacks. We’ve seen glimpses of both this season from this team. The trick will be found the balance between. If Curtin wants Sapong and Alberg to pressure the defense, then the wingers and central midfielders know to push up, and the defense knows they have to be ready for a quick break should the press fail. If Curtin tells Sapong to pressure the ball and Alberg to stay central, then the rest of the team knows to keep their shape, and to get bodies around Piatti to keep him off the ball. The strategies and players to carry them out are there, it just comes down to execution, something the Union have failed with this season.
If the Union want to win this game they will have to take full advantage of their oppertunities off of the press. They will have a successful high press at times, and will create turnovers. They need to finish off of them if they want to fight their way up the table. Sapong started the season hot scoring wise. The Union will likely lean on him to shoot when turnovers are created. Assuming Alberg is in the starting 11 again, he will need to find his scoring boots. He had a chance from twenty-yards away versus NYCFC with no one around him, thanks to the Union pressing that he pulled far wide of the target.
The Union’s wingers will have to be dynamic with their runs off into the box to be good options. Both Pontius and Ilsinho have been isolated on the wings for most of the year.If the Union sit back and build up play they will need to approach their offense differently. The ball will be at Medunjanin’s feet, and he will look to distribute to Sapong and the wingers. Who will look for Alberg and Bedoya to make runs into the box to score. Just like their defensive structure, the Union will have to know how to adapt their attack agaisnt Montreal. This team cannot get stuck doing just one of these two ways of playing. If they can find a balance of both they should be successful.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) April 20, 2017
The Union are ready for Montreal, and are ready to fight to climb back into the race for the red line in the east. I’d assume they roll out this lineup:
Starters: Blake; Fabinho, Marquez, Elliot, Rosenberry; Medunjanin, Bedoya, Pontius, Alberg, Ilsinho; Sapong.
Bench: McCarthy, Onyewu, Gaddis, Creavalle, Fafa, Herbers, Simpson.
I had the Union losing this match in my season preview, but now that both teams are struggling, I think the Union will get a win if they can adapt their style of play based on what happens during the course of the game.
The Union try to get their first win this weekend. Will they get it? I’ll be at the game so feel free to shoot me a tweet at @TGing21 if you want to meet and discuss all things Union. Look for our Instagram content from the game as well. Until next time, peace out Union fans.