The Union are entering its 9th month without a win. The fans are fed up at this point, and the road ahead doesn’t look so pretty. After last weeks 0-0 tie in LA, where the Union had little actual chances to win the game, they face their “rival” Red Bulls. A tough match up, that gives many little hope for a positive outcome. As the ninth winless month kicks off, it’s important to look at, and understand the problem.
There are three main issues with the Union as a whole, and all of them are straight forward, and plain to see. The play on the field has lacked quality, the choices made by the coaching staff have been iffy, and haven’t produced anything better and the Union operate under an owner who wont shell out enough cash for the Union to compete and be relevant in a vastly expanding lead. As I said all of these are plain to see, but lets look at them further to see why this problem has persisted for nine grueling months.
The play on the field:
The last time the Union won a game was August 27th, 2016. The Union won 2-0 against Sporting Kansas City. For those who can’t remember, here is what it looked like.
The Union had a talented group of players, playing up to their full potential in this win. Which shows the problem with the current Union team. There is plenty of talent on the field, however, many players are not playing to their full potential. Two of the Union’s standout players from last year (Chris Pontius & Keegan Rosenberry) have done little for the team this year. Pontius isn’t scoring or creating, and Keegan found himself benched for Ray Gaddis. But there’s more problems than just that.
Union’s 5 highest paid players (Bedoya, Edu, Ilsinho, Simpson, Medunjanin – 33% of the team salary) have a combined 1g, 3a through 8 games.
— Ryan Bright (@RBrightUnion) May 4, 2017
This stat shows the teams struggles. When the players who are supposed to be the backbone of the team put out a stat line like this it shows that there are problems. Part of the player/production problems has to come from the coaching decisions.
The choices by the coaching staff:
The Union coaches seem to be on this ride-or-die mentality with certain players. As the Union lost pivotal pieces, like Barnetta and Nogueira, the coaches had to adapt. The one-player-fix-all for the Union seems to be Alejandro Bedoya. He was brought in to be Nog’s replacement last summer, and was morphed to Barnetta’s replacement this spring.
The coaches have tried to use him as stitches to an open wound, when he may be more like a band-aid. Bedoya is the best number eight on the team, don’t get me wrong, but the way he’s used by the coaches will/have been a detriment to this team. He is not a number 10, Bedoya doesn’t like to have his back to defenders far up the pitch. Bedoya is better starting the teams build up play, and stopping opposing transition; in other words ,he’s a box-to-box midfielder. This is just one example of how the coaches aren’t making the best choices with the players they have.
They've really hammered home the idea that they want to focus on this style and improve it, not switch things for the sake of change
— Kevin Kinkead (@Kevin_Kinkead) May 3, 2017
The Bedoya situation is one thing, but there have been some other questionable choices made by the coaches this season. The idea of not changing for the sake of change has been brought up a lot by coaches, especially Jim Curtin. That’s fine, the organization is entitled to operate this way, but at some point there may have to be caution thrown to the wind to create better results. The coaches choices of players to start, and sub on, using their 4-2-3-1 formation have given teams a game plan to stop them. Pontius is a target guy, Ilsinho has moves, Sapong holds play up, Medunjanin looks to find the open man. This formation, and the players in it are killing the team, which is why the Union are struggling, but at the end of the day the onus of creating a team that can compete lies with one man.
The owner wont shell out the $:
Jay Sugarman has been accused of not spending enough to create a competing MLS team in Philadelphia. While the addition of Earnie Stewart has created the style, and in turn the type of players, the Union can build a team around, they still don’t spend nearly as much as other MLS teams do. Recently Sugarman responded to an open letter sent to him by Philly Soccer Page. His response was heart-felt, saying that he is trying to create a contender in Philadelphia. The problem with his statement, had to do with the amount of money he showed was going into the team.
— Ryan Bright (@RBrightUnion) May 4, 2017
These amounts of monies are not enough to create a contender for MLS cup. Some teams spend this much money on one player signing alone now. Which is why money is the main issue for the Union. The owner doesn’t shell out enough cash, which dilutes the type of quality on the field. This makes the coaches choice to stick to the system in place seem like a problem, when it’s really just consistency. So what can be done to fix the Union? How can they break the slump?
For now, trusting the process seems to be the option. The Union’s players need to snap out of this funk, and start propelling this team. This would make the coaches jobs a hell of a lot easier. It would also take some of the weight of breaking the winless streak off of the players backs. The only real change that can come of this problem is if Stewart, Albright, and Curtin ask Sugarman for more money to get better players. If that happens, and better result come from that, then Sugarman might not mind spending a little bit more.
The Union’s nine month winless streak shows how deep the problems are. Hopefully this group of players can turn it around against Red Bull and start May off with a victory that ends all this depressing talk about the Union’s problems. If they don’t get the win today, then they have these upcoming matches to try to stop the winless streak at nine months:
@ DC United May 13th
vs Houston May 17th
vs Colorado May 20th
@ Real Salt Lake May 27th
The Union have to get a win in one of these five games this month right? Let’s hope they can a few to get momentum moving in the right direction.
The Union take on the Red Bulls at 7 PM on the Comcast Network (TCN) or on MLS Live. Be sure to watch, and follow me on Twitter (@TGing21) for in-game tweets and retweets. Until next time, peace out Union fans!