Philadelphia Union came out firing on all cylinders Saturday afternoon against Montreal Impact, winning the match 2-0 at Stade Saputo. Take a look at how they got the job done as they earned their first road victory since May of 2017.
Cory Burke Shined, Briefly
Back-up striker Cory Burke provided immediate impacts both on and off the ball. He showed his ability to help out with the high pressing system with quick and direct pressing runs to influence Montreal’s next pass. His off ball movements were perhaps more noticeable. In what could be a sign of head coach Jim Curtin and his staff’s effort to redesign their offensive approach in the final third, Burke meshed well with Borek Dockal a few times before breaking through with his header before the end of the first half. Ray Gaddis displayed his rare left footed talents with a perfect cross into the box which Burke attacked ferociously for a powerful headed goal. It was his first MLS goal of his young career.
Burke has much greater size on the ball compared to CJ Sapong, the starting striker for Philadelphia. Sapong has battled an inability to finish clear goal scoring opportunities while pushing through increased minutes. He suffered a very brutal knock to his hip Wednesday night and left Curtin no choice but to allow Burke a chance to showcase the Jamaican’s striker abilities.
By all accounts, Burke played an extremely effective match. Up until a dumb decision to aggressively slide tackle with both feet, forcing the head referee to brandish him with a straight red. Though difficult to swallow considering the impressive 50+ minutes of work Burke provided, his tackle was clearly reckless and could’ve easily broken a leg. Despite the early exit, Burke hopefully turned heads of the tactical staff once more.
Attractive Soccer Returns for Philly
Philadelphia possessed the ball in brilliant fashion several times throughout the first half. They generated four shots within the match’s first 15 minutes while tallying a total of eight in the first 30 minutes.
The initial game plan to go for the throat of Montreal early and often throughout the first 20 minutes was executed to near perfection. Montreal’s time on the ball was stifled and Philadelphia managed a few early opportunities to score. Curtin mentioned pre-game that he and his staff would decipher how to approach the match after those initial 20 minutes.
What resulted was perhaps the most exciting style of soccer Philadelphia has displayed in quite some time. And that’s not hyperbole. The ball zipped around the pitch with urgency and direction. That’s a stark difference from what Union fans have grown accustomed to seeing when their team plays away from Chester.
Will this Road Win Provide a Needed Spark
One thing is certain, the wins need to continue. And quickly. As surprising as it may seem, Philadelphia was the better team today away from home through all 90 minutes of a match. Which hasn’t happened in nearly a year’s time.
Critics and casual fans alike may be leaning towards throwing Curtin and his past record under the microscope. They already have begun throwing his name in with mentions of a dangerously hot coaching seat. Even Earnie Stewart, Philadelphia’ Sporting Director with European ties has placed under heavy scrutiny over the last week.
But this road win should serve as a pacifier for those thoughts. Fans finally saw a glimpse of what the offense can provide. Sure, it has been a painfully slow start Union goal scorers, but Saturday afternoon signified something which fans cannot dispute: progress.
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Peace out Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports