How will Ernst Tanners style work with the Philadelphia Union?


The Philadelphia Union kick off their preseason today. Over the next few weeks we’ll get a first look at how Philly will play in 2019. Ernst Tanner has a plan in place for the Union in 2019.

Tanner has described his style in many different ways this offseason:

Over the past few months Sporting director Ernst Tanner has talked a few different times about what style of play his Union team will use. Here is a look at what he’s said, and what that could mean for the Union in 2019.

Transitional, dynamic & efficient

Tanner has used many words to describe the way he wants Philly to play. He has said the words Transitional, dynamic and efficient a lot when he’s been asked.

The Union have been a very good transitional team in the past, so it makes sense that he’d want the team to play to a strength of theirs. Being able to absorb pressure and transition into offense was a strong point last year, but when the tables were turned the Union were taken advantage of. Look for the 201 9 Union squad work on their transitional defending rather than their transitional attacking.

Tanner has said he wants the Union to be dynamic and efficient. This is something the Union struggled with in the past. The union was anything but dynamic last season. They played one way and one way only. Teams began to figure that out in September and on downed the Union in crucial games. Philadelphia were also not so efficient at times in the past. They often did a lot of build up play, which resulted in little results. Look for the Union to have plans A, B and C under tanner, all of which will likely help make things run smoother and easier with less energy wasted.

Direct, incisive & purposeful

Ernst has also said that he wants the Union’s game to become more direct, incisive and purposeful in their play.

Philadelphia has had some great double-digit scorers over the last few years; and yet, they have often lacked the killer instinct that would make them a true contender. Tanner wants them to work on that in the form of being more direct when they create attacks. No more passing around the 18 yard box trying to find the next pass, instead passing to find the best/easiest shot opportunity.

In the past the Union have not always been incisive or purposeful in their play. To be incisive the team needs to be on the same page. While the Union had some moments of this last season, where they would look like Barcelona for a few minutes, they did not do this enough to be a scary team. Tanner wants them to be smart and purposeful with their play in all circumstances. This will create an identity, and could be something that scares their opposition in 2019.

Action (active), progression & counter-pressing

Tanner’s teams of the past have been good at being active at all times whether it be progressing the ball up the pitch or counter-pressing when the team loses possession.

This is exactly how Ernst wants the Union to play. There were too many times in the past where this team lacked action, especially when down late in games. There were many times where Philly gave up on games, and it showed in how they had a lack of action. That was something that seemed to be on the mend in 2018, under Tanner it will be a thing of the past.

Along those lines, Tanner wants the Union to do well in progression. This is something that Philadelphia did well in 2018, but it’s something that Philly’s new sporting director wants to see more of. He also wants to see the Union do a better job at counter-pressing when they lose possession of the ball. The high intensity active play can cause moments of panic for the opposition, which could lead to turnovers and fast breaks for the Union.

Not possession based for the hell of it

Tanner has said a few times that he doesn’t like his teams to be possession teams. While that may shock many, as the Union have been all about possession in the past few years with Jim Curtin as coach, there’s a method to Ernst madness here.

Ernst said that possession is obviously needed, but teams that focus on just keeping possession just for the hell of it makes no sense. In the past, the Union have been a team that tries to out-possess teams, but that did not always pay off in wins. Tanner wants the team to focus more on the things above, rather than just worry about keeping the ball more than their opposition.

Now that we’ve dissected what Tanner has said, let’s ask the question that’s on everyone’s mind. Will Tanner’s style pay off with the Philadelphia Union?

Will this pay dividends in 2019?

Taking all of what Ernst said and applying it to a Union team that had limited success doing some of these things in 2018 makes me think that the 2019 squad will be successful in carrying out this style in 2019. Whether that means that the Union are actually going to be successful in terms of winning in 2019 is still up in the air. Philly is just now starting preseason, and Tanner still has some roster spot to fill before we even see a full strength team. However, if the Union can play the way Tanner wants them to play, there is no reason for the Union to be one-dimensional, and fall apart, like they were last season.

As preseason moves on, we’ll get our first look at how the team responds to Tanners style. Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network throughout Philadelphia Union preseason for more on how the Union will play, their new players, and how the team will gel!

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union