Tactical Preview: Playing different on the road; how Philadelphia Union will lineup at SKC


The Union are looking to get their first points of the season, will playing differently on the road help the Union to secure their first points of the season at SKC?

Derrick Jones (right-center) goes in for a challenge the last time Philadelphia Union took on Sporting Kansas City. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Tactical flexibility:

Union sporting director, Enrst Tanner spoke on tactical flexibility a lot this offseason. We saw glimpses of that this past preseason, but it wasn’t until last week until when we saw the openness Union coach Jim Curtin would have. The Union rolled out an attack heavy lineup at home for their first match of 2019. changes were made throughout the game that were foreign before Tanner’s tenure.

Tanner and Curtin have spoken on how this year the Union will play differently in certain games; specifically, this team will look attack heavy at home, and defense heavy on the road. We saw what attack heavy means to Tanner and Curtin last week, now this week we’ll get to see what a defensive road Union team looks like in 2019.

Playing at home:

The Union have said they are going to “go for it” at home; this means one of those shuttlers will be either more attacking minded or asked to push higher up the pitch. As you can see, my prediction from last week was close to how the Union actually lined up.

The Union’s home lineup was full of attacking bite, but left much to be desired in terms of defending late runs through the middle of the field. Since there was little organization in the middle of the park defensively, and since the Union were chasing the game. They shifted to an even heavier attacking side.

They morphed into 3-5-2 formation taking Ray Gaddis and Ilsinho off for Sergio Santos and David Accam respectively. Jim Curtin has taken Ernst Tanner’s notes on flexibility and shown that at home, the Union cannot drop points like they’ve done over their previous nine years of existence. However, as the Union turn their sights to playing on the road, we will likely not see this type of aggressiveness.

Playing on the road:

The Union will likely try to help secure the middle of the field in front of their two center backs since that was problem area agaisnt Toronto. I see this as their defensive minded lineup comes into play.

Obviously, Blake stays in goal for the Union. The back line should also stay the same. While that means that Ray Gaddis will have to be called upon to push up the field, something he does not do well at all, Gaddis’ veteran presense will likely be called upon at Kansas City. Mbaizo is still untested, so I see him on the bench in this match, along with Mark McKenzie.

In the midfield, I see Curtin calling on Warren Creavalle to sit at the base of the diamond. He will be asked to sit back even in transition to help stifle SKC counter attacks. This will move Haris Medunjanin out to the left, which way the squad can still take advantage of his playmaking ability on the ball. Ot right will be Bedoya and at the 10 will be Fabián.

Up top, I see the Union going for players with pace to hit SKC on fast breaks. Sergio Santos and Fafa Picault up top will help the Union break fast and can stretch Kansas City’s back line to create open spaces.

In an ideal world Derrick Jones would get the start for Warren Creavalle, but it sounded like in Jim Curtin’s midweek press conference that Jones is not playing better than Creavalle in practice, and therefore he will be on the bench in this match. Derrick Jones will join Carlos Coronel, Mark McKenzie, Olivier Mbaizo, Ilsinho, David Accam and Cory Burke on the bench.

With the Union likely to play more defensively, how will that play out v.s. SKC.

What to expect at SKC?

As the Union look to get their first points of the 2019 season, so will Bethlehem Steel FC. With that comes the Union players that are included in the Steel FC roster. I see Steel FC keeping Freese, Fontana, Aaronson, Przybylko and Real for their first match of the season. This means, the Union will rely on mainly veteran players to get a result at SKC.

The Union will likely stay compact agaisnt the attacking quality of Sporting Kansas City. However, once they force turnovers, they’ll look to find Fabián or Medunjanin to advance the ball up the field. This will allow for Santos and Picault to use their speed to get separation from SKC’s back line, to try to create an attacking chance. Whether or not the team will play this way, or come away from SKC with points is yet to be seen.

Catch the game tomorrow afternoon at 3:00 p.m. on PHL17 or ESPN+!

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Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports