Dating back to June 26th, following an international break due to Gold Cup play, the Philadelphia Union have won just twice in seven games and lost three times – allowing four goals in each loss. Changes are needed, but will there be any roster rotation at DC United Sunday evening?
Before June 29th, when Jim Curtin first caught a glimpse of what oppositions slicing through his defense looked like at Yankee Stadium, Philadelphia had only lost by two or more goals just four times. That 4-2 loss in the Bronx was the first of three over the last four weeks. And most recently, the defensive breakdowns that are freshest in the minds of many have been telling enough to warrant changes along the backline.
First and perhaps the most likely switch that should be considered is giving right back Ray Gaddis a game off. Whether the reasoning is a much-needed break given the fact Gaddis has played all 24 matches so far this season, or due to some glaringly obvious defensive mistakes over the last month, Curtin may need to bench Gaddis for now.
And why not at this point? Prior to the injury to Jamiro Monteiro, Gaddis’ defensive lapses weren’t so apparent. He’s never been the cleanest of defenders but with Monteiro in the midfield with pace to cover ground, Gaddis was able to enjoy some help on the right flank. But without Monteiro, Gaddis’ weaknesses were exposed.
Twice in the last two weeks, opponents crushed Philadelphia and it was clear from their offensive strategies, that they intended to expose Philadelphia not only on the counter-attack but by attacking wide areas in transition.
Watching the tape from the Real Salt Lake loss and Saturday night’s 4-2 loss at Montreal – and the NYCFC loss as well – shows a true lack of defensive cohesion. It’s most obvious whenever Philadelphia fails to close down opponents in pockets of space near midfield. There are quick moments when Philadelphia’s forwards force play to one side or the other and then midfielders trap along the sideline. But when opponents are able to skip a ball out of the pressure and Union midfielders have to track back, that’s when the chaos begins.
Call it a lack of communication or perhaps a lack of soccer IQ at times, but when opponents have been steamrolling forward toward Philly’s backline recently, there seems to be a general sense of confusion at to who is supposed to be marking who. Some players are ball-watching (ie Gaddis and Auston Trusty). Some players are shouting and pointing while being beaten on the dribble (ie Haris Medunjanin). And others are a step too late while attempting to tackle the ball away (ie Jack Elliot).
There’s a lack of urgency lately on the defensive side of things and it’s becoming more and more obvious. One quick way to shirk that trend? Changes to the starting lineup.
Why not give Aurelien Collin a chance at 90 minutes in place of Trusty? If not Collin, why not Mark McKenzie? Both back-up center backs are in full health and have proven in the past to be more than capable when called upon.
Whether or not Curtin entertains the idea of rotating his backline or not remains up for discussion. At tomorrow’s weekly press conference, that question will most definitely be asked – and Curtin’s response will be telling. Time will tell.
With a Sunday trip to DC United looming, Philadelphia will need to tighten things up quickly.
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Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports