Union fall flat against FC Dallas; start Season with a 2-0 Loss

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The 2020 MLS season kicked off for the Philadelphia Union in Dallas. While both teams showed early-season struggles, the Union conceded two second-half goals and dropped points in their first match of the season.

Philadelphia Union Lineup:

On a mild night in Dallas, where the temperatures were in the 70’s, the Union was also mild in their first match of the 2020 season. Philly rolled out this lineup to face FC Dallas:

There were a few surprises to the lineup, with Jakob Glesnes starting over Jack Elliot, and Warren Creavalle starting at the six position (shoutout to Matt McClain for predicting that) instead of new players Jose Martinez or Matej Oravec. The rest of the starting XI was as to be expected. FC Dallas showed a strong lineup as well.

FC Dallas Lineup:

FC Dallas set a lineup with plenty of speed on the wings with ex-Union player Fafa Picault and Michael Barrios; they also have a true number-nine Zdeněk Ondrášek and young Colombian-American Jesus Ferreira as their number 10. They also have a sound back four of Ryan Hollingshead, Reto Ziegler, Matt Hedges, and Reggie Cannon. FC Dallas was set up well for their first match of 2020:

The first half showed us that both teams were raring to go, but were missing a crispness to their game.

1st half:

In the first half, we saw a very open match. Both teams looked sound in their build-up play. The Union were able to build from Bedoya, Monteiro or Aaronson being on the ball and looking to feed the ball to Santos or Pryzblko behind the Dallas defense; Dallas looked to use Picault and Barrios to attack the Union’s outside backs and draw the centerbacks wide as well to give Ondrášek space to get in behind. Both teams were able to build well, but when it came to getting quality chances, both seemed rusty.

Dallas had most of the possession, as the Union was looking to press and counter to catch Dallas out. Dallas’ number 10 Ferreira was looking to create dangerous attacks. A few got through the Union’s defense and Andre Blake was called to make some big saves, which he made.

Warren Creavalle seemed to be up to the task of snuffing out key passes and looked to start the counter. The Union’s best player in transition was Brenden Aaronson. He looked good on the ball; however, he still seems to be missing that killer instinct to find the final pass or take a shot when he’s in a good spot.

After 45 minutes of play, the match was tied at zero, but the momentum seemed to favor Dallas, as their speed and creativity were hounding the Union.

2nd half:

As the second half opened, it was clear Dallas was going to batter the Union, and really test their press and counter tactic. Philly was able to thwart attacks but really looked poor moving forward. Stringing passes together and being in the right spots seemed challenging.

In the 60th minute, the Union’s high press nearly sprung a great counter-attack, as Brenden Aaronson was in a position to intercept a pass and start an attack. The ball slipped under his cleat and it allowed Cannon to move forward down the wing, he fed the ball to Barrios who found Ferreira. He played a slow-moving pass to Ondrášek. From 25 yards out, the striker was able to turn and fire a rocket of a shot; it flew past Blake into the bottom left corner of the net and Dallas was up 1-0. The Union’s center backs failed to step up and stop the chance, which will no doubt eat at Union coach Jim Curtin.

The Union tried a quick response when Warren Creavalle was able to move into the attacking third by Dallas, he played a through ball toward Pryzblyko that put him in on goal. A slight touch from Hedges took the ball just out of Kacper’s foot and Dallas keeper Jesse Gonzalez was able to clear the danger. Dallas kept pushing the attack, and eventually put the last nail in the coffin.

US International, Paxton Pomykal came on late in the match. The young attacking midfielder was returning from injury and was looking to make his mark. In the 90th minute, Philadelphia made a change to three at the back to push for a tying goal. shortly after the change occurred the Union’s wingbacks were caught upfield, and Pomykal went to work. He carried the ball down the pitch, and played a quick give and go to give him space in the Union’s box. A cutting run was too much for Glesness or Gaddis to deal with and Pomykal picked his spot well and made it 2-0.

The match ended, and the Union suffered their first loss of the 2020 season.

Post-match commentary:

Jim Curtin was able to speak after the match about how this game turned on two instances where the team didn’t react quickly enough. Both goals happened when defenders didn’t step up fast enough or midfielders couldn’t recover from being in advanced positions. Here’s a bit of his thought’s on the match:

Shout out to Matt Ralph of Brotherly Game and Peter Andrews of Philly Soccer Page for being at the match and getting great commentary

Curtin noted that Jack Elliot did not start the match due to his long absence from the team to get his Green Card settled, while also saying Creavalle had the start at the six because Martinez was not yet ready for a start; subsequently Oravec also was not a part of the 18 since he is still acclimating to the club.

You can see that Curtin is not pleased with the result, he felt like the Union was in it enough to get at least a point, but the little mistakes killed the team in the main moments. His focus now turns to the LAFC match next week.

Match Highlights:

Main takeaways

While it sucks to lose the first match of the season, after all the hype that surrounded the team in the offseason, there are still some takeaways from this match:

  • The midfield three of Aaronson, Monteiro, and Bedoya will be able to create chances this season once they get back in the swing of regular season play

These three played a good game, they just need to sharpen up a little bit more to get things in order.

  • Santos and Pryzblko will need to be involved in the build-up to be involved more.

Both strikers were not utilized as much as they need to be, to be effective. Kacper needs to be involved in more of the build-up to get some touches on the ball, playing him good balls into good spaces will help with that. Santos’ speed needs to be utilized more, early passes in behind to places where he can run into space will show his lethal quality.

  • A ball-winning six is a must

Creavalle showed well, but whoever plays in the six spot this season will need to be the one to disrupt the opponent’s attacks, and be able to find a quick pass to start a break. We’ll see if Martines or Oravec can do this as the season progresses.

  • The backline looks sturdy but stepping up to stop shots or runs is a must.

The outside backs did well to stop Dallas’s speed, and the centerbacks were strong in the air and in one on one duels. However, they all need to be right up on the backs of attackers in dangerous spots. Both goals were allowed by not stepping up and putting immediate pressure on attacks. This is a must moving forward.

No need to panic, yet!

The Union came away with nothing from their first match in 2020, but there shouldn’t be too much cause for concern. They started last year with two losses and a draw in their first three matches and then made a great run, this year could be just the same, as it looks like the Union may have some early season growing pains.

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Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

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