Philadelphia Union

Union squad rotation and formation change will pay dividends in 2nd half of season

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The Union went up to the supporters shield leading New England Revolution and almost pulled off a great feat. The Union came out in a 3-4-2-1 formation, rotated in four players for their normal starters, and almost snuck out of Foxboro with points. While this was a loss, the effort far outweighs the result as Philly gets ready for their biggest match in club history in the CCL semifinals.

Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH

Union rotate squad

The story of the match for Philly was that they were going to play differently than they had all season to preserve their starters for the upcoming CCL Semifinals first leg in Mexico against Club America. Normally this bout between the first and third-place team in the east would showcase the team’s best available XI’s going head to head. The Union rotated out four normal starters and played a different formation than we were used to seeing.

Stuart Findlay, Jack McGlynn, Quinn Sullivan, and Paxten Aaronson were the four changes the Union made to their starting XI for this match. It was a huge opportunity for these players who have not seen the field in a starting role. on top of that, they came in and played a formation that featured three centerbacks two central midfielders, two wing-backs, two attacking midfielders, and a lone striker.

Yes, the Union went away from their 4-4-2 diamond formation to play a 3-4-2-1. Jim Curtin said post-game that the team had been training in that formation this week and that they responded well to it enough to roll it out against the supporters’ shield favorites. The result might not have gone the Union’s way, but the play from this formation and squad made New England uncomfortable all match.

Could we see more of this in the future?

This formation change and rotation from the Union was very refreshing. While it was sort of forced, due to the circumstances of CCL Semifinals, this now shows Curtin and the Union that they can rotate their starters in certain games and still be competitive.

The bench players are proving that they are just as hungry as the normal starters now. This includes the younger homegrown players. At the beginning of the 2021 season, Jim Curtin said he wasn’t able to trust those teenagers to come in and get the job done. We’re seeing now that they can produce and play up to the quality that this Union team wants. They did so well, that they almost shithoused their way to a draw against the supporters’ shield leaders.

Philly almost get points from the supporters shield front runners

The Union looked very good against what was a New England side that was almost at full strength. New England was missing their star creator Carles Gil, but that was the only omission from this high-flying side. The Union and Revolution squared off at full strength earlier in 2021, and that resulted in a 1-1 draw. This one was different as the Union came out with a rotated squad and in a new formation.

These changes the Union rolled out made New England uncomfortable for long stretches of the match. If it wasn’t for another defensive lapse from Mbaizo who fell asleep and missed his mark on the opening goal, and Flach clipping Buchanan in the box, then the Revs would have been shut out. On top of that, the Union was able to dominate the midfield in different ways with more advanced players.

Aaronson and Sullivan working as number 10’s, dropping deep to get the ball and create created an attacking triangle with those two homegrowns and Santos up top. It was refreshing to see the Union attack be so direct and combine in the middle of the park while in the final third. In weeks past, the Union has worked the ball wide to create attacks and there was little actual combination in the middle of the field.

Of course, Paxten Aaronson stole the show with a hell of a finish for his first MLS goal. He scored on his first MLS start just as his brother did a few seasons ago. Could this be the beginning of a great Union career that leads to another multi-million dollar transfer? Hopefully so.

The result of this match does not matter

I know, I know. The Union lost to the first-place team in the conference, when they could have pulled out some points. It sucks that this side wasn’t able to grind out a point when the game was there for them. However, that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

The thing this side had to do was rotate their squad, stay competitive when they do that, and come out of the match with no injuries. They checked off all three of those boxes while also changing the formation. Players on this team needed a rest, and they got one. It also saves legs for the BIGGEST MATCH IN CLUB HISTORY!

On to leg one of the CCL semifinals vs Club America

The Union goes down to one of the world’s most famous stadiums, Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Mexico. Philly takes on Liga MX giants Club Ameria in the first leg of the Concacaf Champions League (CCL) semifinals. The Union squad will have some players with more rested legs and very few injuries.

Only Cory Burke and Matt Real were reported to have knocks last weekend, if those players made the trip and could round out the team, then Philly will be at full strength for their biggest match in club history. Can Philly continue the magical run they’ve had in CCL this season? We’ll have a full preview of this historic match tomorrow, as well as a big preview on the Doop by the River podcast, and a possible live stream during the game itself! Get Hype Union fans, it’s CCL week!

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Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH

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Philadelphia Union Editor of Soccer Content

A passion for the beautiful game drives me.

Twitter: @Tim_Lovenguth

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