The Union is 17 days away from their first regular-season match of 2022! Preseason preparation has taken the team to Florida where Philly has already played two of their three preseason games. With just one-and-a-half weeks ahead of the season, how has the Union looked on the pitch?
Takeaways from Philly’s two preseason matches
The Union played FC Cincinnati to a 1-1 draw in a 90-minute match to open the preseason. One of the Union’s new DP strikers, Julian Carranza scored in the second minute of that match. They followed that result with a 2-1 win over CF Montreal in a match that went 120 minutes. Cory Burke scored the lone goal inside of 90 minutes. After both teams agreed to play an extra 30 minutes, Montreal equalized, and Union homegrown Paxten Aaronson scored a long-range effort to give the Union the win!
Here are five takeaways from the Union’s two preseason matches played.
1. Creative play from the front three
In both preseason matches, the Union rolled out a front three of Sergio Santos, Julian Carranza, and Daniel Gazdag. In the first match, the three wasted no time to show what they could do. Both strikers were noticeably closer to Gazdag in that first match. The interchange between Gazdag and Carranza really stood out. Based on descriptions of the play in the second match (there was no stream, so the club’s blog of the play had to do) this connection grew.
I’d expect to see even more interchanging play and creativeness between the two strikers and Gazdag in the 2022 season. This was something that was lackluster in 2021 and could unlock the Union’s attack this season.
2. This team can pounce in transition
Something that was really prevalent early on in the first preseason match, was the fact that this Union team want to be fast and devastating in transition. In the 2nd minute against FC Cincinnati. The Union connected two passes that went the length of the field and ended up with a good transition goal. Kai Wagner played Sergio Santos in behind the defense on the left-wing. Santos square the ball across the six-yard box to find the streaking run of Julian Carranza who smashed the ball into the net.
It was a bang-bang transition play that can be the Union’s bread and butter in 2022. It’s clear that Philly wants to be a defense-first team that picks their moments to attack to overwhelm the opponent. This formula works especially with attackers that can prove to be devastating by putting the ball in the net at a high rate.
3. Solid as ever defensivly
Speaking of defense, the Union is solid as ever. Andre Blake should be motivated to have yet another goalkeeper of the year type season in MLS. His backline ahead of him will be just fine, no matter who is in the back four. Through two preseason games, the Union has played a back four of Kai Wagner, Stuart Findlay, Jakob Glesnes, and Nathan Harriel. While this is a group missing two starters from last season, it was still staunch in keeping the opponent’s attempts low.
Add in Jack Elliot and Oliver Mbaizo, while also adding in more Union homegrowns for spot starts or off the bench, shows that this Union team will be hard to break down once again in 2022. Only allowing two goals in 210 minutes over two preseason games bodes well for this team’s prep for the regular season!
4. Homegrowns can provide quality depth
It wouldn’t be an article about Union takeaways without mentioning their homegrowns. The Union’s current crop of homegrown talent looks poised to play a vital role, but it doesn’t look like that will be in the starting XI just yet. Nathan Harriel has been the only homegrown to start both preseason games, but it is likely he’ll lose that starting spot to Mbaizo when he rejoins the team after playing at AFCON with Cameroon. Homegrowns coming off the bench to be game-winners or game-closers looks to be the move.
Paxten Aaronson came on and scored the winning goal against CF Montreal in the preseason. Quinn Sullivan, Jack McGlynn, Matt Real, Brandan Craig, and Anton Sorenson have all looked more than comfortable in their preseason minutes as well. These seven players on the Union’s roster will have a part to play in the 2022 season as quality depth to this championship contender.
5. Everything is still a work in progress
The Union may have played two of their three preseason games, and only have 17 days until their season starts, but that doesn’t mean this team is anywhere near being a final product. Philly’s record-breaking DP signing, Mikael Uhre has yet to join the team. The same is true of talented midfielder, Jamiro Monterio, and starting right back Oliver Mbaizo. Add in the fact that Jack Elliot has not played in the preseason and that’s four starters that have yet to show what they can do with this team.
This team is still a work in progress. It seems like it will be fully assembled by the start of the 2022 season, but things outside of soccer are still preventing the best XI from training together right now. Hopefully, that changes in the coming days so this team can prepare for their goal of competing for and winning MLS Cup in 2022.
Be sure to come back to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union and other soccer content!
Follow our Union team on Twitter:
Doop on Union fans!
Mandatory Credit: PHILADELPHIA UNION, ANDREW ZWARYCH