Union II Lost Their First Match of 2022; Are Lineup Choices Helping or Hurting?

Union II

Philadelphia Union II lost their first-ever MLS Next Pro match this past weekend falling to Crew 2. The match featured nine Union first-team players, some of which played the day before. The game was a chippy one, that Union II was unlucky to lose. However, this match raises a question about the lineup choices that Tanner, Curtin, and LeBlanc decide for this strong second team.

Union II lost
Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych

Union II lost 1-0 to Crew 2

This game was a rough one, both teams wanted it to be a physical contest. Union II and Crew 2 both had a yellow card at the 20-minute mark. In this match, there were 20 fouls, 14 going to the Union II, and six to Crew 2. The possession was close to even; Union II had 43.4% of possession which is odd for a Union team to have anywhere near 50% of the ball in a match. The lone goal came early in the second half for Crew 2, and it was a nicely taken goal, but one Philly should have dealt better with.

The game’s only goal came from Columbus Crew 2 on a nice move from Matan to find Russel-Rowe. You can see it in the video above; you can also see some poor defending which is why Union II lost. Brandan Craig and Stuart Findlay were in no man’s land ball watching, leaving outside back Matt Real to come in and try to track the late run from Russel-Rowe. He couldn’t, and Crew 2 scored. Add to this a Union II side that struggled to convert their chances.

This Union II lost but had an attack that featured players like Quinn Sullivan, and Paxten Aaronson as the main creators, but neither could score. Philly had seven shots, four of which were on target. The chances were there for the taking but no one was able to do so. This could have come down to the main question that should be asked now.

Are Philly’s lineup choices helping or hurting?

This past Union II starting XI featured nine first-team players. Only right back Jackson Gilman and striker Stefan Stojanovic were true Union II players to start the game. Is the Union II a true team that wants to compete in MLS Next Pro, or are they a team that is only meant to get first-team bench players’ minutes? There’s a way for both of these questions to be answered, but a balance is likely needed to find that balance.

If Tanner, Curtin, and LeBlanc continue to role out a Union II starting XI with mainly first team players, it might prove to be too much for those players, and not enough for the actual Union II players. In this past game, the majority of the “star” Union II players did come into the match later on; players like Chris Donovan, Carlos Paternina, and Boubacar Diallo. However, the match was tougher for these players as Union II had to be on the ball and push for an equalizer rather than press and counter Crew 2.

Could it be that Union II lost their first match because they didn’t balance their first-team and second-team players? Could this just be a game in which they got taken out of their comfort zone, and the players didn’t matter? Is it a little bit of both? We’ll have to wait and see how this Union II team bounces back, and they’ll have an extra week to prepare to do so. Union II is off this week; their next match isn’t until April 24th when they’ll travel to take on Chicago Fire II.

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Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych

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