Union Spotlight: Midfield – the heartbeat of the team

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union

The Philadlephia Union has been one of the best teams in MLS for the past few seasons, and a huge reasons why that is is because of their midfield. When you watch Philly play you can see a clear style. They are going to press for 90 minutes and be tenacious to make you uncomfortable. The team’s drive comes from the power of the midfield.

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych

As the midfield goes, so too goes the Union

The midfield is the lifeblood of Philadelphia. They fly around the pitch looking to win the ball and bring it into the attack. Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya (or Jack McGlynn), and Daniel Gazdag start very narrow on the pitch, but have to cover sideline to sidline and box to box.

As they go, so too goes Philly. If they are on their game, and can dominate the opposition, then Philadlephia could be winning three, four, or five nothing. If they’re off and teams spread them out and beat the press, then you could see a blowout in the other direction.

Really, the midfielders are the lifeblood of the team, but it all comes down to how the can play against opponents in the system and formation that asks so much of their men in the middle.

Philly’s system asks a lot of its players in the middle

Philadelphia’s 4-4-2 diamond formation asks a lot of the four midfielders that make up the diamond. Jose Martinez is the single-pivot number six at the base of that diamond. He’s asked to man-mark the opponents top attacking midfielder, while also destroying attacks in front of the back four. He needs to fly around the pitch and give cover sideline to sideline and then look to pass worward when dispossesing the oppenent.

The two players that shuttle on the side of the diamond are Leon Flach on the left, and then either Alejandro Bedoya or Jack McGlyn. Flach is vital to the Union’s success he is more defensive minded and can cover for the best attacking left back in MLS, Kai Wagner, when he bombs forward. Flach’s smarts at distrupting play and finding a path forward makes him very important.

Bedoya is the captain, and is used at times as a pressing winger for Philly, especially further up the pitch. He can break plays up, link up the attack, and finds good spots for late runs into the box to get goals. McGlynn is a different story he can fit the bill defensivly, but his skillset is more about holding the ball and finding the killer pass to get the attack going. The differences in the shuttlers makes for different skill sets on display.

The tip of the diamond is run by Daniel Gazdag. He is the key to the Union’s midfield press. When he moves the left or right or moves up with strikers the rest of the midfield diamond has to shift and move with him. His ability to do this gave him the ability to find his way into the attack as often as he did to score 22 goals this season.

The mdifield is truely the most important part of the Union’s system, and they wouldn’t be so successful without some key attributes.

Tenacity, grit, and no quit

The Union’s midfield is tenacious. They hold firm when the team needs them to be defensive minded, they persist when the team is pressing the opposition into mistkaes. Philly’s midfield is determined to move the ball forward and help overload in the attack to help find a goal.

The grit of Philly’s midfield is not to be underestimated. They’re courageous when they fly around the pitch, and look to move the ball from defense to attack. Their stretgh of character is not often matched; when Philadelphia’s midfield put their mind and effort toward a gameplan they execute it.

The Union’s midfield never says die. They rarely give up on plays, and run themselves into the gorund every minute of every game. There is no quit in this midifield and it carries over over to the rest of the team. Philadelphia goes only as far as their midfield carries them on the pitch.

In 2022, they’ve carried Philly to MLS Cup. Can Philly’s midfield carry them in the final and help them hoist MLS Cup?

Be sure to return to Philly Sports Network for more Philadelphia Union and other soccer content!

Follow our Union team on Twitter:

Tim Lovenguth | Justin Friedberg | El Parcero Philly
Zach LoBasso | Steve Beavon | Liam Jenkins

Doop on Union fans!

Mandatory Credit: Philadelphia Union, Andrew Zwarych