Reflecting on the Union’s historic yet empty 2022

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The Philadelphia Union had a very memorable year. They broke record after record solidifying themselves as one of the best teams in MLS. Unfortunately, the season ended with no trophy to show the great success the team had. However, the progression to this place of record-breaking success for Philly is six years in the making and was a joy to witness in 2022.

CHESTER, PA – JULY 16: Philadelphia Union Midfielder Daniel Gazdag (6) is congratulated by teammates for scoring on a penalty kick during the second half of the Major League Soccer Match between the New England Revolution and Philadelphia Union on July 16, 2022, at Subaru Park in Chester, PA. (Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

A record-breaking year; no trophies to show for it

The Union broke 25 team records, and 15 MLS records in the 2022 season. The feat is one that brought season accolades for the players, coaches, executives, technical staff, and even the social media team. 2022 was a year of firsts, and season successes, but the lack of silverware will mar this team.

Philly was in contention for both the Supporters Shield and MLS Cup in 2022. They fell just short of winning both, losing to LAFC both times. In the Shield race, Philly had the same number of points as LA but lost the wins tiebreaker. In MLS Cup Philly scored with just five added minutes remaining in extra time but couldn’t hold the lead, and lost in penalties.

While the lack of a trophy makes this year feel lesser, Philadelphia still had one of the best team performances of any team in MLS history. Let’s look back at what made them so great in 2022.

Dominance in defense

Philly’s defense was dominant in 2022. The stat that will stand out is the goals conceded per game average of 0.76, which is the second best record in MLS ever. It’s the best in a 34-game season, but RSL holds the record in a 30 game season. This coupled with the goalkeeping being at an elite level, as Andre Blake recorded 15 clean sheets leading the league in that regard.

Andre Blake won goalkeeper of the year, and Jakob Glesnes beat out fellow teammate Kai Wagner for defender of the year. The team was stacked on the back line; left back Kai Wagner broke the record for assists by a defender notching 15 assists on the season. The team was the only one in MLS to go undefeated at home allowing the fewest goals at home with just nine goals.

The team’s foundation is their defense. They have players who are the best at their position, and others who can rotate in and out and keep the high level of quality at the back. The defense made this team a good one, but their midfield and attack helped them to become great.

The midfield heart

Philly midfield is the heart of the team. They are vital to the success that the Union had in 2022. three midfielders are asked to stay in a compact diamond, defend their asses off and then spring counter attacks to help create the goals. This was what Jose Martinez, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya, and Jack McGlynn were able to do. Ocupying the D-mid and shuttler positions in a 4-4-2 diamond askes a lot and these players were up to the challenge.

Jose Martinez was considered the best defensive midfielder in MLS, and even got some nodds in the MVP race. Leon Flach was relentless in midfield as a defensive minded shuttler he ran around the pitch looking to disposes the opposition and move it down the left flank. When young Jack McGlynn was called upon he came in and offered a more tame ball progresses role showing his quality on the ball. Of course the cream of the midfield crop is captain Alejandro bedoya who was able to run all over the pitch and be a real goal dangerous player scoring six goals and notching six assists!

This midfield was what made the team tick, and while the defense and offense was setting records, they were ther to aid both in a statistically brilliant 2022 season! As the team moves forward, the midfield will have to function just as positively to bring trophies.

An awakening attack

For years the main problem surrounding the Union was their attack, and lack of hungry goalscorers. This all changed in 2022. Mikael Uhre (13 goals, 6 assists), Julian Carranza (14 goals, 9 assists), and Daniel Gazdag (22 goals, 10 assists) accounted for 74 goal contributions in the regular season and the playoffs for Philly. This obviously led to some record breaking statlines for Philly’s front three.

Julain Carranza and Daniel Gazdag both recorded two hat tricks in 2022. All three of Philly’s attackers led the league in goal contributions this past season. Daniel Gazdag broke the Union’s single season goal tally with 22. To go along with the teams league leading defensive record at home, they also scored the most goals of any team in MLS at home notching 49 goals. This team’s attack is stacked, and none were considered in the MLS MVP voting, even Daniel Gazdag who had the second best attacking statline in all of MLS in 2022.

This group of attackers all had huge seasons in 2022, and will be the starting three next season as well. Their chemistry makes them the scariest attack in the league. If Philly want to go far in all four competitions they’re involved in in 2023, they’ll need this attack to be just as productive as they were in 2022. Can they do this and bring a trophy to Philly?

2023 is the win-now year for Union

As the calendar turns to 2023, the Union is preparing to play 50+ games across four different competitions. The team has a core of players that are sticking together and all want to win a trophy in the coming year after falling agonizingly short.

This is truly the win now time for Philadelphia. If they can take the momentum they’ve started in 2022, get over the hump and win a trophy or multiple trophies in 2023, then this will be yet another uptick in the progression of this team.

Only time will tell if Philly will be able to do this, but being on an upward trajectory since 2017 would make one think that the only thing left to do would be for the Union to win one or more trophies in 2023. That’s the only thing left for this team to do, 2023 is the year to do it in!

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Mandatory Credit: Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire