For the third week in a row, the prevailing response to the Philadelphia Union game has been, “the less said about that game the better, on to the next one.” Despite the much-discussed absences for both teams, it was the Union’s regular starting defense that let the team down, following up last week’s late capitulation in Montreal with an early one at home against Orlando City SC.
Orlando Come Out Firing
Orlando made a flying start to the match, with Martin Ojeda scoring less than two minutes into the game to shock the home crowd, then adding a second goal through Iván Angulo in the ninth minute to really stun them. Both goals came from play the likes of which is more typically seen late in a game when one team is pushing for an equalizer and the other counters (a situation that occurred several times later in the second half; the Union was lucky Orlando didn’t score three or four).
The Union team, meanwhile, appeared to be floundering, with several typically rock-solid players making uncharacteristic errors (an unfortunately common occurrence to start this season). Credit has to go to Orlando for taking full advantage of the all-too-predictable slow start for the Union; to this point in the season, every opposing team has taken the upper hand against them at the start of the game, with varying degrees of success in capitalizing on the advantage.
Andrés Perea Shines Again
If there has been one bright spot amidst the recent doom and gloom surrounding the Union, it’s the play of the depth players brought to the team in the offseason. With his seventeenth-minute goal against Orlando to get the Union off the mark, Andrés Perea continued that trend. He has impressed in what was, up until this game, limited minutes, with most of his game time coming in the CONCACAF Champions League (where he scored a brace in the second leg against Alianza). He showed great awareness to follow up his initial header and put himself in a position to volley home the rebound.
The volley itself demonstrated his technical ability; it’s not easy to drive the ball into the back of the net from that angle and at that height. With the team’s struggles, and Leon Flach’s lack of offensive production (which simply isn’t one of Flach’s strengths; he brings a lot defensively) for a team in dire need of some help in that area, Perea is making a great case for more minutes.
The Union Need Better Striker Depth
Despite knocking on the door throughout the second half and generating a truckload of chances, the Union was unable to steer enough of them on target or hammer home an equalizer.
The start of the season has shown just how big losing Corey Burke was. Without him, the Union lacks a striking option who can come off the bench and change a game, or, as this game demonstrated, start a game when needed without draining the team of a significant amount of offensive quality. Chris Donovan may yet have an excellent future in this league and for this team, but the Union need a striker who can contribute now. It’s the only way forward if they hope to compete in every competition this year.
Donovan pressed well, but as a striker, only having 1 of your team’s total 26 shots isn’t good enough, particularly when you play the full 90 minutes. When a team is getting that many shots, a striker has to be able to get in the right positions to take and bury a few of them.
Mikael Uhre’s Gutsy Performance
This has nothing to do with play on the field, but more mentality off it. It says a lot about Mikael Uhre’s character that he was able to pull off 72 minutes while fighting a stomach bug. Yes, the concerns about his fitness levels remain as he still has yet to play a complete 90 minutes, but I would argue that playing 72 minutes (more than he has often managed in the past) with a stomach bug might be a sign of improvement, as odd as that sounds. Philly loves players who will leave it all out there for their teams, and Uhre giving it a go when the team needed him is exactly the mentality we need.
Andre Blake is the MVP
If the past two games have shown anything, it’s the value Andre Blake brings to the team. We all know how good he is as a shot-stopper, but the defensive fragility without him also highlights his ability to organize the backline, and the confidence boost it provides the defense to have someone like him between the sticks behind them. Those aspects of his game have become conspicuous by their absences.
Two Streaks Killed With One Loss
The Union fell a game short of tying San Jose’s record of twelve consecutive home wins. They’ve also missed out on the record of home games without a loss. It’s a sign of the progress this team has made over the past few years that those records felt so achievable and this feels like a missed opportunity. This was the Union’s first home loss in the league since September 2021, the first time they’ve even allowed multiple goals at home in 35 games. Fans had forgotten what losing at home feels like. They’ll be eager to go another long while before experiencing it again.
Onwards and (Hopefully) Upwards
The Union will look to stop this slide and start a new home winning streak when they welcome a Sporting Kansas City side to Subaru Park who are struggling even more than the Union. It’s a golden opportunity for a statement win, one which proves just how well the team can turn being “pissed,” as coach Jim Curtin said in his post-game press conference, into a complete, full-game performance the likes of which we have yet to see this season. Given their track record, it’s hard to bet against the Union turning things around.
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