Welcome back to another edition of Three Takeaways, a segment in which I dive in after each Philadelphia Union match, revisit and take a closer look at what went well and what ultimately did not.
I want to set the record straight: I think it’s great the Philadelphia Union opened their new season by beating the New England Revolution 2-0, and I hope that the club continues its winning ways.
However, their record stands at 1-0-0, which is also important to note. It’s one game, the first game of the season; there are many, many more left to play.
Acknowledging that, I recognize some of my Takeaways might sound too harsh or maybe even too hopeful. I am merely looking to provide a solid analysis on what the Union did well, and what they did not do as well.
More importantly, I am hoping to note how the team might look to improve, moving forward into the future.
But enough talk, here are my Three Takeaways from Saturday’s home opener. Let’s get right to it.
Mistakes Up Front
David Accam and CJ Sapong both had fairly good games, in my opinion. However, good was not what was expected of them. What was expected was a standout performance from a proven MLS goalscorer and recent United States international.
Sapong was involved in both goals, scoring once against the Revolution in the 69th minute. But the Union’s frontman had far too many chances to end with just one goal.
Sapong missed three sitters, from what I counted, which, on a better day, he really should have tucked away. Sure, Sapong’s misses didn’t cost the team any points this time, but No. 17 has to be more clinical when presented opportunities like these in the future.
Much has been said about David Accam and what one of the Union’s biggest offseason acquisitions would bring to the pitch. Jim Curtin has said that Accam would be the difference maker for the Union.
Accam certainly showed off his blazing speed on Saturday, but he wasn’t able to capitalize on it and on multiple occasions, too. I recognize it was his first game, with his new club, but the Ghanaian needs to make something out of his countless runs at opposing defenders.
Whether its delivering the final ball into the box quicker, or getting off a shot on target, at the very least, the Union need similar production that Accam gave to Chicago over the last three seasons, especially if the club is to challenge a strong Eastern Conference.
I think the partnership of Sapong and Accam will grow and flourish in the future. In the meantime, both players need to work together to develop a better understanding of each other on the pitch.
New Kids on the Block
Both Anthony Fontana and Corey Burke came to play in their MLS debuts on Saturday.
Fontana, a Homegrown player from Newark, Delaware, scored his first professional goal on his Union and MLS debut. The 18-year-old slotted home a rebound off a missed shot from Sapong.
Admittedly, I didn’t see too much of Burke, but I did admire his speed and determination, which he showed immediately after coming on for Fabian Herbers in the 66th minute. The Jamaican international made a storming run with the ball in the attacking corner, which was finished off with a sweet turn of New England defender Gabriel Somi and assist to Sapong that put the icing on the cake. Burke also showed off his size, playing on the opposite end of the ball when called upon.
Even when it became obvious the Union would collect all three points, Burke still gave 100%, making it an overall solid debut performance from the former Bethlehem Steel club-leading scorer.
Given the recent signing of Borek Dockal, it is safe to assume Fontana won’t see as much playing time in the future, or at least not as many minutes as he logged (66) on Saturday. Fontana did make a solid case for more minutes, however.
His goal showed an awareness and understanding of his positioning. Fontana was at the right place, at the right time, and didn’t hesitate to bury the rebound in what would be, for many young players, a frantic moment.
Fontana also didn’t make any costly mistakes either, which is also common among young players. The 18-year-old found many good spaces on the field and showed his comfortability on the ball, passing and keeping possession.
Both rookies, in my opinion, deserve more playing time in the future. However, they must continue to earn it.
Still Early Days
At home, on Opening Day, the Union collected a shutout and most importantly three points. But they certainly had some help from New England. By the 24th minute, the Union were playing up a man, and they would finish the match up two after the Revs’ captain Claude Dielna was sent off in the 85th minute.
Andre Blake and the rest of the backline were hardly tested, facing just eight shots on the night, which many fans have argued is too much given they were playing up a man for the majority of the match.
In my opinion, there wasn’t anything too remarkable about how the Union played, either.
Curtin’s men were comfortable in possession, finishing the match with 68 percent of it. They also looked fairly cohesive as a unit, despite having young players like Fontana and Auston Trusty making their debuts. But I really didn’t see anything from them, especially in the first twenty minutes of the match, that convinced me this year will be something special.
Nevertheless, it’s still early days.
At the beginning of each season, the main objective of every club and dream of every player is to hoist the coveted MLS Cup in December. If the Union are to mount any sort of a dream campaign, they are going to need to continue to string results like this together, home and away, and especially when they are playing full 11v11.
I’ll have more to say in my next Three Takeaways, after the Union host the Columbus Crew at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday, March 17th. Until then, cheers.