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.
In my latest Three Takeaways, I’ll take a deeper look at the Philadelphia Union’s second game of the season against Columbus Crew SC at Talen Energy Stadium, which ended in a stalemate, a 0-0 draw.
Overall, the Union played well against arguably one of the best club’s in the Eastern Conference this season. However, there were some noticeable things that could be fixed before the Union’s next game against Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
Using the Middle
Throughout the game, the Union chose to focus their attention towards the sides of the pitch. While it is normal for the Union to set up shots from the outside, against the Crew, Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin, and Borek Dockal didn’t get enough touches.
In my opinion, the best scoring chances for the Union often come from the middle of the park, where shots and passes can be sprayed from anywhere, making it hard for even the staunchest of defenses to predict where the ball will be pinged to next.
However, it has become obvious to me that the Union prefer to attack from the right side, work towards the corner, and then try and put the ball into the center, often with a very low success rate.
If the Union want to generate better scoring chances, they should utilize their new No. 10 more, making runs for Dockal to pick out.
Personally, I would’ve liked to see more from Dockal, who started ahead of Homegrown Anthony Fontana at that No. 10 position, a start which head coach Jim Curtin said was a “tough decision.”
Sure, this is only the Czech’s first game and only his third week with the club, but Dockal has a high soccer I.Q., and the Czech knows how to dictate and play in a high-tempo offense.
While I would like to see all the central midfielders get more touches, Dockal is one player, in particular, who I especially want to see more of on the ball for the Union.
This is something that shouldn’t need to be addressed to professional soccer players, but here I am.
Throughout the match, many Union chances strayed far off target, some firing well into the stands. Now this happened to the Crew, too, but the few Union shots last Saturday were erratic and all over the place. Even their free kicks were far off the mark.
I am certain Curtin has already addressed this in practice, or at least I would hope he would. Nevertheless, when there’s a mere 15 chances to score in a game, each shot counts.
In my opinion, in order for the Union to have a successful season, the 11 men on the field, at any given time, must be the 11 who make the most of their scoring chances, and not the team that settles for a point because they clearly skipped out on shooting drills in training.
After an extra week of training, having played just one league game, the Union returned to Talen Energy Stadium to face an in-form Crew side who won their first two MLS matches.
Before the Union play their next opponent, Colorado Rapids, they will have another week off. While the Rapids aren’t exactly a formidable team, they will have played one more game when the Union come to town.
Last week, without a regular season game to play, Curtin’s team played friendlies against Bethlehem Steel FC and the New York Red Bulls’ reserves. While these types of games definitely help, the Union will likely suffer because of the time spent off, away from playing MLS opposition.
Curtin and the rest of his coaching staff will have to find a way to keep his players focused and match-ready between games, and keep it that way for the rest of the year as the Union go for a large chunk of the season without any more time off.
Make sure to check back in two weeks, when I analyze the Union’s play in Colorado against former goalkeeper Zac MacMath, whose image on Google is ironically still him in a Union kit. Cheers.