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.
This week head coach Jim Curtin took his team to Denver, Colorado, where the Philadelphia Union fell 3-0 to the previously winless Colorado Rapids. The Union failed in many ways during this match, and especially during the second half.
But, without further ado, let’s get right to it.
Finishing (Inside the Box)
Arguably, the demise of the Union in Denver was brought upon by their inability to finish on the night, often from inside the box and directly in front of the goal.
In the 9th minute of play, David Accam made a move inside the penalty area to get the ball to C.J. Sapong, standing a few feet away. Sapong sent the ball back to Fabian Herbers, who had a clear lane toward to goal. Instead, Herbers took a step and shot the ball well-over the net.
The Union must do better by the chances they’re presented and recognize the alternative options around them.
Again, in the 11th minute, the Union failed to take advantage of a golden opportunity off a cross from Keegan Rosenberry that missed both Sapong and Accam, who both had space in front of them. While Rosenberry certainly could’ve placed the ball a little better, it really came down to Accam and Sapong to finish and put the ball past Tim Howard.
Overall, if the Union had been able to finish during the first half, the rest of the game could have easily tilted in their favor.
Controlling the Pace of Play
For most of the first half, the Union controlled the tempo of the game, playing at their preferred pace. For the first 30 minutes, they seemed to be controlling the game, slowly working toward putting a goal in the back of the net.
However, toward the end of the first half, Colorado started to gain control of the game, and kept the Union from generating any solid chances. While the back line held their own throughout the majority of the game, they were forced to do too much work, and, eventually, three goals slipped through.
While a team does not have control the ball for the whole game to win, it certainly helps, and should be something the Union work on for Saturday’s game in Chester.
Avoid Getting the Slip
On each of the Rapids’ three goals, Union defenders gave up their coverage of Dominique Badji, creating situations that Andre Blake simply couldn’t handle.
On Colorado’s first goal, which came off a corner kick, Badji got away from Jack Elliot to tap the ball into a wide-open net. During the course of play, Elliot seemed to stop in his tracks to watch where Tommy Smith’s deflection would land, while Badji got past him and tapped the ball over the goal line.
On the second goal, rookie Matt Real got his first taste of Major League Soccer, when he left Badji standing alone to receive the ricochet off Johan Blomberg’s blocked shot. With Blake on the ground, all Badji had to do was not miss the net from a few yards out.
In this situation, however, I’ll give Real a pass. Making your MLS debut is never easy, and Real certainly has a lot of learning left to do.
On the third and final goal, Badji received a long ball from Blomberg and raced Elliot toward the goal. While Elliot didn’t necessarily get beat again, he did let Badji drift far enough away to get a shot off that neither Elliot or Blake could block.
All of these show the weaknesses in the Union defense that other teams can exploit. Such weaknesses need to be fixed in order to win games and make it to the playoffs, where they’ll likely lose to Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Then again, everyone loses to Zlatan.
Make sure to check back next week, when Lister analyzes the Union’s performance against the San Jose Earthquakes. Cheers.