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Three Takeaways — Philadelphia vs. D.C.

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.

On Saturday, the Philadelphia Union won a soccer game, defeating D.C. United 3-2 at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA.

After a string of draws and scoreless defeats since the Opening Day win against the nine-manned New England Revolution, the Union put three goals past United to improve to 2-3-2 on the season and 8th in the Eastern Conference.

Jim Curtin’s side showed some rays of hope, hinting toward, at the very least, one more win this season. However, despite the positivity flowing in my fingers at the moment, there are still some things the Union can and should work on. 

So, without further delay, let’s kick off.

Improvements to the Side

So far, throughout this season, Philadelphia has gotten the minimum from two players who were pegegd to lead the team. But, against United, Borek Dockal and C.J. Sapong both got on the scoresheet, with Dockal’s being a first for the Blue and Gold. 

And, while Sapong certainly didn’t light the world, or field, alight, he did end his recent goal-scoring drought. Sapong has been missing the mark all year, but on Saturday, he finally finished, putting a DOOP in the “Ol Onion Bag,” as commentator Tommy Smyth would say.

Hopefully, that goal signifies a turn around for Sapong, and fans will certainly hope he’ll return to half the goal-scorer he was this time last year.

In the few games Dockal has played in, I’ve been rather disappointed.

Arriving from China, Dockal was hyped by the club to be a game-changing No. 10. But the hype has since turned out to be nothing more than hype, however, as the Czech has recorded just a secondary assist.

Until Saturday, that is, when Dockal arguably had what could’ve been his breakout game in a Union kit. Dockal moved the ball around well, and was even able to score an impressive goal, which is a deserved finalist for MLS Goal of the Week.

Optimistically, Dockal should, in time, become the player the Union not only wanted, but deserve, with the latter coming in the form of a solid, reliable, and offensively impactful No. 10.

Saturday Was Do or Die

And the Union almost did.

While I am happy with three points, as many fans are, improvements are neverthless needed. Philadelphia defeated, statistically speaking, the worst team in MLS, in D.C.. Not to mention, the Union did so playing at home where they are supposed to win. 

Yet the game at TES on Saturday was noticeably back and forth for 90 minutes. And, while the Union did get 23 shots off, only 9 were logged as on-goal. Fortunately, three of those went in the back of the net, with one being the difference between three points and one.

Overall, Saturday showed a side of the Union fans haven’t seen very much of. Fans bore witness to a Union team that wouldn’t quit, kept moving, and ultimately found a way to bag the win.

Looking Ahead

A win against D.C. was needed, and it could prove to be the jumpstart Philadelphia has desperately been searching for. However, conscience and honest fans will, nevertheless, remind themselves that the win comes against a bottom of the table side.

But, that said, right now the Union will take anything. Before Saturday, head coach Jim Curtin’s side had just one triumph to their name, with a lone victory coming on Opening Day against a short-sided New England Revolution. 

Next up for the Union is reigning MLS Cup champions Toronto FC, who are currently sitting dead last in the Eastern Conference.

However, in truth, TFC probably won’t remain there for very long, especially after their exit from Champions League action. TFC will almost certainly hurt the Union if they are too complacent, following their win on Saturday. 

Philadelphia is now the East’s eighth-place team. But, if they maintain their high-tempo offense and big-time players show up like Dockal and Sapong did Saturday, fans shouldn’t be surprised if they slowly, but surely, begin climbing the table.

Make sure to check back next week, when Lister analyzes the Philadelphia Union’s performance against the reigning MLS Cup champions, Toronto Football Club. Until then, cheers.