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Three Takeaways — Toronto vs. Philadelphia

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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 Friday, May 4, the force was not with the Philadelphia Union as they fell to reigning MLS Cup champions Toronto FC by a score of 3-0, with goals raining down by star forward Sebastian Giovinco.

Philadelphia has appeared to awoken the sleeping giant up north, in Canada. Friday’s match was considered an even-sided affair on paper, but turned out being a lop-sided one instead. 

And so, without further delay, my thoughts on the Philadelphia Union’s fourth loss of the campaign.

So, About That “Killer Speed”

Readers and fans might remember my first Three Takeaways this season, in which I talked about the “killer speed” the Union possessed on the wings. I talked about how “speed kills” and it would be the focal point of the Union’s attacking plans. 

However, after eight games, the Union have hardly utilized their speed on the flanks.

David Accam isn’t a complete flop, in the sense that he hasn’t been receiving enough share of the ball from his central midfielders. So far, the Ghanaian has just six shots on goal, which is simply not enough.

Accam hasn’t been put into the dangerous positions in which the winger thrives. And so, until Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, and Borek Dockal can spray balls to spring Accam forward, the Union are merely burning a $1.2 million hole in their pockets. 

And while CJ Sapong was never supposed to be the speed demon on the roster, he was supposed to be the focal point of the attack, holding the ball up for his wingers, Accam and Fafa Picault.

On multiple occasions this season, I have seen a seemingly disinterested Sapong, who jogs to meet the ball at the top of the 18-yard box, while his attacking wingers are emulating their forward.

Fighting Back on Defense

It’s no secret Philadelphia is inexperienced in the back. Other teams know this. So why are the Union’s veteran midfielders banking on the Kids to fend for themselves in the defending third of the field?

In order to stop goals like the one below from occurring, the Union cannot leave wide-men unmarked. 

Here, the Union backline is left completely stranded and it allows opposing midfielder Nicolas Hasler to set up a simple tap-in goal for Toronto. Hasler should have been forced to turn and reset the ball in that situation. But he didn’t, and that’s because Ray Gaddis stepped and Accam neglected to track back.

An even worse breakdown came in the 65th minute, when Giovinco beat two Union defenders, and was able to thump the ball into the back of Andre Blake’s net. Notice the man-advantage for the Union.

It’s simply unacceptable to be beaten 1 v 2 in this, and any, scenario.  

Alright, NOW We’re Dead

After the Union narrowly defeated D.C. United, I thought that a turnaround might be coming. However, after getting decimated by a Champions League wary team plagued by injury in TFC, those hopes have all but left me.

Philly’s game against D.C. was essentially a six pointer and so was the game on Friday. It came down to which team wanted it more, and by the final whistle it was clear that that team was Toronto. 

Given the way this season has gone so far, it’s doubtful that the Union will be able to find the resolve in them for the quick turnaround against Columbus on Saturday. Only time will tell, however, although if you ask me I think the Union would be better off #TrustingTheProcess.

Make sure to check back next week, when Lister analyzes the Philadelphia Union’s latest performance, with his latest Three Takeaways. Until then, cheers. 

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