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Three Takeaways — Philadelphia vs. Vancouver

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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 Saturday, June 23, the Philadelphia Union faced off against the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps in an honorary send-off game at Talen Energy Stadium, organized for living Union legend Sebastian Le Toux.

Fans, including past and present players and members of the club, each paid homage and said au revoir to the Frenchman after his retirement following a one-day contract with the Union.

But, before I jump into my Three Takeaways from the game, I would like to thank the first member of the Union Ring of Honor, Sebastien Le Toux, for all that he has done for the club in his seven years donning the blue and gold.

Now, let’s get to it.

Was it Really 4-0?

Don’t get me wrong, winning by four goals and keeping a clean sheet at home should feel amazing. However, it should be noted that those four goals weren’t necessarily a fair reflection of the Union’s performance.

Overall, the Boys-in-Blue played a very solid game. However, some fans could have a diluted view of the game, as the Union scored two of their goals from the penalty spot, which may not reflect how both sides actually played.

From a diluted perspective, the Whitecaps blew the game entirely. However, in truth, they played a fair match in Talen Energy Stadium.

Additionally, from the diluted perspective, the Union were dominant, and this could be the turning point for Philadelphia’s season. While the latter may be true, the former is most definitely false.

For most of the game, the Union played good and sound soccer. However, at other points, the Union were fortunate, especially when a mishit by the MLS Player of the Week, Borek Dockal, ended up going in for the first goal of the game.

Later, in stoppage time, Fafa Picault found himself without the ball and with no shot at getting it back, with little motivation to do so, as the Union were already up 3-0. 

However, the Whitecaps’ striker Yordy Reyna took out his frustrations on the winger, earning a second yellow card and an ejection. Because Picault was still inside the penalty area at the time, the Union finished with an extra goal, 4-0.

I will admit, Dockal’s second goal was a thing of both beauty and skill. After making not one, not two, not three, but four defenders miss, the Czech international buried the ball into the net. 

Slowly, but surely, Dockal, a playmaker who struggled to get on the ball earlier in the campaign, has turned into one of the best in Jim Curtin’s XI on any given MLS or Open Cup matchday.

In all, while the Union definitely deserved the victory and three points, they did not necessarily earn the 4-0 victory inside Talen Energy Stadium; there were some gifts from the visitors.

But fans will take the result anyway.

Dream Team

Once again, I’m going to complain about CJ Sapong.

Against Vancouver, Sapong had just three shots, with only one being on goal. For a starting forward, these stats are low. Not to mention, Sapong was supposed to be a leader this season, making those stats even lower.

So, once again, I offer the same solution to Curtin. Start Corey Burke. Bench Sapong.

I bring this up this week because after watching Picault, Ilsinho, and Dockal on Saturday, I realized that adding the Jamaican to the mix would make the Union attack a Fantastic Four.

And, with the exception of Ilsinho, each of these players are remarkably fast, and even the Brazilian can put on the burners when necessary. Dockal, Burke, and Ilsinho are all decent shooters from range, too.

Couple Ilsinho’s footwork and keen eye for passing (when he uses it) with Picault’s blistering speed and passing ability (also, when he uses it) could create countless chances for Philadelphia.

Making even the smallest lineup change could give Curtin’s team the energy needed to mount a run at MLS Cup Playoffs.

Again, I don’t particularly see this change coming any time in the near future, however, Earnie Stewart’s departure from the front office could turn things upside down.

A Bunch of Little Things

Over the course of the 90 minutes, there were a few small things that bothered me, however, they certainly weren’t big enough for a full Takeaway. So here they are, compacted into one Takeaway.

Let him take the kick

During both penalty kicks, the wrong player was lined up to take the kick, instead of who deserved the shot at goal.

Despite the loud chants of “Borek” from Union fans who wished to see a hat trick for their team’s No. 10, it was ultimately Ilsinho who lined up a few yards from goal and took the first spot kick.

Later, it was Corey Burke who stood ready to take the kick, until one of his own teammates convinced him to let Picault kick, as a reward for his work all game long.

Now, I may be over-exaggerating, but I really feel that it is important to let the most deserving player take the kick, and giving others a chance creates a strong bond in the team.

Fafa Picault has to finish

This Takeaway almost speaks for itself.

Picault has had countless opportunities, and has only scored on two of them. He has to finish his opportunities in the future, especially if the Union wish to make the First Round of the MLS Cup Playoffs, or even beyond.

Haris Medunjamin’s return

Haris Medunjanin returns on Saturday against Los Angeles Football Club after a three game suspension, and that is exciting. Alejandro Bedoya was able to hold down the fort in the meantime, attempting to perform Medunjanin’s job, but the captain wasn’t able to fully handle the Bosnian’s role on his own.

Medunjanin’s return to his place in the team and in front of the Union’s center backs should steady the back line.

Next week, Lister will analyze the Union’s performance on Saturday against MLS newcomers, LAFC, in what will be the very first clash between the two clubs. Cheers. 

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