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 July 7, Atlanta United came to Talen Energy Stadium to take on the Philadelphia Union, in what was a rematch many fans were hyping after both Haris Medunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya earned ejections the last time these two teams played.
It was United who came out on top, 2-0, after 90 minutes played, with goals from Josef Martínez (PK) and Héctor Villalba. But despite the score line, there were ups to go along with the many downs in Saturday’s match.
Nevertheless, here are my Three Takeaways from the game.
Ilsinho’s Strong Performance
Despite the loss, midfielder Ilsinho still had a strong performance against Atlanta.
Ilsinho managed to move the ball around and create dangerous scoring opportunities all game, showing off an aspect of the Union that didn’t crash and burn against the top team in Major League Soccer.
Ilsinho finished the match with four shots, despite the Union neglecting to target his side of the field and opting to use Fafa Picault to break through the weaker side of Atlanta’s back line.
He also improved on his lack of passing, moving the ball around the field after making defenders miss, per usual. And while he is no No. 10, the Brazilian has grown and developed into a consistent starter who earns each minute he plays.
Please, Just Finish
One of the biggest problems with this Union team right now is their inability to finish shots. As many times as the Union managed to push up the field, on none of those occasions could they put the ball in the back of the net.
Of the 18 shots taken, only three were on net against United, which were also the only opportunities that the Union had to put past Atlanta’s stalwart in net, former United States Men’s National Team keeper Brad Guzan.
Against a top-team, the Union need to take every chance they are given. By comparison, Atlanta had few shots, 16, yet fired eight of them on goal and ultimately put two past Andre Blake.
Someway, somehow, Jim Curtin and his coaching staff need to get more out of their players, especially their forwards (ahem, that means you, C.J. Sapong) or else every game will end like Saturday’s.
Controlling Josef Martínez
Before the game, Curtin talked about how much they would need to control and track Martínez’s movements. Martínez is the leading goal scorer in MLS and the Venezuelan was dangerous the last time these two teams met, earning himself a hat-trick.
For the duration of the first half, defenders Mark McKenzie and Auston Trusty did what their coach wanted them to do, and Martínez was held to no goals. However, come the second half, that narrative quickly changed.
Time and time again, Martínez slipped through the Union backline, creating countless number of chances that could’ve hurt the Union and made the goal differential much higher than just two goals.
Saturday’s second half serves as a reminder that as much as we enjoy watching our two young center backs, they are just that: young center backs who are still learning. Facing off against a player of Martínez’s calibre will certainly serve as a learning experience for both of them, which can only help them grow.
Make sure to check back later this week, when Lister breaks down the Union’s away performance in Illinois, against the Chicago Fire on Wednesday night. Kick off for that one is slated for 8:30 PM EST.