Opinion Three Takeaways

Three Takeaways — Portland Timbers vs. Philadelphia Union


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, August 4, the Philadelphia Union traveled across the country to Portland, Oregon, to take on the Portland Timbers in the first Major League Soccer matchday since the All-Star Game.

Philadelphia dropped the match against Portland, 3-0. Surprisingly, there were quite a few positives to take away from the Union’s performance, and to class with the many negatives, too.

But, with that in mind, let me get right to it.

Fabian Herbers: Where Have You Been?

Fabian Herbers has spent the last few months with Bethlehem Steel FC, the Union’s USL affiliate.

Given that Herbers has been dropped to the reserve team, when he made his appearance in Portland, I expected a rocky performance from the young German. Instead, Herbers played fairly well given his lack of minutes with the First Team in MLS

Both Herbers and C.J. Sapong connected well throughout the game, creating many chances that gave the visitors solid looks at goal.

Herbers scored 199 on the Audi Index, ranking sixth among Union players, and above fellow midfielders Warren Creavalle and Fafa Picault, players who log far more minutes with the First Team than Herbers.

He also placed 13th overall among all players on the pitch, an impressive feat for the injury prone German who has found playing time rather hard to come by since his impressive rookie season in 2016.

I’ve wondered all season why Herbers wasn’t included even in the 18, and the game against Portland has raised even more questions than answered. Herbers showed off everything from his speed, strong passing ability and stamina against the Timbers, going the full 90 minutes for the Union.

Hopefully, fans will see more of Fabian Herbers in the coming months with the Union First Team.

Impressive Performance From the Attack and Midfield

I cannot remember the last time the Union didn’t run a 4-2-3-1 formation yet, on Saturday, head coach Jim Curtin ran a 4-3-3 with a drastically different lineup against the Timbers.

Notable players not normally added to the mix were Homegrown midfielder Derrick Jones who played defensive midfielder, Herbers who played right wing, and Jack Elliott at his usual central defender position.

Jones had a strong showing, too, logging two shots including one on goal that went to the hands of Portland keeper Jeff Attinella. Jones partnered alongside Elliott at central defender for a large portion of last season, and despite the change of position and still playing defensively, he contributed well to the attack as well.

Despite a massive change to the roster and formation, the Union seemed to dominate most of the game, aside for the last 10 to 15 minutes of each half, when Portland got the upper hand. Other than that, I was impressed by the squad for being able to adjust.

Philly’s ability to force Portland into multiple bad situations came as a welcomed surprise. Hopefully, the Union will be able to emulate this with the regular Starting XI and First Team.

Enough With the Fouls!

What really cost the Union all game were the fouls in the box. Fouls, in general, tend to hurt the Union more than the average MLS team. Philly ended the game with 13 fouls in total and a caution issued to Alejandro Bedoya for “unsporting behavior.”

Fouls in the box are what really sent the Union on their downfall, when Fabinho and Creavalle essentially gifted the Timbers two of their three goals. Both fouls were completely unnecessary and honestly just foolish.

Fabinho pushed Alvas Powell just enough to draw a foul, despite the fact that nothing would’ve come of the play. Not to mention, Fabinho had solid coverage! Creavalle ran by Diego Valeri and decided to stick his foot out, despite the fact that Auston Trusty had Valeri on lock.

Fouls have hurt the Union in the past as well as throughout this season, and they are something that Curtin’s team seriously needs to improve on. Fans will hope that changes in the coming months.

Make sure to check back next week when Lister breaks down the Union’s performance at New England Revolution, in what will be their third game in eight days after Philadelphia’s victory in the U.S. Open Cup Semi-Final.