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 11, the Philadelphia Union traveled to Foxborough, Massachusetts, to take on the New England Revolution. History repeated itself as another Philadelphia sports team was victorious against a New England one.
Despite the victory, the Union certainly did not play their best, however, they currently sit fifth in the Eastern Conference and are in a Major League Soccer Playoff position if they can hold onto it.
We have a bit to talk about, so I’ll get right to it.
The Union Didn’t Deserve to Win
In the first half, the Union didn’t dominate. Nevertheless, they still found themselves leading 2-0 after Jack Elliott tucked two balls into the back of New England and keeper Matt Turner’s net.
However, in the second half, the Union fell apart.
New England peppered 16 shots on Andre Blake, putting six of them on goal. New England maintained control and majority of possession until Fafa Picault drew a penalty in the 76th minute, which he converted from the spot.
New England had chance after chance before the penalty that gave the Union a little breathing room. Nevertheless, the visitors were forced to work for every touch. I don’t know exactly what coach Brad Friedel said to his team in the locker room, but the Union weren’t able to adjust to the adjusted level that New England played at in the second half.
To clarify, I don’t think that Saturday was a total collapse on the part of the Union. Philly did have a solid first half, and the two goals from Elliott certainly weren’t accidents on the part of the Englishman.
Philadelphia most likely would not have scored on the play that led to Picault’s spot kick goal, however, there were several other build-ups that the Union could’ve finished, and they always looked destined to knick a third goal.
By no standards was the Union’s play great, but three points is three points. In this case, it was six, with the two clubs separated by just a point in the East.
Hopefully, Curtin and his team will recognize what went wrong and look to fix it before next week’s game against NYCFC, a team that could hurt the Union if Philadelphia does not change their reaction to when all goes awry.
Andre Blake, MVP?
It’s no secret that Blake has the potential to be the best keeper in MLS, and an overall solid keeper in Europe. However, what is holding the Jamaican back is that the Union haven’t been offered enough for the Jamaican international star.
On Saturday, Blake showed once again why he’s one of the best in the league, keeping the Union in the game throughout the constant barrage on goal from New England’s attack. Blake stopped ball after ball, limiting the Revs to just two goals from their 26 shots.
For me, the two best players on the current Union roster are Bořek Dočkal and Blake, and against New England, Blake showed that he is undoubtedly No. 1 in the team, and nearly indispensable.
Blake did almost too much, as the back line let New England get off too many shots from wide open, leading to shots that made life rather difficult for the Union keeper. Philly’s backline must hold its own to keep Blake comfortable between the sticks. Until then, the Union will have to rely heavily on their MVP.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I am content with John McCarthy as the starting keeper, but he doesn’t have the same shot-stopping capabilities as Blake. For the right price, I would be willing to let Blake take a flight across the Atlantic, but until then, the Jamaican will remain the best player in Curtin’s team and the rock behind the backline.
What Happens to Herbers and Elliott?
Ilsinho is set to return next Saturday against NYCFC, which begs the question: what will happen to Fabian Herbers, and later Jack Elliott upon the return of preferred central defender Mark McKenzie?
Herbers was called up from Bethlehem Steel FC when Ilsinho went down against the Chicago Fire, and since then has made a visibly positive impact alongside converted winger C.J. Sapong.
Moreover, since Herbers’ return to the First Team, fans haven’t seen much of David Accam on the field. Now, it’s unlikely that Herbers and Accam will switch places and Accam will be sent down to Bethlehem, due to the Union Front Office’s desire to save face. However, at the moment, Herbers might deserve a place in the First Team more than Accam.
In just a few games, Herbers has made an impact with the team, and he can and should make an argument to Curtin against his dropping.
Fans know what will inevitably happen to Elliott when McKenzie returns from his knee injury. Elliott will probably return to the bench, waiting for another chance to prove himself to Curtin.
However, Elliott deserves more. He had a great game against New England, putting his two goals aside. Elliott also had a solid game defensively, slowing down the Revolution attack on breakaways and sticking to his assigned man, reminding us why he was a Rookie of the Year finalist last year.
McKenzie is both a promising and solid defender, but if Elliott continues to play at the level he is at currently, McKenzie should have to work to regain the starting center back position.
Be sure to check back next week, on Saturday, when Lister breaks down the Union’s performance against the visiting New York City Football Club at Talen Energy Stadium.