Three Takeaways: Union Versus Crew SC, Part Two

Opinion, Post-Match, Three Takeaways

Welcome back to another edition of Three Takeaways, a segment where I take a closer look at the Philadelphia Union’s previous match, and point out what I think they did well and what they ultimately missed out on. Time to dive in.

One glance at Wednesday’s score, and one might think the Union are preparing themselves for a late playoff run. That is, of course, an optimistic take from last night’s match.

I take a closer look at both the positives, as well as the negatives from last night’s match.

Lineup Changes

Ilsinho needs to stay at right-wing.

After Bruce Arena called up Chris Pontius to the United States Mens’ National Team, Union manager Jim Curtin has entrusted Ilsinho and youngster, Marcus Epps to fill the void. Both got their opportunities and both did OK. But it wasn’t until last night, on the night of the Gold Cup Final that Ilsinho showed his true worth in the position.

Ilsinho created several prominent scoring, both centering the ball into the box on multiple occasions, and even scoring the eventual match winner. Of course, the Union will get Pontius back this weekend, but after the Brazilian’s performance last night, it’s safe to say Ilsinho will make Curtin’s decision that much more difficult.

John McCarthy.

It is expected that Union No. 1, Andre Blake will return to Major League Soccer play in 10 or more days, due to the injury he sustained to his hand in last night’s Gold Cup Final.

This is, of course, a massive blow for Curtin, the team, the fans, as well as the entire organization as a whole. But after McCarthy’s recent displays of heroism, I am more than confident in McCarthy. And I don’t think I am the only one.

Stick to the Game Plan

Alejandro Bedoya was right: this match could have easily been 4-0 in favor to the Boys-in-Blue.

From the get-go, the Union put the Crew under a load of pressure, high up the field. Under constant assault, the Crew backline made a series of poor decisions and uncanny mistakes. Obviously it’s hard to sustain 90 minutes of high-pressure, but if the Union had kept them under, it could very well have been a drudging at Talen Energy Stadium.

Know Yourself

After last night’s drama, I think there are several members of the Union who need to do some soul-searching. Ahem, Roland Alberg. Alberg took three or more 20+ yard shots that more often than not ended with either the ball going the other way, or at the top of The River End.

Curtin’s team needs to learn to rely on each other more to increase the quality of play.

Joe Lister is a contributor for UnionFanTV. Check back soon for the next edition of Three TakeawaysBe sure to also check out the next U in Preview for a comprehensive preview of Saturday’s match against New England. 

Three Takeaways: Union Versus Crew SC

Match Preview, Opinion, Three Takeaways

Last Saturday, the Philadelphia Union traveled to Columbus to play in the first installment of a home-and-home, against Columbus Crew SC. They lost 1-0 on the day, after an unfortunate own goal by Joshua Yaro.

In what is the first edition of Three Takeaways, I take a closer look at the adjustments Jim Curtin and the Union should make in tonight’s pivotal rematch against the Crew, at Talen Energy Stadium.

Strengthen the back line

No one would dare to speak ill of John McCarthy, at the moment. He’s not Andre Blake. No, he’s John McCarthy, and he’s a more than capable starter in Major League Soccer. Curtin sure thinks so, too.

McCarthy has been forced into making several spectacular saves a match, recently. So often the back line has failed the Union’s No. 2, and has forced McCarthy to hold his own back there.

Read the runs

Time after time, Columbus got away with little streaks downfield that the Union ultimately failed to recognize and mark up on players running in behind. Example A: Ola Kamara nearly went top shelf on a volley that he should have never had time for. Instead, Kamara should have been forced to play with his back to goal, with a center back on his back.

It nearly cost them a goal (or two). Again, without the heroics of McCarthy between the sticks, the Union would have found themselves picking the ball from out of their net, and on more than one occasion.

They have to get better at reading the long ball.

Get. Guys. Back. 

For once, the Union have considerable depth.

Even with all the players the Union were missing on Saturday — Andre Blake, Fafa Picualt, Chris Pontius, Derrick Jones, Fabian Herbers, Roland Alberg, Oguchi Onyewu, and CJ Sapong — they managed to stay in the match against Columbus, even if it wasn’t pretty.

It’s encouraging to see younger guys like Adam Najem and Marcus Epps play beyond their years and look fairly comfortable on the field. Nevertheless, the absences were still noted.

Offensively, the Union sorely missed Picault’s speed on the wing, as well as his ability to play on both sides of the ball. They also desperately missed Sapong’s strong hold up play, which allows for guys to join in on the attack.

In the back, the Union’s backline appeared to miss the strong, veteran presence of Onyewu.

Although Yaro was able to go toe-to-toe with several of Crew’s more speedy players, he was often drug out of his position, leaving Jack Elliot alone in the box. And despite Elliot’s considerable size advantage, he isn’t yet able to boss opposing guys in the box like Gooch.

Joe Lister is a contributor for UnionFanTV. Check back soon for the next edition of Three Takeaways. Be sure to also check out the latest U in Preview, which takes a closer look at tonight’s match against Columbus. 

Why I Have Changed Sides in the Curtin Debate, and Why I Still Have My Doubts

Opinion

Joe Lister is a contributor for UnionFanTV and formerly part of the #CurtinOut contingent. Although Joe has been swayed, he still has his doubts, which he voices in his very first OP piece for the site.

If you asked me three weeks ago what I thought of the Philadelphia Union, I probably would have groaned. I also might have slammed my head against the nearest hard surface. But I definitely would have said I wanted Jim Curtin fired.

Now, I would say that while I still have my doubts, Curtin can stay, at least for now.

I used to be #CurtinOut. I disagreed with nearly everything he did. From not playing two strikers up top to not starting Herbers and Rosenberry, I generally disagreed with his tactics and decisions.

Now, with the Union on a historic six game point streak, while I still disagree with Curtin in most areas, I am ready to let him do his job.

The Union is playing like a team now. They have managed to put the ball past other defenses, while no one can put it past our own. With just a few lineup changes, Curtin has turned this team around, going from bottom of the league, to seemingly destined for the playoffs.

However, there is one thing that I still hold against Curtin: our “New Number 10” as many are now proclaiming Ilson Jr. to be. Personally, I consider him to be the weak link in our lineup.

Sure, his ball control and skill moves may be jaw dropping, but it is nearly everything else that makes me dislike the Brazilian’s play.

When I watch Ilson play, I cannot help but to notice one thing: he plays with his head down; he almost never looks up. Often he dismisses players like Sapong or Picault, who are open next to him, with a clear path to goal.

Outside of ball control, he has little else. Ilson cannot finish, overlooks passes, and he sure cannot run. Yes, he scored against the Dynamo. My response to that? That is one goal in 11 games. Also, the keeper was on the other side of the net on that play. All Ilson had to do was tap it in, which he did.

I hope that when Alberg has successfully recovered, Curtin will start him over Ilson, while trying to improve on the Brazilian’s game at the same time.

Currently, I am satisfied with the state of affairs in Chester. Whenever the Union win, I am happy. But as with every situation, there is room for improvement. Ilson is a player, who I believe needs improvement.

Curtin is no different. He still could make some other lineup changes. Right now, at least, I am content on continuing to watch us win and climb the table.