Commentary / Union

Making the most of the Union’s time off

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Last weekend was a long one. While other teams got to watch their favorite teams continue onward in the 2018 MLS season, Philadelphia Union fans had to sit on the sidelines with a shockingly early bye week. And after this weekend’s visit from Columbus, they’ll have to endure a second bye week on just the fourth weekend of the season. Pair that with weather in the northeast being stuck on the cold side of spring, and it doesn’t really feel like soccer time at all.

Yet just like the new growth of spring brings the promise of things to come, this extended downtime could bode well for the Union. Because even though fans spent this weekend doing things other than watching soccer, the Union stayed hard at work. They were still training, still practicing, and putting finishing touches on the team that will face the rest of the season. Especially considering the lackluster opposition New England showed, it’s not unreasonable to think of the Union’s season not really starting until the April 7 match against San Jose.

That means several things for this team. It means there’s more time for “new” additions to the team like Auston Trusty and Anthony Fontana to find their place on the field and in the locker room. It gives returning players like Keegan Rosenberry and Fabian Herbers time to work out whatever issues they’ll have coming back from lost seasons. Most importantly, it will give Borek Dockal and David Accam time to adapt and adjust to their new surroundings. And that could be what turns a seemingly unfortunate early schedule into an actual advantage for the Union.

That’s because there is truth behind the “Designated Players take time to pay off” trope. David Accam isn’t new to MLS (or technically a DP), but what we saw against New England is only a taste of what he’s capable of. With more time to gel with the players around him and figure out how he fits into head coach Jim Curtin’s plan, Accam should return even more dangerous than his Union debut. But from a player’s perspective, no one will benefit more than Dockal. He’s presumably already fit for the season, as the Chinese Super League’s schedule is similar to MLS, but as the no. 10 he must have a solid relationship with every attacking player, and frankly most of the defensive players, in order to do his job well. And signs indicate the Union are working on building those relationships as we speak.

There could be benefits beyond player preparedness as well. With two bye weeks so close together and so early in the season, the Union will have games in hand for most of the season. Assuming they play their cards right, that puts them in control of their own destiny this year, with the ability to react and adapt to the season in a way few teams ever get the chance to. Of course that assumes they will react and adapt, which historically has been a weak spot for this team.

These bye weeks are putting the Union in an unusual position, but they’re uniquely suited to take advantage of that position. The only question is will they actually press that advantage, or will this turn into another wasted opportunity for the team?

6 Comments

  1. Jim, second sentence, I think you meant “while other fans*..” not other teams.

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    Same thing happened last season. So difficult to get into a rhythm as a team or as a fan to be fair.
    .
    For others, not so much I guess.
    .
    Between the multiple weeks off to start the season, the World Cup break and the ridiculous length to the interminably long playoffs- well, I just don’t get it.

    • John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

      MLS season explained in plain English.

      Odd number of teams, teams rescheduling for CCL games, WORLD CUP BREAK & Americans and Canadians like playoffs.

      “\_(°~°)_/”

  3. Heard U beat Steel 3-0 in scrimmage. Any news about who and what in that game? I know it wasn’t open to public.

  4. I’m glad you’re optimistic about it. I’m not. Those bye weeks could come in handy in the dog days of summer when injuries are stacking up. Columbus looked sharp over Montreal this weekend and they’ll carry that momentum into Talen. Meanwhile, we’ve played two 2nd division teams in Steel…and New England.

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