Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 0-0 Vancouver Whitecaps

Photo: Peter Andrews

Starting the 2017 MLS season 3,000 miles from home in another country is an extremely difficult task.

But the Union were up to it in a cagey affair at BC Place on Sunday night, earning a point through a scoreless draw with the Vancouver Whitecaps in their opening match of the 2017 season.

The storyline was a man of the match performance from Union academy product Derrick Jones in his MLS debut. Smooth and assured throughout, Jones looked strong in the midfield alongside fellow debutante Haris Medunjanin.

“I thought he was the best player on the field tonight — both teams,” Jim Curtin said of Jones following the match.

The offense, meanwhile, showed flashes but clearly remains very much a work in progress.

First half

Union head coach Jim Curtin handed MLS debuts to four players in his starting 11. Most notable was the selection of Derrick Jones, signed to a homegrown contract last year and making his first ever MLS appearance. Jay Simpson displaced C.J. Sapong as the starting striker, while veteran Oguchi Onyewu made his first professional appearance since 2015 at center back. Ilsinho missed the match due to a hamstring injury suffered during training on Saturday.

On a cold evening inside the dome of BC Place, the early portion of the match saw both teams feel each other out. Vancouver sought to test Onyewu’s speed by looking for Erik Hurtado over the top. The Union attempted to build more methodically, using Medunjanin as a fulcrum to get other players involved. Jones announced his arrival in the league with a couple of sturdy tackles.

“He kinda calmed us down when we needed to be calmed down,” Curtin said after the game. “I thought he really stepped up and grabbed a hold of the opportunity.”

Vancouver had the first true moment of danger in the 24th minute. Hurtado and Alphonso Davies worked a delicate sequence just outside the 18-yard box that slipped Cristian Techera clean in on goal. Manneh, with only Andre Blake to beat, pulled his first-time shot well wide.

Frankly, very little of note happened in the half. The Whitecaps had the majority of the possession, but consistently failed to convert that possession into chances — or even half-chances.

Philadelphia, meanwhile, put little consistent pressure on the home side. The best moment was a pass from Chris Pontius to Simpson streaking into the box in the 42nd minute. With little support from his teammates, however, Simpson ultimately turned the ball back to Vancouver.

Second half

Neither side made any changes to start the second half, but the Union came out looking lively. Alejandro Bedoya forced David Ousted into two saves, one at the low post after a nice pass from Herbers and the other on an audacious backheel off a Pontius cross.

With Pontius and Bedoya growing into the game, the Union pressed on. There were shouts for a penalty on a marauding Pontius run, though the referee waved play on. The home crowd felt that they were getting the worse of the calls, screaming in anguish after Onyewu escaped a card for shoving a Whitecap player to the ground.

Carl Robinson brought on new boys Brek Shea and Fredy Montero for Manneh and Hurtado in the 58th minute, while Curtin immediately countered by swapping Simpson for C.J. Sapong. Simpson showed flashes good and bad in his debut but still has a lot to prove.

“Jay did a good job — did a lot of dirty running, worked hard, created some chances,” Curtin said. “Just getting on the same page, it takes a little bit of time.”

The Whitecaps came close in the 65th minute. Off a corner, former Union man Jordan Harvey hit one hard and low from point blank range. In the blink of an eye, Blake went low and looked to have denied the shot, though replay showed that Keegan Rosenberry’s knee provided the crucial save.

Fafa Picault entered the match in the 70th minute, earning his MLS debut in place of Pontius. Picault immediately added a different dimension, his pace on a completely different scale than the rest of the Union attack.

Vancouver aimed to use Shea to break the deadlock, but the lanky Texan’s skills let him down time and time again. After Herbers earned a yellow card for a poor challenge, the match largely petered out in the final minutes.

The lack of excitement at the conclusion was fine by Curtin.

We do want to be a team that does better in the late-game moments, staying calm and closing games out, [and] I thought tonight was a good example,” he said.

Philadelphia will be back in action next Saturday in their home opener, hosting defending Eastern Conference champions Toronto FC at Talen Energy Stadium. Toronto opened their season with a 0-0 draw against Real Salt Lake.

Philadelphia Union
Andre Blake, Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Oguchi Onyewu, Keegan Rosenberry, Derrick Jones, Haris Medunjanin, Fabian Herbers, Alejandro Bedoya, Chris Pontius (Fafa Picault 71′), Jay Simpson (C.J. Sapong 61′)
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Ray Gaddis, Ken Tribbett, Warren Creavalle, Roland Alberg

Vancouver Whitecaps FC
David Ousted, Sheanon Williams, Erik Hurtado (Brek Shea 59′), Christian Dean, Tim Parker, Jordan Harvey, Kekuta Manneh (Fredy Montero 59′), Mattias Laba, Alphonso Davies, Andrew Jacobson, Cristian Techera (Nicolas Mezquida 77′)
Unused subs: Paolo Tornaghi, Jakob Nerwinski, Russell Teibert, Mauro Rosales

Scoring Summary

Disciplinary Summary
VAN: Matias Laba (delaying restart) — 55′ ‘
PHI: Fabian Herbers (unsporting behavior) — 80’

Vancouver Whitecaps Philadelphia Union
12 Shots 7
1 Shots on Target  5
6 Shots off Target 0
 5 Blocked Shots  2
 2 Corner Kicks  3
 9 Crosses  10
2 Offsides  1
9 Fouls 12
 1 Yellow Cards 1
 0 Red Cards  0
 411 Total Passes  499
78% Passing Accuracy  78%
 45.4% Possession 54.6%
48 Duels Won  51
 48% Duels Won % 52%
 11 Tackles Won  11
 5 Saves  0
 25 Clearances  21


  1. In general, I liked what I saw.

    Jones was a MotM candidate, what a great debut by him. He and Med for the most part had a clam, collected passing game going all day in the midfield and really helped moved the ball during our periods of possession.

    I actually liked what I saw from Simpson – he did well to link up a couple of times and in general I am optimistic about his play.

    Bedoya – I think we know what he is. He is not going to be a playmaking #10. But I thought he played much better in the second half and became a presence in the final third much more.

  2. Pragmatist says:

    Take the point and get out of Dodge. Nice to see the second half was better. Bodes well going forward.

    • pragmatist says:

      I know everyone is a little jumpy and apparently expected to see a Real Madrid-like performance, but what we saw last night was a very realistic Game 1 showing.
      We started 4 players new to MLS.
      We were playing on turf.
      We were playing at 9:30.
      We were 3000 miles from home.
      Our most creative player got injured before the game.
      Our fastest player has been battling injuries for 2 weeks, which is why he was only a sub.
      We started a rookie at the 6.
      We came out of that with a point. Would you have taken a point before the game? I’m guessing yes.
      This weekend will be home against a tough opponent. But it’s home, it’s on grass, and we should have everyone healthy.
      Give it 3-4 weeks before we hyperventilate and start claiming “Same ol’, same ol’.” We don’t know we have after 1 game, except a point we’re glad to have.

      • Very pragmatic.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Agreed and thank you.

      • Agreed. The team is going to take some time to gel. What was important, in my mind, is that the defense looked pretty together. You can hang in games if you don’t give up stupid goals. Blake didn’t make a single save last night, and we still came out with a clean sheet. Not a bad night’s work on the road.

  3. was I the only one who got nervous when the TV showed all those white people holding up “WHITE” signs?

  4. Dick Saunders says:

    Scoring Summary needs to be fixed**

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      So does Disciplinary Summary, unfortunately.
      We all wish Tranquillo Barnetta had played in this game. 😉

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Actually, if you add the trip to NJ for the first half of the CCL pair, isn’t it three games in twelve days? 2/22-3/5, plus two 3,000 mile plane flights in there?
        Whitecaps were tired for good reason.

  5. McMohanski says:

    3,000 miles for a league game. Wow thats like Spurs playing in Halifax or Kuwait City this weekend.

  6. Old Soccer Coach says:

    When Jones began to tire, he began to makes some mistakes, no surprise. It was his first 90 minutes of the season.

  7. Adam Schorr says:

    Vancouver looked like a side playing its second game in four days. Union looked like an East Coast team playing a night game on the West Coast. Derrick Jones stood out for his quality. Andre Blake earned his first point for the Union. Offense needs some serious revamping – I think we had one, maybe two legitimately threatening moments the entire game. I think getting Ilsinho in the lineup over Herbers may help that, but Jay Simpson didn’t do anything to make me think he’s the answer up top.

  8. el Pachyderm says:

    Union got out of that game what was put into it. A point. And in an effort to grant leeway and honor to the task- congratulations. Well done. My point as usual however isn’t about points.
    My points are too numerous to list but will keep it simple and highlight what I consider to be the single most important one.
    I fear the players most capable of injecting life and vibrancy into these games week in week out are not going to play enough– let alone see the field.
    Fafa Picault brings electricity and chaos… the ability to get in behind a defense either on or off the ball which then breaks the defensive shape which naturally then provides tears in the fabric that a Jay Simpson player can step into which then brings value to the signing of them both….the minute FP stepped on the field I perked up and for the first time since roughly minute 3 thought, “okay I’m excited again.”
    There are no affordances in Union play for a late run that gouges the defense because a player attacks the end line. This is not advanced tactical thinking. Its having playmakers on the field and this team went out and brought play makers in the last two years and they simply do not play enough. Already after one game and 6,000 miles of flight against a team that just played a game not three days ago…this is evident.
    Ilsinho brings flair and Alberg brings heat… both capable of the forcing a defense to lose its shape with the simple, the inane, the dramatic and the art that is the aesthetic of the game.
    Fabian Herbers isn’t better than a one of them. Neither is Chris Pontius. These two men will be the starters for 34 games and for 34 games people will wonder why this team is so boring to watch and I will gently and politley point them back to this post.

    • Adam Schorr says:

      To be fair, Ilsinho didn’t play due to injury, not due to choice, but I generally agree with the rest. Although I’d point out that Epps may have been the most exciting player on the Union in the preseason and given how well Jones played tonight, I would not be opposed to giving Epps minutes early to see if he can also make instant impact. As fast as Picault is, Epps might be faster.
      Since I don’t think the 4-5-1 is going anywhere, give me a front 4 of Epps and Fafa on the wings, Ilsinho at the CAM, and Bedoya up top. Speed on the wings. Creativity at the CAM. Workrate and quality at the point of the spear.
      I know Pontius played tonight, but for 15-20 minutes at a time, it was just too easy to forget him.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Hell I even forgot about Epps.
        …and to your point, that is a potentially lethal attack- let Fabian and Pontius sub. Course some people are going to say but Chris Pontius is a NT call up and and and~ the only guy who scored regularly last year~ and and and—– and I counter more intimately with.
        …this exchange Adam brings us full circle to Saint Earnie Stewart though doesn’t it and our diametric POV regarding him?
        The Director builds the roster and the manager manages it— day to day. The manager is the gatekeeper — who only enjoys driving the Corvette occasionally on a Sunday.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        and now for it, the denouement…managing not to lose.

      • I’m fine with ‘managing not to lose’ on Week 1, on turf, 3000 miles from home. The same XI and philosophy for the next month because of one decent result, would be less fine.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        I do not disagree, my point speaks more to the player selection in general per his tenure the last couple of years than this one game specifically.

      • Adam Schorr says:

        The Director should have gotten a better gatekeeper. That’s the Director’s job too.

      • Maybe the director disagrees with your assessment of the gatekeeper?

      • Adam Schorr says:

        The director and I disagree on many things.

      • pragmatist says:

        Picault has been hurt for the past couple weeks, including being on crutches. I think it’s safe to assume that he wasn’t ready for 90 minutes, even if he was favored by Curtin. On the road, in an opener, go with the steady veteran presence.
        if the same highly-conservative choices are made in April, then there is a right to complain.

      • I wouldn’t say playing Pontius and Herbers over Picault is conservative though.

      • pragmatist says:

        It’s a known-quantity, and that’s part of the argument. “Try something different that may be more dynamic.”
        I agree with that…in time. Just not off the bat when the “more dynamic” choices are hurt or recovering from being hurt.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Fair argument. I learned from a friend Ilsinho wasn’t on bench so I must stipulate.
        My point, as mentioned previously, speaks to observations noted regarding the manager’s greater body of work.
        Your list of points well upthread is solid.

      • I thought Pontius had a solid game.
        At times last season he did seem to disappear but I thought last night he was very involved.
        Looking at the stats, according to whoscored Pontius had more shots then any other player on the field (3) and had a ridiculous 9 aerial duals won (next most was 4 by Sheanon Williams). His 47 touches are the exact same amount of touches as Alphonso Davies had for the Caps in 90mins.

    • The Truth says:

      Last sentence nails it. Curtin lacks all creativity and can’t be bothered with innovation.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        The seven-to-ten comments immediately above when I started hunting and pecking give not one thought to half of the game.
        D. E. F. E. N. S. E.
        Every player on the field has to be a two-way player. I was going to exclude keepers and then the little devil in my left ear whispered “distribution.”
        We scored a TON of goals, for us, last season, a ton.
        We gave up more.
        Jim Curtin coached well last night. He taught them to play the only style they can given the personnel he has available.
        With Yaro and Edu at full capacity and full endurance, maybe he can try to run with Vancouver, although I doubt it. Vancouver made Red Bull’s look kinda bad on turf and 3,000 travel miles one way.
        With Medunjanin and Onyewu, he has to concede the opponent’s defensive half, array nine behind midfield, and read the impending attack.
        Being kind, Dellacamera and Smyrh are being quite hopeful when they claim Medunjanin is as mobile as Nogueira. He certainly was not last night. He did not resume his defensive shape at a sprint or a fast canter.
        The Frenchman had the mobility to play alongside Edu. The Bosnian’s ability to do so remains in doubt. Jones covered more ground than he by a lot. Jones played with Mo successfully at Bethlehem last season.
        There’s a reason Medunjanin is a TAM player not a mega-DP.
        Apropos of nothing, I loved how Alphonse Davies charged into Oguchi Onyewu and simply bounced off. Onyewu’ feet were set and he was not moving. In basketball that was a classic offensive charge. I’d bet that’s why Gooch got away with the shove. It would be fun to watch Onyewu Mark Seattle’s Chad Marshall on a corner kick, from a safe distance.

    • How in the heck…? How DID you get in there???
      The lock is still on the damned gate…;-D
      And here I was actually feeling pretty good about that performance. I thought the team showed more control and poise than they had in any game since mid-season last year. I think it’s a big step in the direction you are hoping for. I’m happy that, despite seeing him in some scary places, Onyewu played 90 and didn’t cost them anything. Jones showed some real poise to compliment Medunjanin. Fabinho looked pretty steady.
      That having been said, as usual, your knowledge takes you much deeper into the game and I am grateful that you share that insight. *I* am happy they got out of bed without jamming their toe on the dresser. *You* are wondering why they aren’t playing the Price in the second act of the Nutcracker. I can learn a few things from that.
      (BTW, I WAS looking for a funnier way to get to the Nutcracker thing, but it’s Monday AM after a late game and I’m way on the wrong side of 50…But I digress.)
      I think Picaut was a sub because he is still recovering from that toe issue. My impression is, even with a tired team in opposition, Alberg must not be fitting the 90 minute plan for this team to play as a cohesive unit. It’d be hard to put current USMNT players on the bench (And that’s where we WANT our guys going…correct?), so you only have two slots to ‘play’ with. Add that Simpson was brought in to upgrade the striker role and that really leaves you with one. Maybe two if you want to debate Jones, but I liked what I saw from him as opposed to the more ‘frentic’ Crevalle.
      One can defintely argue the choices, but it’s one game and I have a feeling there will be some player rotation because there ARE actual choices this year. We’ll get our chances to see some different combinations, because Pontius and Bedoya are going to be absent soon enough.
      I’ll agree that it would have been nice to see more against a team playing on 3 days rest, and that it COULD mean we’re in for some disappointments against more rested (and talented) opponents.
      I’m willing to give it some time for the new players AND Curtin to adjust.
      48 points

    • The Realist Brian says:

      Good points. I would love to see Piccault and Epps man the wings. They are dynamic players and speed of play looked good in preseason. Piccault showed it again last night. Not going to happen though to your point.
      Far too many square passes and long balls for my taste (short, short, long), even though I thought Jones and Med were very good last night. We do need a #10 to pull the strings, or someone to drive/penetrate the defense with the ball to pull them out of their shell. A couple of examples: I watched some of the Atlanta-Pink Cows game, and the Almiron was a player that broke shit down and caused havoc on the Red Bulls defense. Another example before he got hurt: Kaka. I remember watching him against the US in Chicago (where little US kids were wearing Brazil colors), and realizing that we don’t have that type of dynamic midfielder that can drive up the field confidentially and break a defense down with that run. It’s possible that Najem and Anthony Fotana could be that player for the U, but they are a ways away.
      Thanks for the Curtain to have the courage to play Derrick Jones. Play your youth. They can play, and they need to learn. D. Jones could be a future national team player.
      I find it interesting that Tannenwald called the game boring. I didn’t think it was, especially with the possibility of Manneh and Davies have speed that kills, I was happy to walk out with a point, especially playing on the plastic shit.
      Ilsinho- please be healthy this weekend. Much needed.

      • I think turf was a big factor too. The team was inches away a few times but lost control. I hate turf and have had the same thing happen to me when I played on it. It’s not an excuse as they should have done better, but let’s see how they look in a few weeks before killing to O.

    • I disagree that Herbers and Pontius are worse than Alberg and Ilsinho. They are different, each being better at certain things. Thye would be better in the Dutch league which is what you want, but this is MLS. I think too many of those players will sink our team. Plus Ilsinho is the starter when healthy which should give the team a good balance.
      This was a good start for the first week of the season. Let’s see how this team grows over the next few weeks. I am encouraged.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        If Ilsinho is a starter when healthy we are moving in the right direction because Fabian Herbers isn’t better.
        If Pontius is the 70 minute guy week in and week out and is subbed for pure speed and creativity in attack I guess this will have to due. Outside of Ilsinho this team is sorely in need of players that can dribble between the lines and deform a defense… I’ve been on the record with that for what seems years.
        I appreciate Chris Pontius, His game bores me and in that position on the field I hope for panache. Can’t help it.
        I do not want Dutch Votebol… I crave a more compact game where the ball is on the ground more…yes- that is not ethnocentric- that is the affectation of higher quality of play… on the record there as well. Just because it is week one… This is a style of play that is emerging in MLS- what is it now- 3.25?
        As The Realist Brian mentions above… for real? Short Short Long as ethic— STILL?

      • While I agree on broad terms with you I do think that giving a team a pass in the first few games is fine since they are still learning to play together. I would also argue that Herbers brings many things better to the table than Ilsinho, including workrate and defense, which is useful in certain circumstances, although I agree Ilsinho should be the starter.
        Also, I didn;t the the short short long was as bad as you say. A lot of those “long” passes were field switchers that were relatively safe and not a bad way to adcance the ball up the field. I also think Medunjanin spotted some nice looks but was a bit off on a couple of his passes. I’m hoping that the dribbling improves on grass but we will see. Bedoys definitely needs to run at people more, I think he can do it.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Indeed …… my metric is playing well and I expect that to improve with games played- no question:
        First game. Turf. Far from home. injuries. New pieces. all of it. I concur 100%.
        I am looking for dynamism though… guys that make your breath catch, you can’t take your eye off of especially when on the ball in a bit of space looking to express themselves… that is what gets ass in the seats and eyes on the TV as much— if not more than points.
        Breathtaking speed and skill to corkscrew a defender into the earth… destroy then observe and find the open lane to place the ball into or through.
        — every time.

      • Yes I agree. I am hoping for the same thing. I think it’s coming too, some of the young guys look legit.

  9. Loved jones tonight..seemed to be in right position at every turn even when he tired in 2nd half..other then that I wasnt very impressed..the attack is just nonexistent most times and I saw no answer to that problem..silver lining is a point on the road to start season so I’ll take it

    • The answer to the offense is time. We had 3 new players in the spine and another come on as a sub. Also missing our starting RW. This takes time and it was a conservative effort to protect the backline. I thought the team kept it’s shape well and it was a good start to the season.

  10. Where are the goals gonna come from

  11. This was more or less what I expected. Jones was definitely the highlight. The kid can play. Hopefully by the time Edu is ready, Jones has written his name on the starting lineup, and Edu becomes irrelevant and trade bait (if anyone would want him).
    So the offense…missing in action. Barnetta hasn’t been replaced and it shows. People pointed to all the goals scored last year and how they were spread out, but the person who spread the ball isn’t here. The Union will struggle to score this year without a replacement for Barnetta.
    The defense…slightly better than I expected. Mostly because of Jones. They can thank their lucky stars for smart placement and a Rosenberry knee. Vancouver did their best to split Gooch and Marquez down the middle. I fear had they been in mid-season form or hadn’t played a few nights prior, they would have succeeded. I can only hope Yaro heals fast.
    They got a point on the road and I can’t be highly critical. My preseason worries haven’t gone away. Unless there’s changes I may have to be content with watching Derrick Jones grow.

  12. Both coaches sure seemed content with a 0-0 draw. If I were a neutral MLS fan trying to complete a Week 1 marathon, I would not have made it to the end of that match. As a Union fan, I’m going to hold off on the conclusion that they *can’t* score until they actually *try*.

  13. Zizouisgod says:

    It was a professional performance of a team content with three points.

    Interesting how the Union back four played together. Gooch shaded over more to Rosenberry’s side to deal with the attacks coming down Vancouver’s left while Marquez covered a wide area across the center of the pitch. This aspect made Jones’s role all the more important as he really had to command the middle of the pitch when the Union were defending.

    Medujanin is so calm on the ball and is deceptively quick. You could see how Vancouver adjusted things in the 2nd half and started to bracket him with two players when the Union were in possession.

    Would have liked to see more attacking play, but we did put most of our shots on frame which is a positive sign.

  14. i think the team looked good in the second half. Jones was excellent. Onyewu was solid. Medunjanin is going to be fun to watch. Simpson was starting to grow into the game when he was subbed off. I don’t know if there’s much else to get out of the match than that this team is of marginally better quality than Vancouver. Bedoya is a nice midfielder but no a chance creator. We appear simply not to have that sort of player on the roster. (Maybe Ilsinho?).

    No need to fret too much, though. Watched a few halves of several other matches and no other teams looked great. Atlanta had a hell of an attacking contingent, though. If not for poor defending, they’d be as big a threat as early season prognosticators said. They will be fun to watch, for sure.

    • They were playing in front of 55k at home against a team who didn’t show well in it’s last two games, played on Thursday night and then had to travel across the Continent.
      ATL may have a lot of talent, but I’m not yet convinced their complete product isn’t more hype than substance.

      • I agree that it’s going to take some time for that team to come together. Red Bull was pretty poor through 60 minutes with poor passing and bizarro giveaways. Still, those attacking South American players they’ve brought in have real quality. I think poor defending is going to keep them out of the top half of the East, sort of like it did for NYCFC in year 1. We’ll see.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Plus, NYC’s home pitch doesn’t set up to help out their attacking players. ATL will have that same problem while they play in Dodd with that narrow pitch. Once teams have seen ATL play more, they will figure out how to better play against them.

  15. Andy Muenz says:

    I think the thing that disappointed me was the lack of a 3rd sub. Why not put in Alberg for Jones or Medunjanin and take a shot a 3 points against a Vancouver team with tired legs?
    It seemed like it took Bedoya quite awhile to get into the game. Did he even touch the ball in the first 20 minutes (outside possibly the opening kickoff)?
    One nitpick in the recap. “Frankly, very little of note happened in the half. The Whitecaps had the majority of the possession…” I believe the half time stats showed the Union with 53% possession. The Union possessed it more in the first half but had a lot more difficulty in the final third than Vancouver did.

    • i think curtin’s argument is that if you take off medunjanin or especially jones the midfield suddenly becomes much less sturdy and with vancouver subbing on two pretty skilled attackers you risk losing that road point.
      this attitude isn’t going to produce a playoff team if its used every week, but having that attitude to get a road point that is also the first game of the season and about an eighth of the planet away is a good thing

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        I would like to plagiarize your eighth of a planet concept. Nicely put!

      • I agree, plus we needed to see this game out even if it was just a tie. Games like that have gotten away from us in the past and it was good to preserve a point.

    • Andy, with all due respect — I generally find your comments are quite thoughtful — that would’ve been daft. Putting Alberg into that match for a box-to-box or defensive-minded player would’ve undone our defensive chemistry and very likely led to a 1-0 defeat. In general it annoys me when Curtin doesn’t use all his subs, but on this night, with this particular lineup, it was the right move. The time to bring in Alberg for Jones or Medunjanin would’ve been if we went down 1-0 and had to chase the single point. Then you make Alberg the second striker, which is the position in which he belongs anyway.

  16. The Truth says:

    Takeaways: Ale isn’t a 10 and isn’t our answer for creation; Simpson works hard but isn’t effective (Curtin prefers the former over the latter); Keegs didnt look like himself; D-Jones is D-cent (seriously); Haris was satisfying; Blake is a very good goalkeeper and I like him so much.

    • I felt like Simpson was able to keep possession and lay the ball off to a teammate a handful of times. Certainly I don’t think I remember seeing Sapong do that once when he came on.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Spot on.

      • The Truth says:

        I’m not making Sapong comparisons, simply saying he didn’t impress.

      • Adam Schorr says:

        “Better than Sapong” is setting the bar a little lower than I’d like. Simpson wasn’t effective. Sapong wasn’t effective. The degree to which they weren’t effective is quibbling.

      • I feel like Simpson was just a touch off in a lot of cases. I think once he adjusts he’s going to look a lot better. I think the turf messed with him a few times. While not a great performance I think there could be something there.

      • The Truth says:


    • I think Curtin had Rosenberry and Fabinho stay conservative to help protect a slower back line. It was more tactics than Keegan having an off night. Towards the end he had a couple decent runs in and one notable interception in the midfield that led to a cross in the box.

      I expect to see that again saturday too. TFC is too dangerous on attack to leave Gooch and Marquez isolated.

      • Keegan had at least a couple of egregious giveaways in our half. None of them led to anything, thank goodness, but he was definitely not himself. In the second half he grew into the game. Hopefully it was just an off half-night.

  17. Phil in Wilmington says:

    Concerns about the offense aside, let’s be honest: this was a solid, professional result. It’s a point on the road and points we did not drop late in the game. That is real progress for this team compared to last year. Take the point and move on and hope Curtain can figure out the best place to put his offensive talent (or learn that a giant DP signing for a true number ten is in the works…).

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      No roster space for one.
      We will only be guessing salary cap space until mid-to- late May, but a large salary or two would have to leave before a large one could be acquired.
      That is by no means impossible, but the cap and the roster set limits.

  18. My takeaway aside from echoing the Jones comments above . . . it looks like Andre Blake’s distribution from the back has improved quite dramatically. All of his long balls seemed to hit the intended target. That was the one major flaw in his game up to this point.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      I would add that he player “sweeper keeper” better than I remember.

      • +1. He has to play that if we are going to keep a high line. Do that well and only perfect balls over the top can beat us. Should give confidence in the backline to not retreat.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Yes…well said… and a higher line is on order of supreme importance for the compacted game I rebut you with above…

      • I agree on that and without a doubt desire the compacted game as well. Everything works (and looks) better.

  19. Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

    I though Bedoya had a really good work rate, especially in the second half. Covered a lot of ground. But the need for a playmaker was glaring. On a side note, I still don’t like Sapong. I realize that he wasn’t going to get a lot of service at the point he came into the game, but he just didn’t get into good spots.

    Last but not least, Brek Shea is flat out awful.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Shea was not awful, Thursday night against Red Bull’s, he gave them trouble.

      • Dan c (formerly of 103) says:

        Shea was awful. Lost possession like 4 times in his first 5 touches, couldn’t control his body, flopped all over. Let Keegan beat him twice down the line, and didn’t connect once with Montero, the guy they pay all the money too to score all the goals.

    • I could literally feel myself relax whenever Shea got the ball. He is like the opposite of a threat. He’s like a hug for the opposition.

  20. I will be content with a point. The way the game played out I feel if they wanted to really push for it they could’ve gotten a win.

    Jones had a great game, it’s lovely to see progress for him. Other than that clear off the line from Rosenberry, the defense looked pretty solid. Hopefully that continues. Medunjanin clearly has class, but I feel like he needs to be less predictable. Particularly in the first half, felt like every pass he played was a long ball over the top, not really connecting through the midfield. Still not sure about Simpson, it’s hard to say when that striker isn’t getting service. Still.. a point is a point.

    That said though, can’t help feeling that this team should be better. At least it should look better.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Vancouver’s defense is not bad. Give them some credit. They suppressed Sasha Klejstan last Thursday, given Klejstan no longer has McCarty behind him to feed and cover, but still.
      I liked the way Christian Dean played last night. They did not miss Waston [sic] much.

  21. The Chief says:

    Good result, and good team. Pontius and Herbers on the wing should be our first choice players as they’ve proven they can produce, Bedoya is solid in the middle, and jones is good enough at the 8. I think we can have success this year with this team. And for anyone arguing to have picault in over pontius and ilson jr over Herbers, please, please look at their production and then tell me who should start. I’ll wait. Production doesn’t lie and it’s not even close. Both those players produced miles more than their counterparts (comparing to Picaults time in germany). “BUT THEY LOOK BETTER ON THE FIELD THAN HERBERS AND PONTIUS.” So you’d choose aguedelo over BWP because he’s flashier? Fine, do that and my team will whip yours every time. What matters are goals and I think the team we played tonight is the best at getting them, even despite tonight’s result. Plus there’re better defensively (I’m still unconvinced ilson even learned what defense is)

    • I’d like to see Ilsinho over Herbers right now. I think he’s just the better player. But I agree on Pontius. Picault was fast but he looked like he had corks in his boots when he touched the ball. I think the way Curtin wanted to use him was appropriate. Bring him on to really push an opponent’s back line late in a match.

      • I agree and I think that was the plan until Ilsinho got hurt. Can’t do anything about that.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Picault attacked his OB three times in the 20 minutes he was on the field… could it be it looked like a player with ‘CORK’ because he too isn’t comfortable on turf that is such an easy excuse for others?
      Did Pontius really even play? Yes. I get it. He’s a solid player. No argument. I’m looking for my ‘wingers’ to attack on the ball not play one and two touch an entire game….there are 8 other players on the field that can play one and two touch… there are no late runs into the box with union almost EVER because of this very reason… for season upon season… then when the one time comes in the entire game, Herbers holds the ball and puts a lame shot into side netting when his striker is peeling off into space for a one time past the goalie… and who knows who is likely late running to top of box.
      This is my point. That’s all. Pontius doesn’t strike fear in anyone and to be honest the more I watch of Fabian Herbers, he doesn’t strike fear in any one either… we’ll see how that processes as season wears on…much will be fixed on the right I guess with Ilsinho playing even though he should be inverted IMO.
      Multiple people at multiple points this preseason have wondered where are the goals going to come from and now that I wonder on it too and present a theory…I’m looking for Dutch Football and players who LOOK BETTER ON THE FIELD. It’s bollox.
      — here to tell you- it will be me gently nudging ‘you all’ back to my original post if and when this keeps cropping up.

      • I appreciate this point. Having started my football weekend with Liverpool- Arsenal and Man City – Sunderland — the wing play we’re seeing in MLS is quite a long way off (a galaxy far far away?) from Sadio Mane, Leroy Sane and Raheem Sterling. I have a hard time putting my finger on counterparts in the states. Lloyd Sam? Mike Grella? Maybe a step closer in style than Pontius, but….

        After leading the team in scoring — And leading all other American born MLSers in goals (!!!) — it’s hard to argue Pontius belongs on the bench. Ilsinho definitely needs to get in that starting XI. We need creativity. Not just hard running.

      • The Chief says:

        Pontinus isn’t solid though. 18 goals created last year? Compared to a midfielder like Valeri who some consider to be the best attacking midfielder in MLS whom only had 21 goals creates. Pontius is one of the best scoring and creating midfielders in MLS bar none. Bar none! Maybe you don’t like the way he plays his game, fine, but he produced. Look back at the last time he was healthy. Almost identical numbers to last season. He may not be elite, but he’s darn near close for MLS. I don’t get the argument for Fafa. He has speed. Isn’t that the justification for playing one Walter restrepo last year? Ok he was fast…that’s it. No intelligent runs or good skills, and so he was a flop. Same with fafa. Pontius makes good runs and I actually think of him as one of our best runners in the box. It’s just no argument.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        comparing walter restrepo to Fafa Picault?

      • Chief, If I wasn’t clear, I’m 100% in favor of Pontius keeping his job on the left wing. He’s more than earned it. I get pachy’s point about style, but you can’t argue with Pontius’ production. And as much as I like style, I like production, too.

    • I half-agree with you — certainly on production vs. style. And also on Pontius, who is a first-class player (who didn’t have a very good game last night, which happens). I do think that Ilson should be given a shot over Herbers though. In fact, what I’d really like to see is Ilson at the CAM, and Bedoya on the right wing. With those 3, nobody will ask where the goals will be coming from.

  22. 2016 Union definitely give up the losing goal in the last fifteen minutes of a match like that.

  23. I just don’t understand why we only used 2 subs.

    • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

      He was holding on for a point in the last 15 minutes, who was he going to bring on? Maybe Alberg for Herbers and move Sapong to the wing? Obviously not going to sub the backline and who would he bring in the midfield? Could have brought Alberg in, but for who? Remember, Alberg doesn’t exactly track back and help. That leaves Crevalle… Curtin did a good job of subbing guys in early that he thought could impact the game, just didn’t get a goal.

      My guess is that we see ALOT more squad rotation then we did in 2016, which will be good.

      • I guess the question should have be phrased: why was there no one on the bench that could come in and help defensively?
        If the goal was 1 point, which is fine, why not even take off Sapong, bring in Crevalle and push Bedoya up to maintain a decent press. Get an extra 30 seconds or so. Why not have a scenario in place where someone could come in defensively?

      • pragmatist says:

        Who do you take off in that case? Are you subbing out Jones, who was one of the best players on the field? Or Medujanin?
        And Sapong came in for Simpson. You won’t find many managers anywhere that will pull a guy 10 minutes after bringing him on if he has done nothing to deserve it, and isn’t getting the service to be a huge factor.
        There isn’t always a benefit to using all 3 subs just for the sake of using them. This may have been one of those instances.

      • I would not have subbed Jones or Medujanin. And i get Sapong just came in, I was just suggesting an offensive/defense sub. I guess i am saying that IF the idea of earning one point away was the focus, then why was the bench set up as it was?

      • Because we got a point so a sub wasn’t needed? I didn’t see any of the players looking like they were dead tired out there. I honestly don’t see the issue of not using that last sub spot.

      • I would have subbed off Herbers . . . not necessarily for his replacements contributions, but because he looked at times like he was destined to pick up a 2nd yellow

      • And perhaps to pull another 30 or more seconds off the clock, late. have him come off at a slow jog.

      • yeah, second yellow would have been unfortunate. I also think the time saved with a substitution can be beneficial. (didn’t see yours in time Pete)

      • Great minds, AzUnion…

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I agree. I think Alberg could have come on as fresh legs for Medunjanin with Bedoya sliding into the number 8. Given they were playing against a tired team, Alberg was your best chance to steal 3 points.
      I realize that people are worried about sealing the deal on 1 point, but the risk reward of the 3-1-0 points system says go for the win late. Too many coaches (not just Curtin) play safe to ensure the 1 rather than go for the 3 but that’s a long run losing strategy.
      The other thing is that we don’t know how Medunjanin is going to react to the combination of the long flights and the long season (i.e. no offseason). Yes, taking him out early may not have paid dividends last night but if he’s dragging at the end of next week due to the flight time or later in the season due to the minutes in Tel Aviv, it could come back to bite the Union later.

      • pragmatist says:

        My thinking on it is that this was Game 1. Imagine what we are talking about today if he moves the lineup around just to use the third sub and we give a late goal on a communication breakdown.
        In Game 6? Absolutely. But Game 1 is about much more than just the points you earn. It’s about setting a tone. Coming out neutral is perfectly fine. Just don’t come out of it with your fans headhunting.
        Again…just for Game 1. That ends now. But it’s understandable in game 1.

  24. OneManWolfpack says:

    Nobody really talking about Haris, who I thought was very Noguiera-like last night. I didn’t like his over the top balls early in the game, but he seemed to grow into it, and started moving the ball very well. I really enjoyed he and Jones’ relationship, and calmness on the ball. This is very good going forward, and it also allows Edu to get fully healthy before attempting any kind of return.
    All in all, I will absolutely take a point on the road… in the first game… in Vancouver.
    Big test this weekend at home… hope the weather isn’t a total shit show

    • pragmatist says:

      Some of the best players are the least talked about. My Spurs bias will show here, but Luka Modric and Christian Erikson are not talked about much when they play. And it’s because they are doing their jobs. Medunjanin is supposed to be a similar player, albeit much bigger. We’ll see if he continues that understated role, while growing more and more into a tempo-dictating type of player.

  25. I think the critical comments on Herbers and Pontius are a bit harsh. I remember seeing Pontius create a very good chance and put a shot on goal, and I remember Herbers taking a very good position to draw a foul when Vancouver were pressing in the late second half. I do agree that we have other players that need to see time in their positions so here is hoping we are going to be a bit more responsive to the needs of each game. Haris seemed perplexed at the decision making from his backs, often pointing at the option he wanted them to take while they took another.

    • Outside the Box says:

      “Haris seemed perplexed at the decision making from his backs, often pointing at the option he wanted them to take while they took another.”

      I thought it was ironic that Jones was doing the exact opposite of the defense and immediately shuffling a pass were Haris told him. I think Vancouver started to pick up on it by the end of the game and almost picked one off at the end.

      It kind of felt like Curtain was fielding two #6’s out there to protect the back line and that may have been the plan.

      I would have liked to seen Alberg in for Simpson and not Sapong.

  26. As many note the Union came out fast from intermission and the subs were offensive minded. Props to JC for both. He is on the record as believing that coaches cost more games than they win. Jones and Pica rewarded his choices. He knows he has more talent so better results are expected. Barring injury, will Alberg will have only limited chances to stick?
    Taking this point also builds confidence in a team with so many new – and new-to-MLS – players.
    But set piece napping very nearly undid them again – who lost a wide-open Harvey?

  27. Runningon says:

    Overall about what I would expect for a road opener with many new parts. I would like to see Fafa Picault as the number 9 as a change of pace. Simpson and Sapong are too similar and speed over the top could open more space for the midfield. It appears Harris likes to drop the ball over the top so speedy diagonal runs could be effective.

    • HopkinsMD says:

      My only concern on this point is Picault’s finishing. From the footage I watched, he does not look like he has the shot (cannon or control) of goal scorer.

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