Analysis

Postgame analysis: Philadelphia Union 1-0 New England Revolution

It wasn’t pretty, but the Union found just enough magic from Corey Burke and Andre Blake to all but extinguish New England Revolution’s playoff hopes — and bolster their own — in a messy 1-0 victory on Saturday night in Chester.

Instead of the beautiful, free-flowing soccer that played NYCFC off the field a week prior, New England were bent on making their final game versus the Union in 2018 a chaotic and torpid affair.

As Dan Walsh pointed out in his column earlier today, Brad Friedel’s side committed to man-marking the Union’s three midfield maestros — specifically Haris Medunjanin — to take away any semblance of balance or possession away from the home side.

With Haris taken out of much of the game, Philadelphia was forced to rely upon their center backs and wings for any attack. Even when the Union had possession in the Revs’ half, there was nothing in the middle of the field as Medunjanin and Borek Dockal were both heavily shadowed. Jack Elliott ends up stepping up into a right back role to play a cross in:

 

It gets worse though. Here’s a ridiculous thirty yards of vacant space that no one is checking to. Auston Trusty steps up and takes a shot because, well, what else is he supposed to do when everyone is just standing there?

 

That’s a big problem. When the Union’s central midfielders are snuffed out of the game, the other attacking players need to check to the ball. You can’t just sit in the box surrounded by defenders waiting for a cross or a wonder-goal from a center back.

In the second half, the Union were immediately back on the front foot with several near opportunities that were just a pass or better finish away from opening up scoring.

In the 49′ minute, you can already see that Jim Curtin pushed his players to stick closer together, including moving Alejandro Bedoya to the right wing, which worked so well last week. It doesn’t quite come off here, but the positioning is what matters and it does result in C.J. Sapong drawing a dangerous free kick.

 

Just a few minutes later, Cory Burke scored the game’s lone (weird) goal. But it wasn’t just Medunjanin’s pass that led to the very VAR breakaway and winner.  Alejandro Bedoya does work on this play, cutting off the passing angles and forcing the turnover. Another unsung hero is Fafa Picault, who wisely cuts off the back pass to the Revs fullback, and shuttles the rock to his playmakers when the loose ball falls to him.

 

From that point on, the Union were able to contain New England enough to preserve win — with a little (or a lot) of help from Andre Blake. On Penilla’s chance below, the Union do some solid defensive work and Keegan Rosenberry steps up nicely, but is way too lazy on the clearance. Thankfully, Blake does what Blake does.

 

 

The Union were not without other chances, though. When the game stretched out late, the right side of the field again became a training ground for creativity. Watch how Keegan Rosenberry doesn’t just overlap, but makes a dangerous run to find Dockal streaking toward the endline. Dockal is finally open when Burke pulls his defender away from the goal to give the midfielder space. Dockal’s ball doesn’t make it to Burke, but that’s a solid opportunity.

 

But as Dan pointed out in his column, this is a game the Union don’t win in the past. In 2018, though, the Union have been extremely solid when scoring first and brought in Derrick Jones and Warren Creavalle to see the game out. Derrick Jones put in an excellent shift to shut down New England late.

 

He looked pretty dang solid on the ball too. Chances are we’ll see more of Jones in a few weeks when the Union’s schedule gets busy and they contend for the U.S. Open Cup Final.

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Finally, a little shameless, non-PSP self-promotion: I’ll be calling tomorrow’s Union v. D.C. United away match on Squawkr. It’s a new, Philly-based app that let’s pundits and fans alike set up a real-time podcast for live sporting events. Basically like a digital watch party — and you don’t have to listen to D.C.’s announcers claim Fafa Picault is a Haitian international or get on a high horse about Haris Medunjanin talking trash.

Download Squawkr in the app store, turn the TV down, and watch the match with me as I drink some beers.

5 Comments

  1. just downloaded the app and will give it a try.

  2. Good piece. I think we are under-rating how hard it is to beat a team 3 times in 1 year. Good win for the Union against a team that was more interested in fouling than playing soccer.

  3. Old Soccer Coach says:

    We’ll see Jones sooner than the Open Cup Final week.
    .
    Right now the club is in a Sat – Weds – Sat sequence.

    • I sure as hell HOPE we see Jones start a match this week!!

      Dan talked in his piece about how Curtin has grown as a coach — I really hope that extends to squad rotation. Our midfield cannot play every game for the several weekend-midweek-weekend sequences we have coming up in the next couple of months.

      But even beyond that are several questions:
      •Do you rest them all at once, and play for a draw (at best) in one game? Or do you rest one of them for each of 3 matches? Or do you just plan to take one out early for one match? Or some combination?
      •I don’t see anyone who is a decent substitute for Dockal.

      So maybe you start Dockal but sub him after 60 minutes in 2 of the matches? Rest Medunjanin for the midweek game? Bedoya is almost inexhaustible, but eventually wears down during a really tough stretch. Maybe you see if he can push it to play through the next 2 matches, knowing there’s a 2-week break coming up? Tough decisions for Curtin this week.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        I think Curtin probably starts his regulars all 3 matches this week given their importance (especially tonight) and the fact that there is a week off afterwards.
        .
        Where he shouldn’t start any of the 3 is in Seattle midweek on Sept 19. For that one he shouldn’t even have them get on the plane. Starting midfield for that game should be Creavalle, Jones, Ishino, Accam, and either Fontana or Najem, with Herbers up top. (McCarthy, Fabhino, Marquez, McKenzie, and Mbaizo to round out the starting 11.)

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