Commentary / Union

The Union look good, again

Photo credit: Earl Gardner

There’s no way around it: The result in Orlando was disappointing. Dropping points by giving up a late goal will never feel good.

But if you look at the bigger picture, they picked up seven points in a nine point week — with four of those points on the road — and with four wins and a draw are on the second-best five-game run in the league (the Sounders have won their last five). The team is playing an exciting and interesting style of soccer, and while the attacking side of the ball still isn’t perfect they’re scoring goals finally and that’s really all that matters.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a new situation for the Union.

Leading up to the 2015 US Open Cup, the team had some truly beautiful play, with Sebastien Le Toux and Fernando Aristeguieta competing for the starting spot at striker, Tranquillo Barnetta setting the bar for attacking midfielders so high that Borek Dockal hasn’t passed it yet (despite how well he’s been playing), and Maurice Edu stepping up to play out of position because that’s where the team needed him most. It was exciting, it was fun to watch, and Sporting Kansas City won on penalties.

In 2016, the Union got off to a slow start, but eventually went unbeaten through eight games in April and May, a team-best streak that still stands. The team was scoring goals, making noise, and looked promising. Until September hit and they collected just two of the possible twenty one points in the final seven games of the season. They made the MLS Cup playoffs despite themselves, but still lost 3-1 while visiting Toronto in the first round.

This isn’t a fun history lesson, and it’s not the story anyone wants to read about a team that’s as hot as the Union are right now. But despite newly-minted enthusiasm from MLS talking heads like Bobby Warshaw, exciting soccer isn’t a new thing here.

This organization has had the chance to impress before and has come up short every single time. That builds excitement, it makes for compelling storylines, and produces some of the most dedicated and passionate fanbases in sports.

But it also creates a lot of skepticism, because until the 2018 Union bring home some hardware it feels all too possible that this could turn into another time when the team was good, but not good enough.


  1. I have faith that they will continue to do well this time. Curtin has become a much better coach and the players are real threats.

  2. Just win the Open Cup in Houston. That’s all I ask.

  3. Fernando Aristeguieta was not good. Let’s stop pretending he was. Corey Burke is better than him at literally everything, especially scoring goals. This Union team is so much better than 2015 it’s not even funny.

  4. “Exciting soccer isn’t a new thing here”???

    Yeah, it is. No Union squad has ever played remotely like this. Aristeguieta, while promising, was too oft-injured to ever do much of anything. Barnetta was a really terrific player, but as creator, Dockal is as good. And there has never been free-flowing, almost European-style ball movement like this.

    And you elided over the cause of their late 2016 slump: the team’s linchpin, Vincent Nogueira, leaving mid-season to head back to France.

    The Union have been very fortunate with injuries lately. If Dockal or Bedoya or Burke gets hurt, we will likely be in real trouble. If not, this is a good squad. Finally.

    • truth here. never have i seen passing like their recent form. final third is miles above where it was even 2 months ago. we are probably the best team ever. sure, we’ve had (slightly) better players in certain positions but we are disciplined, organized and in sync more than i’ve witnessed. my current measure of success is: they see the season out, instead of backing into the playoffs, and win the open cup. that is something you can build next season on. failure is not doing both.

    • The Union haven’t displayed this type of passing with any consistency in the past. The 2015 Open Cup Final was some of the best soccer this team has ever played for 90 minutes. Chaco and Nogs were dominant during regulation, but unfortunately they ran out of gas in extra time.
      I’d argue that the 2016 Union were hurt more by Barnetta’s chronic knee tendinitis/arthritis then the loss of Nogs. Bedoya was signed later that summer, and he’s a much better player then Vinny, and he’s one of if not my all time favorite Union player. Barnetta when he was healthy is arguably the best player who’s ever worn a Union shirt.
      Definitely agree that if Dockal is out for an extended period of time, the Union are going to struggle. They simply don’t have a player that can capably fill in for him. Losing Bedoya would also hurt, though for a game or two Jones can fill in. Extended time period ……..yeah, Union would be in trouble.

    • Couldn’t agree with Scottso too much more here. While the USOC run was fun, there was NOTHING “beautiful” about this team in 2015. It was like watching a drunk chasing a balloon along the edge a cliff.
      I think Fontana would be pretty decent fill in for Dockal. Bedoya gets hurt, we are in trouble. Burke…(shudder). Let’s just not go there, they actually caught lightning in a bottle with Burke.
      I don’t think it could be argued that his team has been playing some very attractive soccer since the striker situation was finally addressed. Amazing what can happen when you have an actual threat that also knows where he is supposed to be with or without the ball. I truly like CJ, but the soccer IQ and ball handling quality just aren’t “there” for a striker.

  5. Union have earned 24 of 24 possible points against New England, DC, Chicago, and Montreal (with 3 more available coming up). They have secured 1 of 12 possible points against Toronto and Orlando. If they don’t finish in the top 4, it will most likely be the result of the latter.

    • I’d say it’s more because their home record isn’t great. 1 extra win and a tie or 2 at home and we’d be in 4th right now.

      • Do you mean maybe a couple of wins rather than losses at home against Orlando and Toronto?

      • Fair enough, although it could have come from Columbus, SJ (should have been a win), or maybe get a tie against Atlanta/LA. Either way we probably should have a few more points than we do but that’s life. Seems like the Union have moved up from being consistently in that 6-9 in the East to hopefully the 4-6 range. A really nice move forward. Moving into that top 3 is going to take a lot though.

    • I agree about the Orlando games. Those are more concerning, as Orlando is just a terrible team. They looked like a team that was ready for the international break on Saturday, and the Union just couldn’t put them to the sword.
      The Toronto games, I disagree. The first game against TFC, TFC was healthy and had Jozy. The home game against Toronto the Union were without Bedoya and Medunjanin which noticeably hurt them that game. With those two in the lineup that night, the Union would have at least gotten a draw.

  6. Dockal is listed as questionable with an undisclosed injury on the league’s injury report.

    • He can rehab until the Cup Final as far as I’m concerned. I don’t think our core starters starters should even fly to Seattle.

      • Gotta win that next home game against the Impact first. Totally agree on Seattle though. That should be a bottom of the roster squad. Call up some dudes from Steel for that one.

    • So he doesn’t have to go to Czech Rep.

  7. Either an open cup win or a playoff win are needed to call the season a club turn around. Playoffs and the final make the season a success (if you told me that at the beginning of the year I’d have taken it.

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