Commentary / Union

Monteiro is a lock

Photo: Rob Simmons

Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw with Colorado felt like a loss for the Philadelphia Union. It was a dreary night in Chester and just about every chance for the home side went begging. When an equalizer came, the home crowd deflated and the needless turnovers in the midfield spiked. Groans from the Son’s of Ben section kept getting louder until the final whistle and for the third straight home match, fans left without seeing a win.

Two points of an available nine on the home stand really stings, but the latest one felt so avoidable. More possession, more chances, more shots, more flare. The Union did just about everything but finish, and it was made worse by having the best player on the field — not taking advantage of the opportunities created by Jamiro Monteiro was the difference.

It was a great opportunity for the Dutchman, with Jim Curtin opting to stretch the opposition with his classic 4-2-3-1 setup. Marco Fabian, still getting back to full fitness, came on as a substitute and Brenden Aaronson only played about 10 minutes ahead of this weekend’s match with Minnesota, so it was Monteiro’s turn to run the No. 1o.

News flash: He can do it.

The 25-year-old was electric throughout the night, slicing through defenders and precisely sending the ball wide into open spaces. Eventually it lead to the Union’s lone goal, when Monteiro turned on a dime and poked one through to Sergio Santos on the left, who finished cooly. Call it poor defending, but it was awareness and touch that created the chance. The Union scored just twice on a whopping 63 total shots in the three home matches and it could use as much awareness as possible.

Monteiro showed it again on the sideline in the first half. With his back to the pitch and two defenders closing him down right in front of the bench, he pulled the ball back and faked one out before scooting by the other with a quick cut. Fans erupted and it was showed again on the replay board moments later, but it was more than just flashy footwork. That type of skill is invaluable in tight spaces around the 18 and multiple times on Wednesday, Monteiro-sparked one-touch passing almost led to a goal.

On one hand, it was exactly what Curtin was looking for. He wanted to stretch the Colorado back line and use maximum width — crosses and take-ons into the box galore. Monteiro was stringing it all together, and the forwards not finishing simply isn’t his fault. Hell, Ray Gaddis even came close twice, so you know it was free-flowing. The reality is 26 shots (18 inside the box) should always equal more than one goal, and Monteiro very easily could have had a handful of assists.

No better chance came than in the last few minutes of the match, when he took a quick touch before playing an absolute world class 30-yard chip up to Kacper Przybylko in the box. The final touch was too heavy and the ball sailed over, but it would have made for an emphatic ending to a tremendous performance. One of the best passes of the season.

Monteiro eventually slid back into a holding role when Fabian and Aaronson came on in the second half, but the beauty is he can do both well. The Union undoubtably have some depth in the midfield, but only one midfielder looked worthy of starting every match on Wednesday. Alejandro Bedoya didn’t provide a whole lot and Haris Medunjanin had one of his “pass it straight to the other team” fits. With Fabian’s health being an uncertainty and Aaronson still gaining experience, Monteiro should be an absolute staple in the lineup.

He was far and away the best player on the pitch and potentially a lone bright spot from an otherwise gloomy night. There are always lineup decisions to make, especially with mid-week matches like this one, but Curtin’s job should have just gotten a little bit easier. If the Union are to to get out of this funk, Monteiro needs to be on the field in some capacity. He showed what he can do in an attacking role and we already know what he can do in a box-t0-box setup.

The rest is up to coach.

9 Comments

  1. Alicat215 says:

    Ahhh, what did I tell everyone: Monteiro, Monteiro, and Monteiro……far and away in a class above the rest….dude is a legit baller. He even gave a Nogs wtf last night! Even further solidifying our love!

  2. John O'Donnell Jr says:

    Call me skeptical but I’m judging him playing the ten last night. I think last night he had a tendency to hold the ball to long and slow the offence. He finds it hard to go left and isn’t a real threat to shoot from distance at all. Plus his corner kicks are high fly balls to no one in particular. I don’t think you’re going to break a packed defences down if you don’t pass the ball quickly towards the forwards in the middle and aren’t a threat to shoot from distance.
    .
    His strengths for me are being a disrupter and winning the ball back. The ability to hold the ball to kill a game off. If I don’t see him at the ten for the rest of the year I’ll be happy.

    • As we have seen over the past few seasons the 4-2-3-1 can only work with an elite playmaking #10 (which makes it a dumb formation in my opinion since #10s are so hard to find) and Monteiro isn’t that. And that’s the formation we played last night. He can be a solid #10 in the 4-4-2 we want to run, but yeah, he’s elite at the 8 and that’s where he should be most of the time.

    • Vince Devine says:

      Agree 100%. I love watching him destroy opposition defensively, but he tended to drop back too much last night leaving a big hole in the upper midfield. With both Bedoya and Haris playing deep, I don’t think he needed to drop so far. I like him on the left working with Kai, but I don’t think he’s a 10.

  3. Apologies to “Rudy”, but he is “five foot nothing, a hundred and nothing”, and keeps on moving. I was expecting him to have problems with being driven off of the ball, but he is both quick and fast, and I sincerely hope that he is here for the long term. Even if he is just the bridge to the return of Fabian and Santos to form, I am enjoying his production and I admire what he brings to the table. Again, let’s hope that the Union holds onto him for a year or five.

  4. Alicat215 says:

    The earth is covered by 73%water, the rest is covered by Jamiro Monteiro! ( sorry Ngolo Kante!)

  5. Still think he would be even better at #6. Put Aaronson and Bedoya in at the 8s and Fabian at the 10 and you have a creative, dynamic, fast midfield which is as strong offensively as defensively.

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