Commentary / Postgame

Postgame analysis: Philadelphia Union 2-2 Orlando City SC

Philadelphia Union started and finished their Sunday match against Orlando City with beautiful goals, but the stretch of time in between showed that the Union have a lot of questions to answer if they hope to win out in the fight for first place over the coming weeks.

The Good

Kacper Przybylko showed up big for Philadelphia, scoring the key 90th minute equalizer. If he can continue to generate goals for Philadelphia as he has been, he will be a big decider in their late season run. With Andrew Wooten joining the squad soon, and Cory Burke returning from exile some vague time in the future, Przybylko has a lot to prove these next few matches. And he has been proving it, so far at least.

The Union also continued their trend of dominating possession, particularly in the middle third of the pitch, out-possessing Orlando by 61.8% to 38.2%. At the same time, they shot a staggering three times as many shots as Orlando, numbering 21 tries at goal to just 7 for the away side. The Union have shown time and time again that they have the foundation needed to succeed with their squad and tactical approach, but converting that potential into guaranteed points is a battle that they are still fighting to figure out.

The Bad

As good as the Union have been in the middle of the pitch, they have often looked listless and out of ideas in the final attacking third. Sunday’s match against Orlando was no different. Despite a promising start that broke through an interesting flat six-player backline, the Union seemed to struggle to break down the Orlando for the rest of the match until the late Przybylko goal. It has been a similar formula throughout the season: bring the ball up the wings, cross it in to no one, bring the ball up the wings, pass it back to the defense, rinse and repeat.

Missing Monteiro, the Union lacked the pace and work rate needed to break through a defensive-minded Orlando, and lacking Ilsinho, the Union seemed more than reluctant to directly take on defenders. Ilsinho’s greatest talent this season has been beating defenders to create space and opportunities. Without him, the Union were able to bring the game to Orlando’s defense but unable to break them down in any meaningful way. If the Union want to beat teams that put up a fight, it will have to be more than Ilsinho that is confident — and able — to beat defenders one on one.

The Ugly

There seem to be two extremes when it comes to opinions about the Union and taking shots. There are the fans that yell out “take a shot” to players like Haris Medunjanin, when there are 30 yards and three defenders between him and the goal. Then, there are plays where the Union practically have a free shot fall on their lap, and inexplicably decide not to take it.

The happy medium is being deliberate with build up play, but also taking mildly risky shots that are likely to pay off with a goal or at least a rebound. After all, fortune does favor the bold. However, the Union have yet to find this happy medium. With a great number of 21 shots taken against Orlando, the Union were only able to actually shoot on target a third of the time. That means 11 shots were completely off target, and another 3 were blocked by Orlando players. Only 7 shots went towards goal, which helps the scoreline make more sense, since Orlando had 4 of their 7 shots go on-goal.

Just to highlight this point: Medunjanin took 5 shots, with 0 on-target. Marco Fabian took 3 shots, with 1 on-target. And the one shot each that Aurelien Collin, Brenden Aaronson, Alejandro Bedoya, and Sergio Santos took all were off-target. In fact, only Przybylko had a shooting accuracy higher than 50%.

Overall, the Union have been decent this year in scoring compared to prior years, but it is definitely an area where the Union can get a lot of impact if they can improve a modest amount. Hopefully the addition of Wooten will help, but the whole team should step up and commit, if not to scoring then at least to shooting the ball on target.


  1. Chris Gibbons says:

    It was one diagonal run that unlocked Orlando at the end. The Union strikers did a bit of that, but they couldn’t connect the next ball (to a late running midfielder or an overlapping defender). It’s there for the taking, there’s just too much standing around.

    • SOOOO much standing around at that last match. Time and again the defenders and midfielders would patiently work the ball up the pitch, finally break toward the offensive third… and have nothing to do with it.

      Kacper is really showing himself to be a great poacher. And when poaching isn’t available, he drifts all the way back to #10 territory to get the ball and starts spraying it around — which isn’t bad either, because he’s a very good passer. But what he DOESN’T do is make the incisive run in the box. That’s just not his jam.

      Meanwhile Fafa’s game is movement WITH the ball… on the wing, where he can blaze past you. Also not the guy to make the incisive run.

      We’ll have to see what kind of game Wooten plays.

  2. In the (roughly) 9th minute, and then immediately again in the (roughly) 14th minute of the first Orlando game, you can see Bedoya and Haris yelling and gesturing to Fafa to start moving again, or get back onsides so they can play to him before they eventually play a backwards pass.
    There really is a lack of the forwards trying to make space or decent runs for a full 90 minutes. When we compresses the defense in possession, the forwards just kind of stand in line with the CBs and don’t do anything until the ball is cycled to the wing.

  3. Not disagreeing with any of the above, but their scoring problems would be less severe if they were more effective on set plays, especially corner kicks.

  4. My Two Cents says:

    The Union have scored more goals than any other team in the East and trail only LAFC in MLS. Scoring goals is not the problem. The problem is they are susceptible to the counter and the outside defenders are not closing down wingers giving free service into space. Ultimate success this year will be determined by improved defensive spacing. To me, this is the most important issue that needs to be addressed.

    • Agreed that with Ilsinho and Monteiro healthy, scoring is not their biggest problem. Each does a great job at running at the defense, taking on defenders and creating space. Fafa runs, but his is is more about running into space than taking on defenders 1 on 1. Unfortunately we saw how very weak the U is at that without those two players. Seemed like Real is willing to do that and Mbazio on the other side, but Mbazio’s D leaves a lot to be desired.

  5. Kevin1813 says:

    Blake’s work on that second goal definitely is in the ugly section. It was out of character for him, but a howler none the less.

  6. The Ugly: The Union’s Set Piece Defending. Orlando did next to nothing all game, and then the Union let them back in and almost steal a win due to Keystone Cops defending on two set pieces.

  7. More goals for Union… Double Trouble for opposition ……..Real and Ilsinio….
    …..Bright spot of the match was the Union have a new scoring playmkaing option on the left. Real should be on the first team and put in every game in the 60th minute when the Union are tied or behind. With him on the left and Ilsinhio coming in on the right in a double sub would be a great tactical move The opposition will have a very difficult time defending with these different type playmakers both on opposite sides of the field.

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