Analysis / Commentary / Opinion / Union

Hope and expectations for a crucial three-game home stand

The Union are in second place in the East. This fact would be cause for celebration in almost any of the club’s previous nine seasons, but, after spending much of the season at the top of the table, fans are nonplussed, especially after the lackluster loss at Chicago Saturday that dropped the team from first to second. Though PSP’s Chris Gibbons gave solid analysis of what didn’t work, I found myself scratching my head as I watched the match: the Union just didn’t look like their parts added up to a whole team in the way they had on their best wins. As the season winds down, here’s a look at what we can expect in the next few games, depending on which Union side shows up.

DC United – Aug 24

The last time the Union played DC, they beat them so badly Wayne Rooney fled the country (and now won’t be available for the match at all after a silly red card). United are not currently firing on all cylinders and are particularly not getting the work out of their strikers they want. Success in this match will likely be determined by the Union getting their offensive shape together. Against Chicago, it seemed that no one in the attack had a meaningful sense of where anyone was, with Haris Medunjanin in particular seeming to send passes into the box intended for no one. Meaningful off-the-ball runs could remedy these issues, and it’s on Przybyłko and Wooten to find those spaces.

What to hope for: A commanding three-point performance.

What to expect: Given the Union’s last two outings, an ugly three points or a draw.

Atlanta United – Aug 31

The two teams currently top of the East will face off at Talen next Saturday. The teams’ last meeting, in Atlanta, resulted in a draw, but the Five Stripes side visiting Chester on the 31st will be far different than the one that allowed Brendan Aaronson to score his first professional goal. Atlanta have found their footing under Frank de Boer. Josef Martinez is scoring consistently without Miguel Almiron’s help and Pity Martinez is finally looking like more than an expensive publicity stunt. However, if the Union want to be more than playoff also-rans, they must beat teams like Atlanta. This match will be a test of whether the Union’s back line woes have been solved in any appreciable way. Can Trusty be the defender he was for most of the season? Can Elliott track Martinez’s runs and effectively shut him down? And whither Ray Gaddis?

What to hope for: A gutted-out three points or a respectable draw.

What to expect: An absolutely wild match: the last two times these teams have met have been intense.

LAFC – Sep 14

The presumptive 2019 Supporters’ Shield winners will visit Chester as the Union’s first outing after an international break. LAFC have run riot in MLS this year, and there’s no doubt they plan to leave Talen with the full three points. There is no aspect of the Union’s coaching and on-field talent that will not be tested by this match. Can Curtin show the tactical flexibility to match LAFC’s talent? What will the Union’s midfield make of the seemingly-unstoppable Carlos Vela? Can the back line defend against Latif Blessing in the box without one of his theatrical spills that lead to penalties?

What to hope for: Anything that doesn’t embarrass.

What to expect: Some answer to the question of whether the Union can play with elite teams or will remain at the top of MLS’s second tier.


  1. A three game homestand against the first team the Union ever beat followed by the only two current teams they have never beaten.

  2. I’d like the Union to play its best eleven and take Atlanta and LA on head to head. Yes, both teams have more quality across their respective squads, but you’re not going to beat either one with a conservative, bunker approach. Best bet is to catch them sleeping, play positive football the way you want to. No fooling around with Warren Creavalle or Fabian anywhere other than the 10. If we don’t approach these games with clear intent, we’re going go be dispatched. I’m going to stay positive and hope for 5+ points, which I’m OK with. 7 would be fantastic.

  3. I don’t think this team as designed can sit back effectively and wouldn’t expect Jim to play them that way.

  4. In Tanner We Trust says:

    Like I said before, it’s make or break time. DC is the cupcake. Can’t get caught looking ahead. Anything less than 3 points is embarrassing. If we can manage 4 points against the top 2 teams in the league, I’ll be satisfied. If we wind up with 6, it’s time to lock in on the 1 seed for the playoffs. I think they can do it, which a complement to their ability in general, it’s more about their ability to get things done at home. Especially in big games. Remember NYRB?

  5. PhilinWilmington says:

    Are y’all excited? This is exciting stuff! Everything to play for at the business end of the season, not just hoping to make it above the line, but looking at all kinds of options, with opponents that will all play tough and could skin this team if the Union don’t bring the kind of fight they have all season.

    Exactly where I think we want them to be, if we’re honest. IN the fight, but still needing to keep punching in order to finish on top, and with an underdog label in 2 out of the next three, even being at home.

    IMHO, this has already been the greatest single season in the history of the club, and the next three games will determine just HOW great.

    This is exciting stuff.

  6. If the U want my $1800.00 I hope for their sake they show up. Have to be honest I expect what I’m accustomed to. Scratch out a draw against D.C. Followed up by 2-0 to Atlanta. One goal will be a PK. Then LAFC doing what they’ve done to every other team this year. Time for O captain, My captain to show up and lead his team by example…. A goal or two or a few assist in the next few games. And he should be the PK taker….. that’s what leaders are for. I haven’t forgot kasper blowing it over the crosss bar while bedoya watched.
    The season begins in 48hrs. Let’s see what kind of minerals the boys are made of….. JC too!
    Foe what it’s worth, GO U!!!!!

  7. Chris Gibbons says:

    The Union are going to go after Atlanta and LAFC, I’d bet money on it.

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