Match analysis: Philadelphia Union 1-1 CF Montreal

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Boos rang out in Chester at the final whistle of the Union’s lackluster 1-1 draw with visiting CF Montreal.

Whether they were for the home team, who played in a manner which head coach Jim Curtin called “boring, to be blunt;” for the referee who, though he dealt half a dozen yellow cards and awarded the Union a penalty on the day, never quite seemed to get a hold of the match; or for the general sense that this Union team, this first place Union team, is still playing well below its potential… is a matter of opinion.

From his seat in the last row, as close to the bathrooms as possible, one author had another theory: fans were booing because they know what might have been on the day, and how this feeling has eerie similarities to other matches in recent Union past.


Love it or hate, the Union dominate the league in Expected Goals, both for and against.

Despite their disinterest in having the ball, match after match they exploit the space afforded them to create chances on frame. It may not always be beautiful, but the underlying metrics suggest it will be (and has been) a successful strategy over a long season.

Expected goals is calculated by the myriad factors that go in a shot: where is it taken, who is in the way, what part of the body is used, etc… – and the Union again won the xG game against Montreal.

What doesn’t show up on the xG stat sheet is that, for the second or third time this young season – and certainly the second week in a row – the Union could have had a multi-goal lead in the first half and didn’t. This unflattering outcome wasn’t because the team’s shooting was off either, it was because they couldn’t get a shot off in the first place.

Here are the most egregious examples.

In the second minute, a 3 on 3 with striker Julian Carranza running to the spot and Daniel Gazdag trailing ends without a shot.

In the 12th, the Union have a jailbreak in the box – three players running toward goal with the entire Montreal defense behind them (having been unlocked by Gazdag and some clever interplay). This chance also ends without a shot as Leon Flach (who earned a 4 in PSP’s Player Ratings but probably deserves less, his second rough outing in a row) chooses not to shoot – unselfish, understandable – and subsequently hits his cross behind both run-holding strikers (absurd, unforgivable).

Finally, in the 38th minute an inch-perfect cross from striker Mikeal Uhre makes it through a crowd of Montreal defenders on to the aforementioned Carranza’s boot – but the ball passes innocuously under it, again ending without a shot on goal.

Author’s note: for those who think Uhre was offside and the chance would not have counted anyway, please review Exhibit A below – the ball is already off of Gazdag’s foot and Uhre is even with two defenders. Alas…

Fans lamented the play of the Union midfield in the comments of PSP’s match report, and there’s a fair amount of blame to go around that no one had their best match and the list of those names starts there.

However, the Union should have won this one going away – irrespective of midfield play. Other teams are taking points from the Boys in Blue simply because they’re scoring on the one or two decent chances they have.

The Union are not, and it came back to bite them again Saturday.

Quick hits
  • Kids day is fun, as is afternoon soccer. Getting a few 2-4 p.m. start times would go a long way for many Union fans in bringing their little ones.
  • The Union and Subaru celebrated Earth Week this week (though MLS did not produce their polarizing Parlay jerseys in honor, as they have for several years) and championed their Zero Landfill commitment along the way. As has been reported before, the trash from Subaru Park does indeed avoid landfills but rather ends up in a local incinerator just down the road in Chester – one noted as “one of the largest emitters of pollution of its kind in the country.”
  • Union pregame festivities inside and out were as lively as ever, with music blaring between 90 and 100 dB. That’s as loud as a snowmobile, and exposure “over 85 dB over extended periods can cause permanent hearing loss.”


  1. My expert analysis on these chances is that if we start to put these away at even an average clip the conversation goes from “they play ugly soccer and can’t finish and look really bad right now” to “wow they are so deadly on the press and can create a 3v0 instantly and put it away so fast”.

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    This is the last month of games where I am giving them the benefit of the doubt. They have 7 games. That will make a total of 15 games played. basically half a season. They have to start scoring these chances at a better than average clip by the end of May. If not, I feel like we will be waiting for ship to come in – that never even left the port.

  3. CJ would have scored that Carranza miss – he would have been on the ground and knocking it off his shin or his knee, but it would have been in the net one way or another
    I’m still giving Uhre a pass to catch up with everyone chemistry-wise
    I also still think that every forward + Gazdag has the ~potential~ to reach double-digits this season
    Santos will need to stay healthy enough to get there, Burke may need to pick up a few goals in Open Cup games, Uhre should absolutely get there or we’ve wasted some of our prize money from last year, Carranza is making things happen already, and a goal a month for the rest of the season gets Gazdag to 10
    There are some ifs, and some of those gimme’s we’ve been missing recently need to start going in, but I am still pretty optimistic over all

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    As one of those fans booing at the end of the game, my issue is the consistently poor passing we’ve seen, especially over the last few weeks. The team doesn’t need possession, especially when it consists of Jack, Jacob, and Jose just passing in a triangle while not accomplishing anything. What the team does need is quick accurate passes to advance the ball when they do have possession rather than immediately ceding it back with poor passes.

  5. Deez Nuggs says:

    If Flach takes the shot there, 9 times out of 10 its saved, but if he makes the angle just a bit tighter two things happen. 1) his odds of scoring go up slightly as he has also narrowed the distance and keeper’s reaction time. 2) there’s chance of a save being parried to another Union player for a tap in.

  6. If I understand the offside rule correctly, I wonder if Flach was concerned about doing a forward pass and getting an offside call. He overcompensated which resulted in the pass behind his teammates.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


%d bloggers like this: