Fans' View

Fan’s view: What’s the DOOPing problem?

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

There is little debate: the Union have a stellar defense. We have come to rely on a truly fantastic backline with a superhuman goalie in net.

But the offense has been another matter.

For a fanbase craving opportunities to Doop, there is a festering frustration this season: not enough Doops for the amount of chances created.

Why is this and what can the Union do to reverse it?

 The problem

I see there as being three parts to the problem.

First, since Kai Wagner joined the Union, he and the club have grown massively. Mostly all Union fans can agree that he plays a key role, both defensively and offensively. A lot of the Union’s success comes from the left fullback, but what happens when Kai cannot play a role in the offense?

This season, many teams have found a way to break down the Union. Many of the Union’s chances happen when Wagner gets the ball on the wing, but what happens when the opposing team literally has a guy right on Wagner when he gets the ball? Just ask Montreal or the New York Red Bulls. In these games, when Wagner received the ball, either Alastair Johnson (Montreal) or Omir Fernandez/Cameron Harper (New York Red Bulls) pressured him immediately, forcing Wagner to play the ball backwards and not join the attack. Without Wagner, there are less opportunities for crosses from the left side, while the right side is not very offense-minded.

Second, there’s been a lack of healthy and consistent forwards. The Union currently have four out-and-out strikers on their roster (five if you count Quinn Sullivan). All are unpredictable in terms of fitness and availability. DP forward Mikael Uhre has been dealing with a lingering quadricep injury, while Sergio Santos seems to have frequent minor injuries. Julian Carranza is great, but has missed multiple games this season, and Cory Burke is inconsistent.

This season, Carranza has been our best striker by far. The problem is, the two forwards are different each game. This change up top decreases Daniel Gazdag’s ability to produce because of the lack of chemistry between him and the forwards. The Union have tied six out of their last seven MLS matches and have not scored more than two goals since October 3, 2021. The strikers need to produce, but the inconsistency is turning out to be detrimental. 

Finally, there hasn’t been much impact off the bench. Unfortunately, the Ilsinho era has come to an end. As of right now, the Union could really use a replacement. The Union simply have no game changer or super sub off the bench. The young, defensively oriented Union bench usually includes either Matt Freese/Joe Bendik, Findlay, Mbaizo, Real, Bueno, Aaronson, Sullivan, McGlynn, and a striker.

This season, Jim Curtin has relied on Aaronson, McGlynn, and Sullivan to make an offensive impact off the bench, when the team is shorthanded up top. It is safe to say that they have not made a dramatic impression yet, even though McGlynn could be poised for a breakthrough. Bedoya, who has been a workhorse, is reaching the end of his career, so it is important for the Union’s bench to show up when expected.

Right now, when Curtin makes a sub, we need a hero, someone that we can rely on to win us those games and not to drop points. Right now, that super sub is missing.

How the Union should react

Each of these problems, thankfully, has a solution.

Obviously, there is not much the Union can do with the opposing team guarding Kai Wagner, but what they can do is create alternative offensive opportunities. If other players can step up on offense, particularly on the right side, then it will take the massive burden off Wagner’s shoulders. A more offensively-minded Nathan Harriel or Olivier Mbaizo could be a threat through crosses, making opposing teams rethink their tactics.

The Union should abandon the “Christmas Tree” formation. This formation leaves only one striker up top with two CAM’s or attacking mids behind him. This formation does not work with Santos or Burke because it involves constant pressure on the opposing team’s backline. However, I’m interested to see if it may work with Carranza. The Union can look scary up top when all four strikers are healthy, and if they all are, I would like Curtin to experiment with Carranza at the number ten spot, particularly late in the game.

Lastly, in the summer transfer window, the Union need to sign someone. This does not have to be a Lionel Messi, but the Union need a player who can come off the bench and make an instant impact, such as a Kei Kamara, if they want to make a run for silverware.

Come on, Union: it’s time to find those DOOPs!


  1. You forgot to mention that Flach has zero offensive talent, which means they are essentially playing with 10 men offensively. (He does have defensive skill, I’ll give him that.)

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      I don’t understand the need to attack Flach. He’s been a great signing. Arguably, his defense is what takes the pressure off Kai to get forward and make those plays. Flach is a non-stop dirty runner, drawing defenders and creating channels for attack. His runs are creating the space for Gazdag to use. Would it be great if he got a goal now and then, or put in a cross like Kai can? Sure. But to say that’s all there is to offense in this sport is like wearing sunglasses in a darkened room… you’re not really able to see

      • I’ll be happy when he completes more than one pass, or one shot on target, per game. Low bar, isn’t it?

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        Well then, be happy. Leon had 86% passing accuracy against New England. Right there with Kai (90) and Jose (87). Better than the rest of the squad except those two and Gazdag on the night.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    The advantage of the Christmas tree formation is when they are short on forwards (like last game when Uhre was only going to get 15 minutes and Carranza was out). Rather than starting both Santos and Burke, it allowed Aaronson some time next to Gazdag. The way Gazdag is playing, it’s the only way Aaronson is going to get minutes.

    • Vince Devine says:

      Totally agree with Andy’s comments. I’d also add that they made to the Eastern Conf. final last year predominately using the Christmas tree at the end of the season and throughout the playoffs. And the fix for when Kai is being heavily defended isn’t to cross from the right hand side, it’s to keep the ball on the ground and pass through the lines.

    • Tim Jones says:

      Aaronson may get minutes at one of the central midfield spots in the diamond. He is not an attacking mid exclusively.
      He’s got three attacking mids pushing him from below on Union II, Carlos Paternina, Anthony Ramirez, and Bajung Darboe.

  3. We may not have to worry about teams keying on Wagner too much longer unfortunately

  4. Deez Nuggs says:

    I think Ben is right on his three points. And I’m on board with finding another super-sub. (There is only one Ilsihno, though.)
    As for the striker-health problem, there are extenuating circumstances – to be sure – but sometimes its just poor luck. Every team goes through periods like this. Luckily we have some roster spots open that maybe Ernst could use…
    It isn’t any surprise that other teams are keyed in on Kai. But I think this solves itself once Uhre and Carranza are regularly on the field together. More pressure on the opposing team’s back line will pull their whole team shape more defensive and make it harder to double and triple-team Kai and Gazdag.

    • Tim Jones says:

      Ernst Tanner needs roster spots to sign someone, but he also needs room in his salary and transfer fee budget.

  5. soccerdad720 says:

    1) kid has a great column
    2) how soon we losing Kai?
    3) Listen to Deez…Leave Flach alone; he’s a beast and a real asset to this team. and he’s young…

    • I expect that some team will buy Kai’s contract during the summer window in July. I would hope the Union could get a clause in the transfer that he plays the rest of the season for the Union but they’d give that up for a large enough fee and / or a large enough sell on clause.
      We are secure to have his services through most of July. Beyond that, it’s a farewell tour.

  6. Flach is NOT any of ‘the problem”…

    Because THERE ARE NO PROBLEMS… just a bunch of nit picky Philadelphia sports “reporters” frustrated by ties.

    WOW…. Can anyone remember the agony Founding Members have suffered before Herr Tanner arrived?

    The literal ‘cr*p’ we had to endure from guys like Nick S., Novak, M’Boli, Fabian, Adu, Alberg, Ruiz… The Christmas Tree formation!

    … and how many losses in the last minutes, the missed goal scoring opportunities due to arrogance of ‘star’ players who weren’t while in Chester?

    This IS the best squad our franchise has EVER fielded. PERIOD. And when they finally mesh, hosting MLS CUP 2022 in Chester will NOT be enough.


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