Commentary / The Overlap / Union

The Overlap: Scatterbrained

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

I started a new job yesterday. After seven years of being a stay-at-home parent, I rejoined the ranks of the working. It was a big day, but also the most mundane thing in the world. It’s a lot of new things and also old things in new places that I kind of hoped never to do again, but such is life.

I’ve been trying to brute-force some kind of analogy to the Union’s season right now out of my change in circumstances but, so far, have come up empty. What can I say? My mind is scattered, and the Union aren’t playing right now, so the narrative threads are a little thin on the ground. There’s also the fact that the Union aren’t in a transition phase—at least, we hope not. No, they’re just the best there is at what they do, and hoping to stay that way.

So, a potpourri it is.

Ups and downs and Atlanta United

It wasn’t so long ago that the Union hosted Atlanta and whomped them, 4–1. That was followed by a tighter but steady 2–0 win away to Red Bull and a 5–0 mauling of post–Open Cup Orlando. So, hopes in my household (which is to say, my own hopes) were high when Philly traveled to Georgia for the away fixture against United.

It would be over-dramatic to say my hopes were dashed, but hoo-boy did Atlanta put up a fight. Only an MVP showcase from Andre Blake kept the match scoreless, and the Union were lucky to get a point. So, does that mean that the season-long house of cards the Union have built in my psyche is finally about to come down?

In a word, no.

Like any good sore loser (or draw-er), there are a number of caveats we can point to about the Atlanta match. For one, Atlanta is much, much improved. They aren’t the same team that the Union beat so badly several weeks ago. Second, that turf did a number on the skill players. Third, Ale Bedoya didn’t play.

However whether you’re inclined to be convinced by any of that isn’t really important. What’s important when determining whether a team is actually a bunch of frauds is to see what happens after a sub-par performance. Going back to the last time the Union drew a match (0–0 versus Columbus on July 3), the Union have always followed up a poor performance with a much stronger one: 7–0 over DC followed that Columbus draw; 4–1 over Chicago followed the 3–1 loss to Cincinnati; 6–0 over DC followed the 1–0 loss to Dallas.

While the Boys in Blue don’t have the luxury of playing DC next, there’s every reason to expect a better show of it, and that means they are more likely to put up an American Football score on Charlotte than they are to lose.

And if they do manage to lose, then yeah, it’s probably time to be a little concerned.

The return of the king

Alejandro Bedoya signed a one-year contract extension recently; that’s excellent news. It’s not just the intangibles, or off-field leadership that Bedoya brings—he’s literally one of the Union’s top on-field performers this year, and one of the best at his position in all of MLS. Age is just a number, as they say, and if you need any further evidence of his importance to this team, go rewatch the Atlanta match.

Jim Curtin thinks they should build a statue of Bedoya outside the stadium, and I’m inclined to agree. He is arguably the most important person—on the playing side, at least—in  the Union’s transformation.

Playing Pachuca

I know this game happened because I have seen pictures, including an awesome action shot of Nathan Harriel scoring a soaring header—a much more majestic way to score his second senior goal, even if it won’t count in official statistics for anything.

Beyond that, I don’t think there’s much to take from it except that some second- (and third- or fourth-) stringers got game time against a quality opponent, they kept a clean sheet, and nobody got hurt.

International soccer is fun, but most of the stuff around it is not

I enjoy watching the USMNT and USWNT a lot. The discourse surrounding the teams, especially the men, I find tiresome at best. It’s not that I think Gregg Berhalter should be free from criticism, or that there’s no merit to suggestions about which strikers to bring into camp. I just don’t get any fulfillment out of venting my spleen (or reading/listening to/watching others do so) about it.

When it comes down to it, Berhalter has earned the chance to win or lose at the World Cup the way he wants to, because he did what he set out to do in qualifying (whether or not he could have done better, hypothetically), and has meaningfully expanded the player pool. He’s not perfect, but he’s what we’ve got, and it isn’t changing. I save my rage for things that matter. Like if the Union drop points to Charlotte.


  1. Agreed on so much of the above
    Bedoya certainly will have his name up next to LeToux when he hangs up his boots, and a statue sounds good to me. No player has been more important and more transformative for the overall direction of this club. This year’s international friendly was underwhelming to say the least, with so many players away and the club trying to field a first team and Union 2 team for the playoffs. Not much to say about it, though any excuse to spend a few hours at the stadium still isn’t a bad thing. And the USMNT? It really is exhausting to read coverage and social media commentary. Yes, they laid an egg against Japan. Yes they still seem to have question marks at CB and striker, but it’s the most talented pool we’ve had and a good chunk of them play in top European leagues (which used to be the big knock). The progression is there. Wish more of us could enjoy that for what it is.

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