Fans' View / Union

Fan’s view: High expectations not yet met

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

It’s almost a month and a half into the 2023 MLS season and the Philadelphia Union find themselves overwhelmed and in an unfamiliar position among the bottom of the playoff ladder. While the season is still young, the Union needs to implement some changes to reach the top level of the league and compete for silverware.

In this fan’s view installment, I will assess each game individually, except the Concacaf Champion’s League play, and address what I think the Union did well at what they did… less well.

Philadelphia Union vs Columbus Crew: 4-1 Victory

Negatives: The Union conceded their first goal of the season very poorly as a deflected pass from Cucho Hernandez trickled passed an outstretched Andre Blake. The build- up play was brilliant from Columbus as Darlington Nagbe, known as the metronome, was able to slowly crack apart the Union’s defense leading up to the goal. Additionally, I felt like the Union could have done better in testing Hunter Schulte, the young goalkeeper making his first ever MLS start.

Positives: A vintage come-from-behind Union win was a great start to the season. Spearheaded by braces from Julian Carranza and Daniel Gazdag, the Union ran rampant after going down 0-1. Offseason signing Joaquin Torres impressed on his debut with a dazzling assist seconds after coming on.

Inter Miami CF vs Philadelphia Union: 2-0 Loss

Negatives: The Union lost. As simple as that. Uhre and Gazdag had tremendous chances to put the Union on the scoresheet, but did not capitalize on them. Goals win games, and the Union did not have the killer instinct in this game to win. Lackluster defending from Flach gave Inter Miami their first goal, and a goalazo from Robert Taylor capped off a 2-0 Union loss.

Positives: Personally, I thought the Union played pretty well in this game. After almost conceding an early goal, the Union started to seize control of the midfield and cut out any passing lanes defensively. The Union generated many chances and put Inter Miami under a lot of pressure defensively.

Philadelphia Union vs Chicago Fire: 1-0 Victory

Negatives: Chicago dominated throughout the first half. Sloppy passes from the Union allowed Xherdan Shaqiri and Kei Kamara to ricochet chances off the Union’s brick wall, Andre Blake, which yielded many boos from the crowd. However, the biggest headline was the grade 1 adductor injury to Blake, which brough him out of the game and put Joe Bendik into the game. I wished the Union took more shots on Chris Brady, an inexperienced goalie in MLS.

Positives: The Union found a way to snatch a winner at the death. Towards the 50th minute, former Union player, Fabian Herbers received a red card. Around the 60th minute, Jack McGlynn was brought onto the pitch. These two events signaled a momentum shift in favor of the Union. Constant attacks (including a close chance by Bedoya), drew Chicago further and further into a park-the-bus mode. When no one closed Torres down, he unleashed a shot that had the whole stadium, including myself, absolutely buzzing.

CF Montreal vs Philadelphia Union: 3-2 Loss

Negatives: The Union gave up the lead late in a game where they should have left with all three points, or at least one. I was extremely frustrated and disappointed with the Union and especially with Carranza, as his red card shifted the momentum to Montreal and allowed them to ride their fans’ energy to propel themselves to victory. Terrible goalkeeping from Bendik did not help the Union’s cause.

Positives: Mikael Uhre was a bright spot in an otherwise dull day. He scored two goals, and I was very pleased with his runs in behind the Montreal defense. I enjoyed how the Union played coming out from the half-time break, but I knew that the Union were in trouble after Carranza committed a silly foul to earn his second yellow card.

Philadelphia Union vs Orlando City: 1-2 Loss

Negatives: Slow starts continued to hurt the Union. Early goals from Martin Ojeda and Ivan Angulo propelled Orlando to a dream start. I was shocked at this opening from the Union, especially from Jack Elliott, who did not defend the goals particularly well. The Union tried and tried to come back, but without most of their offense, it was a no go from their depth. Union fans, myself included, were dispirited as they lost at home for the first time since 2021.

Positives: Andres Perea. With many players out from injury, suspension, and international duty, Perea was given the start, and he rose to the occasion, playing amazingly. This was my player to watch this year, and I remember being overly ecstatic when the Union signed him in the offseason. Unfortunately, there was not much else from this game to remark on, but I was impressed with Bueno’s impact on the bench.

Philadelphia Union vs Sporting Kansas City: 0-0 Draw

Negatives: Not getting the win at home. The Union dominated this game against a poor Sporting Kansas City side. With both teams needing three points, each team had to settle for one. Missing Kai Wagner due to a hamstring injury limited the Union offensively, as they did not contribute much forward. Flach was not great again, and Jack McGlynn for sure changed the game when he entered onto the field in the second half.

Positives: The Union’s defense was exceptional, especially thanks to Jakob Glesnes. The 2022 MLS Defender of the Year delivered again as he seemed to be everywhere as he tracked down defenders with brilliant slide tackles and blocks. The Union offense had positive chances, which was a good sign, but, frustratingly, none of them went in.

FC Cincinnati vs Philadelphia Union: 1-0 Loss

Negatives: The Union lose again on the road. Obviously keeping an eye on the Atlas game on Wednesday, Jim Curtin set forth an atypical Union lineup. This rotated offense was not very good, to say the least. Quinn Sullivan is not a true out-and-out striker and had minimal offensive success going up against three center-backs. Chris Donovan generated some chances, but nothing too serious. Once again, Flach made a ton of mistakes in the middle, the most notable of which led to the goal. He should have been taken off earlier.

Positives: Overall, I do not think the Union actually played that badly. When I saw the lineup, I knew that it meant that they were going for the draw. The Union defense was rock solid for most of the game. Martinez and Bueno looked lively on defensive structure and contributed to the attack. And Bueno almost scored a goal in the 52nd minute.

The verdict

With plenty of the season left to play, the Union will rely on their depth and key players to push them forward. I am not that worried about the season, because I think the Union have ample time to turn these average performances into good ones. The question remains, will they turn them into the great ones we came to expect last year?

One Comment

  1. Is the subtext for all these articles about our poor start that everyone is about to panic over the season? I think it’s too early to do so.

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