Commentary / The Overlap / Union

The Overlap: Miscellany medley

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

With their latest win—a 3–0 walloping of CF Montreal that included a fair bit of rotation—I find myself with lots of little things to say, both about the game itself and the Union at large. Rather than trying to present them all as a unified whole, I decided to do the easy thing and present my bits and bobs as a jumble.

Julian Carranza

The Argentine is just tearing it up right now, with five goals in as many games. He’s also scoring in different ways, from taking down long aerial balls, poking tap-ins away, or juking his man and curling them in from outside the box. Add that to his defensive pressure and link-play with his teammates and this may be the best form a Union striker has ever exhibited. He’s irrepressible at the moment. He’s playing so well that you can’t even get mad when he misses what seems like easy chances because he’s either already scored or you know another opportunity is coming soon. It’s a shame that Carranza, and the Union as a whole, weren’t able to find this sort of form during the CCL run, because it’s hard for any team anywhere to stop a train with this head of steam.

The formation change

Formations are simultaneously overrated and central to how a team performs. In the Union’s case, the switch from 4-4-2 diamond to 5-3-2 (or some variation of it) has coincided with the team remembering how to dominate. It has brought out the best in Leon Flach, the center backs and wing-backs, and allowed the strikers to get their groove back. It’s also coincided with the absences of two of the team’s most important performers, Alejandro Bedoya and Jack McGlynn.

Whether you view the switch as forced by those absences or in search of a spark, the reality is it doesn’t matter. It worked. The midfield and wing-backs are getting higher up the field, with better and more one-touch passing getting the strikers running downhill. With three center backs holding down the fort, the risk-reward ratio is much lower and good things are happening. The biggest question now is what happens when Ale and Jack are available. Will Jim Curtin revert to his preferred shape? Will one of those returnees replace Flach? Will the team stick with what has been working and use those players off the bench?

There are arguments to be made for all of those options. What’s best about it is that it gives the team flexibility. Before now, Union observers were bemoaning the lack of trusted game-changers off the bench. Now, regardless of how Bedoya and McGlynn are reintegrated, the team have ways to change in-game, and destabilize an opponent that has found a foothold.

U-20 World Cup thoughts

I did not watch much of the U-20 World Cup but my sense is that the US did quite well, with McGlynn and Brandan Craig big parts of that. There’s debate as to whether their loss to Uruguay represents a big or a little disappointment, and whether or not the gap between the world’s elite and the US is big or small.

For me, I don’t think you can judge a team that wasn’t allowed the use of all of its best players, so the takeaways from the tournament are largely positive. From a Union perspective, McGlynn seems ready to continue contributing at a high level and Craig now seems like a real possibility for MLS minutes, especially in the 5-3-2. And now that the tournament is over for them sooner than hoped, they will be able to do that sooner than later.

CCL Final/MLS thoughts

So, LAFC were unable to best Leon in the CCL final, losing both the home and away legs. I can’t deny that I enjoyed a little schadenfreude at their failure. Does that make me petty? Yes. Do I care? Not really.

I understand the argument that fans of MLS teams should want MLS teams to be successful in CCL, and I do. But I don’t want that because I’m invested in the idea of MLS becoming “better” than Liga MX or one of the top soccer leagues in the world. I want MLS to improve for its own sake because I like seeing soccer played well and MLS is the league that I watch. I don’t care how MLS ranks compared to other leagues, so when a team that annoys me, as LAFC does, loses, I feel free to enjoy it because it doesn’t make me feel any worse about MLS or the Union that a Liga MX team beat them.

Rest for the weary is boring

While having two games every week is a little overwhelming, I’d much rather deal with that than feel like I’m waiting for games. With no mid-week games this week or next, the Union play next on 6/10 and then 6/21. (And yes, I realize there are international games in there too, blah blah blah.) That’s a lot of time off. Boo. Boring. Especially when the team is playing so well. Hopefully they are able to maintain their rhythm.


  1. Watched LA v Liga with my buddy and we concluded the same. It was win/win. I rooted for Liga, and if LA managed a win, well then good for MLS. There’s no world after last year’s championship loss that I’m “rooting” for LA.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      I’m feeling like we should all flood LAFC fan boards with stuff like “The Union would have beat Leon”, “Guess you didn’t deserve to be there”, “The Union would have won it” and things of that sort.

  2. Tim Jones says:

    Consider watching matches down on the farm? Union II does not stop for the international break.
    A pair of 17-year-old defensive center mids, and a 17 year old and a 16 year old attacking mid respectively have been executing their pressing cues well and creating offense.
    The teenage strikers in front of them do not create chances as well as Donovan and Rafanello, but they are three to five years behind those two in their development.
    The U17-eligibles may disappear for MLS NEXT Cup starting June 17th, of course.

  3. I don’t get the arguments that we’re supposed to have some affiliation with a league. I like a club or I don’t. LAFC is at the top of my don’t like list for obvious rece not reasons as well as the fact that I don’t think they deserve to walk into the league and win CCL. You gotta bang a potential game-winner off the post, maybe go out on pens at some point. I don’t think an LAFC win would positively influence the Union in any way whatsoever.

    I thought it was pretty rich of Cherundolo to bemoan salary caps and league roster rules less than a year after he was able to grab Gareth Bale off his bench to win the league title. And with a squad (according to Transfermarkt) valued at almost $8 million more than Leon’s. Money is not your problem, Steve.

    I was delighted they lost. This is probably petty and pointless, but that’s what sports are for.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      As you said – money was not your problem, Steve… your selection and decision to change your starters so much, was. You choked. Deal with it. I also agree with your point about not having an affiliation. I didn’t choose the single-entity system… I don’t “root” for MLS. I support the Union, and I sure as hell won’t be rooting for LAFC. Ever. I too was petty, and happy that when I woke up, I didn’t see some bullshit PK or last minute goal had bailed them out. Screw em.

      • Eric Boyle says:

        I watched it and all during the last minutes of the game through the 10 minutes of stoppage I was waiting for the bail out goal. Not this time, no hired EPL star off the bench to save them. Happy for Leon they were the underdogs and beat the MX champs to get there.

        Glad to see that a favored franchise given extra rest from league games lost. And yes, I thoroughly enjoyed the schadenfreude!

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      LAFC is the unfortunate case for being able to “buy your way out of a problem”. And that just grates.

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    Jeremy. . I think- as usual, once the push overs are taken care of we find ourselves where we aways are with historically powerful nations. Not really close yet.
    Who’s going to score big gols in big games at youth levels up to the full national team? Who’s the central defenders who will dominate games and impose their will and skill in the advanced stages at youth levels up to the full national team. Where are the skill players who PoP in the US or at club level but can’t break through in the second or third round knock out game?
    For all the talk of Craig he had some significant mental lapses -and as a buddy mentioned -does he really want the ball? He did play some nice passes over the top but I can also see why he hasn’t broken in yet with the first team locally.
    Uruguay were so much more composed and technically superior in the routine-ness of a big game under the heat lamp. I thought US did okay but there are still too many technical challenges due to what I can only believe is cultural greenness— which needs to be overcome. I was also surprised to see Jack so deep in this last match- (admittedly watch only pieces of previous games) as though he was a regista. Thought he could have done more damaged in the spaces between the lines higher up the field where is utterly insane vision and arcane ball playing cripples the back four.
    Of note — one could argue that was Uruguay’s third best group of players. Missing 6 kids playing at VERY high European levels. Shrug.
    More to do. More to do.

  5. It appears Blake was not called up by Jamaica.

  6. March 23, 2023 announcement:

    Amari’i Bell,
    Jamal Lowe,
    Ethan Pinnock,
    Jonathan Russell,
    Bobby Reid,
    Demario Phillips,
    Dexter Lembiksia,
    Adrian Mariappa,
    Kevon Lambert,
    Jahmali Waite,
    Corey Burke,
    Damion Lowe,
    Daniel Johnson,
    Ravel Morrison,
    Kaheem Parris,
    Richard King,
    Shamar Nicholson,
    Trivante Stewart,
    Coniah Boyce-Clarke,
    Amal Knight,
    Javian Brown,
    Kemar Lawrence,
    Leon Bailey.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      If that’s the March callup list, it’s no surprise Blake wasn’t on it. He was injured and wasn’t playing for the Union either.

  7. John P O'Donnell says:

    1I root for MLS teams but for a different reason, revenue for the region. Today they announced CCL will now be rebranded to CONCACAF Champions Cup and will have a 5 million dollar payout (to the champ or overall not quite sure yet) which is still very little money. MLS winning in these tournaments are what will attract the casual fan much like last years run to the Cup did the same in Philadelphia.
    You want the quality of the league to get better you need revenue. More revenue creates more jobs behind the scenes. If you’re not sure about that just take a look at this team compared to a decade ago. Academy, Training facility and second team all the norm with more infrastructure being built right now.
    Watching the game on Sunday, first on FS1 only having to jump over to FS2 then back a half hour later is showing the lack of interest from fans of MLS. I hate to say that continental competition just isn’t that high up for fans of the league.
    I know will never get to Champions League level but Copa Libertadores payout is 330 million this year. Obviously it’s not just local fans watching that tournament when their team is in it.
    Maybe if teams from this league won more, it would attract more casual fans of MLS…. maybe not, who know?
    I do believe if teams from only one league in Europe dominated for 17 of the last 18 years, the interest and revenue wouldn’t be the same.

    • LAFC were very fortunate to only be down 2-1 for the second leg because but for John McCarthy, they easily could have been down 4 or 5-1. I reflexively root for an MLS team the same way that I root for a National League team not the Phillies over an AL team. I found it ironic that the goal that Leon scored in LA was a McCarthy muff. That said, LAFC seemed to have the same amount of chances against Leon that the Union had against LAFC when they were here; they just couldn’t convert. But I shed no tears.

      • John P. O'Donnell says:

        Yea, I don’t shed tears as they just flat out got beat. I also don’t buy into the coach saying they need money to compete. They are sitting on a DP spot and actually have a higher payroll than Leon.
        But if today’s news is true I wonder if the owners are going to tweak the cap with the influx of new revenue that might be following a certain player?

  8. Blake pissed off an ‘official’… it seems… so he’s all ours for awhile… thankfully and YEAH!

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