The First-Place Union are Playing Ferocious Defense and Telling Opponents to “Shut the F*** Up”

Photo Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Had a thought the other day –

This may be the first summer since 2011 that the Union and Phillies are both good at the same time, and by “good” I mean playoff caliber. The Phils were largely shit from 2013 until last year, and the Union were largely shit from 2012 to 2019, so if you were a four-for-four or five-for-five type of fan, your summers were largely spent waiting for Eagles training camp to begin.

The Union were incredible in 2021 and put in their best season of all time, going to the playoff and Champion’s League semifinals, but they may actually be better this season. They are currently atop the MLS Eastern Conference with 10 points, ripping off three-straight wins after a season-opening draw. They’ve scored seven goals, conceded two, and are a top-three defensive team in tackles per game and interceptions per game. Fittingly, they have the lowest possession number in the league at 36.3%, which proves what we already knew – that possession is an absolute nothing burger gobshite of a statistic.

It doesn’t matter how much you have the ball, it matters what you do with it when you do have it.

The Union are very much the team they were last year, a suffocating and swarming defensive team that really just batters and frustrates opponents. They look like an absolute bitch to play against.

They have:

  1. nasty ball winners and hard-working midfielders
  2. a top-three MLS goalkeeper
  3. two of the best center backs in the league
  4. a guy in Daniel Gazdag who has figured it out and is scoring goals
  5. a team captain in Alejandro Bedoya who looks five years younger
  6. a more diverse crop of forwards (and they are so far winning without their biggest addition of the offseason, Mikael Uhre, who remains sidelined with a quad injury after the FUGAZI visa process delayed his arrival)
  7. multiple promising youth players in the pipeline and on the bench
  8. a right fullback who just stole the starting job from an AFCON-quality player
  9. an experienced and confident coach who knows exactly what he is doing
  10. the best player-personnel executive in Philadelphia

The Union don’t necessarily score amazing banger-type goals, unless Jakob Glesnes is involved, but they execute in direct transition off of defensive wins or slight openings. In the case of Saturday afternoon, they scored on a free kick restart before adding the second off a throw-in, which I broke down here:

The folks at MLSSoccer.com like this Union squad so much that they now top the 28-team power rankings at the league website.

Writes J. Sam Jones:

One of the most encouraging things about the Union’s 10 points through the first four games is the fact Gazdag has scored three times in four starts. The de facto Jamiro Monteiro replacement scored just four times in 17 starts last season and looks on track to take a step forward in year two.

They look cohesive, mean and altogether set to stay near the top of the standings all year. They’re pretty much everything we expected them to be. That’s bad news for the rest of the East. Especially if new elements like (Nathan) Harriel and a goal-minded Gazdag make them into even more than that.

At the risk of getting too far ahead of myself here, I really do think this is the best Union team of all time. I’m on record saying that I think the 2020 team would beat the 2021 team, but I think this team beats both of those teams, based on a limited sample size. They are mean motherfuckers, these guys. They just love to compete. There was a fight in Saturday’s game and the Union have at least three hot heads who wanna throw down to defend Andre Blake. They have to be held back, because they are gamers (who are risking dumb yellow cards, admittedly) –

Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

It really is a likeable group, when they’re not choking opponents in defense of a teammate. These guys aren’t rolling around in fancy cars and dating super models. They aren’t wearing $1,400 Louis Vuitton shirts, like Ben Simmons. They are mostly normal dudes who play a hard-working, defensive-minded, blue-collar type of game. And the homegrown guys are local. It’s very easy to cheer for these fellas because even though they aren’t an amazingly exciting attacking team, they get stuck in and defend like hell and make themselves very difficult to beat.

This team seriously has enough to win it all. Shit, they may have won it all last year, if it wasn’t for OMICRON.

Finally, here’s Gazdag telling the reigning golden boot winner, Valentin Castellanos to “shut the fuck up”-

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