It’s been a really sleepy start to the Union season.
Three games in five weeks makes it hard to generate any kind of continuity or buzz, especially during a combination Sixers and Flyers playoff push. It also doesn’t exactly help when the first two matches feature an early sending off and a snoozer of a scoreless draw.
The glass half full approach would center on the idea that the Union haven’t allowed a goal through 180 minutes, about 120 of which were played at full strength. The glass half empty bemoans the fact that the team hasn’t scored an even-strength goal in 2018.
But if you know anything about Jim Curtin, he’ll take a nil-nil over a 3-3 any day of the week, and starting the season with four points out of six is a lot better than starting with four points out of 24, which is what the Union mustered last year en route to a diabolical 0-4-4 start. It took them two whole months to get to 7 points last year.
I don’t put much value in the season opener, simply for the fact that New England took a horrendous red card in the first half and spent the rest of the game defending a Union onslaught. Philly won 2-0 in comfortable fashion, a nice game to ease in a young defense and a couple of homegrown players making their first MLS starts. There are worse ways to get Auston Trusty and Anthony Fontana acclimated to the senior team.
The second game gives us more to work with, a matchup against a well-coached and organized Columbus team. Philly only generated 3 on-target shots from 9 total looks, but generally limited Columbus while keeping a decent defensive shape at home. I thought Gyasi Zardes should have buried one of his chances, but he didn’t.
The Union handed Borek Dockal his MLS debut, and he just wasn’t clicking with his teammates out there, putting up these numbers:
- 2 off-target shots
- 0 key passes
- 31/38 passing overall (81.5%)
- 1 unsuccessful cross
- 1 time dispossessed
His passing numbers look okay, but there wasn’t much incisive distribution. He completed 7 of 8 inside the final third, but most were right on the edge of the area with Columbus sitting in their blocks and staying compact. I did, however, appreciate his active body language and post game press conference. Guy seems like a winner, like someone who actually cares, which is more than you can say about some of the duds who have played for past Union squads.
The one thing that jumped out at me was that Dockal tended to pop up on the right side of the field in the same area that Alejandro Bedoya likes to operate from. When you look at each team’s 8/10 heatmap combination, Columbus was a little more balanced, spacing a bit better and getting almost 40 more touches on the ball: