After a rather dull, if not pointless 0-0 draw against Colorado in the home opener, the Union traveled to face Real Salt Lake in a game that was the complete opposite in every way. The 3-3 draw added another point to the Union's haul of (just) two so far this season, but gave us more than a single point to talk about.
Was it pretty? No definitely not, but we're starting to see the cobwebs being shaken off and signs of real life coming from the team. Let's start with the most obvious of good signs, Fernando Aristeguieta. The online rumblings of how good he could be and the sign of sparks in the form of preseason goals have ignited what looks to be the start of a wild fire. The signs were there against the Colorado Rapids that he was a dangerous forward, and his two goals against Real Salt Lake proved it. His runs off the ball put real pressure on the defense, and he has the instinct to be at the right place at the right time.
To take it a step further, there is something really special happening in Philadelphia. A partnership that has the opportunity to flourish into one of the most dangerous in the league with Cristian Maidana. The Argentine midfielder was robbed of any assists on Saturday because of deflections from RSL defenders, but it was his dangerous services while on the same wavelength with Aristeguieta that brought about the first two goals. The second one was particularly nice, as both had the same idea to catch one of the better defenses in the league off guard and strike quickly off a throw in. This could be a very fun year if they both can stay healthy. It will be interesting to see what happens with Maidana out for the next couple of weeks.
Lastly, it is important to point out that the Union were five minutes (plus stoppage time) away from their first win over RSL ever. It took one of the worst calls you will see in an MLS game to ruin that. Not to mention in my own opinion, the first goal came off a free kick that was just as questionable. Was there contact between Sheanon Williams and the attacker? Yes, but the amount of times that Aristeguieta was taken out while trying to play a cross can't be counted on one hand. I refuse to get into conspiracy theories about the influences on Allen Chapman's decision making, but I think it could be questioned just how capable he is at his job.
Everything is coming together slowly, but the pieces seem to be gelling a little more each week. Give it time and the Union will be collecting three points instead of just the one.
Last week it was major concerns about a lackluster offense, this week it was a porous defense that leaked golden opportunities. From a group stand point, it didn't matter the placement of attack it resulted in a completed through ball past the Union back line, allowing for a cross to be whipped through the box. Real Salt Lake completed nearly 150 more passes, 17 crosses, and dominated possession 60%-40%. I know Curtin wants to play a more counter attacking style, but RSL was given far too easy a time running their own game plan. Luckily they couldn't finish more than they did.
From a more individual analysis point, there were some major concerns. Ray Gaddis and Sheanon Williams are usually steadfast rocks at the back, but neither could seem to cut out a pass as the RSL outside backs continues to overlap and provide support to the attack. It didn't help that neither Andrew Wenger or Sebastien Le Toux were much help defensively. In fact, neither of the wingers added much to the attack in the way of support and Le Toux in particular had one of his worst appearances for the Union. His first touch looked awful, there were long stretches without a completed pass and he managed only a single shot.
The biggest cause for concern on the roster however is the center back pairing. Vitoria at times has shown signs of being the real deal, but at other times he seems slow to react, out of touch with his teammates and far from the dominant presence you would expect from someone of his stature. His partner in the center is starting to show signs of being the average at best stand in that made him expendable with D.C. United. Ethan White's 2015 season has been riddled with sloppy footwork causing him to often fall over and lose a step or two of the player he is defending, inaccurate passing that sometimes results in clearances not even exiting the box, and overall out of position play. So far he is the weak link on the back line, and the Union have no options to strengthen from depth.
The scariest part of the 2015 Union is the absolute lack of options. With CJ Sapong injured and Danny Cruz injured/heading overseas there are no real options off the bench to alter the game. Conor Casey remains the best option to add a striker, but on the wings there is no one, the options at center mid are either an untested and unproven Zach Pfeffer or Michael Lahoud, and in the back there really are no options even worth mentioning. If the team doesn't stay healthy and figure out a way to fix their obvious flaws, the team could easily fall apart into another wasted season.