The 2016 MLS Season couldn't have started off worse...or could it? The Union-verse was undeniably outspoken after one match, and the doomsday reel spun after a frustrating loss to FC Dallas on Sunday. Was the loss as bad as everyone believes, or was it just a matter of circumstance? Certainly the list of defenses for a loss on the road to arguably the best team in the Western Conference are there.
I posed the question to the Brotherly Game staff: Is this a matter of the fact the Union have injuries and a lot of gelling to do AND they happened to play a sure-fire MLS Cup favorite(which is my opinion, not of the entire Brotherly Game staff)? Or is this an indication of a long fruitless and ugly season?
Let's find out what they said.
Eugene Rupinski: I don't think one away match against a team many consider to be MLS Cup contenders is an indication of anything other than the Union aren't MLS Cup contenders right now. I think it's a work in progress and there were improvements over how 2016 ended.
I also think an away match against a team that made it to the MLS Cup Final will be a good indication either. Let's look at things after five or six games and see if they're progressing or regressing.
Drew Gobrecht: Eugene perfectly encapsulated my opinion of this game.
I mean, honestly, who looked at these two away games and thought we were coming away with more than a point? I fully expected us to drop this game. If we drop Columbus too I want be surprised either.
The Union couldn't have had a tougher opponent to start the season. They wanted to implement a high press, which plays perfectly into Dallas's hands, a team that wants to catch you high and beat you on the break. On top of that the Union are all learning to play together.
I know it sounds like I'm making excuses, but it's waaaaaaay too early for doom and gloom. The Union got beat by a good team, and they looked pretty bad doing it. They have a lot to improve. The good news is they still have 33 games left to figure it out.
John Rossi: The Union were expected to lose on the road to a very good team, but they still looked very poor regardless. Of course, it's still early and they were missing a few starters, so there's room to improve. Curtin needs to sort out the back line and attacking midfield in the coming weeks and establish some sort of continuity.
Barry Evans: Both the defense and attacking midfield had never played together before. It's a bad indictment on previous years that there his such a high turnover there, and it is going to take 5 or 6 games for them to get to know each other, if not longer. Add in injuries, then it was always going to be a very difficult start to the season.
That being said, it was also as the previous 2 years really, particularly with the substitutions. Yes we were against a good team away from home, but Curtin seemed to accept the loss and didn't think to take a chance and change to 2 up top when 1-0 Down. I'd rather have lost 5-1 having a go that 2-0 and accepting it. It may have been a lack of quality (Fabian Herbers didn't look good for example) but you had Sebastien Le Toux on the field and kept him out wide.
Jared Young: Going into the game fans knew that a tie would have felt like a win so the outcome shouldn't surprise anyone.
I think the disappointments come from three areas - the head scratching lineup decisions by Curtin, the inability of this "upgraded" midfield to do anything dangerous, and the one defender who was supposed to be the leader out there was exposed.
Let's be honest. Dallas looked rusty too so we shouldn't assume that we'll improve and the rest of the league won't. The Union have a lot of work to do to be a playoff team. I think it's too much work.
Matt Ralph: This team is playing for sixth place and an Open Cup this year. I'm not worried. Yet.
Nick Youngstein: It's an indication that the team doesn't read our match live-tweets, because I told them not to play Leo Fernandes as the right wing.
I think they just need time to gel, then they'll be fine (fine, meaning a good run in USOC, and be in contention for a playoff spot come October).
It wasn't a pretty match to partake in, but nonetheless it's hard to ignore the Union who were not at their best on Sunday. FC Dallas, in my opinion, are the favorite to win MLS Cup 2016 and the Union will not sniff the playoffs this season (also my opinion). There's too many things against the Union.
If we look at this game individually, there's a lot of questions just beginning with the starting lineup. I'm sure Jim Curtin had his reasons for selection, but I can't help looking at that scratching my head. Benching a proven MLS starter for an undrafted rookie is one. A decision based on trust and what he saw, Curtin gave Ken Tribbett a shot and it, along with a clunky looking back line, backfired. Consistently outmatched by the Dallas attack, the Union defense (3 of 4 starters having played 0 MLS minutes) left stellar goalkeeper Andre Blake out to dry several times.
Moving forward not only does the team have to gel as a unit, but Curtin also has to begin to put his players in situations to succeed. Putting players in the situation he did on Sunday was not a good start to the growing process. Trial by fire might be an effective method in an emergency situation, but making the first step that way does not bode well for the future of this teams development.
So who do you agree with? Anyone? No one? Let us know in the comments section below!