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Tactical Analysis: Philadelphia Union continue to gel into cohesive unit

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The Philadelphia Union offense shows signs growth

MLS: Toronto FC at Philadelphia Union Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

On a day with arctic winds, the Philadelphia Union offense displayed their potential with a solid performance against a talented Toronto FC side.

Building on a scoreless draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Union put together a quality attack in addition to solid defense.

One of the most effective tactics for Philadelphia was playing down the right flank and deploying Chris Pontius as a target winger.

Pontius’s distribution from Saturday.

From his distribution charts, it is clear that most of Pontius’ touches on the ball were in the final third of the field, showing Union Head Coach Jim Curtin’s mindset of getting Pontius on the ball in dangerous areas. Pontius playing off the ball certainly paid off in the 11th minute when he knocked down a Haris Medujanin cross for Jay Simpson to finish the play for the goal.

Speaking of wingers, kudos has to be given to the other winger on the day, Fabian Herbers.

Herbers’s distribution from Saturday.

Herbers’s distribution on the day led to a few dangerous opportunities on net, including an assist on CJ Sapong’s game-tying goal. It also illustrated the fluidity of this Union attacking core, especially between Herbers and Alejandro Bedoya. Bedoya and Herbers combined on a few one-two passing attempts that created more danger than we saw in Vancouver last Sunday.

Bedoya’s distribution from Saturday.

JP Dellacamera pointed out during the broadcast that Curtin wanted to get Bedoya more on the ball in this game and the more concerted effort showed on Saturday. Bedoya played his CAM position from a more center out position while showing more favoritism towards the right flank in the attacking third.

On the defensive side of the ball, two players really stood out.

Derrick Jones was a dominant force in the central midfield on Saturday. He had 12 recoveries on Saturday after recording seven last Sunday. He did get whistled for a questionable penalty call against Jozy Altidore in the waning minutes of the first half.

Jones’s defensive work Saturday versus Toronto FC. Clearances are purple, recoveries are yellow, interceptions are blue, and successful tackles are green.
MLSSoccer.com

In the defensive third, he was ever present with six clearances as well. The Union Academy product has come in and filled that box-to-box role beautifully thus far. His defensive work in the midfield gives Haris Medunjanin more leeway to cheat forward and create opportunities.

On Medunjanin, he looked much more comfortable on the ball overall than he did in his debut on Sunday. The Bosnian international had an assist as well as a pass that led to a penalty kick. This is the type of play fans expected out of the gifted midfielder: two quality passes leading to goal-scoring opportunities.

Finally, another set of praise is due to Oguchi Onyewu. Besides his one or two slip-ups, Onyewu looks like the former USMNT standout rather than someone who had not played competitively in more than a year. Onyewu was everywhere on defense on Saturday and continues to look very comfortable in a pairing with Richie Marquez.

This new squad of players has earned two points in two games against two good opponents. The Union will look to continue to build on this solid start next Saturday against Orlando City SC.