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Brotherly Bag #2: Crisis in Unionland

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We answered some questions about the last-place Philadelphia Union.

Philadelphia Union vs Toronto FC Photo Album Trey Madara - Brotherly Game

Hey folks, we’re back for another edition of Brotherly Bag, Brotherly Game’s new mailbag column. With the Philadelphia Union’s season swiftly heading down the tubes, everyone has questions (or very angry, profanity-laden statements) about the 2017-edition of this team. We’ve tried our best to answer a few of them before the Union take on the Portland Timbers down in Chester tonight.

1. How long does Curtin have to turn this dumpster fire around?

Jordan Wohl: If Curtin wins at least five points in this three-game home stand, he probably gets to stay on for a little longer. If they come out and lay a stinker Saturday night against Portland, the fans calling for his job may get their wish. But this homestand is where Curtin likely saves or loses his job.

John Rossi: This home stand certainly seems to be make-or-break. Though I’m leaning toward the Curtin Out camp following those last two atrocious performances, it’s hard to forget that the Union played some of their best soccer ever in the first half of the home opener. If Curtin and his team can prove that that was not an anomaly—and get the results to back it up—he’ll keep his job for a bit longer.

2. Bedoya isn't a No. 10.

Jordan: This is true. I published an article yesterday about how Bedoya may be more suited on the wing. ​Bedoya himself has admitted that he isn’t a playmaker.

John: Yea, he’s really pretty terrible there. It’s hard to blame him though, as both he and Curtin agree that that’s not his preferred role. Bedoya needs to settle in somewhere, and soon, else Curtin will lose his job and the Union will have wasted another year.

3. Why do the Union have Alberg if they don't play him?

Jordan: Maybe Alberg is around to become the Chief Tattoo Officer? I honestly have no clue why he hasn’t gotten significant playing time. Right now, he is getting the Antoine Hoppenot treatment: a few minutes at the end of the game to try to make an impact.

If he isn't getting least 15-20 minutes, he’s a waste. Jim Curtin, for better or worse, is loyal to his starters and tactics. The problem is that the Union midfield is jammed with players who almost must start. Players like Alejandro Bedoya and to a lesser extent Haris Medunjanin, on whom the Union have spent a ton, cannot come off the bench despite being average at best. It likely will not happen, even if it is warranted.

Alberg needs at least a chance to prove what he is in an extended runout.

John: Who knows! Admittedly, Alberg isn’t a true No. 10, in that he has more of a penchant for scoring goals than creating them. But given Bedoya’s incompetence as a playmaker and the Union’s marriage to the 4-2-3-1, Alberg, one of two natural No. 10s on the roster (Adam Najem), deserves a look. If the Union persist in jamming their seven-figure square peg into a round hole, it will speak to how little the Union value Alberg and serve as an indictment of Earnie Stewart, who signed the player a little over a year ago.

4. Do you still rate the offseason previously called successful when your #10 is a flop and your hyped left back isn't even in the 18?

Jordan: Jury is still out on Wijnaldum at least four games into the season. Bedoya has been a flop so far as a ten. So at least in my opinion no it has not worked out well.

John: At this point I think it’s hard to fully evaluate most of the signings made over the offseason. Bedoya, who signed last summer, is my exception, as he’s clearly shown that he isn’t a No. 10. Haris Medunjanin, Oguchi Onyewu, and Derrick Jones all look to be settling into first-team roles, and Jack Elliott even looked capable in his debut last week.

Giliano Wijnaldum hasn’t experienced the immediate success that those guys have, in fact, he seems to have been relegated to Bethlehem. While it’s definitely disappointing to spend an international spot on a defender only for him not to crack the matchday squad, it seems premature to declare him a total failure at this point.

5. If you don't make a pass to your striker all half, should he be the one you sub?

Jordan: It is not solely on the striker. The midfield has to do a better job of getting the striker the ball in a dangerous position. Sapong and Simpson may not be the greatest strikers, but I genuinely cannot put all the blame on them.

John: Jay Simpson seems like he would be a decent striker if he received consistent service, but he’s often been left on an island in the 4-2-3-1. With Bedoya struggling at the No. 10, Simpson is forced to either drop deep and find the game or wait for a pass that is never going to come. CJ Sapong has had more success up top this season, partially because he’s been let loose on tired defenses, but also because he’s a more complete striker who’s adept at fending for himself as an isolated striker.

If the Union ever decide to run out a two-striker formation, Simpson may work well with the more hold-up-oriented Sapong. But if that 4-2-3-1 continues to draw breath, Simpson has shown that he should not be a part of it. His total discomfort as a lone striker is evident, and says more about the people who signed him rather than the player himself.

Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to #JoinTheConversation by tagging your questions with #BrotherlyBag on Twitter, or by leaving them in the comment section.