Since losing to the New York Red Bulls in the Round of 16 of the U.S. Open Cup Wednesday night, fans have taken to social media claiming that the season is over. To claim that your season dictated by league performance is over due to exiting a cup competition is a bit of an overreaction. Besides, the Union are currently not in the form necessary to win the U.S. Open Cup anyway. Despite the fact that this tournament is over for the Union, there is still plenty to play for and their season is far from over.
At this time last year, the eventual MLS Cup winning Seattle Sounders had 16 points in 15 games played. They also only advanced to the quarter finals of the Open Cup by winning a penalty shootout against Real Salt Lake. The Union currently sit with 19 points in 16 games and are missing out of the playoffs by a mere points. They also have at least one game at hand on every team above them in the standings. If the Union see a pattern of success similar to the outstanding form they had in May, they could find themselves sitting comfortably in a playoff position, and perhaps as a dark horse for winning the MLS Cup.
Despite the struggle that was the loss at Red Bull, the Union have had really bright moments in the loss and the past couple of games. Andre Blake has still been an amazing goalkeeper. While he’s representing Jamaica in the Gold Cup, John McCarthy will have to fill in, and he actually had a really great game in that US Open Cup loss. He guessed right on a couple of the penalty kicks; they were just perfectly taken (so kudos to you, New York Red Bulls). Some fans were bashing McCarthy for the goal that was allowed since it went through his legs, but at that point he had been left to dry by the back line. No keeper is going to stop Sasha Kljestan from 12 yards out, and McCarthy should not be blamed for the goal.
Jack Elliott has also been in good form for the past couple of games, and if that form can continue for some time his partnership with Oguchi Onyewu could make them a dangerous opposition for almost any offense in the league. If you wanted to take that one step further, you could even try throwing in Auston Trusty in the back line with someone like Onyewu or Richie Marquez if Elliott needs a rest week. He’s someone that has not seen any time for the Union after coming off of the U20 World Cup and is looking to make an impact in the MLS.
Offensively, the Union’s Fafa Picault has arguably been the most dangerous player on the team - which is a good thing. With CJ Sapong slightly out of form, the Union have needed somebody to score. Fafa’s speed combined with Haris Medunjanin’s long through balls have led to some of the best scoring opportunities this year, and as a result, both players have become fan favorites. While CJ finds his form, having a quick goal scorer who can outrun any defender is huge for this team and could very well end up saving the team points in the future. I also have loved getting to see Marcus Epps and Adam Najem get playing time for both Bethlehem Steel FC and the Union. They are two players with a lot of potential, and if they find the right form they could be vital off the bench. They have progressively looked more and more dangerous on the ball, and by the end of the season could be the difference makers in a close games that could decide whether or not the Union make it to or advance in the playoffs. Depth will be key, and having talented young players off the bench is exactly what the Union need.
The last and biggest point of why the Union’s season isn’t over is that the transfer window is right around the corner. The Union have room on their roster for one more man, and we also have an international spot open after Josh Yaro was able to get his green card. Despite Elias Aguilar being deemed as “not a fit” for the Union, there is still a chance the Union could bring in somebody new which could change the form of the team - and if done right could propel them into playoff contention. My personal transfer pick would be USMNT Forward Aron Johannsson as he has been rumored to be coming to MLS soon and has played in the lone striker position before. Should he find form, having a consistent striker with Fafa’s speed and Medunjanin’s passing, Derrick Jones’s consistency, and Alejandro Bedoya’s leadership, the Union could become an offensive weapon with an iron wall in Andre Blake, Jack Elliott, Oguchi Onyewu, Keegan Rosenberry and Fabinho.
Earnie Stewart said he wanted to have multiple talented players in every single position, and we are extremely close to achieving that. When your current bench has players that fans could easily see starting like Josh Yaro, Fabian Herbers and Keegan Rosenberry, it means you are doing something right with your depth. This is the deepest squad the Union have ever had, and I feel like they are on the brink of being great. Mark my words, this team still has plenty of surprises for us, and our season is not over.