Set pieces are an essential part of the game of soccer. Take for the instance, the Liverpool corner kick goal against FC Barcelona to advance to the Champions League Final. Had Trent Alexander-Arnold not have the perfect fake-out along with precise pass to Divock Origi, the winners of Europe’s biggest tournament may not even be in the final.
However, the Philadelphia Union have not had the same success on set piece goals as some of the clubs around the world. In fact, the last time the Blue and Gold scored a goal off a corner kick was on September 15, 2018, when former Union breakout star and MLS assist leader Borek Dockal’s cross led to a header goal from then starting center back Auston Trusty. This season, they have had 174 corner kicks, but have not been able to find the back of the net on any of those opportunities.
The Union has had a few good chances to get goals on corner kicks this season but were not able to score in the end. Twenty-five minutes into the season against Toronto FC, Haris Medunjanin crossed it into the box as captain Alejandro Bedoya headed the ball, but it ended up hitting the left side of the woodwork.
While the team has struggled to score off corner kicks, they also have been less than impressive on set pieces in general, scoring only six this season which is 18th in the league. They have also conceded eight goals off set pieces, which is 10th in the league.
A key component as to why the Union have struggled with set pieces this season may have something to do with the departure of former assistant coach BJ Callaghan. Known as a guru on set pieces, Callaghan left Philadelphia to join the U.S. Men’s National Team technical staff as an analyst and assistant coach in January. This has led to a decline in the set piece production for the team as their inability to finish their chances have greatly affected them this season.
With Decision Day approaching as the Union battle Eastern Conference Champions New York City FC on Sunday, the Union may need to improve their set piece game if they hope to hoist the franchise’s first MLS Cup trophy on November 10.