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Four things we learned in the Union’s 1-1 away draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps

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A few thoughts about the Philadelphia Union’s draw on the road

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Union have some of the best depth in the league

The Union were missing 7 players from their 26-man roster for the game in Vancouver, including key players such as Andre Blake, Marco Fabián, Illsinho, Cory Burke and Kai Wagner (who have all started and played regularly this season). Getting a point on the road without two or three of those players would be impressive, let alone all five of them. I for one am greatly impressed the squad was able to battle key missing players and a long non-chartered trip across the continent and still get a result. On the topic of depth, I would be hard pressed to find a team with more goalkeeper depth than this Union team. Everyone knows about Blake, but Freese (A 20-year-old homegrown) made some big saves in his first start, and Coronel has looked great with Steel, saving 2 PKs this season. The depth and Curtin’s “next man up” emphasis has been key so far this season, and no other Union squad has been able to overcome key player absences like this one has. It wasn’t pretty at times, and the defense looked shaky at best, but a point is a point and the Union are sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference with a chance to go first with a win on Wednesday against Cincinnati.

We lack a striker that will to look shoot first

One thing that has become more and more apparent is that the strikers who play for the Union look to pass first. The killer instinct is lacking in many of our forwards and they seem to get a little too cute around the box instead of trying to score themselves. Kacper’s goal was a great shot, but too many times I feel like no one tries their luck and challenges the keeper. I’m not saying we don’t have players who can score, but the current crop of strikers (all of whom are talented) doesn’t include that overconfident “it” guy that I think this team needs to take it to the next level. Feel free to disagree with me, but I think a guy like Dom Dwyer would thrive in our current system.

Kai Wagner’s absence really hurt the defense

When the signing of Wagner was announced, I never thought a third division German left back could be the X factor for this team. They obviously needed an upgrade at left back (and I think they could still use one at right back as well) but Kai Wagner has exceeded expectations in a big way. Gaddis filled in at left back against Vancouver, and had a nice goal line clearance, but he was exposed by Reyna from the Whitecaps many times throughout the game. Wagner’s ability to transition from defense to offense, and to pin the opposing teams right side farther back up the pitch into their own half, really creates an advantage for the Union’s midfield and prevents the opposing team from being able to counter as quickly and effectively. The Whitecaps had free reign behind the Union’s midfield and in front of their defense, and I attribute a lot of that to the absence of Wagner. If he was on the field, I think the team could have come out of Vancouver with all three points. Hopefully the disciplinary committee doesn’t add an extra game onto his red card suspension last minute like they did to Marco.

Olivier Mbaizo is crazy quick, but not much else right now

Mbaizo got the nod at right back since Gaddis was filling in on the left for Wagner. He pressed way up the wing for much of the game, which was a welcome sight, but ultimately his touch, passing and crosses were very subpar in just his second MLS start (his first since last September). His quickness gives him the ability to blow by many players, but rarely did any of his runs up the wing against Vancouver produce anything other than a turnover. If he can add crisper link up play to his game, he definitely could be a dangerous option in the future with the amount of speed he possesses. Some people have been calling for the 21-year-old to replace Gaddis in the starting 11 because of Gaddis’ limited attacking ability, but Mbaizo didn’t look up to that task in his first game of the season

What were some of your takeaways from the Vancouver match? Let us know in the comments.