Saturday’s 2-0 win, courtesy of a nasty strike from Marco Fabián and a sealer from Anthony Fontanta in the crazy heat over Chicago, was the Philadelphia Union’s first clean sheet since the May 18th 0-0 draw with Seattle. The team looked much better than against RSL last week, but still has a lot of room to improve. Here’s four things we learned from last night’s victory.
The team played better Saturday, but is still inconsistent
There have been times this season that the Union have been firing on all cylinders. Usually that happens when Jamiro Monteiro on the pitch. The Union obviously still missed Monteiro’s hustle and creativity on Saturday, but they showed flashes of the high intensity pressure we’re used to seeing with him on the field. The several minutes leading to Anthony Fontana’s goal were fantastic from the Union and they were finally rewarded with the second goal to put the game away. Those bursts of high pressure seem to be coming much less frequently than they were earlier this season, or almost not at all in the RSL game, but the improved performances from Aaronson and Fabián were key to last night’s win. If they want to keep their spot top of the table in the east, they need to figure out how to keep the intensity up even toward the end of a long season.
Kai Wagner may be a more key player to this team than Monteiro
I know, I know. I’m crazy for implying that Jamiro isn’t the most key player for this team going forward, but after last night’s performance from Wagner, I’m sold on his importance to the team. We looked absolutely abysmal against RSL with Kai off the pitch, and while we didn’t look particularly good against Chicago, he played a role in both of the goals we scored. His simple first-time layoff to Fabián was perfectly weighted, although that was not nearly as impressive as him fighting though contact while going to the ground before delivering a deflected cross right to Fontana. The work rate on the second goal was the fight the Union need every game. Without Wagner, our options are very limited at left back, and he’s probably the single most irreplaceable player in the squad for that reason. Keeping him healthy is a must if the Union are going to make a playoff run. Missing him due to yellow card accumulation next week against Montreal will be a big loss.
Marco Fabián was signed to score that goal (and hopefully more like it)
Let’s be honest, that goal was hotter than the temperature at kickoff. Long range strikes come few and far between for the Union. As a team that’s mostly fed off crosses for the majority of recent history, it was fun to finally see someone take a shot from distance that was actually on target. The goal also came off a set piece, which along with corners, the Union have been pretty poor with all season. Hopefully we can see some more Marco magic, and that this goal and improved performance will just be the start of him starting to play at a high level consistently for this team.
CJ is still CJ
The CJ Sapong we know and love is still the exact same player as the one that was traded right before the season started. He had two quality chances off headers for Chicago, which he fired (almost unsurprisingly) straight at Blake. While he may be in a good run of form, scoring 9 goals for Chicago so far this season, the Union are a much better team now than they were with him as their main scoring threat. I’d have to say the Union won the trade with Chicago, especially after last night’s performance from CJ. If you’re reading this CJ know the fans still love you, and you’re still an amazing person, we just may be a tad happier without you.
What were your takeaways from Saturday’s game? Let us know in the comments!