The Philadelphia Union started the 2020 campaign with a 2-0 defeat away to FC Dallas in what most fans would describe as a frustrating and disappointing performance.
While the result suggests the Union were poor, and in many ways, they were; there are certainly positive signs to build off as the season progresses. It is often understated how difficult it is to implement and transition a team to a new system, and we saw the signs of that in the performance.
Many fans big question starting the season was appropriately who would start at the base of the midfield, a position which in the previous system, served as the engine for all the Union’s offense. With the new system, the midfield will need to work to establish where the new engine will come from, which will take time and patience from the fans. As I mentioned, there were definite positives from the game. The Union were able to create 10 chances and 15 shots in this match, yet only had 3 shots on target, and ultimately no goals. As the team gets into form, I expect more of the lower quality chances to be scored and the Union to have an effective offensive production.
Jim Curtin predictably started the 2020 season in the 4-4-2 diamond formation we are very accustomed to; however, Brenden Aaronson played extremely far forward, often leaving the midfield isolated leading to Jamiro Monteiro becoming a non-factor for large stretches of the game. Additionally, With Bedoya playing further forward and wider, Dallas was able to control the middle of the pitch and create turnovers leading to transitional moments which they were able to turn into chances. However, the Union were still able to create offense, although did not capitalize on their own opportunities unlike Dallas.
Expected Goal Analysis
The expected goals were extremely even between Dallas and Philadelphia with 0.75 and 0.71 respectively, with some models projecting the Union had a much greater xG than Dallas. While the 15 shots by the Union suggest they can create chances, the lack of turning those shot opportunities into goal opportunities is worrying and one to watch moving forward. The story of this match is just that: The Union did not capitalize on the few opportunities to create goals, whereas Dallas was.
By the Numbers
0.3: Expected goals by captain Ale Bedoya. With the forwards Santos and Przybylko struggling to create goal opportunities (combined 0.3 xG between them) Bedoya played further forward to create. However, 75% of his shots were unassisted indicating he simply took it upon himself to create offense. Take that as you will.
3: Key Passes by Sergio Santos (led the team). While Santos certainly struggled in this game, it will be important for both forwards to be productive in the final third and I am hopeful that if Santos can develop his passing and influence in the build-up the partnership with Kacper will be very fruitful.
0.67: Expected Goals by the Union on possessions which included Kacper Przybylko. Building off the above point, Kacper was very involved in the build up play. While this game may not have had the desired outcome, the key takeaway is not the lack of effective build up, but the lack of effective final product.
79.4: Passing Percentage for Ray Gaddis. This match was one of Gaddis’s better performances which saw him very active both offensively and defensively.
5: Defensive actions by newcomer Jakob Glesnes. Making his Philadelphia Union debut, Glesnes was solid defensively, and had a good game passing the ball out from the back. It will be interesting to watch his development this season.
Sources: Opta via mlssoccer.com, Whoscored.com, American Soccer Analysis