The Philadelphia Union kicked off the MLS is Back group stage with a clinical 1-0 win over fellow Group A favorite NYCFC. Before discussion of the tactics behind the match, it is important to state that while the performance on the pitch was worthy of praise, the opening stand the players made displaying their jerseys donned with the names of African Americans who have been killed at the hands of police was powerful, and I am beyond proud to support this cause, this team, and the movement for equality.
The Union started the game in a 4-4-2 Diamond formation, however from the average positional report (via whoscored.com) the right sided overload was quite clear. Even though Kacper Przybylko started the game on the left side of the two, he often drifted right, and along with Bedoya overloaded the right. NYCFC struggled to counter this overload and were outnumbered as their own midfield struggled to retain their shape, forcing Alexander Callens (right-sided CB) to push far forward leaving space behind.
Expected Goals and Shot Analysis
Data from Opta via mlssoccer.com
This match saw the Union control only 40% possession and concede 17 total shots (7 on target) which corresponded to an overall xG of 1.74 for NYCFC. Despite the right sided overload, the Union struggled to create significant chances, with only 8 shots (4 on target) throughout the game. What separated these two teams was simply the quality difference in goal. Andre Blake had a tremendous performance in goal for the Union, whereas Sean Johnson, who conceded a weak goal, struggled between the posts for NYCFC.
Man of the Match: Andre Blake
When the final whistle blew, there was no question who the man of the match for the Union was. Andre Blake came up with three critical saves within the last 5 minutes of the match, including one diving fingertip save which came off a deflected shot. In total, Andre Blake finished the game with 6 saves, and had a post-shot expected goal saved of 1.7 (indicated Andre Blake saved 1.7 goals in the match). Last season there were question marks regarding Andre Blake and his performances, however this should certainly show that Blake is still a top end goalkeeper in the MLS.
By the Numbers
8: Tackles by Jamiro Monteiro, including 6 tackles in the final third (both led the team)
196: Total Yards of progressive dribbling by Jameiro Monteiro, which almost doubled the next closest player (Bedoya). When the Union were unable to successfully progressively pass (probably due to the overload), Monteiro carried the ball forward often into attacking positions.
22: Pressures by both Jamiro Monteiro and Jose Martinez which led the team.
1: Shot by Ale Bedoya which was all the Union needed to secure the three points
4: Passes into the penalty area for Ray Gaddis, which led the team. Ray Gaddis benefitted from the right sided overload, allowing him extra room, and additional passing opportunities to create chances. Gaddis also led the team in progressive passes (tied with Monteiro) with 6 passes.
Data from fbref.com, mlssoccer.com