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Things We Learned from the Union’s knockout win over New England

A look back at a couple things that stood out from the Union’s 1-0 victory Saturday night/Sunday morning

MLS: Philadelphia Union vs New England Revolution Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

After 90+ minutes of hard-fought soccer, the Philadelphia Union clinched a trip to the MLS is Back quarterfinals in the wee hours of Sunday morning against the New England Revolution.

There were both positives and negatives from the match, so let’s go over a few of the things that the Union did right and the things that they didn’t.

The Union Are Still Looking for a Complete Game

It’s easy to say that the Philadelphia Union team that played in the first half deserved to win that match. The Union controlled possession, shots, SOGs and rarely allowed New England to get a solid chance to score. That Philadelphia Union team was a force to be reckoned with, one that could take home the MLS is Back trophy with little to no trouble.

The Philadelphia Union team that played in the second half, on the other hand, barely squeaked by and did the bare minimum.

It is ironic that the Union’s game-winning goal came during the second half, however, outside of those 5-10 minutes of play, New England looked like the better team. Anyone who just watched the second half would be amazed that Philly had escaped with the win.

Overall, the Union had a good game. However, to have a great game, they need to continue to manage the game at their tempo and control the ball. And if they want to take home the COVID Cup, they’ll need to have several more great games if they have to face down the best that the MLS has to offer.

The Philadelphia Union from the first 45 minutes can take down just about anything that their opponents will throw at them. The question is: can that Union team from the first half play a full 90 minutes?

Though Not a Defender, Jose Martinez is Crucial to the Union Defense

Last week I showed concern that the Union wasn’t confident in the box enough, which led to some difficult saves for Andre Blake and ultimately gave Orlando the goal that they needed to tie the game up. What I failed to take into account was the absence of Jose Martinez and just how much he affected this team.

Before the game, I believed that as long as the Union could avoid commotion in the box, they would be safe on defense and could rely on Andre Blake to stop any long range shots. The Union did this perfectly.

Martinez and the rest of the Union’s defenders were able to clear the ball out of the box just about as soon as New England’s attack got too close to the goal. With this, while New England did finish with more shots, most of those were either off target or smothered before Blake needed to step in.

If the Union can continue to keep the ball away from any commotion going forward, I can’t see them allowing many goals to get by them, and the back line may prove to be a key component of Philadelphia’s success going forward.