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Things We Learned from the Union win over Red Bulls

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Looking back at Tuesday night’s 1-0 win

Photo by Morgan Tencza

The Philadelphia Union returned home to Subaru Park on Tuesday night to face off against the New York Red Bulls, and earned three points at home, putting them in third place in the Eastern Conference with 12 points.

While the game was not Philadelphia’s best performance, it was a step up from their Revolution match last Saturday. With this in mind, there are plenty of positives and negatives from the match, so let’s get into them.

Finishing in the box

It wasn’t a great night for the Union attack. Philadelphia finished the game with 10 shots, four of which were on target, four of which were off target, and two of which were blocked. And while the Union clearly had their moments, they struggled to get the ball around New York’s crowded box and into the net; and their only goal came from a cross to the back end of the goal where Przybylko stood all by himself.

While it sometimes seemed that the Union could work in chaos, i.e. Przybylko’s near miss from point blank, the Union’s chances generally came when they found the box relatively empty, though this wasn’t often.

Finishing under pressure has been a problem for the Union, and without a consistent, dynamic duo up top, they’ll continue to find it an issue to put the ball in the net.

Kacper Przybylko, a return to glory

In truth, the Union has never had one player who could carry the weight of the entire attack; they’ve always relied on players having good seasons or good games to get them to the finish line. Last year, Kacper Przybylko was one of those players. He finished with 15 goals while leading the team in scoring during their historic season.

That was 2019. In 2020 he’s only notched two goals across 10 matches (counting both the regular season and MLS is Back play), a substantial drop.

However, against the Red Bulls, Przybylko showed a glimpse of his 2019 form, scoring the game-winning goal and finishing with two shots on goal in three shots. For those counting at home, that’s 30 percent of the whole team’s shots and 50 percent of the whole team’s shots on goal.

Obviously, this is just a reflection of one game, and for the most part of the season, the forward has been underwhelming. But Tuesday night still showed that Przybylko’s still got it, even if it takes a little to get it out of him.

Defensive failures and successes

It’s hard to talk about Tuesday’s game without talking about the Union’s backline. For the most part, the Union’s defense had a solid night. New York, a team that enjoys the counter-attack, wasn’t able to make the Union’s defense worry about any quick possession changes, and they were almost always stopped in their tracks.

Almost.

There were, of course, those two bad passes in the second half, the first by Mark McKenzie and the second by Ray Gaddis, that almost handed Red Bull the game. Both times Red Bull found the ball at their feet and positive numbers facing the goal, while the Union were forced to be bailed out: first by keeper Andre Blake and second by McKenzie.

However, you can still make this into a positive takeaway. The Union, throughout the game, faced situations in the box where neither team had much control. Despite this, the Union’s defense ran around like animals, stopping shots and using every man available to keep the ball out of the net, and even forward Kacper Przybylko finished with a goal-line save.

So the Union isn’t perfect. But they still have one of the strongest backlines in the league that keeps getting better.