Before we start: a disclaimer. Looking at Wednesday night’s game, it’s easy to be upset. There are plenty of things to be upset about, and we’ll talk about those things here.
There are also good things from that match. We’ll also talk about those. As much as I love to rail on the Union, they still deserve some praise.
Now it’s time to talk specifics.
Let’s get this one out of the way. The Union started collapsing once Alejandro Bedoya and Brenden Aaronson left the pitch. Bedoya and Aaronson were both having incredible games; Bedoya was making forceful attacks into the box, Aaronson was making a clear impact on both sides of the ball.
Brenden Aaronson is the best player on the Union, and easily one of the best in the MLS. Alejandro Bedoya is not the best on the team talent-wise, and his age clearly shows, but what he lacks in both those categories he makes up for in leadership.
Jim Curtin taking out both of those aspects at once is dangerous at best, and by the time the final whistle blew, it was clear that it didn’t change the game in the Union’s favor. And as the Union found themselves down 1-0, Curtin subbed out Aaronson for Creavalle, a defensive-minded midfielder, someone who isn’t going to get that tying goal.
To his credit, it’s good that Curtin used all of his subs. It’s clear his team is tired after 4 games in 11 days. But this is the time to give players like Jack de Vries and Anthony Fontana their time to shine, and not as replacements for the best players on the pitch.
As a continuation from the last point, the Union don’t have the depth to survive a 90-minute duel. The Union also doesn’t have the depth to play without Brenden Aaronson and Mark McKenzie.
Curtin has recently acknowledged two things: the first being that the Union are receiving offers for Aaronson and McKenzie, and the second being that his team doesn’t have much depth at the midfield. And frankly, they don’t have much depth anywhere else.
In the back, the Union aren’t terrible. Olivier Mbaizo has shown up in the last two games, Matt Real is a solid substitute, and Jakob Glesnes has his flashes. But they would clearly suffer without Mark McKenzie holding it down alongside them.
In the midfield, the backups aren’t as great. Ilsinho seems to have peaked last year, Creavalle is no Brenden Aaronson and plays more defense anyways, and as for Matej Oravec and Cole Turner, they haven’t seen action this year.
Up front, Andrew Wooten appears to be the third option at forward, despite making little impact on the pitch, and Anthony Fontana and Jack de Vries aren’t seeing enough minutes to make an impact.
The Union have enough in starters to make each game a battle, but if a game goes past 60 minutes, it’s clear that the Union won’t see the match change in their favor. And if Aaronson and McKenzie leave anytime soon, fewer matches will go in their favor.
One of the best in the league
Now it’s time to stop ranting. The Union still played a great match against a team that is almost certainly the best in the MLS.
The best players played great, the average players played solid, and, for the most part, those players were able to make up for those who didn’t play up to par. The Union found a way to control the ball out of the back and find the holes when they appeared. And while Columbus played good defense, the Union still had several chances that forced Columbus to make plays.
One loss does not mean that the team needs rewriting from top to bottom, especially against a team like the Crew.
The Union showed that they don’t need possession to win a game, they don’t need to control the entire match to stand a chance. And the Union showed that they’re versatile, and can play without A+ forwards, even at the highest level.
There’s plenty to look forward to, but there’s, even more, to be excited about. The Union are still one of the best in the league right now, and they most certainly have the power to stay that way.