To reference a decades-old Sports Illustrated headline in my basement, the Philadelphia Union are “defeated by improving.” After last week’s performance in the District, anything for the Union is improvement, but at home against New England Revolution on Friday, they looked significantly better.
However, there were plenty of misses for the Union as they dropped points against the league leaders. Let’s dive into the positives and negatives of the Union’s play.
Play the kids (please)
For the second time in the 2021 season, the Union started a youth-dominated lineup against the New England Revolution. And for the second time in the 2021 season, the kids showed out. For the first time in a while, the Union came out firing and seemed to have a fair amount of control over the game from the whistle.
To be fair, New England wasn’t playing their first team. Carles Gil only played a few minutes in the second half, Matt Turner, Tajon Buchanan, and Adam Buksa were all on International Duty. But Philadelphia was without eight (8) key players, and the youngsters they put in their place filled in enough to give New England some good competition.
The homegrowns gave the team running away with the Supporters’ Shield a run for their money for the second time. It’s past time that Jim Curtin and the front office see that. When the B/C squad is playing better than the senior team, it’s time to reconsider the lineup.
Matheus Davo impresses in short debut
Even if Kacper Przybylko wasn’t the most frustrating player on the Union right now, Matheus Davo’s debut would still make this [very honorable] list. After traveling with the Union to Mexico, then sitting on the bench for two games, Matheus Davo came onto the field for 18 minutes on Friday. With his first touch, he drew a foul to give the Union a dangerous free-kick and finished with two shots and one on target.
Per minute, Davo had a better performance than Kacper Przybylko, and he most certainly looked better than Przybylko over the past few games.
Like the other younger players on the squad, Davo deserves more minutes. He looked strong in his first opportunity, and as he continues to meld with the team and the system, he can become a useful striker for Jim Curtin’s mediocre attack.
Was the 4-2-3-1 successful?
Against D.C. United last week, the Union attempted to run a 4-3-2-1 after some struggles with their diamond formation. In the end, the 4-3-2-1 turned out to be atrocious, and the Union reverted to the diamond at halftime.
Against New England, Jim Curtin brought out a Union classic, the 4-2-3-1, and to his credit, it seemed to work. Again, the Union looked as good as they have in several games and forced New England into some uncomfortable positions. If soccer games were decided by xG, the Union would’ve walked away with a respectable point.
However, the 4-2-3-1 isn’t quite the Union’s formation. For it to work, there needs to be one solid and consistent goal scorer, and the Union doesn’t have that, especially with Kacper Przybylko starting.
So was the 4-2-3-1 successful? Almost. Watching the match on Friday, it is so clear that the Union is so close to the dominoes falling. The 4-2-3-1 can work. The Union just needs a damn good forward.