Another frustrating result for the Philadelphia Union has come and gone. With another draw, the Union falls to second place in a very tight Eastern Conference. By no means was the point pretty, and the Union will have to return home from the midwest with just one point to show from two games against two of the worst teams in Major League Soccer.
Before the Union faces D.C. United on Friday, let’s take a dive into the Union’s result in Columbus.
Trying something new
Fans and media have been talking about the need for a ‘Plan B’ for the Union for the past few months, as the Union continues a very long run of poor form. By the will of God and the red card of Michael Radchuk, Jose Martinez’s absence forced Jim Curtin’s hand, as the Union experimented with a 5-3-2 against Columbus.
To say that the team looked unsteady is an understatement. Kai Wagner and Olivier Mbaizo’s lack of progressive movement restricted the Union from putting together a strong attack. And the Union looked uncertain all night against a team at the bottom of the table (albeit that the return of Lucas Zelarayan was a major factor in the Crew’s success).
A 5-3-2 formation is by no means the problem in this scenario, it’s that the Union didn’t know how to play in a 5-3-2. It’s clear that the Union is in need of something new, but if the 5-3-2 formation is going to be that solution, it needs to improve soon.
The value of the USYNT
No, Paxten Aaronson shouldn’t be starting against D.C. United on Friday. I don’t care how many goals he scored against the Honduras U20 Men’s National Team.
However, Aaronson, Quinn Sullivan, and Jack McGlynn are coming back into the Union camp with some momentum (sorry Brandan Craig, it’s just not going to happen). The Union struggled with depth this past week, it’s time for them to demonstrate it.
Curtin may not enjoy using all five substitutions available to him, but it will make his life a lot easier if he puts five fresh players on the field with 30 minutes left to play. It won’t take a lot to get them hot in MLS, and it’s time to use that fire.
A brief Andre Blake shoutout
This goes without saying. Another PK stop for the man between the sticks. The goalkeeper position is often underrated, and so Blake doesn’t always get the credit he deserves. Mikael Uhre could score 15 goals in the regular season and Blake is still this team’s MVP.
Finding an attack
Uhre isn’t in terrible form. Three goals in six games is a respectable total, though a few more would be preferable. Against the Fire and Crew, Uhre hasn’t looked like a forward able to score a single goal. Julian Carranza, while he started off well, hasn’t contributed like he did at the start of the season. And Cory Burke and Chris Donovan simply aren’t star strikers, despite decent play the past two matches.
The Union desperately needs a spark up top. As a subscriber to the idea that a player needs time to adapt to MLS, benching Uhre or Carranza isn’t a good solution. Replacing them with another signing isn’t either. The same cannot be said for Cory Burke or Sergio Santos.
Moves can be made, lineups can be adjusted. However you’d like to frame this, the Union needs a better attack. Three goals in the four games back from the international break make this barely even a take. If they want points, the Union needs goals; and to do that, they need an attack.