The failures, successes and hopes that emerged from a hard fought point in Harrison, NJ.
To say the least, it was a rough Thursday night on the road for the Philadelphia Union, as they nearly fell to I-95 rival New York Red Bull. Despite the unfortunate circumstances around the game, the Union were able to pull off a late comeback to earn themselves a valuable road point.
Capitalizing off mistakes
Both goals from Thursday night’s game came off of fluke mistakes, which, in all reality, was the most likely way for either team to gain an advantage. Neither team looked especially dominant, with decent attacks being pitted against very strong defenses on both ends of the pitch. Neither team was able to push ahead, except during mental lapses on the part of their opponent.
Red Bull’s chance came in a more interesting fashion, with a weak back pass from Jakob Glesnes that Matt Freese was unable to clear away, resulting in Freese’s ejection and a successful penalty from New York’s Klimala. Glesnes’ lack of focus on what should have been either a solid clearance or a simple pass gave Red Bull arguably the greatest advantage a team can get, and Red Bull was able to capitalize.
For the Union, their moment came as Red Bull’s Tolkin went down on the far touchline, and rolled off the field. Because Tolkin rolled off the field, the Union was able to take a quick throw in, that gave Olivier Mbaizo the chance to send a cross toward Sergio Santos in the box, and the rest is history.
Lack of focus both killed and saved the Union against RBNY Thursday night. Given the team’s failure to perform after the international break, it may just continue to kill them if they aren’t careful. But if the Union can get their act back together, they’ll want to maintain their sharpness, and save themselves some important points, especially while missing so many key players over the next stretch.
Playing the full ninety
As New York’s manager Gerhard Struber put it, the Red Bulls never fought for their second goal. Struber “never saw the hunger,” and Philly capitalized. While New York was comfortable to sit back and play defense while up a man, Jim Curtin made sure to keep a fresh attack flowing with Sergio Santos’ entrance late in the match.
Even while down a man and a goal, the Union still found the will and the stamina to give it their all for the whole ninety minutes of play. They knew that games don’t last 57 minutes, and they played until the final whistle.
From an iffy game all around, this is a very positive takeaway. While the Union may not have the same spark that they had before the break, they still have the spirit to play late in the game, which was not the Union of a few years ago.
Finding a strong attack
One thing that has been evident of late is the Union’s lack of a dominant striker. While the Union has never been the strongest in the number nine slot, the past few games have made that truly evident.
Earlier in the season, Philadelphia was able to escape without a solid striker. Even while Sergio Santos was pretty cold to start the season, Kacper Przybylko notched eight goals to carry the team in Concacaf and MLS play. But since then, Przybylko quieted down, and Santos nor Cory Burke doesn’t seem like they’re picking up the load yet. Even while Daniel Gazdag had his moments against RBNY up top, he didn’t look like the solution.
While Gazdag had some very good runs, he didn’t look like he was entirely comfortable in his surroundings, and while he had a respectable two shots on target, they weren’t enough to give the Union any much needed goals. Przybylko didn’t take a single shot in his ninety minutes on the pitch but got called offside twice.
The Union has spent the last several months signing new midfielders, defenders, and even a fourth goalkeeper. Yet the Union haven’t brought on a single true striker since Cory Burke made his return this year, and the team only has three forwards in total (again, they have four goalkeepers).
It’s past due for the Union to find a true forward for the squad. There has never been anything wrong with spreading around the scoring, but if the Union wants to take on the likes of Daryl Dike and Orlando SC or Raul Ruidaz and Seattle, they’ll need a strong scorer of their own.