Photo Cred: Jose Nunez
After a frustrating loss in Montreal, the Union returned to their home confines at Subaru Park. They, however, were short-handed on what would be a concerning night for the Boys in Blue.
Perea, Torres, Bedoya, Flach
Wagner, Elliott, Glesnes, Mbaizo
Angulo, Pereyra, Ojeda
Petrasso, Jansson, Schlegel, Smith
The Union were missing a handful of players this evening. Craig, Quinn, McGlynn, Gazdag, Odada, Martinez, and Lowe were all away for International Duty. On top of that, Blake is still nursing a Grade 1 adductor injury, while Carranza finds himself off the lineup due to a red card suspension. If you watched the Monday night Across the Pitch, you'll hear Jose and I discuss how frustrating that second yellow was from Julian. Thankfully for the Union, Orlando was faced with their own absentees. Gallese (possibly an early contender for Goal Keeper of the Year) in particular was going to miss this match too.
Before the seats were even filled, Orlando quickly turned this match into an uphill battle for the Union. Within 10 minutes, both Ojeda and Araujo sent balls into the back of the net. These weren't outstanding shots on goal either like we saw in Miami. It was simply Orlando picking apart the Union defense that seemed unorganized. On the first strike in the 2nd minute, Stajduhar's clearance was uncontested by Flach. Ojeda then snuck behind Elliott and beat a helpless Bendik. If you were watching the Apple Telecast, you heard Danny giving his thoughts on the goal. Enrique brought Glesnes out of position by pulling up for the ball from his keeper. This, however, seemed to be a frequent occurrence from the defense, as they seemed to be having significant trouble with the frequent movement from the Orlando players. Again, as Danny highlighted, Flach was being moved around the field by Pereyra, which left exploitable space in front of Jack and Jakob.
If the first goal wasn't hard enough to watch, let's try and stomach the second one. What you don't see is the turnover before this counter. A cross from the Union was cleared by the Orlando back line. Elliott forced a turn over and fed the feet of Torres, but he was quickly dispossessed from behind. The build up from Orlando then worked to perfection. The deflection off Elliott forces Flach to chase the ball. Ojeda then pulls Elliott away from the back line while Angulo runs passed Torres and receives a great ball from Ojeda. Elliott was caught in the middle, Kai was still coming back from the Union's attack, and Glesnes wasn't able to cover Elliott's spot quick enough. Bendik, again, was helpless. I do think Blake could save this chance, but the Union defense let their backup keeper down on two occasions this evening. Simply an inexcusable and unfortunate sequence.
In the press conference after the match, Jim Curtin apologized to the fans for the poor performance, especially at home. With that said, Coach also applauded his team for not backing down from the challenge of overcoming two goals. To Curtin's point, Andres Perea cut the deficit in half in the 17th minute. Torres turned the visitors over, moved the ball down the right side of the pitch, and sent a good cross to the head of Andres. HIs header hit the post, but it returned to his feet and he sent the ball into the net.
Jose and I discussed the desire of seeing Perea on a more consistent basis. He has impressed us each and every time he's on the pitch. He had a good performance in El Salvador, netted two goals as a sub against Alianza at home, and again found ways to make a difference against his former club. The question now is whether he should be starting for a team that is struggling to find their way. We know Alejandro isn't coming out of the Starting XI, and Brujo and Daniel are some of the best in the MLS at their positions. This leaves all fingers pointing to Leon Flach. Curtin has highlighted how Perea is a great two-way player. He has also mentioned that players will get minutes if they earn it. Yes, it is early in the season. Yes, the Union have gone through a very tough stretch of travel and games over the last month. The point still remains. Perea has been a difference maker compared to Flach, who still is very limited in what he can do on the offensive end of the field. If Andres keeps outshining Flach, it feels like a matter of when, rather than if, he breaks into a consistent starting role.
Despite 3 goals in the first 20 minutes, the score remained the same for the rest of the match. The Philadelphia defense began to settle into the game (to some extent), but the offensive troubles continued to plague the Union attack. Too many short passes when a cross or shot could have been taken, or simply inexplicable turnovers that halted any form of movement toward the opposing net. If the first 3 goals weren't enough drama though, a huge concern came in the 72nd minute when Curtin made an unusual group of substitutions.
Even with some offensive concerns from Philly, the Union were beginning to make serious pushes at Orlando's net. Jim then replaced three players; Bueno for Flach, Harriel for Olivier, and ....Real for Uhre?! We understood that the Union were shorthanded, and with no Carranza in the lineup, we ALL expected for Uhre to play at least 80 minutes, if not more. Not only was Mikael replaced, but he was seen removing his jersey and entering the Union locker room. At this point, Twitter was exploding into a frenzy of assumptions. Was Uhre hurt? Was he upset about being taken off early? Why isn't Jim letting him play a full match...again? Thankfully, these concerns were squashed (for now) in the post-game presser. Curtin mentioned that Uhre has been sick since Friday and he was having trouble keeping things down. If that's the case, then I applaud Mikael for grinding out what he could last night. Regardless, it's amazing how impactful the Carranza absence was. Donovan had some decent moments. He was aggressive and created chances late in the game. With that said, he's not exactly someone I'm ready to trust as the lone striker when we were down a goal.
Although the subs didn't set the world on fire, the Union had chances to tie the match. Donovan in the 71st, Kai in the 74th, Bedoya in the 75th, Perea in the 76th, and Real in the 90th put great shots on goal. Bedoya's in particular was a point blank header that was somehow kept out of the net. Despite the interesting change to the lineup, I can't sit here and make an excuse for the club. They had their opportunities to score, they just didn't.
This leaves the Union fans with some concern. Yes, we find ourselves in the Quarterfinals for the Concacaf Champions League. Yes, there has been a lot of travel in the mix of these unfortunate outcomes. The Union just don't look like themselves right now. The only real changes to the lineup have been Torres and Perea, both of which have made positive impacts into each game they've played in. There seems to be some form of disconnect with the Club's chemistry on the field. Early goals in consecutive games, mind-numbing turnovers, and the inability to consistently finish in the final third. We are, however, still in March. The Union sit 6 points behind First Place New England. Let's hold off on the panic button until after Blake comes back and we get a break from the CCL matches. As we saw in 2021 during our last CCL run, the MLS season is a long journey.
Philly's next match is on April 1st at home against 13th place Sporting Kansas City. Doop!
- Mike Barrera (mbarrera 1323)