Final Score: Philadelphia Union 1 - DC United 0
Going into this Sunday night game these two teams were in very different form. Philadelphia Union was 1-7-3 (worst start in club history) and DC United was 6-1-3 (best in the Eastern Conference). Regardless, if you are Jim Curtain you got to be thinking and telling your team this is a great opportunity at home to get things going again. Unfortunately, after watching the first half I noticed several concerning areas for the Union. First was their poor play in possession. Early on Union was sloppy in possession and because of these mistakes, DC got some early sniffs at goal. The second area of concern for me after 45 minutes was the lack of build-up play going forward. This certainly results from not being able to sustain possession for a significant period of time. When in possession, Union played very few penetrating passes, meaning passes that went forward and also played out a defender. Whenever they went forward it was a long and direct ball usually to Casey. Despite Casey being solid in the air, this lack of creativity and build-up connectivity is a major problem. Success will only be short-lived if this is the method of attack. Last concern was their apparent lack of confidence. In the 18th minute, Wenger dribbled straight out of bounds at the DC touchline! I believe this play is a great example of their low confidence. Under no pressure, one of their players couldn’t even muster the ability to make a seemingly easy threat on goal. Another example was Casey missing a sitter in the 44th minute. DC United seemed to be content with just grinding the game away and trying to seize opportunities of Union’s turnovers. If I was Ben Oslen, I’d tell the team to play quicker and move the ball faster in order to make more passing lanes and threats on goal.
In the 49th minute, Aguilar made a positive attacking run with the ball taking on two guys and then shot one off the post. This was a great example of showing confidence going forward and the difference in mentality between the two teams. In no time in the first half did we see a moment like that from the Union. The surprisingly, around, the 60th minute Union found some life and started to hold onto the ball. They started to play some low, curled balls around the DC backline, which resulted in some half-chances. Union’s brightest player might have been #10 Maidana. The more he got on the ball and looked to connect with others the more the Union was dangerous. In the 72nd minute, he slipped in Le Toux down the right flank and it was a solid opportunity.
If I was Jim Curtain, I would’ve subbed Casey in the 75th minute. He seemed tired now and had been given enough opportunities to score already. This change would have brought on some fresh legs and allowed them to really push for it in the last 15 minutes. Then in the 80th minute, Union almost conceded because of sloppy possession by Edu at center back. Luckily Williams was able to cover White after being played out.
Surprisingly enough Union was able to sneak one in the 92nd minute!! The game seemed over and very likely to end in a tie. Even though Union was the team that pushed for the win and got it at the end, I think making attacking substitutions earlier would have helped tremendously.
In the end, it was a disappointing game (and I honestly don’t say that often). Union lacked confidence and being dynamic in attack (especially in the first half). DC was not ambitious and content to play for a tie in the second half.