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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Union-San Jose: Lineups and prematch observations

UNION (4-2-3-1) 
Bench: McCarthy, Gaddis, McKenzie, Creavalle, Burke, Fontana, Ilsinho

San Jose Earthquakes (4-4-2) 
Bench: Bersano, Affolter, Salinas, Hyka, Alashe, Thompson, Amarikwa

- No surprise given the performances of Fabian Herbers the last three games that Fafa Picault returns from suspension and zooms straight into the starting lineup. Jim Curtin talked a lot this week about the Union’s desire to get Picault’s vertical and horizontal field stretching onto the field. Without any game action in the last month, he might be a little short on sharpness and game-fitness, but he’ll be a spark that hopefully ignites the technical powder kegs that are the scuffling Borek Dockal and David Accam.

- The Delco Destroyer backline gets its first chance to play in front of home fans, with Matt Real granted another start at left back next to Auston Trusty. The Drexel Hill native Real faired alright in last week’s 3-0 loss in Colorado, and a game on home turf should afford him the chance to get forward more and show what he can do on that natural left foot that Curtin so prizes. A little chemistry between Real and Accam on the left flank wouldn’t go underappreciated either.

- No surprises tactically from the Earthquakes, a team that has finally made a change in its fourth game, a little tweak at left back with Joel Qwiberg in for former Union man Shea Salinas. The Quakes generated plenty of chances in last week’s 2-1 loss to New York City FC but couldn’t only solve a stellar Sean Johnson once in net. The big key here is how to handle Valeri Qazaishvili, Georgian code name Vako. With Danny Hoesen and Chris Wondolowski occupying the center backs and the lack of a true holding midfielder, how the Union’s defense communicates and hands off the in-cutting runs of Vako from the wing will be vital to quell his threat. Vako did score against the Union last year at Avaya Stadium.

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Saturday, March 17, 2018

Union-Crew: Lineups and prematch observations

UNION (4-2-3-1) 
Bench: McCarthy, Marquez, Gaddis, Jones, Fontana, Burke, Simpson
Crew (4-2-3-1) 
Bench: Kempin, Williams, Abu, Argudo, Clark, Jimenez, Hansen 

- The Borek Dockal era starts today from the start. I’d suspected that Jim Curtin might name Anthony Fontana as a starter again this week after his strong debut, but it’s not so. Fontana starts on the bench and Dockal, who probably isn’t 90 minutes fit, goes from the start.

- No other changes from the Union, which is to be expected. Same bench, too, save for Eric Ayuk out to accommodate Dockal’s arrival.

- The unbeaten Crew also name an unchanged side. Look for the challenge posed by Gyasi Zardes getting physical with Auston Trusty and company and the service into the starting forward. The Union also have to do a good job reducing the time and space given to Wil Trapp and Artur in the middle of the field.

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Thursday, February 1, 2018

The topsy-turvy 10: Where the search for the Union's biggest roster need stands

Jim Curtin: Looking out for a new No. 10?
Union manager Jim Curtin sounded definitive on several points Thursday in a conference call from the Union’s training base in Clearwater, Fla. The only issue was that those points seemed to be moderately in opposition to each other, befitting the bumpy process of roster building.

Here’s Curtin’s response to two questions regarding the No. 10 position, which has long been tabbed as an area to upgrade. The first was a query about whether the praise that Curtin has lavished on Anthony Fontana at all changes the priorities in the transfer market:
No. We’re still actively looking but at the same time we know that we have some young guys that are capable. This offseason has shown just by the actions of it that there is more of a commitment to youth. Our roster is significantly younger. I think that is also seen on the field in terms of the intensity of training, the amount of ground guys are covering. The No. 10 position specifically, we’re happy with the work Ilsinho has done there with Adam Najem and also Anthony Fontana. Fontana can play the 10, can also play the 8 and has gotten some reps at both. These games will tell us a lot. It hasn’t changed. We haven’t stopped searching, that is not the case at all. Every team right now is looking to make little tweaks and upgrades, but we know in the back of our mind we do have capable guys there. We are going to lean heavily on playing young guys this season.
Later, a question was posed as to whether Curtin’s preference is to have said reinforcement in sooner rather than later, and the response included more equivocating:
I’m confident in the group that we have right now. I think the addition of David Accam makes us different. I think some guys have another year under their belt. Obviously the quicker you can get the entire group together is better, but we know that this isn’t our final roster quite yet. We still have some flexibility in terms of some roster spots. We still have the ability to sign a young player or two to the supplemental side of the roster. We’re not the complete group that you’re going to see quite yet on March 3. Whether it happens this window or next window, it still remains to be seen. But at the same time, we like our group that we have, the training sessions have been good. We’ll get our first test against Red Bull to see what it looks like.
OK, I hate to be the guy who dissects this within an inch of its life, reading between the lines. But this isn’t a normal situation. The lack of a No. 10 was the defining struggle of the Union’s 2017 failures. It has been highlighted since last fall as the issue. And to not add a playmaker in the offseason will not only be a missed opportunity after the astute acquisition of David Accam, but will leave the club open to all manner of anger from a fan base starved of success and excitement.

So here’s how I read the tea leaves:

- The Union will bring in new players. Curtin said elsewhere Thursday that they’ll have a couple of names in training to be released Friday, young players they’ve tracked but no household names. I don’t know that another Homegrown is on the horizon, but the roster has room for young players to stash.
Read more »

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Double bubble: Training notes from Day 3

Ilsinho at Union trianing: Always a good time.
The Union wrapped up the last of three days at the Bubble over Dunning-Cohen Champions Field on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania (I will not missing typing out that lengthy title) Thursday.

The club will have at least three more days on the field at the Power Training Complex, the Saturday session of which will be open to the public, before jetting off to the first phase of their Floridian training camp next Tuesday.

Thursday’s session involved a lot of attacking drills, particularly from the wings, and finished with some full-field 11-v-11 scrimmaging. Here are some belated highlights.

- First up: Attendance report. Haris Medunjanin has headed off to Bosnia and Herzegovina camp in southern California. CJ Sapong is still away with the U.S., as those two prepare to possibly meet in a friendly next week. Fafa Picault (personal reasons) has yet to report to camp, and Andre Blake was excused from training for the same. That left 28 bodies, with Tomas Romero as the third goalie plus the voluminous Steel roster of James Chambers, Olivier Mbaizo, Brandon Allen and Santi Moar.
- The first group of 11-v-11 lined up thusly:

Team 1:

Team 2:

From that group, the center back pairings are interesting (Mark McKenzie rotated in for Marquez for the second round of games), restoring a certain right-left symmetry that Jim Curtin harped on in 2016 but relented on in 2017. It also raises eyebrows that Anthony Fontana is being deployed in a more withdrawn role, but I’d write that off as fewer central players sans Medunjanin. David Accam on the left with Fabinho is an attacking axis, though Matt Real seems to naturally gravitate higher up the pitch, which is promising.
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Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Under the Bubble: Notes from Day 1 of Union training

Day 1 under the Bubble at Penn for the Union.
The Union congregated under the bubble at Penn Tuesday, beneath intermittent sunshine and deluging rain, for their first official day of training camp. A few takeaways from a pretty slow opening day.

- Everyone was present and accounted for save for Fafa Picault (family reasons) and CJ Sapong (U.S. national team). Haris Medunjanin is training with the Union for most of January before heading to join Bosnia and Herzegovina.

- Among the Bethlehem Steel faces present were James Chambers as the obligatory veteran midfield presence, Santi Moar, Cameroonian defender Olivier Mbaizo and Brandon Allen. Expect more Steel participation toward the end of the week as they get going. Those four players certainly shined, with Allen scoring a couple of goals and looking decent as the presumptive fourth forward on the organizational depth chart.

- To the chagrin of "name that trialist" enthusiasts like myself, nothing to report on that front. Perhaps as the week proceeds and more academy kids and Steel trialists join, there will be more names. But with the influx of Homegrowns, the Union lack open spots and the general organizational chaos of years past that made trialists dropping in a viable option of player recruitment.

- There are plenty of opportunities for strikers to get some play in the absence of Sapong in the early weeks of training camp, and players seemed to be taking advantage. Jay Simpson looked sharp, scoring a couple of times in 9-v-9 drills. Corey Burke netted a couple of goals and looked physical in the middle. And Allen impressed, his physicality at 6-1, 190 pounds certainly up to the level of MLS.

- There’s not a ton that can be gleaned form 9-v-9 drills since they weren’t full field will full tactics. Saw a lot of new signing David Accam and Fabian Herbers generally in the neutral jersey to work for both teams. Herbers looked pretty sharp, not the extent that he has in the past (he’s a great practice player) but pretty good.

- It’s no secret that distribution on Auston Trusty’s left foot is a big piece of the skillset the Union staff is trying to grow with him. He hit a handful of long balls from his left center back-type spot to the opposite wing that were inch-perfect. That ability to hold down the left side bodes well for the Homegrown’s prospects of playing (more on that later this week).

- In Union grooming news:

Also Richie Marquez, now the defensive elder statesman, tells the Daily Times exclusively that his trimmed beard is merely the starting point for the year’s growth. While he was out in the humid climes of California in the winter, he had to trim it back a little. Heard it here first.

- John McCarthy looked sharp facing shots. Jake McGuire did as well, except for saving one shot from Anthony Fontana with his face. Fontana looked ready and able to shoot early, which is a plus from him. And I liked what I saw from Warren Creavalle, who is not to be overlooked in the midfield reckoning this year, sharp on the ball and intercepting passes in the middle of the field.

- Not present were any of the three SuperDrafted rookies – Mike Catalano, Aidan Apodaca and Matt Danilack – selected in the third and fourth rounds Sunday. They’ll likely work into the group with Steel first and potentially with the Union toward the end of the week or early next week.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Union acquire David Accam from Chicago

PHILADELPHIA >> Lacking a pick in the first two rounds of the MLS SuperDraft, Friday shaped up as a quiet day for the Philadelphia Union. But the club has made a splash outside the drafting realm.

The Union acquired Ghanian winger David Accam from the Chicago Fire for $1.2 million ($300k in general allocation money and $900k in targeted allocation money).

Accam, 27, has 33 goals in 78 games over the last three seasons with the Fire, but increasingly has looked the odd man out as the club has stocked up on attacking talent. He scored a career-high 14 goals and eight assists in 30 games last season.

The details, first reported by ESPN FC’s Paul Tenorio, indicated the sum of allocation money sent to Chicago to be in excess of $1 million.

Accam occupied a Designated Player spot last year for the Fire, with a guaranteed salary of around $820,000. The Union have two DP spots open, with only Alejandro Bedoya in that capacity on the roster.

The speedy midfielder has been capped 10 times by the Ghanaian national team.

The Union have made it known that they are looking for impact players, particularly in attack, to replace Chris Pontius and Roland Alberg. There’s no incumbent starter on the wing opposite Fafa Picault, and Accam would seem a ready-made insertion to that void. With Accam having proven his ability in MLS and game-breaking speed, he’s a lower-risk acquisition than someone from outside the league.

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Meet the Media: Curtin and Stewart's end of year press conference

Earnie Stewart's word cloud, if you're into that kind of thing.
Transcript in full. Earnie Stewart first, then Jim Curtin.

Opening statement: 
Obviously starting the 2017 season, one of the main points was building our roster and making that foundation stronger as we have started in 2016. For the most part, I can say that the building of the foundation was more from the bottom and from the side, (Tranquillo) Barnetta leaving and bringing Haris Medunjanin in, and not being of the possibility to sprinkle in from the top yet. From that part I think the roster that we had for 2017 was a roster that was better than it was in 2016. Obviously when we look at the season and the start of the season, I think that kind of determines how people look upon a team, as the Philadelphia Union, going into those first eight games of the season and not coming out with a win is a difficult period for each and every one of us in the organization, but I truly believe that that part is something that was – when you talk about progress and where we were last year in 2016 when we got off to a great start, where everything was new and when toward the end of the season it became a little bit more difficult to handle the stress situations that were there – the beginning of this year was totally different in that regard because we were in a stress situation right away and if I see how the technical staff and the team responded after that, after those first eight games, everyone counted us dead and out at that moment. There was asking for change; In my view, it was the worst thing that could happen at that moment, I believe I made a couple of statements about that, that I don’t believe in that. And I think the system-based approach that we have and that we had put in place in 2016 actually shows how important that is in this 2017 season. We came back from being down and out. A lot of words went on in our locker room area. I think the group responded, the technical staff responded to what we set out to do and stress situations are never easy. It comes down to having players do the things that we feel is important and once we knew that, you can see that we can get results at the same time. Obviously still disappointing because in everything you want to win, you want to become MLS champions and that is more maybe ambitions than a realistic goal, but I do feel that you have to set the bar as high as possible because if you just set it as making playoff or anything like that, sometimes you see you make playoffs and you go out. I do believe in setting the bar high and will do that for the 2018 season, just as well because I believe that’s very important in getting the best out of everybody.

The end of the season I would say when you look back and everything, the same amount of points from 2015 where we had a goal differential of minus-13 to 2016 when we had a goal differential of minus-3 to 2017 where we had a plus-goal differential of three. So when we talk about progress and what we’re trying to do in a system-based approach that we have and making sure people get chances and can show themselves, I think that part has shown throughout this year. I don’t think there were too many games that we were in where we were blown out at any moment. I can pretty much say that three or four games, five minutes before time we weren’t in a position to get anything from the game. But other than that, our coaching staff has done an excellent job in making sure that we were in a position to get results. Obviously disappointing from the fact that in the end, 1) we did not make playoffs, and 2) that we did not, even though we were in the position, we never really capitalized, especially in the away games to make sure that we could make the next step and take those points because that’s where the difference lies and that’s where we have to make sure that we’re a lot better towards the 2018 season. When I look at our home games for the most part, you can be very satisfied with the amount of points that we got there. Beginning of the season I think we played a couple of games where I think maybe we should’ve gotten more and maybe there were games towards the end or in the middle there where maybe it should’ve been less, but it is what it is. That’s real simple. That’s the way we look at things. That’s the way we view things and we’ve got to get better, especially on the road and that’s something that we’re going to do in the offseason, make sure we evaluate the offseason as much as possible and what we haven’t done because evaluation doesn’t only start here but it starts a little bit earlier but where we’ve done that and made sure in those away games we can get those points to make the playoffs in the next season.

Having said that, building to the 2018 roster, obviously one important part of that is the head coach, so I’m very pleased and proud to announce that Jim Curtin will be the head coach in 2018 and we’ll make sure that we keep going in the same direction that we have been going in. I think he’s a big part of this foundation that we’ve laid down. Once again, when we talk about progress, I think the system-based approach and the stability of good organization, continuity is very, very important and I think that has shown in this season and in a time where everybody thought we were down and out, we were at one point we were in a position once again to get back into the playoffs, and that is a great credit to Jim and his coaching staff, so very pleased with that, very pleased that he will be back.

Those sound real simple, but when you look back at the progress we have made and the players, there will probably best questions about that, what is the progress of a player? But I also look at my head coach the same way, and I think he has progressed in a great manner, and once again I’m very pleased that he’ll be part of this 2018 season and that we can build on the continuity that we have and look forward to the 2018 season.

On possibly underestimating the pace of improvement in the Eastern Conference?
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Let me sum up: Postseason assessments from Union brass

Union sporting director Earnie Stewart had plenty to say
Wednesday in evaluating players for 2017 and beyond.
(DFM file)
Earnie Stewart and Jim Curtin spoke for 45 minutes Wednesday afternoon at Talen Energy Stadium. The discussion got very big-picture and very granular at times. There’s plenty to parse out of the many informative digressions, and I’ll post a full transcript later (after I recover from the transcription).

But first, let’s hit the high notes, rapid-fire, player by player to offer the postseason assessment from Curtin and/or Stewart. So here goes:

- First, Roland Alberg, who Tuesday was introduced by CSKA Sofia. Here’s Stewart: “In the conversations I did have with the agent, it never really materialized that there was going to be a substantial transfer fee, so we would’ve maybe looked at that option. It wasn’t something that was there.”

Stewart had more praise for the Dutchman: “When you look at Roland Alberg and his biggest quality, anything that gets close to the 18-yard-box, everything gets on target. Even though he’s a midfielder, I want to say he’s one of the best scorers that we have out there. I’d say his role was very good. When we talk about possession and we talk about touches on the ball and having that, that’s something that we knew we did want to add that special part of Roland to the group, but now that we’re transitioning and trying to go a little further in, we came to the conclusion that the (salary) number that he was at, it wasn’t the right fit or the option number that was there.”

- Andre Blake, via Stewart: “In the offseason, because I remember we talked about Andre Blake, and I can still and will say there were no offers for Andre Blake. That doesn’t mean that there was no interest for him, but not that we were aware of.”

- Here's Curtin on Keegan Rosenberry: "A very good young player that we strongly believe in. Every player goes through highs and lows, peaks and valleys in their development. Again, if you think to when he was selected, obviously the Homegrown issue comes up, but at the same time, we were maybe crazy for doing so from the public perception, and then he went on to a very quick rise: All-Star in his first year, playoff team, U.S. national team player. So a really high high. This year there was the feeling of a low low for him. So again, we have full confidence that he can bounce back quickly. If he as great as the guaranteed, penciled-in, right back starting national team player? Maybe not. But he’s also not defined by just how this year went. So again a developing young player that is a very, very strong right back, an important position because we like to attack with our outside backs. But when you talk about development, there’s on-the-field development, there’s off-the-field development, there’s handling success, there’s handling the down times. These are all part of growth, and to now write him off and say that his development has stopped is silly, because now if he bounces back and we’re a playoff team next year and he’s starting again and is an All-Star, did we all of a sudden redevelop him? I don’t think that’s the case either. ... We believe in him. He has all the tools, all the assets on the field to be a good player, and we’ll pull that out of him. I know he’s going to attack this offseason with a chip on his shoulder, come back ready to go."
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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Center of at-ten-tion: The past and future of the Union's creative problems

What does the future hold for Ilsinho and his fellow No. 10 Roland Alberg?
A decisive offseason beckons. (DFM/Mikey Reeves)
It’s been about, /looks at watch/, eight minutes since a query about the Union’s 10 position has been voiced. Feels like a good time to rehash it.

Plainly, this was the Union’s deficiency this season. The Union’s 4-2-3-1 system, that manager Jim Curtin scarcely deviated from (and when he did change, insisted he hadn’t changed), is predicated on a link between central midfield strength to the lone forward via that No. 10 in the center of the midfield triumvirate. That player is responsible for so much chance creation.

With that need , the Union failed to adequately arm themselves. They entered the season with only Roland Alberg at the position, and he showed up to training camp playing fitness catch-up. The No. 10 shortcomings forced Alejandro Bedoya to be shoe-horned into the job, leading to tension and an eight-game winless streak to start the season. The club failed to reinforce the weakness in the summer window despite vetting several candidates. The story of the Union’s 2017 failures is the story of its No. 10 position.

The bright side is that this deficiency is known. Curtin has repeatedly said that the Union need to add difference-makers, and it’s not hard to read between those lines. The two primary occupants of the role, Ilsinho and Alberg, are on the final year of two-year contracts with team options. So let’s state the chases, looking back and forward.

Dressed to ‘impress’

Curtin turned heads with this haughty statement after last Sunday’s 6-1 slapping of Orlando City, which featured two goals and an assist by Ilsinho:
“The one thing that was talked about a lot this year was the number 10 spot and I guarantee if you take Ilsinho and Roland’s production in that spot, in hindsight now when you look back on it, it's going to be pretty darn impressive in terms of the numbers they put up, goals and assists. Having to remember now, probably six to seven games (Bedoya) played at the 10 as well, there was an Adam Najem game at the 10, so if you just separate all that and you look at those two on their production, it's a lot better than I think we all gave them credit for.”
So how “darn impressive” is it? Well, sort of, I suppose.

Bedoya played the first five games, then Sept. 23 and Sept. 27 as the 10, the latter two in a modified 4-1-4-1, notching one assist. Alberg played exclusively at the 10 this season, scoring seven goals and one assist. Ilsinho scored two goals in a run from May 13 to July 6, then a goal and two assists in a stretch of five starts in seven games from early August to mid-September. Ilsinho played the final three games of the season at the No. 10, tallying two goals and two assists. (You’ll note that for the purposes of this discussion, I’m omitting Ilsinho’s scoring from the wing.) Adam Najem started once, played five times, recorded no stats.

The grand total from the 10 spot: 12 goals and six assists, 18 total goals influenced.

Around the league

First thing’s first: There is almost no team in MLS with as strict an adherence to the 4-2-3-1 as the Union. The only exception may be Atlanta United, and if I was a coach with Miguel Almiron playing between Yamil Asad and Hector Villalba, you’d bet I’d keep going back to that high-scoring well.

Atlanta is the easiest comparison, thanks in large part to Almiron being out there almost unflinchingly until his recent hamstring injury. He posted nine goals and 14 assists, while his deputy, Julian Gressel, compiled two and two in his absence in September and October. That’s 11 goals and 16 assists, 27 total goals influenced.
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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Pay no attention to the numbers behind the Curtin, a league-wide assessment

Since there’s so much to discuss on the Union’s 2017 season, I decided to outsource my brainstorming for the postseason wrap-ups. Most of the ideas I have are just ones that’ve rattled around my head for months to the point of familiarity where I can’t tell good or bad.

So after my column Monday, I got this response from Andy B on Twitter that I thought warranted more than 140 characters:

First, we have to establish Jim Curtin’s record. He’s been in charge for 120 MLS games since taking over in June 2014 when John Hackworth was fired. That’s the 25th-longest streak with a single club in MLS history for a manager and seventh-longest active streak.

Compared to his peers, Jim Curtin's yield of points
has been underwhelming in recent years. (DFM file)
In those games, Curtin has a 39-50-31 record. His teams have collected 148 points, an average of 1.23 per game, and made the playoffs once.

In all competitions, Curtin is 47-52-37, factoring in four Open Cups (remember, shootout results count as draws whether teams advance or not) and one playoff game.

Good news: Curtin’s 1.23 PPG is the highest in franchise history, ahead of Hackworth (1.22) and Peter Nowak (1.16) in short tenures.

Bad news: There isn’t a long-term comp league wide with a PPG so low. Coaches with that low of a points-per-game average tend to be shown the door sooner.
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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

On the outside: Assessing the Union's 2017 fullback performance

The fullback contingent, including left back Giliano Wijnaldum,
presented a mixed bag for the Union this season. (DFM/Mikey Reeves)
The Philadelphia Union’s deployment of fullbacks this season was consistent, in that only four players manned the role, hewing to the two-deep philosophy. The results they yielded, as befits the larger narrative, was decidedly mixed.

Let’s not bury the whopper of a stat that involves the one person everyone wants to discuss from this quartet. Here’s the Union record broken down by the starter at right back:

Ray Gaddis, 23 starts, 10-9-4
Keegan Rosenberry, 11 starts, 1-5-5

We can take that further, since Rosenberry played every minute of the 2016 season, which means he was intimately familiar with the late-season collapse that resulted in eight winless games to end the season, including a 90-minute playoff cameo. That means the Union have won just one of Rosenberry’s last 19 starts, a record of 1-11-7.

There’s some bad fortune that factors in to Rosenberry’s predicament – 16 of those 19 starts occurred when the Union as a team were sliding into the abyss. But the coincidence is pretty startling. And oddly, it doesn’t bear out in the left back comparison this season.

Fabinho, 21 starts, 6-10-5
Giliano Wijnaldum, 13 starts, 5-4-4

Again, neither’s record is gleaming. But both went up and down with the Union’s fortunes this season, while Rosenberry’s descent seemed to be one-way.

Going to goal

Consistency in the lineup was one thing; production was an entirely different proposition, and one didn’t translate to the other. All the rhetoric about fullbacks jumping into the attack and the shorthand scouting reports of “watch those fullbacks getting forward” is bunk, according to the numbers.

Union fullbacks contributed a grand total of five assists and no goals. Fabinho led the way with two helpers, one a secondary in the finale. The other three added one each.
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Monday, October 23, 2017

A rough road: 2017 by the numbers

(DFM/Mikey Reeves)
A lot is going to be made in the coming weeks about the future of the Philadelphia Union and where the club goes from a disappointing 2017. But first it’s worth taking a step back and getting a broad and dispassionate view of what transpired.

We have a 34-game sample on which to assess the team’s strengths and weaknesses, something the Union will do in the weeks and months leading up to December’s offseason frenzy. I’ll be looking more in depth into certain personnel groupings in the coming weeks. But for now, let’s get the overview and work from there.

The Individuals

- Sunday’s 6-1 pantsing of Orlando City provided the perspective for the individual accolades. CJ Sapong scored twice, his third multi-goal game of the season, to take his total to 16 and supplant Sebastien Le Toux for the single-season franchise record. Haris Medunjanin’s assist was No. 12, tied for second-most in a Union campaign. Those two numbers indicate the kind of top-line players the Union have found in too short of supply.

- Thirteen Union players scored MLS goals this season. That’s the same number as each of the last two seasons. Five more picked up assists without scoring.

- We can break that down by positional grouping. The forwards accounted for 17 goals and five assists (all but one goal via Sapong). The midfield was the nexus of creativity, contributing 29 goals and 35 assists. The backline had a hand in just nine goals (three goals, six assists). The Union benefitted from one own goal.

- The Union’s lack of activity in the summer was widely (and rightly) panned, but the winter signings have paid off (Jay Simpson notwithstanding). Fafa Picault was second on the team with seven goals and three assists. Medunjanin scored twice to go with the aforementioned 12 assists. In all, new arrivals accounted for 14 goals and 18 assists.

- Let’s talk draft picks: Marcus Epps and Jack Elliott played 3,300 minutes this season. That’s the second most for a Union SuperDraft class, trailing only the 2016 cohort of three first-rounders. It’s more minutes than the 2010 class of three first-rounders.

- Can we quantify luck? The Union conceded six penalties, one of which was saved by Andre Blake. The Union drew seven penalties, converting five. The Union had four opponents sent off (two in the same game). The Union were shown two red cards on the year – Derrick Jones against the Red Bulls and Josh Yaro against Atlanta. The three instances of VAR use in Union games benefitted the Union, wiping out goals against Atlanta and Dallas and nullifying a red card and penalty against Minnesota.

The Team
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