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

Monday, May 29, 2017

For improved Union defense, one weakness remains evident

The Union’s defensive record in recent weeks has gone from horrible to tremendous. It’s been rehashed many times, but once more for emphasis – dating to last year and including the playoff loss to Toronto, the Union allowed multiple goals in 12 of 15 games. They haven’t allowed more than one goal in their last six games, conceding a mere two times in that span.

Make no mistake, this is the foundation on which their turnaround his been built.

But though drastically improved, the team still has its vulnerabilities. And one forms the commonality between the last two goals they’ve surrendered, one of which cost them three points against Real Salt Lake Saturday.

Here’s the goal that the Union allowed against Colorado last week in a 2-1 win. Axel Sjoberg takes possession of the ball deep in his own half:

And here’s when Caleb Calvert deposits it in the net: 

That’s nine seconds for the ball to travel nearly 100 yards.

Fast-forward a week to RSL, and a play that begins with a wayward Chris Pontius cross that rolls toward the touchline that Fafa Picault and Tony Beltran pursue (the video doesn’t quite go back that far). Beltran recovers the ball at 35:14.

In 24 seconds, the ball is in the back of the net 90-some yards on, after a succession of nifty passing between the lines featuring Jefferson Savarino and Joao Plata and through a defense that never full resets into its shape. It’s a bit more leisurely a pace than the Colorado goals, but in the way RSL weaves in and out of Union bodies, it’s arguably more concerning.

The Union have gone through spells this season where particular actions have given them difficulties. They’ve been susceptible to moves up the center of the park, a weakness they’ve shored up. In years past, they’ve struggled with quick changes of field or set pieces or any number of issues. It’s a constant game of cat and mouse to adjust, and this vulnerability to the quick counterattack is the next one on the board to repair.

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