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

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

- Much has been made of the Union’s road failures, and it’s worth revisiting. The Union went 1-10-6 on the road. That’s the fewest number of wins away from home in the eight seasons, tied for the second-most losses and the nine points earned away are the second-fewest (trailing the seven via a 2-12-1 record in the expansion year, which featured two fewer road games).

- The pernicious reality is that the road scuffles accompanied the Union’s best home performance of their eight seasons. The 10 wins are two more than they garnered last year, the previous high-water mark. They dropped 18 points at home, the fewest in franchise history. So often, it was the Union’s inability to consistently gain points at home that torpedoed playoff hopes; this year it’s the inverse. That’s so Union?

- Another installment in that frustration: Five of the Union’s 11 wins came against playoff teams. A sixth came against FC Dallas, which finished level on points with San Jose but lost out on the sixth and final Western Conference playoff spot on the wins tiebreaker. Six of the Union’s nine draws came against playoff qualifiers.

- Nineteen of the Union’s 34 games came against playoff qualifiers, including eight of the last 10. In those 19 games, the Union were 5-8-6. In 15 contests against non-playoff teams, the Union were 6-6-3.

- The Union finished on 42 points for the third time in four seasons. Not the consistency you want.

- The 47 goals allowed are the fewest since 2013. The 50 goals scored are third-most all-time, two shy of last year’s franchise-best total.

- The Union finished with a positive goal differential for just the second time in franchise history, the other time being 2011.

- The Union lost the possession battle in 29 of 34 outings, per’s numbers. The last time they enjoyed the majority of possession was July 26 against Columbus. The Union were 3-1-1 in games where they held a lion’s share of possession and 8-13-8 when they didn’t. For the season, the Union held only 45.6 percent possession per MLS’s numbers.’s figure is slightly higher at 46.9 percent, which places the Union 17th out of 22 teams.

- The Union completed passes at a higher rate than their opponent in just eight of 34 games. The last time was Aug. 12 vs. Montreal. They were 4-4-0 in those games. A cumulative 76.5 percent completion rate, per, places the Union 17th in MLS.

- The Union were outshot, 425-386, an average of just over a shot per game. The margin is slightly narrower in shots on target, a 174-146 disadvantage.

- Here’s a category the Union are good at: Duels won. The Union won 51.7 percent of duels this season, which certainly is in the top half of the league.

- Let's get to something really important: The Union finished 18th out of 22 clubs in attendance, drawing an average of 16,812 to their 17 home games. The team one spot behind them, Columbus, is holding its city hostage with a threat to move to Austin. Just saying.

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