In June of the 2016 season, the Philadelphia Union had everything to look forward to. They were first place in the Eastern Conference. They led the league in goals scored. They we’re among the leagues best in goals allowed per game. Players like Chris Pontius, Tranquillo Barnetta, Andre Blake, Fabian Herbers etc. seemed to have found their stride and were not going to slow down. Roland Alberg went on a tear in late June scoring seven goals in four games.
The team found that balance that coach Jim Curtin and sporting director Earnie Stewart had worked on so diligently. In the middle of this extravaganza, the sudden departure of French midfielder Vincent Nogueira left a giant hole in the Union starting 11. Since the departure, the teams form dropped significantly.
Although the acquisitions of Alejandro Bedoya and Charlie Davies seemed to give the team a jump, the outlook for a high playoff rank seemed to have slipped away. Playoffs are still well within reach and the game Sunday against Orlando City can seal the Unions fate for the playoffs. But still, what happened to the Union’s dominance?
Problems with the Defense
Let’s look at the defense. The two mainstays in the Union defense during the post June run are Richie Marquez and Keegan Rosenberry. Having played every game and every minute in the run. Andre Blake and Fabinho both are regulars in the defense. Both missing only one game each with Blake missing the Chicago Fire game due to international duty and Fabinho missing the Montreal Impact away game.
The only question mark in the defense is the constant rotation in the second center back slot. Joshua Yaro and Ken Tribbett both rotated in and out with neither of them claiming the spot for their own. When Yaro went down with an injury, Tribbett stepped up and started. When Tribbett started to perform poorly, Yaro reclaimed his starting role. When Yaro went down again with an injury, Tribbett stepped in again.
There is a clear need for a solidified second center back. Whether it be deciding finally who won the job or going out in the offseason and signing someone, another center back is needed. In the post-Nogueira era, the Union have let up 1.94 goals per game. One of the highest in the league. Despite the high amount of goals allowed (35 goals in 18 games), defense is also not the only area that’s hurting the Union.
No Proven Goalscorer
The lack of a consistent goal scorer in the forward position is hurting the Union. The starting striker on the team is C.J Sapong. The back up to Sapong is Charlie Davies. The backup to those two is Fabian Herbers, who is currently the starting right midfielder in the squad. C.J Sapong since the beginning of July has two goals in 18 games.
Charlie Davies has zero goals at no fault to his own having only seeing limited time on the field. Sapong before July had five goals. He picked up an injury in May and was out for about a month and a half.
The overwhelming majority of goals scored in the second half of the season has been scored by midfielders. Led by Chris Pontius who has scored 12 goals and six assists in 23 appearances. A consistent goal scoring striker is needed in the squad for the future.