Philadelphia Union: Mending a broken team

Apr 8, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin takes the field for action against the Portland Timbers at Talen Energy Stadium. The Portland Timbers won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 8, 2017; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin takes the field for action against the Portland Timbers at Talen Energy Stadium. The Portland Timbers won 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports /

The Philadelphia Union have been far from stellar to begin the season as they sit at 0-4-3 on the year.

The straw that broke the camel’s back for the Philadelphia Union’s tie with the Montreal Impact. They saw a first half 3-0 lead evaporate in the second half and were forced to settle for a tie. Winning that match would have seen the Union jump back into the thick of things in the Eastern Conference but a loss keeps them mired at the bottom. The good news is that for half of the game the Philadelphia Union looked like a competent professional football team, and moving forward they can hopefully build on that and win for the first time since August.

The Philadelphia Union are in a rather precarious position with only three ties in the first seven games of the year, but all is not lost. There have been nice performances by some players specifically Haris Medunjanin and odds are eventually the team will win, but can they push to perform this season?

There is no need to look that far back to see that other teams have turned a rough first half into a late charge for the playoffs. The Seattle Sounders only a year ago were bad in the first part of the season and were able to turn it around in the second half. They weren’t winning much and weren’t competitive but with a few midseason changes they charged up the standings and making the playoffs, and eventually winning MLS Cup.

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The Sounders were performing poorly and because of that Sigi Schmid was fired. Brian Schmetzer took over and helped the team improve for the rest of the season. They also added a  new designated player in Nicolas Lodeiro who was able to pull the strings, pushing the team to heights it had not seen in the season. He was also very instrumental in the teams push to the MLS Cup scoring six goals in the playoffs as the lowest seeded side.

Now the Philadelphia Union have some work to do if they have any hope to even make the playoffs let alone replicate the second half of the season the Seattle Sounders had last year. It wouldn’t hurt if they made moves sooner rather than later. There is no reason to wait for a low point to make changes. This is not to say that Jim Curtin should be fired because he did make a few quality changes in the Montreal game. Bringing on Ray Gaddis changed the dynamic of the team, as did switching the wings with Ilsinho and Chris Pontius, and using Jack Elliott as the second center back instead of a sometimes behind the play Oguchi Onyewu.

However, the team can do much more. There are problems that need to be addressed, such as a need for someone in the 10 spot. The fact that no one on the team is adapted to play the position naturally is a real sore spot because you expect a team to find a player that fits in each position in their formation, and if they can’t adapt the formation to their needs. The Philadelphia Union haven’t done that.

Secondly, the player who most seems to need a rest or a break, Fabinho, is still out on the field as Jim Curtin has decided that Giliano Wijnaldum is his backup at the position. But Wijnaldum is not ready to play or even be in the 18. That said Ray Gaddis can also play in that position and the management refuses to do so because players are seen in a depth chart rather than as adaptable to different positions. Which is interesting because other players such as Alejandro Bedoya, Ilsinho, and Chris Pontius have been moved between positions and from one side of the field to another depending on the opponent.

Further, the team can look to make a splash in the summer. Maybe not a huge splash but they can make a push to get someone in the summer. The biggest target should be a number 10 who is clearly meant to come in and play that position. There have been rumors abound on certain players wanting to come to MLS and surely the Philadelphia Union are keeping an eye out for options. Another shout could be made for either a defensive player at center back to pair alongside Marquez or for the future alongside Josh Yaro who hopefully will return to the team from his most recent injury in the next month or two.

Next: The Ole Onionbag (mailbag) week six

In the end, there are a lot of problems with how the Philadelphia Union have played in the first two months of the season but they aren’t irreparable problems. They can work to change and work to get better and hopefully they can at least play some respectable football in the near future.