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Philadelphia Union Tactical Analysis after Latest Loss


Rais Mbolhi (USA Today Images) Surpringly, Mbolhi was passed over in favor of a fourth choice Keeper at Vancouver

Rais Mbolhi (USA Today Images)
Surpringly, Mbolhi was passed over in favor of a fourth choice Keeper at Vancouver


After just under 44 minutes of action, the Union found themselves in an 2-0 hole to the Vancouver Whitecaps after allowing two very similar goals.

The first goal was a good example of how Philadelphia got the tactics all wrong.  Although Pedro Morales appeared offside after a Philadelphia turnover in the midfield, he did find himself wide open between two Union backline members and chipped home a perfect finish to get the Whitecaps the lead.

The second goal similarly, pitted Octavio Rivera in acres of space as centre-backs Ethan White and Richard Marquez chased the ball.  Ethan White felt he was fouled as he raised his arms in frustration, but the goal stood.

Vancouver would “ice” the game (sorry, couldn’t resist) on a third goal that again, saw two centre backs exposed by Darren Mattocks who dribbled through the lackadaisical defense and popped one past Union keeper Brian Sylvestre who surpringly got the nod over the Algerian keeper Rais Mbolhi.

The Union came out in an aggressive and attacking 4-2-3-1 formation and as the game wore on, it seemed that Union manager Jim Curtin wanted his team’s left and right backs Sheanon Williams and Raymon Gattis respectively, to fire up the wings and join the attack.

The problem for the Union was that the team was two often caught between attacking and defending.  The formation broke down for much of the game and on all three goals.

The team seemed to bottleneck in the middle of the field and despite possessing the ball for about half the action, were barely ever a threat managing just 2 shots on target as compared to Vancouver’s 10.

Most compellingly, Philadelphia was not caught offside even once which tells the spectator that they were never really in attack.

When turned over, the Union were left exposed at the back with too much of their team pushed too far up the pitch including centre backs White and Marquez who were often left chasing and flat-footed on both Union tallies.

The tactics were too brazen and aggressive for a road team, particularly one that has stuggled as badly as the Union have this season.

It was understandible on the one hand for Curtin to take this approach as he had watched his team enter the game having scored 1 or fewer goals in each of its last 4 matches and managing just a draw against NYCFC over that span.

But on the other hand, when you consider that defensively, the Union had just allowed 4 goals to Columbus Crew in the last contest Philadelphia had played on the road.

Vancouver was all too comfortable waiting to counter attack and its spacing was brilliant as Rivera and Morales took advantage of the space behind the midfield on the Whitecaps first two tallies.

The tactical strategy was even harder to grasp when you consider that the Union had been hit by injuries to their keepers and started at the very least their third choice keeper or fourth when you consider that they had turned to Mbolhi to start the season.

The Union return home to face DC United on May 17th, and it will be interesting to see who is in the nets and what formation the team employs.

To be fair to Curtin, the team came out in the 4-2-3-1, but looked more like a 2-8 formation as the action played out.


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