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Union Pick Up Shock Win in Red Bull Arena: Tactical Analysis



from: Red Bull Arena had been a house of horrors for Philadelphia

Red Bull Arena had been a house of horrors for Philadelphia

I have called into question Union head coach Jim Curtin’s tactics throughout the young MLS season and with good reason.

Headed into yesterday,  the Union were sitting on just 9 points from 13 league fixtures and in third to last place in the MLS’s Eastern Conference.

They had never won at Red Bull Arena and had only managed 2 draws away from PPL Park in 6 road games while allowing 15 goals away from home while scoring just 7 of their own.

However, in one game, the Union turned all that around with a mix of good tactics and some good luck.

In contrast to prior fixtures, the Union’s back line seemed to hold firm and the 4-2-3-1 formation kept its shape throughout the match.

Curtin had been allowing his Left and Right backs to fire up the pitch but yesterday, knowing his team would have little of the ball, backs Williams and Fabinho held fast along with their center-backs and didn’t allow much for Red Bulls’ forward Bradley Wright-Phillips and the attacking midfielders.

The goal was firm defense and hit NY on counters.

The Red Bulls could hardly manage an open look at goal and were tightly marked in the box; something that hasn’t been the case in prior meetings with the Red Bulls and in Union’s road matches in general this season.

Offensively, Curtin went with the veteran Conor Casey up front.

He picked up an injury which turned out to benefit the Union tactically in an ironic twist.  However, in a counterattacking style, Casey as a target forward is not as good of a fit as a speedster like Sapong.

CJ Sapong was inserted in Casey’s place in the 55th minute and it was his pace that turned the match completely in Philadelphia’s favor.

Just 2 minutes after his entrance, the Union had a goal.

Off a giveaway in the midfield, the Union hit New York on a counter and as Red Bulls’ backline struggled to set up, Nogiuera found himself open and deflected home Cristián Maidana’s shot toward Robles’ goal.

Just seven minutes later, it was Sapong himself who made a great run as the Union hit New York up the left flank on a well-conceived counter again.

Sapong found the open space in the centre of the box and neatly finished Fabinho’s cross with his right foot to put the Union in command.

They held firm for the remainder of the 90, and had their first road win at Red Bull arena in the classic defense-first counterattacking style that road teams utilize to find results away from their home pitch.


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