Coming off a poor performance against FC Dallas, Philadelphia Union will try to right the ship when they travel to MAPFRE Stadium to take on Columbus Crew on Saturday.
There are a few keys for this game to watch:
Defensive play for Philadelphia Must Improve
Philadelphia was simply embarrassed by FC Dallas’ wingers and fullbacks. The fullbacks, Fabinho and Keegan Rosenberry, had trouble containing the potent Dallas attack. This week will be similarly difficult challenge for the Blue and Gold, who will have to lock down the likes of Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram.
The elephant in the room for the Union is how they will attempt to contain the great Kei Kamara. The Sierra Leone International is a potent offensive threat that needs to have a man on him the minute he touches the ball or he could make opposing teams play.
The tall task of trying to stop Kamara will fall to the likes of Brian Carroll and the two center backs. The centerback pairing of Ken Tribbett and Anderson had trouble with communication as well as marking during the Dallas game and will need to improve if Philadelphia expects any result out of this game against the defending Major League Soccer Eastern Conference Champions.
Offense must improve for the Blue and Gold
Despite winning the possession battle with a slight margin, Philadelphia did not do much with the ball to trouble Dallas’ defense much at all. The rebuilt and much hyped new midfield of the Union looked completely out of sync. For Philadelphia to get a result, the newly retooled midfield will have to continue to work on gelling better.
Without a potent midfield that can break out into attack, Forward CJ Sapong will be left on an island to have to create his own chances.
Meaningful possession and good passing will be a major key for the Blue and Gold against the Crew’s double pivot of Tony Tchani and Wil Trapp. Wil Trapp is the more deep lying player and is a rising star in MLS.
Curtin and Company Must Figure out Team’s Identity and Best Eleven
Philadelphia Head Coach Jim Curtin going forward has to establish this team’s identity. There has been much talk about the Union transitioning to a more possession-based model as opposed to counterattacking.
As seen throughout the U.S Open Cup, when Philadelphia can get out a run on a counterattack, they can beat anyone in the league. However, with the new midfield talent, the Philadelphia technical staff could feel more suited to now play a possession-base style. But the fact that this team has no true identity is a large problem going forward that needs to be addressed.
On the best eleven issue, there are certainly a plethora of players that have cases to be included in the starting eleven. Players such as Richie Marquez, Roland Alberg, Ray Gaddis and even Warren Creavalle all could see their first start of the season if Curtin feels like rotating his squad Saturday.
Kickoff for this MLS Eastern Conference tilt is scheduled for 7:30 PM EST at MAPFRE Stadium in Columbus.