Union Dues: Proof of Improvement
CHESTER, Pa. – Oh, how time flies.
It doesn’t feel like less than a year ago – or seven months, to be exact – that the entire Philadelphia soccer community was counting down the minutes until their recently created franchise would play its first match.
Now, 29 games later, the Union are about to conclude their inaugural season in Major League Soccer with a trip to Ohio to take on the Columbus Crew next weekend.
Playing against New York in front of a sold out crowd at PPL Park last Saturday, Peter Nowak’s team wrapped up the home portion of their schedule against the Red Bulls. And boy, did they do it in style.
Coming out with an energy matched only by the 18,578 fans in attendance, the Union immediately pegged one against the visitors inside of 10 minutes, as Fred notched his fourth goal of the season from in tight.
Just more than 20 minutes later, Michael Orozco Fiscal extended the lead to two with another effort from inside the 6-yard box.
The two goals were all Philadelphia needed, as New York couldn’t overcome the deficit despite an improved second half.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS
So what does it all mean? Well, the win against the Red Bulls, who are comfortably heading towards the playoffs, really shows how far the Union have come this season.
Yes, Philadelphia have always been a good team on home soil, but this match encapsulated the final product that Nowak has been speaking of all season.
Too many times in their first year in the league, the Union threw away results by committing silly fouls or individual mistakes.
It’s fair to say that, over the last two months of the year, those problems have been all but eradicated and the team has finally begun to play up to their capabilities. Handily beating one of the year’s top teams at PPL Park was the proof.
Assuming they don’t completely fall apart against the Crew this Sunday, there is no question that the Union have ended this season in very impressive form. The team should be proud of how they’ve been able to come together as the season has gone on and, if you’re a fan of the team, you should be proud, too.
Next year should be quite an exciting one.
Player of the Week: Fred
He’s had an up-and-down year for the Union, but for me, the Brazilian has added something extra to Nowak’s team.
Being able to chip in four goals (good for third on the team) is a solid contribution from the midfielder. Also, love how he’s quite the agitator. Just ask Red Bulls ‘keeper Bouna Coundoul.
Little-Noticed Observation of the Week
For most of the match against the Red Bulls, Danny Mwanga was going head-to-head with fellow Rookie of the Year candidate Tim Ream, and the defender got the better of the encounter.
Quick and always in the right position, Ream was able to shut down Mwanga on a number of opportunities, something many defenders have failed to do this season.
Nowak-ism of the Week
The Polish gaffer was unsurprisingly peppy after his team’s 2-1 win on Saturday and made a point to speak on the fact that matches like that should be expected from his team going forward, no matter who the opposition may be.
“It was a good fight,” said Nowak of the contest. “I think that’s what we always do in this place. Having the supporters behind us made it a great win. The message was, since we started, that we’re going to look for something better and we can compete with any team.”
Shane Evans covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. You can reach Shane for comments on his Twitter account @shanEvans.