Play-by-Play Plus: What to look for from the Union in the second half of 2013
Wednesday's win over the Columbus Crew was a significant one for so many reasons. Most importantly finally won a game without Jack McInerney leading them to victory. The 20-year-old, who leads MLS in goals with 10, scored the game winning goal in all five prior Union wins. In addition, he scored two-game tying goals in stoppage time to give the club a couple more points.
While the McInerney story has been one of the better stories in all of Major League Soccer, his success underlined a potential problem for the Union – no one else was really scoring goals. Going into the Columbus game, McInerney had scored 10 of the club's 19 goals.
Great for Jack – but not so great for the Union.
Teams are trying to figure out ways to stop McInerney now, so those open spaces he found earlier will be a little bit harder to find. I still think he'll find those spots, but it gets harder, not easier, with other clubs keying in on him.
It's important for the Union to find other ways to win in the second half of the season. Keep in mind that Jack could get a U.S. national team call-up for the upcoming CONCACAF Gold Cup and if he does, the possibility exists that he could miss three to five games depending on how well the U.S. fares.
That's why it was good to see the offensive contributions of Sebastien Le Toux and Conor Casey the other night. Both are proven goal scorers in this league, and both will have to chip in on a regular basis.
It was also good to see the defense get a well-earned shutout at home led by some stellar work in the back from Jeff Parke who made Dominic Oduro (perhaps the league's fastest player) appear to be very slow.
If this team improves defensively in the second half of the season, it will greatly increase their chances of making the playoffs. Prior to the Columbus game, the 1.71 was the club’s goals against average. That figure was only topped by D.C. United and Chivas USA, two struggling teams.
In the second half of the season we might also see a few changes. Manager John Hackworth has indicated that there is some salary cap space and some allocation money available to try to improve the team.
A left sided defender and another experienced back could be on the wish list after the Gabe Farfan and Bakary Soumare trades thinned out some experience. There's still a need for a playmaker along the lines of a David Ferreira or Javier Morales. Players like that are tough to find and also tough to afford, otherwise every team would have a player like that. If the Union could find a player like that either in the transfer window or via trade, I could see them pulling the trigger on it.
They won't make change for change sake though and I don't blame them. There are a lot of good things we are seeing in the 2013 Philadelphia Union. An overhaul is not needed to make the playoffs – just a little tweaking.
Other MLS clubs in the east are in the same boat and are looking to make changes. I believe the playoff race will be tight and a playoff spot or two might still be up for grabs heading into the last week of the regular season.
If the Union can turn in more performances like we saw on Wednesday against Columbus, their odds of making the playoffs have to increase.