For weeks, the Union has been the better team but has come up short in its matches.
They’ve proven that sometimes outplaying the opposition doesn’t amount in wins.
But desire does.
And in a desire to prove that they can contend with the best – in their house, the Union head back to Philadelphia Thursday morning with three points in tow after a 2-1 win over Sporting Kansas City.
After looking over the tape again of a result that is undoubtedly a major confidence booster, we here at philadelphiaunion.com found three things you may not have recognized. Things that when you put them together equate in the sum of three points.
1. Dominant in shots, but not the stat sheet
For weeks, Union manager John Hackworth has preached a desire to see his club take on defenders, create space and take the shot. In Wednesday’s performance, the Union did just that cracking shots from all over the field at Sporting goalkeeper Eric Kronberg. The final stat sheet shows Kronberg needed to make five saves, but he had to keep his eye on twice that many. This was the one place (besides fouls) in which the Union had the edge in this match. One fan even took notice, posting early Thursday morning on Twitter:
@PhilaUnion found a way to get 14 shots with just 33% of the possession.— Greatest Sports Fan (@WeBooedSanta) May 15, 2014
And you can’t knock the number of fouls either. The Union dished out a physical taste of soccer against Sporting, one where plays are always going to be at the discretion of the officiating crew. But it was evident throughout the match that the Union’s brand of in your face, no time on the ball football frustrated Kansas City and kept them off balance.
2. Runs off the ball were perfect.
Following the match, Hackworth admitted that he didn’t feel his club even exhibited their best performance. On Thursday, he told philadelphiaunion.com that the plan heading into this match was to attack primarily down the center of the park as opposed to out wide and that crashing the box with numbers all game long was imperative.
“Credit to our guys who really fought through tonight,” Hackworth said postgame. “It wasn’t our best soccer, but we grinded it out and pick up three huge points against one of the best teams in MLS. We got the goals when they mattered and the response after Kansas City’s goal was fantastic.”
He was right. But what was apparent was the ability of the Union to put itself in key positions to have cracks at scoring. There were many, but the best example was that of midfielder Danny Cruz’ goal to kick start the scoring. If you watch in the video below, you’ll see when “Chaco” Maidana starts his run down the left flank, Cruz isn’t even at the back post giving the Sporting defender on that post the illusion that he has a cushion of time and space at his right shoulder to collect the ball and clear.
The beauty of that play is two things…
- Cruz’ late run was perfectly timed and ferocious in its nature.
- Andrew Wenger’s run to the top of the box was the perfect place to be if Kronberg got a hand to it and gave up a rebound.
Bottom line: great recognition led to a great goal.
3. MacMath was a LOUD presence once again
The effort of Union goalkeeper was noticeable, but it wasn’t just the fact that MacMath made five monster saves in front of net and secured many more balls into the box with his mitts, but that his talk was evident. On a number of occasions, field microphones picked up MacMath screaming at the Union back line putting them and keeping them informed. Even Union color analyst Peter Pappas noticed and commented on the fact that he could hear MacMath via the microphones shouting directions in an effort to keep shape. It’s been fun to watch the maturation of MacMath as an MLS goalkeeper and Wednesday night was a continued example of just how far he’s come.
Think of something we missed? Leave a comment below.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org