Blake vs. Dynamo

Union defense continues to stand strong

The Union are in the middle of the team's longest winning streak in franchise history with four straight victories. The team is unbeaten in six matches, which is tied for third-longest such streak in franchise history. It's been a combination of many things that has the Union playing the best soccer of the season, but perhaps none has been more important to the team's success than its defensive play. 

In the team's unbeaten streak, the Union defense has set many records. Andre Blake set a personal record for most consecutive clean sheets with four in a row, which also is a Union record. Blake and the backline played 377 minutes without allowing a goal, which is the longest stretch in MLS this season and nearly a full game longer than Luis Robles' 295 minutes, the previous longest shutout streak. 

Even though that shutout streak was snapped against Colorado, the Union defense has still been troubling for opponents. This season, the Union have allowed 15 goals, which is the third-fewest in the Eastern Conference and sixth-fewest in all of MLS. 

That success has been key, especially when considering the changes the Union have made on the backline during the unbeaten streak. Ray Gaddis entered the starting lineup right as the team's shutout streak started, and has been a quiet, steady force on the backline. Rookie Jack Elliott, the fourth round pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, has been playing like a 10-year veteran in the middle of the backline. Richie Marquez was solid as well, before an illness thrust Oguchi Onyewu back into the starting XI, who has helped mentor Elliott while also excelling defensively in front of Blake. Fabinho has been key in creating transitions from the backline to offense. And when Giliano Wijnaldum started for his first MLS appearance in Fabinho's place against Colorado, the Union didn't lose a step in its transition game. 

As for Blake, he's one shutout away from tying a single-season career high in the category. His five shutouts are second most in MLS, only behind Sporting Kansas City's Tim Melia. He's played every minute of the Union's season so far, and he's been key in maintaining the Union's success and climb up the table. 

Head Coach Jim Curtin has said multiple times this season he's been more proud of the defensive efforts and clean sheets than the offensive output the team has had during the recent run of wins. With the way the backline has been playing, it's hard not to be. 

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