Apr 7, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes defender Nick Lima (24) and Philadelphia Union defender Auston Trusty (26) battle for the ball during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
CHESTER, Pa. — Here are three things we learned from the Philadelphia Union’s 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes.
1. Picault Brings Added Element to Attack
Fafà Picault brought the added boost to the Union attack many hoped he would after the conclusion of his three-game suspension.
Picault was arguably the best Union player on the field Saturday night, as he took on defenders in one-on-one situations and worked his way into the box for a few scoring opportunities.
The American winger started on the right side of the field, switching on occasion with David Accam. And while he utilized his speed to his advantage, he also showed off his aerial prowess.
Picault put one headed shot on goal in the first half and sent another chance just wide of the net. With the speedy winger shifting into the box a few times per game, the Union should be able to take advantage of more crosses from the wide areas.
“I thought the performance of Fafa Picault made a big difference,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “I thought he really impacted the game in a major way.”
The winger’s top contribution came on the lone Union goal of the contest, as he found Alejandro Bedoya at the right post in the 64th minute.
“Right off the bat, he gets in behind the defense in the first five minutes I think twice,” Curtin said. “Those were maybe two of the only tough decisions he made, maybe he could’ve passed earlier, maybe kept dribbling in one instance.
“He didn’t show a lot of rust for having missed game minutes. Happy with the effort that he put in, and again he changed the team a bunch and gave us a real spark. On a different night, we could’ve had four or five goals”
With more time to gather chemistry with his fellow attackers, Picault should create more chances as the season goes on, starting with Friday’s clash with Orlando City.
2. Borek Dockal Starting to Develop More Chemistry
After struggling in his first two games with the Union, Borek Dockal found more of a rhythm in the final third, as he connected more in the middle of the park with his teammates as the wingers took on more defenders to open space for him.
The Czech No. 10 believed the Union created enough chances to win the game outright, but that wasn’t the case, as the Union lacked a sharpness in front of the net.
“It was better today. I think we created enough, we just couldn’t score the goal,” Dockal said. “I think we should score in the first half because there was a lot of space to play, there were some big gaps between the midfielders and defenders of the opponent. I think we created enough chances today to win the game; I think we deserved to win the game.”
Just like the rest of his teammates, Dockal focused on the positives from the draw after the final whistle.
“There’s always positives in the game and there are negatives,” Dockal said. “But I think today it was more about the positive things. In the first half, we were 1-nil down but we felt like the better team and we still have a chance to win the game. So I think it was definitely better, at least for myself. I felt better than in the games before. That’s positive for me.”
Between the growing chemistry of the front four and the schedule finally allowing the Union to play consecutive weeks after a pair of byes in March, Dockal should create more chances in the coming weeks.
3. Elliott Recovers After Rough Week
Second-year center back Jack Elliott recovered from a nightmarish performance in the loss to Colorado with a strong outing against an aggressive San Jose attack.
Elliott thrived in one-on-one situations, and even in the moments where he was initially beaten, he caught up to prevent the visitors from testing Andre Blake.
The Union conceded five shots on goal and held the Quakes to few scoring chances throughout the second half, as the attack stretched the field and pushed for goals.
Saturday’s performance was just another step in the right direction for the young Union back line that features four players under 25.
“Each game we’re growing as a unit,” Union center back Auston Trusty said .”We already know how each other plays, but each game and each practice we’re learning how each other plays and that’s all gearing toward the end of the year and hopefully we make the playoffs and make it to the end. That’s all starting now and soon it’s going to click.”