Apr 28, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union forward David Accam (7) plays the ball past D.C. United midfielder Ulises Segura (8) and midfielder Nick DeLeon (14) during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
CHESTER, PA– Here are three things we learned from the Philadelphia Union’s 3-2 win over D.C. United at Talen Energy Stadium on Saturday.
1. Union finally got what they paid for from Borek Dockal
Borek Dockal silenced critics for the first time this season with a terrific performance that included an otherworldly finish from a tight angle on the right side of the box.
The Czech Republic international, who struggled to find a rhythm in the opening six games of 2018, doled out seven key passes throughout an active 90 minutes.
Although he may not have played as central as a No. 10 usually does for 90 minutes — he continued to drift right in the first half — Dockal was effective in his combination with David Accam, Ilsinho and C.J. Sapong.
“I think today Borek played amazing,” Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin said. “He gave a lot of passes to CJ, Ilsinho, who played a good game today. You see if we play for each other, find other. I think we can find each other more and score much easier.”
The Union were active in the final third at the start of the final season, but the significant chances didn’t come in bunches due to the tendency of Dockal, Bedoya and Fafa Picault to lean to the right wing.
Dockal was able to correct that in the second half a bit, as he moved with more freedom, while Ilsinho and then Picault intertwined with him and Accam found more space on the left wing.
If the Union can bottle up the attacking pressure from the second half and replicate it on the upcoming three-game road trip, they could pull out a few results.
2. Curtin’s gamble on Ilsinho worked
Philadelphia Union manager Jim Curtin hinted at tactical tweaks in his Wednesday press conference, and he made one significant swap by putting Ilsinho in for Picault on the right wing.
The move wasn’t viewed with a ton of praise given Curtin’s lukewarm “good, not great” critique of Ilsinho’s play during the week.
The Brazilian thrived alongside Dockal, as the pair attempted to crack the D.C. defense through the heavy pressure on the right wing.
Ilsinho’s ability to go at defenders one-on-one helped in the creation of his 37th-minute strike that bounced off a defender into the back of the net.
“(The game was) very good. It’s my first game as a starter. With the help of my teammates, I think the most important thing today was the victory,” Ilsinho said. “I’m happy to win. We create like the other games but today we scored the goals and it made the difference.”
What makes the combination play between Ilsinho, Dockal and others work is the quick passing between the collection, which benefits the game of each player.
“Everyone here has their skill,” Ilsinho said. “We have fast guys, we have technical guys. Guys like to go 1-v-1. I just try to help my teammates. I think the guys around me like to play like me, couple touches and short game. Keegan, Ale, Borek, everyone around me likes to play like me. I think it’s easier for everybody. Everybody likes to play this game, the short game, couple touches. We run less, we work less, we expend less power, everyone stays together, next to each other. We can play fast, help each other. If looking for CJ, Accam, guys are in better position.”
Ilsinho’s usage over the next three games, which take place in an eight-day span, will be interesting to watch. Given his fitness level, Ilsinho won’t start each contest, especially with Picault playing well, but if he combines well with Dockal again in Toronto, he is going to force his way into as many minutes as possible.
3. Mistakes still plague defense
The victory won’t hide the defensive lapses committed by the Union on D.C. pair of goals.
While trying to play out of the back in the seventh minute, the line of communication between Medunjanin and Auston Trusty broke down, which led to a hurried pass to Jack Elliott, who then rushed a pass forward that was intercepted.
The turnover by the second-year center back led to Zoltan Stieber’s opener, and it forced the Union to chase the game with more pressure on their shoulders.
D.C.’s second strike came out of nowhere, as Darren Mattocks finished against the run of play to once again force the Union to conjure something up in the final third.
Luckily for the Union, they responded right away with Dockal’s game-winning goal, but they shouldn’t have been in that situation to begin with.
With a motivated Toronto FC team waiting Friday at BMO Field, the Union can’t afford streaks of mistakes leading to goals. If that is the case, they could once again be eaten alive by Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Co. — like they have in past trips to Ontario.