Orlando City forward Dom Dwyer (center) celebrates with defender Mohamed El-Munir (13) and forward Stefano Pinho (29) after scoring against the Philadelphia Union during the first half at Talen Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
CHESTER, PA– The Philadelphia Union have one glaring issue, and until it gets fixed they won’t produce any positive results.
After four games with Borek Dockal in the starting lineup, it appears the Union whiffed on the signing of the Czech midfielder, a move that defined their offseason alongside the acquisition of winger David Accam.
Just like previous games at home, the Union used a heavy dose of pressure in the opening minutes to create a plethora of scoring opportunities Friday night against Orlando City. However, the final finish escaped them for the third time in four games, which left the club with a 2-0 defeat at Talen Energy Stadium and facing a situation it never expected in the middle of April.
The Union are tied for first in the league in time spent in the opponent’s third at 34 percent, but there’s still space waiting to be exploited in the middle of the park.
Dockal has been tasked with filling the role previously held by Cristian Maidana, Tranquillo Barnetta and Roland Alberg. Each of the former Union No. 10s brought their own unique qualities to the field. Maidana was a skilled passer who focused on the finesse of the attack, Barnetta was a true grinder who went down as one of the most respected players in club history, while Alberg provided flair with his goal-scoring ability when healthy.
In his four appearances, Dockal hasn’t displayed the aspect of his game that is going to take the Union to the next level. Most of what we’ve seen from Dockal doesn’t add to the speed of Fafa Picault and Accam on the wings or to the physical nature of C.J. Sapong.
The distribution maps from the last three games don’t shine a positive light on the problem, as Dockal failed to link up on a consistent basis from 25 yards in.
When he is on the ball, the 29-year-old either drifts right, a tendency Alejandro Bedoya already possesses from the No. 8 slot, attempts to chip the ball over defenders or plays the ball back in an attempt to find another outlet.
Rarely has Dockal taken on defenders one-on-one, and until he does, the Union won’t have an opportunity to capitalize on set pieces from close range and challenge opponents with technical ability in tight spaces.
Normally in a situation like this, patience would be preached, but at a club where three home results have not gone in its favor, the time is running out to discover a solution.
Although a lineup change is unlikely given manager Jim Curtin’s unwavering support for his normal starters, there is an option off the bench in Homegrown player Anthony Fontana, who thrived in Week 1 against New England.
If the Union use one of their substitutions on Dockal and the No. 10 position next week at FC Dallas, Fontana should get the call. A permanent change to the starting lineup may not be in the cards, but more time for Fontana could come into play if Dockal fails to make an impact.
Regardless of what the solution is, the Union need to find one fast as they try to salvage points from games against struggling FC Dallas and D.C. United before embarking on a difficult six-week stretch before the World Cup break.