Mar 3, 2018; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Union forward C.J. Sapong (17) reacts after scoring goal against the New England Revolution during the second half at Talen Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Here are the three things we learned from the Philadelphia Union’s 2-0 win over the New England Revolution.
1. David Accam is going to be a menace on the wing
David Accam thrived on the wing in a one-on-one battle with Andrew Farrell.
The Ghanaian beat Farrell on countless occasions and provided the Union with an extra dimension in the final third that hasn’t been there in the past.
Accam’s skill set isn’t new to MLS, as he impressed during this time with the Chicago Fire, but he got lost in the shuffle a bit as the Bastian Schweinsteiger signing gained attention last season.
Although he didn’t get on the scoresheet on Saturday, Accam proved he will find the back of the net sooner rather than later.
His speed also helps C.J. Sapong’s physicality in the box, as well as the possession of the attacking midfielders, including new signing Borek Dockal and Homegrown product Anthony Fontana.
2. Homegrowns are going to be important factors for Union in 2018
Homegrown players Auston Trusty and Fontana shined in their MLS debuts, with Trusty making a few key tackles in the back line and Fontana scoring the opening goal.
With Trusty next to Jack Elliott at center back, the Union have two young rocks to rely on in front of goalkeeper Andre Blake.
Trusty showed his confidence by making a few key interventions in the first half against New England’s Juan Agudelo.
“It’s amazing,” Trusty said. “Imagining growing up in the Philadelphia area, and being a little kid and coming to see these guys play, to be on the same field — I remember going to the games as a little kid and buying a ticket and coming to see these guys play and always dreamed of playing on this field and being a starter and playing for the Union. For it to actually happen is amazing. It’s very humbling. I’m just happy to be a part of it and happy to make my debut.”
Fontana impressed with his positioning in the No. 10 and benefited from a nice attacking buildup on his first-career MLS goal.
“It’s always been a dream of mine to play here at this club so doing it with someone else that is similar to me is amazing,” Fontana said.
Although he won’t be a consistent starter when Dockal enters the lineup, Fontana is going to be a vital asset off the bench as the Union flex their attacking depth throughout the 2018 campaign.
3. Jim Curtin isn’t afraid to be bold
Normally in the past, Jim Curtin would bring in wingers or defensive midfielders with his substitutions, but that changed on Saturday, as he entered two forwards into the contest in the 65th minute.
By inserting Jay Simpson and Cory Burke on to the field, Curtin infused his team with fresh legs, and it reaped rewards four minutes later when Burke provided Sapong with an assist on the second Union goal.
Simpson didn’t play as big a role as Burke, but he was able to get valuable minutes under his legs beneath Sapong.
“It shows he’s hungry,” Sapong said of Curtin. “I think that’s something we might have been missing a little bit last year. Going into this season, you can tell from the players on the field, off the field and the ones that aren’t dressing, the guys are very hungry. When you have the coach expressing that same mentality, it gives you even more motivation to really go and get it and I think we really responded in that way.”
The one thing to watch moving forward is which formation the Union set up in when the bold changes are made.They appeared to stay in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Simpson under Sapong in the No. 10 role and Burke on the right wing on Saturday, but there’s a chance Curtin could morph his squad into a 4-4-2 or something along those lines depending on the game situation.