CHESTER, Pa– The Philadelphia Union were done in by poor finishing and a few defensive lapses in their 2-0 loss to Toronto FC on Friday night.
Here are the three things we learned from the performance put in by Jim Curtin’s side.
1. It’s Time To Give Sapong Some Time Off From Starting Role
After scoring a career high 16 goals in 2017, C.J. Sapong hasn’t been able to provide the Union with a consistent set of chances in front of the net.
While Fafa Picault, Ilsinho and Marcus Epps were trying their hardest to push the Toronto FC defense from the three attacking midfield positions, Sapong struggled to get involved in the contest.
As he left the field in the 61st minute for Cory Burke, Sapong had zero shots on goal to his name for the fifth consecutive league appearance.
Sapong had three actions in the final third over 61 minutes, which is far from good enough in the system the Union play.
“As a team, we attack together,” Curtin said. “We work a lot in training about getting balls into the box and the timing of our movements. It was a night where I think we put a lot of good balls in the box and we didn’t have enough guys running hard on the night.”
“Credit to Toronto: they defended well and we just couldn’t execute,” Curtin said. “It was a tough night for us in a lot of ways. So many good things all around the field, but the most important thing is to score goals and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Sapong’s last shot on goal came on May 9 against the Columbus Crew, when he missed a sitter later in the second half that would’ve earned the Union a road draw in the middle of a tough stretch.
Simply put, the Union need a goal scorer to provide for them in the next two home games, the U.S. Open Cup round of 16 game against the New York Red Bulls and the June 23 contest with the Vancouver Whitecaps, and Sapong might not be the answer.
Burke plays with the energy the Union need in the final third, and he’s started to prove he’s a capable finisher. Until Sapong proves he’s capable of thriving up top, Burke, or even Jay Simpson, should get the call in the lone forward position.
2. Defensive Mistakes Continue To Hurt Union
Although the Union back four has strung together a good run of performances, they’re still susceptible to mistakes, and it continues to hurt the club.
Mark McKenzie timely a challenge on Jonathan Osorio wrong leading up to the midfielder’s first strike in the 19th minute, as he failed to get the ball in an attempt to intercept it.
With no one behind McKenzie to provide cover, Osorio pranced into the box alone and beat Andre Blake to open the scoring.
“When you look at their first goal, Mark gets caught with Keegan (Rosenberry) going to intercept the ball,” Curtin said. “As a center back if you’re going to intercept, you have to come away with it or end the play. He took a little bit of a risk, but the young guys had a lot of good plays tonight, but also had mistakes, but that’s part of growing up.”
Keegan Rosenberry was responsible for the second Toronto goal, as his throw-in went right to the boot of Sebastian Giovinco, who played in Osorio to finish off the victory.
While it’s admirable for Curtin to have so much faith in his young defense, there seems to be one fatal mistake committed by the group in each game.
At times, it doesn’t hurt the Union because the attacking strength shows through, but on nights like Friday it hurt them in a match where the margins were so thin.
3. Gaddis Continues To Add To Attack
One of the unlikely storylines developing for the Union attack this season has been Ray Gaddis’ movement forward into the final third.
Gaddis has found space over the last few games to try and put extra pressure on the opposing defense while the wingers overlap and isolate defenders one-on-one.
The 28-year-old defender recorded his third shot on goal of the season Friday, which matches his total from the last four seasons combined.
However, the additional pressure now must translate into goals. If Gaddis continues to surge forward and the wingers beat their defenders, all the Union need is a competent forward to complete the puzzle, but they are still searching for that .
“The last two games, I’m proud of the team,” Gaddis said. “It’s a matter of putting in the back of the net. We created a lot of chances. To see the team go forward and create, it’s good. We have to translate them into goals.”