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Philadelphia Union increase volume of shots on target, produce more scoring chances

CHESTER, Pa. — One of the biggest differences in the Philadelphia Union’s play between March and May is their ability to get more shots on target. 

During their three-game winning streak, the Union have put 28 of their 48 shots on target. Forward Kacper Przybylko leads the way with eight shots on goal of his 12 shots total. 

“I’m always hungry as a striker,” Przybylko said. “I want to score goals. But the most important thing is I create these chances and I also like to have these chances in front of the goal.” 

The Union are the only Major League Soccer team to put more than 50 percent of their shots on target in their last three games.

Five teams have recorded more total shots during that span, but only Real Salt Lake has been able to muster over 20 shots on target in their last three contests. 

Shooting Percentage Over Last 3 Games

Team Shots Shots on Goal On-Target Percentage
Atlanta United 49 16 32.6%
Chicago Fire 38 14 36.8%
FC Cincinnati 33 8 24%
Columbus Crew 32 6 18.8%
Colorado Rapids 38 13 34.2%
FC Dallas 31 11 35.4%
D.C. United 29 12 41.3%
Houston Dynamo 45 14 31.1%
LA Galaxy 47 9 19.1%
LAFC 70 19 27.1%
Minnesota United 26 7 26.9%
Montreal Impact 28 7 25%
New England Revolution 31 9 29%
New York City FC 40 16 40%
Orlando City 38 7 18.4%
Philadelphia Union 48 28 58.3%
Portland Timbers 50 13 26%
New York Red Bulls 29 13 44.8%
Real Salt Lake 53 21 39.6%
Seattle Sounders 37 8 21.6%
San Jose Earthquakes 37 8 21.6%
Sporting Kansas City 40 13 32.5%
Toronto FC 55 17 30.9%
Vancouver Whitecaps 28 9 32.1%

An alteration in training helped the Union become a better-prepared team in front of the net. 

“We’ve taken it now to practice and made our shooting sessions a little closer in and more game like,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “The guys have had a lot of actions in front of goal. We’re trying to do them at full speed. Otherwise, you’re just going through the motions and I think it also comes down to personnel. Kacper is a guy who tends to hit the target. His technique in and around the goal certainly would be something that leads to that percentage going up.” 

“It’s also good practice that we’re doing here,” Przybylko said. “We prepare very well for the game. The coaches do a great job and they tell us where we have to be. When I do the short run to the first post, there should be another player on the second post, what the football should be like in the penalty area. We have to be there closer to goal.” 

Philadelphia Union Shots on Goal Over Last 3 Games

Player Shots Shots on Goal
Kacper Przybyłko 12 8
Fafa Picault 9 3
Jamiro Monteiro 4 4
Haris Medunjanin 2 2
Brenden Aaronson 6 0
Alejandro Bedoya 3 1
Auston Trusty 1 0
Sergio Santos 6 5
David Accam 2 2
Ilsinho 2 2
Jack Elliott 1 1
Total 48 28

In the first two games of the season, both of which were defeats, the Union put nine of their 32 shots on goal. 

The struggle to put a consistent amount of shots on the net led to the switch in training methods in front of the net. 

“It’s a combination of earlier in the year not getting in the most dangerous spots and settling for deep shots, similar to a team that just relies on three-pointers,” Curtin said. “At one point, you have to bang them in from a little closer and we’ve done a good job of executing that in training and now also the personnel that comes in has done a better job of hitting the target.

“We’ve done a better job of putting ourselves in dangerous situations closer to goal where I think a lot of shots earlier in the season were from outside the box. I can remember Marco (Fabian) in particular hit a lot from distance and maybe weren’t the most efficient.” 

Some of the Union’s chances have come from buildup play with a handful of passes leading to the scoring chance, but they have also been clinical in transition, including the game-winning goal against Toronto FC on Saturday in which Przybylko picked out Jamiro Monteiro in the box. 

“We’ve been the beneficiary of some good quick actions to goal and I would use the Toronto game as an example of a game where now it’s not a 25-30 pass buildup, it’s one good pass, we’re out on the break and now it’s another clinical pass and you’re getting a good look at goal,” Curtin said. “That leads to a higher percentage shot because the teams aren’t set up yet. They haven’t had that time to put eight guys behind the ball and be difficult to break down. That leads to us hitting the target more, so it’s a pattern and something that depends on a lot of different things, but it’s been the gist of things.” 

The Union expect the trend to continue during their three-game home stand that begins Saturday against the Seattle Sounders. 

“It’s a percentage game,” Curtin said. “We take analytics very seriously now. It’s something that we’ve studied a great deal. We talk a lot about red zone defense, but there’s also red zone attacking. We want to create and put as many balls into dangerous areas as possible.” 

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