The Philadelphia Union on Saturday snatched ignominy from the jaws of victory, turning a 3-0 lead into a 3-3 home draw against the visiting Montreal Impact. Philly remain the only winless team in the league, and their home winless skid is seven games. Things in Chester are bad.
First things first, though: For the first time all year, the attack was very good! The Union didn't jump out to that 3-0 lead by accident. C.J. Sapong was dominant, they punished Montreal's defense up the middle, and Roland Alberg was opportunistic when there was a chance to be so. Dropping Alejandro Bedoya deeper into that No. 8 role has made Philly faster and more aware in transition opportunities.
But defensively, it's the same old story for Philly: They are soft in the middle. Bedoya is a box-to-box midfielder, and he's playing next to Haris Medunjanin. Medunjanin wears the No. 6 and is one of the best passers of the ball in the league, but he is a non-factor defensively and that is compounded by a central defense that's been disorganized, reactive and confused:
At the five-second mark of that video, Ignacio Piatti beats Bedoya and Chris Pontius. At that moment, Medunjanin has to be sliding over more centrally to cover the sweet spot in front of the central defense. Instead, at the eight-second mark, he's pointing at the central defenders.
Now, you could make a very good case that one of the two central defenders need to step up and try to stop Piatti on the dribble. However, there are two Impact attackers in the box, making runs, pinning both Jack Elliott and Richie Marquez deep. Leave one of those runners and Piatti slips the man through.
Neither center back covered themselves in glory here – they really did stay too deep and reactive, and they processed their threat rundown too slowly. It's a recurring theme for the Union this year, but it's also the type of thing a veteran defensive midfielder is supposed to help with.
The second Impact goal... this is just a nightmare from Marquez, who has regressed mightily in 2017:
I will say, though, that the Union put themselves in a situation where there were three defenders tracking three runners in the box despite the fact that they were protecting a two-goal lead at home with just over 20 minutes left. And it's not like this was an isolated incident. Skip ahead to the 32-second mark of that video, and you'll hear color commentator Tommy Smyth talking about the free opportunities Philly had been conceding.
And then, finally, the third goal:
I hate analysis-by-snapshot, but sometimes it's useful. In this instance... yeah. Bedoya and Medunjanin are trailing the play so that if there is a knockdown and ball to be recovered at the top of the box, it's going to be all Impact. Lo-and-behold:
I love attacking soccer and respect the fact that's what the Union are committed to playing. They really did go out to win this game 4-2 today, and if Fafa Picault had finished his 1v1 with the 'keeper, I'd probably be writing a very different column.
It's an undeniable pattern, and it's got to get fixed – whether with a new scheme or new personnel – if Philly are to stop dropping points.