Columbus Crew SC is back on the road on Saturday evening, following a 2-0-1 start to the season. The Black & Gold’s opponent is a struggling Philadelphia Union side, who are 0-2-1 in 2019. Both teams will be without some key players due to international call ups, injuries or suspensions, meaning the coaching staffs on both sides will have to make adjustments.
To get a better idea of the Union, we turned to our SB Nation friends at Brotherly Game and managing editor Matthew Ralph. He answered our questions about Philadelphia.
Massive Report: This is not the start I imagine Union fans hoped for. What’s gone wrong three games in and how is Jim Curtin addressing the issues?
Brotherly Game: Slow starts are kind of the Union’s thing, but it was somewhat expected this year with the change in formation and style implemented by new Sporting Director Ernst Tanner. Finishing has been an issue. Through three games they have only two goals — one from the penalty spot in the season opener (Marco Fabian) and another from an 18-year-old attacking midfielder in his MLS debut. Cory Burke and Fafa Picault, who combined for 20 goals last season, have had their chances, especially against Atlanta United last week but haven’t found the back of the net yet. The schedule hasn’t exactly been kind starting out against three teams that have won hardware over the past three years with two of those games on the road.
MR: I know he’s only just arrived but what does the loss of Marco Fabian mean for Philly in this game?
BG: It means Brenden Aaronson will get a shot to build on his stunning debut performance in Atlanta, which might not be the worst thing in the world. It’s only been one game — and Union fans are familiar with seeing a good game for a young player followed by several weeks back on the bench — but him showing that what he accomplished last season in the USL was no fluke against the defending MLS Cup champs has brought some much-needed hope and excitement back to the fanbase.
MR: Take the start away, what are the expectations for the Union this year? Is this a team that can get to the MLS Cup playoffs in fans’ minds?
BG: The expectation is pretty simple: to win a playoff game. I think even the more negative fans see the Union as a playoff contender but question marks still persist over whether this team can do more than make incremental strides and change the course of mediocrity the team firmly planted itself in for the first nine seasons. There’s a lot of belief that Ernst Tanner is the guy to turn things around but there was a lot of belief in Earnie Stewart too that never quite materialized. I think many fans are going to assume the worst until they prove them wrong and the only way to do that is to win a playoff game. Actually winning the Open Cup after falling short in three finals would probably help a little too.
To read Massive Report’s answers to Brotherly Games’ questions, click here.