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Good and bad in Philadelphia’s 0-0 draw to Pachuca



Photo by Jack Verdeur

It’s hard to have a real concrete reaction to the Philadelphia Union’s 0-0 draw against Pachuca to start the Round of 16 of the Concacaf Champions Cup. Parts of Tuesday night’s contest will make fans feel extremely uneasy about the team. Fans also can have positive takeaways from the match, proud of their team’s hearty performance while shorthanded.

To start, Philadelphia played a very high-quality opponent at Subaru Park. Pachuca isn’t just some random team from the Concacaf region. 10 games into the Liga MX Clausura season, Pachuca is tied for first place. They won the Apertura the season prior.

They also present a very interesting stylistic change for Philadelphia. See, normally Philadelphia likes to drag opposing teams into their style of play. They like to hit their opponent on the counter, inviting pressure so that they can create turnovers, and create quick chances with decisive passing. Pachuca does very well to force teams into their style as well. They can run, like a lot. They embrace a frenetic, end-to-end style of football where they can turn the game into a 90-minute track meet. They are comfortable playing this style, wearing out their opponents and scoring goals.

So when Jim Curtin gave praise to his opponents on Tuesday night, it wasn’t just Jim being his usual self. Pachuca is one of the highest-quality teams that the Union will see this year, and they are a huge challenge this early into the season.

With that challenge came some clear areas for the Union where they weren’t great on Tuesday night. It should be noted that the Union was missing striker Julian Carranza and center-backs Damion Lowe and Jack Elliott. While they had to adapt, they still played a full squad of mostly starters, and some of those usual starters struggled.

Pachuca may not have been able to find a winning goal, their finishing subpar, but they carved the Union’s backline up in the first half. A lot of that pressure was self-inflicted too, the Union’s back four hurting themselves with mistake after mistake. Right back Olivier Mbaizo played one of the weakest halves of football in his professional career in the first half, looking lost both on the ball and in defense. Philadelphia also has somehow forgotten how to pass the ball back to their keeper without almost giving up a goal!

Moving forward, you saw a massive change in the offense without Carranza. Operating with a single striker, Uhre, up top, a lot of times he felt disconnected from the rest of the team. This can always potentially happen with Uhre, who’s more of a poacher/finisher up top rather than a player who can aid in the build-up. That play style makes his missed opportunities on goal even more costly. That’s what he’s up there for. He has to finish better.

Speaking of finishing better, boy was it a bad night for attacking midfielder Daniel Gazdag. The Hungarian midfielder has increasingly gone under fire in recent months by the fanbase for his streaky play, almost seemingly reliant on penalty kicks to create goals for the team. He had a really bad miss late in the game and looked completely off the rest of the night. Not his brightest game when his contribution was counted on even more with key players missing.

The struggles Philadelphia had against Pachuca aren’t new to fans, they’ve been common criticisms for a while now. They can be even more apparent in a game that the team easily could have won, yet didn’t.

However, the negatives shouldn’t be all that fans dwell on after a draw that should read more like a win. At home, Philadelphia kept Pachuca from earning any all-important away goals. Sure, Pachuca should have probably bagged a goal or two, but they didn’t! Shorthanded, Philadelphia earned a clean sheet against a very quality opponent.

While the finishing wasn’t there, and there were moments of frustration in the defense, Philadelphia showed many good things against Pachuca! Philadelphia’s youngsters Quinn Sullivan and Jack McGlynn were up to the task on Tuesday night. McGlynn just makes so much happen with his magical left foot, and Sullivan looks as though he’s taken a few steps forward this offseason. He looks extremely confident on the right side. Nathan Harriel also looked pretty dang good at center back, like he’s a natural there.

Coach Curtin talked about this, but Philadelphia was much tighter in the second half. They got some things together and adjusted. It didn’t quite result in a win, but it did give them a good, hard-fought result. The team should go into their second-leg away match with confidence.

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