The Union’s 2-1 victory over FC Dallas on Saturday extended the team’s unbeaten streak to four games.
Here are a few observations on the win, and what could help keep the good run going:
The Union’s social media staffers don’t pick the players, and it’s always worth remembering that when complaining to them. But the “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?" tweet that came with Saturday’s starting lineup deserves an answer, because Jim Curtin has a history of sticking with lineups for too long.
He got things right on Saturday, though. Sensing that the Union could use a little more bulldozing up front to break through Dallas’s defensive bunker, Curtin made the right move by subbing in Cory Burke in the 55th minute.
In addition to the opportunistic finish of Marco Fabián’s saved penalty kick, Burke’s physicality helped win the penalty in the first place. He also created two chances, and won two aerial duels in second-half stoppage time to preserve the win.
Curtin should want to rotate his strikers, especially with Sergio Santos ready to return to action. Santos finished his injury rehab with a 30-minute appearance for Bethlehem Steel on Saturday at Swope Park Rangers, including the game-winning, stoppage-time goal in a come-from-behind, 4-3 victory.
American soccer wonks love trying to jam as much tactical knowledge as possible into one tweet. Curtin had them confounded Saturday night when he threw out the textbook in going for the win late.
What exactly was the Union’s formation after Jamiro Monteiro replaced Ray Gaddis in the 78th minute? If you have to call it something, call it a 3-6-1.
Better, though, to call it 10 players who knew they had roles to play and general areas to occupy, and everyone had to help turn the game around.
“Ernst [Tanner] has given us the freedom to shift and change, be aggressive in that way," Curtin said, referring to the Union sporting director -- and yes, it got a bit shady in the room at that point. “When a team is sitting back like that, guys have to take risks and take the space that they’re given.”
That’s what happened, and that’s what matters.
Monteiro showed more of his potential in his second-half cameo appearance. The booming shot that started the play that led to the penalty kick was the highlight, but it was not the only one. He also completed all nine of his pass attempts.
By many measures, Haris Medunjanin had a very good game against FC Dallas. He had 97 touches, one tackle, one interception, created one chance (a brilliant through ball to David Accam), and completed 77 of 86 pass attempts, including 38 of 42 in the first half.
Something felt missing at halftime, though. It wasn’t Medunjanin’s fault that his teammates didn’t turn his passes into goals, of course, but it felt like the Union needed just a little more aggression to break through.
Medunjanin has played very well in the last few games, and that shouldn’t be overlooked. But as with switching up the strikers, there will be days when changing the midfield quartet will be necessary -- even if it means sacrificing the good things that Medunjanin does.
Referee Timothy Ford and his crew drew the ire of fans and players alike for a number of little calls and non-calls. There was also one big miss: when Dallas’ Reto Ziegler stuck a cleat into Fafa Picault’s chest as the players jumped for a loose ball in the 49th minute.
The contact wasn’t visible from the press box or from much of the rest of the stadium. It seemed to slip by the video review booth, too, though the TV broadcast showed the sequence on a replay. But Picault certainly felt it, and showed an assistant referee the mark left on his ribs a moment later.
Ziegler shouldn’t be surprised if he hears from the MLS Disciplinary Committee this week. If Fabián’s cleats-first landing on Kansas City’s Johnny Russell was deemed worth a suspension, this could be, too.