The Philadelphia Union grabbed their first win of the 2022 MLS Season in Montreal over the weekend. The Union had highs and lows, and are leaving Canada with more question marks for the coming weeks.

To recap Saturday’s game, the Union would win 2-1. Alejandro Bedoya and Daniel Gazdag being the goalscorers.

It wasn’t the prettiest game, with the Union falling behind in the first half for the second game in a row to start the season. Albeit with an unfortunate deflection off Nathan Harriel.

The offense struggled at times, but the playing conditions inside Montreal’s Olympic Stadium were less than ideal. Jim Curtin even said the conditions were dangerous for the players. The defense showed the same inconsistencies as the offense. Getting bailed out on falling behind 2-0 in the second half, being saved by a VAR check.

The Union played down a man for the last 20 minutes as Julian Carranza was shown 2 yellow cards and subsequently sent off. However, the 10-man Union was able to hold off Montreal’s late surge.

A Taste of What’s to Come

During the game, Mikael Uhre would make his much-anticipated debut, coming in as a substitute in the 67th minute. Unfortunately, due to Carranza’s red card, we didn’t get to see much Union offense as the Union entered defense mode.

However, Uhre in his short time showed what he brings to the table. Being mighty physical and having 2 opportunities 1 on 1 on goal. He would miss both shots, but how many times have we seen the Union have 1 on 1 breaks against the opposing goalie? Not often. Uhre had 2 in less than 30 minutes.

Uhre should be slated to earn his first start for the Union this Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes.

Early Defensive Struggles

The Union has started the 2022 MLS Season with uncharacteristic defensive struggles. In week 1 they allowed Minnesota free space all throughout the box leading to a goal. While Montreal only scored off a weird deflection, the defensive still had ugly moments.

Mentioned before Montreal had a goal taken off due to a VAR check and a foul. However, if the goal stood it would have been an ugly one. With many Union defenders sitting ball watching, Montreal’s Mihailovic dribbled right up to goal untouched, right through the middle of the field.

While the season just started and rust continues to be shaken off, the Union defense needs to tighten up. Teams will continue to pounce on mistakes and the Union will continue to find themselves behind in games.

Overall Good Showing

Despite a few areas of poor play, the Union should be, and are, happy with how the game played out.

Leaving with 3 away points while being down in the second half is not an easy thing to do. While the Union doesn’t want to make it a tendency of being down, having 4 points on the season already when coming back from being down is a good sign.

Doing it while being down a man for the last 20 minutes should be a confidence boost as well. The Union should be able to build and keep shaking off rust as the season goes on.

Questions Arising

One of the biggest shocks came an hour before the game even kickoff when the Union lineup was released. Olivier Mbaizo benched for homegrown Nathan Harriel.

Harriel played well when given the opportunity last year, and was going to fight with Mbaizo for the Right back spot. However, no one expected a change so early.

Mbaizo has struggled mightily lately. His blunder in the Eastern Conference Final last year and then his poor play against Minnesota in the opener. He also had his time reduced with Cameroon in the African Cup of Nations.

Now, it’s unclear whether it was just for one game. Mbaizo did sub in late in the game Saturday, but that could have been due to the Union being down a man. Mbaizo and Harriel could swap off but if Jim Curtin plays the hot hand, it has to be Harriel. He played well Saturday, and Mbaizo is going to have to earn his spot back.

Now, Mbaizo’s move to the bench could help many things. It would make Mbaizo have to work harder to get back into the lineup. However, if Kai Wagner does indeed leave in the summer (all signs point to he will) then Nathan Harriel is getting valuable time to work on being his replacement.

Jim Curtin is not a coach who likes to fiddle with his lineups, so Mbaizo’s move to the bench so early in the season is something to keep an eye on.

A Look Ahead to San Jose

The Union returns home this Saturday to take on the San Jose Earthquakes. Lineup changes are anticipated for both teams.

Most notably for the Earthquakes, Jamiro Monteiro was slated to make his first return to Philadelphia since being traded away. However, Miro was red-carded late in San Jose’s game last week and will miss the match.

For the Union, Julian Carranza’s red-card will keep him sidelined as well. So the anticipated starting striker pairing of Uhre and Caranza will have to wait another week.

Cory Burke missed Saturday’s game due to the birth of his son (Congrats Cory!). He will likely be back and possibly starting with Uhre with Santos off the bench.

 

Featured Image: Wes Shephard/PHLSportsNation

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