After an up-and-down opener against Saprissa, the Union now set their sights on their MLS home opener. Can the Union wake up and snuff out a volatile Chicago attack?

Tuesday, the Union’s CONCACAF Champions Cup opener against Saprissa in Costa Rica could have gone better. However, it also could have gone a lot worse. Grabbing 3 away goals and returning home with a 3-2 lead in the tie.

While Julian Carranza and Damion Lowe seemed ready to play, other Union players put in very lackluster performances. Most notably, there are concerns in the midfield and defense as they prepare to face Xherdan Shaqiri and a revamped Chicago Fire.

Too Much Sloppy Play Tuesday

While the Union put itself in a great position by going up 3-2 against Saprissa, there was still too much sloppy play. For starters, Jose Martinez played possibly his worst game as a Union player. Sloppy on the ball, with his passes, and on defense at times. Of course, in Jose Martinez fashion, was issued a yellow card for getting into the referee’s face in a foul that didn’t even involve him.

Also disappointingly, Jakob Glesnes seemed mighty rusty as well. We all have seen the abysmal own goal he scored. However, that is the second time in the last few weeks he has sent a dangerous ball back to Andre Blake. While when he did it against Cincinnati in a scrimmage it wasn’t an own goal, it still resulted in a goal. Glesnes and Blake need to iron out their communication so we don’t have to see that again.

Finally, the last player who had a noticeably disappointing performance was Mikael Uhre. Fans aren’t too surprised that Uhre had a disappointing game. It is becoming far too common. In typical Uhre fashion, he made fantastic runs to get behind and stretch defenses. However, as usual, he struggled on the ball to make the next pass or have a threatening shot on goal.

There Was a Lot of Positive Tuesday

While there was a bit too much poor play, we can hopefully just blame it for being the Union’s first competitive game since November. In the second half, they started to piece together a nice run of form. Most notably, Julian Carranza turning down the teams that went after him in the winter is going to make the Union a lot more money.

Carranza got a head start on the CCC Golden Boot race by netting a second-half hat trick. His first goal off a great cross by Kai Wagner, showed his IQ to head the ball in the direction it came from. His second goal showed his ability to get into threatening positions for an easy tap-in. Finally, his third goal showed his finishing capabilities off a counter-attack. Carranza was great, until his great play finds himself transferred to Europe in the summer…

Centerback Damion Lowe had a nice game as well. It seems Lowe is cementing himself as the more reliable CB. Another high point was Quinn Sullivan. While Sullivan started the first half rough, filling in as the new starter in the right flank, he woke up in the second half. Sullivan started in the spot Alejandro Bedoya usually does. Bedoya came in for Uhre in the 67′ and that allowed Sullivan to slide up top.

While it is unclear if Sullivan starting is a permanent fixture or if Bedoya was just not ready to start after getting a late start to the preseason. Nonetheless, if Sullivan can grow into his role on the right flank, it will work wonders for the Union. Being able to substitute a striker to bring in a fresh Bedoya late in the game changed the game against Saprissa, then just slide Quinn up top. It was Sullivan’s run behind the defense that created the 3rd goal for the Union.

Chicago Comes to Town to Open MLS

One advantage CCC participants have is they get a competitive “warm up” before they kick off their MLS season. Hopefully, the Union address their downfalls against Saprissa and they can start their MLS campaign with 3 points at home. The Union may be down a very important piece, as Jim Curtin mentioned that Andre Blake is a game-time decision with an abductor injury. Blake went down in the second half against Saprissa but was able to toughen out the rest of the game.

After finishing well below expectations in 2023, the Chicago Fire looks to threaten in 2024. Chicago’s big star is of course Swiss legend Xherdan Shagiri. However, Shaqiri’s MLS time has not been as productive as many expected. After scoring just 3 goals from open play last year, Shaqiri looks to be more dangerous after the fire put some talent around him.

First, Chicago brought in Kellyn Acosta, touted as one of the top MLS free agents in the offseason. Union fans are used to seeing Acosta as he featured plenty during the Union and LAFC’s rivalry. The Fire also brought in a DP forward, Hugo Cuypers. Cuypers won the Golden Boot in the Belgian Pro League and was a huge target for MLS teams this offseason. There are high expectations for the newcomer.

Seeing how the Union midfield struggled against Saprissa, it is a cause for concern that a much more potent attack is coming to town now. However, this will be Chicago’s first competitive game as well. Simultaneously, Chicago did not address their defensive concerns much in the offseason. While they are dangerous in attack, they are just as susceptible on defense. Nonetheless, the Union will need to correct their mistakes from CCC to make sure Shaqiri and Chicago’s revamped attack don’t steal away points on opening day.

 

Featured Image: Wes Shepherd/PHLSportsNation

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