The Union’s depth was called into question in the offseason. After failing to fill holes in the bench, could the Union’s lack of depth cost them early in 2024?

The Union opened the MLS season with a 2-2 home draw against Chicago. Then they managed to squeeze by Saprissa in a tie that ended 6-5 on aggregate. While the Union seemed prepared for the season offensively, the defense still needs to wake up.

While being down Andre Blake may have had an impact, newly acquired goalie Oliver Semmle has been serviceable in the net. Semmle made several big-time saves against Saprissa to ensure the Union escaped to the next round. A lot of the poor play can be pinned down to shaky defense from unusual places.

Jacob Glesnes plagued the Union with multiple errors against Saprissa. Glesnes had a spotty mark on a corner, a lazy clear leading to a penalty kick, and an abysmal pass back to Andre Blake all of which led to Saprissa’s goals. Glesnes has been sporting the captain’s armband for the last two games. This is due to Andre Blake’s absence and Ale Bedoya being reduced to a bench role. Nonetheless, Glesnes needs to wake up and get back to the form that won him MLS Defensive Player of the Year.

Jose Martinez is also taking some time to dust some rust off. Martinez has not been clean on the ball or on defense as we are used to. This has left the backline out to dry at times. While the defensive line needs to get cleaned up, the entirety of the midfield needs to also improve to cut some pressure on the defense.

Challenge Awaits in CONCACAF Champions Cup

While Glesnes is the firm number 1 CB, it appears Damion Lowe has overtaken Jack Elliott as the number 2 CB. Lowe started game 1 against Saprissa and the home opener against Chicago. While it could be Lowe being 2A and Elliott being 2B, Lowe has been given the role of pairing with Glesnes. However, a tough challenge awaits the Union defense in the round of 16.

The Union will be without both Lowe and Eliott in game 1 against Pachuca. Lowe is suspended for yellow card accumulation. While Jack Elliott was shown a straight red card against Saprissa. The Union are thin at CB in 2024 and losing 2 of the 3 is not good. Curtin will have to call an inexperienced CB from Union 2, slide Nate Harriel in, or go 3 at the back. The Union’s thin roster was a talking point all offseason. Unfortunately, the first test is here on how they will handle it.

Pachuca currently sits 3rd in Liga MX. The club has already posted impressive wins against Club Leon and Club America. The Union has a tiny advantage in the fact that game 1 is at Subaru Park. Being down defensively in Mexico could be detrimental to the Union. On the other side, if Pachuca can score 1-2 goals on the road, the tie could be over before the Union ever steps foot over the border.

A Chance to Get Back On Track

Before the Union returns to CCC play, they travel to Kansas City for matchday 2 in MLS. This could be a perfect opportunity to accomplish a few things. First, the Union can gain momentum and grab points on the road in MLS. Also, Curtin could look to give some rest to players who already have 3 games played less than 2 weeks into the season.

The concerns of this Union roster are rearing its head into this season. With limited depth, the Union faces a tough test of juggling MLS play and CCC with a thin roster. Jim Curtin needs to balance players’ minutes while simultaneously getting the rust off. While the Union are down Lowe and Elliott in game 1 against Pachuca, they will likely have Andre Blake back.

We are just 2 weeks into the 2024 season and the Union’s roster depth is being challenged. Can they answer the questions or are the Union due for an early crash out of the CONCACAF Champions Cup?

 

Featured Image: Wes Shepherd/PHLSportsNation

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