The Union got their first win in a month Sunday at Subaru Park with a 3-1 victory over Orlando City. Kai Wagner opened the scoring in the first half and Kacper Przybylko struck twice in the second half to end a three-game winless skid, and help put away memories of Wednesday’s elimination from the Champions League.
Here are some observations on the game.
Scoring drought ends
ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman took the Union to task at the start of Sunday’s national TV broadcast, and he made a good point. Through 23 games last year, the Union had scored 44 goals; this year they had just 28. Last year’s total ranked No. 3 out of 26 teams; this year’s ranked No. 21 out of 27.
No one at the Union needed reminding of this — least of all Przybylko, who finally ended his scoring drought at nine games and a total of 866 minutes (plus a healthy sum of stoppage time) with the Union’s second goal Sunday. After that sharp finish in the 61st minute, he capped off the scoring with an 89th-minute penalty kick.
The relief felt around Subaru Park was clear.
Not all of the day was so easy, though. It took a defender, Kai Wagner, to open the scoring. And it was a deflected shot that came after 37 minutes of hustle but little output by the Union overall.
Wagner’s opener ended a team-wide 285-minute goal drought. And since the last Union goal was a D.C. United own goal, it was the first Union goal scored by a Union player in 310 minutes.
Jim Curtin has been slipping back into an old habit lately of waiting longer than he might to make substitutions. That’s different from saying longer than he should, because there were a few occasions this summer when the bench was too thin to make moves just for the sake of doing so.
But Curtin had a full bench on Sunday, and five of the nine players on it were attackers. He made use of that depth early and often, sending in Dániel Gazdag for Cory Burke in the 58th minute and Sergio Santos for Alejandro Bedoya in the 64th.
The latter of those moves gave Union fans the rare and welcome sight of a midfield diamond with Gazdag at the top and Jamiro Monteiro behind him — what should be the top setup at those positions.
Gazdag on the bench again
If it was a surprise that Gazdag didn’t start in Wednesday’s Champions League game, it was even more of a surprise that he didn’t start in this game.
Though the Union didn’t produce a third goal, the attack was lively after the team’s star playmaker took the field. So was the defensive pressure.
Gazdag nearly gave the Union a fourth goal, but was narrowly offside after a great run to receive an Olivier Mbaizo cross in second-half stoppage time. It would have been a nice reward had he stayed onside — and it would have been his first goal from open play as a Union player.
There’s a long history in MLS of mid-summer attacking signings not hitting their stride until their first full year in the league. It’s not surprising that Gazdag is the latest addition to that list. But the Union, nonetheless, need him to be a major player who’s on the field a lot, and on the ball a lot.
A win is a win, especially when the weather turns cool as it did Sunday afternoon. These three points moved the Union (9-7-8, 35 points) up from ninth place in the Eastern Conference to seventh, and put them back on the right side of the playoff line. The Union are now one win back of fourth place, the last spot to get a first-round home playoff game.
With red-hot Atlanta United coming to town next Saturday for another nationally-televised game (3:30 p.m., Univision 65 and TUDN), this win was badly needed momentum at a crucial time.