You don’t have to be former centerback Jim Curtin to appreciate that his team’s 1-0 home win over the New York Red Bulls on Tuesday night was the Union’s second straight shutout and its fourth since MLS resumed games last month.
“I think it’s clear I like 1-0 wins,” Curtin said afterward. “That means we were organized. We were tough to play through. We got our goal, [and] we defended well as a team.”
But you also don’t have to be Kacper Przybylko or Sergio Santos to know that the Union could have scored a lot more goals if they finished any of their wide-open chances in the second half.
Here’s a review of some of the notable performances:
He was outstanding from start to finish, leading the Union in touches (75), aerial duels won (five), clearances (eight), and passing (48 of 63), including 8-of-11 on long balls. He also had two interceptions and one huge block.
McKenzie was just as strong in his comments about racial injustice, having taken the field two days after Jacob Blake was shot by police in Milwaukee. Before the game, players, coaches, and officials continued the tradition across MLS of taking a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and many of them raised fists. After the game, McKenzie took to the microphone:
“We’re still waiting on justice for Breonna Taylor’s killers, and now we’re demanding justice for Jacob Blake’s shooting To constantly see this issue of police brutality, systemic oppression, systemic racism, pop up time and time again without much justice — little justice being shown by any means — it’s frustrating. … Football is great, you know. Sports are great. We’re thankful to have them back, but there’s a lot bigger fish to fry than what we have going on in sports.”
He showed why Union sporting director Ernst Tanner thinks so highly of him. The 26-year-old Norwegian recorded 68 touches, four aerial duels won, six clearances, two tackles, and two interceptions, and completed 43 of 53 passes.
The captain set the tone for the game by creating two chances and taking two shots in the first 35 minutes. He finished with 67 touches, four aerial duels won, two tackles, one block, a team-high four interceptions, and 33 of 48 passes completed.
Curtin talks about the importance of Przybylko’s defensive contributions, and the box score usually shows that. The cameras, however, don’t always. They did this time in the form of his goal-line clearance at the end of the first half that stopped the Red Bulls from tying the score.
His game didn’t reach the high standards he has set this summer, but it was still very good: 60 touches, two aerial duels won, one shot, three clearances, one interception, one block, and 36-of-43 passing in 78 minutes.
Martínez has locked down the starting defensive midfield position, and it’s a good thing he has, because Matej Oravec — who was signed to be the starter — has yet to play for the Union. In fact, Oravec isn’t even with the team. With the USL squad shut down because of coronavirus cases, the Union let him go home to Slovakia to play for the nation’s under-21 team.
“He’s playing decent in training,” Curtin said. “But right now, Ernst and I decided it would be good for him to join his national team. Go there, get some games, get some confidence, and come back with a clear mind.”
Between that and the quarantine Oravec will need to pass through when he returns, it will be a while before we see him.
The manager takes the brunt of fans’ criticism even when things are going well. There is one flaw in Curtin’s coaching style that bears highlighting: he doesn’t rotate the lineup much in games or across them.
So, it was good to see him make three changes to the starting lineup and use all of his substitution opportunities. Curtin has promised to make changes as the Union plow through a stretch of five games in 18 days.