The Union’s 3-2 win at Minnesota United on Sunday was full of story lines, some of which flew under the radar as the ball flew up and down the field.
Here are a few observations and statistical highlights:
A team record for blocked shots
The Union blocked 13 shots, by far a team record. The previous high was 10, set in the 2011 season opener at Houston.
It’s the highest number of blocks in a game anywhere in MLS this season. The previous mark lasted for far less time: Colorado set it with 12 against the Union last Wednesday.
Since 2010, only three other teams have blocked 13 shots in a game. The league record is held by Real Salt Lake, which blocked 14 shots against the Colorado Rapids on Oct. 16, 2017.
Defense answers Jim Curtin’s call
You might think that headline is crazy, given how open the game was, but the back line put up some huge performances.
Jack Elliott won four aerial duels and recorded two tackles, two interceptions, two blocks (including one with his face) and eight clearances. Ray Gaddis recorded one tackle, two interceptions, three clearances and three blocks, and completed 35 passes, the second highest total of any Union player. Kai Wagner had a huge game: three aerial duels won, three tackles, three interceptions, five clearances and five blocks.
Then there’s Auston Trusty. He won five aerial duels and recorded one block, three interceptions and eight clearances. And he scored the game-winning goal. It was good to see him get a moment to celebrate. The last few times he made big headlines were for own goals in last year’s U.S. Open Cup final and regular-season finale. Those blunders overshadowed the vast amount of good work he did the rest of the year, and continues to do this season.
Andre Blake’s big game
Andre Blake left for the Gold Cup with a reminder to Union fans that he’s still unquestionably the team’s top goalkeeper, and one of the best in all of MLS. Yes, he was scored on twice, but it wasn’t his fault that the Loons were accorded 26 shots. All four of Blake’s saves were huge: an acrobatic double-stop in the 13th minute, a low dive in the 16th, and a full-stretch leap in the 24th.
The box score also didn’t give Blake full credit for the number of crosses he caught, the number of times he sacrificed his body to go after a loose ball, and the number of times the referee should have blown his whistle to stop play when Blake was barged into.
Haris Medunjanin quiets critics
It’s no secret that Haris Medunjanin has critics in the Union’s fan base. He is not a classic defensive midfielder, and he’ll probably acknowledge he won’t beat Sergio Santos in a footrace. But he had another big game, including team highs of 95 touches, 59 completed passes and three chances created. Medunjanin also recorded three clearances, two blocks and one tackle, an inch-perfect stop of Minnesota’s Kevin Molino in the 89th minute.
Lack of squad rotation a concern again
Jim Curtin said last Tuesday he planned to change up his lineup through the week to keep his players fresh amid a stretch of three games in eight days. He ended up not doing that, and not for the first time.
Twelve Union players played in all three games over the eight days, and seven of them played every minute. Ray Gaddis and Kai Wagner would have made it nine, but they were each substituted out late in one of the contests (Gaddis against Portland, Wagner against Colorado).
With Blake, Warren Creavalle and Marco Fabián gone to their national teams, the Union might be down to just 19 eligible players for Saturday’s home game against the rival New York Red Bulls. (A hat tip to Pro Soccer USA’s Joe Tansey for pointing this out first.) A healthy dose of rest seems in order this week.
At least Fabián won’t be gone long. He’s been ruled out of the Gold Cup after meeting with Mexican national team staff at their training camp in Atlanta.
New York will also be shorthanded, but should have playmaker Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra, since he didn’t make Paraguay’s squad for the Copa América.