The Union have played four preseason scrimmages so far, and scored 10 goals.
Most of the time, that would matter about as much as the scores in any preseason contest in any other sport — which is to say, not at all. But with the team in the midst of installing a new tactical style during its training camp in Florida, the high scoring rate so far isn’t meaningless.
“It’s usually the hardest thing to get, the offensive cohesion and the goal scoring,” manager Jim Curtin said Wednesday, a day after the Union beat Orlando City, 4-1, in a 120-minute session with liberal substitutions. “So from that standpoint, I’m happy that we are not only creating chances but hitting the back of the net. It’s important for guys’ confidence.”
There has been an emphasis on the forward line in the 4-4-2 diamond formation, and creating chemistry and combinations from the six forwards on the roster. All six have found the net at some point: David Accam, Cory Burke (twice), Kacper Przybylko, Fafa Picault, C.J. Sapong, and newcomer Sergio Santos (on a penalty kick).
“We’ve given each guy close to as equal minutes as possible, and also paired them with different guys," Curtin said. “Different strikers bring different skill sets. Some hold the ball up better than others. Some run off of flicks better than others. Finding that balance is going to be our job as a staff over the next couple of games here.”
Curtin is a defensive-minded coach first, and isn’t afraid to say it. He said that side of the ball was his focus in the first two weeks of preseason as new players got to know each other and the system. Now, the team can pay more attention to the attack.
“We keep perspective, obviously, because it is preseason, but against the MLS teams, we’ve had our highest output in goals scored,” Curtin said. “It goes a long way when you’re implementing a new style and system to have success with it.”
The Union also beat the New York Red Bulls, 3-2; beat second-tier USL team Birmingham Legion, 3-1; and played a rain-marred scoreless tie against the University of South Florida.
The forward corps is actually up to seven at the moment, as Bethlehem Steel’s Michee Ngalina is with the first team. He also has a goal in the books, a nice breakaway finish against Orlando after a hustle play by Accam.
There could be a further addition to the ranks in the coming days, though not a major one. Yomi Scintu, a 21-year-old trialist from German fourth-tier club VfB Eichstätt, has done enough to impress the Union brass so far that he might get a contract over here. Though Eichstätt already announced the Germany native’s departure from the club, Curtin said no deal has been agreed to yet.