The Union tied CF Montréal on Saturday at Subaru Park, 1-1. Julián Carranza opened the scoring with a 21st-minute penalty kick that he drew, and Montréal veteran Kei Kamara tied the game in the 59th.
Here are some observations on a game that had little for fans or neutrals to enjoy.
Lack of attack
For the second straight game, the Union (5-1-2, 17 points) had much closer to an even share of ball possession than they usually do. And for the second straight game, they didn’t win.
That’s just a coincidence, because shots and goals matter more than possession. It was worse that Montréal (3-3-2, 11 points) out-shot the Union. But that shot advantage was pretty low, both in margin and total attempts: 8-4, including 3-2 in shots on target.
“It’s a day where we don’t give up a lot of chances, but we also don’t create enough,” Union manager Jim Curtin said. “We have to find a way to generate more scoring opportunities — we only had two shots on goal, which isn’t enough in our home stadium.”
The visitors set out in a three-back, five-midfielder formation that often looked like a four- and sometimes five-back line, with flank players Lassi Lappalainen and Alastair Johnson — the latter a defender by trade — sitting deep.
The Union struggled to deal with it, and it didn’t help that Sergio Santos was absent because of a hamstring strain. Carranza and Mikael Uhre started up front, and neither they nor the midfielders behind them were able to break through the defense enough.
Curtin didn’t bring any of his attacking substitutes off the bench until the 66th minute, when Jack McGlynn replaced Leon Flach and Cory Burke replaced Carranza. They couldn’t find a way through the visitors’ packed-in centerbacks either.
Uhre still scoreless
Mikael Uhre botched two scoring chances early in the first half, one where he let a centering pass go behind him in the middle of the 18-yard box and one where he couldn’t control a cross and it banged off his leg. (And on top of that, he was offside.)
But the real problem was that Uhre didn’t have any good scoring chances after that. The Union’s biggest all-time attacking signing has now gone three straight starts without scoring, and 287 minutes overall across five games.
Uhre had an assist last weekend and was instrumental in the sequence that led to the penalty kick scored, but he still has a zero in the goals column for the Union so far.
Curtin said earlier in the week that he was “starting to see really good, positive signs” from Uhre. In particular, Curtin was “really happy with how many times he’s timed his run and gotten in behind the defense.”
On Saturday, Curtin gave Uhre another vote of confidence by subbing out Carranza first, and leaving Uhre in until the 89th minute. Unfortunately for the Union, it didn’t pay off. It’s not quite time to worry yet, but the time is getting close — especially with a daunting trip to Nashville coming next weekend.
M and M
The anticipated duel in midfield between Montréal’s Djordje Mihailovic and the Union’s José Andrés Martínez mostly fizzled out. That happened in part because Mihailovic didn’t spend much time in a central attacking role, instead playing on the left while Sunusi Ibrahim worked to his right. But it’s also to Martínez’s credit for keeping the young playmaker quiet.
Mihailovic finished the game with 68 touches, 2 shots, 2 chances created and 30-of-35 passing. Martínez finished with 53 touches, 14 recoveries, 2 tackles, 8-of-11 duels won, and 33-of-42 passing.
Harriel a bright spot
Nathan Harriel made his first start at right back when the Union visited Montréal in early March, and this game was a reminder of why he hasn’t lost the job since. He had 57 touches, 4 recoveries, 1 interception and 1 clearance, won 8 of his 12 duels, and completed 19-of-35 passes.
Harriel also had his 21st birthday on Saturday. Unfortunately, neither he nor his team had much to celebrate on the field.