The Philadelphia Union are definitely one of the upstart teams of the season. They are coming off of several poor seasons in a row, but between a gelling cast of characters on the pitch and a new cast off the pitch, there was a lot of belief going into this season. Thus far, it is very easy to see why.
The Union sit in second place in the East, three points behind the Montreal Impact. There is no superstar that is driving this team to the top, more of a pervading team spirit. The defense is young, but composed of players that have grown within the team and the same goes for Andre Blake.
Moving forward, guys like CJ Sapong have also grown to love the system in Philly as well. Even with the captain, Maurice Edu, out for a few more months, the Union have pulled together and, well, united.
But there is still one piece of the Union’s get-up that is missing. And I’m not referring to Edu’s void. The midfield is severely lacking a creative catalyst at it’s hub. They are one of the many teams that runs a 4-2-3-1 formation, one of the most balanced formations in use today.
However, what the Union really lack is the central piece of it all – the middle of the three, the No. 10.
Currently occupying the role is Dutchman Roland Alberg. A quality midfielder, Alberg has always been a versatile athlete who scored 16 goals and added 13 assists in 77 appearances in the Netherlands. His defensive work rate is average as well.
In terms of creativity though, he only creates 1.2 chances per game – as many as striker CJ Sapong. As a team that holds a minority of the possession, they have to have strong counter attacking abilities and for the most part they do. But they don’t create as many chances as perhaps would be beneficial to the team.
Alberg’s created chances are not a shabby figure by any means and right at what he has always created throughout his career.
But to be the center piece of the attack, you’d like to see that number push up near twice that mark to ensure that the offense can supply consistent chances to the likes of Sapong, who is a fantastic striker when given enough chances. His one-touch ability alone is enough reason to find someone who can continuously supply him with workable balls in the box.
It isn’t like this is a big gaping problem for the Union, but it is a position that could take them to the next level of relevance. They are playing incredibly well right now, there’s no doubting that. But they are still susceptible to offensive lapses.
In terms of solutions, Philly doesn’t have many internal options. Ilsinho looks to be the most viable, as he accounts for two chances a day from the right hand side. However, he has yet to be given an extended run at the position. Yet all of his team mates praise his creative abilities, both on the ball, and feeding the ball to team mates.
Again, it’s not reason to worry, but it could lead to a hang up later on down the road.