CHESTER, Pa. — Fifteen minutes into Friday night’s game, Philadelphia Union winger David Accam raced down the field, took on several Orlando City defenders, forced Joe Bendik to make a diving save and waved his arms to fire up the Sons of Ben supporters group in Talen Energy Stadium’s River End.
At that point, it almost felt like it was a matter of when, and not if, Philly would find a breakthrough and snap out of their early-season offensive funk.
It never happened.
Instead, the Union were once again left to figure out why their 2018 attack has been so stagnant following their latest setback, a 2-0 home defeat to Orlando.
“The ball is not bouncing our way right now, and it is not going in the net and now obviously confidence drops and we are not built to chase a game from behind,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “It is a challenge and I understand the frustration from the fans. And the players are frustrated. It is difficult and we need to stick together in the hardest moment. We have to move forward and try to improve.”
How can they do that?
“In a moment we’re in a bit of a tough run,” reserve striker Jay Simpson told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ve created chances, but we haven’t been able to put them away. I think once we get a couple and the confidence starts coming back, hopefully the floodgates will open up.”
Simpson said he tried to “inject a bit of urgency” when he came onto the field for the final 14 minutes and the Union trailing by two. But right now, most of the onus falls on the starting front four of striker CJ Sapong, attacking midfielder Borek Dockal and wingers Fafa Picault and Accam.
Of the quartet, only Sapong has scored this season, but he’s been far less impactful than he was last year when he tallied 16 goals. Meanwhile, Dockal and Accam, the team’s two major offseason acquisitions, have combined for zero goals and one assist.
Accam, who came into Friday’s contest having scored six goals in seven games vs. Orlando, looked especially poised to open his 2018 account but missed a wide-open opportunity in the 26th minute and failed to deliver from there.
“I think if you score the first chance with David, then it would be a different game,” said midfielder Haris Medunjanin, who showed visible frustration while following that play. “But we do not score that opportunity. Then we give away two silly goals.”
The Union’s defense certainly struggled at times on Friday, too. But considering they’re fielding the youngest backline in league history — which only got younger when teenage HomegrownMark McKenzie replaced injured center back Jack Elliott to make his MLS debut — mistakes are to be expected.
The far more glaring issue has been on the other end of the field, as the Union (1-2-2) have scored only three goals through five games, two of which came in the season opener, when they were up at least one man for more than half the match.
The expected goals data provided by Opta backs up the assertion that the Union have struggled to finish chances. Based on their quality of chances, they would have been expected to score 8.61 goals so far this year. The -5.61 discrepancy is worst in MLS.
“It’s about scoring goals,” Medunjanin said. “If have just one chance and we score a goal and it’s 1-0, that’s enough. It’s about winning games.”