This Week’s Thoughts On The Union… With Dave Knittel
What’s going on everyone? My name is Dave Knittel and I’m a massive soccer fan. I live in California now but am originally from Philly. I’m going to be writing recurring pieces on TwoFootTalk about the Philadelphia Union, MLS, and soccer in the US. I’m an original SOB (Sons of Ben) member and have been supporting the Union since their inaugural year. Looks like I picked a hell of a week for my first article.
For those who didn’t watch the match this weekend, the Union lost at Atlanta United 3-1. That isn’t a huge deal as Atlanta is one of the 3 best teams in the league, while the Union are arguably mid-table.
BUT around the 18th minute, all hell broke loose from the Union’s perspective. It started with an easy pass to Mark McKenzie in the middle of the field. Under no real pressure, McKenzie lost his concentration, let the ball slip under his foot, and it rolled to an Atlanta player in open space… not what you want to do against the most dangerous team in MLS on the break.
Atlanta played a quick ball to Josef Martinez who was in on a breakaway. Union center-back Auston Trusty made a great recovery run and looked to make a great play on the ball to poke it away from Martinez. The referee (Sorin Stoica) saw it differently. I didn’t think it was a foul but could understand why someone might think it was a foul.
I know a lot of social media claimed the referee should have consulted video replay on the call. For me, video replays should only be used for CLEAR and OBVIOUS errors. Nothing on this play was clear and obvious. Martinez was kept on side by Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin on the initial ball to spring him on the breakaway. And the Trusty tackle could have been called either way.
I disagree that the penalty should have been called, but I don’t want every close decision video reviewed. Flow is so important to the sport of soccer. I agree truly terrible calls should be reviewed, but if a call is close, I’m fine with no review.
The Union understandably protested the penalty call intensely but the ref was never going to change his mind. After repeatedly telling Union players to clear the penalty area so the penalty could be taken, you could see the ref was getting agitated. Once all players were finally clear, and just as Martinez was about to take the penalty, Union captain Alejandro Bedoya stepped into the restricted area to delay the penalty further.
Bedoya had picked up a yellow card earlier in the match and this was a silly move from the captain. He likely should have just been warned by Stoica, but the ref was within his rights to issue Bedoya a second yellow. He chose to give him that yellow and sent Bedoya off.
After seeing Bedoya sent off, Haris Medunjanin, one of the most experienced players and a leader on the team, lost his goddamn mind. It was somewhat understandable as the ref really should have had more awareness, but Haris cannot behave the way he did. After screaming at the ref, bumping him and spitting in his direction, he was issued 2 yellow cards for dissent and rightfully sent off.
Two utterly unprofessional plays from two leaders on the team who should have known better.
The Union fought valiantly the rest of the match but understandably were dominated playing with 9 men for 70+ minutes. I’m really encouraged by the team’s performance and resiliency under tough circumstances.
I expect them to fight for the final playoff spot in the East the rest of the season, but this was not a great weekend, especially for the leaders on the team. Hopefully the boys in blue can perform better this week in the US Open Cup and against an inconsistent TFC squad.
If you like what I wrote here, please consider checking out some of my other stuff. I do a weekly podcast with my two brothers where we discuss soccer stories from North America, England and the rest of world. It’s called Bros Talking Soccer. And I also have a YouTube channel called The Soccer Tavern where I make videos about the history, culture, and philosophy of the beautiful game.
Looking forward to talking to you again soon. Thanks for reading.