SAM WHIPPLE - Monday, April 15, 2013
With the Philadelphia Union off to an encouraging start in the 2013 season, captain Brian Carroll sees the midfield as an important factor if Philadelphia is to see long-term success this year.
Carroll signed with Philadelphia from Columbus in 2010, and quickly became a mainstay in the Union midfield. The Wake Forest alum is positive about the team's start to the season and the recent matches against Toronto and Columbus, where Philadelphia picked up a point in each thanks to goals from Jack McInerney.
While the Union had some bright spots in midfield and keeping possession during the previous two matches, Carroll believes there is room for growth.
"I think overall the midfield can continue to improve," Carroll told Full Volley. "There've been some games where the possession is there, and there've been some games where it's a lot of strong defensive work because the other team has had more of the ball. It's gotten better and better as the season has gone along and needs to continue to do so if we're going to have a chance to be competitive in this league.
One boost to the Union's efforts of keeping more possession isn't in the midfield, but the back line. Carroll highlighted the value of having a player like Amobi Okugo in defense, someone who is comfortable on the ball and can pass out of the back.
"It's certainly a huge help to have somebody back there who's so athletic and can handle the opposition coming forward at them but also you can feel comfortable shoving a ball into their feet and know that they'll be able to play out or find someone's feet to keep possession or create even a scoring opportunity," Carroll said.
And that's exactly what happened in Philadelphia's recent match against Columbus, with Okugo playing the ball from the back to Conor Casey, which eventually led to a goal by McInerney.
"That's a prime example of how nice it is to have somebody back there that can pick their head up and find that pass from the back," Carroll explained.
Another resource the Union now has at their disposal is new midfielder signing José Kléberson, the former Brazil international who joined Philadelphia on loan last month from Bahia. Kléberson made his debut on Saturday against Toronto, and set up what was nearly the game-winning goal in the final seconds.
"A solid, amazing career that will hopefully raise the quality of our entire team and help us have another option that we can go to in order to put pressure on the other team," Carroll said of Kléberson.
Though not understating the need to improve the midfield play, Carroll also recognized that it's not always possible to dominate with possession, and this young team needs to learn to win in different ways.
"Some games that possession is going to be in rhythm and happening and clicking and some games it's not," Carroll said. "We just need to find that balance and understand when it's on we need to take full advantage of our opportunities and when it's not, we need to find a way to grind out a win or tie no matter what means necessary. Just the understanding of finding the way to get the win, whether that's through possession, whether that's through high pressure, whatever the case may be."
Carroll knows what winning in the league looks like too. He has won two MLS Cups in his time in the league, the most recent with Columbus in 2008.
The Union will travel to take on D.C. United next weekend at 5:00 PM EDT.