Player ratings

Player ratings & analysis: NYRB 3-2 Union

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

There are a lot of potential takeaways from Philadelphia Union’s breathless, solar plexus-throbbing defeat in New Jersey Saturday evening. On one hand, you could point to a five-match winless streak during which Philly has given up 10 goals and only scored five. On the other hand, you could say Philly fell asleep at the wheel against Chicago and have since given up only four goals from open play in the last four games.

You could jump on the train (a train PSP has admittedly been riding for quite some time) of pundits coming up with new ways to put C.J. Sapong’s goal-scoring slump in perspective. Or you could try to figure out how a team that has given up 51 goals is one of only two clubs in a playoff position to be without double digit goals from the striker position. (The other is Colorado, who have given up eight (!) fewer goals than the next stingiest MLS defense.)

You could also argue that Philly is simply showing their true colors, and that the early season march up the standings was driven by a collection of statistical bubbles bound to burst (and there is some level of undeniable truth there). Or you could ask whether something more was at play during the pre-summer success: Was Jim Curtin’s team doing something different than they are now? Were other teams treating them differently than they are now?

Those last two questions are key to understanding last weekend’s 3-2 loss. Because Philadelphia Union have never had objectively first place talent, but that does not necessarily mean the success they had was a statistical bubble that was bound to burst (or if they did have one, that it was the singular driving force in their success). In 2015, Jim Curtin liked to say that everybody needed to play well for Philly to have a chance at winning. That was true and rarely occurred.

But 2016 is different, and better

In 2016, the Union do not need everybody to play a great game to compete. That narrative is wrong, and to the extent that Curtin and his coaching staff embrace it (which they haven’t done often this season), they are abdicating responsibility. To win in 2016, Philly simply needs to execute their system — the system that they specifically built a roster around in the offseason.

That system was based on a few key tenets: First, and contrasting the 2015 team, they needed to be able to build possession out of the back. Early in the year, this change in approach was evident: Keegan Rosenberry, Ken Tribbett, and Joshua Yaro were all clear upgrades in confidence and ability on the ball. The Union focused on moving the ball quickly across the back line in order to find fullbacks with space, and when the fullbacks were pressured, Yaro’s unique skillset meant Philly could play through pressure with longer passes. This even held true with Brian Carroll and Warren Creavalle, both of whom are below average at opening up in midfield, playing at the same time.

The second tenet was counterpressure. This is a specific type of aggression designed to make it difficult for teams to execute transitions and establish possession off of turnovers. The popular heuristic is that a counterpressing team applies relentless pressure for six seconds following a turnover, with the goal of forcing a turnover near the opposition goal or a long, low percentage pass. The Union did this well early in the season by pressing as a unit, with a clear idea of when and where to apply pressure, and with the confidence that a compact defense could overcome the risks it created.

The third tenet was getting three players into the box. And of the three, this is the one the Union have done most consistently.

There were other more minor goals: Foul more (uncheck), but also foul smarter (uncheck), for example, and improve set piece attacking (check) and set piece defense (very uncheck). The overall point being that Philly didn’t plan to have a “great” roster: They planned to have a roster that fit a system and to use that system to overcome any pure talent and experience deficits they faced.

This is not a bad plan. In fact, it’s a good one. It’s the same plan good managers at smart clubs are using right now to compete against big spenders in the Premier League (oh hey, Mauricio). Jim Curtin may not be a Pochettino or a Klopp, but that doesn’t imply that he’s a bad manager. And the Union aren’t competing against teams that can outspend them by tens of millions (at least not in theory).

The point of all this being that the big takeaway from Saturday night’s loss should be that when the Union played the way they say they want to play, they were fine. And when they didn’t, they were never in the match. Jesse Marsch may be whiny and more than a little petulant, but his team is successful because they rarely stray from their system. More than Bradley Wright-Phillips or Sacha Kljestan, the system is the source of their power. And while Philly executed their system for all of perhaps 15 minutes on Saturday, the Red Bulls rarely strayed from theirs after an opening half hour spent being far too direct.

The good start that wasn’t

On first viewing, it certainly seemed as though the Union started out on the front foot and the Red Bulls struggled to respond. But that’s not quite true. While Philly did have more possession in the opening five minutes, they completed all of one forward pass in New York’s half during that time, and they did not manage to achieve any control over the match.

The biggest influence on the first 30 minutes of the game was not the Union’s strong defense, but Red Bulls’ flabbergasting willingness to settle for direct, long passes even when simpler options were available. Below, you can see Felipe pass up an open Alex Muyl (ahead, angled right) in order to loft a bad pass forward to Wright-Phillips.

union-bad-pressure-outcomeAlthough New York made a lot of these confounding decisions early on, the worrying aspect of that video is how well they are set up to succeed. Felipe has time to make a decision, he has Muyl open, with Fabinho too deep to intercept, and Chris Duvall is moving up the right flank and will be an easy option for Muyl. Furthermore, Sacha Kljestan has already taken up his position behind the Union midfield and will look to slide into the space Muyl abandons after making his pass. In short, this is what NY wanted to see, they just didn’t take advantage of it early because they were focused on playing into Wright-Phillips and letting Kljestan collect knock-downs.

In the images to the left, you can see how it worked when New York simply played around Philly’s disjointed pressure. First, they dropped a player deep to create a 3v2. When the Union overcommitted to the players with the ball, play went wide where now a Union winger was defending both a fullback and a NY winger. When Herbers cuts off the inside pass, the ball goes wide to Kemar Lawrence who can easily advance it since Bradley Wright-Phillips has intelligently drifted over to keep Rosenberry deep. Now a Union midfielder must come over to cover Mike Grella, and the other deeper midfielder must track Sacha Kljestan. This leads to a situation in which the Union are essentially watching four players with six defenders, and it is elementary for Lawrence to find Felipe open in the middle. In each phase of the buildup, the Red Bulls had the numerical advantage they wanted. You can watch the whole thing play out below.

The setup above was less the exception than the rule. Whenever the Union — often willingly — stretched out their defense, Red Bulls could pass through it with ease. The catch is that, prior to the Yaro injury, they rarely took advantage.

Remember: the Union are only as good as their system, and any system built on pressure requires compactness. In fact, almost every modern system is built on some kind of compactness, be it deep banks of four near the box or a short distance between defenders and strikers. Whenever Philly has not playing their system as it should be played, and as it has been successful in the past, they were toast (or at least bread sitting in the toaster waiting for someone to apply heat).

But when Philly did play the system well… it tended to work. Below, you can see the Union apply five-high pressure off a goal kick. It is well-organized and effective.

Again, in the 17th minute (during the Union’s best period of play), you can see what Philly’s defense should always look like.

In this instance, Tranquillo Barnetta and CJ Sapong are not isolated from the rest of the team. Felipe’s initial move to drop in can be tracked by Barnetta. And when the ball is played wide, Pontius can easily close it down. Now when NY uses three across the back during buildup, they may not have as much pressure on the ball, but there is nowhere to go because the center is filled with bodies. CJ Sapong can actually chase down the passes between Perrinelle and McCarty, forcing a bad turnover.

During the first half hour of the match, there are plenty of examples of NY going long when they have shorter options. After the Yaro injury, Marsch and his team clearly identified that they Union were susceptible to overcommitting men forward (particularly with Bedoya at less than 100% with a rib injury). And after that, Philly was simply chasing.

Going forward has a plan too

Last time Philly and NY played, Jim Curtin talked about blind switches to beat the Red Bulls press. The logic behind this is that a press — particularly a good one like Red Bulls’ — looks to trap when the ball goes into certain areas. Trapping involves pressing the ball and players around the ball in order to force a specific pass or a long, aimless pass. At that moment, the defense will be even more compact than usual, and a smart pass can open the field for an attack.

An offense that can move the ball quickly and intelligently, then, can pull the defense in and attack the other side of the pitch. This is what the Union planned for in the offseason. With Yaro and Rosenberry on the ball, Philly should be able to confidently move the ball out of pressure. Yaro, despite all the stops and starts to his season, remains supremely confident with the ball at his feet. During Philly’s brief ascendancy from around the 12th minute until Yaro’s injury, the rookie center back twice showed what makes him such a valuable commodity. The entire buildup to Fabian Herbers’ goal is worth watching because it is one of the few times the Union were patient enough with the ball to overcome New York’s defense. And Yaro makes the key pass that allows Philly to create a big chance.

In the buildup to the goal, the ball starts on the left, moves all the way to the right, then all the way back to Fabinho. The big moment comes when Bedoya checks deep to give Rosenberry an outlet, then plays Yaro who first-times the ball past the onrushing Wright-Phillips to Marquez. Now the Union can attack, and when Chris Pontius brilliantly pulls away from a static Duvall, Philly creates an early lead.

Wouldn’t it be weird if Philly’s second goal also came off a quick and efficient switch of play?


Above, you can see the ball move from the inside, out to the right, then back through the center and quickly wide again. Pontius makes a great run that pushes the back line deep so that even if the ball is knocked down, Philly should be able to have players following up, oh, about where Kljestan was when he scored.

Nothing is easy against New York’s defense, but there are more effective and less effective methods of attack. Philly capitalized on very direct transitions in their last meeting, but they will see more consistent results — and hold better control of the game — by concentrating on moving the ball side to side.

Transition defense

Returning to the defensive side of the ball, the Union have a major problem defending transitions. And this needs to be every bit as much a focus going forward as set piece defending.

But first, a look at how transition positioning should work, courtesy of an Olympic-level diver:

Felipe is in the hole between Herbers (who arrives near the end of the clip) and the rest of the play. This means that to find Herbers a clearance must a) clear Felipe and b) not go so far that a central defender can get to it first. Dax McCarty, meanwhile, is positioned in the center of the pitch to both stop transition breakouts by stepping forward and to punch the ball back in if it pops out.

Transition positioning is rarely highlighted, but it is incredibly difficult. You must keep abreast of play in front of you while shadowing the lane to the outlet player. Below, you can see the Union fail to execute in a similar situation.

New York is able to pass out of the back instead of clearing the ball, but they still have oodles of options. Warren Creavalle is caught between Kljestan and Alex Muyl, and Tranquillo Barnetta has barely moved since the quick restart that sent Herbers upfield.

Barnetta needs to slide over and shadow Kljestan. It won’t be easy, because Felipe has enough time to pick out a pass so Kljestan can move out of the shadow. But without anybody in the lane, the transition is so easy that even a guy who plays like a cartoon villain and a guy who looks like a cartoon villain can do it.

Sapong’s long fall

This was perhaps the nadir of C.J. Sapong’s season. Not only did he play a second straight full 90 without a shot on target, but he was relegated to the wing for the second half (which, extremely oddly and surprisingly, nobody seemed to ask Curtin about after the match).

The misery was compounded at the other end of the pitch, where Bradley Wright-Phillips comprehensively outplayed Sapong in every way. He was smart closing down the ball, he created his own space in the box, and he proactively asked for the ball with early runs. The easiest evidence to point to is the scintillating goal scored just after halftime. With Ken Tribbett and Richie Marquez turned off, BWP was first off the mark after Dax McCarty’s (and I can’t stress this enough) spectacular first time pass.

Not only is Wright-Phillips sitting in space before the pass, but he anticipates a chance and is willing to risk an offsides call to chase it. Because why not? It is important to remember that an early run forces the officials to make a call; they could get it wrong, or you could be just onsides. A late, reactive run gives the defense a chance to respond to the pass, and then it’s an even footrace. BWP is fast, but if you let him and Richie Marquez start at the same time and the striker has to dribble all the while, he will not win that race.

Contrast this with CJ Sapong’s play on the other end.

It’s tough to tell, but Herbers takes a quick look up after receiving the ball. What he sees is Sapong making a half-hearted run across the formation while letting Chris Duvall get goalside positioning. At no point does Sapong a) create separation, b) use change of pace to try and fool Duvall, or c) most importantly, do anything to suggest he wants a pass (e.g., calling for the ball, drifting off Duvall, bodying Duvall out of the play).

Although I have been pointing out Sapong’s goalscoring and shot creation woes for over two months now, I have also continued to believe that his workrate makes him the best option up top since Philly is getting an incredible goalscoring and creative return from the wings.

But Sapong’s lack of confidence in front of goal is seeping out into the rest of his game.

Sapong's shots since scoring vs New England

Sapong’s shots since scoring vs New England: From L to R and top to bottom: @NE, TFC, @CLB, SKC, @CHI, MTL, @POR, @TFC, @NYRB

Here you can see Sapong marking… Brian Carroll on Dax McCarty’s winner. In the first half, Sapong was twice the deepest man back on corner kicks where he was wrestling with Aurelian Collin instead of pushing forward after the initial kick.

If Jim Curtin really believes in Sapong as much as he says he does, he absolutely must make a change up top. The man Curtin expected 10 goals from is not going to get there without an incredible change of fortune, and he certainly won’t get there playing 180 more minutes in the same hesitant, reactive fashion.

To be clear, Sapong doesn’t need to score like Bradley Wright-Phillips to be effective. But he needs to do the other things that BWP does so well: Stay connected to the shape defensively, make center backs respect the deep ball, drive at defenders whenever you get space to turn, create contact at times, but create space at others. These are not easy tasks, but they are the outputs of good dirty running. Jim Curtin has never given that term — dirty running — a valenced adjective. But it deserves one.

Dirty running outside of the Union’s system is just regular running, and it doesn’t help.

Curtin could move Fabian Herbers forward, but that means taking a player who has two goals and three assists in seven matches on the right wing out of his role. Is that really a defensible decision?

Instead, the Union should consider starting Charlie Davies against Orlando City. If he can’t go at least 60 minutes, how do we consider the move for him that likely involved sending versatile winger/striker Sebastien Le Toux to Colorado? Le Toux would certainly be next in line to move up top right now.

Player ratings

Andre Blake – 9

Yeah, this is a blowout without Blake.

Keegan Rosenberry – 4

A few odd decisions that point to a tired player. Rosenberry was quicker than usual to clear and to serve in a ball even when he wasn’t under pressure. Hopefully he can start making a bigger mark over the final two matches.

Joshua Yaro – 7

Was excellent before his injury.

Richie Marquez – 4

Went long too often and was easily pushed deep.

Fabinho – 6

Fantastic service on Pontius’ goal.

Warren Creavalle – 5

A solid first half but once Barnetta was separated from the rest of midfield, Creavalle didn’t have the positional strength to handle the 3v2s coming at him.

Alejandro Bedoya – 3

One completed pass in the attacking half after the 14th minute. Yeesh.

Tranquillo Barnetta – 4

Committed six fouls and lost his positional discipline trying to push play forward. Doing it himself is not what the Union needed.

Fabian Herbers – 7

Ran himself into the ground again and the finish wasn’t easy.

Chris Pontius – 7

Ditto.

CJ Sapong – 2

Ineffective.

Substitutes

Ken Tribbett – 3

Tribbett’s confidence on the ball is at a low point, and he keeps losing focus while holding a higher line. These are correctable errors that don’t require him to suddenly get faster to fix.

Brian Carroll – 5

An injury sub. The match was already veering out of Union control when he came on. Good play to start the move that led to Pontius’ goal.

Roland Alberg – 3

Not zero impact, but minimal.

Geiger counter – 4

Juan Carlos Rivero was close to losing control multiple times. He was helped by the fact that nobody wants to be suspended to close out the season.

30 Comments

  1. I’ve calmed down, so Ill start with things I liked from Saturday. Herbers. Is. Awesome. The kid keeps making good runs, playing defense, and getting on the tally sheet. Next, that cross from fabi was pure gold. Just perfectly struck, and a good finish from pontius. Blake will be worth several million in transfer dollars very soon. And Adam continues to be the voice of sanity in the union world.

    • Solid. Like Herbers. A bunch.

    • What impressed me most about Herbers’ goal was Pontius’ patience.
      .
      Pontius had the ball in the box, a defender on his left and saw Herbers open to his right. Rather than take a low-probability shot himself, or dish it to Herbers early, he slid to his right until he drew a second defender to Pontius and away from Herbers.
      .
      The lay off was neat, the finish from Herbers was clinical, but that little movement to suck a second defender toward Pontius really impressed me and showed what can happen when our attackers have some confidence.

  2. I’ve come to the conclusion that Richie panics too much and just blasts the ball anywhere (mostly out of bounds) when there’s pressure as opposed to looking up for a second to see if anyone is open. I don’t know where CJ has gone. Didn’t look like he even won 25% of his headers on Saturday. Herbers continues to impress. I wish that man could go 90 minutes though. Tough break with Josh. Hopefully he can make it back. NYRB took over when he went out. Hopefully we can beat a lifeless Orlando team because I don’t see a W vs NYRB on the last day of the season. Team has exceeded my preseason expectations but this is tough to take after playing so well for 2/3 of the season.

    • Agree on everything. We have been so focused on the Yaro/Tribbett spot we haven’t looked closely enough at Richie. His passing has been average at best all year and he’s been the one staying so far back increasing the separation between the lines. I’m sure it doesn’t help having a revolving door next to you but he’s kept players onsides a lot recently.

      • In a 4-back set, Richie is your prototypical 2nd center back if he has a strong #1 CB next to him. He looked great last year because Mo was running the show back there. The thought of playing Yaro was that Richie could hold the fort down as the #1 CB for most of the year while Yaro learned on the job. Problem is that Josh has been in and out of the lineup with injuries and hasn’t gotten the necessary reps.

      • “His passing has been average at best all year” Oh common it hasn’t been THAT bad…

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    “There are plenty of examples of NY going long when there are shorter options”
    .
    We see this over and over and it really intrigues me that some of these managers… Jim Curtin as example don’t try to fix this lack of style…unless they don’t see it as a problem, which TBH is the likely issue at large. That bares repeating but I won’t….
    .
    Over and over from Bedoya to start the game or other Union players or the NYED players just choose to boot the ball up field and it is so disheartening because it speaks to a Great Impatience…versus the necessary willingness to move the defense through possession in order to attack… This is rudimentary thinking…
    .
    This is not euro-snobbery. This is a tactical nous. Boot ball through impatience by not playing.the.simple.pass.first is utterly disheartening and makes for truly UGLY play.
    .
    In multiple ways I have broached this and asked for someone to speak to it, even the author, who at least recognizes passively in this write up.
    .
    It is it euro-snobbery. It’s not Henny Penny. It’s not elitism. It’s truth.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      …and it should damn well be addressed at appropriate times… instead of asking questions about elasticos and bicycle kicks and the like.

      • I agree;

        As a youth/HS coach I am seeing less and less of this in my short time in this position. Traditionally (maybe 6-10 years ago) the worst players on the field would be the outside backs, normally fast but otherwise lacking foot skills. Then followed by athletic but still poor with the ball goalkeepers and centerbacks.

        Now as the game is evolving I am seeing more and more capable outside backs. In fact i feel/see that the most well rounded players are moving from out of the midfield to the outside backs. The middle is now reserved for the technical and savy play of no.10s and less hard work of 8/6s.

        I don’t know, maybe i’m rambling here but I see a time coming where this technical ability is pushed from the back 4- forward. The back 4 drive the possession game and if they can link properly, shape and discipline follow.

      • I’ll reference my youth team again here: One of our best all around players was a left back, since he frequently wound up playing against the opponents’ fastest guy (right wingers with one foot and serious speed). I’d say you’re right, this was definitely the exception, not the rule back then. But, since my coach loathed the long ball, we HAD to build from the back. As a result, our best players wound up as outside backs (and holding midfielders to a lesser extent).

      • My old youth coach called it “hoof and hope” and benched anyone who did it. Eventually, we all learned to keep the ball on the ground and play short and quickly. Sadly, he was a blip on the youth coaching landscape. It’s not just about the MLS product, but it needs to be ingrained in our academies and among our youths. Style matters, especially when results dont.

    • Zizouisgod says:

      If you are just noticing this tactic off of a restart at the beginning of the match or 2nd half, you haven’t been paying attention. Happens all throughout the world as teams are hoping to win a knock-down far up the field or a worst case scenario, be defending a throw-in which is deep in their opponent’s end with a chance to pin them back against their own goal.

      It’s a tactic to go direct at a point in time when all of your players are set in place. It’s purely an exercise in playing the probabilities that are in your favor at that specific time.

      Just like a free kick 30 yards from your opponent’s goal. On those, you would play it into their opponent’s box with either a shot or cross, not by playing a series of short passes outside to break the defense down.

      • I stipulate to this probability analysis you site and will counter with I’ve also watched as the ball is played back to the center half and knocked around a bit to draw the defense forward….about as much as I’ll also site the number of times watching Andre Blake take every goal kick down in a similar hit it and hope manner when both his OB are wide open in space.
        .
        Your points are fair…. as are mine… It is hard for you to counter argue the amount of times the ball was bounded up and down the field like a parabola.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Agreed. I’m not advocating for direct play as I would rather see a possession based approach, but if done correctly and in the right context, it can be even be part of a possession team’s attack. The old short-short-long strategy that can even be implemented in pick up games among total strangers.

      • True, but not *every* time. Everyone knows it’s coming. Kind of like the Eagles first play in the Andy Reid era was always that play-action, long sideline pass that fell incomplete.

    • It do seem a bit Euro snobberish when you use “tactical nous”.
      .
      It do.

  4. You didn’t mention the main factor in the Union’s late slide: the loss of Nogueira. The team doesn’t look the same without him. Nogs leaving forced Barnetta to change his focus and caused the Bedoya for LeToux (effectively) trade. Maybe Bedoya will be great, but he hasn’t been so far. For sure its tough for a manager to lose the key playmaker in the middle of the season, but back in March Curtin was saying we are 2 deep at every position. Apparently not……

  5. Andy Muenz says:

    To add fuel to the fire on Sapong, I believe it was a lazy east-west pass by him that was intercepted and led to the counter which led to the corner that NYRB scored their first goal on. Against a team like NY the Union need to be a LOT more careful with the ball in all areas of the field. If they are going to lose it, they need to be playing North-South rather East-West, otherwise they’ll find themselves victim of the quick counter.

  6. The flaw in Blake and why he is not great is that he is a shot stopper. That is not enough and is not worth a million. His distribution capacity is poor and he , like many American goalies, including Howard , are just a step below what is needed in todays game.Pressing works, as the clip shows, when you pin the defense against the sideline. The amount of work necessary to neutralize a press is huge and can and must be a coordinated effort which is absent from the Union because they have NO system to break the press. It involves a coordinated effort of at least 4 players surrounding the ball while in possesion. This is orchestrated and coached, which the Union coach is not able to do as of yet. Personel available is not that critical, but system application is and work rate is paramount. (See totenham vs. Mancity) .Sapong is so LOST and out of form that you must pull him in order not to destroy him. A coach must have mercy on out of form players. Herbers is the clear central attacking option instead, and can unify the attack up front. STOP wishing for some ideal English style forward, and adapt to what is available. You cant do worse than having a forward who cant score.

    • Zizouisgod says:

      Agreed on Blake. That’s why I’m skeptical about him making the move to a top league overseas without improving his distribution.

      Interesting to see if that rumor that MLS Transfer mentioned on Sat night about a trial with Genk after the season materializes.

    • Early in the match, Blake literally punted the ball directly to one of the New York forwards. That is not “9” level goalkeeping sorry not sorry.

  7. I said this before and I think it warrants repeating. Everyone sat there and told me that we didn’t need that many points to make the playoffs. I said 8 out of the last 5 which we now can’t achieve. I still think this team needs to be at 48 points to get in. That means must wins for 2 games. Yes I guess they might scrap in at 45 points depending on what other teams do, but that would just be a poor way to enter the playoffs. I can see New England making it to 45 points, Montreal I see at 45 possibly or 44, and DC I think will be at 46. That means if the Union are at 45 if both New England and Montreal get 45 it comes down to goal differential I believe. If they stay are the current 42 I think they are on the outside looking in.

    • I responded to you before and said that 4 in their last 4 games was enough. That means we need 3 more, which gets us to 45. I don’t know why you think we need 48. Either Columbus or New England have to pass us for us to miss out. Columbus can only max out at 44, and they have 3 road games left (including NYC and NYRB), so we can effectively rule them out. New England’s max is 45, so there is no need for us to exceed that because the tiebreaker would come down to goal differential (we would be level on wins), which we’re killing them on (us: +1, them: -12). 45 will suffice.

      • It may suffice, but would be considered limping in if you ask me. I also think at the rate the Union are playing and the goals their giving up and the momentum other teams have. I’m not so sure even at 45 we get in. Personally I want to see them in but getting in at 45 and traveling for an away match is a let down to how this team was playing this season. Also while it is unrealistic for NE to make up a -12 goal differential it isn’t impossible. The NYRB game could’ve easily been 6-2 the way the defense played. Also getting to 45 does not seem to be as easy as people were once making it out when we had 41 points and 5 games left. Yes I know mathematically they don’t need 48 I think they need it for confidence though.

      • Agreed that they could use the momentum, and 45 shouldn’t be a target. I still disagree about 45 though. If we hit it, we’re in. NE is not turning around a 13 goal differential in 2 games.

      • You’re math is correct. 45 does it. Technically they could get in at 42.

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