9/16 – PHILA UNION vs TBD (looking at you Chicago)…
screw off seattle. This is our house.
So, I’m assuming that at some point in this match, Union would REALLY like to score a goal. They didn’t seem quite able to achieve that goal against Real Salt Lake, even though RSL played a CCL match just 2 days before. RSL had no extra energy after the 15th minute or so, and Union STILL weren’t able to put one in goal. But I think I know the problem…
It’s because Hackworth is deploying 5 midfielders, yet calling his formation a 4-3-3! Danny Cruz is sort of a hybrid midfield-attack player, but he’s not a striker. And, neither is Gabe Gomez. Or Keon Daniel. Or Freddy Adu, but Freddy is not defensively responsible, so it’s better to keep him at the top of the formation so he doesn’t hurt the team in defense of a wing. The point is that to play a formation with 3 forwards, you need to put 3 forwards on the field. I know Chandler Hoffman is inexperienced, and they like Antoine Hoppenot off of the bench, and they don’t like Jorge Perlazza or Josue Martinez, but 2 of the 4 of those guys have to be starting alongside Jack McInerney or this team may not score 5 goals the rest of the season. They’ve scored 2 goals in the 4 August matches so far, and one of those was an own-goal. 1 goal scored in 4 matches. There are 11 matches left in the season. That would put them at 3 goals from here on out. Fan-freakin-tastic.
I like when a forward will change up his play and drop towards the midfield to open up a defense in a different way. Dropping deep, however, can’t be the ONLY tactic employed by a forward. It happens because those guys are actually midfielders. They fall back on their instincts. Most of the RSL match, I felt like I was watching a 4-4-2 morph into a 4-5-1. Jack likely has to make conversation with the other team’s centerbacks so he doesn’t get lonely. Having forwards not drop deep, when they time runs well, stretches the defense vertically and doesn’t allow the opponent to compress Union into trying to play Spanish-style “tiki-taka” soccer.
My fear in this is that Union will resort to more aerial passes over the top, which they don’t often complete. They result in easy turnovers and continued possession for the opponent, making it even more difficult for the struggling Union to score. They end up chasing the game, and by the time they create a chance, they panic and shoot errantly. I’m getting upset just typing this stuff. The solution for Union is: Put 3 in Columbus’ net tonight and shut me up.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
So, after the debacle and circus of confusion that was the end of Sunday’s match versus DC United, Union are left with a match against a Real Salt Lake squad coming into town off of a short week. RSL defeated Tauro FC of Panama 2-0 on Tuesday in CONCACAF Champions League play. Union are coming off of a 1-1 draw due to the marshmallow-nerves of Dwayne De Rosario. Kidding aside, Union, though better-rested, will be without Sheanon Williams because Mark Geiger felt the need to red card a Union player because he had already shown 2 DC United players the gate. Ray Gaddis will likely get the start in Williams’ absense. Hopefully that Geiger character is nowhere to be found in Chester. Well, he can come to Chester, I just don’t want him as the match official. He can go visit the playground at the school where I was one of the volunteers who helped put it together. Maybe that trip will help him realize that there are more important things in life than his normal, everyday life of ruining MLS matches. But I digress…
The match previews that I haven’t been writing could read all about the same. Technically, I really could have been just mailing it in this whole time by copy-and-pasting such phrases as “Union need more out of Freddy Adu” and “They can’t depend on Brian Carroll to stop every single opposition attack” or “Where the hell exactly is Jorge Perlazza and why did they trade for him, again?”. They’re a frustrating lot to watch. They get about 80-90% of a possession right, then fail miserably to complete it. They’ll break into a great run towards goal, only to slow play down, relegating themselves to passing around the semi-circle in a hopeless probing manner. They’re efforts are most likely to end up on the foot of Carroll, or a defender who figures at least a shot attempt is better than playing keep-away.
RSL are a good MLS team, and have been for many years. This is a match I expect Union will not be able to salvage a draw against. The only thing that could change that is if RSL’s midweek match takes enough out of the team that either fatigue, or the second-stringers, weeken them enough to allow Union a result. Either way, at least this match is on a Friday instead of a Sunday, so I don’t have to go to work the next day.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union (@UnholyUnionNDY)
Union fans have to be pleased with what the team has done over the past month or so. They advanced to the semifinal of the US Open Cup, they’ve put together three consecutive wins in MLS play, and they are playing attractive soccer in doing so. The third item may, however, be in jeopardy in the very near future.
Sporting KC dispatched Union from the US Open by bunkering in defensively and attacking them only on the counter. It was plainly visible, even watching on the team’s website stream, that SKC was going to make the Union offense beat no fewer than 8 players before they would allow a threat on their goalkeeper. And it worked. Union, inevitably, threw players forward in an effort to break the defense down, and it left them exposed at the back and the match was lost. Then again, that had more to do with Roger Espinoza’s Bambi-on-the-ice act than anything. (I wonder if he naturally falls down a lot or if he works on it in training. Whatever, it’s over.) Montreal played somewhat similarly, and if not for the insipired play of Zac MacMath, they almost achieved the same result.
Concensus is that the match against Impact was an “ugly win.” Union fans have been treated to very aesthetically-pleasing soccer since the advent of the 4-3-3 formation that John Hackworth favors. I believe what SuCK, I mean SKC, and Montreal have laid out may be the blueprint for defeating The U, and I foresee future opponents employing it. I see a lot of hollow possession in our future…
The key to the rest of the season is to resist the urge to strike long, over-the-entire-defense passes, aka Hail Marys, because a vast majority of the time, they go over the endline for a goal kick the other direction. The U need to practice proper offensive spacing, smart running off of the ball, and quick recognition of the passing lanes with the ball at their feet. I don’t think they can depend on Zac’s triceps and scrambling defenders to keep them in the game each match. Playing smart in attack will help them combat the negative tactics I believe they will be seeing most of the rest of the season.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
News came out last night/this morning about the dismissal of Diego Gutierrez and Alecko Eskandarian from their positions as Director of Scouring South Amer… er I mean Scouting, and Youth Technical Director, respectively. This move is curious, given that the transfer window opens two weeks from today. Logic would suggest that this is merely a completion of the overhaul that began with Peter Nowak’s departure, and with the new perspective on the current team, a change was needed in the perspective of the club’s future.
My speculation on the move is that the organization has made relationships with the people Gutierrez dealt with and they can use someone with contacts in another region of the soccer world. Or, since Gutierrez and Eskandarian both had ties to Nowak, maybe they just wanted to move on, as well. They very well could have been using their positions as stepping stones to get bigger positions.
Regardless of the speculation, the message is clear that what has happened with this team this season is not good enough, and they need to make changes. All fans should be on-board with this, and it will be up to whoever takes on that position to keep the team going in the right direction. Or else, we’ll demand his removal, too.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
This guy I know through a friend and some other people used to work AT Livestrong Park for SKC. Every now and then I like asking for some input for the blog when we play together. He’s even coming to the game – so if you see him with me, please don’t give him our “friendly welcome” …
Eh, what am I saying, GO FOR IT! And onto the 2 sided preview
SPORTING Perspective (Who cares…)
We can piece together Sporting Kansas City’s gameplan for Saturday’s Union game based on their gameplan from last Wednesday’s game against the Seattle Sounders. Sporting benched starters Kei Kamara, CJ Sapong, Graham Zusi, Julio Cesar and Seth Sinovic (Matt Besler is out for a few weeks due to appendicitis) in favor of Jacob Peterson, Soony Saad, Peterson Joseph, Michael Thomas and Michael Harrington along with Lawrence Olum starting in place of Besler. The game was much more important than the final score for a couple reasons.
This was a test for Sporting to determine what kind of depth they have. With games in hand against their top opponents in the Eastern Conference, Coach Peter Vermes used this opportunity to use their final non-conference game of the season to see how his bench can play in a hostile environment of over 40,000 people after traveling to the West Coast. For the most part, the team performed wonderfully and drew the Sounders 1-1 with a primarily backup squad. If anything, the starters were the ones who were making mistakes and having bad games. Aurelien Collin played his usual aggressive style but took lots of risks after getting a yellow card in the 16th minute. It was a miracle that he didn’t pick up his 2nd yellow because he didn’t let up his play. Until Graham Zusi came on in the 50th minute, Roger Espinoza seemed lost and somewhat unprepared commanding the midfield. After Patrick Ianni’s beautiful goal, the usually calm and reserved Jimmy Nielsen was shown screaming at Espinoza which I felt was undeserved as there was nothing anyone on Sporting could really do. It was a nice set piece and nicer goal by Seattle. Backups Jacob Peterson and 19 year old Soony Saad had exceptional games early on as Peterson scored a terrific goal and Saad was on target with most of his shots and was much more physical than ever (which has been a weakness of his). Knowing that the bench players can perform when called upon is better to know now than finding out late in the season and it gives Vermes a great dilemma and start thinking about giving these players more starts and more playing time.
The other aspect learned from the Seattle game was that it showed how important Sporting views future games on the schedule. Sporting will play five games in thirteen days so the players will have to have a breather at some point especially since they have to endure 2 cross country trips within a week. The Seattle game became the sacrificial lamb of the stretch and they got away with a point on a night that had New York also drawing and Real Salt Lake blowing a two goal lead and losing to the LA Galaxy. It would be safe to assume that barring some sort of injury or exhaustion from players, Vermes will play the Starting XI (except Besler and possibly Bobby Convey) against Philadelphia and somewhat close to the Starting XI for their US Open Cup game against the Dayton Dutch Lions with possibly a couple changes to the lineup. As far as what Philadelphia should do, they should keep in mind that one more yellow card means that Aurelien Collin will receive a one game suspension for too many yellows. If he’s suspended and Besler doesn’t come back, the two Center Backs will most likely consist of Konrad Warzycha and Lawrence Olum, both primarily Midfielders converted to Center Back, which have a combined total of nine MLS appearances and two starts. Julio Cesar can take a spot if necessary but that would sacrifice some strength in the Midfield. In other words, Sporting can’t afford Collin to get another yellow so I would target him and the inexperience of Olum and go through the middle if I’m the Union. I predict a 2-1 Sporting win with goals from Collin (off a Zusi corner) and Sapong.
UNION ASPECT ( The one that matters)
Now, let’s not get started on the whole “Our season is blown” and “Why bother” comments. There is rejuvenation, there is hope, there is a chance – that something might happen.
Hey, I’m in the “Throw all the reserves out there against SKC and focus on the USOC on Tuesday” camp, but that’s just me, especially considering not that many people in the stadium probably know (or care) about the USOC match and how there actually is some figment of a chance. It’s something salvageable, right?
Rejuvenation- We have a new coach. He put a lineup in that made sense against DC. Hell, they played like a damn team. I can’t say much more than that (especially cause of the copious amounts of beer prior, and firewater, and some licourish vodka). He put McInerney in, who was likely mere moments away from handing in his 2 week notice (I know, he can’t, just saying). Hackworth even stated “Sheanon is a left back, he’s going back into that position”. Does this mean no more strikers as defenders and goalies as midfielders? No more darts at a roster chart? Consistency? Hope – see everything I just stated. Chance – This game should be a matter of pride. Again, we shouldn’t go balls to the wall, but this is SKC, this is the 2nd best team (with 2 games in hand) in the Eastern conference. This is the team that I feel deep down, we all want our team to be.
What better way to have pride than to come away with at least a point? Kansas City is already established this season. They have their standing position to protect, and even improve. As of now we almost have nothing, going forward – unless there is a huge shift in the standings – we’re going to be the spoiler team, at least that’s going to have to be our mindset – get into the game and ruin the teams above us. Also, if memory serves correctly, SKC was in the same boat we were at this time of the year last year, were they not?
Our game last week put our team into perspective – we have a lot of work to accomplish until we become an actual team, but they are slowly starting to get together. DC didn’t put up their best game against us, and we put up an aggressive – yet haphazard one – at best. It’s new beginnings, and it’s the silver lining. This game Saturday IS the proving ground for us and Hackworth. Yes, a week and a half is a short time for a coach to get things together – but I feel this is the turnaround.
Prediction – 1-1 draw where our defense excels greatly. Lahoud will get a yellow card. McInerney will get a goal. Adu will do his little 5 foot shuffle. The only downside – and this is because of having Nowak as a coach it is what we expect as our gameplan – is if we play their game and focus only on defense… But I feel that if we come out like we did against DC last week, and avoid the counterattack, it will be a great game.
Well, we might as well talk about it…
A quick look back on Nowak before our preview of the DC match-
May 2009 – Named the head coach of the incoming Philadelphia Union.
Brought DOOP into our every day vocabulary.
Petitioned Danny Mwanga to stay in the United States, and subsequently was the Unions first (and first of 2010) draft pick ever. Never heard from the kid since.
Introduced us to the fan favorites of Old Serbian and Big Quick Mondragon.
Lost track of loan information (MOF)
Was unaware of visa information (Daniel)
Smited Superman (David Myrie)
Turned a rag tag bunch of motley into a 2nd year playoff competitor.
Collected more (allocation) money than the monopoly guy.
Rumor (rather word is, cause it’s obvious in legal contractual dissolvements) is that Nowak got paid plenty to leave. Not sure if his application to another job is grounds for dismissal, but as some joked along with the rumor that he had applied to Hearts in the Scottish Premier league – he would take the allocation money with him. Well, it seems if he did get a payout, that’s likely true.
So, what now?
After finally getting rid of the coach who took bath salts towards the end of the 2011 season and ultimately cannibalized his own players, where do we go from here with the leftovers. We already have the talent – Valdes, Gomez, Williams, Carroll, Daniel, Torres (whenever he comes back…), Marfan, Garfan, Martinez. I will lump Adu into this category if he has another stellar play, and Pajoy once he gets two more goals - I do like Pajoy, it just seems that (like Ruiz) the game strategy for the team doesn’t fit into any play with him (which is a coaching fault… cough). We have a team with talent and stars, but what will happen.
Where will Hackworth lead this team? Is he better at developing talent where it seems that Nowak has only stifled it due to some egotistical maneuver that is contrary to any child development guide (See: Mwanga, Adu – twice!, and McInerney)? Is he going to field a team that will benefit the team – play to their strengths as opposed to plugging in holes like you’re playing FIFA 12 and chosen a random team (I’m getting the hang of it)? Not only that – the bottom line question of course is – will he give us results – will he give us wins.
Now none of this “He’s a Nowak lacky”. If you were put in charge while your boss was away for only one week, you’d do what your boss wanted you to do. Why? Well, it’s not your team, you’re his assistant, and you want to keep your job. Hackworth’s been assistanting and coaching since 93 and started with colleges. He’s been the 2nd in line, as well as the man in charge throughout his career – especially for our U-17′s. For now, time will tell. This is a new leaf. This is a new day. We got what we were asking for because, well, we didn’t like what we saw anymore. Too much inconsistency (even with success) and then a complete nuclear melt down will result in a quick turnaround. This is our first growing pain. This is our first MAJOR (non-player) change. Will the team go through another overhaul? Will we bring in a (semi) big name? How much allocation money is left?
The better question…
Will we score goals?