“Rapids” is an appropriate name for the Colorado MLS franchise, based on what they did to Union last night. They scored in “rapid” fashion, netting 2 goals in the first 15 minutes. That “rapidly” changed what Union would have to do to earn a result. They pressed for goals to get back into the game, which lead to their “rapid” descent into a 4-goal deficit. Union were swimming against the current basically the whole match, and it worked as well as when you get caught in the “rapids” and you’re barreling towards a waterfall. If that isn’t enough quotation marks for ya, here are some snippets from my match preview, followed by some comments.
“Omar Cummings is scary-good, but he’s questionable for the match. Rapids need this match to maintain their playoff position, so I expect him to be in, and that’s bad for Union.” Um, ya think? The man ended this match, essentially, 15 minutes in, as he scored those first 2 goals. The second, a volley played in the air directly off a corner kick, was finishing touch Union are not used to seeing. It really was just poor marking. I called him scary-good for a reason, so, to Union, COVER ANYONE I LABEL AS SCARY-GOOD!!! I feel better now. Moving on…
“The guy they say will take Casey’s spot, Mac Kandji, seems like he might be difficult to deal with.” He had 2 assists, including one on the nail-in-the-coffin 4th goal, when he ran onto a well-played through-ball, neatly sliding it across Knighton to the foot of Quincy Amarikwa. He was, indeed, hard to contain.
“What do I expect: I’m thinking this is a loss for Union. They have played well since the defense has been sorted out, but Colorado has more to play for, and they have a solid defense, as well.” It seems as if, in hindsight, I was giving Union way too much credit. To say they were dominated would also be nice. It looked like an adult team playing against a high school team for much of the match. Colorado toyed with Union, especially after having the early 2-goal lead.
“Then, I also want to see Brad Knighton as the first name listed. He’s earned the start in the rest of the season’s games.” This is the first test for Union fans’ tolerance with Brad Knighton since he proved himself a worthy starting goalkeeper in MLS. He may have been a victim of poor defensive play, but either way, that whole “Our Defense is Good?!?!?!?” posting got blown out the window, like what Charles Barkley “allegedly” did to some poor schmuck at a 2nd Street restaurant years ago.
Their next chance to give me some idea of what this team will be going into next season will come on Saturday, when they are in the friendly confines of PPL Park to play Houston Dynamo, a 4pm start. Due to my attendence at an Octoberfest beginning at 5pm, there will be no running diary from me. Maybe I can get Dan K. to do it….
-Nick, the other .5 of Unholy Union
Vitals: 9:30pm game time, Live Well HD Network (Damn you!!!), taking place somewhere in Colorado, probably near Denver I’m guessing. Commerce City is 7-8 miles north of Denver. Rapids play in Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. I wonder if the players get kidded about that.
Union: The first thing I was looking was a lineup to see if Danny Mwanga is in it. He got removed from the match Saturday because his shoulder is hindering his performance. And, per a report in Philly Soccer Page, Mwanga didn’t travel with the team. I think the quick turnaround and it being a road game made leaving him here a good idea. I say move Le Toux up top and start Salinas at right midfielder, but maybe that’s just me. The expectation is for Mapp to be on the left with Fred on the right, Miglioranzi in the middle, but with Jacobson taking Mwanga’s starting spot. Then, I also want to see Brad Knighton as the first name listed. He’s earned the start in the rest of the season’s games.
Colorado: Conor Casey is one of my least favorite players in the Team USA player pool. But MLS is far from the level of international play, so that’s why he’s actually effective. His shaved-bald head bothers me too, for some reason. I catch a break tonight as he has accumulated too many yellow cards and is suspended for tonight. But, Omar Cummings is scary-good, but he’s questionable for the match. Rapids need this match to maintain their playoff position, so I expect him to be in, and that’s bad for Union. The guy they say will take Casey’s spot, Mac Kandji, seems like he might be difficult to deal with.
What do I expect: I’m thinking this is a loss for Union. They have played well since the defense has been sorted out, but Colorado has more to play for, and they have a solid defense, as well. These teams played to a 1-1 draw in Philly, so this game being in Colorado, I have to think Rapids get 3 points out of this. Although, from memory, the goal by Jeff Larentowicz was immediately after a poor punch clearance from Chris Seitz. Maybe Seitz not being in this match will matter enough to gain another road result.
The Philadelphia Union facebook page posted the statistic that the Union back line has a .50 GAA over the last six matches in all competitions. In other words, they’ve had 3 goals scored against them the last six matches. That’s what good teams in soccer do, but we, as Union supporters, have not become accustomed to with our side. There are three factors that have transformed this group from weak and flawed to solid and reliable.
The Goalie Switch: Chris Seitz was a victim of poor marking in front of him, but his panicked decision-making made him an easy whipping boy. Supporters lashed out at him for misplaying crosses, leaving rebounds, poor positioning, the slumping economy, etc, etc. It wasn’t entirely his fault, but he made enough mistakes that the switch became possible. Enter Brad Knighton, who played against non-MLS teams and played well, but I roasted him for tackling Brek Shea, earning a red card, and putting his team down a goal in his 23rd minute of Union league play. His subsequent performances have been exactly what the team has needed this whole season; communication and decisiveness. The most poignant play came early in this past match, where a Chivas player had a cross played onside well behind the Union back line. Knighton opted to try to beat him to the ball, and did so narrowly, only after a foot-first slide. That is a shot on goal, and likely a goal, if Knighton either decides that he can’t get the ball and stays in the net, or if he leaves a split-second later. I’m not able to ascertain if his communication with the defenders is better, but it seems clear that he is part of the solution, moreso than part of the problem
Square Peg No Longer: Michael Orozco Fiscal has been a consistent performer all season. He’s even scored a goal off of a corner kick. He’s played wherever Nowak has asked him to play. However, he has played too much of this season out of position. MOF’s athleticism gave birth to the experiment at right back, instead of the center back position he is used to. He seemed so out-of-sorts there at times that he was seen as completely replaceable by many, including yours truly. The injury to Juan Diego Gonzales allowed for MOF to return to his true position, and the results have, statistically, been spoken for. Again, communication could be a factor, or that MOF is the right player to be alongside Cap’n Califf. Those two got Chivas flagged for offsides with well-timed and coordinated steps forward. It’s a partnership that should remain even after Gonzales is healthy.
The New Kid on the Block: Sheanon Williams has been a breath of fresh air at right back. He possesses great speed and defensive instincts, and this changes things for Union on multiple levels. First, he’s not MOF playing out of position. Outside backs need to be able to compliment the offense while still being able to retreat to their defensive position. MOF had trouble finding times to come forward, and Jordan Harvey has trouble getting back once he is forward (more on Harvey in a moment). Williams has effectively blended both disciplines in a manner that makes me wonder why someone else hadn’t picked up on this guy. His speed allows him to get in behind defenders to get to through-balls, where he has shown decent ability in serving crosses. The side effect of his going forward means that Jordan Harvey can be less needed in offensive support and he can focus on locking down his side of the field. He has done great work in that department during this back line transition. This also bodes well for Shea Salinas getting a chance, at some point, to play midfield instead of defense (unless they remove Harvey from the lineup in Salinas’ favor).
So, that’s 3 good things that come from Sheanon. And he can throw the ball really far for throw-ins. I’m really looking forward to Wednesday night’s match in Colorado to see the further melding of what hopefully will be the Union’s backline for a little while.
46-Jacobson is in the game, for Mwanga. Probably good so that he gets to rest his shoulder and not take an unnecessary knock
47-Should Justin Mapp ever meet the Wizard of Oz, he’ll ask for better ability from his right foot. He gives it away because he was waiting to play the ball with his left, again
48-Dan K. keeps texting me stuff about Thornton’s weight. He’s making fun of him like Zach Galifinakis got made fun of by Mr. Chow in The Hangover.
49-Chivas made their 2nd sub. It doesn’t appear to matter yet
51-Union look competent and confident in defense. I’m not used to this
52-Mapp struck a cross with his right foot and it was harmless. So, he really isn’t holding out on us, his right foot does suck
53-This promises to be a boring half, with Union having a 2-goal lead. Then again, I don’t think I want to see Chivas give Union a reason to make it interesting
54-Chivas just made their last sub. And that’s the first time I heard Bornstein’s name. He crossed a ball beautifully, and the guy who came on 20 seconds before makes a poor first touch and give a goal kick on a really good goal chance
55-Williams gets forward and gets his head on a Fred cross, but the ball wasn’t forward enough and the shot goes for a goal kick
56-Union are pressing now. I like it. Le Toux gets a great run down the left off a 1-2 but his cross goes unanswered
57-Another chance, this time off of a Moreno cross. Thornton got a hand on it, and it was cleared. Maybe telepathically, Union heard me call the match boring. From my keyboard to their ears!
58-Sebastien, my co-ed team is playing at 6:35 tomorrow and we could use some goal scoring
58-What?!? It’s worth a shot
59-Chivas’ pushing forward is opening them up to all of these Union attacks. I think Union getting a 3rd g-11 oal is imminent.
61-Califf with a clear off of a rare Chivas build-up. *yawns*
61-Seba doesn’t stop, he plays at one speed, the whole game, regardless of the score. It’s great
61-The more I hear the name “Bornstein” associated with a Chivas chance, the better I feel about Union getting a clean sheet
63-Tommy just mentioned the Sons of Ben! Because some guy from Chivas shot about 100 feet wide and the SoB’s were chanting at him for it
66-Smyth compliments Knighton’s leg again, for his goal kick length. Sounds like a man-crush to me
68-A Chivas player got a yellow for continuing a frustration moment at Le Toux. Not smart. The river is right there. Fancy a swim???
69-GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!!!!!!!! Le Tooooooooooooux!!!!! Off the free kick that was stupidly given. It was deflected on the way in, but great strike, and well deserved
70-11 minutes ago, I noted that a 3rd goal was imminent. Hehehehe, I was right
72-Le Toux with another blast, but Thornton got behind that one. Good save by him.
75-Okugo on for Fred. Defensive move. And Fred gets a chance to receive his due adoration. And I like the move. All good things
77-Torres on for Mapp. Another move I like, just because it’s Roger
79-Apparently, according to Dan K., the River End is chanting the score in Spanish, tres a cero
81-Tommy just complimented the fan support for Union. I like this lots. Oh yeah, Knighton just cut off a cross, thwarted another chance. Ho hum
83-Smyth just noted Chivas have 1 shot on target thus far. Very nice
85-The River End are “ole”ing each completed Union pass. That’s pretty funny. A product of being in the unfamiliar position of being up by 3 goals. It’s a franchise first
86-Le Toux down after a tough challenge. Got bodied by a Chivas player late to the challenge
88-Jacobson is warned about a rough tackle. It gives Chivas a corner
89-Bicycle kick! Union cleared a Chivas chance with a bicycle kick. Awesomeness
89-Chivas get a shot, but Knighton is up to the task. Parries the save off to his right. Well done, but only the 2nd shot on target, according to Tommy Smyth
90-AND THAT’S THE MATCH!!! Roger Torres clears a chance with another bicycle-esque kick, and the referee blew the whistle.
Knighton earns his 2nd shutout. I think Chris Seitz is going to see lots of the bench for the rest of the season. Union really look like they’re coming together and having an idea of how they should play. They scored three goals off of set pieces, which is something they haven’t done much this season. Their goals came from the run of play, for the most part. Now, we’r eseeing a transition, to a team that is a threat every time they possess the ball in the offensive half. I can’t wait for this team to take shape in the 2011 season. A great victory for Union 3-0 over Chivas USA.
0-I like the lineup. Williams is going to be a fixture at outside back. Now, he needs to create goals, not just chances. Harvey is fine, as long as he doesn’t get beat for a goal. I don’t want him becoming the Union’s version of Jonathan Bornstein (who happens to be on Chivas USA). I’m looking for Le Toux to net one today, Mwanga to put in another, and I’d like to see Mapp get on the scoresheet too. And it would be nice if we could keep the Goats from putting one behind Knighton
0-The Commodore Barry Bridge looks majestic on this sunsplashed afternoon. Yes, I really just complimented a bridge, get over it. My colleague, Dan K., is in attendence and is allegedly in the River End. Hopefully he brought his singing voice with him.
0-We’re about ready to go, Union are in their blues, Chivas looks like a team of candy canes
1-Tommy Smyth! I love his commentary style.
2-This is going to be interesting. The feed I have of this game doesn’t show the clock so I’m going to be completely guessing.
2-Harvey passes to the advertising boards in screwing up a 1-2 play. Dumbass
3-Mwanga gets released and his touch betrays him over the end line. Ah, phooey
4-Chivas’ Espinoza took his eye off the ball and let it go over the sideline. Ha ha!
5-Chivas getting good offense going here. A cross thankfully wasn’t connected. Harvey did good 1-on-1 work to concede a corner. Corner was cleared easily. Not a great start for the home side
7-Union seem to not be able to get Chivas off the ball right now, kinda riding out the storm
7-Chivas’ Braun hit a shot that looked like he was auditioning to take David Akers’ kickoff responsibilities
9-I was led to believe that Chivas was a bad team. It’s not looking like that
10-We’re in one of those periods where Union need to move the ball a little faster
11-Nagamura for Chivas strikes one wide
12-Union get into the offense a little bit, but a bunch of sloppy play let Chivas regain the ball
14-Not sure if Union are confused, sloppy, or sluggish. Possibly some combination of the 3
15-……and this is why I love Tommy Smyth. He notes that Le Toux looks a bit lost out wide. REALLY?!?! Like I haven’t written about this before
16-(text message from Dan K.) Chant: Oh Philly U….you got what I need. We’ll love you to the end. Defend the River End.
16-That’s in the style of “Just a Friend” for those of you who couldn’t figure it out
17-Knighton makes a tremendous play in coming out outside of the 18-box to slide tackle a ball and clear it.
17-Le Toux with a cross that Moreno heads wide. Shame, great play by Seba
18-Minor confusion as Knighton had to use his feet to clear
18-Do Union have a optometrist sponsor? I think they need it, they keep passing to the guys in the other shirts
19……and on queue, Tommy mentions that Union are not recognizing the open player because they’re rushing things. I lampoon their eyesight, but Tommy and I are on the same page, and I like that.
20-Knighton with an easy save, thought there are some saves here that haven’t been “easy”
21-I think Califf and Orozco Fiscal pass the ball back and forth so that the television audience has time to get another beer. It’s as good a reason as any
23-Mapp earns a free kick that he created, but it gets cleared and immediately becomes a counter-attack. Thankfully, the shot went wide. Knighton still hasn’t had to do much
25-Migs earns a corner. Mapp to take it. Better than Le Toux
26-GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!!!!!!! Alejandro Moreno!!!!! Mapp with the assist of the corner. Textbook corner kick to header. And Tommy Smyth called the net the “onion bag.” I love it.
29-Union still applying pressure. Williams throw to Mwanga gets a nice header over the defender but it bounced to the keeper before Danny-boy could play it again
30-I just saw a play in the Alabama-Arkansas game where it looked like the receiver broke his leg but he just rolled an ankle. I thought it was worse. Sorry for the interruption
31-My online feed is now buffering. Aaaaaaah!
34-Tommy just complimented Harvey’s defending. *snickering*
36-Moreno created a good chance but his nifty first touch is cleared for a throw
38-The River End is making fun of Zach Thornton’s weight. I’m sure he’s less than appreciative
39-Moreno’s on the ground again, what a surprise
39-But he did earn a free kick which Mapp turned into another good chance, but he just overshot the header
42-The game’s gotten a bit boring, other than Moreno taking an elbow to the head and Fred kicking some Chivas guy in the stomach while he was on the ground
44-Mapp gets a card for playing the high ball and kicking a Chivas player in the process. Oh well, it is but a flesh wound
45-That guy is still down. Just getting helped off the field now.
45-Knighton gets a save. Easy play though. That leads to a the outlet to Moreno who gets fouled by the guy that Fred gut-kicked, Trujillo, who gets a yellow for his troubles
45-GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!!!! Fred!!!!! Off of the rebound!!!!! Le Toux takes the free kick, low as always, and Moreno gets a deflection. Thornton is unable to catch the shot, and Fred was Johnny-on-the-spot, crushing the rebound into the back of the net. And that is the last play of the half.
Amazing first half from Union. They didn’t play well for large portions of this match, but have made their few opportunities really count. They’re showing much better poise in their finishing, as 2 beleaguered players, Alejandro Moreno and Fred, are the goal scorers. I’ve ripped them many times on this blog, but they have really showed well today. Good on them. More in the second half.
The Union lineup: Brad Knighton, Sheanon Williams, Michael Orozco Fiscal, Danny Califf, Jordan Harvey, Justin Mapp, Stefani Miglioranzi, Fred, Sebastien Le Toux, Alejandro Moreno, Danny Mwanga. That’s a fairly standard lineup. I’d like to think we’ll see Fred create in the middle, Seba work his magic all over the field, and Mapp use his left foot for everything he does. Enjoy! Running diaries posted after each half.
Match Vitals: 4pm Saturday, September 25, PPL Park, Chester, PA, Live Well HD Network (streaming online for most of us)
Season Series: Drew, 1-1, at the Home Depot Center, Los Angeles, CA, back on July 3rd.
Union have had 10 days off. I had to look up the last match that they played because I had forgotten, so it must have been a (relatively) long time ago. That being said, I’m ready for some Union football, and what better remedy for a hiatus than to have Chivas USA come visit Chester.
Matchup I Can’t Wait to See: Sebastien Le Toux vs. Jonathan Bornstein
Bornstein’s competent showing for the U.S.A. in the World Cup doesn’t remotely excuse his abominable play for most of the time that I’ve been aware of him. I saw him in-person at the friendly against Turkey, and as soon as he came in as a left back, the Turkish attacks progressed up their right wing. Right at Jon-Jon. I fully expect Coach Peter Nowak to be aware of how much Mr. Bornstein sucks and send Seba his way frequently. I’m not saying that I foresee Le Toux’s second hat trick of the season coming Saturday, but it certainly wouldn’t shock me. In my fantasy prediction league, I put Union in for a 2-1 win. That was until I was reminded that Bornstein plays for Chivas. I now expect 3-1, and would like to see Union score more than that.
Maybe I’m a little obsessed with how much Bornstein is not good enough to play at a level above MLS. Or maybe not, it’s all a matter of opinion. There are other players involved in this contest. Union are getting healthy, as Shea Salinas appeared in the last match against San Jose, and could see himself in the starting XI. Danny Mwanga has had time to allow his shoulder to mend, Juan Diego Gonzales has had time to rest his groin (sounds inappropriate, doesn’t it?), and Alejandro Moreno should be healed from all of the bruises he incurs while unnecessarily falling to the pitch. Union are the healthier side, and they’re playing at home this time, another reason to expect 3 points. Also, on the first day of this month, Union beat the real Chivas (CD de Guadalajara) in a friendly, 1-0. So, if we can beat the real Goats, then beating the watered-down, poorly managed, American version should be a cinch.
Bottom Line: If Union don’t win this match by more than 1 goal, I’ll be upset, and it will come through in my running diary. Enjoy the game!
-Nick, the other .5 of Unholy Union
On an unrelated note, congratulations to Philadelphia Independence, the talented unknown women’s soccer team here in Philly, for making it to the finals in their inaugural season (and the league’s offical second season). Take it down m’ladies.
I know it will be 10 days between Union matches. And, I know it’s getting late in the MLS season, and Union don’t figure to be a part of the league’s playoffs. The European leagues have all begun, so there is plenty of football on television to watch that is of higher quality than MLS. So, why should people continue to view Union’s matches?
Sebastien Le Toux
He is among the league leaders in goals and assists. His energy and effort are worthy of a captain’s armband, and at the very least, the supporters’ adoration. He and Danny Mwanga have formed a potent offensive partnership that will only get better with Danny’s maturation as a player and professional, as well as with more time on the pitch with Seba. Plus, he gives the best unintelligible post-game interviews this side of Charlie Manuel, or Carlos Ruiz.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but this team was built around young players so it’s going to take time. The fair-weather fans will likely file this season away, especially since they can jump on the Phillies’ bandwagon. I think this is going to be the best part of the season, as the squad improves every time it gets to play together. The rest of this season promises to provide some of the best play of the season. Playing the role of spoiler is something that bad teams do to take out their frustrations on contending teams that take the lesser team lightly. Union will be on a mission to serve notice to the rest of MLS that they will be a playoff-caliber team in 2011.
Union are building a brand and a style of play, and those of us who watch have been there from the beginning. Support of the team is not a fleeting interest; it is something that we are determined to see all the way through. I’ve watched matches via streaming online feed when ABC conspired against us by putting matches on Live Well Network, and I know others have done the same. We monitor the progress, and we root for victories, though we know they are not likely for them. So, Saturday afternoon, we’ll continue watching our team in this odd lame-duck season because they’re sort of in the preseason for next year. Yeah, that sounds good. I think. Or, you could just come to the conclusion that you’ve watched all or most of the other matches so you may as well watch this one, too. Either way, enjoy.
-Nick, the other .5 of Unholy Union
MLS has a strange playoff format, but I guess it’s okay. 8 of the 16 league teams make the playoffs, but that’s not the strange part. The oddity comes from only the top 2 teams from each conference are in, while the bottom 4 are the next 4 best point totals, regardless of conference. This season, if the playoffs started this week, there would only be two, yes 2!!!, Eastern Conference teams involved. I’m not really sure what this has to do with Union, but I thought it was strange. For some reason, I thought that it was the top 3 from each conference plus 2 wild cards. The way it actually is, 75% of the Western Conference is in the playoffs. That would seem to eliminate the interest in the MLS playoffs for a lot of big media markets. The two East teams that would make it would be Columbus and New York. The New York market is key for MLS, but that means missing out on Toronto (Canada’s only league team) and potentially Chicago (if they get it together late). MLS is missing out on the Boston, D.C., and Philadelphia markets because, well, the teams stink somethin’ awful. I can’t see how including Denver, Seattle, and San Jose is better than either Toronto or Chicago by themselves. Now, after I manipulate this system to cater to larger media markets, I need to finagle a way to get Union into the tournament…
-Nick, the other .5 of Unholy Union
The Union match in San Jose on Wednesday night created two problems: It was a weeknight west coast game so it was on late as all hell here, on the east coast, where sports actually matter, and it has left us with no Union game to look forward to this weekend. However, I am here to help, sort of. Here is a short list of things to get you through the weekend.
- Lay around and do absolutely nothing (a personal favorite)
- Watch Stoke City-West Ham Saturday morning @ 7:45am
- Continue watching English football during the 10am set of matches
- Wash your car
- Wash someone else’s car
- Go for a walk since the weather will be clear and cool (although TV will be more entertaining, but whatever, we do healthy things once in a while)
- Walk the dog (although, if you own a dog, you probably do this habitually, or at least I hope)
- Do your laundry (for those of you who don’t have a girlfriend or an indentured servant to do that sort of stuff for you)
- Go to the movies (remember when people actually did that? Wait…..you mean people actually STILL go to movie theaters??? Oh.)
- Watch American tackle football (we’re in the United States, duh. We’ve got college kids playing Saturday, and the big guys play Sunday. We like our violent collision sport J )
-Nick, the other .5 of Unholy Union