I apologize for my lack of writing thus far this season. Part of the reason I’ve refrained from writing is because I don’t want to have knee-jerk reactions to what Union have put on the field so far this season. I want to let them play for a month or so before I decide who the 2011 Union are, as a team. After the first match, most of my comments would have been negative, despite a Union victory. I want to be able to evaluate them without the guise that it’s still to early. The second month of the season, week 5 or 6 of the schedule, will bring more frequent posts. Thank you for your patience, and DOOP!
-Nick, the other .5 of Unholy Union
Okay, this is real late.. I know. No matter, sorry for the 2 people who read this.
In an attempt at tweeting while at a bar, you can see, it didn’t work out very well… Neither did the glass 3/4′s full of Cider that ended up on the floor, but who’s noticing. And because this is late, and I’ll be at the game tomorrow, this is commentary of last week’s game, and a preview for our Home Opener!
Who: Vancouver Whitecaps
Where: PPL Park – Beautiful downtown Chester
Time: 4:00 PM EDT
This is our test against an expansion team that you would not dare to call an expansion team. Winning last week against Toronto 4 – 2 shows that the Whitecaps have one thing on their mind, scoring. As last year, and last week has shown, we still need to work on that, scoring. Not just scoring, but creating chances. This includes possession. We had a meager 31% possession time for the game, and that’s not good for any team trying to create something. We were lucky that Houston wasn’t as well put together as they may have been made out to, but a more solidified central defense (Where the hell did Califf come from) and some lucky chances (See you in Chicago Oduro) we were able to come off with a win. Needless to say, we should have had many more GOOD chances last week than the Sheanon superman throw-in. With a shaky midfield of Migz and Naka that we are chalking up to just the start of the season, we need to control the ball more. That means better mid-field play, better passing, and completing through balls. It’s understood that our players, about 60% new may not be completely in sync as of yet, but pick up games have had better pass connections than the Union had last week. If we’re going to win, we can’t take Vancouver lightly, nor allow them possession of the ball, since their primary goal is to..score a goal. An attacking team is never one to take lightly, and I would expect our Midfield and Defensive line to be tested by constant counter attacks and a pressing defense.
Speaking of our defensive line being tested, at the moment it seems as though its depthe will be. as of the writing of this blog Danny “I should have been this good last year” Califf is questionable with a problem with his knee and Gonzalez is listed as probable with a problem with his hip. As i expect Califf to play since there has been no other word other than a bigsoccer.com list, it does call into question – what are we going to do if they can’t play? Califf and Valdes were our strong central defense last week, if Califf is out – and Gonzalez being on the maybe list, what exactly are we going to do? We have enough problems as of now worrying of Williams will be out of position, or if Harvey will be caught flatfooted on the sides. We can’t afford a weak center.
As depth of our backline is our only problem (in depth) Vancouver is something to snicker about. They have 2 players out for National Team call ups with Jay Demerit and Michael Boxall, with 3 other guaranteed players out due to injury, one being Shea Salinas who will have to wait another year before a return to Philadelphia (unless we see them in the playoffs). They also have Thorrington listed as doubtful, and Teibert is Questionable. That is a total of 7 players on their roster. How much this will effect them, one may not know, but we will see.
Our midfield seems to be a slight issue. As Mapp played a consistent game, Naka and Migs played… well, up to their par. Naka didn’t have any good set pieces to strike, and the one that he did was awful. As he is pressing and working for the consistent Mid Starting position, as the Union feel good articles present, his play when pressed almost begs to differ. Better control of the ball and sight of the play needs to be present, and please don’t dribble the ball more when a player comes after you. Migs on the other hand was consistent… to last year… which isn’t saying much. It was shocking someone found a picture of him on the pitch during the game because it was almost as if he didn’t have any effect on the game (I’m not trying to knock on the guy, but I noticed everyone in my drunken stupor on Saturday except for him). Carroll, on the other hand, seems to have had an okay game, but may be having trouble with just getting into the flow of the team. This is something that will probably improve as time goes on, and lineups switch.
Ruiz and Le Toux up top need better services. As their skill is in no question, when pressing on goal, the ball needs to get to them for chances to be made. Last week, this didn’t happen often and when it did, there was either miscommunication or lack of awareness on either end. Again, something that should actually improve as time goes on. One thing to note is that Ruiz may have to watch out for being set up into cheap foul calls on him, like the elbow last week. As the elbow to the face is a legitimate yellow card, 95% of the time (meaning most of the time) the defender in that situation will jump for the ball or move out of the way. The fact that the defender just stood there was either through idiocy, or intelligence, and resulted in a yellow on Ruiz, and even for Dynamo fans calling for a red. Aside from that, Ruiz seems to be able to hold his own, and just need to get more in sync with any through balls for him.
This should be a good match through and through, which I will be enjoying in section 121 tomorrow. I’ll see you all there.
Prediction – 2-1… either way. I myself am picking the Union.
Where: Robertson Stadium, Houston, TX When: Saturday, March 19 Time: 8:30 EST
Welcome to the 2011 MLS season, finally. I know that there was a game on Tuesday, but Union weren’t involved, so it doesn’t count. Union begin their 2011 odyssey against a club they have not lost to, having earned a win and a draw last season. The road side will look to continue this modicum of success with their retooled roster against an opponent in a similar position. Dynamo have also turned over several of their starters, including their keeper (Pat Onstad retired, the 2 guys Union had last year, um, yeah….). It promises to be an entertaining affair, as the strength of both teams is in offensive play and both lack quality and depth in their respective back lines. A baseball-esque scoreline, anyone?
Offense: Returning goal scorers Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga will be joined by former MLS MVP and golden boot winner Carlos Ruiz (Choooooooooooooooooch!!!). Nothing has become official as of this posting, but it’s a safe bet that Ruiz is up top with Mwanga in Coach Nowak’s 4-4-2. Le Toux will get to settle into his “midfielder who covers half the stadium” roaming roll, free to attack wherever he pleases. The addition of an accomplished striker is something that will only benefit a Union side who stands to concede many goals. I fear that they may need to score 3 goals most games to win, as I do not foresee many clean sheets. Justin Mapp will also be in his first full season with the club, and his deft ball controll and passing will be critical in keeping teams from defensively keying on Le Toux, as well. The central midfielders, well, I could analyze them if I actually had any idea who Nowak is going to put there. Brian Carroll will be one of them, but the other? Not a clue. I’d prefer to see Roger Torres for his offensive spark, or Amobi Okugo for his defensive tenacity. That means that Stefani Miglioranzi is the likely starter, because, …. I don’t know.
Defense: Dan K.’s favorite player (and I mean that in the most sarcastic way possible), Jordan Harvey, will feature in a slightly re-tooled back four. Also returning will be Danny “Cap’n Ink” Califf, and Sheanon Williams. The newcomer at center back is Carlos Valdes, the Colombian also signed at the same time as veteran goal keeper Faryd Mondragon, in what seemed to be a Colombian buy-in-bulk deal. The rule of thumb in sports is that your defense must be strong up the middle, and Union have a new ‘keeper, center back, and defensive holding midfielder. The Union faithful hope Nowak is right with his choices. I’m a bit skeptical, so I don’t expect many clean sheets, but hopefully more than the Flyers have this year (yikes!).
Reserves: Jack McInerney and Chris Agorsor played well in the preseason and seem to be the go-to guys Nowak will deploy when needing a goal late in the game. This blog unabashedly loves Jack Mac, and would prefer to see him starting at left midfield, but we can rant about that later. Agorsor, also new to the squad this season, hopes to impress and earn starts along the course of the season to spell one of the strikers. Union still have a glut of central midfielders, so many in fact that some of them have taken shifts playing defense as well. Union just signed Gabriel Farfan, midfielder and twin brother of 2011 2nd-round pick Michael Farfan, as depth at left back. Amobi Okugo has spent time as a central defender in his Generation Adidas and U.S. U-20 time, so he has continued that work with his club side. Maybe Nowak loves midfielders so much he wants to put 11 of them on the field at the same time. Who knows?
The opponent and outcome: Houston, as previously mentioned, has also undergone significant turnover. Their keeper retired, they’ve got 2 new starting defenders, and their best-known player, Brian Ching, is out with a chronic hamstring pull. Unfortunately, this does not leave them shorthanded. They play an aggressive style under Dom Kinnear, pressing for goals every minute. Last season, this was an inter-conference match, but Houston was realligned to the East for 2011. The benefit for Daynamo is that the West has five of the league’s six best teams, so their chances at one of the three Eastern Conference playoff spots are much greater. The players to watch are brand new to the league. Draft picks Will Bruin, forward, and Kofie Sarkodie, defender, have played themselves into the starting XI during the preseason.
My prediction is that this match will end in a 2-2 draw. A hard-fought road point for Union would be an excellent way to begin a run towards the MLS playoffs.
-Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
Dan – the slacking, bored, 1/2 of unholy union (and only person posting recently…. hmm…)
We are officially (less than) 3 days away from the first Philadelphia Union kick of the 2011 season. An exciting time for one and all, and a painfully, long, excruciating off season it has been… What a weird crazy trip it’s been…
Ok, enough of the bad yearbook phrases, and get onto some pre season comments.
1 – My season ticket cards and gifts have arrived. I couldn’t think at work because I have been waiting for 2 months since I have ordered this, and it is well worth the wait… minus the mini scarf. But hey, I now have something to decorate my cubicle with, because as Nick can attest, there’s nothing to show that someone works there other than stray wires and papers… plus a name placard but who notices those.
2 – I have immersed myself in a TON of things Union, and then bother Nick with them during work. Some things interesting, some minor, some annoying, and some end up me getting into twitter / forum wars that he makes fun of me for. I recently joined bigsoccer.com forums (and stupidly signed up with the username for this blog) and I have recently become accustomed to the fact that – i don’t know jack. Which is OK. The downside of all of this, being that we create a blog, add our own 2 cents, and try to come up with creative posts to critique the team, talk about the team, or analyze the team for the makes and breaks we will be looking for in the beginning of the season – we see it’s already done by others who are doing the same thing, have the same opinions and ideas we thought of, and kills our motivation (note my not ranting on Nowak’s press attack a week ago, talking about the back and front lines, and the current roster, and so forth). We have recently gotten busy work schedules, and often don’t update this besides work and some live game commentary at home(post half since we post once the half is done… editing is a bitch for 45 minutes). The plus side though is that I get to see everything that’s going on, and am not as in the dark (or trying to find LiveWell station) as I was last year.
3 – Spammers are funny. At some points I think the only people who come to our blog are spammers… at least those are the only ones who comment. As the tragedy in Japan is heartwrenching, and a sobering fact that, as powerful as a race (humans) are, we will always succumb to the forces of nature. The fact that spammers are now leaving comments about this, is pathetic.
4 – Some of what I wanted to make commentary of – yay soccer related material for a soccer related blog:
Saturday is going to show us exactly what Nowak has in plan, which at this point many fans watching the comings, goings, and missing persons of our roster make it seem the only plan Nowak has is filling in the holes that are left over. Additions of Valdes, Mondragon, and Ruiz are key, but the lack of depth in the backline has many biting their nails. We have all heard that some trialists and rookies have been taking positions in the backline with the experimentation Nowak created that forced Toni Stahl into a “Bye bye” situation last year again, has us worried.
I would not be surprised if we hear about one more signing either Thursday or Friday for one of the leftover trialists, but, rumors have fooled me before. We still have Houpou (sp?), G.Farfan, and the never mentioned Keon Daniels in practice and camp. There was even a feel good article on Farfan, and mentioned him playing a back position… But these feel good articles have been created before, and eventually lead to a missing persons report for Orozco-Fiscal.
For the midfield, it seems as though Le Toux will be dropping back into that position. As he has a “Get out of Nowak glare for going out of position free” card, this will help position him to drop back on defense and push forward on offense more efficiently. This of course being if he’s around his position. In all likelihood, he will be all over the field, doing what he does best, being himself. Not exactly much has changed for the midfield, except for the addition of Carroll in the early offseason, but I have faith in the mid field.
Ruiz, the “little fish”, which is quite popular at the moment thanks to Lent, has all signs pointing to the idea (fact, we will see) that he wants to at least make a statement this year. I was going to say prove himself, but he has in many regards, to the chagrin of many people hating him. Your hate feeds our motivation to DOOP. In all honesty, my opinion is that this will be the make or break signing of the off-season. What will and does Ruiz do, and will he be up to par with our expectations?
The only fear people have about Mondragon is the straight out of college keeper we have as a backup. Should anything happen (knock on wood) MacMath will have to step up. There are fears of testing a young keeper at this level too early, but again, something we will have to see when it comes to it.
My last and final comment is this… bring on the DOOP! It’s been too long.
We are officially two weeks away from opening kick, and 3 weeks away from home opener (season tickets, WHAT WHAT!). Me and my horrible other half (no, not my g/f) would like to bring you our predictions for the season – predicted firsts, goals, and so forth.
As an aside, no, I dont feel like commenting on any more of the offseason acquisitions and happenings, as the general feeling after Nowak’s recent interview has left a terrible taste on our tounges with his remarks concerning our interest in our team and our players: past and present (also reading various rants before this didn’t help). Remember, we have until April 15th to make international deals for our roster… *glare* But without further ado, your Unholy Union’s first ever season predictions: 2011 edition.
First Goal -
Dan – Carlos Ruiz vs Dynamo
Nick -Danny Mwanga, also in the first match
First Shutout (and goalie..just in case, never know)
Dan – Vancouver / Mondragon
First Yellow Card
Dan – Whoever ends up playing out of position as DB first.
Nick -Brian Carroll
First Red Card
Dan – Califf straight, Williams Double yellow
Dan – Okugo for Nakazawa
Nick-Jack Mac for Justin Mapp
First player this season to get pulled and play for Harrisburg due to issues beyond most people’s control and never heard from again?
Dan – Pfeffer
Nick -Levi Houpeu
Season Ending stats and position (WLD)
Dan – 11 – 9 – 14 9th Rank
First PK awarded to
Dan – Ruiz
Nick -Le Toux
Player with the most minutes logged:
Dan – Gonzalez
What color will Seba’s shoes be
Dan – Neon green
Nick -Neon yellow
First player to get a hug from Nowak
Dan – MacMath (…shrug)
Nick -Le Toux
First player to take his shirt off during gameplay
Dan – Jack Mac
Nick -Carlos Ruiz
Most suspension -
Dan – Califf
Nick -Stefani Miglioranzi
First Dive -
Dan – Ruiz
First player to fall over his own feet
Dan – Harvey
Nick -Brian Carroll