I’ve made note of this before, some banners in the River End have been missing since July, one in which was Charlie Sheen… Now, I’m not saying it’s primarily because of the banners, but there is an awful lot of coincidence in the Charlie Sheen banner hanging proudly in The River End, and our first win in two months. If you have finally recovered from celebrating (or dredding the Sunday night loss of the Eagles, both should result in hangovers) you already know we beat Columbus 1-nothing.
With a starting eleven that rotates more than a 5 year old on a computer chair, this was the most haphazard chemistry experiment Nowak has implemented this year. We started with the normal GK with MacMath, Valdes, Califf, Williams, and an interchangable Farfan in left back (Gabe this time). In the midfield was our solid CMD in Carroll, and our new favorite combination of Adu Torres. The change here, as Justin Mapp was listed on the injury report, was our youngest acquisition – Pfeffer. The 17 year old had his first start and played well – but I will get to that later. So, with the midfield with a little twist, you would expect to see Mwanga and LeToux up top. Well, half right. The interchangeable Farfan’s strike again with being able to fill a striker position with Michael. My eyes went crosseyed when I saw this line up. Nowak was either a mad genius, or has gone mad. Both are the case, but I’ll just go with genius. That or he reads all the bloggers’ predictions before hand just to mess with our heads so that we are always wrong.
What went right-
Most everything. We didn’t have drifting midfielders. We didn’t look like a midfield blob the entire game. No overplaying the ball defensively and having to chase. It was one of our better form games this year, and it showed.
It seemed from my end that it was mostly a midfield battle, as Columbus would come in and literally possess the ball with handling and passing, which they are fairly good at. For the Union however, from the beginning, it seemed our strategy was grab and dash. We weren’t really trying to keep the ball possession, rather, get the ball, and get it to goal as fast as possible. Many breaks would end up with the ball stolen and Columbus back to pure possession, so the first half Columbus generally maintained the ball. But like most strategies for a counterattack game, if you do it long enough there will be a breakthrough and it came with Torres to Le Toux.
Now, there were a few breaks before that could have resulted in goals or attempts, but this one was just perfect. Torres on the right wing on the defensive side of midfield looks up to see Le Toux in between two Columbus defenders, pointing at goal. I don’t know why this has never been done before, but Torres actually sent the ball in… Not only did he send it in, it was perfectly spaced and weighted putting the ball in front of Le Toux, inside the 18. Le Toux with a step on the defender coming in at full speed, you would think that he would end up hitting the ball high or wide, but something has happened to the Frenchmen in the past 2 months – he got his touch back. He calmly struck to ball low and to the right of Columbus keeper Hessmer, and officially made him his bitch.
Pfeffer in the closing minutes of the 1st half had a shot on goal as well, initiated from a Torres cross to Le Toux into the box once again, which he then outplayed a defender along the goal line and got it to Pfeffer who was in the middle right side of the 18 box, with his back to goal, pivots and strikes the ball nicely for such a shot. Unfortunately it was directly at the keeper. Not bad for a 17 year old.
These were the only 2 shots on goal out of 8. 5 others went wide, and another was stopped before it reached net. Columbus had an equal amount of chances, but only required MacMath to make one save, giving him the clean sheet and first MLS career win. They also had 4 shots off target, and 3 were blocked.
What you would have thought-
Thinking about this, I don’t know why Columbus did not try to go on our left flank more than they did. Granted, we have a 17 year old first time starter as left midfielder, and Gabe Farfan, the better defender of the two Farfans, but not a natural defender – so thinking strategically you would pressure that one side. Luckily enough, they’re Columbus and screwed up. I’m not complaining, but it makes you wonder about the strategies teams try to implement – and remind us that even though it seems we don’t have one cut in stone, some other teams are that much more worse off.
What to improve -
To be honest, I can’t think of anything to improve on with this game. Adu did very little, but was available for distribution. Torres made some fantastic service similar to that which we saw and loved last year. And we looked like a team that knows how to get in first place for the conference, and has the making to finish the season strong.
I guess the only thing I would ask for would be some insurance goals. Sitting on one goal leads is never pretty, but it wasn’t like we weren’t trying. Just get it on target boys.
Also, in case you didn’t know – during half time Rotary International was showcased, a volunteer organization that provides “communitees at home and abroad to support education and job training, provide clean water, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, and eradicate polio.” That was taken from the main international site. You can go to Rotary.org, philarotary.org or the Philadelphia Club facebook. They used this game to raise funds to be donated to Rotary for polio education.