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
All went well for Dan minus his Union pick, as he went 4 for 4 prior to the Union loss. Nick caught back up due to his union prediction. Scores Dan 4 – Nick 3. On to week 2!
NY: San Jose v Houston: Lingering from last year’s playoff defeat of the Union, I still don’t like Houston. I know they won a road match last week, but that was against Chivas. There might not be a worse team in this league than Chivas. Therefore, I will say that Wondo nets one for the ‘Quakes, and the match ends in a 1-1 draw.
DK: As I would normally pick this match and say Houston over San Jose, Houston not scoring a goal til the 92nd minute against Chivas is going to make me walk away from this one. Instead I’m going to pick Kansas City over New England. I’m basing this on SKC holding strong and proving that they are and will be the top of the East (that counterattack is hard to stifle) and the New England is still rotting from the inside out in all areas of management, playing, and so forth. 2-0 for Sporting at home.
NY: FC Dallas v Portland: Lingering from last week’s defeat of the Union, I still don’t like Portland. Dallas did well to frustrate PCNJ last week, but Portland isn’t a bunch of whiny, complaining quitters. This being in Dallas, I think FCD takes this 2-1.
DK: I’m just going to say that I’m going to pick most all other league matches. The ones you picked are likely going to be close ones. I don’t think Portland can out match DC like the way they outplayed the Union, but it goes without saying that they are completely match fit and this will be a good match to watch.
My 2nd match is going to be Montreal and Chicago. Chicago had a bye in the opening week and will be well rested. If you include the fact that their starting line is still intact from last year, they are already miles ahead of the Impact… but what amount of impact (see what I did there) will a ‘record breaking’ crowd for Montreal do for the home team? I don’t think a bunch of French Canadian fans will make that much of a difference. I’ll say Montreal will finally tally a goal, but lose 2-1 to Chicago.
NY: Real Salt Lake v New York: RSL dominated a tired LA Galaxy 3-1. They might double that goal-scoring output against a team who seemed to only have 2 players who cared against Dallas. Ok, maybe not quite THAT bad, but RSL wins again, either 2-0 or 3-1.
DK: 3rd pick for me is Seattle verse Toronto. Both played the 2nd leg of the CONCACAF Champion’s league Quarterfinal Wednesday night. Seattle, being thoroughly embarrassed by Santos – Toronto overcoming the “goliath” in LA. One’s confidence is likely shattered, the other is walking on air. Both are going to have their fair amount of travel-lag and fatigue between Wed and Saturday. I don’t think the home field advantage of plastic and fluorescent colors will help Seattle against the confidence TFC will have after beating LA at home. 2-1 TFC.
NY: Chivas v Vancouver: Chivas sucks. Sebastien Le Toux will become Sebastien Le Two in this one, and all Union faithful will shed a tear into their green beer.
DK: Far too obvious. Vancouver played solid soccer in their opener. Can’t do anything but agree with you on this one. The gimme pick of the week – Vancouver wins 2-0
NY: Union v Colorado: Union found it tough to navigate the midfield against Portland, and they will be faced with Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni in the central midfield which won’t make things any easier. I’m setting the yellow card over/under at 4.5. That same over/under applies to number of times we will collectively nearly crap ourselves because a Colorado right winger gets behind Porfirio Lopez. Unless something changes miraculously from Monday to Sunday, I see this as another loss for the U, at BEST a draw. Second verse, same as the first, Union 1-2 Colorado.
DK: I’ll stop being a homer for once and I’m going to get flack for this as well. There’s no possible way we’re going to play as a team. We look like we’re in 2010 form, minus someone attempting to fly like superman (yes, I’m never going to give up on referencing David Myrie’s performance). We have no midfield – literally they almost disappeared. Our strikers were too far depressed into our defensive half, providing few outlets for any possible counterattack (which we never had). And our defensive line looks surprisingly shaky – granted that after Portland’s tying goal we started to panic and play the long ball – something of which we again, never had – and opened ourselves up more for constant pressure did NOT help ourselves defensively. Colorado is a tough team to beat, even with Casey Connor out for who knows how long. 2-0 Colorado. The only thing that could save us is home field advantage, Colorado travel lag, and MacMath showing us the same performance he did in goal last year. But all signs point to no win.
SJ vs Hou – Tie
FCD vs Por – FCD 2-1
RSL vs NY – RSL win
Chivas vs Van – Van win
UNION vs Colorado – loss
SKC vs NE – SKC 2-0
Mon vs Chi – Chi 2-1
Sea vs TFC – TFC 2-1
Chivas vs Van – Van 2-0
UNION vs Colorado – loss
For those not paying attention this offseason, there have been a lot of changes to this years roster. And if you live under a rock, WAKE UP, our first game is next monday – 7 days (queue footage of The Ring). So to get all of you prepared, here are all of the changes from you 2011 Philadelpha Union, to the 2012 Philadelphia Union - and subsequent reasons why – at least until The Brotherly Game finds another rumor and it takes a week for the Union to finalize and make note of the new contract. This is the team (we think) we will see this year.
Note: some comments are meant to be a farce…
|2011 Roster||Changes – why|
|Roger Torres||Bought contract|
|Faryd Mondragon||Courtesy trade for retirement|
|Joe Tait||Decline Contract option|
|Juan Diego Gonzalez||Decline Contract option|
|Levi Houapeu||Decline Contract option|
|Morgan Langley||Decline Contract option|
|Ryan Richter||Decline Contract option|
|Stefani Miglioranzi||Decline Contract option|
|Justin Mapp||Expansion draft – Montreal|
|Carlos Ruiz||Mid season trade – unruly fans|
|Jordan Harvey||Mid season trade to Vancouver – allocation money|
|Chris Agorsor||Mid Season waiver|
|Chase Harrison||Official Contract|
|Kyle Nakazawa||Offseason trade to LA – allocation money and draft spot|
Sebastien Le Toux
|Offseason trade to Vancouver – allocation money – cocaine|
|Christian Hernandez||Academy Signing|
|Jimmy McLaughlin||Home Grown Player|
|Chris Albright||Off Season Signing|
|Chris Konopka||Off Season Signing|
|Antoine Hoppenot||Supplemental Draft|
|Krystian Witkowski||Supplemental Draft|
|Brandon Zimmerman||Catch and release|
|Tom Brandt||Catch and release|
|2012 Official Roster|
I first want to start off with a little personal note. I am a casual soccer fan by trade. I know the very big names in EPL, and maybe some in La Liga, and that’s about it. When I found soccer on TV I could easily watch it, and not have to root for anyone. I enjoyed watching it. This started in 2006 when watching the world cup. Needless to say, being that this is America, I never really watched that much soccer on TV in between then and 2010. When I heard that Philadelphia was getting a team, I was excited. For starters, this was a sport I enjoyed and wanted to play (goalkeeper) when I was young, and the idea of a brand new team when I’m fully able to watch from the beginning excited me.
I was not an original season ticket holder. Didn’t have the money, and generally never had that ‘drive’ to invest in something as such. Naturally, the 2010 season changed that mind. Maybe it helped with the World Cup being on and watching every single game, while at work, and at a bar on weekends, helped carry it over. Meeting some Sons of Ben at the bars (specifically Tommy Roletter, fellow la salle alumn during a viewing of USA vs Australia pre world cup) helped peek my interest. The team itself showed promise in its first year – aside from a multitude of mistakes and divots, and it was invigorating. I saw 3 games that year, once from 101, another from 121, and another in the river end. All were exciting and convinced me, mostly due to the atmosphere created by THE FANS, to purchase season tickets for 2011. It even got me started in writing a blog which I (or my coworker Nick, I forget which one of us started the idea) took to a coworker who also enjoyed watching the Union (and all Philly sports) and started towards the end of the 2010 season. I had also went out on a limb by myself, fronting for 3 tickets, only one claimed for – mine. Everyone I had brought enjoyed themselves and wanted to come again. And 2011 was a great year, and during this off season – even with a plethora of rumors – next season showed more potential than Adu at 15 years old.
Now though? There’s a dark cloud hanging over the Union, and we all know why.
There’s no need to get into the whole Le Toux thing… by now, if you follow anything Union oriented on Twitter you know that he was trialing at Bolton – we didn’t know why. Many of us assumed he got a call and wanted to play in the EPL. More power to him. Then, suddenly, we get rumors on Monday (yesterday, or as I’m writing after midnight 2 days ago) that he is going to Vancouver. Bolton fans, Bolton management, and someone in Vancouver stating this. Needless to say Monday night we were confused. Then, confusion became a sudden convulsion as to why when Le Toux himself confirmed it in a tweet, before either team or MLS of the transfer. This confusion turned into outrage to the point where we were all just repeating ourselves. It didn’t make sense. How could it. For what could we possibly be getting for not only our franchise, not only our sponsor (and league wide face for said sponsor), but our star player? Money and an international spot? Draft picks? Money and draft picks? Someone else?
Only money. Undisclosed, as the norm for MLS (needless to say Union as well).
Okay, we’ll give Nowak the benefit of the doubt. He’s proven us wrong on many occasions (except for Migz)… maybe we will put this to good use.
They changed their player profile for their facebook page before any announcement. Okay… well… After the announcement, another announcement saying we purchased Torres’ contract and he’s no longer on loan. That’s a plus, but we should have gotten much more for Le Toux than that, one would think (or hope).
And then this was reported during or after (I’m actually not sure) his farewell party at Kildare’s in West Chester. Chris Vito reports the interview with Le Toux for The DelCo Times Herald, which can be found here <<< hyperlink. Here are some snippets of Le Toux’s quotes (who is the most humble philadelphian player and probably wouldn’t say this if still contracted) if you haven’t seen it, cried, and ripped your Union posters in rage. Queue the worst PR move in Union history. Like, this really ranks up there with New England Revolution and DTF (defend the fort for those who don’t know).
- “I wanted to stay in Philly. I didn’t care about the money.”
- The only thing they wanted is the money,” Le Toux said. “Being with this team and being a guy, not to build around, but to help this team, was what I wanted. … They must have wanted to sell me for money because they needed money. We don’t have a nice practice facility and that is something they promised since I am here. It’s terrible.
- “That’s why they pushed me to Bolton — money.”
- “I told them I would consider (Bolton), but I knew it wasn’t good for me,” Le Toux said. “I was out of shape. I hadn’t kicked a ball in five weeks. I didn’t want to go over there and injure myself in cold weather. What good is that for me or (the Union)?”
- “I asked Peter (Monday at YSC) what was going on and he didn’t let me talk,” Le Toux said. “He started to get mad at me, telling me that I was very not respectful to leave Bolton early. I told him, ‘First, I respect myself.’ But I always did everything they asked me to do.
And the kicker quote of the night – “I would be happy to just retire than play for Peter again,”
I take it from twitter and some comments that some more information was divulged at Kildare’s that makes the situation even less satisfying. Yes, this is apparently possible.
All things considered – yes, this is a business. It is a team. It is a fledgling league still, and a fledgling team. Most businesses never make profit in their first 3 to 5 years. It happens. Normally, within an organization you should be up front about things – especially to the employee you are going to use as a bartering chip. But again, many things just don’t add up.
Why be pissed off at someone, who is loyal to your cause and the team and the franchise, when all he wants is to stay there?
Why not tell him straightforward that you have no use for him other than trying to make a trade for money?
Why try to sell him when you are wasting 500k salary on someone you don’t use. And even less than that on a first round draft pick in 2010 that…again.. YOU DON”T FUCKING USE?
Why treat someone who is a fan favorite with as much respect as we treat any “Philly Villain” when they enter our domain?
Do you have no tact? No scruples? Do you not realize this is going to bite you in the fucking ass!?
I get on many fans cases when they bring up the point that this team is only here because of the fans primarily because we only showed there was a market. Once the team came, we generally have no more say in the goings on of the team such as personnel. BUT, the one thing that is never really a point to mention that I damn well agree with, is when there is no faith in the management of said team. And frankly, this situation has finally come.
So I ask, Peter Nowak – does your ego know no bounds? Are you so strapped for cash that you, in your “soccer experience” can’t see what is plainly obvious to the common fan? How do you get off treating someone who gave it all for you like he expects it all without doing anything?
I ask of you Nowak, Hackworth, Sakiewicz – is there not a brain among you? Do you not know what we as a fan base from Philadelphia could do to you?
I’m certain you’ll come on board with some overblown, piece of shit response to fan outrage saying “It is not like that” and “Media is blowing it out of proportion. Doesn’t know what they are saying.” and all the like, creating more of a PR shit storm separating yourselves from us. Do you really think that behind your iron curtain of no information and fluff pieces and fake smiles you can really prevent the truth from us?
If your money problems are really that true (considering you’re also getting 3 million a year from Bimbo ($12/4 years, please correct if wrong)) then I hope to god you have a good season, because otherwise, we will hurt you where it’s obvious where you care about.
- Thank you Chris Vito for giving me permission to take quotes from his article… sorry I took more than I thought I would take.
It’s always fun to get together with 300 other friends who share one common joy - what some could consider obsessive – of a soccer team during the offseason. Why not, it’s fun to catch up with people when you don’t get a chance to see them regularly. The even better side is that a fundraiser is attached to this party.
The Sons of Ben, in their 5th year of existence, were able to make a deal to use McFadden’s at Citizen’s Bank Park for the annual Help Kick Hunger event, which in my view means there was a large amount of pull to reserve this location. Not only were they able to get a large, fun location for the entire group, the Sons of Ben, Bearfight Brigade, and the Philadelphia Union were able to raise $8,300 for HKH – this event alone! That’s a remarkable feat for any young, small group. The even better kicker is that another event is not far off to raise money – annual Stache Bash will be coming soon (opening day), and if you enjoy seeing weird looking moustaches, this event is for you.
I’d like to give a thanks to the Philadelphia Union for co-ordinating with the SoB’s and bringing Brian Carroll, Zach Pfeffer and Jimmy McLaughlin. As well a special thanks to the SoB’s who ran, set up, volunteered, and got the prizes to give away. I’ve done much smaller events like this before, and it’s such a hassle. What you do is greatly appreciated. An even bigger thanks to Veljko Paunovic for coming out. I’m sure he had no obligation to attend, but still came out for the fans. He is nothing but class, and we here wish him well in his next step in life (hopefully assisting with the Philadelphia Union..cough..cough).
Some highlights of the night – aside from the ongoing BearFight tournament:
1) The total amount of funds raised.
2) A ‘suprise’ announcement teaser, which includes the Philadelphia Union, MLS, and the City at City Hall on Tuesday. All are invited. 10:30 AM IN City Hall. Follow the bunch of people in Union gear. We can all make assumptions on what it’s possibly about.
3) The presentation of the Serbian flag to Paunovic.
4) The Bearfight Brigade is now sponsored by Monster.
As for my time at the event – let’s just say the beer was flowing.
Today, in the MLS Expansion Draft, the Montreal Impact selected Union midfielder Justin Mapp with 1 of their 10 selections from MLS rosters. Analyzing the list of players Union left unprotected, the most likely people to be selected were Mapp or Kyle Nakazawa. Naka and his ukelele get to stay rocking Manayunk for the time being, but we bid adieu to the most one-footed player Union have ever employed.
The statistics for Mapp are available on websites elsewhere, so I won’t bother you with them in this space. My take on Justin is that his drifting into the center of the pitch from the wing created congestion and not much else. He wore out a path in that direction that will only be equalled by the Villanova-Delaware football game to be played @ PPL Park. He will be easily replaced, and has been relegated to “butt-end of the joke” status. Peace out, Baldy.
Saturday, September 3rd, Wednesday, September 7th, and Saturday, September 10th. Those three dates collectively represent a pivotal point in this, the second year of Union’s existence. Be it the unscheduled bye-week, or the ton of rain we got due to Pain-in-the-Ass-Storm Irene, but the slate feels wiped clean. But only temporarily.
This Saturday, Union travel to Rio Tinto Stadium to take on Real Salt Lake. This is the match that was rescheduled because RSL was trying to secure domination over the region, and they lost in the final of the CONCACAF Champions League tournament. They’ve cleaned their faces of tears since then and are back to their normal top-of-MLS form, so this match is very important. This is the statement where I become a broken record: A draw in this match, normally, would be acceptable, but Union’s amassing of draws makes this a must-win. Now that I got that out of the way, let’s boil this one down. RSL are missing a handful of players to international duty and injury. Union are missing the suddenly error-prone Carlos Valdes to mandatory 1-game red card suspension. RSL still has that nasty-haired Kyle Beckerman because Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t plan to use him on 9/2 friendly against Costa Rica. More detail tomorrow in a match preview, this REALLY is a must-win.
The trap game is the also-rescheduled match versus New England Revolution. A number of fans will be annoyed that this match was rescheduled from a weekend to mid-week. I’ll be annoyed if Union win by fewer than 2 goals. The biggest impediment to Union in this fixture is complacency. They are not in a position to take a sorry-ass team like the Revs for granted. There will likely be some different faces in the lineup because some of the guys will need to be rested after the RSL match. The key will be those players playing like they want to earn a more playing time.
The last of this trifecta is a home date with the Portland Timbers. The hope here is that Union have built some momentum from solid, inspired play from the rest of the week, and they overwhelm Portland with high-quality play. Worst-case scenario: We’re looking at this match as one we hope to salvage at least a point from so that the week isn’t a complete disaster.
The team will be missing Keon Daniel to international duty, which sucks for us because that means more Justin Mapp (boooooo). It may, also, mean more time for Michael Farfan (yaaaaaaaay). This is also the time that Freddy Adu needs to accelerate his learning curve and orchestrate Union’s offense the way we all optimistically think he can. The offense has been stagnant for a large majority of the season and Freddy certainly has some playmaking ability. He needs to prove his worth to the team in the run of play, and make sure that Sebastien Le Toux doesn’t take any more corner kicks. It’s also time for Danny Mwanga to score some goals. Especially, if I’m claiming that this week defines the entire season. It would be nice if Carlos Ruiz doesn’t end the season as the team’s leading scorer.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
The Freddie Adu Experiment is underway. It’s a two-fold experiment: One side is Freddie proving that his positive performances with the U.S. National Team are a product of his overall maturation, and the other side is adding player into the Union side with less than half of the season left to play.
Adu’s path back to Major League Soccer has been circuitous, to say the least. He was signed by a Portugese team, and was loaned to teams in Greece, Turkey, and probably some recreation league teams and we just didn’t know about it. The point is, his passport has more ink than Lizardman’s body. The fact that he never locked down a spot with a top team was not all that surprising considering the modest success he enjoyed in MLS prior to that. Yes, he had youth on his side, but if one is to believe that he was the savior of soccer, shouldn’t he have been near the league’s best player? He re-emerged, however, as a surprise addition to the CONCACAF Gold Cup roster, and acquitted himself quite nicely. It could be said that in the last 2 matches of that tournament that he was the best American (damn that Giovani Dos Santos!). The propaganda that we’re being sold, er, the explanation is that he is still just 22 years old, and world football is tough. Freddie has been forged in the fires of superior training and higher-level strategy, and he is a new-and-improved version of the petulant, entitled brat, who used to mouth off to Coach Nowak (how he lived to tell about it, we’ll never know. He must have some scandalous photos).
His developement is all well and good. A team can never be at a loss for quality players, regardless of the sport. There is this simple matter of timing to be considered, however. Freddie was added to this team with roughly 1/3 of the team’s matches left to play. That doesn’t leave much time for him to find his fitness, and then figure out how the hell he’s going to fit with this team. I fully expected Adu to be in the starting XI this past Saturday vs. FC Dallas. The jerseys were already on sale (and if you think that doesn’t matter, you’re just clueless), and there was just so much hype and buzz about the signing. I don’t disagree with him getting minutes right away, but there were certain things he should have been aware of before coming on to the field, and observing from the bench would have taught him the following:
Justin Mapp only has one functional leg, Sebastien Le Toux couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat (unless the ball is stationary 12 yards from goal with only a keeper in front of him), there are 2 Farfans and they both play out of position (Gabe at left back, Mike at bench), Brian Carroll is zero part of the offense, Keon Daniel should be logging the lion’s share of the minutes at left midfield, Danny Mwanga is really talented but confused by his lack of minutes, and Jack McInerney is in the same boat.
My feeling is that for the rest of this month, Adu’s inclusion is going to be seen as a distraction and a disruption. This period of adjustment will only yield more draws, as the team will once again have to find an identity. I applaud the front office for trying something to get the team out of its rut of drawing matches, so that it can make the playoffs. Chemistry is vital in team sports, and Union do not have it. Players do not seem to know where to be, nor do they know what one another are thinking. There is seemingly no system in place to govern how players move without the ball. They don’t play enough minutes with the same team to inately understand where the passes are going. The addition of Adu, while good for the long-term, will continue this discombobulated trend. There is a saying in sports that it’s not how you start, but how you finish. If Union can’t get this figured out soon, there finish will come after the 34th game of their season.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
Dan K. and Nick Y. joined Murph of The Union Dues. Thanks are owed to Earl Gardner for hosting the 3 of us, and for all of his production work. We both look forward to being invited back to the YSA Report again in the near future.