That’s how the boxscore of Union vs New England Revolution reads. Those who watched the entire match know that it’s something else. We saw 2 games in one night: one that finished 4-1 Revs, and another that finished 3-0 Union. Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities begins with “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…” and it’s that kind of either-end-of-the-spectrum night that Wednesday night was. The worst-of-times/age-of-foolishness first half saw Union unable to defend a set piece and allowing a guy (AJ Soares) to score his first ever MLS goal. From watching the play, you’d have thought he was their leading scorer. Soares knew that if he struck the header cleanly, there was no chance for Zac MacMath to keep it out of the net. There was a greater chance that Zac would have lost an appendage if he had made contact. Regardless of who is held to blame for Soares running free, it demonstrated a lack of defensive awareness, and the perils that can be immediately presented. The foul that lead to the penalty kick was another play where lack-of-awareness was the culprit. I don’t agree with the foul call at all. Be that as it may, the attacking player was running towards the corner flag, and Stefani Miglioranzi was in position to defend that. He was not, however, in position to win the ball off of the throw-in. He’s just not fast enough (must be those cement shoes I keep talking about, you know, the ones that should have him anchored to the bench). So, he makes the risky decision, and we know the result: 2-0 down to the the lowest-scoring team in the league, before the Sons of Ben could even break into “4 Leaf Clover.” The 3rd conceded goal was an example of what can happen when a midfielder is playing in defense. I like Gabe Farfan, but he, as everyone at this point knows, is not a fullback. It’s just not what he is naturally adept at. Therefore, I was not surprised when he was caught marking 2 New England attackers in the 6-yard box, and that play resulted in a goal. He is just not naturally a defender and tracking a cross in the air is not his strong suit. He underestimated the flight of the ball, made a great effort to change the cross’ course, but to no avail. He shouldn’t be in that position, and it showed on that play. Skipping over Roger Torres’ goal, we go to Benny Failhaber, I mean, Feilhaber collecting a failed clearance, and not having anyone actually close out on him so that he could chose which loop of the net to hit. As with the goal scored by Kyle Beckerman in the loss to RSL, chasing a player from behind IS NOT MARKING HIM! Note to Union players (not that I think any of them read this blog): if you see one of your teammates trailing the guy with the ball and he can’t seem to catch up, STEP UP AND WIN THE FUCKING BALL INSTEAD OF LETTING THEM SHOOT ON YOUR NET!!!
Now that I’ve vented the negative, on to the best-of-time/age-of-wisdom portion of the post. The wisdom was unearthed by Roger Torres. The diminutive playmaker used the unorthodox play to catch Matt Reis off guard and breathe life into a Union side on life support. The ball played into him by Sheanon Williams should have been played back to Williams with one touch. That play would have been a threatening scoring chance in itself. Roger, however, deftly turned on a quick pivot, and neatly bent his shot around Reis into the top far corner. The shame of the first 45 was that this was the only goal Union had to show for their solid play in controlling possession and creating chances. Half-time couldn’t have come at a better time. I thoroughly enjoyed the further “wisdom” of Coach Peter Nowak in getting Miglioranzi the hell off of the field, and removing Gabe Farfan. Even better, was the he replaced those two with Mike Farfan and Danny Mwanga, in effect forcing his team into playing a 3-4-3. That is a much better “kitchen sink” formation than in matches past. The old version of the desperate offensive tactic would have 4 forward trying to figure out how to not get in anyone else’s way. This version had 3 attacking mids (Marfan, Adu, Torres) balanced centrally by Brian Carroll, with 3 forwards (Ol’ Serby Bastard, Le Toux, Mwanga). It was a dream scenario, seemingly, to get both Adu and Torres on the field from the start, but it happened, and was a good move proven in the first 10 minutes of the latter half. The 3 forwards put more pressure on New England than they knew what to do with, and Danny Mwanga’s soft first-touch allowed him to turn on the ball and send a deftly-placed pass into the path of Freddy Adu. Adu may be a bust in the soccer world to-date, but his finish was confident and poised. It also let the audience know that the match was far from decided. Then came the Sebastien Le Two show. The first of his (Le) two goals was set up by his Academy Award-winning performance in framing Pat Phelan for tackling him in the box. Phelan was watching the ball going across the face of goal after the flick-on header. He wasn’t aware that Seba was where he was, and his own attempt to usher the ball harmlessly over the endline turned into the 3rd Union goal. Seba created the contact, like an NBA player would do to get to the free throw line. The thoroughly-confused referee bought it, and Seba finshed the play off with his 4th PK on the season. And the capper was a Le Two’s second goal of the game, and second of this week that he lashed in on a volley played to him perfectly off the Ol’ Serby Bastard’s Ol’ Serby Shoulder.
In the aftermath, the post-match headlines read that Union came back from two 3-goal deficits to earn a point. We’re lead to believe that this is a positive result. However, before the match began, all Union fans looked to this match as the cure-all for the rut they’ve been in where a draw is the inevitable outcome. They’ve fallen behind Columbus and Sporting KC in the Eastern Conference standings, and three points from this tilt would have been greatly welcomed. So, seeing O.S.B. kick a field goal over the crossbar, head a ball wide, shoot another point blanker even wider, among many other chances, makes me think that 4 goals was underachieving. The comeback was riveting, without a doubt. I felt pride in this team for overcoming the adversity. However, their adversity was self-inflicted (see opening paragraph). The best thing about this match is that the next one is only 3 days later. Speaking of which…
Saturday, September 10, Union vs Portland Timbers from PPL Park in Chester, PA, 7:30pm on The Comcast Network
The third of their 3-matches-in-8-days odyssey has them hosting the Portland Timbers. The Timbers handed Union their second loss on the season, way back in early May. Portland has won their last 2 league matches, but they haven’t played since 8/24 which was a 1-0 win over Chivas USA. I perused their schedule/results page on the team website and it shows that they still have trouble winning away from home. I hope this continues.
The other thing I hope continues is the midfield partnership of Freddy Adu and Roger Torres. They are so dynamic on the ball that scoring chances seem possible every time the team possesses the ball over midfield. The necessary change is to not have more than one defensive midfielder. It’s a match where three points are desperately needed. Not that it can be expected, but it would be nice to see a replica of the second half against New England on Saturday versus Portland. Union seem to play better with a fire lit under them, as would be the case when you trail a crappy team by 3 goals. Nonetheless, they played very well because they made runs into the offensive half that allowed them to spread the Rev defense out. This made it easier for Union to keep possession, and more importantly, keep possession away from their own goal. Having Adu and Torres together is the creative attacking quality this side can be at their best with, and will allow them to put on a better showing for the fans. I hope Freddy’s late-game cramping against New England doesn’t prevent him from starting in this match. Prediction:… fuck it, I have no idea anymore.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
Tonight, 8pm, from PPL Park in Chester, PA. Watch it on The Comcast Network because the weather outside is frightful…
This is the match that was rescheduled due to heavy rains from Hurricane Irene, so it’s all too fitting that tonight’s tilt be effected by rain. They will not need to water the pitch pre-match. If anything, they may need to get some industrial fans to dry the thing out. Roger Torres is short enough, if he sinks in at all, we may lose him. Like, picture-on-the-side-of-a-milk-carton lose him.
The bottom line for this match is that New England is a bad team. The only success Union have had since the first 3rd of the season has been against bad teams, so one would hope that they would take advantage. I really did think last match against RSL would end in a draw, but that was also me assuming that Union knew, at this point of the season, how to defend a short-corner. Er go, I was wrong on both accounts.
And, I am no longer going to put in predictions for the starting XI. I’m just completely confounded by how I can’t once get it right. The one spot I DO know is that Zac MacMath will start in net (although I may have just sent a jinx and Thorne Holder will be the first name on the lineup card) (wait, is that a reverse jinx? I don’t know, fuck it). I want the goal-scoring floodgates to open for Sebastien Le Toux, now that he finally scored from the run of play. Some people say it was bad goaltending that lead to that goal, but that shot was blistered and RSL keeper Nick Rimando did well to be in somewhat the right position to get a piece of it. If you want to see bad goalkeeping, harken back to 2010 and research Seitz, Chris. With Seba no longer carrying a monkey with him on the pitch, hopefully, he’s primed to be the dual offensive threat he was last year.
My prediction is that some of the players will be advised to wear swimmies to prevent them from drowning, but the match will be played, many hot dogs will be consumed (it’s dollar-dog night!), and Union will draw this match because the field conditions will make for a disjointed offensive match.
Nick, the other .5 of Unholy Union
Saturday, September 3rd at 9pm EST, from Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, UT
So, the moment we’ve waited for since late April: the chance to play RSL on their turf. Maybe someone like Freddy Adu can gesture to the Sandy, Utah, faithful in the same manner that (former “Asshole of the Week” honoree) Fabian Espindola interacted with our fans. Very endearing, let me tell you. (editor’s note: To find out who August’s “Asshole of the Week” was, listen to the YSA Report podcast, at ysareport.com. Thank you for enduring this shameless self-promotion)
Union are catching RSL at an interesting time in the season. The FIFA international break has taken a few players away from Jason Kreis, but his core will still remain familiar. Though on the U.S. roster, Kyle Beckerman, he of the birds’ nest hairdo, is still available for RSL as he will not play in tonight’s friendly against Costa Rica. Every time I see that guy I think of Bob Marley music, until I realize that’s an insult to Marley. Anyway, Union really need the 3 points, and having Beckerman out would have made that easier. Union played RSL tough as kind of gave the game away when the teams met in Chester and settled for a draw. The Union have had ample time to rest up, considering their last match was postponed due to some big storm that came through the area. I hope that Union found their collective goal scoring touch, maybe through osmosis?
I fully expect Freddy Adu to be in the starting lineup this week. Coach Peter Nowak’s had 2 weeks to practice with him and work his fitness level up. So, I expect him to be a the center of the midfield diamond. Ol’ Serby Bastard will probably be in there somewhere because, well, he’s the OSB. I expect Le Toux to be on the right wing of midfield because, well, he has photos of someone doing something they didn’t want photos of them doing. Kidding. That’s the reason he gets to take corner kicks. Anyway, he belongs on the wing because he sets up goals, he doesn’t score them. Mapp will be on the left. Carroll or Okugo will play the CDM role. The interesting thing about the Union lineup, for a change, is who will play at centerback next to Danny Califf? Carlos Valdes is suspended for 1 match due to yellow card accumulation, and that should have been for the New England match, but the weather postponed it, so it becomes this match. Stefani Miglioranzi has played the position before, when Califf missed a game due to illness, so I’d expect him to start again. The $193,000-paperweight, a.k.a. Juan Diego Gonzalez, will still keep his streak of not playing a single minute of a league match alive. Then again, this is Nowak’s team. He may bench Califf and start Migs AND JDG, for all I know.
The most interesting development is that Megan Rapinoe, from the US Women’s National Team, will be in attendance as part of some ceremonies and other media-attention-grabbing stuff. My hope is that she can teach Sebastien Le Toux how to properly strike a cross (find the YouTube clip of Abby Wambach’s game-tying goal against Brazil) so his corner kicks don’t suck for eternity. But, for the match, I expect a 1-1 draw. It will be painful to watch, and I will curse at the television constantly, but I fear that is Union’s fate.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
Sunday, August 28 @ 7pm, PPL Park in Chester, PA
Match prediction: This match won’t get played.
Hurricane Irene is going to rip the East Coast a new one, engulfing us in perilous amounts of rain and wind. On second thought, maybe the wind will help Sebastien Le Toux’s corner kicks actually bend…… but I digress. I think the weather is going to render the pitch unplayable. Which may or may not be a good thing, based on their recent performances. I think they need more practice time to get used to the Ruiz-less lineup that they still haven’t adjusted to yet. And there’s that Freddy Adu guy that still needs to be worked in to the mix. Maybe they can also use the rainy day and watch a movie called “Union vs Toronto FC from May 28, 2011.” I know that’s one of MY favorites.
The other aspect to consider are the faithful supporters who will brave the elements to attend this match. I think the match should be postponed in advance of this weather event to save the supporters from themselves. The match against Seattle showed that not all ticket-holding fans will show up during a rainy game, but a significant number of fans did. And this storm Sunday is not a run-of-the-Seattle-mill rain storm. There’s nothing I would rather have to round off my weekend than a Union shellacking of the Rev’s, but in the interest of public safety, this match should be played another day. We’ll have fun watching New England lose regardless of what date it’s actually played, so we can stow this game away for a rainy day. Oh, wait, nevermind.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
8pm Saturday, PPL Park in Chester, PA, on 6ABC
First off, it can’t be said enough how STUPID it is to have your team named “Dynamo.”
Now, Union are coming off yet another disappointing result, albeit a draw where they at least collected a point. This is in contrast to the VERY disappointing home loss to Colorado, which collected them zero points. That being said, the result against Chicago wasn’t unexpected, given that they reverted to the maddening lineup decision to start with two central defensive midfielders. Given the lineup used Wednesday, I haven’t the foggiest friggin clue who will complete the XI Saturday. One thing is for sure, Sheanon Williams will return to right fullback.
And that’s a good thing because he will have his hands full with Houston left wing Brad Davis. The MLS “All-Star” (I put quotes around it because that team was a farce, but Davis is legitimately good) is what fuels Houston’s offense with his deft crosses. He’ll try to find Will Bruin and Brian Ching in the 18-yard box, and they’ll presumably try to score goals. I hope, of course, they don’t. It will be a reunion of sorts for Faryd Mondragon and Houston ‘keeper Tally Hall, who last saw each other taking turns betting beaten by Manchester United players during the “All-Star” game.
About our netminder, if it wasn’t for his positioning for a couple of saves, Union would have lost to Chicago by multiple goals. He came up huge in that match moreso than any match this season, and is the reason they were able to earn a point from last match. And that display happened with an additional defensive midfielder. So, the offense sucked, and the defense sucked. To me, that equals “don’t use that lineup anymore.” But this is a Peter Nowak team, so he’ll probably trot out the same lineup, but with Williams in it, just to piss me off.
Justin Mapp needs to sit. Sebastien Le Toux needs to stop taking free or corner kicks. Roger Torres needs to explain to his teammates what he’s looking for when he has the ball at his feet. The other attacking midfielders need to be more like Torres and not pass the ball backwards on one touch all the time. Carlos Valdes needs to remember how he played the first half of the season. My faith in this team isn’t waning, but they’re not playing well right now. Expect a 1-1 draw, and the need to drink sweet tea to get the bitter taste out of your mouth afterwards.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
Tonight, 9pm, Comcast SportsNet, from Toyota Park in Bridgeview, IL.
So, who in the hell is going to play right fullback? Sheanon Williams’ red card against Colorado has put Union in an unfamiliar position. They are already playing with a mid-season replacement at left back, Gabriel Farfan, but have yet to have to replace their right back for even a minute of this season. This should be a massive problem, right?
Enter the Chicago Fire, who own the league’s worst home record. If there was EVER a good time to find out exactly how much versatility this roster has, this is the week. My guess is it’ll be our other Farfan, Michael, because, well, that’s Nowak’s new philosophy. When in doubt, just put Farfan in there. Who knows what he’s going to do if they need another attacking midfielder. Maybe Gabe and Mike have another brother, or a cousin….
Anyway, the bigger issue here is the need for Union to rebound from their first home loss of the season, and their first time in a long time not atop the standings table. A mid-week match against a bottom-feeder seems just the remedy. I normally think these mid-week matches are more arduous for the side, thus not a good thing, but in this case, the team needs to get the bad taste of last match out of their collective mouths. The sooner the next match came, the better.
I don’t care about Chicago’s team. Tonight is about Union accomplishing what they should get accomplished. Which means I do NOT want to see Kyle Nakazawa in the starting XI. He has looked tentative in attack ever since the friendlies against the European teams. The person who has looked best in that same timespan is Roger Torres. Starting him, however, would defy Nowak-logic, thus I expect Veljko Paunovic to start in the CAM spot tonight…. not that I want it that way, it’s just what is likely to be. And on that note, is it a good thing or a bad thing that we, as fans, have not the foggiest idea of what our starting XI will be from week to week? I say it’s a good thing, because it gives me something to discuss in previews, and something to complain about in post-match critiques.
So, for what I expect to happen, not what I would like, It will look something like:
Mwanga Le Toux
Mapp Carroll Paunovic Daniel
Garfan Califf Valdes Marfan
I could see this playing as a 3-5-2 also, with Paunovic playing as a CAM/recessed striker, and Neon Keon sliding into a more central position to allow Marfan to play the right wing. That’s likely how the attack will evolve anyway when pushing forward, but I think Nowak will have them start in the 4-4-2 they’ve played almost all of the season. Also, if Nowak would like to start Jack McInerney and show Sebastien Le Toux what the bench looks like, I’d be ok with that, too. Whoever plays in this match, I want a decisive victory for Union, at least 2-0. I think the clean sheet would be a nice achievement given that their normal right back is not in the lineup. They need to play more like 2nd half vs Colorado than 1st half vs Colorado. It’s about results, and Union need one badly to keep up with Columbus and to stay ahead of New York.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
Friday, July 29, 7:30pm, PPL Park, Chester, PA (Fox Soccer Channel)
Now that all of this “Let’s put together a collection of MLS players to be massacred by Manchester United” nonsense is over with, let’s move on to the unofficial 2nd half of the season. Union host defending league champ Colorado Rapids in the unusual Friday match. Being that this match happens just 2 days after the “All-Star Game” (It’s a shame that the people who vote for the players don’t actually watch the games, apparently. How the right side of the Union defense was not there is beyond….everyone), I wonder how in-form Faryd Mondragon will be. Granted, he only played in the first half of the match, and it was only in northern New Jersey, but Dragon usually poses with half of the other team to take pictures with his kids, and then gives the media comprehensive interviews, et cetera. There’s a chance that after the photo opportunities and jersey-trading, he didn’t leave Pink Cow Arena until 5am this morning.
For Colorado, Omar Cummings is the one attacking player I fear. I refer to him as “scary-good” for a reason. He played in the “All-Star Game” so I hope he is tuckered out from it. Unless he spent the match standing around studying Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant. In any event, I hope Omar is a bit off of his game. Especially since Rapids are already down Connor Casey who blew out his achilles’ tendon and is done for the year. We here at Unholy Union Blog wish him well and a complete recovery, so that Union can be responsible for kicking his ass next year. Speaking of injuries, the assailant in the gruesome Steve Zakuani leg-breaking is back. Brian Mullan has returned from suspension, having played 85 minutes against New England. If poetic justice truly existed, Casey’s injury would have happened to Mullan instead, but I digress. The other player to look for is Sanna Nyassi, who scored a hat trick against NY (and we thank him for that) 2 matches back. It’s likely that he’ll be up top with Cummings again, in an effort to score against a Union defense that’s better than what Manchester United saw Wednesday night (again HOW IN THE HELL COULD YOU CALL THAT GROUP “ALL-STARS”?????????).
Union are coming off of 2 impressive performances in friendlies against Everton and Real Madrid. There are plenty of positives to be taken out of those matches, as well as some things that need to be ignored. The win against Everton was good, however it must be tempered by the fact that Everton didn’t really care to win that game anyway. They would have been just fine with spending that evening at Harrah’s instead of putting on a good show for our fans. Roger Torres was the star of the game…. where noone attempted to put hard tackles in on him. He played great, in both games, but they’re meaningless friendlies, so no hard tackles to be adminstered means he left his jittery feet at home. They (and by they I mean Carlos Valdes) also learned that sometimes the simple play is the correct play. He whiffed twice on Saturday against Real and it lead to 2 goals. The first was him trying to trap the ball with his raised leg and missing it, the other was opting not to simply play the ball over the touchline but rather faking his opponent out to keep the ball in play. It serves as a reminder to all: make the simple play. Union are not Real Madrid, they are not fancy and electric on the ball. They are a workman-like team that is based on defensive strength.
The lineup I expect will have at least 1 Farfan in it. Ok, that’s a very simple statement to make, since one, Gabe, is the de facto left fullback, but his brother, Mike, acquitted himself nicely against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Traveling Circus, and may be in line for more minutes. At the expense of whom, you might ask? Kyle Nakazawa. Alzheimer’s patients look less lost than Naka did against Real Madrid. It’s no shame to get outplayed by a team I consider to be top-5 in the world. But his obvious lack of ability to find the game in any way was very disappointing. And in twisted Peter Nowak logic, that means Naka will probably start, because, Nowak fills out the lineup card and I don’t. We will see Carlos Ruiz, Danny Mwanga, and Sebastien Le Toux. We’ll also see Brian Carroll, and our normal back 5. Justin Mapp will go back to left wing, ho hum.
What I also expect to see is a 2-1 win for Union. This is the time of the season when 3 points are needed from home matches. This team has gelled well over the course of the season, and I believe these international friendlies have forced them to play more cohesively than any league match has. I’d like for Union to earn a clean sheet, but I fear Colorado’s attack too much to assume a shutout.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
RFK Stadium. Saturday night. 7pm. And we will be there.
Yes, this will be the first time the “Unholy Duo” will be attending a road Union match. And we can’t wait.
But to the preview of the match. This is the first league meeting of the season for these two teams, as their previous encounter was in a U.S. Open Cup qualifier (DC won that, on PKs, but whatever, it wasn’t a league match). DC sits 8 points below Union in the standings, but they’ve been in similar form to Union recently, both 1-1-3 in their last 5 matches. DC will welcome Dwayne de Rosario to their team, as he is expected to make his debut in their starting XI. Union fans know how it goes in the first match that a new player is introduced to the team and has little time to train (Ruiz, Paunovic). Hopefully, like Union, United will seem completely out of sorts and be unable to score a goal.
Union seem to be getting over the injection of Paunovic into their lineup. His scoring a goal has stopped me from ripping Union for signing a 33-year-old who had been retired longer than Union have existed. And that the team scored 3 goals in the match was encouraging. The big questions coming in are: Who starts at forward alongside Carlos Ruiz, who starts at right wing midfield if Le Toux is the other forward, and can the defense regain its form after conceding 2 goals last week? Seba made it known that he would like to be a forward only, and he would like Danny Mwanga up top with him. And I think most Union supporters agree. My guess is that Peter Nowak will start Le Toux with Ruiz again, and we’ll see a Farfan on the right wing. The less-certain answer is about the backline. I’m counting on some newcomer disorganization from DC to account for a lack of threats to the Union rearguard this match, but that may obscure the point that these guys are not as good as they were at the season’s outset. Other than Jordan Harvey getting a red card, and being subbed out a few times, the back line has played almost every minute of every match (yes, there was the one time Danny Califf was sick, I know). This may be a point in the season where they need to hit their second wind, so to speak. We’re only half way through the season, so the back four needs to regroup and shut down an opponent in their stadium.
My prediction is that the Union defense can not keep a clean sheet, but the offense will pick up the slack. I see this match ending 2-1 in favor of Union.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union