Clearly arguments can be made for both cases. 2 games in the season do not dictate the rest of the 32 left to play. This is the third year Nowak’s been in charge and the team has regressed. We have a lot of new players that Nowak believes will fit his style. The entire team chemistry is disrupted with the turnover of our playmakers. Our team needs time to start to gel together. Why send our team internationally for preseason games instead of playing games against our own competition?
This list for each can go on, and on, and on.
It’s easy as a Philadelphian to quickly jump down a coach’s throat – hell, we’ve been doing that to Andy Reid for 5 years, justifiably so (only the foolish think he can field “America’s team” ). But why, with seemingly all the wrong choices and the “clause of silence” all throughout Union management, should we hold back from attacking Nowak?
Well for starters he’ll make you run laps.
Being that this is practically a brand new team – 15 players remain from being on the 2011 roster at any point in the season, 9 (give or take) being primarily subs, with 1 now a regular starter – it does take time to gel. The question now, as we know with Nowak, is with the acquisitions made in the offseason, do these players not only gel with Nowak’s bipolar strategy (‘solid’ defense with defensive offensive pressure) but do they have the capability to perform as such.
With Carroll, Califf (if not taking a shot, apparently), and Valdes being the central defense it seems, you will often find Gomez and Williams pressing the ball into the offensive half (and the occasional Valdes, and Gomez drops back). This tallies for 5 players that are guaranteed to be conistent starters – barring national duty. Add in Pajoy as a viable outlet for crosses, set pieces, and our only offense it seems, this makes up 6 of our 10 players.
So… what gives?
Lopez has yet to impress, and has made costly foolish mistakes that have lead to goals. Mental lapses if you will (at least the one I saw against colorado, going for the ball instead of making sure the man behind him was marked). Being that this is his 8th year playing soccer, one can’t really explain why he would have these costly mental lapses – one would assume maybe it’s just the newness of everything getting to him, but a professional shouldn’t be making these mistakes.
This shows what we expect – or at least explains – 7 of our 10 field players who are going to be our regular starters (sans call ups). It almost seems like Nowak has most of the tools he needs (read wants) to implement his bipolar system. But sadly, we are still missing 3 players.
Who do we have for these three players? Well, a russian roulette of youth, talent, and immaturity. You can almost label any of these descriptions on our cast of characters – considering that Marfan is probably the odds on favorite for regular starter, who knows how many times even he will play. Adu, Mwanga, and Torres don’t even have guarantees in being a starter in any of these positions. And sadly, this is where our push forward in play will likely, and constantly, stall. Why? Inexperience with eachother. They are the connection from the backline to Pajoy, and even have direct paths toward net themselves – but because nothing is consistent with this area, it will always end up changing.
Looking at things in a breakdown, you almost wonder how we were only able to tally 1 goal a game so far. Albeit there have only been 2 games, but we should have a more solid team than even last year. So it goes to wonder – is Nowak almost completed with his experiment with our team and it will just take time? Or, is this just the beginning of the end for him?
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.
…Which is the obvious lead-in to the analysis of the midfield matchup. From my previous posts, and ANY playoff preview you may have read over the past few days, you’ve seen the name Brad Davis. He is the left wing midfielder for Houston Dynamo. He lead the league this season in assists. He’s pretty damn good. The rest of the Houston midfielders, meh, I think they’re just on the pitch to transition the ball from defense-to-Davis.
The Union midfield, I think, will be Justin Mapp, Brian Carroll, Michael Farfan, and……. I don’t know. Should be Roger Torres. Could be Freddy Adu. I still think Nowak wants to suit up. However, I will hate Coach if he starts a second defensive midfielder. The home game, I’m hoping, will be the game Nowak sees as his better opportunity to score goals and come out with a more attack-minded lineup. If they win this first game by 2 or more goals, only then will I not hate Nowak for going with a defensive lineup in the second leg. I know it’s great to have defensively responsible players on the pitch, but the best way to keep the ball out of your net is to keep it nearer to your opponent’s net. Besides, Roger Torres has become much better at winning the ball back in the midfield after turnovers. His skilled feet and field vision will be tremendous assets with Marfan and Mapp on the wings. From this blog to Nowak’s ears….
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union (@UnholyUnionNDY)
Philadelphia’s recent visit to Kansas City has ended, once again, in a 1-1 tie. This wasn’t a weak tie like earlier in the year, as KC was a real formidable attacking opponent, and both teams had a decent amount of chances. I for one considered this a must win, because it’s better to win now and tie later in such a tight eastern conference race, but various others considered this game a can’t lose considering how well KC has been playing, and we didn’t lose. Which is a plus.
As I have a friend who works at LiveStrong Park, I took the liberty of asking his opinion of the game, which I will rebut / comment on, etc. (PS- he used to be from PA and got a job out there, so he’s fairly unbiased in some senses)
“I thought it was a rather even game from both teams. If I had to say, Sporting Kansas City probably played a little better overall and in different stretches of the game but the Union were able to get Sporting out of their comfort zone of playing the attacking, offensive game they’re used to. Keeping the ball away from the front three of Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury, and Omar Bravo was how the Philadelphia Union were able to get the draw. Sporting had more chances to score but Philadelphia had better chances to score and that sort of evened things out for both. Both teams played much better than the first time they met in June where the Union pretty much went on a shooting rampage and had nothing to show for it due to a lack of finishing and Jimmy Nielsen. This game, the Union were able to get better chances and were better at finishing or getting in that position to finish while the Defense showed up for Sporting
Where the refereeing has been pretty erratic in MLS this season, I thought it was a semi-fairly called game. I know there will be some Sporting fans who will say that there were some calls that didn’t go our way near the end of the game but it was like that for both teams. From my vantage point, we got away with a few also. I noticed there were stretches where everything was getting called and other times where nothing was getting called. Personally, I like to see them play on as much as possible and see things be physical from both sides but that sort of inconsistency can’t be good for the players trying to guess what kind of mood the ref is in. Definitely thought it was one of the more cleaner games of the season which was good because it was a very physical game. “
Interjection – As he says the officiating was fairly decent, as the ref let the players play on for the most part and tried not to influence the game too much with calling fouls, but there are quite a few moments that Kei Kamara had lost his temper and could have been booked for dissent to the officials (he wasn’t saying “Golly” or “Fargle” if you know what I’m saying) and kicked the ball away in pure disgust clear after the whistle had blown, which is counted as dissent AND time wasting and would count for another booking. Guy needs some anger management. Back to the KC analysis
“Sebastien Le Toux definitely was the star of the game and probably the season for the Union. I haven’t been able to see many Union games this season and I have mainly heard of his play but seeing Le Toux play last night, he definitely is that sort of Striker that you can depend on getting a goal and lifting a team on his shoulders when it’s needed. I also want to commend the Sons of Ben and the Union fans who were at the stadium. I was sitting underneath their section at the tunnel but they were definitely the most vocal and loudest visiting group who has come to Livestrong Sporting Park and we only have two more MLS regular season home games versus Columbus Crew and New York Red Bulls. There were definitely more Seattle Sounders and L.A. Galaxy fans at those games when they were here but they were really only vocal after they scored. The Sons of Ben kept it up the entire game and at times, it was hard to hear the Cauldron on the other side of the stadium. I honestly think the Cauldron and the Sons of Ben are two of the best supporters groups in MLS and the Sporting KC and Union fans some of the best fans in MLS. It’s easy to be a Galaxy or Sounders fan when they’re always the top of the standings, are always on national TV, and have guys named Beckham and Donovan on their team. It’s much harder to be a Sporting KC fan when we were last in the East earlier this season and harder to be a Union fan when they were battling their scoring drought and were underachieving earlier this season.
All in all, the result definitely hurt Sporting Kansas City more than the Philadelphia Union. The draw puts Sporting in a tie for 1st with Columbus and Philadelphia in 3rd a point behind both with a game up. That extra game is the key for the Union and gives them a major advantage when it comes to obtaining 1st Place in the Eastern Conference especially when Sporting plays Columbus Wednesday night. I can imagine just with the body language around the team, Columbus is a must win if Sporting wants to think about 1st place in the East and be more comfortable in the top three. To those Union fans who visited LIVESTRONG Sporting Park for the game, I hope you had a good time. I know you’ll probably want to say PPL Park is a better stadium but this place is definitely one of the best places to see a Soccer game.”
Much of what my friend said was true. Late in the game KC finally got an attacking situation going, and was able to start getting Kamara into the game on the wings, which is probably much of why he was getting so frustrated, not at the refs but at our defense. Califf and Valdes must have really been giving him the business. Valdes was authoritative, and does what he often does to confuse fans since he’s a defender, but he was acting more like a counterattacking midfielder with how far up the field he was playing the ball.
Torres is classic Torres and has a keen ability with crossing the ball forward at the right pace for everyone. With how well he’s been playing, it’s frustrating that he wasn’t put in as a starter earlier in the year.
Paunovic was almost non-existent. With his breakout games when he first started, gotta wonder what happened with him. Still love the guy, but he took on Le Toux’s bad touch it seems.
Le Toux has his touch back, and all is right with the world. He had a few chances at sharp angles that a world class striker would have made, but the issue is not his shooting (and how many shots he does take) but it used to be his first touch. Michael Farfan made a beautiful save of Torres’ cross to prevent a goal kick, tapped it to Le Toux who taps it in. Earlier in the year, I don’t think Le2 would have made that goal.
Gabe Farfan is not a defender and let Bravo through on Kamara’s beautiful cross. There was almost no way for MacMath to save that. But, Gabe is still a better option than Nakazawa at back, who was getting burnt every time the ball was near him. Within 5 minutes the positioning was switched, Gabe fell back and Naka went forward, which is a much better option, as Naka was then close to non existent.
Carroll is a beauty still, and Okugo needs to show more of a presence than he has been.
With our flaws, it was a well skilled match from both sides, and either team could have taken the lead at any given moment.
Now, the ill-fated – STANDINGS
As it stands now (as of 6:56 pm on Saturday) Houston Dynamo has beaten FC Dallas and have taken claim of the number 1 spot in the Eastern Conference. Columbus and KC are now tied for 2nd place at 41 points, and we are now in 4th place in the East, holding the 3rd wildcard spot with 40 points, Portland is 37 and holds the 4th spot.
Situational Next upcoming games:
DC plays RSL. They are currently close to contention, but with a win can be competitive.
Columbus plays LA and can reclaim the top position before playing KC this coming Wednesday. A win both game will probably put them as the number 1 spot for the end of the season.
NY plays Portland. NY is at 36 points and Portland is at 37. This currently is for the 4th wildcard spot, but Portland can come up and tie the Union with points if they win this game.
Colorado holds the 2nd playoff spot at 41 points, and is playing San Jose. Probably a win there, but it’s good to know that we aren’t far off from some security.
So, sadly enough, we are rooting for RSL, LA, and a draw in Jersey. I may or may not update after tonight’s results.
|Sporting Kansas City||41||30||6|
|Wild Card Race||PTS||GP||GD|
|New York Red Bulls||36||29||3|
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.
As I’m sitting at home watching the USA vs Jamaica match, I figured I might as well put up a post of the travesty that was last night.
Philadelphia Union lost to Vancouver Whitecraps… i mean Riot… i mean.. whatever. 1 nothing. Vancouver’s goal, albeit nicely struck (easily a goal of the week candidate) was sour in every sense of the word, like sour gummi worms.
At first, I thought we were in for a good game. I liked the referee prior to this game (Alex Prus), he was decent in the game at PPL so I figured it would be a well officiated game. Union have been making decent lineups from the get go, so before the game I had a great feeling.
Then I saw Miglioranzi in the lineup. Paunovic, our newly acquired 2 1/2 year retired, 33 year old serbian.
Being an away game i was on twitter with all the fellow union fans on their computers or smart phones. I myself was at a computer… needing a new beer I came back to this tweet which my response started a craze:
Philly Soccer Page
Anyone have a good reason Mwanga shouldn’t start? Or anything official?
@phillysoccerpg old serbian and old migz
Apparently my response of the fact we have an old serbian began a hashtag joke frenzy you can see here at brotherly game. Again thanks for the credit.
This was a welcome distraction, as well as Andrew from The Union Dues coming up with #rememberthetimemigs comments that were painfully funny only because they were heartbreakingly true (“Remember the time when migs was taken off and mystified me as to why? i don’t” ). Needless to say, a game where the majority of comments are heckling your own players doesn’t bode well for game reviews…
In between me yelling at Hassli to go back to Green Street and making jokes about anyone and everything, the refereeing was atrocious. Plenty of hard tackles,scissor tackles from behind, and inconsistent calls that are consistent with the MLS officiating. But sadly, we can’t blame this game on officiating alone. So who can we blame it on? Our defense? Offense? The other team?
Well, our defense was good. Our offense had their own pressing moments, but hardly any shots on goal… and any shots on goal were by Carroll, so they are in the list of blame. Vancouver played terribly, in every sense of the word – nothing pretty about their play, and they weren’t at all good. So what could possibly be the problem?
Unless of course he’s on a coke binge and it’s his 5th day awake, what in god’s name makes you think the lineup last night is any good at all. We have Paunovic who is new being paired up with Le Toux. Okay, experienced striker who is 2 1/2 years rusty, with someone who is on a dry streak this year. Experience may overcome the odds, if he played his position and not deep in the middle of midfielders… so we had Le Toux who runs all over, and Paunovic who is receeded, we clearly have no one to feed any counterattacks to. Atrocious.
Not only that, we threw Miglioranzi back into the mix i suppose to say “Yes, you’re still on the team”. He is as wanted in the lineup from fans as a colonoscopy.
So with a lineup that was destined for a come from behind game, the surprise appearance of a professional referee being an MLS referee, and members of Vancouver playing like they are prepping for a UFC match, it was an ugly game for everyone. Very few chances created by the Union, we were set to fail from the beginning with another lineup scratching our heads, and a worse performance than we did in FC Dallas.
Only a few plays are worthy of comment:
Vancouver’s goal -
It’s hard to say, but our defense lapsed in thinking allowing Rochart to make a strike from outside the box into the far side out of Mondragon’s reach. Someone on twitter asked if he was 5 years younger would he have made that save. The answer is no – mostly because it was a good challenging strke and the only thing that could have allowed Mondragon to save it would have been his postioning on the angle, which was maybe only a step too far to the wrong side.
Mondragon on defense -
Twice this man ran out into the run of play on a ball, and twice left the net open scarily giving us all agita. Luckily enough vancouver is that bad – once losing the ball before any threatening play, and the second time our defense collapsed into the box and proved their worth by blocking the shot out of bounds before it could get near the goal.
Most everything else could be summed up from other analyses – Migs gives up the ball too many times, bad passes. No offense, no shooting. What is Nowak thinking. ETC, ETC. The only thing we can take away from this game is a bitter taste in our mouth, a feeling of being cheated, and wondering why we lost a 3 points that should have been a given.
I was going to make the title “Making Canada our bitch” but it’s a bit too long of a title. So generic title you get.
Result – Union 6!!!!! TFC – 2
Where has this team been? That’s all I have to ask. Where in God’s name has this team been? Everything went right, except for Le Toux’s touch. There’s so much elation I don’t know where to begin…
The 300 pound gorilla in the room …
Carlos Ruiz was benched and sat for this game. I know plenty of people are rejoicing on this, and are making a statement that because he was not there, this opened up the center channel for our attack. I would have to reiterate that until recently, with or without Ruiz, we HAD no attack. And if we did, it wasn’t a very good one anyway.
Clearly with Ruiz going to be gone due to national duties during the Gold Cup, Nowak wanted the team to have confidence to play without him. What better of a team to do that with than the beaten stepchild of TFC – bottom of the table, most shots against on goal, just…terrible. And they are canadians. The one way to work on this is clearly to change the strategy of the bucket defense, and create an attacking soccer mentality in a 4-1-3-2 formation with Carroll being the only defensive midfielder. This clearly worked as our midfielders were the ones scoring (not even our strikers!). Why can’t they do that even if Ruiz was there?
I’ve been asking all season, before and after his injury – where is Justin Mapp. He answered with a flash of genius in Dallas, then proved that he is actually awake when playing Chicago, and suddenly he breaks out saying “Shut up bitch” by getting 2 amazing goals from distance. Key word – from distance. Most everything about his, and the team’s play was brilliant.
Not only that, someone else who has taken a liking of not shooting when he needs to also scored from distance, Naka-naka-nakazawa. He started to shoot a bit last week, I’m sure it was in spite of the YSA podcast saying ‘he has a deer in headlights mentality to an open lane shot’ (a collaborative “your welcome” on behalf of Union Dues) and this week he puts a beauty in on goal. About time is all I have to say.
The Wonder Twins
No real critique, I just wanted to say the wonder twins. A week after M gets a goal, G comes up with his own in the first 2 minutes of play. That’s right, 2 minutes. For those that missed the first few minutes due to grilling or getting a beer, you have poor timing.
Strikers – lack there of
I don’t know about you, but when a team is able to decimate a team (worthy of decimating) by playing attacking soccer, and the first 4 goals scored in open play are with midfielders and not strikers, that’s saying something. Le Toux, the 400 pound gorilla (bigger than Ruiz) is still loved, and dare I critique him, be it either the pressure of not scoring, the pressure of defense (that I don’t see at all), or just a fluke of a year with the club (work rate aside) he should probably have also sat this game, or at least be subbed out. With a chance to exclamate our route over TFC he cleared the ball point blank over the post in the final seconds of the 1st half.
On points brought up – there seems as though there is a lot of pressure for him to score. About last year being a fluke, 11 games in and his only goal is a PK, he can’t (nor hardly ever) get a set piece on frame. His personal pressure must be so tough that he’s rushing an open sided net goal that he should have just tapped in and makes it soar.
Is he a defensive mark for other teams – well, considering last year he should be. Considering his first touch this year, he should be more so as represented by the terrible giveaway that lead to TFC’s 2nd goal in the 2nd half. His workrate and freedom to move around the field the main defense against him as he runs all the way to the backline, and when on an offensive counter has to double time to get up to a playable position for the ball, which by that time in most other games, gets dribbled into a failed attempt, or goes out for a goal kick. He did however have a brilliant start for the play that lead to the Kyle Nakazawa goal, but all in all he is just amounting himself to be the favorite son of Philly, and that’s that in my view. All in all, I have no problems with Mwanga not “sharing” a practical open net goal to Le Toux, I have a feeling he would have aired it over the net.
I got nothing. TFC is a terrible team, and anytime there isn’t a primary focus and ’decent’ analysis by me on the defense the better, which means we controlled the game for the most part. 2 main breaks – beginning of the 2nd half:
What was Mondragon doing? That was the worst decision he’s made. Yes he may have been beat if he stayed in goal since the team seemed to feel great about the lead and let that ball get through, but when a goalie goes out that far outside the box, he has to make damn sure he gets the ball. He really hung himself out to dry there in the end.
2nd goal – giveaway by Le Toux – you really can’t blame the defense on this one. Le toux just gave it up and that caused everyone to become flatfooted with no time to recover to make a good attempt at their impersonation of the iron curtain.
What to take away from this game
We can score.
We’re a good enough team to know that the games we should win, against the lower rankings, we can with force.
We can play attacking soccer.
We can score. Oh lordy we can score.
When: Saturday, 12:30 PM
Where: Toronto (hide your fruit)
Why: Cause it’s not a real country anyway
A little afternoon delight for Union fans with the 12:30pm start, as our boys in blue (and gold stripe) head north of the border to take on a Toronto squad that has lost only once at BMO Field. About BMO Field, the match between TFC and Vancouver Whitecaps had to be postponed Wednesday night because the pitch became unplayable due to rain. The weather in Toronto is supposed to be rather pleasant for match time on Saturday, but how will the field recover in time? If nothing else, this gives rise to rampant singing of South Park’s “Blame Canada,” but I digress…
Union are coming off of a relative offensive explosion. 2 goals. That’s explosive for this team. I know, it’s sad. The bigger view is that they went ahead against Chicago, conceded a goal that equalized the match, and recovered to score the game-winner. They earned 3 points where 1 seemed imminent, based on the shoddy offensive output of the season at that point. They will try to improve on their road mark, which has seen them only gain 3 points from 4 matches. Look for Carlos Ruiz (I’ll use his real name instead of a derogatory nickname for this week, he earned it) to play a little harder, as he will soon depart for Gold Cup duty for his native Guatemala. I’d like to think 2 things about Sebastien Le Toux’s effort from the Chicago match: 1) It’s going to become the norm after his early season slumber, and 2) It will hopefully yield a goal from the run of play.
The injury to Amobi Okugo’s ankle is unfortunate, and will keep him out for 3 weeks, so expect Kyle Nakazawa to start with Brian Carroll, Justin Mapp, and a Farfan brother. The backline will be the same as it has been except for when Jordan Harvey was a victim of refereeing stupidity. Toronto appears to be made up of a bunch of guys who are only good enough to make the final of a tournament that only consists of Canadian club teams (wait… you mean that really DID happen?!? Oh…) All of this means I expect Toronto to get shut out at home. Union will reinforce their offense in the 2nd half, and get the winner after the 60th minute, returning to their most-of-the-season trend of binary soccer, and win 1-0.
Nick, the other .5 of Unholy Union
When: Friday, May 6, @ 10:30pm EST. Where: JELD-WEN Field, Portland, OR
First off, I had to wikipedia why the stadium has such a strange name. The naming rights were sold to the Jeld-Wen Corporation, a manufactuer of building supplies. The team has built quite a reputation in a short time in Major League Soccer (like what I did there?). They were undefeated at their oddly-named home stadium prior to this week, and are probably looking to rebound after losing to San Jose, the team that Union beat last week playing down a man for 50 minutes (that’s right, you suck, San Jose).
Portland features 3 players with mulitple goals on the season: Kenny Cooper, Jack Jewsbury, and Jorge Perlaza. So, those are the 3 guys that will get shut down by Union’s back line Friday night, even though they will be without the services of Jordan Harvey. I expect Michael Farfan to get the start at left back, and he should do a fine job. Cooper is somewhat of a concern because of his height. At 6’3″, he’ll have to have the full attention of Union’s D when around the box. Kalif Alhassan seems to be their most threatening playmaker, with 4 assists on the season. He plays left wing midfield, which means Sheanon Williams will shut him down, then awe him with the distance he gets on his throw-ins.
Now, for the stuff we care about. Union will be without Jordan Harvey, as they will not appeal the suspension for his red card, undeserved as it was. Michael Farfan linked so well with Keon Daniel on the left side of the field that I don’t foresee any trouble with having Farfan get this spot-start. That may be the most exciting part of the lineup, though. I fully expect there to be 2 defensive midfielders in the lineup to start, some combination of Brian Carroll, Stefani Miglioranzi, and Amobi Okugo. I’m not exactly sure what failed experiment Nowak’s going to try at right wing this week. Roger Torres is not a winger, so he’s out. The heck with it, just keep Le Toux there, and play Mwanga and Ruiz up top to start.
The concerning part for Union is that Danny Califf is not guaranteed to play due to illness. We may find out whether or not Juan Diego Gonzalez is, in fact, still with Union. Either way, though, Daniel can probably play it because he seems to just be that good, and Okugo played centerback for the Generation Addidas team. That situation bears some monitoring. We all should continue to have faith in Faryd Mondragon to keep whoever is in front of him coordinated and playing the right way. The games are the same night, but I think the Flyers could really use The Dragon in goal. There is no way he would have let Chris Versteeg be skating around in la-la land while Zdeno Chara winds up a wide-open slap shot for a goal. What would have happened is that Mondragon would have made the save, held the puck for a faceoff, then spent the next 20 seconds bitching Versteeg out for being defensively irresponsible. From watching him, he seems like a very intimidating guy, so he probably would have made Versteeg cry. And at that point, Mike Richards would have just skated over, ripped the “C” off of his sweater, and handed it over to Mondragon. I don’t think, even in my side tangent fantasy land, that it’s a stretch to say that Faryd is the best captain in Philadelphia sports. He will be the reason Union earn a point on this trip, and I predict a draw, 1-1. Union score in the first half on a counter attack, and will concede in the last 15 minutes after a bad call by the ref gives Portland a free kick from a dangerous area, and we will spend the rest of the weekend hating MLS officials, again.
Nick, the other .5 of Unholy Union
I’ve not been writing as frequently as I had been during last season. The reason is that for the first month of the season, we don’t necessarily know what this season’s edition of the Union is. Last season’s group was creative, if not flawed, in attack, and unstable and fatally flawed in defense. Dan K. and I started this blog part-way through the season, so when we started writing, we already had an idea of what that team was and was not. I’m wondering if now, 5 games into the season, is that enough of a sample to form my idea of the identity of the 2011 Philadelphia Union?
I’ll operate on the assumption that it is a large enough sample, first. The side has gone from offensively creative, but impatient and jittery, to altogether sluggish and disjointed. The key to goal scoring has been opportunism, rather than through the merits of their talent. Introducing new personnel into the starting eleven has caused more headscratching than a bad case of dandruff, yet the new editions have been pivotal to the team’s success to date. In that category, either Carlos Valdes or Faryd Mondragon would be 2011 MVP. Brian Carroll’s contributions are less noticeable than Carlos Ruiz’ goal-scoring (though we’d like to see way more of it from him) and Valdes’ play-breaking tackles and clearances. Largely, we have seen Union as a side that is difficult to score on. No team has tallied more than once against them in League play. Defense being the key to a championship, as the popular credo goes, Union have certainly done well to put themselves in that position.
This year’s team seems content to generate their offensive salvos only after thwarting those of their opposition. Their back line and defensive midfield, in tandem, do great work to frustrate opponents. Their sure tackling and cohesive organization allow for smooth transitions into the attack. Except for one small problem: This team appears to not have the foggiest friggin’ clue of how to organize a decent attack! (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) They don’t possess terribly well, and the midfielders don’t seem to link up with their strikers particularly well, either. It looks as if those groups practice separately and catch up with each other on match days. And, to further exacerbate the problems, the strikers don’t seem to have any idea what Ruiz is going to do, so they look out-of-sorts, as well. The game plan seems to be to take time assessing what their opponent is bringing that day, then make sure they keep the game scoreless until Coach Nowak can tactically substitute in more attacking players to steal the game with just a single goal. That may be the best rationalization I’ve come up with for why Danny Mwanga rides the substitute’s bench.
However, the converse is that maybe this is still an evolving team. Every team evolves from the beginning of a season to its end. A team is who they are, fundamentally, from the beginning, and the season serves as time to be the best version of themselves through season’s end. This unexpected off-week in the schedule may have served as a blessing in disguise for this team. The offensive struggles, which have been noted, could be worked out in this time. It’s conceivable that Nowak has had his team reviewing game films and is getting everyone on the same page. Maybe, after further review, Ruiz will learn how he can spring Sebastien Le Toux, and how he can get himself open for Le Toux’s low crosses (just no more free kicks from him. Please!) Maybe Nowak will realize he screwed up and he’ll just start Mwanga with Le Toux again (but probably not).
This was an expansion side last season whose team was begun from scratch. This season’s team has had quite a bit of turnover on top of that. It could be that this team needs a few more matches to truly find its identity. 2010′s early performances were eratic. They got shut out in their first match, but came back to score three the next week. It took the better part of two months before we had a solid grasp on what that team was. Maybe the 2011 version deserves that same patience.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union