Thankfully, for Union fans, this round is 2-legged. My overall feeling about Sunday’s first leg against Houston Dynamo is that they were doomed from the announcement of their starting lineup, yet put up a great effort, worthy of leaving PPL Park with a zero goal deficit. The inclusion of Stefani Miglioranzi in the starting XI was borderline criminal, and responsible for their minus-one differential. He is an injury or suspension fill-in, at best. There are no logical tactics that should include him in a starting role. He’s not a 90-minute player, he’s not fast, and he’s not even above-average for an MLS player. Inevitably, Nowak would have to sub for him, which isn’t a tactical sub because it’s necessary. I would rather see Juan Diego Gonzalez in Thursday’s match than Miglioranzi, and JDG hasn’t played a single minute in MLS play this season. The difference is I KNOW Miglioranzi hurts this team (Adam Hainault agrees with me).
The positive outlook is that Union were able to threaten Houston’s defense, which had conceded just 3 goals in their previous 5 matches. There was luck involved in Sebastien Le Toux’s goal, as the pass deflected off of the back of the head of a helpless Houston defender. But there was also luck involved in Houston’s first goal (well, their luck was that Nowak started Migs. Oh wait, I’m supposed to be positive in this paragraph). The substitutions were all positive. They created several opportunities for goals, but their inexperience showed. Jack McInerney, for all of his willingness to get forward on well-timed runs, needs to realize that sometimes he needs to be on the ball-side of his defender because he’s not going to win headers too often. Roger Torres, for all of his willingness to play the nicely-weighted through-ball to a surging teammate, needs to realize that his teammates don’t always see the game the way he does (although they friggin should). Freddy Adu, for all of his experience internationally, needs to realize that he is still the new guy on the team and he has much to learn about how his teammates play. McInerney was certainly hurt by his lack of playing time (damn you, Fat Chooch!), and it showed in the waning moments of the match. A little more sophistication in his game probably finds him in a better position to attack the ball and put more threatening shots on goal. Roger finally learned to drop deeper in the midfield to be the conduit from defense to offense. Playing in that manner with Adu also on the field should lead to a more consistent and potent offense (all in due time. I hope this happens Thursday night, but I’m not counting on it).
The best thing to come out of Sunday’s 2-1 defeat is that we have learned Michael Farfan and Seba can step up to the big moment and perform in the playoffs. Their play combining for the response in the 7th minute shows that Seba is not a fluke, and Marfan has cemented himself in the starting XI for the foreseeable future. Speaking of Farfans and positives, Union are very lucky that Gabe was not issued a red card for his wreckless challenge on Danny Cruz. I think the yellow card was the correct decision, especially given that it’s a playoff game and the teams get more levity to play and compete hard. I have no refereeing experience, but if Garfan had been issued a straight red card, I would not have argued it. I would have been really upset at Garfan for the challenge, instead. It was an aerial cross to a stationary winger. Cruz was not making a run behind Garfan, therefore there was no urgent need to win THAT particular pass. If anything, by playing proper body position, Garfan could have easily dispossessed Cruz after Cruz’ first touch on that pass. Worst-case, Houston has the ball on the wing at the foot of someone not named Brad Davis, therefore, it’s not Houston’s most-threatening position. All of that being said, Garfan also did well to compete hard and not pick up a second yellow, so Union’s comeback attempts did not have to come a man down. And he is eligible for Thursday’s match. Which is a positive because….
….it’s one less possibility that Stefani Miglioranzi starts… you knew I was coming back to that, didn’t you.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
They say draws are like kissing your sister, and I guess that saying is to mean that getting to kiss a girl is good, but that it’s your sister makes it disgusting. Well, this match was kind of like that, if your sister is a transexual.
ALL SEASON WE WANT THEM TO SHOOT MORE AND THEY GET 26 ATTEMPTS ON GOAL WITH NO FRIGGIN GOALS!!! HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Ok, I feel a little better now.
Then again, that was the last place team in the Eastern Conference they were facing… I’m going to punch something…
Thus is the maddening back-and-forth we’re left to deal with in this aftermath. They played very well in possession and creating chances. But much of their play was a bit too slow and deliberate which allowed SKC to adjust and defend accordingly. Le Toux and Ruiz worked together better than they had at any point of this season. They combined for many chances on goal, which is great to see. But most of those shots went wide (all of Le Toux’s) and only 1 forced a quality save (Fat Chooch’s free kick). Paunovic started (I should have seen this match ending this way just because of him) and played comfortably in the central attacking midfielder (CAM) role, and didn’t kill the team. But he’s still too old and doesn’t know the team well enough to play at the speed that we need to take advantage of a team that knows it’s inferior and played the entire match hoping for a draw. The defense played solidly and didn’t allow 40-year-old non-virgin Mondragon to be threatened more than once or twice. But that’s because KC played the entire match as if they were more than happy to leave with a point from a scoreless draw. Sheesh.
This should have been the soccer version of the scene in The Godfather when Sonny Corleone meets his end, or at least a re-run of the match vs Toronto FC, but instead we’re left with back-to-back matches against last-place teams yielding just a single point in the standings. And, unlike the aforementioned TFC match, the Union are back to not finding the net. They have no goals this week, with another patsie opponent, Chivas USA, awaiting them Saturday. Granted, leading scorer Danny Mwanga was unavailable due to a knee injury, but with an attack-minded lineup in from the start, I feel the result of this match should have been a foregone conclusion.
I’m on the record, through the YSA Report podcast, as saying that the first 17 matches can be about building the team, and gelling, and all of that hokey pokey nonsense that coaches talk about, but the final 17 are purely about results. Therefore, I won’t rip them for using the experimental lineup that they did, as this was just the 15th match of the season. However, home matches against bottom-feeders shouldn’t result in anything other than wins.
Nick, the other .5 of Unholy Union
I opened up the Metro, which I read during the train ride portion of my daily commute. The sports section is where I begin my reading, and I came across this article:
Apparently, Carlos “El Pescadito” Ruiz doesn’t like the fans referring to him by the Phillies’ catcher Carlos Ruiz’s nickname, Chooch. But I don’t think he hears us correctly.
We call him “Fat Chooch,” and we could do much worse if he’d like us to. All he’s done so far this season is score 2 goals, through 8 matches. That averages out to 8 or 9 for the season. Aside from that, his teammates look so lost in trying to figure out how to get him the ball that it seems as if he doesn’t practice at all with them. It’s pathetic that this team has yet to score more than 1 goal in a game, and Fat Chooch has played in every match. He is more part of the offensive problem than its solution at this point. Er go, he has no right to tell anyone what to call him. Score some goals, and we’ll call you King Jaffe Joffer if you want. Until then, get on the same page as the rest of your team for Pete (Nowak)’s sake!
Nick, the other .5 of Unholy Union