Match time is 8:30pm, Saturday, March 24, 2012, from Toyota Field in Bridgeview, IL, televised locally on The Comcast Network.
What we know: Union are 0-2-0 on the season, Chicago is 0-0-1, having earned a draw at Montreal during Montreal’s first ever MLS home-opener. Union, against Colorado, created good possession that gave opportunities for chances which didn’t often enough lead to actual chances. They have failed in the area of threatening the goal and making the other team’s goal keeper work. Their defense has not been stellar either, allowing 5 goals in 2 matches, and Sheanon Williams was a late addition to the U.S.A U-23 team that is in Olympic qualifying, so that hurts additionally.
What we don’t know: What the hell is going on with Danny Califf? He earns the title of team captain, then gets benched without being informed prior, contradicts reports of an injury, and now apparently, he didn’t even travel with his team to Chicago. I’m not going to claim that Califf is a stand-out performer anymore, but I definitely have a problem with a guy who is the team captain not being given the courtesy of information about his own status. The transperancy of this Union team has to be called into question, as well. Did Union make the move and backstory with the intention of deceiving Colorado? They seem a bit less tactful this week, but none the less confusing. We also don’t know what this means for the rearguard, as 2 of last season’s 4 starters will not be included (Califf and Williams).
What to watch for: In spite of all of this outside mumbo jumbo that will make our heads hurt to think about too much, Union showed significant improvement in some areas from game one to game two. This team is capable of serving dangerous crosses into the 18-yard box from all over the pitch. Their problem is having one of their teammates direct said cross towards, and hopefully into, the goal mouth. Lionard Pajoy made the play that restored some measure of faith in the side, when he made the perfect run to find a cross with his forehead mid-dive to score his team’s only goal…against a 10-man side…a 10-man side that scored a goal themselves while down a man…*vomits*. The hope for the optimists is that the way they pressured late can be duplicated, because though Colorado had 10 men, they would have bunkered in with a 2-goal lead anyway, with just the two strikers not behind the ball. Union scoring their lone goal against a bunkered defense is a positive sign. For the pessimists, other than the runout that lead to Colorado’s 2nd goal, they didn’t do much to threaten the Union half, therefore, Union should have been able to keep their possession in the attacking half more, and create more solid chances. Also, pessimists will remind us all that Union were possession-dominant in the first half and went into the locker room with nothing to show for it. The hope rests in their attacking midfield play being a trend, which will produce better results in the very near future, so look for Roger Torres to feature longer in this match, and he, Gabe Gomez, and Porfirio Lopez will be sending chances in for Pajoy, Danny Mwanga, and Josue Martinez to put in the net.
What this all means: I see Union improvement, but not enough to get a win on the road. Chicago did well on the road last week, but they were still playing Impact who I don’t have faith in yet. Union are under pressure to get a win, playing on the road… I see this as a draw, likely 1-1, but 2-2 wouldn’t shock me.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union (@unholyunionNDY)
In seven days, Philadelphia Union have scored 2 goals, conceded 5, and sit with zero points out of a possible six. Over 19,000 attended the home opener, with a far greater number than that wonder just what in the name of everything Holy is Peter Nowak doing with this club?
The match in Portland was almost certainly a loss from the outset. The conditions were horrid for a team that doesn’t play in them often. The Jeld-Wen Field surface is artificial, and the Pacific Northwest is almost a 100% guarantee for rain. All of the roster turnover made for an impossible task for Union to escape Portlandia with any points.
The home opener yesterday, however, was a match that left me with mixed emotions. You can see the week 2 predictions post to see that I, correctly, predicted Union would lose. The game left me with a more confident feeling about the side, that they would be able to create goals once these new pieces get more game time together. Then again, they had a significant spell where they had one more man on the field than did Colorado. So, yes, they created chances in the second half, but they also gave up a goal to a 10-man squad.
My main issue with Union so far in their existence is that they don’t allow us fans to view them in the pre-season, unless we travel to their remote sites. They don’t stream their pre-season matches online, so we are left to settle for team-generated articles chronicling the team’s progress. It’s a nasty system of secrecy set up to keep us in the dark. It’s the same cloud that hovers over yesterday’s benching of Captain Danny Califf. Cap’n Ink says he’s not hurt, despite his coach’s claim that he is. This is the reason I couldn’t write a season preview: I had no idea what to expect from this team.
This is what I see so far: They are struggling with their formation, some of the new players are not acclimating as well as others, and they don’t have a backbone as of now. The team attempted to sell Michael Farfan, coming off of his Rookie of the Year finalist nomination, as the piece that would help us all forget Sebastien Le Toux. He’s been ineffective in both matches so far. His forward passing has not connected, his shots don’t get through defenders often enough, and he seems, at times, lost in where to make his runs to. Granted, it’s just 2 matches into the season, but when the front office turns over the team as much as they have prior to this season, some better results should be expected if they’d like us to believe that they actually know what they’re doing. Secondly, Gabriel Gomez has been very good in his first MLS week. I like his service on set pieces, and he plays a gritty game defensively. I have a lot of confidence so far in both he and Lionard Pajoy. Neither is hard to understand, considering they’ve netted Union’s only goals of the season. The Central American imports Josue Martinez and Porfirio Lopez have not impressed thus far. Lopez was caught napping on the other side of MacMath’s bungle yesterday, and was victimized for at least 2 of the 3 goals Portland scored. Martinez showed some signs of being a dynamic player, so I’ll hold off ripping him until he gets some more playing time. Neither of those two, however, has covered themselves in glory. And, the defense… what happened? They allowed the second-fewest goals in the league last season, only to see 5 put in behind MacMath in 2 matches. The new left back Lopez has not solidified that position, and Califf getting benched added a new state of flux to what last season was the strength and identity of the squad. Now that that area is a liability, what DO Union hang their proverbial hat on as their identity? They still attack with the orchestration of a team that does not practice together. It’s become demonstrated by players, like Gomez, that the attackers are not getting into the right places to make the final and finishing touches. They have trouble as an all-out attacking team, and they’re no longer a solid defensive side, so what are they? This question could be answered so much more easily if I had been able to see more than 180 minutes (plus added injury time, of course) of the 2012 Philadelphia Union.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union (@UnholyUnionNDY)