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
Saturday, June 4 @ 9pm @ Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
Union are coming off their most impressive display of the season, that 6-2 thrashing of Toronto FC that we all enjoyed watching so much (save for the first 15 minutes of the 2nd half). Union largely avoid being effected by the Gold Cup, as only Carlos Ruiz is away serving national team duty. Should Union continue to score in droves sans Ruiz, then I will be rooting for Guatemala to make a long run in the tournament.
Colorado, on the other hand, loses 2 players to playing in the Gold Cup. Omar Cummings, the scary-good forward, and Tyrone Marshall will both be playing for Jamaica, which is good for Union. What isn’t so good is that Colorado earned a draw at RBNY without those 2 in the lineup. One of their goals was allegedly somewhat of a gift, a penalty given for a foul that appeared to be outside of the area. Still, both of those goals were scored by Chestnut Hill Academy product Jeff Larentowicz. He will be in this match, so Rapids are still dangerous. They also have only lost 1 match thus far at home. But they’ve only won 4 matches overall.
Union will look to continue their offensive growth, as well as further their consecutive wins. The 6-pack they put up on TFC was likely an abberation, but their confidence and competency is not. The recipe seems to be take Union, remove Ruiz, add a Farfan, the POOF! instant offensive success! Or something like that. It also helps when Justin Mapp actually plays the way he’s supposed to (read: using both feet) and they get width from both the outside midfielders and their fullbacks. Jordan Harvey’s cross to set up the first goal, while far from perfect, worked because he was wide enough that he had the space to pass. The part he could control, putting the ball into a good attacking area, was accomplished. That doesn’t happen as often when any number of midfielders who drift toward the center of the pitch as if magnetically drawn attempt through balls from those compromised positions. Tactics and instinct aside, the most encouraging part is that they are showing the confidence with their shooting (except for some French guy who led this team in every statistical category that mattered last year).
Riding this momentum will result in a nice road result against a mildly short-handed side. I see this match going to Union 2-1. I’m a bit concerned with the way Mondragon plays when pressed into action. I hope the backline feels the need to step up after last week’s performance (not that they were bad, just bad for them. They’ve set a higher standard). No clean sheet, but 3 points on the road is never a bad thing. And 6 more goals would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath.