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.
Tonight, 8:30 pm from Robertson Stadium in Houston, TX or on ESPN2 for those of us who aren’t flying to the match.
There isn’t a whole lot that needs to be said about this. The teams have played 3 times this season. They know how each other is going to play. It comes down to execution. In the first match, we were wary of Brad Davis’ free kick ability, and that produced the match’s first goal. They knew that Sebastien Le Toux was a constant threat purely by his work ethic, and that produced the second goal. We know playing Stefani Miglioranzi is a tactic that confuses even his own defensive teammates, and that confusion produced the third and final goal of the match. Union figure to deploy a lineup that more closely resembles the team that finished the match Sunday. The only possible addition to the lineup I can see is if Veljko Paunovic is fully healthy, then Nowak will go with him. Either way, I expect an ambush from the opening whistle. I really feel like Nowak’s message to the team will be to tie the aggregate up in the first half and end the half that way, and worry about the 2nd goal in the 2nd half so they don’t burn themselves out and concede a goal after working hard to tie it.
Fans of the team would like to see Union play this first half the same way that they played the 2nd half in their 2nd match against New England (3 goals scored). I figure I’m going to be a nervous wreck watching Union fight and scratch and claw their way through this match, but I’m fairly certain this will be a fantastic match to watch for neutral observers.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union
If that seems like a redundant question about Union, it’s because it is. Sebastien Le Toux has been in stellar form the last third of the season. However, he is the only Union player in attack that can make that claim. The addition of Freddy Adu has done little to make this a more dangerous team. So, if Houston only has Le Toux to worry about, and focus their defense on him, how the hell are Union going to score? (insert @FakePeterNowak witticism here)
Veljko Paunovic has been the most frequently-used second striker, until his hamstring issues forced him out of the lineup. He looks to be back in good health, so I’d expect him to be there. However, he tallied just three goals on the season. Danny Mwanga has also recovered from an injury, his being to his right hip. Injuries, and Nowak’s insistence on playing Carlos Ruiz, limited Danny to just 5 goals in his sophomore season. He is a talented and dangerous player when he’s on his game, but I’m unsure that he’ll find his match fitness before the weekend. Jack McInerney netted his only goal of the season early in Union’s 2nd match against Houston.
The point is, while Union’s striker corps is getting healthy, they haven’t shown much, other than Le Toux almost notching a second season of a double-double. They have received contributions from the midfield, but those goals are also scattered among them all, and we never know for certain who is going to start in the midfield (we’ll talk about them tomorrow). For Union to advance out of this round of playoffs, they’re going to have to find the combination that will produce up top. Kinda like Wayne Rooney’s hair transplant surgery.
Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union (@UnholyUnionNDY)
So, there have been a lot of things happening this past week… losses…ties…ties..bearfights. So, without further ado, a break down of the Pros and Cons of what has happened with the Philadelphia Union.
CON – Fan Favorites
I’ll come out and say it, after the game on Saturday versus Houston, there is no way Le Toux is not cursed. Prior to this game, I wanted him benched for at least a half and make him take notes and write an essay about what he should do, where he should go, and what is going on with the movement on the ball. Saturday, being his best game of the season in my view, was undeniably unlucky in a World Series of Dice fashion. But where he is unlucky, he is leaving goals and subsequent points in the standings off the board.
OOOOOH – Shoot the damn ball-all (to tune of seven nation army). Danny, I cannot say any more, louder, with more veins popping out of my neck, Shoot the damn ball! I’ve made plenty of comments on twitter, on forums, on the street, in my bed, in my head… everywhere. You are young, you can screw up, you can miss the goal for all I freaking care, but if you expect yourself to get picked up in Europe, in every situation you were in that had me yelling at you, they will not take you if you don’t shoot the frigging ball at goal when points are on the line – yet alone with half empty nets. You may be a fan favorite, for a long time, but let me tell you this – you CAN do wrong, especially when you’re doing nothing.
PROS – Starvin’ Marvins
Roger Torres, Vjelko “Old Serb” Paunovic, and Union Jack McInerney. 2 you would expect, and another you didn’t see coming, starving for the goals that have been absent (and relatively are for most of the season). Torres almost lead the team into a rally to tie the game against the defending MLS champs in the Rapids. Paunovic got the fire started with a nice shot from distance to take the lead in the first half verse Chicago. It’s what you gotta do when you have no box play – and trust me, this team has none. Unfourtanately that dwindled into a tie situation, one that could have easily changed if a certain someone had shot the ball instead of thinking about it. And then McInerney gets his start in the final game in 9 days versus Houston. What happens? A nice LEAD feed into the box by Le Toux, and without thinking even with it out of reach and a defender on him, Jack gets a lucky touch on the ball before the goalie to send it wobbling behind the keeper. I cheered, I cried, I kissed babies. It was a beautiful moment. Even more beautiful was the second goal, if it had happened. Differing reports say that he was clearly onsides, others say his foot crossed the path a split second early, and I say onsides. So, it was onsides and should have gone in ( ) but oh well. He gave us a lead, that we once again squandered.
CON – Something Smells Fishy (7/29/11)
As there are a multitude of fans who dislike him, plenty who started turning over a new leaf, and a good loyal few who supported the guy the second he got here, it was a shock to hear that the Union had sold Carlos Ruiz… Well, he wasn’t in the game, so we knew something was up. Although he was not a long term solution, he was still vital to a lot of chances we wouldn’t have if he wasn’t there (presence). I’m still chalking this up as a con even though plenty won’t agree. But, upon saying he was no longer Union’s property at that press conference, he still was. Tricky Nowak, he is. And it took another week before things settled into -
PRO – What’s Your’s is Mine
It started as “Ruiz is no longer with us.” Into “He is still property of the Union” and then “It is a complicated, multi-team deal.” Speculation would lead you, the unwitting soccer fan, into the idea that we are replacing Ruiz with someone, or trading him through a team to another team for money for another player… You basically need a John Madden teleprompter to think these things out. But we got sidetracked into a bittersweet solution that most of us forget about – loans.
Valdes is no longer loaned out to us. Instead, we own his ass. It was nice to hear, considering what happened with our previous loanee Orozco Fiscal (who will be with the USMNT tomorrow). It was very bittersweet because, we’ve gotten rid of two starters recently, and various reserves, and have yet to replace anyone. So to find out our first acquisition during the trade window is to own the rights of a player that wasn’t in question for another 6 months, was kind of a heart drop.
CON – Weight of the world
If anything damaging salary cap wise is the fact that we still have Juan Diego Gonzalez. I’m not knocking him as a player, or a person… I’m knocking the team for not ever using him during league play, and that it’s just a complete waste. If you’re not going to bother with him, get rid of him. Pick someone else up.
PRO – Soon enough
Rumor has it that someone’s contract was signed, for a year, on August 6/7 2010. Of course, it is likely we won’t hear any word on Gonzalez because of the Union policy of “We do not talk about players who are not under contract with the Union”. So for what it’s worth, we will probably not know he is off the team until some media guy (read: local aspiring journalist) asks the question and gets that response a month from now.
CON – Ejection in a bottle
During the Rapids game, some fan (read: moron) threw a bottle from the River End which resulted in a brawl. To the man who threw the bottle and subsequently did not like being pointed out for doing so, how old are you? 10? That’s the last time I had gotten into a fight for name calling and pointing. How much of a mental midget do you have to be to start a fight because you broke the rules and didn’t like being told on? This is besides throwing the bottle… I have anger issues myself, but I never throw things (in stadiums). Hope spending overinflated money on StubHub, the 20 dollar parking fee, and 3 $8-$10 beers you had was worth the night in jail. I’m sure Bubba gave you my regards.
Pro – All for one
Corner creeps get mad respect. As do all those around who either pointed the asshole out, or was able to (eventually) break up the fight and / or vindicate those who were only defending themselves. This is the only pro to this situation cause it only makes us all, as soccer fans, look bad.
CON – Why do they call them “Tie Fighters”?
I’m sick of leaving points on the field. Don’t you? Colorado was a travesty that there was no way in salvaging sans an extra time effort. But both Chicago and Houston feel dirty, and feel like a loss because we were up early and had to settle for a tie.
Pro – What do you mean pro!?
Yea, there’s really nothing positive about that. At least we didn’t completely lose it.
That was our week (and a half) in review. Tune back next time when 3 games happen within 8 days again while I have a shit ton of actual work to do.
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
A scoreless draw on the road against a team that hadn’t scored a goal in 3 of its previous 4 matches. That is what Union left San Jose with Saturday night. While Chris Wondolowski was in the lineup (though you wouldn’t have known it based on his high complaint-to-actually playing the ball ratio), they were missing Bobby Convey and Steven Lenhart. The latter two have given Union many problems, so their absense made this a match that should have more closely resembled the thrashing in Toronto. Union dominated possession and chances, yet scored the same number of goals as the ‘Quakes, and yours truly: zero.
As we are now past the halfway point of the season, I can now rip the team for the way that they’re playing, per my promise given during the first YSA Report podcast. My head is still spinning trying to grasp the logic of the Jordan Harvey trade, then we get news that Carlos Ruiz, Veljko Paunovic, and Carlos Valdes were all going to be absent. I understand that the lineup was going to be drastically different than what it should have been. All of the players in the starting XI have played this season. It’s not as if they asked ANOTHER 30-something to come out of retirement to play. I just don’t get how a team that “allegedly” practices together can look so disjointed. Case-in-point: Roger Torres’ header attempt. He was completely unaware that Jack McInerney was in the same zone and in far better position to leverage that head strike likely into the back of the net. THESE FRIGGIN TIES AGAINST INFERIOR TEAMS HAVE TO F*CKIN STOP!!!!!!! It’s great that DC United helped the Union’s cause by beating the NJ Pink Cows, but the team can’t rely on the rest of the league beating each other up so Union stay atop by default. Playtime is over, kids. Get three points when they’re there to be had.
The last place I want to see Stefani Miglioranzi is on the field, trust me. If someone had told me that Migs was going to play all 90 in this match and somehow NOT make an error that directly resulted in a goal, I would have done a “bearfight” in celebration. I’d prefer that he find the seat next to Juan Diego Gonzalez (that is, if anyone can actually find him). He played a solid game in emergency duty, the credit for which will rightly be given to Faryd Mondragon. I’d also like to thank the San Jose organization for having to use UC-Santa Barbara’s facility for their games. It was quiet enough that Migs could hear the directions from Dragon so well that even he couldn’t screw this game up.
I don’t want to see the possession statistics on this match. It will make me want to throw up, and then punch somebody. Or maybe punch somebody and then throw up on them. Either way, I’m going to be in a bad mood when the statistical analysis proves that Union should have won this match by a field goal. Union’s next match is against New England Revolution, the last place team in the Eastern Conference. This match has now become a must-win. If Union really want to prove that they are the top team in the East, then they need to be able to beat the worst teams in the league, regardless of the venue. That’s what happens in leagues everywhere else in the world; the big guys beat up the little guys (I don’t want to hear Manny Pacquiao references). KC was a bad team: scoreless draw, DC just changed their team up mid-week: another draw, playing a short-handed sh*tty team in San Jose: scoreless draw. Road draws build character for bad teams. Union are in first place, but that will not be true much longer if they can’t figure out a way to beat the teams that they should beat.
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