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Archive for April, 2011

Touch-lines – things to ponder

April 28, 2011 3 comments

A new soccer segment brought to you by the Unholy Union (eat your heart out Poor Spoertsman).  Random musings about the progress of the blog, the team, soccer, and the world in general.

Who keeps finding this blog by searching for “Kyle Nakazawa Girlfriend”? I never once said girlfriend other than referring to this, but I still find this hysterical.  And the more I post this phrase, the more that person will find the blog again.  No such thing as bad publicity.

Was Kyle’s band any good?  I couldn’t get out to see.  Any demos / MP3’s?

Does San Jose Earthquake supporters do any chants to “You shook me all night long” ?  Should we make a mocking chant for that?

Whatever happened to the North Korean goalie from last year’s World Cup, especially after that blowout?  Whatever happened to that team!?

Where IS David Myrie? Limon FC in Costa Rica.  Thank you wikipedia for finally updating this, but is fishy because their wiki page doesn’t have him listed.

Will David Beckham have a bitching hangover from the Royal Wedding?  Will he play any worse than he has?  Some may argue he will play the same – poorly.

And on players we care about, will Orozco-Fiscal ever come back to us?

Will Fake Peter Nowak show his true identity?  Or will he just keep pissing in the wind?  Will he ever threaten me like he does Tannenwald?

Is there a conspiracy for Barcelona in every match?  Or is it just a little bit of Messi, and a little bit of the hand of God?  Or is it also because Ronaldo is just a little ****?

Philadelphia Union vs San Jose Earthquakes

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

This weekend we will see the combination of two equals, well, in their own right.  One of high standing and power, and the other some may even consider not worthy enough to clean the other’s shoes.  The masses will gather to watch, others will clamor to get a glimpse, and many others will watch on their ‘boob’ tubes.  But enough about the royal wedding, there’s soccer to be had.

Location: PPL Park, Chester PA
When: 4pm
Weather: Not the shit storm that will be today.

San Jose leaves a special place in my heart.  That’s only because this was the first game I went to PPL park to watch.  I remember the day fairly well.

Went to the Dark Horse to watch some soccer, I believe it was still World Cup, but hardly anyone went to watch the game (it was one of those teams that clearly weren’t worth it).  It was rainy, and miserable looking.  Chatting up the bartenders cause there was not much else to do, and as I’ve been there the previous weeks early on to watch as many games as I could of the WC, we knew (and still know) eachother by name.  He then asks me if I’d want to go to a Union game, I say of course, cause at that point i didn’t bother with season tickets.  He goes into the bar’s ‘office’, comes out with 3 tickets.  Free.  I was beside myself.  So I called as many people as I could as the game was only about, say… 2 hours away.  From that point on, the skies began to open up, the rain went away, and the game was to be had in a glorious way in section 101.

And of course they lost thanks to backpedaling  Harvey in the back, and one of many weak goals throughout the season.  This will explain my original dislike of Harvey, and my fondness for the kazoo (they were passing out kazoos for that game).

Fast forward a year:

I don’t dislike Harvey anymore.  Our defense is profoundly better, and spectacular, our goalie has not come across a “rock” in the middle of the field, and we are considered one of the top teams in the league based on power rankings (which I would hope were compiled based on opinion of gameplay and not just the standings).  We are not the same team at PPL park they faced last year in July, and we have a winning record.  We are still undefeated at home.  We will pack you a sandwhich and a hug, and then punch your face in.

This game will be the test of what Nowak and company can do to improve this team.  Improvement has been progressing during the beginning stages of the season, but can be difficult week in and week out with a schedule of mondays and wednesdays to cement the improvements you are trying to make.  Many are calling to see more than one goal scored, some are calling for more unison from the midfield to the strikers, and some are just calling for pizza.

San Jose is one of the worst teams in the league, but anyone in sports knows that no team should ever be taken lightly.  For starters, San Jose has last year’s golden boot with Wondolowski, but clearly hasn’t been able to help the team other than be the leading scorer.   The team from a standings and stat perspective looks as though they aren’t the pushovers they seem to be, being 1-3-2 (W-L-T), they posted 2 goals against  an as of now average FC Dallas, lost by 1 goal to the CONCACAF runner ups in RSL, tied 2 goals verse Seattle, tied 1 verse Toronto, and naturally were massacred by the RBNY 3 nothing.  What brings their ability into even more of a question is their 2-1 loss against Chivas, who as everyone knows is not just the Lesser LA team, but is mostly a laughing stock, being goats doesn’t help.  San Jose’s ability to score is not in question, but facing a defense built like the cement wall Nowak was probably accustomed to in his home land, their offense should be held in check at the very least.  The only concern now is – our ability to score goals.  Besides all that analysis, Convey is coming home once again, which is always enjoyable to watch a player coming to his hometown. 

I would hope to expect 2 goals easy from the Union, but hopes are often sometimes dashed.  It’s coming to 2 weeks since a match, this may be a whole entirely different team the Union have shown us for all we know.  The only thing we are asking for is improvement, and a win – most definitely a win.  A reason to DOOP.

Do We Know Who This Union Team Is?

April 25, 2011 Leave a comment

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

Let Sleeping Bulls Lie

April 22, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s a really good thing Union don’t face New York Red Bulls again until October.  RBNY looked dynamic in their 4-0 dismantling of DC United.  Thierry Henry netted 2 goals and had his hand in Joel Lindpere’s strike (no, not THAT way), with Juan Agudelo dazzled for the cake-icing tally.  But why does any of this matter to Union?

RBNY has now scored 7 goals in their past 2 matches.  In their first 4 matches, they only scored TWICE.  The last of that string was their frustrating (though beautiful to us) 1-0 loss in Chester.  The aforementioned Agudelo struck the frame of the goal two times during that match, but never found a way to cross the goal mouth.  Reviews of that match from NY’s perspective left them intent on finding answers, as it appeared what Union had done to them was the last straw.  Philly has, apprarently sent them on a rampage through the rest of MLS.  Again, I did note that it’s only been 2 matches since, but NY has looked every bit the world-beating, expected conference leader since their visit to PPL Park.

The first goal of the night was a result of the offensive organization that has been sorely lacking in Union blue.  Jan Gunnar Solli, as a right back, worked a perfect sideline-running 1-2 combination, springing him open down the right wing.  (Does that sound like something Union might be able to do?  Gee, I wonder….)  From there, a simple right-footed cross sailed to 1 of 3 box-charging teammates.  It was to Henry, who firmly headed the ball inside the post.  The second goal was more of the I-want-this-more-than-you-do type of play.  Again, it was Solli who made the play.  This time, he was already running the right flank when a ball was lobbed in between Solli and his defender.  Solli muscled the man away from the ball and slid to center the ball into the 18-yard box.  From there, the keeper wasn’t able to get control of it, and with Luke Rodgers boxing a defender out, Henry came in and pounded home his 2nd of the match.

The 3rd goal showed RBNY’s offensive depth and versatility.  With a comfortable 2-goal lead, and Charlie Davies forgetting that soccer has an offsides rule (repeatedly!  No wonder he got subbed off…), NY was content to sit back and defend.  DC launched fruitless effort after fruitless effort, and then the Bulls sought a counter.  Henry showed to a defensive clearance in the midfield, and quickly sent the ball forward to midfielder Joel Lindpere.  Joel took care of the rest.  He ran all the way to the 18 before being caught up.  When the defender caught up to him, he kept running while Lindpere cut back from his left foot to his right foot, and confidently smashed his strike inside the near post.  It would have been the most skillful goal of the night if not for the young U.S. international Agudelo.  In stoppage time, Agudelo’s tenacity payed off.  He was a 75th minute substitution, so the match was effectively over by the time he hit the pitch, but he wanted a goal badly anyway.  While racing towards the top of the box, a pass from the right wing was just a step behind him.  No matter, as he simply stopped on a dime, played the ball up into the air with his back foot, and used a roundhouse kick to play the volley past the hapless Bill Hamid.  Where his touch failed him in Chester, it was at it’s exquisite best at RFK Stadium.

A favorite rouse of Red Bull faithful is that we, in Philly, have had a team for just 1 season and we have as many MLS Cups as they do.  I now wonder if the April 9th meeting has created a monster that will hinder Union’s chances of reaching the post-season.

Pre Game – RSL vs Philadelphia Union

April 21, 2011 1 comment

I must say from the start, after watching last night’s CONCACAF Champions League game, I don’t feel like Union will win this upcoming game this weekend, especially at Rio Tinto Stadium.  Though last night’s 1st leg was a draw, Real should have won the game.  Monterrey, though, is a top Mexican team that has been (and still is technically) undefeated in the tournament, therefore the draw is still a good showing, especially on Mexican soil (I hope RSL brought their own water).

My observations on Union’s opponent are that Morales is fantastic on the ball, as well as Beckerman.  They faltered at some points, but since Monterrey started off playing a counterattack game, RSL controlled the tempo a significant amount of the match.  RSL’s defensive line came up with plenty of good clears, 1 person of note would be Russel with his fantastic hustle and drive.  Their goalie, Rimando, wasn’t impressive last night, but you have to get past the line first before you can get a GOOD shot on goal, and with their midfield it would be difficult for Ruiz to put an accurate foot on the ball from 40 yards out. 

Now, yes their starters must be drained by going all out for 90 minutes (most likely faster than their normal pace), but what have you with their reserves – I would say they have just as much talent as the starters.. minus the dude with the dreds.  I would advise that the Union should take a week off, maybe even delay the game so that we can rack up some more league points so that we can afford a loss like this.  Gotta maintain that #1 conference spot.

I really wish we had a week off to prepare, or even get our gears in order and our ducks in a row to face one of the best MLS teams ever.  This will be a difficult game when it happens, and a must see for every Union fan, just don’t necessarily expect the best outcome for us…

When – September 3rd (gotcha)
Where – Rio Tinto Stadium

doesn’t matter.. we just thought being dumb was funny.  The match got moved from Saturday to September.  They better win that cup.

– Dan and Nick

New podcast in need of music!

April 20, 2011 Leave a comment
Theme Song Contest

Calling ALL Local Bands/Musicians...We Want YOU to Write an Original
Theme Song for the NEWEST Philadelphia Union Podcast. 

We are looking for something SHORT & CATCHY (30 to 60 Seconds in
Length) to play before every podcast. All Genres of Music are
Welcome..especially INSTRUMENTAL ONLY Songs. 

So if you LOVE the Union and want to get some exposure for you or
your band, drop an email to murphphone@hotmail.com

The Winner(s) will receive a selection of Barktees.com T-Shirts
and the glory of having your music intro the Union faithful to
the Newest (as yet unnamed) Philadelphia Union Podcast.

Deadline for submissions is May27th. The Winner will be
announced June 3rd.

Get involved in fan generated media!

www.uniondues.wordpress.com
www.section133.com
www.unholyunion.wordpress.com
www.unioncityblue.com

After the slaughter – Time to dock in the Sound

April 13, 2011 Leave a comment

The trouble with what we were doing with this blog and actually going to the games is that we can’t stream the game in our fashion similar to the espn live commentaries (if you are at a work computer while any high profile match is going on, you know what i am talking about).  We kind of miss it, and that was usually how we would recap our games without needing post game commentary.  So 4 days after the cow slaughter, and here we are.

It’s lonely at the top… I shouldn’t say that just yet for fear of jynxing.  We are number 1 in the East after 4 games – 9 points out of 4 games in our second year is more than we could have asked for (realistically), especially with only 1 GA and a 2 GD.  Statistically, we are a powerhouse… until you look at possession time and successful passing rate, shots on goal… you get the idea.

As someone from the Pink Cows (i like mine medium rare mind you) said in a post game interview, it is difficult to score against a team that moves everyone back defensively.  It must be said, our defense bent like no other on Saturday, and were doing shockingly well with not letting the bulls get decent chances (minus the two off the crossbar, but who’s paying attention to that).  The fact that, sans the cross bar shots, we practically muted a team with the talent of an up-and-comer USMNT of Agudelo, Marquez, the weather tested (and hand battered) experience of Henry, and the steal of DeRosario should say SOMETHING about this team… But all I hear are complaints about how a team could control the entire game (I don’t know what game they were watching, but I was there and it looked as if it was a constant midfield battle) and not just get no result but lose.  How about you stop downing on the young team and start realizing – if LA struggled to get a goal (minus one mental slip up) and Houston and Vancouver both had control of the game and couldn’t get a result from it, look at the team they can’t get a result from.  Start taking notes on us instead of the other team.

But a win is a win – we just have to distribute more tissues to the away supporters.  Our defense looked superb again with Harvey and Califf making header clears like no other.  Keon Daniel was a pleasant suprise on the field as a starter, and his touch later in the game showed why he is worth starting (seriously, he schooled Solli on two occasions) – and I agree with the choice of benching Naka, even though he was showing plenty of signs of improvement, but for this game you want skill and not hope for someone who’s still in the making (suprisingly enough it looked like Keon is a veteran).  I would like Keon to start again against Seattle.

Carroll likely made the best game decision of his life by subbing himself out of the game in the 7th minute for a hammy.  He said it hurt like hell, hopefully it will heal up in time for Saturday, but fear not, we have Amobi to take his place… or Migs’ place since he was just spotlighted last week in one of those Union PR articles (as every Union feel good article so far has shown signs of someone being benched or being cut from the team… doubt me?  Ask Jacobson and just recently Naka).  Okugo must have played well… Considering I am saying must have because I don’t remember noticing him too much, which for a defensive midfielder that usually means you are doing something right.  Migs on the other hand, while defensively skillfull, still has no touch for the ball or sight for any of his passes.  Don’t be suprised if you don’t see him starting in the next couple of weeks.

Mapp, was basic Mapp.  Being out of the game for a couple weeks due to injury, this was his first game back.  To be honest, he seemed completely lost to me.  First he didn’t give Sheanon the ball to throw in when he was within 20 yards of goal… which by now everyone SHOULD know that is the equivalent of a free kick outside the box – queue image of Sheanon reaching out for the ball looking at him going “WTF mate” when he weak tossed it to the teammate behind him.  All else, Mapp looked lost, created chances off of his favored foot, and used hardly any of his other foot.  I enjoyed Mapp last year, but this year he’s starting to become fairly stale in an already stale midfield.

Le Toux is showing signs of promise as his workrate is like no other… the only problem is his touch is off, and he is hesitating.  He often passed the ball to a defender after hesitating instead of making the quick through ball to the advancing attacker to his side.  He almost had an accidental goal from a cross to Keon in the 2nd half that the Pink cows imbecile of a keeper blocked and almost put in his own net (i say imbecile, not just cause he’s on NJPC but  for his dive to try to get le toux carded late in the game).  Ruiz, as I’m sure he knows he doesn’t have the speed anymore, is trying to prove to defenses (and maybe us) that he is still a threat by making those 2 remarkable long shots at goal in the 1st half – 1 clearing the post by a foot (got us on our feet I must say) and another deadly strike to the bottom corner of the net that if the keeper wasn’t ready, was a sure goal.  I’m starting to like Ruiz, and once he’s able to find some open space and get into the box and click with the rest of the team, he’s going to be a lethal weapon.

Mwanga and Torres – my favorite 63 minute time frame subs.  Mwanga tallied the assist, and Torres (who i was still cheering him coming on the field during the time) put it in the net.  By far the most favorite players next to Le Toux on this team, and rightfully so.  I’m glad Torres finally got his dues.

A better looking game than the previous 3, and an even better result (or bitter if you’re from NJ..i mean NY).  Now we look onto the team that is the proverbial soup bowl of the USA.

Seattle

Date- April 16th
Where – PPL Park
Time – 4 pm (just before the Flyers hockey game, not early enough)
TV – who knows due to flyers
Weather – Seattle-like

This is the battle of the fake coaches (@fakesigi vs @fakepeternowak).

Now, if it wasn’t for their record right now, WTL 1-2-2, I would say this would be a test similar to that of LA… but something is definitely off with this team so I would hope the result would be a win with at least 2 goals on our end (we’re due for that).  Their first WIN was this past weekend against Chicago, which if you look at it they always beat them.

Montero is still uncertain for the Sounders as of this writing due to his wrist injury, but he was cleared for training.  In my opinion, Keller is overrated, but that’s just my opinion.  For this season, I haven’t been able to catch a match with Seattle, but they are known to be a dangerous team, and the fact that Montero is (should be) sidelined should help us.  I think if Nowak keeps doing what he’s doing with a slight offensive tweak down one of the sides, and Mondragon keeps our D secure, we should have no problem with this game.  I predict another midfield battle (this seems to be a running theme) and it will definitely be a closer game than usual.

But I have been proven wrong before.

So bring your poncho on Saturday.

PS – Union Dues got a new writer known as Poor Spoertsman.  I think it’s worth a look.

-Dan