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Match Preview: Home v Columbus Crew

August 29, 2012 1 comment

So, I’m assuming that at some point in this match, Union would REALLY like to score a goal.  They didn’t seem quite able to achieve that goal against Real Salt Lake, even though RSL played a CCL match just 2 days before.  RSL had no extra energy after the 15th minute or so, and Union STILL weren’t able to put one in goal.  But I think I know the problem…

It’s because Hackworth is deploying 5 midfielders, yet calling his formation a 4-3-3!  Danny Cruz is sort of a hybrid midfield-attack player, but he’s not a striker.  And, neither is Gabe Gomez.  Or Keon Daniel.  Or Freddy Adu, but Freddy is not defensively responsible, so it’s better to keep him at the top of the formation so he doesn’t hurt the team in defense of a wing.  The point is that to play a formation with 3 forwards, you need to put 3 forwards on the field.  I know Chandler Hoffman is inexperienced, and they like Antoine Hoppenot off of the bench, and they don’t like Jorge Perlazza or Josue Martinez, but 2 of the 4 of those guys have to be starting alongside Jack McInerney or this team may not score 5 goals the rest of the season.  They’ve scored 2 goals in the 4 August matches so far, and one of those was an own-goal.  1 goal scored in 4 matches.  There are 11 matches left in the season.  That would put them at 3 goals from here on out.  Fan-freakin-tastic.

I like when a forward will change up his play and drop towards the midfield to open up a defense in a different way.  Dropping deep, however, can’t be the ONLY tactic employed by a forward.  It happens because those guys are actually midfielders.  They fall back on their instincts.  Most of the RSL match, I felt like I was watching a 4-4-2 morph into a 4-5-1.  Jack likely has to make conversation with the other team’s centerbacks so he doesn’t get lonely.  Having forwards not drop deep, when they time runs well, stretches the defense vertically and doesn’t allow the opponent to compress Union into trying to play Spanish-style “tiki-taka” soccer.

My fear in this is that Union will resort to more aerial passes over the top, which they don’t often complete.  They result in easy turnovers and continued possession for the opponent, making it even more difficult for the struggling Union to score.  They end up chasing the game, and by the time they create a chance, they panic and shoot errantly.  I’m getting upset just typing this stuff.  The solution for Union is:  Put 3 in Columbus’ net tonight and shut me up.

Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union

Match Preview v RSL (I know, it’s been a while…)

August 23, 2012 2 comments

So, after the debacle and circus of confusion that was the end of Sunday’s match versus DC United, Union are left with a match against a Real Salt Lake squad coming into town off of a short week.  RSL defeated Tauro FC of Panama 2-0 on Tuesday in CONCACAF Champions League play.  Union are coming off of a 1-1 draw due to the marshmallow-nerves of Dwayne De Rosario.  Kidding aside, Union, though better-rested, will be without Sheanon Williams because Mark Geiger felt the need to red card a Union player because he had already shown 2 DC United players the gate.  Ray Gaddis will likely get the start in Williams’ absense.  Hopefully that Geiger character is nowhere to be found in Chester.  Well, he can come to Chester, I just don’t want him as the match official.  He can go visit the playground at the school where I was one of the volunteers who helped put it together.  Maybe that trip will help him realize that there are more important things in life than his normal, everyday life of ruining MLS matches.  But I digress…

The match previews that I haven’t been writing could read all about the same.  Technically, I really could have been just mailing it in this whole time by copy-and-pasting such phrases as “Union need more out of Freddy Adu” and “They can’t depend on Brian Carroll to stop every single opposition attack” or “Where the hell exactly is Jorge Perlazza and why did they trade for him, again?”.  They’re a frustrating lot to watch.  They get about 80-90% of a possession right, then fail miserably to complete it.  They’ll break into a great run towards goal, only to slow play down, relegating themselves to passing around the semi-circle in a hopeless probing manner.  They’re efforts are most likely to end up on the foot of Carroll, or a defender who figures at least a shot attempt is better than playing keep-away.

RSL are a good MLS team, and have been for many years.  This is a match I expect Union will not be able to salvage a draw against.  The only thing that could change that is if RSL’s midweek match takes enough out of the team that either fatigue, or the second-stringers, weeken them enough to allow Union a result.  Either way, at least this match is on a Friday instead of a Sunday, so I don’t have to go to work the next day.

Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union (@UnholyUnionNDY)

Actually a Tale of 2 cities – SKC and Philly biased previews

June 22, 2012 1 comment

This guy I know through a friend and some other people used to work AT Livestrong Park for SKC.  Every now and then I like asking for some input for the blog when we play together.  He’s even coming to the game – so if you see him with me, please don’t give him our “friendly welcome” …

Eh, what am I saying, GO FOR IT!  And onto the 2 sided preview

SPORTING Perspective (Who cares…)
Phillip Bupp

We can piece together Sporting Kansas City’s gameplan for Saturday’s Union game based on their gameplan from last Wednesday’s game against the Seattle Sounders.  Sporting benched starters Kei Kamara, CJ Sapong, Graham Zusi, Julio Cesar and Seth Sinovic (Matt Besler is out for a few weeks due to appendicitis) in favor of Jacob Peterson, Soony Saad, Peterson Joseph, Michael Thomas and Michael Harrington along with Lawrence Olum starting in place of Besler.  The game was much more important than the final score for a couple reasons.

This was a test for Sporting to determine what kind of depth they have.  With games in hand against their top opponents in the Eastern Conference, Coach Peter Vermes used this opportunity to use their final non-conference game of the season to see how his bench can play in a hostile environment of over 40,000 people after traveling to the West Coast.  For the most part, the team performed wonderfully and drew the Sounders 1-1 with a primarily backup squad.  If anything, the starters were the ones who were making mistakes and having bad games.  Aurelien Collin played his usual aggressive style but took lots of risks after getting a yellow card in the 16th minute.  It was a miracle that he didn’t pick up his 2nd yellow because he didn’t let up his play.  Until Graham Zusi came on in the 50th minute, Roger Espinoza seemed lost and somewhat unprepared commanding the midfield.  After Patrick Ianni’s beautiful goal, the usually calm and reserved Jimmy Nielsen was shown screaming at Espinoza which I felt was undeserved as there was nothing anyone on Sporting could really do.  It was a nice set piece and nicer goal by Seattle.  Backups Jacob Peterson and 19 year old Soony Saad had exceptional games early on as Peterson scored a terrific goal and Saad was on target with most of his shots and was much more physical than ever (which has been a weakness of his).  Knowing that the bench players can perform when called upon is better to know now than finding out late in the season and it gives Vermes a great dilemma and start thinking about giving these players more starts and more playing time.

The other aspect learned from the Seattle game was that it showed how important Sporting views future games on the schedule.  Sporting will play five games in thirteen days so the players will have to have a breather at some point especially since they have to endure 2 cross country trips within a week.  The Seattle game became the sacrificial lamb of the stretch and they got away with a point on a night that had New York also drawing and Real Salt Lake blowing a two goal lead and losing to the LA Galaxy.  It would be safe to assume that barring some sort of injury or exhaustion from players, Vermes will play the Starting XI (except Besler and possibly Bobby Convey) against Philadelphia and somewhat close to the Starting XI for their US Open Cup game against the Dayton Dutch Lions with possibly a couple changes to the lineup.  As far as what Philadelphia should do, they should keep in mind that one more yellow card means that Aurelien Collin will receive a one game suspension for too many yellows.  If he’s suspended and Besler doesn’t come back, the two Center Backs will most likely consist of Konrad Warzycha and Lawrence Olum, both primarily Midfielders converted to Center Back, which have a combined total of nine MLS appearances and two starts.  Julio Cesar can take a spot if necessary but that would sacrifice some strength in the Midfield.  In other words, Sporting can’t afford Collin to get another yellow so I would target him and the inexperience of Olum and go through the middle if I’m the Union.  I predict a 2-1 Sporting win with goals from Collin (off a Zusi corner) and Sapong.

UNION ASPECT ( The one that matters)

Now, let’s not get started on the whole “Our season is blown” and “Why bother” comments.  There is rejuvenation, there is hope, there is a chance – that something might happen.

Hey, I’m in the “Throw all the reserves out there against SKC and focus on the USOC on Tuesday” camp, but that’s just me, especially considering not that many people in the stadium probably know (or care) about the USOC match and how there actually is some figment of a chance.  It’s something salvageable, right?

Rejuvenation- We have a new coach.  He put a lineup in that made sense against DC.  Hell, they played like a damn team.   I can’t say much more than that (especially cause of the copious amounts of beer prior, and firewater, and some licourish vodka). He put McInerney in, who was likely mere moments away from handing in his 2 week notice (I know, he can’t, just saying).  Hackworth even stated “Sheanon is a left back, he’s going back into that position”.  Does this mean no more strikers as defenders and goalies as midfielders?  No more darts at a roster chart?  Consistency?  Hope – see everything I just stated.  Chance – This game should be a matter of pride.  Again, we shouldn’t go balls to the wall, but this is SKC, this is the 2nd best team (with 2 games in hand) in the Eastern conference.    This is the team that I feel deep down, we all want our team to be.

What better way to have pride than to come away with at least a point?  Kansas City is already established this season.  They have their standing position to protect, and even improve.  As of now we almost have nothing, going forward – unless there is a huge shift in the standings – we’re going to be the spoiler team, at least that’s going to have to be our mindset – get into the game and ruin the teams above us.  Also, if memory serves correctly, SKC was in the same boat we were at this time of the year last year, were they not?

Our game last week put our team into perspective – we have a lot of work to accomplish until we become an actual team, but they are slowly starting to get together.  DC didn’t put up their best game against us, and we put up an aggressive – yet haphazard one – at best.  It’s new beginnings, and it’s the silver lining.  This game Saturday IS the proving ground for us and Hackworth.  Yes, a week and a half is a short time for a coach to get things together – but I feel this is the turnaround.

Prediction – 1-1 draw where our defense excels greatly.  Lahoud will get a yellow card.  McInerney will get a goal.  Adu will do his little 5 foot shuffle.  The only downside – and this is because of having Nowak as a coach it is what we expect as our gameplan – is if we play their game and focus only on defense… But I feel that if we come out like we did against DC last week, and avoid the counterattack, it will be a great game.

Preview: Philadelphia Union @ Toronto FC

May 25, 2012 Leave a comment

When: Saturday 5/26 at 4:30
Where: BMO Field

If the Union don’t fucking win…. (click here)

Link: ZWR.

Match Preview: Union v Columbus Crew

April 13, 2012 Leave a comment

Saturday, April 14th, 3:30 pm from PPL Park in Chester, PA.

While the weather tomorrow is supposed to warm up, I see no proof that our beloved soccer team will follow suit.  It’s been said that this matchup pits two similar teams against each other.  The only similarities I see that matter are that both Union and Columbus have played four matches, and both have allowed six goals.  Union have achieved just a single draw along with three losses, whereas Crew have managed to win two and lose two.  That means a five-point differential between the two sides.  That sort of differential suggests this season has NOT been very similar for these two teams.

Positives:  I won’t be completely negative in this post.  The positives are that Union posted a clean sheet defensively last match, and Freddy Adu is back and ready to take a spot leading his club team, hopefully in the same impactful way that he lead the US U-23 Team.  Much controversy was aswirl about the decision to not include captain Danny Califf in the lineup.  Defenses thrive on consistency, and this was as inconsistent a move as any that Peter Nowak has made during his stewardship over the Union.  Califf was reinserted in the starting XI for last match, against Vancouver, and Union did not concede a goal.  The bye-week in the match schedule should ensure that the same back four is set to go against Columbus, and that’s a good thing.

Maybe Freddy will be the voice needed to get this team’s offense to put shots on goal.  Union need some players with the killer-spirit to out-work the defender and find a way to get the shots within the frame of the goal.  Roger Torres being hurt doesn’t help, since he’s one of the guys who’s actually created a goal this season (sad as that is to type).  Adu possesses a similar skill set, so with a little help from his striker friends, Freddy may be just what this team needs to right the ship.

I just don’t see that happening.  Freddy Adu does have the creative flair to initiate offensive chances.  However, he always appears to be on a different page than his forwards, so his passes find no teammate.  Unless they’ve actually been practicing a ton in the two weeks since that Vancouver match, I just don’t see them hitting all cylanders on offense yet.  I predicted a 1-1 draw, which would still be a step in the right direction.  I think they’ll score first, and concede a late goal based on some good work from Columbus, not the result of a defensive error.

Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union (@UnholyUnionNDY)

Match Preview: Union @ Chicago Fire

March 23, 2012 1 comment

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)

First One Leg, Then the Other

November 2, 2011 1 comment

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