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A Tale of Two

May 30, 2012 2 comments

It was the worst of times.  It was the best of times.  It was a disgusting humid day.  It was a stormy cool night.  It was just regular south Philly.  It was beautiful downtown Chester.  It was the 2nd worst team in the MLS.  It was a 3-0 USOC game.

If you didn’t go to the USOC match of the Philadelphia Union last night, well, our apologies.  Why?  Cause it was an awesome good time.

This is the 10th time total, and 1st time this year, that the Union have scored 3 or more goals in competition (preseason and friendlies don’t count… seriously).  The last time we witnessed this was vs DC on September 29th where we won 3-2… I of course, don’t remember this game what so ever.  Interesting stat (and a relative no shit) Union are currently 9 wins and 1 draw when scoring 3 or more goals over the passed 2 seasons – undefeated.  What does that tell us?  Well, score more, duh.

The game started off rocky with even less of a crowd than some were hoping for, but the SOB’s that were there came in strong for the crowd.  Must say it was weird looking at the stands and river end as empty as they were.  With the looming storm to come, and the recent results that have suffered the Union, it was an ominous feeling.  Even though Rochester was a USL (considered lesser league) team, doesn’t mean they were to be taken lightly.

And for the first 2 minutes it seemed like that would have been the case as they pressed the ball offensively at the start of the game.  Not many real chances as the majority of their play was forced out of bounds, but with how poorly the Union have appeared to play, it didn’t look like a great start to what many are hoping what will right the ship.

And then we got the ball.

I couldn’t see much from my perspective, other than we were pressing and shooting.  We were making attempts on goal!  Soon enough we then got a corner kick, and that once in a blue moon chance off a corner, the Union got a goal in the 5th minute.  Goal … Josue Martinez?  Wait what!  Really, why he isn’t getting playing time is beyond me (and it looked like Mwanga is back to not getting playing time).

Needless to say, any ominous feelings we had left until the lightning delay of game came in the 22nd minute.  There was no pouring rain or even sign of lightning (I was facing the river, so I couldn’t tell if there was) for another 5 to 10 minutes or so, but good call on the officials and stadium staff on ushering all ‘indoors’ before the worst of it came.

This lead some (ala me) to wonder if we could keep up the pressure on what appeared to be a mismatched Rochester Rhinos team – which by the way was their 3rd consecutive road game.  Tough break.  Well, soon enough Adu scored off an assist from Martinez – and all was right with the world once more.  A PK in the 73rd minute helped cement our lead from any possible late counterattach by the Rhinos (this of course before hearing about New England’s extra time 3-0 lead, being tied with 9 minutes left… snicker).

Some remarks on the play:

Okugo is not a CB.
The Wonder twin powers pressing up the sides were a thing of beauty… meaning…it freaking worked for once.
Martinez, play him.
Marfan has skills.
Daniel was playing up to par.
Lahoud… was he on the field?  Seriously.
With as many chances as Carroll had he should have gotten one on frame (and in net).
Shots!?  OMG
Konopka came through in goal, but scarily came close to giving the ball away on stupid played passes.

Highlights of the night:

“You’re just fat unicorns”
“We all laugh at the yellow soccer team, the yellow soccer team, the yellow soccer team”
“Who wears short shorts, keeper wears short shorts”
90% of the River End moving to Seaport Drive side.
Both SoB sections (those left in the river end and those opposite of them) chanting AT eachother “Not singing”, “empty seats” and so forth.
The 15 degree drop in temperature once it rained.

Even though we dominated, this was clearly a mismatched (and probably fatigued) Rochester team.  We looked rather okay as a team, but I for one don’t feel comfortable with our level of play to match the likes of our next USOC opponent – DC United.

Which to note, DC is one of 3 teams where we have scored 3 or more goals in one game against TWICE. 4/10/10 and 9/29/11.  Twice in five matches.  Decent odds, don’t you think?  It all likely depends on the team DC will field.  (Other 2 teams with 3 or more goals in 2 games – New England, Chivas).

Week 1 in Review

March 19, 2012 1 comment

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)

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

Well Then,…..That Was…..Yeah…..Not Good…

October 21, 2011 1 comment

Last night’s match against New Jersey Pink Cows was an exercise in….I’m not exactly sure what.  It was frustrating, that’s for sure.  I’ll be interested to see Philly Soccer Page’s stat wrap on this match for the passing percentage.  I’m going to guess it was in the range of “pathetic” and “putrid,” hovering just above “vomitrocious.”  The Man of the Match, unequivocally, is Faryd Mondragon.  This was also possibly his best match as a member of Union.  Without his spectacular play, this match would have ended at LEAST 3-0 (Disclaimer:  Luke Rodgers blows.  If you run your mouth, don’t kick a field goal from 5 yards away from the goal line, dumbass.  That one, Mondragon had nothing to do with.)

As expected, Nowak deployed two central defending midfielders, Brian Carroll and Amobi Okugo.  Also as expected, Nowak deployed someone we did NOT expect to see in the game AT ALL, let alone in the starting XI, Zach Pfeffer.  NJPC wanted the win more, and it was evident.  They fought harder for the ball in the midfield, they were more threatening going forward, and their goal came from an attack down the right flank.  All of those were expected.  The unexpected aspect of this match was the piss-poor passing (say that 5 times fast), flaccid attack, and visible confusion.  I got the impression that if I tried to explain the concept of the “overlapping run” to the team, half of them would have gotten a concussion, and/or had smoke coming out of their ears.  Their play would have been dismissable in game #4, but it is completely inexcusable in game #34.  They didn’t trot out an entire reserve team, therefore this was an embarassment.

I understand that Union made the playoffs already and this match meant infinitely more to NJPC (*cough*and MLS*cough*), but not having to play in the wild card round was DEFINITELY worth playing hard for.  And they failed the estimated 1,200 supporters who made the trek to North Jersey.  My take on this game was that Union should have played more loosely offensively from the outset.  They had nothing to lose in this match, so getting stretched defensively and conceding a goal wasn’t a big deal.  My problem with this match wasn’t the result, so much as how it came to be.  Far too often, when attacking the final third, whatever player was on the ball would pick his head up to look for a place to go with his pass.  What he saw was players standing stationary, and others moving either towards a defender, or already being tightly marked.  This lead to giveaways, overly-ambitious passes (aka Torres-balls), or the player dribbling too much and losing possession because no one seemed to be on the same page.  Players looked at each other the way a quarterback and wide receiver do when the receiver runs an out and the quarterback throws the ball expecting a go-route.  Except in soccer, while they’re bitching at each other trying to figure out who is wrong, their opponents are advancing the ball and attacking The Dragon.

My biggest fear coming out of this match is that they have now put themselves in the very real position of having to play their first playoff game on the road, in the wild-card round.  It’s is easily conceivable that this doesn’t happen, but they could have eliminated the possibility last night and they didn’t.  Anyway, what I fear is that they trot out the same type of offensively-castrated lineup that match as they did last night.  If that is the case, I’d expect the result of that match to be the same as last night.  Therefore, I hope the results of this weekend’s matches fall in Union’s favor and they end up in 2nd place in the conference so that we can see them, in at least one playoff game, play a lineup capable of winning the match.

-Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union

Post-Match + Pre-Match = ….I Don’t Know, But I’m Happy!

September 30, 2011 1 comment

What a crazy match.  Fifteen minutes in, I’m buying shots for people, and fifteen minutes after that, I’m looking to break the bottle over someone’s head.  Marfan to the rescue but jeez, that could have gone a bit more smoothly.  Union secured 3 points in the end, which was the most important part of the night.  Both sides took turns looking like the better team.  Both teams made errors and both took advantage of the other’s errors.  And Seba Le Toux……  can’t even say begin to say how great it is that he’s returned to his 2010 form.  It may very well come to be that the shipping out of Carlos Ruiz was the MVP of Le Toux’s season.  The defense has to deal with the counter attack better, as Andy Najar’s equalizing goal was far too easily conceded.  But, we’re focusing on positives here, and that means I’m taking these 3 points and moving on to Sunday…..

PREVIEW: UNION VS.  CHIVAS USA

Sunday, October 2, 8pm from the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles, CA, on The Comcast Network

Union can breathe a bit easier after securing those 3 points against DC United, however, that doesn’t give them a play-like-crap-because-it-doesn’t-matter card.  This match, and every one until the end of the season, matters.  Union only have today and Saturday off before having to play late Sunday afternoon (California-wise).

Union will be dealing with a fairly desperate Chivas side, whom Union beat when they played in Chester back on June 25th, 3-2.  Chivas sit 4 points behind the final playoff spot, and they’d have to pass by 4 teams to get in.  They’ve only got 3 matches left to pull it off.  Juan Pablo Angel has played well with his third team of the season, and I expect him to key any charge Chivas will attempt to make towards a wild card spot.

Union, while in a better position, are far from in the clear.  They have a game in hand over Sporting KC, but that game in hand, essentially is this match.  And this match is a cross-country flight and a match 3 days after another match against another desperate-for-the-playoffs DC United side.  I worry that they may not have enough in the tank to pull this one out.  I do not, however, worry about Seba anymore.  He’s back in double-digits for goals on the season, and is working his way back into the discussion for the team’s most valuable player.  The other important development recently, and for the season as a whole, is that the more Farfan, the better.  Union have played very well with both brothers on the pitch at the same time.  They add creativity and quickness with their feet that helps in attack and possession.  Their versatility and ability to play defense has helped tremendously, and this will be key against Chivas.  They may be counted on to play more than 1 position in a game.

I feel, after the DC match, that Union have a better than 50/50 shot at winning in LA.  Le Toux will score again, and MacMath will clean his act up.  I think it’s either a win or tie.  I don’t see Chivas being able to beat them, so hopefully 3 more points are on the horizon for the end of the weekend.

Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union

Back to the DRAWing board

September 24, 2011 1 comment

Philadelphia’s recent visit to Kansas City has ended, once again, in a 1-1 tie.  This wasn’t a weak tie like earlier in the year, as KC was a real formidable attacking opponent, and both teams had a decent amount of chances.  I for one considered this a must win, because it’s better to win now and tie later in such a tight eastern conference race, but various others considered this game a can’t lose considering how well KC has been playing, and we didn’t lose.  Which is a plus.

As I have a friend who works at LiveStrong Park, I took the liberty of asking his opinion of the game, which I will rebut / comment on, etc. (PS- he used to be from PA and got a job out there, so he’s fairly unbiased in some senses)

“I thought it was a rather even game from both teams.  If I had to say, Sporting Kansas City probably played a little better overall and in different stretches of the game but the Union were able to get Sporting out of their comfort zone of playing the attacking, offensive game they’re used to.  Keeping the ball away from the front three of Kei Kamara, Teal Bunbury, and Omar Bravo was how the Philadelphia Union were able to get the draw.  Sporting had more chances to score but Philadelphia had better chances to score and that sort of evened things out for both.  Both teams played much better than the first time they met in June where the Union pretty much went on a shooting rampage and had nothing to show for it due to a lack of finishing and Jimmy Nielsen.  This game, the Union were able to get better chances and were better at finishing or getting in that position to finish while the Defense showed up for Sporting

Where the refereeing has been pretty erratic in MLS this season, I thought it was a semi-fairly called game.  I know there will be some Sporting fans who will say that there were some calls that didn’t go our way near the end of the game but it was like that for both teams.  From my vantage point, we got away with a few also.  I noticed there were stretches where everything was getting called and other times where nothing was getting called.  Personally, I like to see them play on as much as possible and see things be physical from both sides but that sort of inconsistency can’t be good for the players trying to guess what kind of mood the ref is in.  Definitely thought it was one of the more cleaner games of the season which was good because it was a very physical game. ”

Interjection – As he says the officiating was fairly decent, as the ref let the players play on for the most part and tried not to influence the game too much with calling fouls, but there are quite a few moments that Kei Kamara had lost his temper and could have been booked for dissent to the officials (he wasn’t saying “Golly” or “Fargle” if you know what I’m saying) and kicked the ball away in pure disgust clear after the whistle had blown, which is counted as dissent AND time wasting and would count for another booking.  Guy needs some anger management.  Back to the KC analysis

“Sebastien Le Toux definitely was the star of the game and probably the season for the Union.  I haven’t been able to see many Union games this season and I have mainly heard of his play but seeing Le Toux play last night, he definitely is that sort of Striker that you can depend on getting a goal and lifting a team on his shoulders when it’s needed.  I also want to commend the Sons of Ben and the Union fans who were at the stadium.  I was sitting underneath their section at the tunnel but they were definitely the most vocal and loudest visiting group who has come to Livestrong Sporting Park and we only have two more MLS regular season home games versus Columbus Crew and New York Red Bulls.  There were definitely more Seattle Sounders and L.A. Galaxy fans at those games when they were here but they were really only vocal after they scored.  The Sons of Ben kept it up the entire game and at times, it was hard to hear the Cauldron on the other side of the stadium.  I honestly think the Cauldron and the Sons of Ben are two of the best supporters groups in MLS and the Sporting KC and Union fans some of the best fans in MLS.  It’s easy to be a Galaxy or Sounders fan when they’re always the top of the standings, are always on national TV, and have guys named Beckham and Donovan on their team.  It’s much harder to be a Sporting KC fan when we were last in the East earlier this season and harder to be a Union fan when they were battling their scoring drought and were underachieving earlier this season.

All in all, the result definitely hurt Sporting Kansas City more than the Philadelphia Union.  The draw puts Sporting in a tie for 1st with Columbus and Philadelphia in 3rd a point behind both with a game up.  That extra game is the key for the Union and gives them a major advantage when it comes to obtaining 1st Place in the Eastern Conference especially when Sporting plays Columbus Wednesday night.  I can imagine just with the body language around the team, Columbus is a must win if Sporting wants to think about 1st place in the East and be more comfortable in the top three.  To those Union fans who visited LIVESTRONG Sporting Park for the game, I hope you had a good time.  I know you’ll probably want to say PPL Park is a better stadium but this place is definitely one of the best places to see a Soccer game.”

Much of what my friend said was true.  Late in the game KC finally got an attacking situation going, and was able to start getting Kamara into the game on the wings, which is probably much of why he was getting so frustrated, not at the refs but at our defense.  Califf and Valdes must have really been giving him the business.  Valdes was authoritative, and does what he often does to confuse fans since he’s a defender, but he was acting more like a counterattacking midfielder with how far up the field he was playing the ball.

Torres is classic Torres and has a keen ability with crossing the ball forward at the right pace for everyone.  With how well he’s been playing, it’s frustrating that he wasn’t put in as a starter earlier in the year.

Paunovic was almost non-existent.  With his breakout games when he first started, gotta wonder what happened with him.   Still love the guy, but he took on Le Toux’s bad touch it seems.

Le Toux has his touch back, and all is right with the world.  He had a few chances at sharp angles that a world class striker would have made, but the issue is not his shooting (and how many shots he does take) but it used to be his first touch.  Michael Farfan made a beautiful save of Torres’ cross to prevent a goal kick, tapped it to Le Toux who taps it in.  Earlier in the year, I don’t think Le2 would have made that goal.

Gabe Farfan is not a defender and let Bravo through on Kamara’s beautiful cross.  There was almost no way for MacMath to save that.  But, Gabe is still a better option than Nakazawa at back, who was getting burnt every time the ball was near him.  Within 5 minutes the positioning was switched, Gabe fell back and Naka went forward, which is a much better option, as Naka was then close to non existent.

Carroll is a beauty still, and Okugo needs to show more of a presence than he has been.

With our flaws, it was a well skilled match from both sides, and either team could have taken the lead at any given moment.

Now, the ill-fated – STANDINGS

As it stands now (as of 6:56 pm on Saturday) Houston Dynamo has beaten FC Dallas and have taken claim of the number 1 spot in the Eastern Conference.  Columbus and KC are now tied for 2nd place at 41 points, and we are now in 4th place in the East, holding the 3rd wildcard spot with 40 points, Portland is 37 and holds the 4th spot.

Situational Next upcoming games:

DC plays RSL.  They are currently close to contention, but with a win can be competitive.
Columbus plays LA and can reclaim the top position before playing KC this coming Wednesday.  A win both game will probably put them as the number 1 spot for the end of the season.
NY plays Portland.  NY is at 36 points and Portland is at 37.  This currently is for the 4th wildcard spot, but Portland can come up and tie the Union with points if they win this game.
Colorado holds the 2nd playoff spot at 41 points, and is playing San Jose.  Probably a win there, but it’s good to know that we aren’t far off from some security.

So, sadly enough, we are rooting for RSL, LA, and a draw in Jersey.  I may or may not update after tonight’s results.

Eastern Conference PTS GP GD
Houston Dynamo 42 31 0
Columbus Crew 41 29 -2
Sporting Kansas City 41 30 6
Wild Card Race PTS GP GD
FC Dallas 46 30 3
Colorado Rapids 41 30 1
Philadelphia Union 40 29 6
Portland Timbers 37 29 -5
New York Red Bulls 36 29 3
D.C. United 35 27 -1
Chivas USA 32 30 -2

WINNING

September 19, 2011 2 comments

I’ve made note of this before, some banners in the River End have been missing since July, one in which was Charlie Sheen… Now, I’m not saying it’s primarily because of the banners, but there is an awful lot of coincidence in the Charlie Sheen banner hanging proudly in The River End, and our first win in two months.  If you have finally recovered from celebrating (or dredding the Sunday night loss of the Eagles, both should result in hangovers) you already know we beat Columbus 1-nothing. 

With a starting eleven that rotates more than a 5 year old on a computer chair, this was the most haphazard chemistry experiment Nowak has implemented this year.  We started with the normal GK with MacMath, Valdes, Califf, Williams, and an interchangable Farfan in left back (Gabe this time).  In the midfield was our solid CMD in Carroll, and our new favorite combination of Adu Torres.  The change here, as Justin Mapp was listed on the injury report, was our youngest acquisition – Pfeffer.  The 17 year old had his first start and played well – but I will get to that later.  So, with the midfield with a little twist, you would expect to see Mwanga and LeToux up top.  Well, half right.  The interchangeable Farfan’s strike again with being able to fill a striker position with Michael.  My eyes went crosseyed when I saw this line up.  Nowak was either a mad genius, or has gone mad.  Both are the case, but I’ll just go with genius.  That or he reads all the bloggers’ predictions before hand just to mess with our heads so that we are always wrong.

What went right-

Most everything.  We didn’t have drifting midfielders.  We didn’t look like a midfield blob the entire game.  No overplaying the ball defensively and having to chase.  It was one of our better form games this year, and it showed.

It seemed from my end that it was mostly a midfield battle, as Columbus would come in and literally possess the ball with handling and passing, which they are fairly good at.  For the Union however, from the beginning, it seemed our strategy was grab and dash.  We weren’t really trying to keep the ball possession, rather, get the ball, and get it to goal as fast as possible.  Many breaks would end up with the ball stolen and Columbus back to pure possession, so the first half Columbus generally maintained the ball.  But like most strategies for a counterattack game, if you do it long enough there will be a breakthrough and it came with Torres to Le Toux.

Now, there were a few breaks before that could have resulted in goals or attempts, but this one was just perfect.  Torres on the right wing on the defensive side of midfield looks up to see Le Toux in between two Columbus defenders, pointing at goal.  I don’t know why this has never been done before, but Torres actually sent the ball in… Not only did he send it in, it was perfectly spaced and weighted putting the ball in front of Le Toux, inside the 18.  Le Toux with a step on the defender coming in at full speed, you would think that he would end up hitting the ball high or wide, but something has happened to the Frenchmen in the past 2 months – he got his touch back.  He calmly struck to ball low and to the right of Columbus keeper Hessmer, and officially made him his bitch.

Pfeffer in the closing minutes of the 1st half had a shot on goal as well, initiated from a Torres cross to Le Toux into the box once again, which he then outplayed a defender along the goal line and got it to Pfeffer who was in the middle right side of the 18 box, with his back to goal, pivots and strikes the ball nicely for such a shot.  Unfortunately it was directly at the keeper.  Not bad for a 17 year old.

These were the only 2 shots on goal out of 8.  5 others went wide, and another was stopped before it reached net.  Columbus had an equal amount of chances, but only required MacMath to make one save, giving him the clean sheet and first MLS career win.  They also had 4 shots off target, and 3 were blocked.

What you would have thought-

Thinking about this, I don’t know why Columbus did not try to go on our left flank more than they did.  Granted, we have a 17 year old first time starter as left midfielder, and Gabe Farfan, the better defender of the two Farfans, but not a natural defender – so thinking strategically you would pressure that one side.  Luckily enough, they’re Columbus and screwed up.  I’m not complaining, but it makes you wonder about the strategies teams try to implement – and remind us that even though it seems we don’t have one cut in stone, some other teams are that much more worse off.

What to improve –

To be honest, I can’t think of anything to improve on with this game.  Adu did very little, but was available for distribution.  Torres made some fantastic service similar to that which we saw and loved last year.  And we looked like a team that knows how to get in first place for the conference, and has the making to finish the season strong.

I guess the only thing I would ask for would be some insurance goals.  Sitting on one goal leads is never pretty, but it wasn’t like we weren’t trying.  Just get it on target boys.

Also, in case you didn’t know – during half time Rotary International was showcased, a volunteer organization that provides “communitees at home and abroad to support education and job training, provide clean water, combat hunger, improve health and sanitation, and eradicate polio.”  That was taken from the main international site.  You can go to Rotary.org, philarotary.org or the Philadelphia Club facebook.  They used this game to raise funds to be donated to Rotary for polio education.