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Where Do They Go From Here?

July 18, 2012 1 comment

Union fans have to be pleased with what the team has done over the past month or so.  They advanced to the semifinal of the US Open Cup, they’ve put together three consecutive wins in MLS play, and they are playing attractive soccer in doing so.  The third item may, however, be in jeopardy in the very near future.

Sporting KC dispatched Union from the US Open by bunkering in defensively and attacking them only on the counter.  It was plainly visible, even watching on the team’s website stream, that SKC was going to make the Union offense beat no fewer than 8 players before they would allow a threat on their goalkeeper.  And it worked.  Union, inevitably, threw players forward in an effort to break the defense down, and it left them exposed at the back and the match was lost.  Then again, that had more to do with Roger Espinoza’s Bambi-on-the-ice act than anything.  (I wonder if he naturally falls down a lot or if he works on it in training.  Whatever, it’s over.)  Montreal played somewhat similarly, and if not for the insipired play of Zac MacMath, they almost achieved the same result.

Concensus is that the match against Impact was an “ugly win.”  Union fans have been treated to very aesthetically-pleasing soccer since the advent of the 4-3-3 formation that John Hackworth favors.  I believe what SuCK, I mean SKC, and Montreal have laid out may be the blueprint for defeating The U, and I foresee future opponents employing it.  I see a lot of hollow possession in our future…

The key to the rest of the season is to resist the urge to strike long, over-the-entire-defense passes, aka Hail Marys, because a vast majority of the time, they go over the endline for a goal kick the other direction.  The U need to practice proper offensive spacing, smart running off of the ball, and quick recognition of the passing lanes with the ball at their feet.  I don’t think they can depend on Zac’s triceps and scrambling defenders to keep them in the game each match.  Playing smart in attack will help them combat the negative tactics I believe they will be seeing most of the rest of the season.

Nick Y., the other .5 of Unholy Union

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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.

Week 7 MLS Picks

April 20, 2012 3 comments

Dan – 17 out of 30
Nick – 13 out of 30

DK: This week we’re going to incorporate a special guest pick set of our dear, beloved friend, Johnny “Vegas”.  Let’s see if he’s as sharp as we are.

Jh: As sharp as you guys? Judging by your season record you guys are as sharp as a ball peen hammer.
 
NY:  We basically use this weekly segment to post content to the blog, as well as make fun of the other teams in MLS anyway.
 
DK: TFC vs Chicago – Not much to be presented by these two teams. TFC gets their first points through a  0-0 tie.
 
JH: Toronto vs Chicago: when gambling a man must have rules.  Always double down on 11 in blackjack, Never bet on the hard ten in craps Ect.  First rule of MLS game picking, always go against Canadian teams. Chicago isn’t much better than Toronto but just picked up Chris Rolffe back from his two and a half year tour of Denmark. Expect him in the game day 18 and so give the fire a big boost upfront. Chi 2-0
 
NY:  Vancouver hosting Dallas makes hefty travel for the visitors.  FCD will travel just 600 miles less than Union will by going to L.A.  The difference is that Dallas has Brek Shea, and Union don’t have anyone that good.  Dallas triumphs in this one 2-0.
 
DK: Portland vs KC – I’m jumping on the bandwagon… well granted, if you asked me last year I would say that KC looks like a fantastic team anyway.  But they are undefeated right now.  They’re legitimately on fire and I don’t see them giving this up that easily, especially against a team such as Portland.  The one thing with this game is that it will be in their Jedi Wen stadium, and with a chainsaw buzzing at a more annoying level than vuvuzela, it will be a tough one for them.  KC 2-1
 
JH: Portland vs Kansas City: another gambling rule I live by, anytime the best team in the league plays the worst team in the western conference. Always go with the best. Sporting KC are a balanced scoring team with a nightmare back line. And they have a tendency to beat up on bad teams. And right now Portland is BAD. 3-0 Sporting.
 
NY:  Houston’s traveling circus hits Ohio this weekend, and the homeless Dynamo take on the Crew.  Columbus were unlucky to lose to Union last week, the only goal coming from a penalty kick.  They get to rebound against the team-whose-new-home-stadium-is-still-being-built Houston.  It’s always tough playing every game on the road to open the season, just ask KC.  But Houston managed to score a goal playing underwater (that match in Chicago that was stopped after 65 minutes due to rain).  Columbus couldn’t take advantage of a makeshift Union backline last week, and they won’t fare any better against the hobos of MLS.  I see it ending 2-1 Houston, because they’ve only played 4 matches so far this season so the uninjured players have fresh legs.
 
DK: DC vs NY – I would be picking NY in this game anyway – considering DC just tied against Montreal last night (a bright side in the dark world of philly sports which was last night), but Rafa Marquez is fined and suspended for his blatant disregard for the talent that is Shea Selinas.  So I’m saying NY wins so much more outstandingly than before, and expect them to go on a tear while their monkey is off their back.  NY 3-1
 
NY:  New York’s luck gets better and better.  They got rid of that nuisance Luke Rodgers and played better.  Now, the league gifted them a reprieve from that thug, Rafa Marquez.  New York takes this one 2-0, as DeRo’s dancing shoes will not be needed this week.
 
JH: Colorado vs LA: normally a match up of the last two champions would be prime time viewing but alas this year so far LA and the Rapids have been middling at best. But much like the early 2000 lakers I expect the fightin Donovan’s to start turning it on. 1-0 LA.
 
DK: Colorado vs LA has the makings of a decent skilled match… and then you realize that they’re not on top like they both usually are.  I still think it should be a great match to watch, but nothing much in it for either – 1-1 tie.
 
JH: San Jose vs Real Salt Lake: Two very evenly matched teams, A  San Jose win puts them at the top of the western table while a RSL win locks them firmly at the top. But without Shea Selinas I don’t think the earthquakes have enough firepower to keep RSL from shutting down Chris Wondolowski. Espindola grabs a goal and RSL steals one on the road 1-0.
 
NY:  Real Salt Lake visiting San Jose is a chance for RSL to get right back on the winning track.  There’s certainly no shame in them losing to KC at this point in the season, with Sporting having such a good run right now.  The intrigue comes from Real looking immediately below where they sit, atop the conference standings, to see the Earthquakes just 2 points behind, with a game-in-hand.  Don’t worry, no one thought San Jose would be in 2nd place at any point of the year, either.  I pick RSL to put SJE in their place, 3-2
 
DK: Chivas verse Union.  Chivas being mine and Nick’s definitive “Loser each week, every week”, this will be the game that will test how well the Union as a team is this year.  Remember, Chivas snuck in 3 points against a stagnant RSL offense – a little more than what we as fans can predict the Union to do when those two face off – and beat Toronto and Portland.   Some factors to take into play – 1) East coast west coast travel… this is a 10:30 pm game – 7:30 pm PST.  Jetlag will be in effect.  2) Some scuttlebutt says the Califf did not travel, but we are more than happy with Gaddis in there as a replacement.  3) It’s Chivas.  A lot of factors, mostly team based, are in our way of a victory here, but I’m still putting it in that Chivas is complete shit.  Union win 1-0 off either a set piece or a lucky PK.
 
JH: Union vs Chivas: Have the union even scored a goal from actual game play? I think Novak’s plan is only score off set pieces and PKs. Defensively the Union are rock solid and MacMath is coming into his own. Novak’s perfect season carries on as no one scores. 0-0
 
NY:  Interesting pick, this match.  Chivas, though they have 9 points, are winless at home.  They’ve both played Portland at Jeld-Wen Stadium, where Union lost and Chivas won.  They’ve also both hosted Vancouver, where Union got a scoreless draw and Chivas lost 1-0.  The aforementioned travel effects, along with the fact that Chivas have not conceded more than a single goal in any match so far, would have me pegging this as a Union loss.  But The Goats, for some strange reason, don’t play well at Home Depot Center.  Maybe they lose footing in the body marks Landon Donovan leaves after he dives.  1-1 draw.

Week 6 picks – god we suck at this game.

April 12, 2012 1 comment
We need advice

We need advice

Dan – 13 out of 25
Nick – 12 out of 25

DK:  There’s a reason why we’re not in Vegas.
NY:  Damn right.  There are better sports books for soccer in Europe anyhow.

DK: Well here we are again.  I’m getting to these picks late as usual… I need to start slacking off work more often.
NY:  MORE often?!?!?  Is that possible?

 DK: Game of the week should be KC vs RSL.  5 and 0 versus 5 and 1.  Top of east verse west.  KC has only allowed 1 goal in 5 games, and RSL has only allowed 4 in 6 games.  RSL’s only loss so far came at the feet of Chivas, so consistency can be a question, but that was a couple weeks ago.  Neither team is going to take the other lightly, and this will probably see some decent amount of scoring chances from both teams.  This one can really go either way, but a tie is most certainly out of the question.  I’m going to go with KC over RSL 3-2.

NY:  In Seattle v Colorado, I’m going to take a one week break from my assertion that Seattle always wins at home.  I’ll say 2-2 draw for this one.

 DK:  2nd pick is going to be Dallas over Montreal.  Hands down.  I don’t think I have to go into much detail as to why, even though Montreal can take you by surprise.  Dallas 2-0

NY:  New England v DC United ought to be an easy one for DC, with NE’s Shalrie Joseph suspended for the match.  I foresee much bad dancing from DeRo.  3-0 DC wins.

 DK: 3rd pick is Toronto and Chivas.  Now that Toronto can focus on the MLS regular season, will they go back to their normal level of suck that we’re accustomed to seeing?  Not likely.  I’ll put my money on Toronto finally getting their first points against Chivas 1-0.

NY:  RBNY hosting San Jose is going to be ugly.  As if it isn’t bad enough for the ‘Quakes that they have to travel cross-country for this, they’re running into the We-Play-Much-Better-Without-Luke-Rodgers NY side.  Henry finds some way to net a couple more cheap goals and earn Player of the Week honors yet again.  4-1 RBNY win

 DK: 4th pick is one of those gimmes that probably will slap me in the face.  LA versus Portland.  Bottom of the west coast (who knew that LA was at the bottom – supporters shield my ass).  Whatever has befallen the Galaxy, I’m certain good ole Bruce – I look like a Bond Villain – Arena will start lighting some fire under peoples asses so that the golden child of the MLS won’t go 1-5-0.  My suggestion, start with the money piled up to pay Donovan and Beckham.  LA over Portland 1-0.

NY:  Chicago v Houston is going to be a more competitive match than most this week. That’s because Brad Davis won’t be playing, leaving Houston with a midfielder shortage.  This wouldn’t be a problem for them if Peter Nowak was their coach, because he would just play some forwards out of position there.  That guy’s got the answer for everything (I wouldn’t have been able to say that line without laughing, which is where typed text works better).  2-1 Chicago Fire win.

 UNION PICK

DK:  This one never gets old – and by that, it means it does.  The only thing we do know is that there is one less midfielder to randomly pick who might even ride the bench, yet alone start.  Hopefully Torres gets a fast and full recovery.  Anyway – I would say that we get to see Garfan back in that ill-fated LB position, as Lopez is likely with his national team.  Other than that… Yea.  I don’t know either.  What I do know is that something was starting to click in that last match against Vancouver, but unfortunately it wasn’t shots.  Columbus isn’t that great either, and word on the interwebz has it that even Columbus fans don’t think this is going to be a stellar game, as both teams have went on the decline – don’t let Columbus’ 2 wins fool you, those were games they were supposed to win (Montreal, TFC).  What I think?  I think we’ll finally notch our first win.  The shots will pour forth as if the Bearfight Brigade converted into Jersey Shore wannabes.  Union 2-0.

NY:  Yes, Columbus and Philly are having similar seasons right now, but Union will only go as far as Freddy Adu takes them, which will not be good enough.  I just can’t see them scoring 2 goals right now without Torres involved.  I’m picking this to be a 1-1 draw.

Summary:
DK:  KC 3-2 RSL; Dallas 2-0 Montreal; Toronto 1-0 Chivas; LA 1-0 Portland; Union 2-0 Columbus
NY: Seattle 2-2 Colorado; NE 0-3 DC; NY 4-1 SJE; Chicago 2-1 Houston; Union 1-1 Columbus

Season Picks – Week 2 Dan vs Nick

March 15, 2012 1 comment

All went well for Dan minus his Union pick, as he went 4 for 4 prior to the Union loss.  Nick caught back up due to his union prediction.  Scores Dan 4 – Nick 3.  On to week 2!

 

WTF is Nowak doing

 

NY:  San Jose v Houston:  Lingering from last year’s playoff defeat of the Union, I still don’t like Houston.  I know they won a road match last week, but that was against Chivas.  There might not be a worse team in this league than Chivas.  Therefore, I will say that Wondo nets one for the ‘Quakes, and the match ends in a 1-1 draw.

DK: As I would normally pick this match and say Houston over San Jose, Houston not scoring a goal til the 92nd minute against Chivas is going to make me walk away from this one.  Instead I’m going to pick Kansas City over New England.  I’m basing this on SKC holding strong and proving that they are and will be the top of the East (that counterattack is hard to stifle) and the New England is still rotting from the inside out in all areas of management, playing, and so forth.  2-0 for Sporting at home.

NY:  FC Dallas v Portland:  Lingering from last week’s defeat of the Union, I still don’t like Portland.  Dallas did well to frustrate PCNJ last week, but Portland isn’t a bunch of whiny, complaining quitters.  This being in Dallas, I think FCD takes this 2-1.

DK: I’m just going to say that I’m going to pick most all other league matches.  The ones you picked are likely going to be close ones.  I don’t think Portland can out match DC like the way they outplayed the Union, but it goes without saying that they are completely match fit and this will be a good match to watch.

My 2nd match is going to be Montreal and Chicago.  Chicago had a bye in the opening week and will be well rested.  If you include the fact that their starting line is still intact from last year, they are already miles ahead of the Impact… but what amount of impact (see what I did there) will a ‘record breaking’ crowd for Montreal do for the home team?  I don’t think a bunch of French Canadian fans will make that much of a difference.  I’ll say Montreal will finally tally a goal, but lose 2-1 to Chicago.

NY:  Real Salt Lake v New York:  RSL dominated a tired LA Galaxy 3-1.  They might double that goal-scoring output against a team who seemed to only have 2 players who cared against Dallas.  Ok, maybe not quite THAT bad, but RSL wins again, either 2-0 or 3-1.

DK: 3rd pick for me is Seattle verse Toronto.  Both played the 2nd leg of the CONCACAF Champion’s league Quarterfinal Wednesday night. Seattle, being thoroughly embarrassed by Santos – Toronto overcoming the “goliath” in LA.  One’s confidence is likely shattered, the other is walking on air.  Both are going to have their fair amount of travel-lag and fatigue between Wed and Saturday.  I don’t think the home field advantage of plastic and fluorescent colors will help Seattle against the confidence TFC will have after beating LA at home.  2-1 TFC.

NY:  Chivas v Vancouver:  Chivas sucks.  Sebastien Le Toux will become Sebastien Le Two in this one, and all Union faithful will shed a tear into their green beer.

 

DK: Far too obvious.  Vancouver played solid soccer in their opener.  Can’t do anything but agree with you on this one.  The gimme pick of the week – Vancouver wins 2-0

NY: Union v Colorado:  Union found it tough to navigate the midfield against Portland, and they will be faced with Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni in the central midfield which won’t make things any easier.  I’m setting the yellow card over/under at 4.5.  That same over/under applies to number of times we will collectively nearly crap ourselves because a Colorado right winger gets behind Porfirio Lopez.  Unless something changes miraculously from Monday to Sunday, I see this as another loss for the U, at BEST a draw.  Second verse, same as the first, Union 1-2 Colorado.

DK: I’ll stop being a homer for once and I’m going to get flack for this as well.  There’s no possible way we’re going to play as a team.  We look like we’re in 2010 form, minus someone attempting to fly like superman (yes, I’m never going to give up on referencing David Myrie’s performance).  We have no midfield – literally they almost disappeared.  Our strikers were too far depressed into our defensive half, providing few outlets for any possible counterattack (which we never had).  And our defensive line looks surprisingly shaky – granted that after Portland’s tying goal we started to panic and play the long ball – something of which we again, never had – and opened ourselves up more for constant pressure did NOT help ourselves defensively.  Colorado is a tough team to beat, even with Casey Connor out for who knows how long.  2-0 Colorado.  The only thing that could save us is home field advantage, Colorado travel lag, and MacMath showing us the same performance he did in goal last year.  But all signs point to no win.

NY:
SJ vs Hou – Tie
FCD vs Por – FCD 2-1
RSL vs NY – RSL win
Chivas vs Van – Van win
UNION vs Colorado – loss

DK:
SKC vs NE – SKC 2-0
Mon vs Chi – Chi 2-1
Sea vs TFC – TFC 2-1
Chivas vs Van – Van 2-0
UNION vs Colorado – loss