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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)

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

Ch-ch-changes

June 14, 2012 2 comments

Well, we might as well talk about it…

Turn and face the strain

A quick look back on Nowak before our preview of the DC match-

May 2009 – Named the head coach of the incoming Philadelphia Union.
Brought DOOP into our every day vocabulary.
Petitioned Danny Mwanga to stay in the United States, and subsequently was the Unions first (and first of 2010) draft pick ever.  Never heard from the kid since.
Introduced us to the fan favorites of Old Serbian and Big Quick Mondragon.
Lost track of loan information (MOF)
Was unaware of visa information (Daniel)
Smited Superman (David Myrie)
Turned a rag tag bunch of motley into a 2nd year playoff competitor.
Collected more (allocation) money than the monopoly guy. 

Rumor (rather word is, cause it’s obvious in legal contractual dissolvements) is that Nowak got paid plenty to leave.  Not sure if his application to another job is grounds for dismissal, but as some joked along with the rumor that he had applied to Hearts in the Scottish Premier league – he would take the allocation money with him.  Well, it seems if he did get a payout, that’s likely true. 

So, what now? 

After finally getting rid of the coach who took bath salts towards the end of the 2011 season and ultimately cannibalized his own players, where do we go from here with the leftovers. We already have the talent – Valdes, Gomez, Williams, Carroll, Daniel, Torres (whenever he comes back…), Marfan, Garfan, Martinez.  I will lump Adu into this category if he has another stellar play, and Pajoy once he gets two more goals – I do like Pajoy, it just seems that (like Ruiz) the game strategy for the team doesn’t fit into any play with him (which is a coaching fault… cough).  We have a team with talent and stars, but what will happen. 

Where will Hackworth lead this team?  Is he better at developing talent where it seems that Nowak has only stifled it due to some egotistical maneuver that is contrary to any child development guide (See: Mwanga, Adu – twice!, and McInerney)?  Is he going to field a team that will benefit the team – play to their strengths as opposed to plugging in holes like you’re playing FIFA 12 and chosen a random team (I’m getting the hang of it)?  Not only that – the bottom line question of course is – will he give us results – will he give us wins. 

Now none of this “He’s a Nowak lacky”.  If you were put in charge while your boss was away for only one week, you’d do what your boss wanted you to do.  Why?  Well, it’s not your team, you’re his assistant, and you want to keep your job.  Hackworth’s been assistanting and coaching since 93 and started with colleges.  He’s been the 2nd in line, as well as the man in charge throughout his career – especially for our U-17’s. For now, time will tell.  This is a new leaf.  This is a new day.  We got what we were asking for because, well, we didn’t like what we saw anymore.  Too much inconsistency (even with success) and then a complete nuclear melt down will result in a quick turnaround.  This is our first growing pain.  This is our first MAJOR (non-player) change.  Will the team go through another overhaul? Will we bring in a (semi) big name?  How much allocation money is left?  

The better question… 

Will we score goals?

…Because it’s Been a While…

May 4, 2012 1 comment

I’m convinced that Arjen Robben bares more resemblance to former U.S. MNT coach and current Egypt MNT coach Bob Bradley than Bradley’s actual son, Michael.  And, I can’t be the only one that thinks this.

Manchester City won the Manchester Derby to go even on points with United, ahead on season’s goal differential.  Wonderful.  This just gives Mario Balotelli another opportunity to completely f*ck City’s season up.

Real Madrid captured their league title this week.  Congratulations!  How’d your Champions League season go?  Anyway, here’s a team with a manager who is very set in his ways, some of his players don’t like him and disagree with his tactics.  Yet, they go through with the game plan like professionals.  And their leading goal-scorer is a midfielder.  Is THIS where Nowak gets his ideas from?  Because I totally buy the parallel that Freddy Adu = Mesut Ozil and Michael Farfan = Cristiano Ronaldo.  Yeah.  Sure.

I don’t even know why I just made that Union-Real Madrid comparison

Union play a 1pm PST match in a stadium full of people who tailgate with lattes.  And they’re owned by Drew Carey.  All they do is purchase the right to host the US Open Cup final every year to give them the advantage in winning a tournament that most of MLS doesn’t care about.  I’m still pissed about the Flyers being down 2-1 to the Devils.  I need a Union win tomorrow.

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

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)

Week 5 Picks

This is the weekly post where Dan and Nick square off to see whom can better predict the outcomes of 5 matches from the MLS slate.  The email happened as follows:

Montreal v Toronto;  Columbus v New York;  SKC v LA;  San Jose v Vancouver;  DC v Seattle;  RSL v Colorado;  Portland v Chivas 

DK: Not like I’ve been posting anything on the blog to begin with, but it’s still nice to not have to worry about a “pregame” post commenting about how we don’t have faith in the team (read: Management). 

NY:  Dan, just because Union don’t have a match doesn’t mean that you and I can’t poorly predict the outcomes of the rest of the MLS weekend slate.  Let’s begin, shall we?

I’ll take Union’s 2 biggest geographic rivals, New York and DC to start.  New York seems to have been buoyed by the fact that Luke Rodgers is not going to be able to return to the team due to visa problems.  He seems like a jackass.  New York, on the road, is going to continue their We-play-better-without-Luke run of form and defeat their hosts, Columbus, 3-1.


DK: I think NY IS better without Luke – seriously, I hate the guy… then again there aren’t many opposing strikers that I don’t hate.  But NY is traveling to Columbus, who doesn’t look too awfully shabby, but they’ve only played 3 games, and one was Toronto.  I’ll still give it to home field advantage and say that Columbus over takes NY, but 2-0.  That, or Henrey places the ball in the net a few times (note: I didn’t say kick).

 NY:  DC United looked scary-good last week, and they are hosting Seattle, which should dedicate this match to the memories of Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley, both of whom died on April 5, in 1994 and 2002, respectively.  Ok, so they won’t, but wouldn’t it be otherworldly awesome if Sounders donned a flannel-pattern kit for this match as a tribute?  Pearl Jam and Soundgarden as a postgame concert?  Might be the only way that DC would sell as many tickets as Seattle averages.  Be that as it may, this will be the game of the week, with DC winning 3-2.

 DK: 2nd pick is the teams from states in the middle west that fall into a whole in the map. RSL vs Colorado.  RSL is at home, but they just recently played Montreal on Wednesday, and won only 1-0.  You’d think they’d notch a few more goals on that one, but you can’t complain about a team with a 4 win and 1 loss start (I wish I could talk about a team with that start).  This is early to call, but obvious as a possible playoff match preview and the current battle for top of the West.  Note: RSL has a 6 game unbeaten street against Colorado, and I think this will continue on to 7.  RSL over Colorado 2-1.

 NY:  Civil war!  The first MLS regular season meeting between Montreal and Toronto will be a snoozer.  TFC is still seeing visions of Herculez Gomez scoring goals creeping behind their centerbacks, and Montreal hasn’t found their MLS-level game yet.  However, they earn a draw, 1-1, based on home field advantage.

DK: I too think that Montreal and Toronto will be a tie.  It’s just how much of a level of bore and ‘potential’ do you want to witness for this match.  Leave it in Canada and let us not suffer a 0-0 game.

 NY:  Runner-up for match-of-the-week is Sporting Kansas City hosting LA Galaxy.  It’s the runner up because LA is not playing well right now, otherwise, it’s a 4-0-0 SKC hosting the defending MLS Cup Champions.  I see SKC winning this one 2-1, and staking early claim to the title of early frontrunner for this year’s title.  And, commence fanning the rumor flames that KC can exercise their contractual rights to Herc Gomez to bring him in on-loan once the Clausura is over, and he likely wins the title there, too.

 DK: Again we’re picking the same outcome.  SKC at home is similar to what LA was last year.  Not only that, SKC has momentum – and talent.  Right now LA only has piles of cash.  Even though I doubt Gomez will come back to play for KC at any point in time, in the near future KC will easily handle what LA brings and Kamara will notch 2 goals easy. 2-1 also.

NY:  And I need a relative gimmie, so I’ll close with Timbers hosting Chivas.  It’s well-documented through these posts what my opinion of Chivas is.  I know they didn’t follow orders 2 weeks back in beating RSL, but that was an aberration.  That idiot with the chainsaw will get to celebrate a home victory, and cut into that log a few times in doing so.  Portlandia 3-1.

 DK: Yes Portland’s at home, and that buffoon will likely have fun celebrating a few goals (seriously, what are you compensating for with that chainsaw) – but I don’t want him celebrating with that chainsaw.  I get the gimmick, I get the tradition, I just don’t like it.  And in that I’m saying that he won’t be celebrating and this will end in a 0-0 tie.  Don’t you like the way I make my picks?

 NY:  And in closing, with a bonus prediction, I’ll predict that Union don’t lose this weekend.  It might be the only thing I get right.

Summary: NY:  Columbus 1-3 New York,  DC 3-2 Seattle,  Montreal 1-1 Toronto,  SKC 2-1 LA,  Portland 3-1 Chivas USA

DK: Columbus 2-1 New York, RSL 2-1 Colorado, Montreal 0-0 Toronto, SKC 2-1 LA, Portland 0-0 Chivas USA