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Posts Tagged ‘Zac MacMath’

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

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.

The Off-Season, Training Camp Edition

January 26, 2011 Leave a comment

Well, now.  I figured we’d have a different starting keeper, but I didn’t think that ALL of the keepers on the squad would be new.  Enter the Dragon (Faryd Mondragon) and Zack Mac (and we already have Jack Mac, just need Little Mac from Mike Tyson’s Punchout to complete the set) and hopefully many clean sheets are in our future.  The other great news is that Roger Torres is in training camp.  I understand the big offseason moves involved the defense, but Union will need a stronger offense because I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect Sebastien Le Toux to score 14 goals and get 11 assists again.  The shape of the midfield is going to be critical to offensive success of this team, maybe even moreso than the cohesion of the back line.

What we know is that Justin Mapp will be on the left wing, to start.  I know he switches sides to change things up, but he’s the left wing.  The other three spots, I’m not sure.  Brian Carroll will be in the starting central midfield, but who joins him?  Stefani Miglioranzi is a solid, unspectacular player, who understands his defensive responsibilities and makes few mistakes.  Blah.  Amobi Okugo is a dynamite defensive stalwart who lacks experience and refinement, but makes up for it with ability.  Roger Torres is the raw, creative attacker.  We’ll likely see all of them in some combination as we progress through the season, but my vote is for Roger to start.  Right wing?  I’m not really sure that we have one on the team.  The team seems to like Andrew Jacobson and Nick Zimmerman, but would Kyle Nakazawa be the best choice?  He strikes the ball primarily with his right and serves great crosses.  With Seba covering half of Chester, and Sheannon Williams using speed on loan from jet engines, Nakazawa’s relative lack of pace wouldn’t seem to hurt them.  He gets my vote there.  Then again, that’s what training camp and Peter Nowak are for.

The striker depth chart hasn’t changed.  It’s still Danny Mwanga and Le Toux, with McInerney in reserve.  The speculation still exists that Union have targeted yet another Colombian (unfortunately it’s not Shakira) to add here.  Jorge Perlaza has been mentioned in rumors to be brought in.  That would change my midfield predictions, should that occur, as Le Toux would move back to right wing (then covering 2/3 of Chester) and Perlaza would join Mwanga.

In summation, here’s what we know:  There will be 11 players in the lineup for games, our keeper was not on Union last year, and Seba is the man.  There is much more to fill in the blanks.  The good thing about this is that it’s a product of having competition at all positions.  More will come as it develops.

Nick-the other .5 of Unholy Union