Tag Archive | "Faryd Mondragon"

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Mondragon named to active All-Star Game roster but Union defenders left off

Posted on 18 July 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, along with Houston’s Tally Hall, will mind the net for the MLS All-Stars against Manchester United next Wednesday, July 27. He could wind up starting (the starting XI will be announced a couple hours before the game) seeing as he has the most international experience. Very few can argue with that selection.

Mondragon will be the lone Union representative on the active roster for the MLS All-Stars after putting up an impressive first half of the season. One selection, however, doesn’t mean that Union fans and players alike won’t feel snubbed from the lack of recognition and appreciation from the rest of  the league and Major League Soccer fans. Defensive stalwarts this season – Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, and Carlos Valdes have the biggest case. There is hope (at least to get some monetary compensation out of an All-Star nod) that more Zolos could be selected as the league has yet to announce the final six inactive picks voted on by the players themselves.

There is always silver lining for those snubbed. No picks,  means no playing time, which means rest for one of the league’s best defenses and a better focus heading into the long second half of the season. Regardless, a snub is snub.

Full Roster:

Goalkeeper: Tally Hall (Houston Dynamo), Faryd Mondragón (Philadelphia Union)

Defenders: Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Houston Dynamo), Bobby Convey (San Jose Earthquakes), Sean Franklin (LA Galaxy), Jámison Olave (Real Salt Lake), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA), Tim Ream (New York Red Bulls).

Midfielders: Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), David Beckham (LA Galaxy), Brad Davis (Houston Dynamo), Jack Jewsbury (Portland Timbers), Shalrie Joseph (New England Revolution), Nick LaBrocca (Chivas USA)

Forwards: Juan Agudelo (New York Red Bulls), Omar Bravo (Sporting Kansas City), Omar Cummings (Colorado Rapids), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Thierry Henry (New York Red Bulls), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

Inactive All-Stars (Note that another six inactive All-Stars will be chosen via player voting): Kasey Keller (Seattle Sounders FC), Omar Gonzalez (LA Galaxy), Rafa Márquez (New York Red Bulls), Brek Shea (FC Dallas)

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Union Stay Unbeaten at Home, Yet Find Scoreless Draw Against Kansas City Disappointing

Posted on 23 June 2011 by stoma

Following a lackluster road loss to Western Conference cellar-dweller Vancouver, the Union returned home for a short week to regroup and prepare to face the bottom-ranked team from the Eastern Conference, Sporting Kansas City.  However, Kansas City has been improving of late, surely buoyed by finally having a home, the picturesque Livestrong Sporting Park.  It was there that Kansas City downed the San Jose Earthquakes 1-0 on Friday, their 3rd shutout in the month of June.  Sporting is unbeaten in 5 MLS games, 6 if a 5-0 victory over the New England Revolution in the U.S. Open Cup is counted.  The Union are still unbeaten at home in 7 contests.  Philadelphia again saw their standing in the Eastern Conference table see-saw with New York, with the rival Red Bulls pulling into 1st following an away draw against the Portland Timbers, who have quickly made their home a fortress.

Coming into the game, a low-scoring affair was expected, as Philadelphia has given up a mere 12 goals through its first 14 contests, good for 2nd in the MLS.  Meanwhile, both Kansas City and the Union rank in the bottom third of the league in goals scored.  However, Piotr Nowak and his technical staff attempted to buck that trend with a highly aggressive starting lineup featuring two midfielders, Sebastien Le Toux and newcomer Veljiko Paunovic, who are used to playing up top.  This resulted in a formation that came off as more of a 4-1-3-2, with Brian Carroll buttressing the defense while the other midfielders pushed to attack.  This strategy produced uneven results early; while Philadelphia did have chances in the 1st half, they were also vulnerable defensively, leading to several chances for Kansas City as well.  Neither side put anything away, however, and it was scoreless through halftime, although Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen had to record 4 saves to make it so.

Unfortunately for Philadelphia, the pace and rhythm of the game slowed considerably after the half as the sticky air grew even heavier.  Before they knew it, the 80th minute had come and past with no serious challenges on the Kansas City goal.  Instead of pressing even further tactically, Nowak retreated to a traditional, conservative mindset with his substitutions.  Keon Daniel for Jack McInerney in the 60th minute did allow Le Toux to move up top, but it also tacitly acknowledged that the original lineup was flawed. Amobi Okugo for Paunovic in the 66th minute did the same, and while Roger Torres made perfect sense, he came on for Justin Mapp in the 79th minute just as Mapp seemed to be hitting his stride and creating chances.  When pressed on the issue after the game, Nowak did fairly iterate that his side had taken 19 shots, 7 of which were on goal, and that there were several near misses, most notably Carlos Ruiz’s header off a Seba cross that struck the crossbar in the 72nd minute and Le Toux’s strike from 20 yards that inched past the left post in the 80th.

More important than the Union’s chances and certainly more decisive in the outcome of the game was Kansas City’s tactical approach.  The visiting side managed only 1 shot on goal and never seemed intent on challenging the Philadelphia goal or opening up in any manner.  Union captain and goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon thinks that the club will see this tactic at home with increasing frequency as the season goes on, citing it as a sign of respect for the success the Union have had, especially at home.  Mondragon pointed out that “Last year, teams came here and thought they had 3 points granted; they came and they played open.  No longer, the keeper asserted: “This year, this is not the case. This year, everyone is taking the Union very seriously, with a lot of respect, and coming here to PPL Park to get 1 point as a trophy.  We have to learn how to play in this type of game, because this is the kind of game we are going to have from here until the end of the season.

Regardless of what tactic the opposition has taken, the frustration continues for Philadelphia, which must face the fact that they just played the two worst teams in the MLS in terms of record and came away with just 1 point.  As Danny Califf stated after the game, “It’s a bummer when you dominate and you can’t get anything out of it.”  Fortunately, the relatively easy stretch of competition continues with a short turnaround game against Chivas USA on Saturday at PPL Park.  In addition, they have now pulled back into a tie for the Eastern Conference lead with New York, with each team tallying 23 points in 15 games.   Chivas sits in 8th place in the Western conference and has lost two straight.  The Union hope to avoid further frustration and salvage 3 desperately needed points before heading back out onto the road for three consecutive matches.

* POSTGAME NOTE:  Following the match, there was lengthy meeting involving Stefani Miglioranzi, Piotr Nowak and other members of the technical staff. Neither Miglioranzi nor Nowak would comment on the substance of the meeting, although Miglioranzi certainly did not look pleased when exiting Nowak’s office.  Was Migs simply venting his frustration at his lack of inclusion or is there a roster move on the horizon? Stay tuned, folks.

 

Philadelphia Union Starting XI

———————————Mondragon—————————————

Williams————-Califf——————–Valdes——————-Harvey

———————————–Carroll——————————————-

Le Toux————————-Paunovic————————————–Mapp

—————————Ruiz—————-McInerney—————————-

Sporting Kansas City Starting XI

———————————–Nielsen—————————————-

Sinovic——————-Besler————-Cesar———————–Myers

——————Sassano——————————-Diop———————

Arnaud———————————————————————–Kamara

————————Bravo—————-Bunbury——————————

 

Scoring Summary:

NONE

Misconduct Summary:
29’ Julio Cesar (Reckless Challenge)

31’ Veljiko Paunovic (Reckless Challenge)

61’ Sheanon Williams (Dissent)

90’ Jimmy Nielson (Delaying)

Lineups:
Sporting Kansas City-
Jimmy Nielsen, Chance Myers, Julio Cesar, Matt Besler, Seth Sinovic, Kei Kamara, Luke Sassano, Davy Arnaud, Birahim Diop (Stephane Auvray 72), Omar Bravo (Michael Harrington 63), Teal Bunbury (C.J. Sapong 45)

Substitutes Not Used: Eric Kronberg, Korede Aiyegbusi, Milos Stojcev, Shavar Thomas

Philadelphia Union — Faryd Mondragon, Sheanon Williams, Danny Califf, Carlos Valdes, Jordan Harvey, Brian Carroll, Jack McInerney (Keon Daniel 60), Veljiko Paunovic (Amobi Okugo 66), Justin Mapp (Roger Torres 79), Sebastien Le Toux, Carlos Ruiz

Substitutes Not Used: Zac MacMath, Michael Farfan, Juan Diego Gonzalez, Stefani Miglioranzi

Referee: Terry Vaughn
Referee’s Assistants: Greg Barkey; Jason Cullum
4th Official: Carlos Rivero
Weather: Hazy, Humid and 80 degrees
Attendance: 18,127

 

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Game #11 Preview: Philadelphia at Toronto FC

Posted on 27 May 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Toronto FC have started another season in disappointing fashion but the fact remains, they’re serviceable at home. Add that to the fact that the Union are subpar away and Saturday’s match-up should be an interesting one. Carlos Ruiz will look to have maximum impact as he is set to report for international duty with Guatemala right after the game. Toronto, still trying to find an answer for the loss of former talisman Dwayne De Rosario, hopes the impressive Joao Plata can grow into that role.

Philadelphia Union (5-3-2) at Toronto FC (2-4-6)
Saturday, May 28th, 12:30 PM EST, Comcast SportsNet
BMO Field, Toronto, Canada

Philadelphia Projected Starters

———————————–Mondragon——————————————-

Williams————–Califf———————–Valdes———————-Harvey

————————Carroll——————–Nakazawa—————————-

Mapp—————————————————————————M.Farfan

————————-C. Ruiz——————Le Toux——————————

OUT: GK Thorne Holder (concussion); MF Amobi Okugo (L ankle sprain); MF Zach Pfeffer (appendectomy); QUESTIONABLE: MF Stefani Miglioranzi (R groin strain)

Toronto FC Projected Starters

————————————–S. Frei————————————————

Eckersley———–D. Williams——————Cann————————-Gargan

————————–Sturgis—————-Yourassowsky————————–

————————————Stevanovic———————————————

Martina——————————————————————————-Plata

————————————-M. Santos———————————————-

OUT: MF Elbekay Bouchiba (R knee surgery recovery); MF Jacob Peterson (L hamstring); QUESTIONABLE: FW Alan Gordon (adductor strain); Gianluca Zavarise (adductor strain); MF Toni Tchani (R hamstring)

Game Notes:

The Reds are coming off a fair result in Colorado, a 0-0 draw. They were scheduled to play the 2nd leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship against Vancouver this past Wednesday but poor weather conditions kept it from happening. Actually, that’s not entirely true. Vancouver was leading 1-0 up until the 63rd minute when the game was abandoned. Rules apparently state that the game had to be played in its’ entirety to be official. Bad for the Whitecaps, good for Toronto FC. It has since been rescheduled for July 2nd.

There will be one lingering concern from Toronto FC’s almost loss to Vancouver on Wednesday. BMO Field has been pretty much under water since then and there’s no telling what the field will be like mid-day Saturday. The good news is that the Union have one water-logged game under their belts, a tie with Seattle in the pouring rain. The pursuit of three points ruined in the waning moments.

The Union have only managed one goal on the road so far this season and the Reds average a little over one goal conceded a game at home. At BMO Field, the Reds defense is formidable and the Union, especially with Ruiz in the lineup before reporting for international duty, will have to buck that trend. Toronto, overall, have been shutout five times this season (out of 12 games). Not the prettiest of stats.  

The 2011 offseason was incredibly busy for Toronto FC management and there are very few players remaining with the Reds that played a part in the 2010 season. So far this season, the turnover has yet to pay off but there have been a couple signs of life here and there. Their revelation has been the diminutive Joao Plata, a 5’3″ Ecuadorian attacker taken in the 2011 SuperDraft. A winger for the most part, Plata and former Ajax product Javier Martina have been pretty potent on the wings. Sheanon Williams and Jordan Harvey will have their hands full but they should have enough speed and composure to deal with them.

It was Dwayne De Rosario who sunk the Union last time around at BMO Field. Toronto FC came away with the 2-1 win despite an improved away performance from Philadelphia. The Union paid them back, winning at home on a last gasp Sebastien Le Toux goal in July. Both players who had an impact against the Union last season, DeRo and Chad Barrett (now with LA), have moved on.

The Union are hoping they can pull a DC United in Toronto. Charlie Davies and Chris Pontius came into BMO Field a little over a month ago and led United to a convincing 3-0 win over the Reds. Since then, however, Toronto has rebounded well, going 1-0-2 at home. The defense should be able to keep a big guy like Maicon Santos in check, as they’ve done well all season limiting target men. It’s Joao Plata and Martina that they need to worry about. On the offensive side of things, it’s a small field like in Portland and finding a way to move down the pitch without the aid of ample room on the wings will be tough.

The Union sit tied at the top in the Eastern Conference, now with a game in hand thanks to another New York tie. Toronto lie in 7th place, above Chicago and Sporting Kansas City, with 12 games played to their 10 and 8 respectively.

Tidbits:

The Union front office will take on The River End residents, the Sons of Ben, in the first ever River Cup match-up to be held at PPL Park.

A great in-depth scouting report of Toronto FC from PhiladelphiaUnion.com.

The Union striker corps could have a veteran addition by the week’s end. Vejko Paunovic, a journeyman, should be that addition. He’s older (33), has a pretty impressive resume (Getafe, Atletico Madrid, and Tenerife among others), but hasn’t played in over two years. Depth and knowledge is the main concern here and if he doesn’t cost an arm and a leg, he should do more good than bad.

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2011 Philadelphia Union Player Salaries

Posted on 09 May 2011 by Breton Bonnette

A little late to the party after a busy weekend  and the necessary mourning period that comes with a Union loss – but the MLSPA released the Union’s player salaries for the year. A couple surprises in there…

PHI Agorsor, Christopher F $ 42,000.00 $ 42,000.00

PHI Califf, Daniel D $ 250,000.00 $ 250,000.00

PHI Carroll, Brian M $ 160,000.00 $ 160,000.00

PHI Daniel, Keon M $ 42,000.00 $ 46,410.00

PHI Farfan, Gabriel M $ 42,000.00 $ 42,000.00

PHI Farfan, Michael M $ 42,000.00 $ 79,500.00

PHI Gonzalez, Juan Diego D $ 189,000.00 $ 193,462.50

PHI Harvey, Jordan D $ 61,875.00 $ 63,125.00

PHI Holder, Thorne GK $ 42,000.00 $ 42,000.00

PHI Houapeu, Levi F $ 32,604.00 $ 32,604.00

PHI Le Toux, Sebastian M $ 155,000.00 $ 179,000.00

PHI MacMath, Zac GK $ 80,000.00 $ 125,000.00

PHI Mapp, Justin M $ 175,000.00 $ 183,333.33

PHI McInerney, Jack F $ 71,250.00 $ 135,416.67

PHI Miglioranzi, Stefani M $ 130,000.00 $ 153,125.00

PHI Mondragon, Faryd GK $ 230,000.00 $ 396,666.67

PHI Mwanga, Danny F $ 120,000.00 $ 226,250.00

PHI Nakazawa, Kyle M $ 44,000.00 $ 44,000.00

PHI Okugo, Amobi M $ 85,000.00 $ 168,000.00

PHI Pfeffer, Zach M $ 55,000.00 $ 65,000.00

PHI Richter, Ryan F $ 32,604.00 $ 32,604.00

PHI Ruiz, Carlos F $ 260,004.00 $ 306,670.67

PHI Torres, Roger M $ 105,600.00 $ 108,725.00

PHI Valdes, Carlos D $ 180,000.00 $ 180,000.00

PHI Williams, Sheanon F $ 42,000.00 $ 42,000.00

The clear money drain comes in the form of Juan Diego Gonzalez, a starter for a short stint upon his arrival in 2010. With Califf out for the trip to Portland, Gonzalez seemed to be a relatively logical choice for his replacement but the $189,000 earner didn’t get the nod. Other surprises included the youngster Zach Pfeffer – earner of $55,000 – making more than starter Sheanon Williams, Keon Daniel, and the Farfan twins. Carlos Ruiz and Faryd Mondragon, not surprisingly, are the highest earners on the team in 2011 with Danny Califf a close third. That upgrade of the defense cost a Piotr Nowak pretty penny but we’re pretty sure no one is complaining much.

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Philadelphia Union vs. San Jose Earthquakes: Player Ratings

Posted on 02 May 2011 by stoma

GK Faryd Mondragon (6.5)- With even the defenders pressing up early on, Mondragon served as a glorified sweeper, easily collecting a quantity of balls that got through the stretched out Califf and Valdes.  Faryd didn’t face his first challenged until the 21st minute, when he was called into a flurry of action including two corner kicks and an attempted ball over the top from Anthony Ampaipitakwong that required the keeper to parry it aside.  Then, in the 30th minute, as the Union threatened to give up yet another goal off a set piece rebound, Faryd went feet-first to stonewall the sliding attempt of Chris Wondowlowski, a brilliant save that set off fireworks between Mondragon and Earthquakes midfielder Ben McDonald.  This, of course, quickly ignited a full-squad confrontation once Danny Califf saw his goalkeeper being pushed by an opponent.  The end result was matching yellows for Faryd and McDonald and a chorus of “Mon-drag-on” chants from the River End.

For the rest of the match, with the crowd frenzied and then taken to a crescendo when the Union took the lead in the 76th minute, Mondragon assumed his role once again as the calming presence at the back.  Although he only officially recorded 1 save, that’s not counting the aforementioned rebuke of Wondolowski and a critical punch of a 50/50 ball bouncing in that Steven Lenhart had a real chance at putting away.  The 1 official save was also solid, as a San Jose corner ricocheted onto the head of Lenhart only to be calmly snatched by Faryd to preserve the shutout.

LB Jordan Harvey (5)- After a largely uneventful 1st half in which Harvey joined Sheanon Williams in pushing as far up high as they could get away with, calamity found Jordan in the form of a 50/50 ball that ended up with Chris Leitch tangled up at Harvey’s feet.  Attempting to disengage himself and go after the ball, Harvey managed what appeared to be a bit of an extracurricular jab with his spike into Leitch’s midsection.  This earned Jordan a 41st minute sending-off, compounded by the fact that referee Mark Geiger missed Leitch’s obvious retaliation, which should have resulted in discipline for him, as well.  Pursuant to Major League Soccer’s rules, the straight red earns Harvey a 2-game suspension. The decision will most likely be appealed.

CB Danny Califf (7)- As we said about Valdes a few games ago, while Mondragon has rightly been rapidly gaining notoriety around the league for his immense ability, the defense directly in front of him should also be receiving a large amount of credit for Philadelphia’s quick turnaround from porous last season to impenetrable so far this season.  Further, the imposing presence of both Califf and Valdes has allowed Piotr Nowak and the technical staff to develop more offensive-minded tactics without having to worry that they will be left vulnerable at the back.  As we saw against San Jose, the Union can be successful defensively with just Califf and Valdes hanging back.  Even down a man, the side did not have to abandon the attack, which allowed them to secure the home win they were seeking.

CB Carlos Valdes (7.5)- Another stellar defensive outing from Valdes, especially so as he and Califf were given even more responsibility than usual with both wingbacks pushing up high early on.  Then, after Harvey’s ejection, as the Union continued to attack, it was the steady hand of Valdes that insured that no quick counterattack or long ball challenged the Philadelphia goal.  So solid has Carlos’ play been that it seems fruitless to try and point out the myriad positive plays he makes in this space.  Instead, one must try and identify any mistakes.  As has been the case more often than not this season, there were none against San Jose.

RB Sheanon Williams (6.5)- Along with Harvey, Williams spent the first half-hour of the match joining a relentless Union attack as the center backs alone held the fort in front of Mondragon.  Made an impact early, earning a corner in the 13th minute, and remained a part of the action even after Philadelphia went down a man.  Along with his long throws, which have become an integral part of the attack, especially on the occasions against San Jose when the defense was not ready for a quick restart, Sheanon was again a positive influence on the opposition’s side of the pitch.  When the time came for Williams to defend, the results were not as strong, but neither were they highly disappointing.  Sheanon’s weakness remains judgment of long balls in the air and understanding when to step up and gamble.  However, his speed has so far allowed him to recover on mistakes, an attribute that will make him all the more valuable as his technique continues to improve.

MID Amobi Okugo (8 *ASN PHILLY MAN OF THE MATCH*)- Left as the sole defensive midfielder to help anchor the defense, it was trial by fire for the rapidly developing Okugo.   From early on, it was clear that Amobi was up to the task, as he not only stood tall in defense, but was happy to keep the ball and move forward to initiate the attack.   Then, at halftime, when Stefani Miglioranzi came on to take on the lion’s share of the defensive responsibility, Okugo shifted to a hybrid role and found himself pushing forward as the Union’s attack continued to gain momentum, even with the man disadvantage.   First, he trailed the attack in the 70th minute when a failed clearance came to him and he took a strong shot from 25 yards that forced Jon Busch into action.  Then, the payoff came in the 76th minute, when a strong run into the box ended with an attempted cross that struck the hand of Earthquakes defender Jason Hernandez and resulted in the ultimately game-winning penalty kick, converted by Le Toux.  Okugo’s versatility is fast making him invaluable to the Philadelphia side.  It is going to be incredibly difficult to keep him out of the starting XI from this point forward.

MID Sebastien Le Toux (7)- Le Toux still struggled with his first touch in traffic, but the attacking formation at the outset gave him a little more room to work with, and Seba took advantage from the kickoff on.  Sebastien made threatening runs, combined with Torres, Ruiz and Mwanga on several legitimate scoring opportunities and used his speed to get behind the San Jose defense with regularity.  There was also the nifty move that took him into the penalty area only to be derailed by a hard challenge from Sam Cronin just before he took his shot.  A bit of a breakout game for Seba, even without the results in the run of play.  Of course, all of this took a backseat to Le Toux’s 1st goal of the season off of the 76th minute penalty kick, the only goal of the match, driven down the center and toward the top of the goal.  Seba remains the team’s designated penalty taker and has yet to be denied in that role as a member of the Union.

MID Roger Torres (6)– A somewhat surprising start, as Piotr Nowak and his staff unveiled a much-welcomed attacking lineup at home.  Tasked with manning the middle of the front three midfielders, Torres would need to prove that he could be the engine of the attack, opting for the simple pass more often than the homerun ball.   He definitely showed a bit more discretion than we’ve seen from Roger, although the only serious chance involving him was a shot attempted on Jon Busch’s near side in the 16th minute after receiving a deft pass from Carlos Ruiz that Busch parried relatively easily.  With his first start of the season, Torres showed a continued improvement in poise and presence.  Unfortunately, before anything tangible could materialize, he was taken off at the half for defensive purposes in place of Michael Farfan.

MID Keon Daniel (7.5)- Daniel is beginning to really put his imprint on the Philadelphia side, taking more initiative and gaining more trust from his teammates and the coaching staff with each passing game.  Keon took control of the buildup from the left flank, allowing Le Toux and Torres the room to operate and move forward.  Daniel’s play became even more vital when Jordan Harvey was sent off in the 41st minute, first moving back to cover the vacated left back position to close the 1st half and then taking on even more responsibility as the team continued to push for a goal in the 2nd half.  In particular, his combinations with Michael Farfan and Le Toux down the wing were invariably productive.

FWD Danny Mwanga (6)- A capable, not spectacular effort from Mwanga against San Jose, as he was able to use his possessions well, either turning upfield or linking with his teammates.  Where Danny still needs to improve is his off-the-ball presence.  We’ve all by now seen him turn on that extra gear, the one that most people, even professional athletes, do not possess.  However, this seems only to occur when Mwanga already has the ball and can smell the goal.  Rare is the occasion when he will turn on the jets to make a center run or make a challenge that could change the game in the final third.  When he shows that level of stamina and work ethic, though, he will be among the league’s elite.  Mwanga was brought off for extra midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi at halftime after the Union went a man down.

FWD Carlos Ruiz (7)- For possibly the first time since joining the Union, it can be said that Ruiz truly worked with and for his teammates against San Jose.   Taking more of the distributor role in this match, he first combined with Roger Torres and Seba Le Toux for an early chance, then found Torres in the 16th minute with a ball that sprang Torres for shot on goal.  He also made himself available with runs into the area, notably receiving a ground cross from Le Toux that resulted in a shot that was blocked.  In the 2nd half, Ruiz continued his good work, highlighted by an exchange in the 70th minute in which he received a ball in from Michael Farfan, turned and found Le Toux, and laid it off for what was the best opportunity the Union had all day during the run of play.  Came off for Kyle Nakazawa in the 83rd minute.

MID Stefani Miglioranzi (6)- Came on for defensive purposes at halftime after Harvey was sent off, replacing Danny Mwanga.  In a shorter burst than his usual role up until now as a starter, Migs was far more effective than he had been in recent matches.  He consistently battled for every ball, made several key tackles and kept his wits about him when he found himself in possession in a hotly contested midfield.  Obviously, it is not likely that a defensive midfielder can be considered a super-sub, but we must remember that it is a long season and Stefani will still be needed even if he is not to return to the starting XI on a consistent basis.  It was reassuring to see that he will be ready when called upon, regardless of the role he is asked to play.

LB Michael Farfan (7)- Came in for Roger Torres as the new left back in a suddenly defensive formation following halftime, the Union apparently shifting their goal from win to scoreless draw a man down.  However, this clearly was not the case, as Farfan, in his professional debut, showed an adroit capacity for pressing up and not only joining, but engineering, the attack.  Several combinations with Keon Daniel and Sebastien Le Toux led to real chances for the Union as they seized control right at the outset of the 2nd half.  In addition, Farfan showed true competency at the back, a role he had not taken on at lower levels but has been groomed for since the beginning of the season in training.  Another in what is becoming a long string of pleasant surprises for the Union early on in this campaign.

MID Kyle Nakazawa (N/A) Came on for Carlos Ruiz to help salt away the game in the 83rd minute.

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First Kick: Philadelphia Union vs. Houston Dynamo, Player Ratings

Posted on 20 March 2011 by stoma

GK Faryd Mondragon (9.5 *ASN PHILLY MAN OF THE MATCH)- It was announced just before the game that the new goalkeeper had been named the new captain of the Philadelphia side.  Very rarely is such a decision so quickly vindicated, as Mondragon so rapidly and clearly assumed the leadership position that to call anyone else the captain, even in name only, would seem absurd.  One cannot say enough (although us members of the media have certainly tried) about the effect of Mondragon’s communication and organization at the back.  However, it must also be pointed out that his words would not carry with them so much weight if his teammates were not sure that Faryd could and would hold up his end of the bargain.  It was apparent to even the casual observer, let alone the other men on the field, that Mondragon would not melt down, would not concede a soft goal, would be the rock between the posts that his signing promised.  His simple presence, commanding as it was, appeared to improve Philadelphia’s defense all by itself.  That Mondragon only logged 3 saves in this match belies the effect that his play had on the game.

LB Jordan Harvey (7.5)- As was the case last year, Harvey alternated with the right back in taking turns pushing forward.  However, as opposed to last year, Jordan appeared to be the stronger defensive option of the two wing backs and, as such, spent more time at the back, with excellent results.

CB Danny Califf (9)- Last year’s captain showed no signs of indignation or dejection at his “demotion” and Faryd Mondragon’s ascension to the captaincy.  Showing his belief that the team comes first, Califf not  only scored his first goal as a member of the Union in just the season’s 5th minute, but played as solid a game at the back as we’ve seen from any defender since the Philadelphia side’s inception.  The goal itself was a product of chance as well as opportunity, with Califf cleaning up a loose ball at the goal mouth after Sebastien Le Toux’s strike clanged off the crossbar.  More important, however, was Danny’s multiple blocked shots and important clearances.  His performance in the opener went a long way towards showing that there is room for more than one leader on the pitch and in the locker room.

CB Carlos Valdes (8.5)- A brilliant MLS debut from Valdes put to rest (at least temporarily) concerns that the loss of fan-favorite Michael Orozco-Fiscal and the injury of Juan Diego Gonzalez left the Union with a dearth of options at the back.  Valdes especially showcased his value in the final third of the match, after Houston burner Dominic Oduro came on and was checked mercilessly by the veteran Colombian, who revealed superb speed of his own.  Along with his ability to execute the directions of Mondragon as well as the coaching staff, the Union once again have high hopes from their central defense.  As opposed to stretches last season that gave rise to such hopes, Valdes and Califf have a legitimate chance to be the stalwart duo this team needs.

RB Sheanon Williams (7)- As much credit as Sheanon deserves for his highly successful forays to the front, his renowned long throw-in ability (which directly produced the game’s only goal), and his riverboat gambler’s mentality in the passing lanes, he needs to be taken to task for his multiple lapses in the final third.  The team survived Williams’ man getting behind him in a dangerous position at least four times; they cannot survive that kind of breakdown consistently in the long term.

MID Stefani Miglioranzi (6.5)- Much like last season,  the spectacular is not to be expected from Migs, but solid play and much-needed defensive help is the norm.  A fairly mistake-free opener from Stefani, with his standard two or three savvy plays gaining an edge for the Union.

MID Brian Carroll (6.5)- Nothing extraordinary from the other defensive midfielder, either.  The long-time MLS veteran does, however, bring a poised and calming presence to the midfield and to the defense in general, which serves to remind that the success of Carroll’s teams (2 MLS Cups, 4 Supporter’s Shields) is no accident.  One area of improvement to look for from the defensive midfield: either Miglioranzi or Carroll (and the smart money is on Carroll) needs to establish himself as the link to the offense.  That simply did not happen in the opening game.

MID Justin Mapp (7.5)- The touches may have been sloppy, reflective of nothing other than the beginning of the season, but Mapp was decidedly in the mix on nearly every meaningful exchange.  Make no mistake: his ability to hold possession while simultaneously advancing the ball is what makes this team go offensively, especially with Fred gone from the squad.  Mapp’s play is what allows Le Toux to find the space he needs to create, will allow Ruiz the outlet he needs when he holds up, and will get Danny Mwanga goal bound on several instances this season.  A full offseason with the Union can only benefit Mapp’s ability to help this team and increase the impact he will have on the pitch for Philadelphia.

MID Kyle Nakazawa (6)- A surprise starter, Nakazawa struggled to get into the flow of the game.  He continues to develop defensively, but is still not quite physical enough when necessary.  His value is still largely tied up in his free kick ability, which was not quite visible during this game.  Expect continued improvement from Kyle, but also remember that there is a ways to go before we see a finished product.

FWD Sebastien Le Toux (7)- A solid game for last season’s runaway team MVP, even without the results.  The fans, not to mention the team, have grown so accustomed to Seba’s off-the-charts work rate that it almost seems like a downer when he doesn’t record a goal or an assist.  But, as always, Le Toux did exactly what was needed, whether it was fighting for a shot that didn’t hit the back of the net so that Califf could collect the rebound or simply block a pass to prevent a counter-attack,  he managed to get his fingerprints all over the game.

FWD Carlos Ruiz (6.5)- The skills are still there, that much is clear.  But, whether it was due to early-season rust or not quite being in form yet, the execution was not yet game-ready for the prolific Guatemalan scorer.  Ruiz was still able to hold the ball up on occasion and proved himself a pest to Dynamo defenders trying to initiate the transition to offense, but failed to do so when it was most needed.  Still,  with no offense intended, one can easily see how Ruiz will give the team what they had hoped to get from Alejandro Moreno last year.

FWD Danny Mwanga (5)- The rising star striker coming off the bench as a super-sub sounds fantastic in the abstract, but for the concept to work, Mwanga has to be accepting of this role, ready to come on with high energy and, most importantly, be ready to put the ball away from the second he steps on the field.  Mwanga had the high energy part down, but did not seem to understand what his purpose on the field was (especially as he came on with the team already leading) and missing on two clear scoring opportunities, the first coming just moments after he entered the game.  Supporters should not be worried about the precocious attacker, but if he is to continue in this role, he needs to acclimate himself to it quickly.

MID Gabriel Farfan (N/A)- Surprisingly, the first Farfan we saw in live game action was not this year’s 2nd round draft choice, Michael, but his twin brother, the late offseason signee.  Gabriel relieved Kyle Nakazawa in the 69th minute and was able to contribute a bit of possession holding ability to Philadelphia’s late-game defensive stand.

MID Amobi Okugo (N/A)- Came on in the 85th minute as a defensive replacement for striker Carlos Ruiz a day before heading off on national assignment (along with teammate Zac MacMath) to Guatemala, where the two Union youngsters will try to help lead the country’s U-20 squad to qualification for the 2011 Under-20 World Cup.  In order to meet their goal, the group will need to reach the semi-final round of the CONCACAF U-20 World Championships.

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A win is a win in Houston, Union take three from Texas

Posted on 20 March 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Photo by Emily Pease, ASN Philly

What a difference a year and some change makes. The Union dismissed bad inaugural season habits  (2-12-1 away) in their season opener, winning away in Houston and grabbing a shutout all in one fell swoop to start the new year.

Piotr Nowak’s first starting lineup of the new season included a couple surprises. The omission of Danny Mwanga left some scratching their heads but it was the announcement of Faryd Mondragon as the captain for the 2011 season really had Union fans asking questions. Danny Califf, captain during the inaugural year, didn’t seem fazed one bit as he produced a performance that was worthy of captaincy – grabbing the game-winner and acting as part of a formidable defensive pairing with newcomer Carlos Valdes. The 5th minute Califf game-winner came off of a Sebastien Le Toux shot that rang off the cross-bar following a dangerous Sheanon Williams long throw. A putback that silenced the crowd of 19,000 plus at Robertson Stadium, Califf’s winner dampened the prospects of a new season for Dynamo fans.

The Union won a tough, gritty away match-up, a rare occasion during their 2010 season. After only two away wins and shutouts respectively last season, Union fans were certainly not expecting to leave Houston with a 1-0 shutout and with their first away points of the year. The new signings fared well, however, and provided a sense of composure even during the most hectic moments of the game. Faryd Mondragon won critics over making a couple critical saves and commanding his area with a reliability that was lacking with the Seitz/Knighton tandem of yesteryear. Carlos Valdes made several crucial interceptions in the penalty area and broke up Houston attacks alongside Danny Califf. Brian Carroll wasn’t lights out but he certainly displayed his pedigree, calm and relatively effective in transition. Carlos Ruiz angered Houston’s fans and the Houston backline, creating a chance or two for himself. For the most part, there was a glimpse of the positives and negatives of what El Pescadito has to offer (a dive here, a won free kick there). Several partnerships still need to develop (Califf/Valdes, Carroll/Miglioranzi, Ruiz/Le Toux) before the new Union can mount a consistent charge in the Eastern Conference but the pieces it’s clear are there. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins but if the Union are going to make the playoffs this season, winning ugly is a necessity.

The Union will open up their home schedule this coming Saturday, March 26, as Shea Salinas and the Vancouver Whitecaps visit PPL Park. The ‘Caps are coming off an opening day 4-2 win against hapless Toronto FC. Led by designated player Eric Hassli (two goals vs. Toronto) and American international Jay DeMerit, Vancouver will look to extend their opening day euphoria with their first away points in club history.

Photos, player ratings, and much more to come.

Philadelphia Union’s Starting XI

————————–Mondragon—————————–

Williams———Califf—————-Valdes———–Harvey

——————-Carroll————Miglioranzi—————–

Le Toux——————Nakazawa———————–Mapp

——————————-Ruiz———————————-

Substitutes Used: Danny Mwanga, Gabriel Farfan, Amobi Okugo

Substitutes Not Used: Chris Agorsor, Jack McInerney, Roger Torres, Zac MacMath.

TOTAL SHOTS: 6 (Sebastien Le Toux 2, Justin Mapp 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (Justin Mapp 2); FOULS: 13 (4 tied with 2); OFFSIDES: 3 (3 tied with 1); CORNER KICKS: 1 (Justin Mapp 1); SAVES: 3 (Faryd Mondragon 3)

Houston Dynamo’s Starting XI

——————————–T. Hall——————————

Freeman——–Boswell———–J. Taylor———-Hainault

Ashe————-Cameron———Palmer—————-Davis

———————Garey————W. Bruin——————-

Substitutes Not Used: Mike Chabala, Eddie Robinson, Kofi Sarkodie, Tyler Deric.

TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Brad Davis 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 tied with 1); FOULS: 9 (Brad Davis 2); OFFSIDES: 1 (Geoff Cameron 1); CORNER KICKS: 8 (Brad Davis 8); SAVES: 3 (Tally Hall 3)

Misconduct Summary:
PHI — Carlos Ruiz (caution; Reckless Foul) 20
HOU — Brad Davis (caution; Reckless Tackle) 22
PHI — Carlos Valdes (caution; Reckless Tackle) 44

Referee: Abiodun Okulaja
Referee’s Assistants: Chris Strickland; Adam Garner
4th Official: Andrew Chapin
Attendance: 19,385
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Clear-and-76-degrees

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Union seen as contenders for a playoff spot in 2011

Posted on 15 March 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Photo Credit: Terry McLaughlin, ASN Philly '10

The new Major League Soccer season is upon us as the Galaxy and Sounders get ready to kick things off tonight at 9:30PM EST. The Union, coming off a relatively productive first season in MLS, will be looking to take advantage of what looks to be a wide open Eastern Conference this season. The Union will look different this year, that’s for sure and just like in 2010, Major League Soccer pundits out there are almost unanimous as to where the Union will end up in the standings this season.

Last season, it was expected to be a typical expansion year season for Philadelphia but the media and Union fans alike have higher expectations for the Zolos in 2011. Take a look at where media members see the Zolos finishing up this season.

Glenn Davis – CNNSI.com

League Ranking: 12th
Conference Ranking: 6th

“Philly checks in at No. 12 in the rankings because the midfield and defense require further improvement” – Glenn Davis, CNNSI.com.

SBNation.com

League Ranking: 10th
Conference Ranking: 4th

Part of Tier 3 – the “Something to Prove” tier – the Union are improved and should be battled for one of ten playoff spots this season. This projects they’ll be one of the last ones in.

‘After a year in which Piotr Nowak handled his goalkeeping situation in as confusing a way as possible, he now seems to have clear plan: Turn it over to veteran Faryd Mondragon and groom No. 5 overall draft pick Zac MacMath for the future. Compared to the previously haphazard way in which the position has been handled, this seems like a sensible way forward, and simply improving the goalkeeping could lead to a significant leap forward for the second-year Union”. –SBNation.com

Drew Epperley – WVHooligan.com

League Ranking: 12th
Conference Ranking: 5th

We don’t quite agree with the “less talent” on the roster bit or this whole analysis for that matter. The Union are much improved roster-wise and the fact that none of the previews have mentioned the addition of Carlos Ruiz (even in a skeptical tone) is beyond us.

The keeper situation and offense should be set but the defense will be the real worry again for Peter Nowak’s side. They weren’t that great last season and they have even less talent on the roster right now. – WVHooligan.com

Kyle McCarthy – Goal.com

League Ranking: N/A
Conference Ranking: 5th

Keeping with the trend, the defense should improve but the rest of the supporting cast won’t quite get it done in 2011 according to Goal.com. Contenders for a play-off spot but not much more here.

Nowak’s off-season work deserves plaudits with Carroll, Mondragon and Valdes likely to improve the Union’s rickety defensive shape in 2011. The entire group, however, does not inspire quite as much confidence. A lack of creativity in midfield could impair the proceedings going forward if Le Toux stumbles a bit this season, while Ruiz may or may not be up to the burden of regularly leading the line. – Goal.com

MLSSoccer.com

League Ranking: 10th
Conference Ranking: 4th

These Power Rankings were released before the preseason was underway and the signing of Carlos Ruiz but there is no real reason to believe anything would have been changed. “All eyes are on Mondragon” which is certainly the truth.  

ASN’s Outlook: It’s a solid progression. There were times last year when the team was firing on all cylinders and you saw a glimpse of a possible playoff squad. This year there should be some sort of stability and consistency all across the board and a minimization of those defensive errors that plagued us for most of 2010. The media sees the Union as a clear contender for a playoff spot – progress from years before – but something tells me this team will do a bit better than that. They have the ingredients in our opinion with the new additions of Mondragon, Valdes, Carroll, and Ruiz and now seemingly the chemistry to grab a top-three spot in what looks a wide open Eastern Conference. 3rd in the Eastern Conference, grabbing the last automatic Eastern Conference playoff spot.

Our Projected Lineup:

————————–Mondragon—————————-

Williams———Califf————-Valdes————-Harvey

——————-Carroll————Okugo———————-

Le Toux—————————————————–Mapp

——————–Mwanga———–Ruiz———————–

NOTE: Amobi Okugo gets the nod over Stefani Miglioranzi after ASN Philly readers voted him in over Stefani Miglioranzi and the rest of the Union midfielders. He took in 19.27% of the vote to go with Brian Carroll’s 44.04%. This poll, however, was done over a month ago – before the exit of Andrew Jacobson, Eduardo Coudet, and Michael Orozco Fiscal. So who knows where those voters would have gone if all three departures were taken out of the voting. ASN Philly’s guess is that Miglioranzi will be manning the middle with Carroll come this Saturday. Experience says a lot, especially in a season opener away from home.

Questions to Ask:

Where is that defensive depth going to come from? Richter and Farfan have spent some time at defense in the preseason and it seems Juan Diego Gonzalez will 5th defender on the depth chart but the question still looms. Let’s also not forget the age of Mondragon and the fact that rookie MacMath is behind him. It’s a 34-game season this year and depth for all teams will be a huge factor on where you end up in the standings.

Will the addition of Carlos Ruiz help or hurt the production of Sebastien Le Toux? We have heard a lot of talk about Ruiz helping take the load of Mwanga and Le Toux this season but depending on which Ruiz shows up, he could serve to be more of a detriment to the mobility and versatility of Le Toux in Nowak’s offensive system.

How much more will a balanced schedule in the beginning of the season help a re-tooled Union squad? Our guess is quite a bit. The home atmosphere will play a huge role in the improvement of this team. The infrastructure is in place and the Union won’t be dealing with excessively long road trips, especially during the early season “get to know each other” phase that the 2011 Union will inevitably be going through.

You have seen the additions and the departures throughout the offseason and where the media places the Union this season but now it’s your turn…where do YOU see the Union finishing up this season in the Eastern Conference?

[polldaddy poll=4721824]

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New Signings Introduced: “I Don’t Think We’re Done”

Posted on 20 January 2011 by stoma

Photo from PhiladelphiaUnion.com

As Philadelphia Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz sat with Manager Peter Nowak to formally announce the signings of two Colombian internationals, goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón and central defender Carlos Valdés, he also noted that, although “it seems like we’ve been making announcements every day for the last seven or eight days, I don’t think we’re done.”  Nowak added that the club is still looking to improve the roster, noting that the roster would likely be finalized within “a couple of weeks.”

However, today was about Mondragón and Valdés.  The two new additions, who will go a long ways towards bolstering a shaky defense, the team hopes, were introduced to approximately 100 Sons of Ben and other team fans as well as the assembled media today at noon in Fado Irish Pub in Center City Philadelphia.  After an inaugural season in which the team conceded 49 goals, which tied for 2nd highest in the league, solidifying the back line and installing a reliable keeper were high priorities.  Nowak acknowledged this, saying that “we don’t hide from our problems” and indicating that shoring up the defense was an obvious issue for the club to address during the offseason.

Mondragón, the starting keeper for Colombia when they visited PPL Park to play an international friendly against the U.S. Men’s National Team, remembered the visit to Philadelphia and Chester fondly, stating that “no one has to tell me about the atmosphere at PPL Park or the supporters, the Sons of Ben, because I lived it.”  He also noted that it would be a welcome change to have the crowd in his favor on a consistent basis and looked forward to having visiting opponents “really know they are on the road.”  In addition to a long and storied career with the Colombian national team, which included being the backup for the 1994 World Cup held in the U.S. and starting all 3 games for his nation in the 1998 World Cup, Faryd enjoyed success for the gem of the Turkish league, Galatasaray, as well as his most recent prior club, FC Koln in the German Bundesliga.

Valdés, also a native of Cali, Colombia, comes directly from Independiente Santa Fe of the Colombian league, where he has become known as a rising star at the central defensive position.  Along with Danny Califf, Michael Orozco Fiscal and fellow Colombian Juan Diego Gonzalez, Valdés will form a strong corps of central defenders that will allow Nowak and the rest of the coaching staff flexibility at the back.  In addition, Nowak hopes that the presence of several viable options will breed competition that will push each to an even higher level.  “We [the coaches] have a very easy job,” said Nowak, “we just have to pick who is playing the best.”

These signings indicate quick and early success for the newest addition to the Union’s technical staff, Diego Gutiérrez.  Gutiérrez was hired late last year as the Head of Scouting and Player Development.   He began his playing career within the Independiente Santa Fe ranks, much like Valdés, but spent his days as a professional in the MLS, playing for the Chicago Fire (as Nowak’s teammate) and the Kansas City Wizards.  Gutiérrez’ Colombian connections have paid early returns and supporters of the Union hope to see continued success in luring players from all around the world to come to Philadelphia.  If, as Sakiewicz intimated, there are more player signings to come in the following weeks, and if they are of the caliber of Mondragón and Valdés, the work of Gutiérrez and the entire technical staff this offseason will have been a smashing success.

For now, the long grind of the preseason has begun, with almost two months remaining before the Union’s first match of the season, March 19 in Houston.  Nowak invites all fans to come out to the YSC Sports facility in Wayne, Pennsylvania to watch the team go through its preseason workouts, which will be open to the public.

UPDATE: The team has confirmed that practices from Monday, January 24-Friday, January 28 from 11 am-1 pm each day will be open to the public.

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Two new Colombians for the Union’s defense

Posted on 20 January 2011 by Breton Bonnette

The Union, on paper, have strengthened their defensive set-up with the addition of Colombians Faryd Mondragón and Carlos Valdés. Pending complications receiving their P-1 Visas and International Transfer Certificates, both should be ready to go once preseason starts. No word on compensation, contract length, or salaries as of yet.  

Mondragón, a goalkeeper of world-class pedigree, moves after several successful seasons in the German Bundesliga with FC Koln. Before that, the 39 year old won two Turkish Championships with giants Galatasaray and was a fixture in net for them for roughly 7 seasons largely considered the best goalkeeper in Turkey over that span. Even at his age, the Cali, Colombia native provides World Cup experience (1998 in France) and years under his belt in some of the world’s most prestigious leagues (Turkey, Germany, Spain, France). The vet should give that sense of stability that was missing last season in the net while allowing for back-ups Zac MacMath and Brad Knighton to progress naturally over the next couple years.

Valdés is also a Cali native almost 15 years Mondragón’s junior and a defender on the rise in the Colombian ranks. He only recently received his first senior national team cap but has been a defensive stalwart for Club Independiente de Santa Fe for several seasons now. Decent in the air, Valdés will also provide a target along with Califf and Orozco Fiscal on set pieces. A central defender (but can feature on the right if need be), the 25 year old looks to fight Gonzalez for a starting position next to Califf in the middle which would inevitably push Orozco Fiscal out to the wing.

Remember to head on over to FADO in Center City at 11:30AM to help welcome these guys to the Union family. ASN Philly’s Sam Toma will be over there and should return with some good quotes and reactions on the Union’s newest additions.

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