Tag Archive | "Piotr Nowak"

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MLS SuperDraft for the Union: A look at just the number

Posted on 11 January 2012 by Breton Bonnette

The Philadelphia Union will add another crop of young studs into the family tomorrow as the 2012 MLS SuperDraft takes place in Kansas City. With only two drafts under their belt, you’d have to say that Nowak and Hackworth have one of the best track records (though short as it is) in Major League Soccer when it comes to the SuperDraft. Six of their nine draft picks have earned significant minutes in 2010 and 2011 and look poised to make up the core for seasons to come.

Here’s a quick look at the history of the draft picks that the Union currently hold for the 2012 SuperDraft: #13, #32, and #35…

The #13 Spot

Best Picks: Stefan Frei (GK – Toronto FC), Pablo Mastroeni (DF/MF – Miami)

Frei has done enough over the years to earn much warranted interest from abroad. Started for the Reds right off the bat in 2009, earning praise even with a suspect defense in front of him. Milos Kocic and rumors that Frei is looking elsewhere could see the Swiss keeper moving onward. The past two season, however, have shown that he is one of the better goalkeepers in the league and one to watch out for in the future wherever he ends up.

Mastroeni needs no introduction. Taken by Miami in 1998, he has registered over 300 appearances in Major League Soccer with the Fusion and the Colorado Rapids. Though he’s 35 years old, Mastroeni was a main force in the Rapids winning an MLS Cup in 2010. His hard-nosed tackling and work rate earned him 65 caps for the US Men’s National Team (2 Gold Cup Championships, 2 World Cup rosters).

Decent Picks: Arturo Alvarez (MF – San Jose), Josh Gardner (MF – Los Angeles), Jed Zayner (Columbus), Rodrigo Faria (Metrostars), Seth George (FW – Los Angeles),

Faria was a flash in the pan, winning Rookie of the Year honors for the Metrostars in 2001. Scored eight goals in his rookie campaign and 12 in his sophomore before the Metrostars’ move for coach Bob Bradley sent him to Chicago. Rarely heard from after that with Chicago and San Jose. Arturo Alvarez, now with Chivas USA after the 2011 Re-Entry Draft, can play the role of catalyst with great technical skills but still operates on an inconsistent basis. He has played well enough in MLS, however, to earn a role with the El Salvadorian national team. Gardner was a stud in the USL after a failed stint with Los Angeles. His time in USL pushed him back onto a Major League Soccer team with the Crew where he enjoyed a breakout year. He wasn’t protected and will start the 2012 season with the expansion Montreal Impact. Jed Zayner has an MLS Cup to his name and has played the role of stop-gap starter well. He is now a free agent.

Remains to be Seen: Corben Bone (MF – Chicago), Corey Hertzog (FW – Red Bull New York)

Drafted to 2010, Bone has come by 15 appearances for the Fire but has yet to really crack their starting XI. Hertzog sits behind Luke Rodgers and Thierry Henry on the depth chart in New York – he’ll have late appearances and the occasional Open Cup to prove his worth.

Duds: John Michael Hayden (Houston), Jamie Watson (RSL), Rob Valentino (New England), Neibles (Los Angeles), Smith (Columbus), Brownell (San Jose)

Given his youth national team pedigree, Watson underperformed in Major League Soccer but still was appreciated for his tenacity and work rate. He has found a home in USL-Pro with Orlando City. Still managed over 35 caps with Real Salt Lake in their early years.   

The #32 Spot

Best Pick: Luke Sassano (MF/DF- Red Bull New York)

Now with Kansas City, Sassano played an important role at one time for the Red Bulls helping them out in 2008 with his versatility (fullback, defensive midfielder). He found his way to Kansas City via the first ever Re-Entry Draft (through Los Angeles) but has yet to break into the first team there  (though he did register his first MLS goal in 2011).

Decent Picks: Quincy Amarikwa (FW – San Jose), Jay Needham (DF – DC United)

Decent picks meaning they picked mid-level quality but other teams were the ones who eventually discovered it. Amarikwa now comes off the bench in Colorado. Needham was the 2007 USL-1 Rookie of the Year for Puerto Rico before heading to Norway to feature for Alta no less than 50 times.

Duds: JT Murray (SKC), Davis (RSL), Schmid (Houston), K.Arena (Metros), Sutton (Columbus), Klaas (San Jose), Lee (Colorado), Peart (Kansas City), Meyer (Colorado), Sanchez (Kansas City)

The #35 Spot

Best Picks: Nick Rimando (GK – Miami), Nick LaBrocca (MF – Colorado), Gonzalo Segares (DF – Chicago)

Pretty solid picks for the #35 spot. Rimando won over the starting spot in Miami before the franchise folded. He landed in DC and then with Real Salt Lake in their expansion year. The rest is history – 2 MLS Cups, national team call-ups, Rimando is seen as one of the best goalkeepers in Major League Soccer. LaBrocca (Rutgers) didn’t have his breakout year with the Rapids, though he featured over 60 times in their set-up. It wasn’t until 2011 that LaBrocca put things together ending the season an All-Star and notching 8 goals for the campaign. Segares, despite a brief test of the European waters in Cyprus, is Chicago through and through. He has been their rock at left back for some time and has earned 19 caps for the Costa Rican national team.

Could’ve Been the Best Pick: Rob Friend (FW – Chicago)

Bundesliga and 2.Bundesliga goal scorer that went to UC-Santa Barbara. The Fire drafted him in the fourth round in 2003 only to see him opt to play in Norway. It turned out to be the best thing for him as Friend grew to become one of the best strikers in Norway (playing for Moss then Molde). His play landed him a role in the Eredivisie with Michael Bradley’s former club Heerenveen before the 6’5″ Canadian giant found a permanent home in Germany with (yet another Michael Bradley club) Borussia Monchengladbach. He finished runner-up on the scoring charts in the 2.Bundesliga as Gladbach were promoted to the Bundesliga. Scored 10 goals in the top flight before returning to the 2.Bundesliga with Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt (Rico Clark’s squad).

Duds: Stafford (KCW), Lapira (Toronto FC), Tangney (Chivas USA), Campbell (FCD), Christensen (Chivas USA), Nusum (Columbus), Brown (New England), Richards (Colorado), Lewis (Dallas), Brown (Colorado)

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Union add another Tico, left back Porfirio Lopez

Posted on 22 December 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Porfirio Lopez

The signings are happening fast and furiously as the Union wrapped up an early Christmas present, 26-year old Costa Rican left back Porfirio Lopez.

Lopez arrives after finishing up a whirlwind year that saw Alajuelense crowned the Verano and Invierno Champions of Costa Rica. Before his success with Alajuelense, however, he had a quick stint abroad with Chinese club Dalian Haichang – scoring two goals in ten matches before returning on loan to Los Rojinegros. Very little is known about the player, considering he wasn’t on anybody’s radar but one can bet he’s that attacking left back Nowak has been looking for.

Piotr Nowak has called for press conference at 4:00pm today to discuss the recent flurry of signings. One thing is for sure – this signing just adds to the whole “too many internationals” problem.

Anyone dizzy yet?

 

 

Name:                  Porfirio Lopez
Position:               Left back
Height:                 5-11
Weight:                 172
Born:                    September 10, 1985
Birthplace:            San Jose, Costa Rica
Hometown:           San Jose, Costa Rica
Citizenship:           Costa Rica
Last Club:             La Liga Alajuelense, on loan from Dalian Haichang
Pronunciation:      LO-pehz

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So long Jordan Harvey, a true original Zolo

Posted on 07 July 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Defender Jordan Harvey will join former Zolo Shea Salinas out in Vancouver after Piotr Nowak made a move for allocation money, prompting chatter about who his sights are set on once the transfer window opens on July 15th.

There will be an outcry from fans on this one as Harvey has been one of the most dependable and present players in the Union’s revamped backline this season. He was also an original, joining via the Expansion Draft held back in on November 25, 2009. It certainly signals, though, that Nowak either has his eye on a high-profile left back or that he trusts Keon Daniel and the Farfan twins to man the position while the Union add a creative playmaker to continue. The question is, however, why mess with a defense that is still among the league’s best? And between Harvey and right-back Sheanon Williams, both making roughly $100,000 combined, how much will it really free up?  

All told, this is going to be tough pill for Union fans to swallow as Harvey – though not flashy or full of flair at the left back position – was a player fans came to love on and off the pitch. Give us your thoughts? Angry Nowak is breaking up that back four? Excited for what he’s got up his sleeve next?

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Game #12 Preview: Philadelphia at Colorado

Posted on 03 June 2011 by Breton Bonnette

The Union, coming off of their biggest victory of the young season, will now head to the location where they suffered their biggest defeat of 2010. The defending champions stand in the way of positive momentum for the Union heading into a homestand against Real Salt Lake next Saturday. The Rapids are facing a bit of personnel crisis with Omar Cummings, Jamie Smith, and Marvell Wynne set to miss this game but their squad has been proven deep as they still sit respectably high in the Western Conference standings.

Philadelphia Union (6-3-2) at Colorado Rapids (4-3-6)
Saturday, June 4th, 2011
Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, Commerce City, CO
9:00pm EST, The Comcast Network

Philadelphia Union Probable Starters

————————————Mondragon————————————

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

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

Mapp———————————————————————-G. Farfan

—————————Mwanga—————–Le Toux———————–

OUT: GK Thorne Holder (Concussion); MF Amobi Okugo (L ankle sprain); DOUBTFUL: MF Michael Farfan (R groin strain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Gabriel Farfan (L hamstring strain); MF Stefani Miglioranzi (R groin strain); MF Zach Pfeffer (appendectomy); FW Carlos Ruiz (R groin strain)

Colorado Rapids Probable Starters

—————————————Pickens—————————————

Kimura——————D. Moor————–Marshall————-A. Wallace

—————————Mastroeni———–Larentowicz———————-

LaBeaux——————————-Folan—————————Thompson

——————————————Casey—————————————

FW Macoumba Kandji (L knee ACL tear); DF Marvell Wynne (R hamstring strain); MF Joseph Nane (R shoulder strain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Jamie Smith (L calf strain); FW Caleb Folan (R groin strain); FW Omar Cummings (R ankle sprain); PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); FW Quincy Amarikwa (L ankle sprain)

Game Notes:

The Union are coming off a historic win for the franchise, a 6-2 drubbing of Toronto FC at BMO Field. Both Justin Mapp and Danny Mwanga registered braces, Le Toux had two assists, and two youngsters grabbed their first ever professional goals – Gabriel Farfan and Kyle Nakazawa. The Rapids, however, haven’t lost in a while but – on the flip side – they have tied every one of their last five games. Last time around at to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, the Union were demolished 4-1 at the hands of Omar Cummings and the defending champions. It was their If Cummings plays – as he’s listed as questionable on the injury report – he’ll be the one to watch. A guy like Conor Casey, however, a towering target in the penalty area, could pick up the slack if Cummings can’t go.

Both Omar Cummings and MLS veteran Tyrone Marshall have opted to stick around in Colorado for the match-up against the Union. Marshall will be the one most likely to see some time against Philadelphia after both Marvell Wynne and his replacement Joseph Nane left their last game with injuries. The loss of Wynne could be huge as the Union’s speed down the flank and up top (especially if Mwanga and Le Toux start) should factor in against guys like Tyrone Marshall.

The five consecutive ties that the Rapids have accrued over the last month or so actually matches a Major League Soccer record. Regardless, the Rapids haven’t lost in seven games (but have only managed one win in that span). The Union will be looking for the three points obviously and for them to explode for 6 goals against Toronto FC, even without Carlos Ruiz in the lineup, was encouraging. Guys like Justin Mapp and Brian Carroll will need to build on their strengths in the midfield and when open chances are offered, they need to be taken (those two point blank chances early in the second half). They’re going to have to deal with a tough central midfield made up of USMNT veteran Pablo Mastroeni and FC Delco product Jeff Larentowicz.

Colorado is one of the best in the league on set-pieces. If Larentowicz sniffs the goal, he’ll go for it. The Union back four must minimize fouls trying to body-up on a target striker like Conor Casey or a determind Andre Akpan. Aside for 10 minutes in the second half in last Saturday’s win over Toronto, the backline was solid. They’re going to need 90 minutes against Colorado.

The Union recently cut ties with Chris Agorsor, the former youth star from the University of Virginia. Agorsor was cut even after playing the second half of Philadelphia’s match against affiliate club Reading United AC. Nowak had been saying he would get some playing time for Agorsor but it never came. His exit could be due to a request for playing time from the player himself or simply, that the Union feel they have better signings lined up as the summer window opens.

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Victory over New York stirs Frenzy and Foreboding

Posted on 11 April 2011 by Breton Bonnette

A second post from new ASN Philly contributor Matt Acciani. Let him know what you think in the Comments section below.

The Celebration, Contributed by ASN Philly's Lee Pease

Let me start with a disclaimer: I am no chicken little. I have no wish to create a perception of watching a clear sky then screaming that the heavens are crashing down. Saturday night was phenomenal and there is little to match the rush of beating a favored New York team, but once the high subsided the crash was a bit harder for me than I would like. I would like to classify myself a pragmatist. Staying honest with myself, I feel as though this match was not won by the Union so much as it was lost by Tim Ream (thanks, by the way!). A dearth of true scoring chances left the coach in me wrestling with the fan. One part of me is ready to charge through the streets, while another is preaching caution. The season is young, and Philly fans know heartbreak too well.

If I’m Piotr Nowak, here are my positive takeaways:

  • Mwanga and Torres are super-subs.*
    • *Mwanga seems, on this team, at this point in time, to be best suited coming off the bench. He thrived in a similar role at the beginning of last season. Coming in against a tired defense that has been tormented by Ruiz and Seba should bring a number of opportunities. The operative word is SHOULD. Torres also seems best suited to his current role. I would love to see his spark on the field over the course of a full game, but I think there are two things holding him back – his physical strength and that he avoids his right foot like many American kids avoid vegetables. He actually might like his right foot even less than that. If he can improve I think he will be one of the top midfielders in the league.
  • Okugo showed he is more than capable in the center of the park.
  • Four games in, the team has more shutouts than through the entire inaugural season.

Here are my concerns: 

  • There is still no connection between the defense and the attack, which means there is little to no possession over the course of a game.*
    • *The asterisk here is that the last ten minutes of the game, in which the Union actually held the ball well, are not indicative of the game’s efforts. It’s far more difficult to maintain possession against a team at 0-0 or down a goal than it is against a team that is desperately chasing a game they had controlled.
  • The commitment to defend is great from the players, but the concern for defense may be preventing the offense from developing.
  • The strikers are not operating as a unit, and typically find themselves isolated when possession is finally created.

When Adrian Healey compares the Union to Stoke City, Philly fans should grimace. Stoke is a solid mid-table team that is capable of competing with any team in the Premiership on any given day, mainly through a grinding physical defense and attacking through long balls, but is not a team that is capable of maintaining excellence over the course of a full campaign. For the Union, three wins in four games is phenomenal, but four games do not a season make.

The 4-4-2 obviously worked better Saturday than it has been, largely due to the fact that Mapp and Daniel actually manned the flanks. I still stand by my assertion last week that the 4-5-1 is the best lineup for this team.

Over the course of the game there was very little movement off the ball. As the ball moved up the field and past players, the Union men were generally content to watch and hold defensively. This typically left Ruiz and Seba to try and work through the Red Bull defense with support from only one to two midfielders. Hence the inability to maintain any real possession. A standard 4-4-2 requires the outside mids to shuttle forward and back throughout the game, thereby leaving the flanks open to counters. A 4-5-1 provides added midfield cover by encouraging the attack to build gradually by playing up to a forward, having them release the ball to a midfielder, then playing an overlapping runner, allowing the team to drive forward together in numbers. Ideally (see Spain’s national team, or Barcelona) a 4-5-1 turns into seven or eight men attacking. The width comes from the outside backs and the extra holding midfielder provides additional cover for the defense.

Compliments of Roger Torres, Contributed by ASN Philly's Lee Pease

Since the Union are so committed to defending as a unit, I see this as the only true option to play with any type of sustained attack while still, if implemented correctly, providing the necessary defensive strength to maintain what the Union have developed so well so far. This also addresses the issue that the defense is unable to connect well with the attackers. I am unwilling to believe the lack of control in the midfield is due to a lack of talent. Instead, too much responsibility is being placed on the center mids. While Okugo acquitted himself well, in my eyes he is a step up from Miglioranzi but not the attacking answer needed. Coupling him with Carroll behind Le Toux would, in my mind, create a devastatingly effective midfield adept at winning AND maintaining possession.

At the very least, the latest version of the 4-4-2 used Saturday could be re-shaped slightly to provide a similar effect. Le Toux and Ruiz spent a great deal of the early part of the game playing side by side with very little success. Without changing the lineup, if Le Toux drops underneath Ruiz slightly you essentially get a 4-5-1 lite. Le Toux will see more of the ball, and Ruiz should have more support when he receives the ball. This would have the added benefit of opening the corners more to release Mapp and Daniel into runs I would love to see more of. If Nowak is not in favor of these types of changes, let’s hope we can carry the fortune we saw Saturday (where the woodwork was given save of the game . . . twice). My heart wants to surrender to the Union, but I can’t quite shake the warning bells from my head.

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Three Games In, A Tactical Look Back

Posted on 04 April 2011 by Breton Bonnette

This is the first entry of new ASN Philly contributor Matt Acciani. He’ll be posting throughout the season on the tactical side of all things Union although his scope may not be limited to just tactics. We’d love for this to start a dialogue so please share your thoughts, criticisms, and compliments freely, and welcome Matt aboard.

Two wins and a loss after three games is a deal I would have willingly taken prior to the start of the season. Tack on two shutouts and the realistic chance for a result in a loss at L.A. and I would have been ecstatic. After these results, there is a great deal to celebrate. However, as is often the case, winning tends to whitewash the cracks in the foundation.

This team possesses a number of flaws that could prove disastrous as the season unfolds. There are serious chinks in the defensive armor, specifically in the ability to track marks and individually defend. Each of the back four took turns being undressed by Galaxy attackers and Leonardo’s goal came on an inability to maintain marking throughout the attackers run. However, the team’s commitment to defending by committee, which saw plenty of defensive cover when the one v. one defending collapsed, and only allowing one goal in three matches, means that, for now, the defense is holding. The hope that defense would be the team’s strength that proved false last year seems to be a reality. The pressing issue is the offense. Despite six points from nine, the offense has not looked particularly dangerous. Despite having, on paper, a plethora of offensive talent, the ability to sustain pressure and create multiple quality opportunities is lacking. In my mind, the main problem is the disappearing act the midfield has pulled, which results from running formations that don’t seem suited to the strengths of the players. There are a myriad of ways to play and formations to choose from, but it seems obvious that the 4-4-2 that has been trotted out to start the past two games is not working.

The key to choosing a formation is playing to the team’s strengths. On paper, that would be putting out the three talented attackers, Le Toux, Ruiz, and Mwanga. While there is little argument that all three players are capable of starting in the league, the Union does not benefit from all three together. Perhaps time will create more chemistry, but other problems exist. The foremost issue is that the midfield seems incapable of both providing possession to the strikers, as well as support when they receive the ball. The result is an inability to maintain control of the ball and develop repeat goal scoring opportunities, which then creates more pressure on the defense. As of now, the starting midfield has Le Toux nominally deployed on the left flank, Nakazawa on the right, with Carroll and Miglioranzi in the center. In reality, Le Toux pushes inside and forward, and Nakazawa moves centrally as well. The result is essentially a scattered 4-3-3. Le Toux is without argument the most dangerous player the Union have. He needs to be moved forward towards goal. My main problem with Nakazawa is that he seems to primarily be present for providing service on set pieces. He has contributed little else in his minutes thus far. Carroll and Miglioranzi are both quality players, but both are more destructive than constructive. Combined with Le Toux’s ranging forward and Nakazawa’s ineffectiveness means that there is almost no connection between the midfield and the strikers and the Union resort to hoofing the ball up from the back for much of the game. The seeds for success are there, and every once in a while glimpses of quality play shine forth, but they are discouragingly few and far between. Plainly said, the Union must generate more chances to compete with the top teams in the league.

There are several formations that could benefit the Union more than the 4-4-2 has thus far. Either a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 plays more to the players’ strengths. Le Toux should be put in the center of the park where he can be more directly involved in the play than he has been thus far. Remember that he was employed as a wide player in Seattle where he was unremarkable enough to be left unprotected in the expansion draft. More should be done to maximize his ability to affect a game. A 4-2-3-1 seems to play most to the players the Union have. Without touching the back four, Miglioranzi and Carroll can sit as holding midfielders which maximizes their strengths of winning possession, while both providing extra midfield options in possession and placing less pressure on them to create offensive opportunities. Le Toux should then play at the head of the three attacking midfielders, providing the creative link between defense and offense and allowing him to have more touches on the ball. To me Ruiz is the best option as the target. This formation allows him to hold the ball, release to an attacking midfielder, then turn and run. After watching his first three games, I think this would suit his playing style. Mwangathen provides a quality option off the bench as the game moves on. For those who hold a different view, I would not argue too strenuously against playing Mwanga over Ruiz as the starter, though I think Ruiz has more polish. This leaves the question of who to play on the wings, which has been the biggest weakness of the team so far. I have little confidence in Nakazawa, but this formation would allow him to start more withdrawn into the midfield, which may help his performance. Torres could be a great option on the left, adding some creativity and vision to a midfield that is sorely lacking right now. Keon Daniel looks to have the tools but was reticent about going at defenders on Saturday. Sheanon Williams looks like a born winger, but messing with the defense right now is unnecessary at best and destructive at worst. The sooner Mapp returns the better.

The other formation option is a 4-3-3. This could allow for all three strikers to be played together, and would draw Nakazawa into the center of the park, where he is obviously more comfortable, but comes with serious concerns. While the three holding midfielders would provide solid defensive cover in the center of the park the flanks would be exposed, which has already shown to be problematic against Houston, where Brad Davis tormented Williams all night as he had plenty of space and freedom to drive forward at him. Additionally, one of the central midfielders would be called on to be the playmaker and combine with the strikers. This brings us back to the problems we’ve already seen, where the nominal 4-4-2 has devolved into a poor man’s 4-3-3. Of course, another option could be to maintain a classic 4-4-2 and employ Le Toux back at forward. He, Mwanga, and Ruiz may be the best attackers the team has, but playing all three together from the start may not create the best 11. Additionally, a set with three in the back could be considered, but that would mean less cover for the defenders individually, and the weakness in one on one situations concerns me if this formation were to be used outside of having a man advantage.

The bottom line is that what we have seen thus far has worked narrowly twice, and failed to provide any spark in Los Angeles. There is a great deal of promise in this squad and with a few tactical tweaks to play to the strengths of the squad the Union could be a force to be reckoned with. Nowak would do well to bear in mind that the most talented 11 players on the squad may not make the strongest team.

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Game #3 Preview: Philadelphia at Los Angeles

Posted on 31 March 2011 by Breton Bonnette

If Houston was tough, Los Angeles should be tougher. The Galaxy are coming off their worst defeat in recent memory and should be itching to make a statement. The Union will be their test case. Both teams are looking to jumpstart an impressive array of offensive threats (Angel, Donovan, Beckham vs. Mwanga, Ruiz, and Le Toux) but, and it seems surreal to say this, the Union head to Los Angeles with a firm defensive advantage. Can Mondragon and company hold the fort until the Union attack awakens or will the Galaxy, stunned by Real Salt Lake, return to 2010 form first?

Philadelphia Union (2-0-0) at Los Angeles Galaxy (1-1-1)
Home Depot Center, Carson, CA, 10:30PM EST

Philadelphia’s Probable Starting XI

————————-Mondragon————————-

Williams———Califf————-Valdes———Harvey

——————-Miglioranzi——Carroll—————–

Le Toux—————-Nakazawa—————–Mwanga

——————————Ruiz——————————

QUESTIONABLE: MF Justin Mapp (L hamstring strain); PROBABLE: DF Carlos Valdes (R ankle sprain); DF Danny Califf (L knee meniscus)

Los Angeles’ Probable Starting XI

——————————Saunders—————————-

Franklin———DeLaGarza——–Leonardo——Dunivant

Beckham———-Birchall———-Juninho——–Donovan

———————-Barrett———–Angel———————

OUT: DF Gregg Berhalter (L knee MCL sprain); FW Adam Cristman (L knee surgery); QUESTIONABLE: GK Donovan Ricketts (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: DF Omar Gonzalez (R shoulder sprain)

Notes:

There are a couple ways to look at Saturday’s game in Los Angeles. The Galaxy could either be down and out after a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of Real Salt Lake or they could be ready to right the wrongs of a game that simply got out of their hands. Our guess, with guys like Landon Donovan and Juan Pablo Angel leading the way, is that they’ll be amped. If the Union are going to avenge their 3-1 loss at the Home Depot Center they’ll have to continue and even improve upon their defensive strengths. Mondragon should really get tested this game so it’ll be interesting to really see him under fire.

It only took 53 seconds for AJ DeLaGarza to score the first goal in last year’s match-up. The Galaxy dealt with that same issue in last weekend’s loss to Real Salt Lake. Real Salt Lake was up 2-0 in the first 10 minutes and didn’t look back from there. One huge positive for the Union is that Edson Buddle, scorer of 3 goals out of 4 vs. the Union last season, was snapped up by Inglostadt in the German 2.Bundesliga. The bad news? Buddle was replaced by MLS veteran goalscorer Juan Pablo Angel. Chad Barrett is another addition for the Galaxy that could pose a problem. He’s well known for the amount of sitters he inexplicably misses but from time to time, he connects.

The Galaxy’s defense has looked subpar as of late and if Le Toux, Ruiz, and Mwanga can build upon their developing chemistry, they could break it again. Los Angeles, however, could get a defensive boost from the return of starting goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts from injury. Josh Saunders has filled in well but Ricketts provides that “unbeatable” quality when he’s up for a game. Centerback Omar Gonzalez may still have to miss Saturday.

Piotr Nowak, in Wednesday’s press conference, named numerous players that could potentially be out or play a limited role in Saturday’s match-up. Justin Mapp is almost certainly out while other names in the walking wounded include defensive stalwarts Carlos Valdes and Danny Califf.

Right on the heels of Saturday’s game vs. Los Angeles is the first Open Cup qualifier vs. DC United at the Maryland SoccerPlex. One can expect on April 6th a blend of starters and reserve players as the Union look to get at least one step farther than last season in qualifying process. In 2010, Nowak used a mixed squad but the team failed to really show up in New York dropping a disappointing 2-1 loss.

Several Union starts spent signficant time with the Galaxy in the past – Carlos Ruiz had some of his best years with Los Angeles winning a MLS Cup alongside an impressive Danny Califf in 2002, Stefani Miglioranzi featured in the midfield at the dawn of the Beckham era. How about former Union players? If Donovan Ricketts isn’t ready to start and Josh Saunders continues in net, former third string Union keeper Brian Perk will most likely back him up.

It’s early but this is still nice to read – the Union are leading the Eastern Conference for the first time in club history, after having won back-to-back shutouts for the first time. Two Union players, Carlos Valdes and Brian Carroll, found their way onto ASN’s Best XI for Week Two. Not bad. Brian Carroll made Major League Soccer’s Best XI as well.

Two Union youngsters featured for US U-20 MNT earlier this week. Zac MacMath had a quiet game in net as the U-20s beat up on Suriname 4-0. Amobi Okugo started and picked up a yellow card. The Union will move on to play Panama in the final group match-up this Saturday at 6:00pm EST (therefore they will be missing this match as well).

In the Union Firsts Contest standings, E. Frysinger leads with FIVE points, Reaser is close behind with FOUR points, and several are in third with THREE points. 9/15 questions have been answered. They are vying for a $50 e-gift card to PhiladelphiaUnionStore.com.

In case you missed it, head over the Union’s website to check out the Pledge Program, “Union Fans Assist”.

Predict the Scoreline:

[polldaddy poll=4823931]

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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?

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Orozco-Fiscal’s option not picked up, returned to San Luis

Posted on 02 March 2011 by Breton Bonnette

(Terry McLaughlin/ASN Philadelphia)

Piotr Nowak put to rest the confusion behind the omission of Orozco-Fiscal from the Union’s roster in a conference call from Greece this afternoon.  

Orozco-Fiscal’s loan deal, according to Nowak, expired January 1, 2011 and when pressed as to why there was no mention of his return to San Luis before today, Nowak responded, “It seems to me that we forgot what the rules are and weren’t paying attention to the details of the contract”. The Union had the chance to act on the option to buy that is customary for all Major League Soccer loans but it was declined. He stressed that in spite of the roster compliance date, the Union’s roster is still not complete. The departure of Orozco-Fiscal, a 29 game starter, thins a defensive corps that with the earlier acquisitions of Faryd Mondragon and Carlos Valdes, many thought was much improved.

What’s your take? Did the Union miss out on not signing Orozco-Fiscal outright? Are you sad to see Orozco-Fiscal go? Worried about the defense all over again?  

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POLL: Predicting the 2011 Union central midfield

Posted on 08 February 2011 by Breton Bonnette

In the inaugural season, Nowak used an assortment of holding midfielders charged with dictating the pace of the game and  acting as a vital link between the defensive line and the attackers. As a Union fan, from game to game, it was tough to know who you would find in that role – Coudet and Migs, Migs and Nakazawa, Jacobson and Migs, Okugo and Migs. Aside from Miglioranzi, a little bit of consistency should come in the second season but new, fresh faces have arrived. Rookie Michael Farfan and veteran Brian Carroll look to break into the first team (with Carroll being a shoe-in for the most part) and each “second-year” midfielder is well-accustomed now to what the expectations are from Nowak moving forward.

If you were on the sideline, which two would you start to clog up the opponent’s passing lanes and jumpstart any attacks this season? Think there will be other midfield signings on the way?

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