Tag Archive | "Sebastien Le Toux"

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Mondragon first to exit, Le Toux to follow?

Posted on 31 January 2012 by Breton Bonnette

Sebastien Le Toux ©ASN/Terry McLaughlin

Seb Le Toux ©ASN

Anyone else dizzy yet?

Yesterday, the Union released 2011 captain and MLS All-Star Faryd Mondragon in order to allow him the opportunity to close out his career with his hometown club (Deportivo Cali) in Colombia. That change in and of itself should have been enough news for the day, right?  Plus, when it’s all said and done, many feel Zac MacMath as a capable young star that should do well with the starting role. Though let’s be honest, if we hadn’t seen him in that 7 game stint last season we’d be singing a much different tune right now. Regardless, the news didn’t stop there (though nothing as been fully confirmed yet).

With Mondragon’s departure, Union fans had enough to digest before expecting to hear of either a loan or permanent transfer of goalscorer Sebastien Le Toux to Bolton of the English Premier League over the next few days. Instead, unconfirmed word came out that Le Toux actually left the trial early and as the Union front office was content to sell him, they started looking within Major League Soccer for a trade.

The suitors? The Vancouver Whitecaps according to Soccer by Ives. The price? Probably quite a bit of cash. Regardless, none of that helps the fact that the two most visible faces of the franchise could be gone within the span of two days. Le Toux is headed into the final year of his contract and at 28, he’s getting up there with age (but with his engine, who really cares?!) so in some ways, this all makes a little sense. The only problem is, he’s accounted for over half of the Union’s offensive production. The talent is surely there with guys like Danny Mwanga, McInerney, new signing Josue Martinez, and draft pick Chandler Hoffman but the shoes of a two-time MVP candidate are pretty damn hard to fill. And even if they do, this one could sting for a while.

According to Vancouver Sportsnet reporter Irfaan Gaffar (via Twitter, @IrfaanGaffar), the deal could be announced as early as today. And for those expecting a big move coming to make you feel better after this loss, don’t hold your breath. 

Without Mondragon and Le Toux, one thing is for sure, 2012 is going to be an interesting year…

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Seba set for big chance in the Premier League, training with Bolton

Posted on 18 January 2012 by Breton Bonnette

It looks like Sebastien Le Toux may be on his way to join young New York defender Tim Ream and current American international Stuart Holden in a Bolton uniform. Ives Galarcep dropped the news an hour or so ago that the Frenchman may be on his way to Bolton, a team desperately in need of injections to both sides of the pitch and Le Toux certainly could help Owen Coyle’s squad.

In his two years, Le Toux has cemented his status as franchise favorite and legend racking up 25 goals and 20 assists in just two seasons. His work ethic and hustle is borderline irreplaceable. The positive?  Considering Le Toux was, for all intents and purposes, an expansion draft steal – from a business standpoint, this could make a lot of sense depending on how much the Wanderers are offering.

Seba left for England yesterday evening and joined in Bolton’s training today. Though his loss would be a signifcant blow to the Union, could a Mwanga and Josue Martinez tandem up front work out? Will Le Toux make the most out of a chance in the EPL? What would the right sum be for Le Toux’s departure?

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The Union overcome familiar adversity in ten man win over San Jose

Posted on 30 April 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Early afternoon Flyers and Phillies games didn’t dampen the support for the Union as PPL Park was rattling in anticipation of a showdown with a San Jose squad that was deep in the Western Conference doldrums. The Union faithful were treated to scrappy soccer, a rare ten-man shutout, and late heroics for their loyalty. A near sold-out crowd withstood a suspect red card call on Jordan Harvey to see their favorite Frenchman score his first goal of the season on a 77th minute penalty kick to retake the Eastern Conference lead.

San Jose’s Frank Yallop kept a promise after a disappointing 2-1 loss to Chivas USA last weekend, one he probably didn’t want to keep. He registered wholesale changes to the lineup starting against Philadelphia with numerous fringe players replacing the likes of Philadelphia native Bobby Convey, Ike Opara, Ramiro Corrales, and Sam Cronin. For the Union, a young midfield (save Sebastien Le Toux) earned the start in the Union’s eleven with Roger Torres, Amobi Okugo, and Keon Daniel. Starting lineup veterans Justin Mapp and Stefani Miglioranzi were set for bench duty.

The midfield pairing of Okugo and Torres and showed promise despite not yielding anything concrete. Unfortunately, Torres’ day was cut short after a questionable Mark Geiger call that conjured up flashbacks of 2010. Adversity returned with a vengeance in the 42nd minute after a Chris Leitch tackle on Jordan Harvey. The Union fullback, looking to evade Leitch as he laid at his feet, instead supposedly kicked out at the fallen San Jose defender. It didn’t matter that Leitch swung back with full force from the ground, Geiger threw the straight red and the Union were down a man. The Union’s response was to – contrary to last season – press onwards in attack and several chances came begging. The final pass was still missing despite great play from Ruiz and Daniel in the attack and the half ended a scrappy, albeit entertaining, 0-0.

Rookie Michael Farfan grabbed his first minutes of a young professional career after coming on for Roger Torres at the start of the second half. The Union, despite Harvey’s absence, created most of the chances and looked all in all the most dangerous team. No goal came…until of course, the penalty kick. After a great run by Amobi Okugo into the box, his cross was batted down by a sliding Daniel Hernandez. Le Toux, eagerly awaiting a first goal of the season, took the resulting spot kick and blasted high and down the center to give the Union a 1-0 lead in the 77th minute. A hard driven 25-yard blast from Brad Ring was the only chance San Jose that looked troublesome in the second half, a testament to the work of Carlos Valdes and the back four. Williams and Farfan, despite being a man down, invited involvement into the attack as the Union shape rarely wavered throughout.

The win puts the Union at 4-1-1 on the season with an important trip to Portland in the near future. The concern still lingers over lack of production but it was clear to see that, at least at home, the injection of Torres behind the two strikers forced the attacking mentality. One that, if given more time, could have yielded something concrete.

More to come!

Philadelphia Union Starting XI

—————————–Mondragon—————————–

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

——————————-Okugo———————————-

Le Toux———————Torres————————–Daniel

———————-Ruiz————–Mwanga———————

San Jose Earthquakes Starting XI

——————————-Busch———————————-

Leitch——–Hernandez———Burling—————-Morrow

——–Wondolowski—–McDonald———Ring—————-

——————————-Sealy———————————–

—————————–Lenhart———————————-

Attendance: 18,279

Scoring Summary:

PHI — Sebastien Le Toux 1 (penalty kick) 77

San Jose Earthquakes — Jon Busch, Chris Leitch, Jason Hernandez, Justin Morrow, Bobby Burling, Brandon McDonald (Sam Cronin 64), Scott Sealy (Bobby Convey 58), Anthony Ampaipitakwong (Ryan Johnson 72), Chris Wondolowski, Brad Ring, Steven Lenhart.

Substitutes Not Used: Ramiro Corrales, Ike Opara, Khari Stephenson, Andrew Weber.

Philadelphia Union — Faryd Mondragon, Sheanon Williams, Carlos Valdes, Danny Califf, Jordan Harvey, Keon Daniel, Roger Torres (Michael Farfan 46), Amobi Okugo, Sebastien Le Toux, Carlos Ruiz (Kyle Nakazawa 83), Danny Mwanga (Stefani Miglioranzi 46).

Substitutes Not Used: Justin Mapp, Jack McInerney, Ryan Richter, Zac MacMath.

Misconduct Summary:

PHI — Amobi Okugo (caution; Reckless Foul) 27

PHI — Faryd Mondragon (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 31

SJ — Brandon McDonald (caution; Unsporting Behavior) 32

PHI — Jordan Harvey (ejection; Violent Conduct) 41

SJ — Bobby Convey (caution; Delaying a Restart) 60

Referee: Mark Geiger

Referee’s Assistants: -Craig Lowry; Eric Boria

4th Official: Chris Penso

Time of Game: 1:52

Weather: Sunny-and-61-degrees

 

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Game #5 Preview: Seattle at Philadelphia

Posted on 14 April 2011 by Breton Bonnette

Seattle visits PPL Park after registering their first win of the season without star Fredy Montero. Their motivation, however, will come more from last year’s 3-1 loss in PPL Park’s opener. The Eastern Conference leading Union will look to break the Sounders momentum and experience a game where both the offense and defense are firing on all cylinders. Sebastien Le Toux, yet to revisit his 2010 form, could be the man to start that process.

Philadelphia Union (3-1-0) vs. Seattle Sounders (1-2-2)
Saturday, April 16, 2011, 4:00PM
PPL Park, Chester, PA, The Comcast Network

 Philadelphia Union Probable Starting XI

——————————–Mondragon——————————–

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

———————-Miglioranzi———–Okugo————————

Mapp—————————————————————–Daniel

————————-Le Toux————-Ruiz—————————

OUT: MF Gabe Farfan (R toe dislocation); DOUBTFUL: MF Brian Carroll (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: FW Carlos Ruiz (L hamstring strain)

Seattle Sounders Probable Starting XI

————————————Keller————————————-

Riley——————-Parke——————Hurtado———-Gonzalez

Friberg—————Alonso——————Evans————-Zakuani

————————–White—————–Rosales———————-

QUESTIONABLE: FW Fredy Montero (R wrist fracture)

Game Notes:

If Montero can’t go (although, signs point to him getting minutes somehow) it would mean that Rosales, one of Seattle’s better players over the last few games will continue to partner on the attacking front with target man O’Brian White. Erik Friberg is subject to replacement this week after a couple down showings. With Designated Player Alvaro Fernandez waiting in the wings, I would assume there’s not much room for error.

Seattle grabbed their first three points of the season at home last weekend with their defense playing a huge role shutting down a relatively efficient Chicago attack led by two Uruguayans Diego Chaves and Gaston Puerari. Kasey Keller earned Best XI honors for the week making several clutch saves in the late going. O’Brian White’s first goal against the Chicago defense was impressive – outleaping and beating two Fire defenders to power a header past Sean Johnson. The gamewinner, however, was an example of how Steve Zakuani can affect a game. He can sit off to the side for some time only to make one run, one play that changes the course of the whole game. The battle on the wings will prove decisive in Saturday’s match-up as will the competition between Migs/Okugo (if Carroll can’t go) and Evans/Alonso. 

Seattle dominated Chicago in possession last weekend – 66% to 34% – and we can expect them to do so again on Saturday. As we saw last weekend vs. New York, will it matter if the chances the Union do create are converted?

Local native Jeff Parke will return to Philadelphia. Parke, born in Abington, PA, played collegiate soccer at Drexel before joining the professional ranks. He was the last overall pick (60th) in the 2004 MLS SuperDraft and became a staple in the defense for the New York Red Bulls before choosing to test the waters overseas. It didn’t work out after a trial in Belgium and he returned, played for Vancouver (then in the USL) before signing last season with Seattle.

The Union’s first ever game was against the Sounders at Qwest Field, the First Kick of 2010 season. Two first half goals from Brad Evans and Steve Zakuani and the ejection of Toni Stahl (now with Fort Lauderdale of the NASL) sent the Union back to Philadelphia itching for a rematch. They got it and an inaugural win to open PPL Park in impressive fashion. The Union put on an offensive clinic winning 3-1 with goals from Seb Le Toux, Fred, and Danny Mwanga.

One of the bigger taking points after the Union’s 3-1 win over Seattle at PPL Park last year was the extreme heat. Saturday’s weather is expected to be pretty much the complete opposite – 55 degrees and rainy. Does that play into Seattle’s favor? Probably not but it’ll ensure they’ll feel much more at home.

Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid on the Union: “I wish we could get three goals and have it count for nine points, it’d be nice. Obviously defensively they haven’t given much up. Every game they’ve been in has been a 1-0 game either for them or against them. Defensively they’ve got a good mindset; all 11 guys get back and help on that defensive side of things. Their goalkeeper has kept them well organized. They’ve done well. They bend a little bit, sort of like a willow, but they don’t break. We have to find a way to get in behind them and obviously get goals.”

A Union affiliate club will start their season this weekend. The Harrisburg City Islanders will take on the Pittsburgh Riverhounds at 7PM on Saturday at home. Reading United AC won’t start their PDL campaign until May 7th. A little surprised that the City Islanders haven’t picked up JT Noone yet. He’s the only former Union player left without a club.

Predict the Scoreline:

[polldaddy poll=4916329]

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Game #4 Preview: Philadelphia Union vs. New York

Posted on 08 April 2011 by Breton Bonnette

The Turnpike derby looms and Union fans are ravenous for a rivalry win. A little over 100 miles separate the two teams and in less than two years, even if the on the field product hasn’t matched it yet, the supporters have fueled a rivalry that will deepen and intensify as the years progress. The Union are coming off a tough midweek loss that saw potential starters put in 120 minutes of work and now, in regular season play, look to jumpstart their offense before the Red Bulls figure out how to jumpstart theirs.

Philadelphia Union (2-1-0) vs. New York Red Bulls (1-0-2)
Saturday, April 9, 2011, 7:00PM, ESPN2
PPL Park, Chester, PA

Philadelphia Union Probable Starting XI

————————Mondragon———————–

Williams——Califf————–Valdes——–Harvey

—————Carroll———–Miglioranzi————-

Nakazawa——————————————-Mapp

—————Ruiz—————-Le Toux—————

OUT: MF Gabriel Farfan (R little toe sublux); PROBABLE: DF Danny Califf (L knee meniscus); SUSPENDED: Jack McInerney (through April 10)

New York Red Bulls Probable Starting XI

————————-Coundoul————————-

Solli———–Ream————–Marquez——–Miller

————————–Tainio—————————–

Richards————–De Rosario————–Lindpere

—————–Henry————-Agudelo—————-

OUT: DF Chris Albright (knee surgery recovery); GK Greg Sutton (concussion)

Game Notes:

The Red Bulls are coming off a 1-1 tie with Houston in a game where scoring chances were abundant for Thierry Henry and company. After a week of training, new acquisition Dwayne DeRosario could start for a team that has been in clear need of a #10 (according to head coach Hans Backe). He had an immediate impact after his high profile trade from hometown team Toronto FC to the Red Bulls, setting up Dane Richards to open up the scoring in last Saturday’s tie. Houston came roaring back, however, with a beautiful chip from Cam Weaver to lock things at one.

The Union’s reserve squad will play their first game of the season on Sunday. Piotr Nowak and reserve squad coach, Brendan Burke, have come out and said and it’ll be about 10 of the senior squad members along with roughly 7 or 8 academy players. Burke, the head coach of affiliate team Reading United AC, will guide the first ever Union reserve squad in the newly relaunched reserve league (a necessity in our opinion). If you’re interested, the Union reserve will play the Red Bull reserves at 10:00AM at their Practice Fields, Bob Urban Field of Dreams in Houston Park.

Last year, the Union lost twice in a row to the Red Bulls in only a three day span. First was a regular season loss, 2-1, at Red Bull Arena. Several days later it was a blend of starters and reserves in an Open Cup qualifying match-up that ended with the same scoreline. At home in the season finale, however, the Union played well defeating New York and turning the tables on the scoreline thanks to early Fred and Michael Orozco-Fiscal goals. The Union have a chance to pull things even in the all-time series with a win tomorrow.

According to all of your comments regarding Keon Daniel’s follow up performance in Wednesday night’s Open Cup game, it doesn’t look like he’ll find his way into the starting lineup but Justin Mapp, going on three games missed now, is back and according to team officials, ready to go.

Both teams have issues with the attack. A first start for Dwayne DeRosario is highly likely for the Red Bulls and could prove the impetus for a less wasteful Thierry Henry. Let’s not forget he’s also got Juan Agudelo to feed as well. That’s a scary thought for all Union fans. The defense has played well, however, and kept Beckham, Donovan, and company in check at the Home Depot Center (save that damn set piece). The Union will need to play the aggressors and put the Red Bulls on their back foot early and often. That means however that both Danny Mwanga and Sebastien Le Toux need to sort things out. Having a healthy Justin Mapp in there should help dramatically.

It has been on a lot of peoples’ minds – is Le Toux 100% healthy? He puts that issue to rest in this piece on PhiladelphiaUnion.com.

Contrary to 2010, the Union were the LAST team to give up a goal this season. Their shutout streak ended at 213 minutes, the longest in club history.

Philly native Chris Albright, oft-injured unfortunately, is out recovering from knee surgery and will not play for the Red Bulls.

All spots have been filled for 2011’s Sueno MLS. The Union will be first time hosts and the local tryouts will take place April 23-24 at the YSC Sports Complex in Wayne, PA. Other teams hosting tryouts are the Chicago Fire and FC Dallas.

 Guess the scoreline:

[polldaddy poll=4864489]

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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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Philadelphia Union vs. Los Angeles Galaxy: Player Ratings

Posted on 03 April 2011 by stoma

GK Faryd Mondragon (6)- Well, the newly minted captain is human, after all.  I suppose it is better we realize that sooner rather than later, but it’s still a disappointing fact to be faced with.  This is not to say that Mondragon played a particularly bad game; the single goal he gave up was certainly no softie.  However, he did get burned by Juninho (who hasn’t?) only to see the shot rattle the woodwork and benefited from Juan Pablo Angel uncharacteristically flubbing a sitter, pushing a header that came as the result of a Landon Donovan cross off a counterattack wide of the goal.  Ultimately, Faryd did only allow the one goal, but for the first time he seemed a bit hesitant to come off of his line for balls in the air.  Mondragon also did not make any particularly difficult saves, although he did strongly repel a David Beckham in-swinging direct kick that was ticketed for the back of the net.  All in all, not a stellar performance from the captain, but nothing to be concerned about, either.

LB Jordan Harvey (5.5)- Called upon to push forward more than in the first two games combined, Harvey almost paid dividends on several occasions, most notably sending a lovely early cross towards Carlos Ruiz, who had managed to shake Omar Gonzalez during a run to the goal; unfortunately, Ruiz could not get himself on the end of the service.  On the defensive end, did well when directly called upon, but the fact that the flanks were open for the Galaxy attack through much of the game must fall partly on Harvey.

CB Carlos Valdes (6)- A quiet yet effective game from Valdes, as he combined with Califf to largely shut down the Galaxy attack and keep things relatively quiet in front of Mondragon.  Carlos took some smart fouls in tough spots while managing to keep himself out of referee Paul Ward’s book, seemingly an incredible feat in and of itself.

CB Danny Califf (6.5)- Gamely plugging away despite a strained meniscus in his left knee, Califf continued to show his commitment to maintaining his readiness and engagement in the game through the full 90 minutes.  Danny also continues to display his ability to get into shooting lanes and block shots and crosses, which is quickly making him one of the most valuable center backs in the league.  Even when the game opened up and the Union were pushing for an equalizer, Califf was the strong anchor required to prevent the type of easy counterattack that plagued the squad last season.

RB Sheanon Williams (5)- Mixed results for Sheanon against Los Angeles, with nothing particularly good or bad about his game.  Performed ably when asked to go forward and was more or less competent defensively.  However, his tendency to try and get overly physical when he feels he is in a bad spot defensively hurt him in this match and will continue to do so if referees keep perceiving his challenges as reckless, which they often appear to be even when they are really not.  Williams was largely overmatched by Donovan; there is no shame in this, but there is also no need to compound the difficulty of marking someone like Donovan by taking him down repeatedly and giving the official the opportunity to discipline you and give the opposition multiple free kicks in dangerous positions.  Williams was taken off for Jack McInerney in the 73rd minute.

MID Kyle Nakazawa (5)-Another down performance from Nakazawa, which is becoming a bit of a troubling trend.   As we’ve stressed, this team needs production from the attacking midfielder spots, particularly from the wing.  Nakazawa may not take much off the table, but at this point, he is not bringing anything to the table either.  A free kick specialist who does not put any free kicks on frame or to a teammate in a dangerous position is not very valuable.  Nor is an attacking midfielder who has to be taken off for another attacking midfield because he is not playing his role effectively.  

MID Brian Carroll (6)- Carroll continues to be an excellent defensive midfielder, but it was more clear than ever during the Los Angeles match that the team cannot rely upon him to be any sort of dependable link to the offense.  He has better ball control and possession ability than Stefani Miglioranzi, but is no better equipped to participate in the buildup or attack in any meaningful way.  None of this is to detract from what Carroll is, but it is certainly something to note for a team still searching for its identity in the early part of this campaign.

MID Stefani Miglioranzi (4.5)- For the first time in memory, we can honestly say that Migs played a poor game for the Union.  Sometimes it looks like he is just doing things effortlessly because he performs so smoothly; against the Galaxy, one had to wonder if he actually was exerting any effort because the results were so lackluster.   Whether he was missing wide open passes to continue the buildup or tentatively looking to go backward with the ball when the Union were trying to push forward with the man advantage, Stefani looked a bit out place, topping a substandard performance off by losing Leonardo during the scoring set piece, which led to the only goal of the match.

Sebastien Le Toux ©ASN/Terry McLaughlinMID Sebastien Le Toux (6.5)- Along with the rest of the attack, Le Toux was largely invisible for the early part of the match.  Seba did manage to track back a fair bit in an effort to initiate the attack from the midfield, but his efforts were largely fruitless throughout the 1st half.  At that point, it became clear that Le Toux would need to move forward in order to be effective against the packed-in Galaxy defense, so Piotr Nowak and the coaching staff decided to remove Danny Mwanga and let Seba operate from the top of the formation.  This proved a wise decision: even though the Union still did not break through, their attack created far more chances in the 2nd half, the best of which was created by Le Toux when he took a shot from the top of the area that was deflected and landed at the feet of Jack McInerney, who just missed equalizing.

FWD Danny Mwanga (4)- Unlike Le Toux, Danny never found a way to get himself involved in the game after the team’s early offensive struggles.  Part of Mwanga’s necessary development is going to have to be him acquiring the knowledge of how to maximize his touches and opportunities when they are severely limited, as was the case in Los Angeles.   Due to his ineffectiveness, Mwanga came off for Keon Daniel at halftime.

FWD Carlos Ruiz (5.5)-Conversely to attackers such as Le Toux or Mwanga, there is really not much one can expect Ruiz to do if the ball is not getting to him from the back.  His job is to receive the ball and hold up or capitalize on a chance, not to advance the ball from the midfield and link all by himself.   Of course, when crosses did come his way, he was either a step late (50th minute) or committed a foul (77th minute).  Still, though, you have to give Ruiz credit for doing his best to get under the opposition’s skin, which led to Chris Birchall’s sending off, and for continuing to plug away until the final whistle was blown.

MID Keon Daniel (7 * ASN PHILLY MAN OF THE MATCH*)–  Rare is the occasion when a substitute can do enough to be called the best player on the field for a particular side, but that was the case for Daniel in his first appearance in a Union kit.  The 24 year-old Trinidad and Tobago international came on for Danny Mwanga at the half and allowed Seba Le Toux to move up front.  Immediately, Daniel took control out wide and became the link between the backfield and the attack that was lacking for the entire 1st half.  He was the point man on the vast majority of the buildup in the 2nd half and acquitted himself quite well, showing reliable ball handling and excellent field vision.  If Justin Mapp is out for an extended period of time, Daniels may be the answer the Union are looking for on the wing.

MID Roger Torres (6.5)- This game was simultaneously an exhibition of the talents Torres already possesses and his limitations.  Roger came on for Kyle Nakazawa in the 62nd minute.   His presence was sorely needed, and his inclusion in the match unquestionably benefited the Philadelphia side, but Roger’s playmaking still lacks that refined sense of discipline that produces results.  The kid can create, there is no doubt about that, but his tendency is to go for the all-or-nothing play, the spectacular as opposed to the practical.  He sees things on the pitch that few others can, but he needs to understand that he cannot simply will the play to end how he envisions it.   Sometimes he needs to make the lateral pass to maintain possession and momentum instead of trying to drop one over the top of the defense; sometimes he needs to go out wide instead of trying an outside foot direct pass to Jack McInerney making a run towards the goal mouth, who himself chided Torres following the play.  Torres breathes life into the Union attack, but we’re still waiting on tangible products of his contribution.

FWD Jack McInerney (6)- Came on for Sheanon Williams in the 73rd minute as the Union made their final big push for the equalizer.  McInerney continues to show signs that he is going to be a very special player when he puts it all together.  Not only can he be a large contributor, but he has the makings of a team leader.  Union fans might decry the effort and heart displayed against the Galaxy by some on the pitch, but those accusations cannot be put upon Jack Mac.  He came into the game prepared to try and make a difference and almost did on several occasions.  His retaliation against Chad Barrett in stoppage time for an upending that earned McInerney a red card and a one-match suspension may have been ill-advised, but it also went a long way towards endearing Jack Mac to the fans even more.

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Home Opener: Philadelphia Union vs. Vancouver Whitecaps: Player Ratings

Posted on 27 March 2011 by stoma

GK Faryd Mondragon (6.5)- After an uneventful start to the game, with a lot of long balls attempted by both sides, the sleeping Dragon, so to speak, was awoken in the 27th minute when a ball bounced back and was collected easily by the captain.  However, Vancouver striker Eric Hassli got tangled up with Danny Califf and proceeded to throw the Union defender to the ground.  First, Faryd alertly signaled to referee Yader Reyes what had occurred.  Then, when it was not immediately clear that Reyes would discipline Hassli, the captain stomped 40 yards out to make sure he did.  Following the exchange, the tone of the game was set.  Sure, it got chippy at times, but the Union showed an edge they did not quite have in their inaugural season.   This set off a see-saw of bookings that did not end until Hassli eventually picked up his 2nd yellow, earning himself a trip to the locker room and allowing the Union to open it up and find their way to a second consecutive 1-0 win.  In terms of his actual play, Mondragon did not have to do as much as he did in the season opener, once again recording 3 saves, only one of which was of any difficulty: Gershon Koffie’s long strike around the 30th minute that caught Faryd off-guard, leading to an awkward lunge that send the ball off to the goal’s right.  Even then, however, Mondragon managed to prevent a rebound opportunity and faced little action in front of the net the rest of the way as he completed his 2nd clean sheet in as many opportunities in the MLS.

LB Jordan Harvey (6)- Another solid defensive effort from Harvey.  The 1st half was all about holding the fort against Vancouver’s attack in an ebb and flow that had no real order other than a steady diet of long balls and very little prolonged buildup that called for Jordan to venture forward.  But Harvey’s renewed commitment to marking continues to produce results.  Came off for Jack McInerney in the 66th minute as Philadelphia made their push for a winner, not to mention that Eric Hassli was no longer around to worry about at that point.

CB Carlos Valdes (7.5 *ASN PHILLY MAN OF THE MATCH*)- Two things so far are clear regarding Valdes: (1) He is still not sure of his positioning with his new club; and (2) He is athletic, skilled and aware enough to more than hold his own regardless.  On at least three occasions, it appeared as though Carlos was out of place and sure to be beat, but in each instance he was able to recover, once by craning his neck to just nudge a ball in the air enough to change its path.  Valdes did take a couple of badly judged fouls, but nothing that hurt the team.  Ultimately, the defender made the necessary plays that kept danger away.  Through his first two games with the Union, he has shown that he is willing to make the high-risk, high-reward play that a team needs to win.  Mondragon has gotten the lion’s share of the attention and press, and deservedly so, but Valdes has been every inch as important a signing and, over the run of 90 minutes, has even more of an impact when he plays as he did against the Whitecaps.

CB Danny Califf (7)- Along with Valdes, the key to the Houston match in front of Mondragon, the center backs were tasked with keeping out the forward tandem of Eric Hassli and Atiba Harris, both large target men with a nose for the goal.  As typical for the defender, he decided to play as physically as possible within (most of the time) the confines of the rules.  This paid dividends in the 29th minute when Hassli took a cheap shot at Danny when he thought no one was looking, but the strategy threatened to backfire when Califf earned a caution of his own in the 31st minute, but the veteran was able to manage the burden of playing on a yellow well the rest of the way.  In addition, last year’s captain kept things calm in front of the Union’s goal, as it was never truly threatened.

RB Sheanon Williams (5.5)- Another instance of why Williams is a vexing talent: throughout the 1st half, the team asked him to stay back for the most part, but it just wasn’t in him.  Sheanon only really looks like he is completely into the game if he gets to freelance a bit and show his astounding physical ability on the attack.  One cannot doubt his ability, but his commitment to his defensive responsibilities still requires improvement.  Fortunately, despite his world tour of a career thus far, Williams is still 21 and is certain to improve. 

MID Kyle Nakazawa (4.5)- While he showed deficiencies defensively in the season opener, Nakazawa’s play was largely neutral.  Against Vancouver, however, the young midfielder can be fairly said to have detracted from the team’s performance, as his offensive contributions were nonexistent as well.  He started to find space down the right flank shortly after the red card, but his inability to take advantage in any meaningful way led to his substitution for Roger Torres in the 66th minute.

MID Stefani Miglioranzi (6)- Provided the stability in the midfield that the team has come to expect.  Migs has arguably become the lost man in the Union’s rise.  When the defense was poor last season, it was Stefani as the lone bright spot for an underperforming team.  Now, with a defense that is thriving, Miglioranzi is just another face in the crowd.  Regardless, that does not detract from his play, which in this match was highlighted by his long shot that was deflected and ended up at the feet of Le Toux and ended up in the back of the net.

MID Brian Carroll (7)- With Justin Mapp out, the team looked to Carroll to maintain some possession and link the attack.  Unfortunately, Carroll did not answer the call in the 1st half, instead providing sloppy touches, tentative passes backwards and timing that was a beat slow.  In the 2nd half, however, the game changed, and Carroll was a big reason why.   Following the red card, he pressed up and played the point position on what amounted to a prolonged power play for the Union, with the ball in Whitecaps territory for the vast majority of the time.  He initiated several productive forays towards the goal and disrupted any attempt at counterattacks.

MID Sebastien Le Toux (7)- Early in the match, especially without the benefit of field marshal Justin Mapp (who

Le Toux

was out with an Injury), the team looked to send Seba forward into space often with no real results.   Of course, that never tells the story for Le Toux, whose now-legendary work rate demands that his game never be evaluated until it has ended.  Sebastien can plug away fruitlessly all day, only to find himself on the receiving end of an absolute gift, a lucky bounce that lands at his feet, and be ready to capitalize.  Le Toux took that chance and made a brilliantly clinical pass to Ruiz for a wide-open net.  What makes a player dangerous is the constant state of preparedness; Seba has that.

FWD Carlos Ruiz (6.5)- The Little Fish got to swim for the first time in a Union uniform.  Frankly, other than his goal, he did not do much else.  This is not to say Ruiz played poorly or hurt the side, just that he did not have or create many opportunities and did not take advantage of the precious few he did have other than his finish on an absolute sitter.  However, the bottom line is that this might be all the team gets from Ruiz and it may be unreasonable to ask anything else.  Philadelphia needed a game-changer, and such a player only needs to be relevant in the short stretch of a game where the result lies in the balance; he can disappear for the other 80-85 minutes and still do his job effectively.  That was Ruiz’s performance against Vancouver, and it proved to be all the Union required of him.

FWD Danny Mwanga (5.5)- Clearly more comfortable starting the game, Mwanga was able to work himself into the flow of the game as the pace picked up.  Unfortunately, he just never produced results.  Right now, Mwanga’s limitation is his reliance on his own freakish physical abilities.  He needs the ball to thrive and when he finds himself in a pinch, his instinct is to keep the ball.  Danny needs to realize that his ability to make the spectacular play cannot bail him out consistently enough to take the next step in this league.

MID Roger Torres (5)- Came on for Kyle Nakazawa in the 66th minute.  As was the case last season, the 19 year-old was clearly overmatched physically.  If Mapp’s injury persists, the ineffectiveness of Nakazawa and now Torres could prove to be problematic.  This team needs production on the wing.   

FWD Jack McInerney (5.5)- Came on for Jordan Harvey in the 66th minute as the third attacker.  Showed that his physical maturation and technical development continues to catch up to his abilities with several successful runs and, most importantly, some strong holding up in the corner as the Union worked to run out the clock up a goal at the end.

MID Gabriel Farfan (N/A)– Came on for Danny Mwanga in the 83rd minute for defensive purposes to help secure the win.

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Union’s 2011 Home Opener Win in Pictures

Posted on 26 March 2011 by Breton Bonnette

ASN Philly’s LEE PEASE was a witness to the Union’s 1-0 shutout Home Opener win over the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps. Carlos Ruiz scored his first goal/gamewinner for the Union, sending the U to the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

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Game #1 Preview: Philadelphia at Houston

Posted on 18 March 2011 by Breton Bonnette

The Union opens up the 2011 season on the road against a younger, different looking Dynamo squad. Eager to put their own new pieces to work, the Union hope to build a formidable defensive set-up and find away points to help complement what should be another great year at home.

Philadelphia Union (0-0-0) at Houston Dynamo (0-0-0)
Robertson Stadium, Houston, TX, 8:30PM EST

Projected Philadelphia Union Starting XI

———————Mondragon———————-

Williams——Califf———-Valdes——-Harvey

————-Carroll———-Miglioranzi————

Le Toux—————————————–Mapp

————-Mwanga————Ruiz—————–

QUESTIONABLE: DF Juan Diego Gonzalez (L hip flexor strain); PROBABLE: MF Sebastien Le Toux (L ankle sprain)

Projected Houston Dynamo Starting XI

————————-T. Hall————————–

Freeman—–Boswell——–J. Taylor—–Chabala

Ashe——–Cameron———Palmer———Davis

—————-W. Bruin——–Oduro—————–

OUT: MF Colin Clark (L knee); Francisco Navas Cobo (R hamstring strain); DOUBTFUL: FW Brian Ching (R hamstring strain)

Game Notes:

The Union added some real firepower in the offseason – retooling an ailing defense from 2010 with Carlos Valdes, a surefire starter from day one, and veteran goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon. Brian Carroll, a former MLS Cup winner and standout midfielder, should anchor the middle of the field this year and act as an efficient connection in transition.

One of the biggest factors of the game will be the quality of the goalkeeper on each side. Replacing the underperforming pair of Seitz and Knighton this year will be Bundesliga vet Faryd Mondragon giving the Union a true rock on paper in between the posts. Carlos Ruiz has already come out and said to Marc Narducci of Philly.com that Faryd Mondragon is “the best goalkeeper in the league”. The Dynamo, however, lost their strongest presence on the field to psuedo-retirement (as he is now on a player/coach contract with DC United) and faces a year of inexperience in the net. Tally Hall, who has been promising in limited appearances, will get his chance in net for a new look Dynamo.

The Union should have Le Toux starting tomorrow despite a nagging injury. Mondragon tweeted earlier this week about some pain in his knee but there has been nothing pointing to him having to miss the opener. The Dynamo will most likely be missing their stud striker Brian Ching as he recovers from a hamstring strain. Ching probably could play but with the season just starting up, I would expect him to sit this one out for fear of an early setback.

The Union come into this opener with a 1-0-1 record vs. Dominic Kinnear and his Dynamo all-time. The win was an especially memorable one. Two highlight reel worthy plays were produced in the Union’s 3-2 victory over Houston. The first a walk the line stunner from Shea Salinas and the second a last gasp winner from Danny Mwanga to secure three points for the Union in their first win away from home.

Houston is undefeated in home openers so beware. They are 2-0-3 all time, beating defending champions from 2009 Real Salt Lake 2-1 last season. Robertson Stadium, however, is definitely not a fortress for the Dynamo as they registered a 6-6-3 record last season at home. Their new stadium (scheduled to open in 2012) can’t come soon enough for Dynamo fans.

Zac MacMath – the Union’s first round pick out of the 2011 SuperDraft – and second year midfielder Amobi Okugo have been called to participate with the U-20 USMNT in the 2011 CONCACAF Championship (March 28th to April 10th). With their two week exit, both MacMath and Okugo will miss the following games – March 26’s home opener vs. Vancouver, April 2’s away match in Los Angeles vs. Galaxy, April 7’s US Open Cup qualifier vs. DC United.

Slipping under the radar, Soccer by Ives came out and reported that the Union have finally put pen to paper on a contract for Michael Farfan’s twin brother Gabriel. Gabriel has been with the team all preseason and was expected to receive a contract. There has been no confirmation from the Union as of yet.

Time is running out! You have until MIDNIGHT tonight to submit your picks for the 2011 Union “Firsts” Contest. Get them in and be in the running for a $50 gift card to PhiladelphiaUnionStore.com.

We’ll be there tomorrow hopefully grabbing some pictures and keeping you up to date on all things happening on and off the field at Robertson Stadium!

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