Archive | Discussion

Galaxy clinch Playoff Spot with Draw against Quakes

Posted on 21 October 2013 by iyeo

Playoff implications were certainly on the line in Sunday’s California Clasico match between the Los Angeles Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes.

The Galaxy needed a win or a draw to clinch a playoff spot, though a win would have put them in a tie with the Portland Timbers for first place in the Western Conference. The Quakes needed the same result to prolong its chances of making the playoffs.

When 90 minutes were played, the end result was more to the Galaxy’s liking, though not as much as they had hoped. The Galaxy got a big performance from keeper Jaime Penedo, as he made several key saves in the Galaxy’s 0-0 draw with the Quakes at StubHub Center.

“A hard fought game, just like a playoff atmosphere,” Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said. “San Jose played a good game, the kind of game we thought they would play and in the end, it’s probably a fair result.”

The draw assures the Galaxy (15-11-7, 52 points) of its fifth straight playoff appearance, though it missed out on a chance of first place in the West and ended any hopes of winning the Supporters Shield. The Quakes meanwhile saw its playoff chances extended another week, though it will need to not only defeat FC Dallas on Saturday and hope the Vancouver Whitecaps over the Colorado Rapids the following day. The Quakes must also find the back net as much as it can to better its playoff chances as well.

“We’ll approach the (Dallas) game trying to score as much as possible, but we’ve put ourselves in a really difficult position,” Earthquakes head coach Mark Watson said.

San Jose (13-11-9, 48 points) had the better of the chances in the first half. The Quakes first shot at goal came in the 13th minute, as Shea Salinas sent in a free kick into the 18-yard box and Center Back Clarence Goodson headed a dangerous ball that just missed the far post.

The Quakes continued to be aggressive around the Galaxy goal. San Jose won a corner in the 27th minute; Salinas sent in the corner, Lenhart headed a shot on goal, but was parried away by keeper Jaime Penedo. Penedo came up huge again for LA in the 41st minute, as Lenhart crossed a ball into the box, Wondolowski headed a shot on goal but was denied by Penedo. Salinas trailed the play and attempted a rebound shot, but was blocked by Omar Gonzalez.

The Quakes kept up its aggressiveness in the second half. Salinas led a Quakes break from the left side in the 63rd minute, then crossed a ball into the Galaxy penalty area for Lenhart, but a sliding tackle by Center Back Kofi Opare allowed Penedo to scoop up the ball.

“We knew what was at stake, but the game took another turn,” Penedo said. “It was important to protect our game and just try to get the tie because there’s a bigger goal at play here.”

The Galaxy finally started to creates chances of its own. LA’s first threat came in the 83rd minute, as Robbie Rogers crossed a ball into the penalty area, Keane dummied a ball, which bounced around inside the box before Landon Donovan sent a header to Juninho. The Midfielder sent a long-range blast towards the framework, but Quakes keeper Jon Busch got his hands on the ball well enough to parry the ball over the end line. The Galaxy had one last chance at the death to steal the three points; Gyasi Zardes had the ball in the box and made his move, but was taken down in the box by Walter Martinez. Zardes and the Galaxy pleaded for a penalty call, but referee Baldomerro Toledo instead let play continue and the final whistle blew.

“We had a few chances towards the end, and I thought that was a penalty for Gyasi,” Rogers said.

Both teams will have CONCACAF Champions League matches before its respective regular season finales the following weekend. The Quakes will host Olimpia on Wednesday while the Galaxy travel to El Salvador to face Isidro Metapan the following day.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , ,

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…

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , ,

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?

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , ,

Fun with the Mock Drafts: 2012 Aggregate MLS Mock SuperDraft

Posted on 12 January 2012 by Breton Bonnette

The 2012 MLS SuperDraft is upon us and as we did last year (and the year before that), we have taken the Mock Drafts floating around the internet and aggregated them all in order to see who winds up with who. Please remember that this does not take into account team needs and obviously means nothing once a big trade for a first-round draft pick comes into play.

As for the Philadelphia Union, none of the pundits could agree on who they would take in the #13 spot. Calum Mallace, Chris Estridge, Dom Dwyer, Austin Berry, Tyler Polak and Tommy Meyer were all taken. As you can see, the only real agreement comes on the fact that the Union need defensive cover (four out of six picks were defenders).

The Mock Drafts we included were: Ives Galarcep’s, WVHooligan’s, all three MLS analysts, and lastly Steve Davis’.

1. Montreal Impact – Darren Mattocks (Akron, FWD)

Only MLS analyst Simon Borg put Mattocks out of pole position (#3) but everyone else can’t see the Impact passing on a dangerous and pacy striker.

2. Vancouver Whitecaps – Andrew Wenger (Duke, DF/MF/FWD)

Mr. Versatility was unanimous all across the board as it’s clear what Vancouver’s needs are. Expect to see Wenger making the trip out West.  

3. New England Revolution – Chandler Hoffman (UCLA, FWD)

Hoffman was as high as first taken (Borg) but Travis Clark and Ives Galarcep took him down a notch seeing him drafted at #9 and #10 respectively.

4. Toronto FC – Kelyn Rowe (UCLA, MF)

The only outlier here was Jason Saghini. He had Colorado taking Rowe at #14. Most everyone else sees the UCLA playmaker taken by Toronto or New England.

5. Chivas USA – Luis Silva (UC-Santa Barbara, MF)

According to many, Silva had one of the best Combines and rated him as going in the top six picks. Jason Saghini wasn’t impressed, however, as Silva fell to #19 and the Los Angeles Galaxy. Pretty sure the Galaxy wouldn’t mind that.

6. San Jose Earthquakes – Andrew Jean-Baptiste (UCONN, DF)

Even though this aggregated Mock Draft puts Jean-Baptiste as an Earthquake, it was clear with all the analysts that it’s Toronto FC that will be drafting him. Problem is, they couldn’t agree on whether the Reds would take him first at #4 or second at #12. All that indecision left him roughly in the middle, winding up with San Jose.

7. DC United – Casey Townsend (Maryland, FWD)

Not bad. A local kid to his local team. Half the analysts had him here, seeing him as a potential starter in year one.

8. Portland Timbers – Sam Garza (UC-Santa Barbara, MF)

Taken as high as #6 and as low as #14, Garza was all over the map but undoubtedly a first rounder. Not sure the Timbers need him as much as they may need someone in defense (UNC centreback Hedges is a favorite).

9. Chicago Fire – Matt Hedges (UNC, DF)

Only Simon Borg puts Hedges as a second round pick but most everyone else sees the UNC big man as a Portland Timber. If he’s available at #9, however, would the Fire really let him pass?

10. Columbus Crew – Nick DeLeon (Louisville, MF)

DeLeon didn’t have the best of combines and more than one Mock Draft took that into account. The rest, however, kept him locked in top 10. Where he goes will give us good insight into how much weight the Combine actually has.

11. FC Dallas – Austin Berry (Louisville, DF)

Hyndman is stressing defense and Berry is the favorite of most of the Mock Drafts. Only Steve Davis sees him slipping to #17 where Real Salt Lake would happily snap him up.

12. Toronto FC – Callum Mallace (Marquette, MF)

Seen as high as #4 (Jason Saghini again), most Mock Drafts see the Scottish midfielder as a late first rounder but nobody is in agreement as to where he may actually end up. Mallace is a toss-up.

13. Philadelphia Union – Ethan Finlay (Creighton, MF/FWD)

Another standout at the Combine, nobody has Finlay firmly on the Union’s radar especially with Philadelphia in need of defensive cover or depth up front.  Finlay did convince everyone, however, that he is a first rounder (though Ives still needs more convincing as he fell to #23).

14. Colorado Rapids – Tyler Polak (Creighton, DF)

Polak is Generation Adidas so there’s little doubt he’ll wind up taken in the first round but nobody knows where he fits. The Union? Seattle? Chicago?

15. Seattle Sounders FC – Enzo Martinez (UNC, MF)

In the majority of the Mock Drafts, Martinez is the last GA signee to go. Seen as a playmaking project, he could do well in Seattle learning from Rosales and Zakuani. Too bad none of the analysts actually have him going there. Only one agreement on this one – Steve Davis and Jason Saghini agree he’ll end up at #10 with the Crew.

16. Sporting Kansas City – Tony Cascio (UCONN, MF)

Divided on whether or not he goes first round or second round. Two say Chicago at #9 (they need a winger), two say Colorado at #14 (injuries galore on the wing there). Two say he’s 2nd round material.

17. Real Salt Lake – Dom Dwyer (South Florida, FWD)

Another revelation of the Combine, Dwyer has speed and could complement Espindola and Saborio well in the Salt Lake. He’s almost unanimous as a late first round pick – much higher than he was rated a month or two ago. The biggest rumor comes from Ives Galarcep as he threw out there that the Union may be shopping forward Danny Mwanga

18. Houston Dynamo – Hunter Jumper (Virginia, DF)

Replacing Hunter Freeman with another Hunter? Not a bad idea – although most of the Mock Drafts see Jumper as a mid-second round pick.

19. Los Angeles Galaxy – Tommy Meyer (Indiana, DF)

If it weren’t for Jason Saghini having the Union take Meyer at #35, the Hoosier would have been taken earlier in the first round. Regardless, the Galaxy wouldn’t mind a big body (6’2″) to help with the long wait for Omar Gonzalez’s return from injury.

Follow along on Twitter at @bwbonnette as today’s draft gets underway. According to those in Kansas City, it should be an active day with trade rumors swirling around as teams continue to jockey for position.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , ,

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)

Comments (1)

Tags: , , , ,

The Philadelphia Union’s 2012 road to the Playoffs unveiled

Posted on 05 January 2012 by Breton Bonnette

Bring on 2012! See the Union’s schedule below or head here.

A couple notes:

The Union will feature on national television 14 times, ending the season on NBC proper at PPL Park as they host the New York Red Bulls.

Some former players will come on back to Philly. Justin Mapp and Montreal will visit July 14th. Shea Salinas and San Jose, April 28th.

The Union will get a double glimpse of Houston’s new home – BBVA Compass Stadium – on June 30th.

It’s a little odd that we get the upper hand in rivalries – New York, DC United, and New England will visit PPL Park twice and only away once. That could be why we have a challenging away line-up vs. most Western Conference squads: Los Angeles, Portland, FC Dallas, Seattle. Surprisingly, the scheduling committee decided to not allow the defending champion Galaxy into the Northeast Corridor this year – no games at all at New England, New York, Philadelphia, or DC. Don’t really get that though that should mean that Los Angeles will have a brutal time in the Northeast come 2013.

The last week of the season should be interesting to say the least. Three games in a week – two away vs. Houston and Kansas City respectively and then back home to take on New York. Hmm.

Big gap from May 26th to June 16th. Insert international friendly here?

This will be the longest season yet for the Union. Starting March 12th and hopefully ending December 1st (MLS Cup). That’s 265 days of Union! More if you count preseason. It’s startling and awesome all rolled into one.

Which dates are you circling? Planning any road trips?

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , ,

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.

Comments (0)

Tags: , , , , , ,

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.

Comments (6)

Tags: , , , , ,

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.

Comments (7)

Tags: , , ,

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.

Comments (1)

Advertise Here
Advertise Here