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Philadelphia Union vs. Chivas USA: Updated Game Musings

Posted on 25 September 2010 by stoma

As we get ready to kick off here on a sweltering afternoon by the river at PPL Park, the Union are trapped in purgatory, somewhere between playoff relevancy and playing out the string.  They take on Chivas USA, who have endured an equally disappointing season, although their road has not been quite as dramatic a roller coaster as Philadelphia’s, their playoff dreams effectively dashed by a 7 game winless streak in May and June.

Not much by way of change in the lineup for the Union, although what they have rolled out can more be called a 4-1-3-2, with Miglioranzi supplementing the defenders full-time, and Fred as a central attacking midfielder with Le Toux and Mapp on the wings.

2′: Nice to see Sheanon Williams hold down his spot in the first XI as the season winds down.  He’s a project for sure, but if there’s one thing the Union have at this point, it’s time to develop players like Sheanon.  Their first year in the MLS has built up an incredible amount of goodwill in the community and among the fanbase, who have no call to complain what with the top-of-the-line stadium.

6′: The Union are playing as though they have not played in live game action in two weeks.  Of course, this is because they haven’t.  It’s not as though they look bad, it’s just that everyone’s touches are a beat slow.  Let’s see if they can turn it around as the game settles in.  However, if this early malaise leads to conceding a goal, all bets are off.

10′:  OK, so Fred is playing more of a roving central midfield role than a straight attacking mid.  Someone remind me to ask Piotr Nowak if this was pre-ordained or it’s just a concession to the fact that Fred is not going to stay in the area the team asks anyway.

14′: Checking to make sure this is not a high school game, as the touches are increasingly sloppy from both sides. The play says yes; the 16 thousand in attendance says no.

16′: Alan Gordon finds space and is two steps away from a 1 v. 1 with Knighton, but the young keeper sees it immediately and, with the FC Dallas game red card flashing before his eyes, goes to the ground feet first (he’s learning!) and clears the danger a second before Gordon can run onto the ball.

17′:  Immediate action the other way, with Sebastien Le Toux finding space and sending a lovely cross to the front of the goal, where both Danny Mwanga and Alejandro Moreno were crashing.  The ball finds the head of Ale, who pushes it wide right. One can’t help but think that Moreno would have found a way to hit the back of the net with that one 5 years ago. Heck, 3 years ago.

23′: Seriously, if there’s one saving grace for Philadelphia here, it’s that Chivas is in even poorer form right now.  Rodolfo Espinoza just basically got tired of waiting for Justin Mapp to make a move and went at his legs instead.  Good times.

26′: After yet another unsung play from Stefani Miglioranzi who, seeing no hopeful developments while holding the ball near the end line, banged it off a defender to draw the corner, the Union get on the board and notch a rare tally from a set piece.  For only the second time all season, Philadelphia scores off a corner, with Justin Mapp raising his assist total with a beautiful ball towards the back post that Alejandro Moreno helps all the way to the back post once he gets his head to it, looping it out of the reach of Zach Thornton to make it 1-0.  Moreno atones for his earlier missed header and puts home his 2nd goal of the season.

33′: In the immediate aftermath of the match’s first goal, not much has changed except for the mood of the Union supporters occupying the River End.  The sloppy play continues and neither side has changed tactics.  I will say, however, that Ale Moreno looks positively buoyed by getting his 2nd. He’s playing with very high energy right now.

37′:  Random note: Michael Orozco-Fiscal’s green boots > Danny Califf’s red boots.

42′: Both teams are now playing with one foot in the locker room.  This is one of the more disjointed halves of soccer I can recall viewing in some time.

43′: The new and improved Philadelphia central defense: through ball comes, first defender attempts to clear, second defender expects the first defender to fail at this task and tracks towards the action to finish the job. It’s like I always say: if you can do the job of 1 man with 2, then maybe unemployment wouldn’t be such a problem in this country.

43′: Full disclosure: I’ve never actually said that before.

45′: Justin Mapp just ran into Dario Delgado, who went down in a heap.  Mapp gets the yellow, Delgado gets the stretcher…which he refuses, of course.  Instead we get

45+’: Well, if nothing else, that run-in has woken the teams up.  Some fast paced action here in stoppage time, with Mariano Trujillo picking up a yellow card of his own for a hard tackle on Le Toux as he streaked down the touchline.

45+’: And there it is…goal #2, this time Fred puts home his 3rd of the year off of the free kick from Le Toux.  Seba put a semi-cross, semi-shot, all “hey, if I put this somewhere on frame, something good might happen” ball that Thornton got a mitt on, which accomplished nothing other than to direct the ball back towards the masses in front of the goal mouth.  Fred won the mad dash to the ball and slammed it into the back of the net to put the Union up 2-0 and send the fans to the concession stands happy, as the halftime whistle came almost immediately after the restart.  See you on the other side of the half.

As we begin the 2nd half, a couple of clarifications: (1) the assist on Fred’s goal was credited to Moreno, who got a slight touch on Le Toux’s cross, redirecting it towards goal before Thornton’s hand got in the way; and (2) Fred did, indeed, receive a yellow card for taking his shirt off after the goal.

45′: Andrew Jacobson replaces Danny Mwanga at halftime, which means that he slots into the other central midfield spot while Le Toux slides up top with Moreno and Fred & Mapp are the wings.

’50: Let’s explore this more.  If, three weeks ago, you had told me that Andrew Jacobson was the best substitute possible to improve the defensive side of the ball for Philadelphia, I would have [insert sign of incredulity here]. But, that’s just what Jacobson has become.  With his ability to push up and link the attack while still getting back in plenty of time due to his blazing speed and instincts, he is the perfect defensive complement to Miglioranzi in the middle.

55′: Chivas has now used all three of their allotted substitutions. This should end well for them.

’56: Sheanon Williams is an awesome athlete.  Fred sent a cross towards the back post in the air from the left flank just above the penalty area.  He did so after spotting a streaking Williams completing a run all the way from the backfield.  He did so after making eye contact with Williams, who didn’t break stride after a 40-yard sprint.  He did so after Williams adjusted his path to the goal just enough to give Fred a chance to time his run.  No, Williams did not get on top of the resulting header and put it on frame, but it was still a sight to behold.

’57: Sometimes, you wonder what Moreno is doing. Then, a few seconds later, after some deep reflection, you realize that he’s doing exactly the right thing, assuming that his teammates will also do the exact right thing.  In this case, he took a ball down the left flank of the penalty area and sent a low cross towards the back post.  Now, nobody was there or even close to there, but think about it: somebody should have been making that back post run.  I don’t  know whether it’s an endearing statement about how much Ale trusts his teammates to do the right thing despite myriad evidence to the contrary or incredibly foolhardy, but it’s definitely a big reason he’s so beloved in the locker room.  He’s going to treat everyone, rookie or veteran, like a pro.

’59: This has been a renaissance game for Moreno.  He came within inches of having a clear chance at his 2nd goal of the game to go along with an assist.  Le Toux chased down a long ball and sent a low cross towards a streaking Ale all by himself at the top of the area, but the ball managed to skip over Moreno’s foot before he could one-time it on net.

’67: Whether it’s the heat, the score or just a compendium of losing, Chivas is getting utterly frustrated. Ugly tackle by Michael Umana draws another caution for Chivas.

’67: That won’t help the frustration.  The resulting free kick is taken by Le Toux, who attempts to go through the wall.  But it’s the Union’s day, and for the first time this season, a deflection leads directly to a goal.  Le Toux gets his 12th of the season and the romp is on.

74′: Amobi Okugo on for Fred.  This not only saves Fred’s legs, but allows Jacobson to push forward a bit more.

77′: Final sub for the Union as Roger Torres makes his first appearance in a little while, coming on for Justin Mapp.  The infusion of youth on the pitch serves two roles: (1) this game’s in hand, no need for the veterans to risk further fatigue; and (2) with only 6 games left in the season, there’s an expansion draft to worry about and only a limited amount of players the team can protect.  Further, unlike last offseason when teams only had to worry about Philadelphia poaching their prospects and aged veterans, there are two new franchises (Portland & Vancouver) making the rounds. That’s two guaranteed players lost per team.  Better be sure about who you’re protecting.

’85: At this point, as Paulo Nagamura draws yet another yellow card for Chivas, you just have to hope nobody gets hurt for the Union as the result of a frustrated tackle.

POST: Another clean sheet for the Union, tying the MLS-low of 2 in one season and assuring they will not hold the ignominious record all by themselves.  With 5 games to go, perhaps they can even get another one and save their names from the record book.  In the immediate future, they pull within 6 points of Kansas City for 3rd place in the Eastern Conference.  Which means…well, nothing, ultimately, but it’s definitely a good showing and something for the home crowd to celebrate.

More importantly, this was the first game all season that Philadelphia won convincingly on the scoreboard and did not have to sweat out at the end.  They needed a game like this, where they took their chances and put the game out of reach early.  A game in which scoring didn’t seem so damn hard, in which the breaks actually seemed to go their way.  A game in which they didn’t look like a franchise in their inaugural season.  A game like this.

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