FARFAN'S BAN LEADS TO TRICKLE-DOWN EFFECT IN WEAKENED UNION BACKLINE
For one, he's a rookie who Saturday was making only his third career start. But, on the other hand, he's playing on a backline that had a reputation for stout, stingy, goal-preventing play.
The Earthquakes prevailed, 2-1, against the Union. It wasn't exclusively because of Gaddis' play, but rather a confluence of related events, that led to the Union suffering their first loss since March 24.
The Union are strapped on the backline because of left back Gabriel Farfan's three-game suspension (one down, two to go -- by the way). And because offseason get Porfirio Lopez clearly has fallen out of favor with the Union technical staff (Saturday, Lopez was a healthy scratch who didn't make the gameday 18), that left Chris Albright as the only other defender available.
So what took place against the Earthquakes was a number of players lining up out of position. Sheanon Williams, a rock at right back, shifted to the left to cover up the absence of Farfan, and Gaddis played the right. But Williams, who is not naturally left-footed, did as much as he could to hold down that spot. That often left the Earthquakes picking correctly which side to attack, leaving Gaddis to mark guys like Steven Lenhart (who had two goals) and MLS leading scorer Chris Wondolowski.
“I think (Farfan's suspension) changes us a lot due to the fact that, No. 1, Sheanon goes out on the left, where he's not as comfortable," said Union centerback and captain Danny Califf. "So you take him off the right, where he's not only comfortable but he also is a huge part of our offense, and you put him in a spot where he's not as comfortable and that takes away our left-sided attack out of the back.
Califf continued: “Nothing against Sheanon, but he's not left-footed and he's not used to playing there. He's athletic, but he's not going to give you anything (there). It's hard, right? He just can't do what Gabe does on the left. He gives us that on the right, but it's just not there on the left. It's kind of a dynamic of our game that's completely lost. Not only do we not have the left, but now we don't have as much on the right."
Califf, playing the role of a good captain and one unwilling to throw a rookie under the bus, said there's plenty the Union can do to help Gaddis adjust. Here's Califf's strategy:
“I think Ray does a great job, but he's still a kid and he's still got a lot of inexperience and he shows flashes of being a brilliant player, but he needs more games," Califf said. "When we lose Sheanon on the right and an attacking guy on the left, it hamstrings us when we're trying to play out of the back. … A lot of times we have to be there for him a little bit more – try and talk to him a little more than we necessarily talk to Sheanon and organize him more. It's not fault of his own, but it's something we now need to address as a group a bit more. I think that will help him if we can establish somebody who can play in front of him on a more regular basis, so that he can develop a relationship with the guy in front of him. That will be huge."
Looks like the Union have a tiny issue on their hands. They hadn't given up a goal in 408 minutes and, Saturday, they relinquished two in a span of 17 minutes.
If they can't find the right grouping to play in front of goalkeeper Zac MacMath, they might have trouble ... beginning this weekend in Seattle.
(Photo: Philadelphia Union/Greg Carroccio)