OFFENSE: WHERE TO FROM HERE?
The Union, owners of Major League Soccer's most-anemic offense, traded one of their goal-scoring threats this week when they shipped Danny Mwanga to Portland.
They picked up forward Jorge Perlaza in the process, but the move begged the inquiry, 'Where to from here?' Who carries the torch for a team that -- like Toronto FC -- has scored the fewest goals, with only eight?
Union boss Peter Nowak might have said it best Thursday.
"Why (make this trade) now?" Nowak said, rhetorically. "If you look at the standings and you look at the goals we scored, we can't rely on one guy who can score. It's Lio (Pajoy) or Gabriel Gomez (pictured above). We have to be dangerous up top. These youngsters … they're moving along, but they're not there yet. We cannot wait until it's too late. This kind of stuff is important to give (Perlaza) a couple weeks to establish himself to make sure we give him enough time to know the team. … We cannot fool ourselves with our position in the standings.”
Here are three ideas and observations for how the Union can turn around their season, beginning June 16 when they resume MLS competition with their home match with D.C. United:
1. One (striker) is the loneliest number. The Union have tried their luck with a one-striker formation, leaving Pajoy up top to create off what the midfield gives him. So far, he has only three goals. Gomez has four. Eleven matches into the MLS slate, it's time to try something new. The only way for the Union to determine what they have at their disposal is to throw their forwards into the fire. How about a two-forward look with swift youngster Jack McInerney taking the lead, with Pajoy -- who's a step or two slower -- creating more by playing off him? What about putting Josue Martinez, who's proven himself of late, and Perlaza on the wings with Pajoy as the center-striker, using three strikers to stretch the opposition's backline? What the Union have attempted hasn't worked. So why not try something different?
2. Give the keys of the offense to Perlaza. If the Union aren't willing to try the latter, perhaps the next-best option is putting the offensive workload in Perlaza's hands. He'll have the trust of his Colombian countrymen, with whom -- Nowak assures us -- he'll work well. He demonstrated in Portland that his speed, agility and skill have the potential to break down opposing defenses and, as seen in 2011, he thrives as a center-striker. Giving Perlaza these next two friendlies as a chance to get accustomed to the Union, in advance of that June 16 match, and then turning him loose might be exactly what Perlaza -- who hasn't scored since Aug. 20, 2011 -- needs in order to break a 786-minute scoreless stretch.
3. Don't count on much from Roger Torres. The crafty Colombian midfielder, due back tonight from a two-month injury layoff for a friendly against Reading United AC, is skilled. He's that connecting pass between the midfield and the attack that the Union desperately need. But Torres should be eased back into the mix. Consider: Torres has played more than 70 minutes only eight times since joining the Union in 2010. It's more realistic to allow Torres to progress slowly the next three weeks while Kai Herdling plays out the final weeks of his loan, which expires June 30. That's how the Union can ensure they'll get the best out of Torres in the season's crunch time.
Hey, just some ideas.