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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Union 1-1 Orlando: Some initial impressions

Saturday’s meeting with Orlando City was the Union’s preseason opener, and boy did it look like it. Only a Leo Fernandes goal in the 75th minute salvaged a point for the Union at the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic, the third straight preseason that they’ve failed to beat Orlando City.

Here is the nuts-and-bolts recap on the site, but a few extra observations if I may.

- I’ve been impressed by Fernandes through the preseason. He has an eye for goal and a clinical finish that’s evident even in training, and it’s nice to see it translate into the games. His goal was a thing of beauty. Roger Torres chipped a beautiful pass over the defense, which Fernandes touched down and fired home. We’ll see if there’s a place on this team for the Supplemental Draft pick out of Stony Brook – though playing regularly at a lower level may be more beneficial – but he’s certainly made an impact.

- After weeks of writing and talking about his 4-3-3 formation, manager John Hackworth went with the 4-4-2 that he professed an attraction to last season and seemed on paper to better fit this squad. The first 60-some minutes of Saturday’s game begged to differ. The team lacked any sort of cutting edge, disjointed in attack and at the back. We’ll write it off to early-season issues … for now.

- Jeff Parke spent most of the preseason working out with the U.S. National team. Amobi Okugo spent most of it in the midfield. When the two were paired in central defense, the divergent training habits were obvious. There was no rapport between them, Parke often venturing out wide and Okugo left to cover in the center, and the opportunities exploited by Orlando City were myriad. Long Tan had a field day, and he’s unlucky not to have scored, coming closest in the 59th minute before he was surprisingly withdrawn just past the hour mark.

- To connect the previous two points, the formation is complicit in the defensive issues. With Danny Cruz and Keon Daniel as wingers and Michael Farfan slipped behind the strikers in a trequartista-type role, it’s a very narrow formation. That put the burden on fullbacks Gabriel Farfan and Sheanon Williams to get forward, and Orlando City benefited from the extra space. They were unlucky not to get a penalty after three legitimate shouts for one, and it’s shocking they only had one goal to show for the effort.

- It must be said that this wasn’t the strongest outing for captain Brian Carroll. He was dispossessed by Dennis Chin far too easily on the Orlando City goal, even if Zac MacMath put him in a precarious position with an ill-advised pass. Carroll didn’t control the midfield as he can from time to time, and as a result the Union got pushed around in that department, allowing Orlando City the better of play for most of the first half.

- The chemistry between Sebastien Le Toux and Conor Casey is clearly a work in progress. They didn’t seem to click at all, and the former didn’t have many opportunities with the ball in his feet. When Cruz provided what was the Union’s best effort on goal to that point, a long-range drive in the 51st minute that rattled the post, Le Toux’s first touch let him down as he corralled the rebound on the doorstep.

- The brightest forward of the night was Antoine Hoppenot, albeit in limited duty. His hard work to turn a defender inside out should’ve resulted in an assist on the game-winning goal, but Jack McInerney somehow managed to miss the net completely from just inside the six-yard box.

- If the season opens on March 2 and Roger Torres finds a way into the lineup, the reason may be his ability to deliver set pieces. With the likes of Daniel and Le Toux triggering, the Union had absolutely nothing to offer. One telling delivery from Daniel from about 28 yards out on the right wing overshot everything.

- I will say this for Cruz, he provided good energy and has the fearlessness to take on just about anyone 1-v-1. And he did send a couple of cross into the box that would’ve turned into goal had someone made the runs to latch onto them. He can be very valuable as a late energy sub/spot starter, if not first-choice.

- It was in a confined time period, but the subs provided outstanding energy. Damani Richards and Eric Schoenle stabilized the defense, Greg Jordan looked good in Carroll’s deep-lying midfield role and Hoppenot and McInerney provided a jolt up front.

- Remember, it’s only the first game.

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