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

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Revolution 2-0 Union: Post-game quotes

Revolution manager Jay Heaps On the game:
I thought it was a good game for us, complete from front to back. Philly’s a good team and they’ve shown that they are a good team on the road. I thought that in the first half they showed why: they sit in and they let you attack, they give you chances and then they break. When they break they break well. I thought Danny Cruz did a nice job. I thought the Michael Farfan shot that Bobby (Shuttleworth) saved was pretty good. Then from there I thought we dictated a lot of the game. I thought we were playing some good stuff from midfield. I thought that Kelyn (Rowe) and Lee (Nguyen) did well. Kalifa (Cisse) cleaned it up behind them. Overall, I thought our front to back movement was pretty good. I thought that we felt the goal coming it was just a matter of when.

Union manager John Hackworth
On the loss:
Well I thought New England was the better team tonight. So congratulations to them, Jay Heaps and his staff and his team. They were the better team tonight. With that said, that was not reflective of the kind of game we’re capable of playing at all: probably our worst performance on the year so far. In a lot of ways just frustrating that we’ve been playing so consistent and at least the way we try to play and tonight wasn’t the same.

On what was missing:
I just think we’re a team that has to do things on both sides of the ball collectively. We didn’t do that tonight. We were fortunate to not be down a goal in the first half. Yet we had chances too and we didn’t take them well. (Bobby) Shuttleworth makes a couple of really good saves as well, keeps them in the game. Then I thought we came out in the second half and we were actually playing much better. We had good numbers forward on both goals and I just watched them and there were little details and guys just stopped playing. That is not reflective of our team usually.
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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Light schedule gives Union chance to bulk up point total

No one even had to ask Danny Cruz about it.

In the locker room of RFK Stadium Sunday after the Philadelphia Union’s 3-2 win over D.C. United, Cruz shifted gears faster than a NASCAR driver on a road course. In describing the elation that he felt in topping his old team – and in the process seeing the Union takes its first ever points at RFK – Cruz couldn’t help but look to the big picture, even without being pushed that way.

Even after claiming a win over D.C. United Sunday,
Union midfielder Danny Cruz and his teammates have their eyes
on more points this weekend at New England (AP).

“(I’m happy) especially for the team because we separated ourselves from other teams, which is most important,” Cruz said. “And we go into next week playing a team that’s a little bit down right now and is going to be scrapping just like they did, so we’re extremely excited. I’m definitely excited. I’m happy about where we’re going as a club.”

That team is New England, sitting ninth in the Eastern Conference and coming off a 4-1 defeat at the hands of New York.

Politics and gamesmanship aside, the Union face two realities: 1.) The Eastern Conference is very crowded, making head-to-head points extremely valuable; and 2.) They have a stretch of games coming up against teams that have underperformed of late. It’s a very real opportunity to pick up points in bunches and determine if this team is truly a contender.

Consider this schedule:
Read more »

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Spare thoughts from John Hackworth's April 24 presser

Union manager John Hackworth covered a wide range of topics today, some of which I won't be touching on in copy this week. So just a few odd thoughts from the gaffer.

On the "issue" of possession:
"It’s not an issue with me when we keep winning. I’ve said this many times before but possession is a big stat in this sport, but it means very little. The stat that really means something is what at the end of the day you do with that possession, and I think we’ve been very effective in the way that we’ve possessed the ball. So I don’t mind, especially when you go into a road game and you are planning to give up possession, you set your line differently, you play tactically rather than just try to possess the ball. Those things are by design for us, so we think it’s actually quite effective, and we’re not worried about it at all."
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Monday, April 22, 2013

Union 3-2 D.C. United: Post-game quotes

From the P.R. people at the game today, some reaction from both sides. 

From left, Brian Carroll, Keon Daniel and Conor Casey
celebrate the latter's goal in the first half of a 3-2 win over
D.C. United Sunday. (Associated Press)

Union coach John Hackworth On getting the win:
“Well my first thought is it’s a huge three points. And it’s on the road and in a place we’ve never won before and that’s massive for us. A little bit of a crazy game, but you’d expect nothing less coming down here and having these two teams play. I thought we did some really good things. [We] didn’t really hold [possession] the way we wanted to the whole game. But we got the three points and that’s huge.”
On the results on the road:
“We’re tactically playing better. We understand what we need to do when we come on the road, in these really tough environments, and everything is gonna go against us and how we’re gonna have to try and manage it. Our team is growing up. And, you know, as a result you’re really starting to see us compete for points on the road.”
On Union’s transition play: “Yeah, I thought we did a really good job, especially early, obviously, in the game. We dropped our line of confrontation a little bit, we tried to squeeze in a little bit in the space that they love to play and we knew we were gonna have a team that was gonna come at us really hard with a lot of energy. And when you have those kinds of situations set up you know that that leaves them a little vulnerable behind them. And we certainly took advantage of that today.”
Read more »

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Sunday, April 21, 2013

D.C.-Union: Lineups and pregame thoughts

D.C. United (4-4-1-1)
Bench: Willis, Russell, Riley, Augusto, Ruiz, Rafael, Townsend

Union (4-1-3-2)
Bench: Konopka, Lahoud, Torres, Kleberson, Hoppenot, Le Toux, G. Farfan

What to look for:

- I really thought this would be a chance for Kleberson to get on the pitch next to Brian Carroll. But the only change from last week is seeing Sebastien Le Toux relegated to the bench with the 4-3-3 formation in favor of Michael Farfan and four midfielders. The onus is on that midfield to be much stronger.

- We’ll see who plays centrally and who plays the wing in that diamond midfield formation for the Union. I tend to think Farfan slots in behind the striking pair and Keon Daniel plays more outside (especially given his stronger long-ball distributions of late), but there should be plenty of interchanging either way. The central operator will have to contend with Perry Kitchen, a challenge in itself.

- Little different look from D.C. They shuffle the midfield and opt to have Dwayne De Rosario tuck in as a second striker off the shoulder of Lio Pajoy. That leaves out-and-out strikers Carlos Ruiz and Rafael relegated to the bench.

- Same back four for the Union. No defensive subs. Consider that to be the case in each of these pregame blogs until I say otherwise.

- We’ll see how the right side of the Union’s formation copes with Chris Pontius – assuming that’s where he does most of his work. That’s a big onus on Sheanon Williams and Danny Cruz.

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Toronto changes could bode well for Kleberson, Union

Philadelphia Union manager John Hackworth set a tactical precedent last week against Toronto, it just wasn’t the one most people flocked to point out.

In the sixth match of the season, Hackworth for the first time deployed an attacking triumvirate of Jack McInerney, Conor Casey and Sebastien Le Toux. Though all three are nominally forwards, Le Toux tracked often into the midfield, doing a lot of work down the attacking left side of the formation (for proof, check his heatmap).

However tantalizing the accumulation of such attackers may have looked on paper, the reality was much different. A three-man midfield (four when Le Toux tracked back) was unable to string together passes or maintain purposeful possession with regularity, leading to a disjointed performance. That didn’t change much until Michael Farfan came on for Danny Cruz in the 65th and Antoine Hoppenot for Le Toux in the 73rd.

Hackworth, both Saturday and this Wednesday at his press conference, was reticent to condemn his three-forward experiment, trying to convey that other facts may have contributed.

But one other precedent was set in his Saturday team, one that may be more important starting Sunday at D.C. United.
Read more »

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

Union 1-1 Toronto: Post-game observations

It took a tremendous performance from Jack McInerney to earn the Union a point against Toronto FC. Some observations from the match.

- “That has to be a game that we win, and looking back on it later in the season it’s going to be disappointing. It might feel good now, but it’s going to be disappointing later.” McInerney gets the goal, and he also gets to the heart of the matter. The Union were not good in the first half; they weren’t much better in the second. Yes, they forced nine saves from Joe Bendik and controlled possession to the tune of 63 percent. But let’s forget the process for a moment: There’s no reason why the Union need Toronto to go down to 10 men and get into stoppage time before they score. It was said by several players in the locker room afterward that this wasn’t a playoff-team performance, and they’re right on the money.

- That said, McInerney’s goal still looms large. It’s a big point, even bigger for what it does momentum-wise. The Union know they need to improve, and at least they got something from Saturday’s game on which to build. And there’s not enough to say about the development of McInerney. Not only is he the second-leading scorer in MLS, he’s already halfway to his total of last year. In six games! Read more »

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What they said: Union-Toronto FC spare quotes

Union forward Jack McInerney does battle with Toronto
defender Gale Agbossoumonde during Saturday's 1-1 draw.

Union manager John Hackworth 
On the draw: 
“This is one of those games where a draw feels like a loss. I definitely feel like we struggled there. I know that what I was told on the sidelines, what I saw live and what I saw on the replay are completely different. But you can’t do anything about that now. It is what it is and at the end of the day you have to take your chances and finish them, and we didn’t do much of that.”

On possessions and change in play:
“We’re not a long ball team. At half time the stats were much more possession oriented. In the first half we had the ball 66% of the time. So I don’t know what to tell you other than I think we had it more than they did and it was just a terrible, ugly game. It was a restart game. Between some tactics by Toronto and some interesting management of someone else on the field - it was just a game that was stopping and starting the whole time and it continued to do that throughout the whole game. That’s one of the reasons why as a coach … I know some of the players feel it too, they were frustrated by the tempo of the game.”

On the starting front three of Jack McInerney, Conor Casey and Sebastien Le Toux:
“I don’t think it was as much our front three as our whole team struggled to keep our game plan. Our possession wasn’t the way we wanted to do it. Even though we had more of the ball, our rhythm and our tempo wasn’t what we had planned on and you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Toronto for that, some other mitigating factors. I think it’s a struggle any time you have to play under those kinds of conditions."
Read more »

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Union-Toronto FC: Pre-Game

Toronto (4-3-1-2)
Philadelphia Union (4-3-1-2, I’m assuming)
Le Toux

- Buckle up: These are two attack-minded squads. Toronto names a squad with Hogan Ephraim, normally a forward tucked in behind single frontman Robert Earnshaw, in the side behind Earnshaw and Justin Braun. The Union meanwhile choose to employ Sebastien Le Toux, Jack McInerney and Conor Casey. We’ll see if that’s a 4-3-3 or it holds as a midfield diamond with Le Toux in the hole behind the forward pair.

- The flip side of this: It’s a narrow formation. Ray Gaddis and Sheanon Williams will have to get forward, especially if Le Toux tucks in instead of playing the wing. There are a lot of offensive players on the field, but it could easily descend into bombing long balls if there’s not enough midfield continuity.

- The Danny Califf homecoming story will have to wait. Though he is listed as being over the flu that kept him out of last week’s game against Dallas, he starts on the bench with Darren O’Dea and Gale Agbossoumonde preferred in central defense.

- The Union again name a defender-less bench, the closest thing to one being Gabriel Farfan. Kleberson joins the usual cast of Michael Lahoud and Roger Torres as well as Michael Farfan.

- The Union name the same back four: Gaddis and Williams at fullback, Amobi Okugo and Jeff Parke in the center. Also, the sky is blue.

- Both Gabriel and Michal Farfan start on the bench today. The last time that happened in an MLS game? July 2, 2011, though Gabriel came on as a sub in the 66th minute. The last time neither played in an MLS game was June 25.

- Some changes on the Toronto side. John Bostock isn’t in there as usual. I’m interested to see what Luis Silva can do in the midfield.

- Should be mentioned that former Union player and Southampton native Ryan Richter is on the bench for Toronto.

- I see like a 3-2 game here, Union on top. There will be some offense.

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Preparing for Toronto: This week's coverage

For your pre-game reading convenience, all my weekly coverage in one place.
Danny Califf, right, will make his return to PPL Park today
when his Toronto F.C. Team takes on the Union.
(Associated Press)

The story this week is the return of former captain Danny Califf, who will make his first appearance at PPL Park since being banished by former coach Peter Nowak 11 months ago. Califf is excited to make his return in front of the Philly faithful.

Speaking of last year, the 1-0 loss the Union suffered at Toronto last May seems a long time ago, for both clubs, each of which has undergone some serious changes from top to bottom since then.

And finally, the nuts-and-bolts preview of a game between a Union team trying to parlay road success into a home win and a transformed Toronto team riding high after drawing FC Dallas.

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Toronto may be chance to shuffle midfield

When Union manager John Hackworth calls Toronto F.C. “sneaky good,” it’s a little difficult to peg just what he means.
Toronto midfielder Luis Silva may have a revamped
Philadelphia Union midfield to contend with Saturday.
(Associated Press)

On paper, the Toronto’s strengths lie at the front and back of the formation. Robert Earnshaw is a tremendous poacher who can make slumbering defenses pay early and often. Danny Califf and Darren O’Dea provide a balanced and seasoned central defense pairing, shoring up a massive weakness of last year’s hapless Toronto team.

But if there’s one area in which Toronto (1-2-2, 5 points) doesn’t jump off the page, it’s the midfield.

That works in the favor of the Union, which are still waiting from a stand-up-and-take-notice performance from its midfield. Even with a greatly improved Toronto team coming to town, this could be a chance for that performance.
Read more »

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Soumare in Chicago, but another team may make more sense

For a second straight week, wantaway defender Bakary Soumare wasn’t in the Union’s matchday 18-man roster.

Two weeks ago in New York, it was written off to fatigue after national-team duty with Mali. This week in Columbus, after midweek assurances that he was training and in the selection mix, it may have been just another installment of manager John Hackworth’s desire to go for it away from home, naming a bench without a recognized defender for a second straight week.

A team official confirmed Sunday that Soumare didn’t make the trip to Columbus. Sunday evening, he was in Chicago, where he keeps an offseason home, taking in a match between his former team the Fire and New York.

It’s worth a wonder if the word “former” may soon be removed in front Chicago. The Fire, who only picked up their first win of the season Sunday, looked to be in dire straits. Manager Frank Klopas has found himself on the hot seat, vowing changes. Highly paid central defender Arne Friedrich has missed the last couple of games, and the defense has been atrocious (10 goals allowed in 5 games) to find them last in the Eastern Conference.

Because of injuries that have pulled the likes of Jalil Anibaba in from the fullback role, Chicago gave the first career start to left back Hunter Jumper Sunday while deputizing veteran midfielder Wells Thompson as a right back.
Read more »

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

Union 1-1 Columbus: Postgame quotes

From the good people in the Columbus PR department, some select quotes from the Union and Crew after their 1-1 draw today.

Crew midfielder Eddie Gaven, left, and Union forward Jack McInerney
fight for the ball in the second half of a 1-1 draw Saturday. (AP)

Union manager John Hackworth 

On the result tonight’s result:

"It was one of those crazy games. I thought we were the much better team in the first half and should have had multiple goals, but we just kept on missing opportunities. Then, in the second half, they [the Columbus Crew] were really good and the tide turned a little bit on us. It was frustrating to give one up and I thought we were going to steal one ourselves. We had a couple really good looks, but it just wasn’t meant to be. Columbus is a really good team. Obviously I’ve seen a lot of their games and they are one of the best teams in the league. To come into a good stadium where we have never got any points, we have to walk away and say to ourselves, 'that was a good result.'"

On first-half tactics:

"What we felt we could do against them, we were able to do it. We got in behind them a couple of times and that was key. What was unfortunate was that we did not take advantage of those opportunities because they were all really good looks."
Read more »

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Kleberson arrival a dream come true for Fernandes

HORSHAM TWP. – It looked as if Leo Fernandes had found his dream job.

No, not professional soccer, though that’s pretty cool too for the supplemental draft pick and Philadelphia Union forward.
Kleberson, left, and Le Fernandes at the former's introduction
ceremony Wednesday night.

The rookie filled a different role Wednesday night: Translator, and for his idol, to boot.

At the unveiling of new signee Kleberson at a fan event in Horsham Wednesday, Fernandes, the native of Brazil by way of Stony Brook University, stood in as the Union’s translator for the newly-acquired 33-year-old Brazilian midfielder.

“It’s my first time translating, so I think I did a pretty good job,” Fernandes said. “I was pretty nervous, I can’t lie. … It was great to help him out.”

Fernandes was only drafted into the role when the Union’s original translating plans fell through.

Fernandes, 22, grew up watching the exploits of Kleberson in his home Brazil. A native of Sao Paolo, Fernandes didn’t move to the states until later in his youth.
Read more »

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Monday, April 1, 2013

Union get presidential for Easter holiday

To celebrate the Easter holiday -- and support the President's Council on Sports, Fitness & Nutrition's "Let's Move" campaign -- the Philadelphia Union sent a delegation down to Washington D.C. Monday to participate in the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.

From left, Union assistant coach Jim Curtin, technical director Rob Vartughian,
defenders Sheanon Williams and Ray Gaddis and manager John Hackworth
take part in the 135th annual White House Easter Egg Roll in Washington D.C.
Monday. (Photo courtesy of Philadelphia Union)

Defenders Sheanon Williams and Ray Gaddis, manager John Hackworth, technical director Rob Vartughian and assistant coach Jim Curtin were among those taking part in the 135th edition of the yearly tradition on the White House Lawn. President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and various other luminaries were in attendance.

Tweeted Gaddis from his personal account:

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