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

Sunday, April 21, 2013

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.

With Le Toux tracking back into the midfield for a formation that much more often looked like a 4-4-2 than the 4-3-3 it purported to be, the midfield featured a central pairing of Brian Carroll and Keon Daniel. That’s a deviation from the usual midfield diamond, with Carroll the deepest lying and Farfan behind a pair of strikers.

So why is that important? Because it hands Hackworth a slot in which to deploy Kleberson, who only got 11 minutes last week in his club debut, a place to start against D.C. Kleberson is ideal to pair with Carroll, those two interchanging defensive responsibilities and Kleberson doing most of the work going forward.

His scoring chance and pass to spring Hoppenot for what could’ve been the game-winner against Toronto are proof that he’s up for the challenge. The constant praise being lavished on the surface at RFK – “I just feel like it brings the best from us a little bit,” Carroll said. “… It’s a big open field and their grass just allows the ball to roll a little bit quicker.” – makes it sound like a place to play the kind of soccer Hackworth wants to (and has yet to) see. Plus the Union’s struggles finding a consistent deliverer of set pieces is a broken record.

Kleberson fits all three of those criteria, and with a ready-made opening for him, his selection makes perfect sense.

Projected starting XI (4-4-2)
Bench: Konopka, Cruz, GFarfan, Lahoud, Torres, Le Toux, Hoppenot

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