Impact 5-3 Union: Post-match thoughts
|Union defender Jeff Parke and company had problems all day |
with Andrew Wenger and company as Montreal claimed a 5-3 win
over the Union (AP).
1. The Union defense simply was not up to the task. They struggle a lot against physical central forwards (see Thierry Henry, Lio Pajoy, Robbie Keane, to name a few), but Marco Di Vaio’s dominance Saturday was still remarkable. He scored three goals in 30 minutes in the first half, then missed a great chance later in the half that could easily have been four. He outmuscled the central defenders and got lost by the fullbacks, so there wasn’t anything that really worked against them.
2. There’s not a lot good on that back four. Ray Gaddis got sucked into the middle, Sheanon Williams struggled to pick up runners and all four got caught ball-watching far too often. The midfield coverage wasn’t much better. The Union scored three goals in hostile territory – one of only three teams to do that in the year-plus the Impact have been in MLS – yet they couldn't get a win. They’ve got some serious issues to fix.
3. Among the many problems is this: The Union have real problems with games when they open up. It’s quite paradoxical, seeing as how they want to stretch the field with Jack McInerney and Danny Cruz on the wings. When the midfield opens up, though, they don’t seem able to cope with it. Brian Carroll is adept at stepping up to challenge the ball in midfield, but that leaves the backline exposed and fullbacks pinching in. It’s why the Union are so susceptible to breakdowns just after they’ve scored. And when they fight so hard to get back into games as they did Saturday, that’s demoralizing.
4. The initial boost from Kleberson’s insertion into the lineup seems to have subsided. For a second straight start, he was just OK. And the defensive issues can’t be unrelated: There’s a defensive aspect to that position, and it may be the case that the Union start trying to use someone like Michael Lahoud, when he’s healthy, at that position to track back further.
5. You have to say this for the Union: For a second game in 10 days, they gave up an early goal, then had a stretch of really good play immediately after. Much like the game against the Galaxy, they took an early punch, and then punched right back. But again, when they had the chance (several actually) to make it 2-1, they didn't take advantage. And the next goal that was scored wasn't in their favor. The point is that the starts need to be better. If they can bring this kind of energy once they've gone down a goal, it would stand to reason they could do it from the kick-off and not get behind to begin with, no?
6. The fact that both Antione Hoppenot and Sebastien Le Toux are back on the score sheet is big. Hoppenot’s shot/cross for his first goal of the season was a nifty bit of trickery, whether he intended it or not. Le Toux’s left-footed drive into the box was a great goal. They’ve got a bunch of guys who can score and are not named "McInerney", and that’s clearly not the problem.
7. Looking ahead, I’d look for the Union to view Tuesday’s game against Ocean City as a chance to vet players; if it goes well, expect changes in next Saturday’s 18, a game in which three points are close to a must. Is Leo Fernandes a permanent option in the midfield, and does he give them another dimension? Ditto Roger Torres? Are Don Anding and/or Matt Kassel viable options to try in a defense that simply isn’t playing well? Is there value left in Chris Albright? This is a big opportunity for the Union, at home, against a lower-division side, to answer those questions in an environment bigger than practice.
8. Let’s put it all in perspective: The Union are a playoff team in the East as it stands at the end of their trip to Canada. They’ve scored 18 goals, the third most in the East. They appear to be falling in this crowd of three or four teams -- likely Columbus, New England and New York (their points total is inflated because of all the games they've played) -- fighting for two playoff spots. They are doing a lot of things well. They’re not a team that needs to win 1-0 games all the time. If they could just find ways to manage games in the 2-1 region, they’d be fine. That said, there are issues with depth in defense, and when thing go badly like they did in Montreal, there are no options for John Hackworth to make changes.