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

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Union 1-0 Chicago: Post-game reaction

Once again the Union proved an ability to pick up points away from home, and despite playing on the backfoot for large stretches and failing to create much in the way of attacking verve, they managed to get the goal they needed in a 1-0 win at Chicago. Some quick reacitons:

- Jack McInerney showed exactly what makes him such a dangerous weapon. His goal off a quickly taken free kick showcased his ability to pop up out of nowhere and get a goal. He was clinical in the finish, and it's the reason why the Union start a difficult stretch with three points.

- Eyes were focused on Bakary Soumare, and I think he proved pretty conclusively that he's still an MLS-level defender. He may not be as quick as Jeff Parke, but he knows that and doesn't take the kind of risks that Parke does tracking the ball farther up the field. Since both Parke and Amobi Okugo prefer to play that aggressive style, it can open holes at times. But if Soumare stays home and cleans up the messes, he and Okugo could flourish for however long they play together. This was a tough matchup for Soumare with speedy guys like Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko. But he did well in the face of that.

- I'm firmly of the belief that part of the Union's shortcomings defensively are because in contrast to some of their Eastern Conference rivals, they don't have a goalkeeper who can steal a game (see Jimmy Nielsen, Tally Hall, Sean Johnson, etc.) Zac MacMath did that today with his man-of-the-match performance. His impressive save late in the first half (even if he didn't know much about it) seemed against all odds, and his stoppage-time block of Quincy Amarikwa's drive was vital. It's only his second clean sheet of the season, and we'll see if it's a watershed moment moving forward.

- McInerney had the finish, but that goal was made by Sebastien Le Toux's clever and quick take on the free kick. Le Toux's place in the side has been in question of late. Though he only played an hour, Conor Casey did a good turn of work and has paired McInerney well. There's no question that McInerney is the first name penciled into the team sheet each game. And the midfield seems to have trouble maintaining possession with four players much less three. So Le Toux is in the unfamiliar position of not having a permanent spot in the Union starting XI. But you have to remember that with McInerney likely to head off to the Gold Cup later this summer, Le Toux will have a big role to play, and it's imperative that John Hackworth finds him the minutes to keep him in form when he's called upon later.

- I know Danny Cruz takes a lot of criticism. But if there was an elimination tournament of the midfielders, he's actually one of the more secure of the regular four. I'm not sure what Keon Daniel brings as an attacking midfielder; the fact that he's not strong on the ball and is losing aerial challenges to the likes of Wells Thompson makes me wonder about his defensive capabilities. Why he's still preferred -- and preferred for all 90 minutes game-in and game-out -- over Kleberson is beyond me. I'm also not sure why Michael Farfan's place is still so secure. He has potential, yes. He plays good technical football, fine. But at some point, facts like 3 goals and 8 assists in 62 matches have to drown out the cacophony of words like "potential" and "upside."

- At some point, Antoine Hoppenot has to start scoring. He's appeared in nine of 10 matches this season, albeit all off the bench. His insertion around that 60-70 minute range has been one of the biggest guarantees all season. And while he's only played about three games worth of minutes and his short stretches on the field magnify the negatives, he's got to start capitalizing on opportunities. The chance against Toronto sticks out, but a better first touch and he could've killed off the game against Chicago. It didn't ultimately cost them, but without McInerney and with the fixture crunch coming up, they'll need him to do more than get under opponents' skins.

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