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

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Union 0-1 Houston: Not for the faint of heart

I strongly debated writing this post, if only because to opine on the events of the Philadelphia Union’s 1-0 loss to Houston Saturday would further preserve the game for posterity. It wasn’t a pretty game by any stretch of the imagination, two severely depleted teams with low morale desperately trying to carve out a result. What went wrong for the Union? Oh let me count the ways.
It was a tough day at the office for Conor Casey
and a makeshift Union lineup against Houston.
(Associated Press)
- Let’s get the crux of the problems out of the way. Houston was missing Will Bruin, Brad Davis, Corey Ashe and Kofi Sarkodie. The Union were without Jack McInerney, Keon Daniel, Kleberson, Danny Cruz and Michael Farfan. Sounds a lot like the first names you’d call if these two teams were drafting a schoolyard pick-up game. It was difficult to expect much beautiful or even coherent soccer from those two deficient sides Saturday. On that count, they delivered.

- I know it’s making the best of a bad situation. But you have to strenuously question John Hackworth’s formation. A central forward pairing of Conor Casey and Aaron Wheeler supported by “wingers” Sebastien Le Toux and Antoine Hoppenot. He gets away with fielding a defensively suspect side because of Houston’s atrocious attack (more on that momentarily). But the idea that somehow a bunch of forwards thrown haphazardly together and moving more or less in concert towards goal will translate into goals is seriously flawed. Casey was facing a second 90-minute run out in 90-degree heat in four days. Wheeler admitted last week that his fitness wasn’t all there yet, not to mention the sizable redundancy in the skill sets of the two front-runners. Hoppenot with 90 minutes to run aimlessly at guys was ineffective, squandering chances to shoot or cross on the rare occasions he found space. And we haven’t even gotten to the lack of possession (a paltry 38.6 percent with 71 percent passing efficiency) in a midfield that was just Brian Carroll and Leo Fernandes.

- I’m not one to criticize without offering solutions. So how about Roger Torres in the midfield, Fernandes on a wing and Wheeler on the bench? You know, actual midfielders. Torres provided a number of good passes from deep in midfield after he was brought on as a sub, Fernandes just wasn’t up to the task of playing centrally and Wheeler would’ve been a good late-game option in horribly predictable set piece. Plus, how many times did Casey lay off passes into space that McInerney would normally occupy that no smaller forward, like Hoppenot, exploited? Or how about moving Amobi Okugo into the midfield – and I’m not even one of those people willing to write off Okugo’s development at the back – and use Chris Albright in defense? That’s a guy making six figures this season against a team that hadn’t scored in over 300 MLS minutes coming in. Surely he could’ve been up to that task.

- If Torres didn’t start tonight, I’m not sure what situation would allow him to. Within five minutes of his sub, he played two superb balls to Le Toux in space down the wing. When the Union couldn’t string together passes to save their lives for the first 70 minutes, Torres should’ve been a no-brainer. Time for Hackworth to re-evaluate his assessment of the Colombian, especially because I’m not convinced Kleberson’s absence will change anytime soon.

- Despite the disorganization in attack, the Union easily could’ve had a goal. Wheeler had a couple of free headers, Don Anding had one late, Matt Kassel had a volley attempt on target and Casey had one that was stopped by a sliding Bobby Boswell (by his arm, it may have appeared) late in the first half. Houston, a team on a seven-game winless streak, could’ve been had. And that’s because …

- Man that Dynamo offense is off kilter. Oscar Boniek Garcia was lively and has certainly been a big piece absent due to World Cup qualifiers, but the finishing from Giles Barnes and Omar Cummings was terrible. Even Ricardo Clark missed a sitter moments before the goal, which was about 10 times the degree of difficulty. And Andrew Driver just missed wide on another shot at goal instead of passing to an open teammate as he was headed toward the team bus. A good team would’ve had three or four goals.

Notes: When it comes time to negotiate a raise, Daniel should just play the video of this game. The powers that be will beg for it to stop, and he’ll have his raise by the end of 45 minutes. … Much more authoritative from Zac MacMath. Second straight good game from him. The goal was hardly his fault. … Man of the match was Okugo, no doubt. … I’d have to check, but I think Fernandes’ first touch came about 25 minutes into the game. Anding, meanwhile, took the first touch of his MLS career a minute after being subbed on and tried to chip Tally Hall after finding space down the left wing. Food for thought.

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