Blogs > Union Tally

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

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Union-Impact: Lineups and pre-game thoughts

Philadelphia Union (4-4-2)
Le Toux-Carroll-Daniel-Cruz
Bench: Nikolov, Lahoud, Fernandes, Farfan, Kleberson, Wheeler, Hoppenot
Montreal Impact (4-4-1-1)
Di Vaio
Bench: Bush, Nyassi, Warner, Arnaud, Lopez, Pisanu, Paponi

- Well, apparently the Union have found the cure to the common sprained ankle. Both Ray Gaddis (after a two-game absence) and Keon Daniel (injured last week) are back after ankle knocks. That makes the maneuvering in the back, particularly, quite simple, with Sheanon Williams moving centrally to replace the suspended Amobi Okugo and Gaddis moving to right back. We’ll see how solid their fitness is; this isn’t exactly the kind of Impact team to rush iffy players out against.

- Jack McInerney returns to the starting XI after a one-match absence. He scored last time out against Montreal, and he’ll pair with Conor Casey, who’s been really good at creating goals of late, for himself and others.

- No big surprises for the Impact. Former Union midfielder Justin Mapp will patrol the wing. The big matchup for the Union is how Brian Carroll and company are able to negate Felipe, operating in the hole behind Marco Di Vaio.

- Daniel has shown some questionable judgment in terms of attacking and retreating this season. He must press Patrice Bernier high when the MLS All-Star is in possession, or the Canadian will pick the Union apart with his superb distribution from deep in midfield.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

John Hackworth's weekly presser: Talking Taylor Twellman

It's been a rough week for the Philadelphia Union; score lines like the 5-1 drubbing New England delivered last week, couple with a couple of disallowed goals and a late red card to Amobi Okugo will do that.

Part of the process of moving on from that disastrous result, said Union manager John Hackworth, is putting it in the past. It's something he indicated isn't very easy given the attention of the media, and one interaction in particular. In full, here's what Hackworth had to say:

"It’s tough to move on from that, but we do our video and then our process is that we do move on," Hackworth said. "So I think from a coaching standpoint and from our staff and from our players, what we’ve all said is that we have to move on, we have to move on. But it’s hard when stuff keeps getting shoved in your face about how you are embarrassed or things are said on TV about that without any kind of acknowledgement.

"I’ll give you a for instance: When I want back to the hotel Sunday night, I’m watching the ESPN game, Seattle-Portland. And Taylor (Twellman), who I think does a great job, he clearly didn’t see the game so all he knows is that it’s a 5-1 result. Is that reality of what happened in that game right? Well if you just look at the score, you certainly have something to judge on. But if you know we didn’t play well in the first half and in the first 10 minutes of the second half literally put the ball in the back of the net three times against a team that’s had 12 shutouts in this league and know that two of them got called back, you probably have a different perception of what happened there."

It's not exactly a direct shot at Twellman, the former Revs striking star, Union broadcaster and now ESPN soccer commentator. But it does speak to how Hackworth started his presser, about the difference between perception and reality in assessing results across MLS. It also is a manifestation of a team that has struggled for respect all season and is certainly getting dumped on after a disastrous loss.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Revolution 5-1 Union: Post-game qutoes

Union manager John Hackworth
On having two goals called back:"It’s hard. I think there’s some plays that are made early in that second half, and we felt like we did all the right things coming out of the locker room at halftime and had the momentum and we get the equalizer and we feel like we got the go-ahead goal … twice. For whatever reason, the officials felt otherwise. It’s incredibly hard to take that part of it, because it changes so much. And then you’ve got to give New England credit because they were really good. Kelyn (Rowe) has two fantastic goals, and they kept going after it and obviously the momentum dramatically shifted after that. Strange, strange night. We’re just left wondering how at his level, some of that can happen."

On the pace of the game early:
The first half was strange for us too because Keon Daniel rolls his ankle, he can’t play, and that effectively it exactly where Kelyn gets his first goal from. We get in good positions, and we just didn’t execute. We had six corner kicks in the first half and several crosses and entries into the box and the quality was missing. We talked about what we’re good at and what we needed to do in the second half, and I think we came out and did those things. It’s hard to swallow.

On coming back from the loss:
A loss is a loss. At the end of the day, that’s not what we came up here to do. So we have to keep it in perspective. We’ll do what we do after every game, win, lose or draw, we’ll look at the video and try to make a lot of corrections and try to make a game plan for next week.
Read more »

Labels: , , , , , ,

Revolution 5-1 Union: Counting the damage

With eight games left in the MLS season, it might be a bit premature to say that the Philadelphia Union’s playoff chances withered and died in New England during a 5-1 thrashing at the hands of the Revolution Sunday night. But then again, it might not. And with the myriad problems exposed by the Revs in running absolutely rampant on the Union, there’s reason to think that this has the makings of a turning point for the worse in the Union’s season. A few reasons why:

- Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way: Yes, the Union should’ve been up 2-1 when Conor Casey had the ball in the back of the net only to be wrongly called for a foul on goalkeeper Matt Reis. But the fact that they rolled up and died in the face of that adversity and capitulated four more times in quick succession after that is a major problem that goes beyond officiating. And let’s be clear: The Revs scored five times only with so-so finished. They had another five or so golden chances where the proper final pass wasn’t picked out.

- In a match like this, the best the Union can do is quarantine the problem. They didn’t. Amobi Okugo’s pair of late yellow cards means he’s suspended for next week’s visit by Montreal (and maybe the week after for accumulation; I'd have to check on that). That’s Eastern Conference-leading MLS, fresh off a 5-0 shellacking of Houston, with MLS leading scorer Marco Di Vaio in form. The options to replace him include Sheanon Williams, who was absolutely terrible Sunday, both with turnovers and this recurring delusion with charging into the box like he’s a forward that leaves the defense exposed and outnumbered. And if Ray Gaddis isn’t healthy, then Matt Kassel plays defense? Or Aaron Wheeler? For a team challenging for a playoff spot, that’s sad. Read more »

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Union-Red Bulls: Lineups and pre-match analysis

Philadelphia Union (4-4-2)
Le Toux-Carroll-Daniel-Cruz
Bench: Nikolov, Farfan, Hoppenot, Fernandes, Lahoud, Kleberson, Wheeler

New York Red Bulls (4-4-2)
Bench: Meara, Sam, Lade, Barklage, Luyindula, Maizga, Obekop

- The thinking once was that the Red Bulls went as did Thierry Henry this season. There's an addendum to that: The Red Bulls are a different team when Henry and Fabian Espindola start. They've started together 16 times this season, and the Red Bulls are 8-4-4 in those games. If you exclude early-season stumbles, they are 8-2-2 in the the last 12 games in which both have started, including a recent 4-1-1 stretch interrupted last week in Columbus when Henry didn't travel. Their working relationship and able to create chances and goal from nothing will severely test Amobi Okugo and Jeff Parke in a way Peguy Luyindula simply couldn't in two starts against the Union this season.

- It's unfair to think of Roy Miller as the liability he has been in the past (though that could service at any time). But it'll be interesting to see how the Union attack the Costa Rican left back. Do they put Danny Cruz up the attacking right? Or do they break up the burgeoning chemistry between Sebastien Le Toux and Fabinho, making his second straight start at left back? I'd expect Cruz to take on the job.

- Still no Kleberson. That samba beat sounds more ghostly by the day. We'll see if Keon Daniel learns from the errors John Hackworth admitted he made last week.

- Interesting that Oka Nikolov makes his first MLS gameday roster in favor of Chris Konopka.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Handicapping the Union's drive for a playoff berth

Ten games remain in the Philadelphia Union’s quest for a playoff berth. That’s just under a third of the season. While the Union have put themselves in a solid position to make just their second playoff appearance in franchise history and first since 2011, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

“A lot can happen,” was how Union manager John Hackworth put it Wednesday. “I personally, once I start looking at that in depth, it drives me crazy.”

The standings only say so much; it’s not a small coincidence that the top three teams in the Eastern Conference, the Union included, have played 24 games while the rest of the conference lags behind. The four teams in the hottest pursuit of the Union all have not one, but two games in hand. What the Union can say at the moment is that if each of those teams won out from their games in hand (a statistical unlikelihood given the number of six-point games involved), they’d still be in the playoffs, level on points with Chicago and ahead of them on head-to-head.

So with the deviation in games played, it’s best to look at points per game, which paints a fairly solid picture for the Union.

Kansas City24391.62555/25
New York24381.58333353.83333
New England22301.36363646.36364

Should the pace continue, only Montreal would overtake them in the standings (that’s the same Montreal team that has one win in its last eight games and has seen its points per game average plummet precipitously in that time). The race is so close, so wide open, that there’s also this stat to consider: If you take the points per game averages and extend them out over a 34-game schedule, the five teams with the highest points totals would be separated by just over four points. The Union’s projection of 52.4 points this season is closer to the team at the summit (Kansas City with 55.3) than to the sixth-place team (Chicago at 47.9).

One other thing to look at, like in the case of the NCAA Tournament, is the performance in the last 10 matches. That also looks favorable for the Union. Of their last 30 available points in MLS, they've collected 18, albeit mostly against Western Conference foes. That's 1.8 points per game. The only team with more has been Chicago (20 from their last 30 available). The Union's take has doubled that of the Impact and Crew (nine each). It's even ahead of Sporting Kansas City (17) and well ahead of the Red Bulls (14), Dynamo (13) and suddenly cooling Revolution (11). 
Read more »

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Union 2-0 D.C. United: Three extra points

The Union did what they had to Saturday, pure and simple. It wasn’t always pretty, and it certainly wasn’t as effective as it could have been, but the Union need what was needed in dispatching a youthful D.C. United side, 2-0, at PPL Park. A few stray observations.

- I guess when the Union win, I should start with a positive. So how about this: Fabinho is a very good left wing option. Much of the Union’s struggles in the first half were because they went almost exclusively down the left with Sebastien Le Toux and Fabinho, deputizing at left back for Ray Gaddis. That lack of balance effectively shut Danny Cruz out of the game, and he didn’t have much influence before being withdrawn for Michael Farfan as a defensive sub. Cruz has played a lot and is a high energy guy, so Fabinho could be a good option if Cruz needs a break at some point.

- The Union peppered D.C.’s cage with 22 shots Saturday. Only three were off the boot of Jack McInerney. His first effort was his best, a top poke in the fifth minute that forced a reflex save from Bill Hamid to push it over the bar. But McInerney has to shoot more. He’s mired in a seven-game scoreless slump (yeah, we’ll use that word), and he played like it at times with his over deferential, pass-first mentality at times. When you consider the midfield options around him consist of Brian Carroll (two goals in MLS play, one scored with his back), Michael Farfan (one MLS goal, not from the run of play), Cruz (two MLS goals in one furious two-minute span against Seattle set against the backdrop of a generally misfiring eye for goal) and Keon Daniel (five shots on goal all year), there’s not much reason to lay the ball off. Good scorers shoot their ways out of slumps; that’s what McInerney must do.

- Among the myriad problems in the first half with the Union’s attack was this: With Casey and McInerney drawing D.C.’s back four backwards, who was the most advanced central player to fill in the space created in the 18-yard box and above? That would be Carroll and his aforementioned goal prowess. The central midfield spot remains a problem for the Union. Daniel, for some reason, constantly wanted to drop back and let Carroll go forward. Farfan wasn’t great in that role last week. And Kleberson, again for some reason, didn’t feature. If Daniel is going to push that far back, they’d might as well put Michael Lahoud out there to be a more effective and more consistent holder and set Carroll go forward.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Union-D.C. United: Pregame lineups and observations

Philadelphia Union (9-7-7, 34 points)
Le Toux-Daniel-Cruz
Bench: Konopka, Farfan, Kleberson, Lahoud, Kassel, Wheeler, Hoppenot. 

D.C. United (3-15-4, 13 points)
Bench: Willis, Woolard, Jakovic, Seaton, Thorrington, De Rosario. 

- Let’s not beat around the bush: This isn’t a D.C. first-team side. Dwayne De Rosario is hobbled and on the bench. Luis Silva is apparently still suffering from concussion symptoms thanks to former Union defender Bakary Soumare in the U.S. Open cup semifinal midweek. Also absent is Nick DeLeon and Chris Pontius. Conor Doyle and Jared Jeffrey have played two MLS games, as has Conor Shanosky. Collin Martin has played one. James Riley (age 30) is the only player over the age of 25 in this side, making it D.C.’s youngest in history. Heck, they couldn’t even fill out a full substitutes’ bench of seven. This is a team that the Union must beat today.

- Now for the how. No slight on Doyle, but if the Union can’t keep a clean sheet against this team, that’s a problem. D.C.'s first teamers have scored 13 times in 22 matches, and these are the guys who don't usually make the cut. If the Union somehow fail to beat this team, you might as well call off the hunt for the playoffs.

- Might be something to watch: This will be Bill Hamid’s first start in the league since June 29. He missed five games as part of the U.S. team at the CONCACAF Golf Cup, then has been benched as Joe Willis has been hot of late.

- No surprises for the Union, really. Ray Gaddis misses his first game of the season with an ankle injury. In his place will be Fabinho, as was expected. The other change from last week sees Michael Farfan head to the bench for Keon Daniel, back from his one-game suspension. Still no Kleberson, though.

- Sebastien Le Toux has five goals and two assists in his career against D.C. United. Those numbers look good to improve tonight.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, August 9, 2013

Union's August salary update: All the numbers

With the close of the MLS transfer window comes the inevitable move from the MLS Players Union to release salary figures for all players and teams in the league. The figures for the Union are listed below, the three summer transfer window signings’ totals in bold.

A few takeaways from the numbers (and if you want a more league-wide perspective, check this entry at The Goalkeeper blog):

- The Union haven’t done a whole lot in the summer transfer window. But what they have done, it appears, are solid pieces of business. Fabinho is only counting $78,000 against the salary cap for someone who has played in all four – likely five by Saturday – games for which he’s been available. He’s more expensive than the starter, Ray Gaddis, but then not many teams have regulars playing at that high of a level for league minimum. It’s possible that Oka Nikolov may not play this year in a meaningful match. If he doesn’t, the fact that he’s making the league minimum makes it almost inconsequential. And then there’s the future project that it appears Gilberto is destined to be. His base salary is less than that of Cristhian Hernandez, so let’s control the expectations.
Read more »

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

A(nother) Brazilian in Philly: Gilberto's role in 2013 and beyond

With the return to health by several pieces of its midfield, the Philadelphia Union face a selection conundrum in the coming games, especially with regard to their central midfielders.

If there’s any solace to take in that jumble, it’s that at least their newest signing isn’t among the logjam.

Union manager John Hackworth wouldn’t come out and say at his weekly press conference Thursday that new Brazilian acquisition Gilberto wouldn’t play a role in the Union’s quest for a playoff berth in 2013, but he at least strongly hinted that was the case in detailing the approach for the 6-2 midfielder.

“We’re happy that he’s here. He is a good summer acquisition for us,” Hackworth said. “But this is a move that we’re looking a little more long-term than an immediate need. … We’re going to give Gilberto time to acclimatize in all ways to our club, to our program. We don’t feel like we’re in a desperate situation at all. We don’t feel like we need immediate help, and therefore I think that gives us a little bit more time to be patient with Gilberto and allow him to come to our club.”
Read more »

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, August 5, 2013

The Eastern accordion: The standings change again for the Union

It seems that every week, the perception of MLS’ Eastern Conference changes. One week, Kansas City is up and Houston is down. The next week, the Impact are left scrambling, the Red Bulls are flying high and the Revolution’s upward trajectory is slowed. The Union know it well: From title contenders by beating Vancouver in Canada to falling behind thanks to a visit from Chicago.

The collision of Kei Kamara, left, and
Sporting Kansas City with Roy Miller's Red Bulls
Saturday provided more confusion than clarity
in a crowded Eastern Conference. (Associated Press)

Nothing stays stable in the conference, and this week seemed pretty tumultuous, just another disorienting flex of the Eastern Conference accordion, where teams seem to come together and separate at random.

Take the matchup of the top two teams, New York and Kansas City. The Red Bulls, who I’m still not fully convinced are as good as their point total indicates, get a rare contribution from Lloyd Sam to take it to SKC, 3-2. That puts the Red Bulls at the summit with 38 points, two points ahead of KC.
Read more »

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Union-Fire: Lineups and pregame thoughts

Philadelphia Union (4-4-2)
Cruz-Farfan-Carroll-Le Toux
Bench: Konopka, Fabinho, Lahoud, Kleberson, Fernandes, Hoppenot, Wheeler

Chicago Fire (4-4-2)
Bench: Tornaghi, Jumper, Paladini, Pause, Duka, Amarikwa, Santos

- Similar situation for the Union with Danny Cruz on the left of midfield and Sebastien Le Toux on the right. Michael Farfan slots in centrally for the suspended Keon Daniel. We’ll see if the Union opt for a flat midfield four or more of a 4-1-3-2 with Brian Carroll as the lone holder. That may be an option to provide high, attacking pressure.

- Finally, it seems like the Union have a balanced bench. They’ve got a defensive option in Fabinho, they’ve got attacking midfield options in Leo Fernandes and Kleberson, the thunder and lightning forward tandem of Aaron Wheeler and Antoine Hoppenot and the long-missing defensive midfield option in Michael Lahoud. That’s what a professional bench should look like.

- The Fire’s recent goal-scoring success has been based largely on Mike Magee, but it’s also the spaces he opens for the likes of Patrick Nyarko and Chris Rolfe. The Fire benefit when the game gets stretched and they can counter attack, and they’ve already said they’re going to target Jeff Parke when they’re moving the ball in space. That puts a big onus on both Amobi Okugo to stay with Magee and the midfield to stop the runs of Magee and Nyarko before they become problems in the attacking third.

- I think the Union get a bit of a break with Dilly Duka starting on the bench. He’s been better of late and would stretch the field vertically and horizontally on the opposite wing as Nyarko, opening space for Rolfe and Magee.

- Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson is back in net after five games missed with the U.S. National Team at the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Paolo Tornaghi deputized admirably for him.

- The Fire have given up just two goals on crosses and three on corners. With big defenders like Bakary Soumare and Austin Berry, the Union better have a second plan to get the ball in the net.

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

He's back: What Clint Dempsey's return means for MLS

To say that news of Clint Dempsey’s return to Major League Soccer Friday hit the American soccer world like a ton of bricks is not an exaggeration. What went from fun in the form of the hashtag #DempseyWatch Thursday night got very real Friday as the various stages leading to the consummation of his deal with Seattle came to light, little by little.

Whether or not this is the type of game-changing acquisition for MLS as say David Beckham or even Thierry Henry is open to interpretation. But here are four things I know for sure about the Dempsey scenario.

You can bet the ramifications of Clint Dempsey's move to
Seattle Sounders will resonate throughout MLS. (AP)

- This is a big deal. I’m not just talking about the rumored $9 million transfer fee paid to Tottenham Hotspur for his services or the reported salary of $32 million over four years for the 30-year-old Texan. Dempsey is a name recognizable to even the casual soccer fans in the states, those for whom Dempsey’s time with the New England Revolution which culminated in 2006 seems ancient history. He’s the nation’s second-leading scorer all time and he’s taken over as the captain of the team while the Stars and Stripes embarked on a historic winning streak. Dempsey is hardly unambitious: He’s been given the financial and practical incentive to ditch the dreams of playing in the UEFA Champions League that he’s been so vocal about to come back home. It’s not the tale of aging Americans limping back to the shores of America. Dempsey was the third-leading scorer (seven goals) on the fifth-best team in the world’s best league. He’s reached double digits in scoring several time in his previous stint for Fulham. He would’ve been handsomely paid for his services as the feature striker in a bevy of mid-table English squads. But it’s more financially viable and advantageous for his national-team prospects for him to be in the U.S. That says a lot about U.S.
Read more »

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, August 2, 2013

Meet the new Brazilian: What we know about Gilberto (with Video)

Another day, another Brazilian. That seems to be the m.o. for John Hackworth's era of the Philadelphia Union. The latest acquisition dancing to the Samba beat is Gilberto dos Santos Souza Junior.

Let's sum up what we know. He's Brazilian. At soon-to-be-25, he's not exactly young, not quite old. He's an interesting physical specimen at 6-2, 180. He's a holding midfielder. He last played for Clube Atletica Sorocaba in the Campeonato Paulista. That's the top flight not in Brazil, but in the state of Sao Paolo, though it does includes games against giant clubs like Corinthians, Palmeiras, Santos and Sao Paolo. 

We also know that he's not this Gilberto (Silva, formerly of Arsenal). Or this one, though they may have played together at America Mineiro. Or this one. Or this one, though someone earlier today erroneously updated the current club to the Union. (And why were so many babies born in 1976 named Gilberto?)

We know he played 16 games and scored one goal this year for Sorocaba, per the Union release. Per this source, it's the only goal he's scored in 63 league matches in his career spread across a variety of competitions, from six matches in Serie A with Mineiro in 2011 to a stint in Serie D the previous season. So let's use a couple of videos (at bottom of post).

Here's what else is known. Gilberto was deemed important enough to occupy an international roster spot. By my reckoning -- and reinforced by the team sheet the Union distributed against Stoke City Tuesday with a column listing "status" -- Gilberto is the sixth international player on the team. The others: Fellow Brazilians Fabinho and Kleberson, Keon Daniel, Roger Torres and Oka Nikolov. Of the group, four have been acquired by Hackworth in 14 months. Four are midfielders.

You can debate what the ramifications of the Gilberto signing are. Whether or not he plays a role this season remains to be seen. It should be noted that both of his countrymen had international experience before coming to the Union this season, surely helping them integrate into the side faster. The midfield is crowded as it is, so a move to clear space could be coming (and I think of the above list, the target to be moved on is pretty obvious and logical).

Could he be viewed as a possible long-term replacement for Brian Carroll? Maybe. But for the time being, adding another midfielder for a team already scrambling to shoehorn three forwards onto the field on a regular basis doesn't seem to be one the club envisions as having an immediate impact.

Also this video from Vimeo that can't be embedded here

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,