Earthquakes 1-0 Union: The long road back from California
That image perfectly encapsulates the Union’s night. Even when they went up a man thanks to Rafael Baca’s red card in the 57th minute (the 11th shown to a Union opponent this season), they showed little fight and even less purpose until later. The problems, in list form:
- The Union have one goal in the last 374 minutes. They haven’t scored in 220 minutes. John Hackworth can play his cards close to the vest all he wants on his attack, but there are problems. Big ones.
- The Union are creating chances, though. The issue is the lack of quality finishing. They forced four saves from John Busch, only Carroll’s late drive forcing him to a tough action. Sebastien Le Toux scuffed a shot and made an open chance into an easy roller on goal. Jack McInerney, his confidence no longer in the same time zone as he, missed a couple of chances. And Sheanon Williams and Keon Daniel hit posts. In the effort department, it was too little, too late.
- After giving up seven corner kicks in the first half, it was shocking that the Union weren’t down more than 1-0. Even Baca’s red didn’t immediately spark them to action. Considering that the four teams behind them in the standings all lost this week and San Jose was missing its top two center backs, that sleep-walking is at best perplexing and at worst disturbing.
- The Earthquakes earned 16 corner kicks Sunday, three short of the MLS single-game record. The Union had two, their first earned in the 84th minute. That’s wouldn’t seem like an issue for a team that has had less than half of its goals this season (16 of 37) come from open play, right?
- Part of this goes squarely on the shoulders of Hackworth. Baca goes off, and Hackworth’s first move is what? Michael Farfan for Danny Cruz, the latter of whom was invisible (more on him later). Not exactly attack minded. Meanwhile, he brought on Antoine Hoppenot for McInerney on 70, then thought adding Aaron Wheeler to the mix in the 78th minute will remedy the issues of a midfield that, 11-v-11, held about 38 percent of the possession. Meanwhile, Daniel continued to be unable to come to terms with what “attacking midfielder” means, and Le Toux turned in one of his worst performances of late, yet Kleberson remained rooted to the bench. Right.
- Here’s the crux of my confusion with Hackworth: This is the guy who fielded four forwards to start against Houston in July. In one of the precious few remaining games that isn’t a six-pointer … knowing all the teams trailing his team have fallen by the wayside … knowing that a win could put them in the catbird’s seat for fourth place … and up a man to boot, he couldn’t muster some attacking gall? It just doesn’t make much sense.
- Cruz has now gone the full 90 twice this season. He’s gone 80 minutes just five times. He’s like Hoppenot, just at the beginning of games.
- If the consequence of parity in MLS is a Keon Daniel-led midfield in the playoffs, it may be time to rethink things. His shot on goal – just his sixth of the season, by the way – came after he whiffed on an open chance. There’s a gaping hole in the middle of the pitch game after game. And it’s contagious: Conor Casey, who didn’t have a real chance at goal today, ran his legs out trying to provide midfield play. Yet there’s no place for Kleberson.
- It was about time for a former Union player to burn them. Instead of Justin Mapp last week, though, it was Shea Salinas, who scored a beautiful goal past an indecisive Zac MacMath in the 15th minute and shredded the Union down the wing time and again. In a game crying for a strong presence to take the initiative in the midfield and grab the game by the scruff of the net, it was Salinas who took the reins.
- The reality of the Eastern Conference has emerged. The stratification has finally taken place, with Kansas City, Montreal and New York with 45 points each. The Union, with 39, sit fourth, on the wrong side of the tracks. They and the four teams behind them in the standings all lost this week. Not only have the Union, when you factor in games in hand, effectively kissed away a playoff bye given to the top three seeds, they’ve reinforced what we thought the East would eventually become: Three playoff qualifiers, and two playoff survivors.
Labels: Brian Carroll, Conor Casey, Danny Cruz, John Busch, Keon Daniel, Kleberson, Philadelphia Union, Rafael Baca, San Jose Earthquakes, Sebastien Le Toux, Shea Salinas, Sheanon Williams, Steven Lenhart