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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Union 0-0 Toronto: A dour day in Disney

In all good faith, I can’t really recommend watching the replay of the Union’s rather lifeless 0-0 stalemate with Toronto FC to close out the Disney World Pro Soccer Classic (unless you have absolutely nothing to do). As nice as it was to see Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu go at each other in the center of the pitch, there wasn’t much in the way of coherent attacking soccer or excitement on either side. So to save you the trouble, a few observations:

- The Union’s attacking choreography has a lot of work to do. A lot. That’s not wholly unexpected, but the season is right around the corner, so some comfort needs to be achieved quickly. Where to begin? The idea of playing through the middle is stymied by congestion in that part of the pitch, either from the presence of Brian Carroll stepping up or Jack McInerney drifting back. That hampers the amount of space Edu has to operate, especially with Cristian Maidana and Sebastien Le Toux inevitably drifting inside, and it left Vincent Nogueira dropping way too deep and wide for possession. For as much as Le Toux brings, there are times when it would be beneficial for the Union to have a winger on the opposite side as Maidana who stays wide instead of slotting in centrally.

- Negatives aside, there are also undoubtedly positives. The overlap play with the fullbacks courtesy of Maidana and Le Toux is already more developed than at any point last season. Even from deep-lying positions, the distribution of Nogueira and Maidana is obviously impressive. Edu seems to be adapting well to the free rein he’s been given in midfield. And McInerney appears to be settling in well to the fluidity and movement of the attack.

- Fabinho may have been the best player on the Union Wednesday. He was active getting forward and delivered some dangerous crosses. In the competition between he and Ray Gaddis for that left back spot, it is undoubtedly the Brazilian’s ability to get forward on his natural left foot that will decide the competition.

- I have to say: I was impressed with Aaron Wheeler. His instincts are improving, and his physical tools for the position are undeniable. I don’t think he’s a starting defender in MLS yet – maybe ever – but he could be a serviceable, low-cost backup option, and his versatility makes him very valuable.

- Another good turn of work by Leo Fernandes, who came on in the later stages and stung Toronto goalkeeper Julio Cesar with a couple of good shots. He looks so much more comfortable and more able to hold his own physically out there, so much so that I could see him putting someone out of a job.

- Conor Casey didn’t dress Wednesday and has been battling injury issues. It doesn’t sound like something to worry about – if you recall, he had the same type of preseason struggles last year and didn’t enter the regular season as the first-choice guy. But I have to think that the set-piece prowess promised by Maidana and Nogueira makes him more valuable. McInerney’s ability aside, Casey also can stretch the defense and stay high, opening the space needed for creative midfielders to operate.

Notes: Sheanon Williams left injured in the first half after an awkward fall trying to cross the ball down the right. He walked off on his own. … Edu picked up a knock sliding in with Bradley on a 50-50 ball in the second half. After writhing in pain for a bit, he was able to continue. … Austin Berry came on around the 70th minute for his Union debut, replacing Wheeler.

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