Blogs > Union Tally

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

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Union paying a high premium between the posts

While Zac MacMath has his eye on the ball in this Sept. 6 game
against Toronto, the Union have an eye on ballooning salary costs
thanks to its goalkeeping hydra. (AP)
The declaration by Philadelphia Union CEO and Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz upon the acquisition of goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi that the club possessed “three of the best goalkeepers in Major League Soccer” was met with a few raised eyebrows. After all, since only one goalie can play at a time, it doesn’t seem to make sense to quarantine so many talented players on the bench or in street clothes in the owner’s box.

History suggests that it doesn’t pay to draft goalkeepers, as evidenced by the Union being the only MLS club over the last half-decade to draft a goalie. They’ve done it twice, and neither is a starter.

It also doesn’t pay to overpay a goalie, it seems.

The MLS Players Union released its salary figures Monday, giving us a glimpse at what the summer-transfer-window acquisitions are making. For the Union, the most eye-catching figure is M’Bolhi’s healthy price tag of $240,000.

So, how does that compare to the market value in MLS? Well, it puts the Algerian right near the top, sixth in MLS in terms of guaranteed compensation.

Below are the top goalkeeper salaries in MLS, per the recent salary release by the players union. (Breaks are every 10 goalies.)
Read more »

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Union-DC United: Lineups and preegame thoughts

UNION (4-2-3-1)
Le Toux-Maidana-Wenger
Bench: MacMath, Fabinho, Carroll, Fred, Cruz, Brown, Ribeiro

D.C. United (4-4-1-1)
Bench: Willis, Inkoom, Opare, Jeffrey, Neal, Johnson, Pontius

- Ethan White is apparently not healthy enough to go with his hamstring strain, so the Union field arguably their best 11 players today, with Maurice Edu in central defense and Amobi Okugo returning to the midfield. Okugo-for-White is the only change from last weekend’s lineup.

- Changes abound for Ben Olsen’s squad, with a first-choice lineup out after the reserves did the job midweek in the CONCACAF Champions League. Fabian Espindola leads the line, interchanging with Luis Silva. Using Sean Franklin in the midfield instead of Samuel Inkoom or Chris Pontius (the former has been used a lot lately; the latter is still rounding back into form after a long absence) is a defense posture, but with Pontius and Eddie Johnson on the bench, that can easily be changed.

- The battle to watch here is in the middle of the pitch. Perry Kitchen has emerged as one of the most tenacious holding midfielders in the league, while Davy Arnaud has proved to be a veteran box-to-box contributor. Okugo and Vincent Nogueira, respectively, will have to match those two in kind.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Union-Dynamo: Lineups and pre-match observations

UNION (4-2-3-1)
Wenger-Maidana-Le Toux
Bench: MacMath, Okugo, Fabinho, Fred, Cruz, Carroll, Ribeiro.

Houston Dynamo (4-4-2)
Bench: Lisch, Brunner, Arena, Johnson, Ownby, Carrasco, Lopez.

-  With the Union returning to MLS play, Rais M’Bolhi is restored to his starting place between the posts. The consensus from within the organization is that Zac MacMath’s work to advance the Union to the U.S. Open Cup final earned him the start last Tuesday against Seattle, but M’Bolhi is back to the No. 1 status. It’s his second start in a Union jersey.

- The Union make no changes in the field from the side that logged 120 minutes at the midweek. That’s an interesting decision. We’ll see how long until fresh legs are summoned on in this one, whether it’s Danny Cruz, Pedro Ribeiro or Amobi Okugo.
- In shape and in personnel, it’s largely the same starting XI that the Union have gone with regularly of late. The defense is untouched, as is the front four. It’s imperative that the Union get a goal early and prevent the Dynamo from sitting in and counterattacking.

- Injuries have taken a toll on the Dynamo this season, and that’s why they’re in position to miss the playoffs for just the second time in nine years, a remarkable run of consistency. Missing tonight is forward Will Bruin (foot), midfielder Oscar Boniek Garcia (concussion) and defenders Corey Ashe (knee) and Jermaine Taylor (concussion). That’s in addition to the long-term injury absence of goalkeeper Tally Hall (ACL tear). It’s an injury-riddled side that the Union can and must exploit.

- Given the absences, this isn’t your typical Dynamo side. Yes, they’ll still be dangerous on set pieces as long as the aerial ability of Ricardo Clark and the deadly left foot of Brad Davis are out there. But with the speed of Omar Cummings and Giles Barnes (and absent the hold-up play of a traditional No. 9 like Bruin), expect the Dynamo to try to hit the Union on the counterattack more, though I'd question the Dynamo's ability to sit in for 90 scoreless minutes.

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Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Open Cup hangover: Why history is against the Union this weekend

History isn’t in the favor of the Philadelphia Union this week. If the Union want a win this weekend
Maurice Edu, left, Sebastien Le Toux and Zac MacMath won't be much happier
to see the trend of what Open Cup runners-up have done in their
returns to MLS play in recent years. (Times Staff/TOM KELLY IV
against the Houston Dynamo as they return to MLS play, they’ll have to overturn an unfavorable recent trend.

Not since 2007, a span of five U.S. Open Cup finals lost by MLS teams, has the loser of an Open Cup final won its next MLS game.

The last time that happened was in 2007, when FC Dallas lost at home to New England, 3-2, in the Open Cup final, then turned around and beat Columbus on the road three days later.

Open Cup runners-up over the last five years are 0-3-2 in MLS contests after the final. Take it back 10 all-MLS finals (excluding the 2008 title game between D.C. United and USL First Division side Charleston Battery), and the Open Cup hangover has produced a 3-5-2 record in games after teams’ finals stumbles.

All but one of those games came within four days of the Open Cup final (though even the eight-day respite afforded the 2011 Chicago Fire didn’t prevent them dropping a game at home to Dallas).

Conveniently, five of those 10 post-final collisions have been at home, as the Union are this weekend. But location matters little: Home teams are still only 2-2-1, slightly better than the 1-3-1 on the road. Read more »

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Open Cup final: Lineups and prematch observations

Union (4-2-3-1)
What they're playing for: The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
(Times Staff/Julia Wilkinson)
Gaddis -Valdes-White-Williams
Wenger-Maidana-Le Toux
Bench: M’Bolhi, Lahoud, Okugo, Carroll, Fred, Cruz, Ribeiro

Seattle Sounders (4-4-2)
Bench: Hahnemann, Anibaba, Ariza, Pineda, Cooper, Martins, Pappa

- The first name on the team sheet is the most telling: Jim Curtin is sticking with his man, putting his faith in Zac MacMath in what could very well be the last time he plays in front of the Union faithful. His shootout heroics are why the Union got to the final, and the hope from Curtin is that he’ll lead them to the organization’s first trophy.

- Curtin also gets his dream midfield scenario for the first time, pairing a dynamic holding midfielder (Maurice Edu) with his preferred deep-lying playmaker (Vincent Nogueira) and his preferred central attacking midfielder (Cristian Maidana). Injuries and international absences had long prevented this from happening, but this is the chance for the Union to put out its strongest team at just the right moment.

- With everyone available, someone had to make way to the bench. That turns out to be Amobi Okugo, despite playing very well of late. Objectively, Okugo might be a little better at his position than Ethan White, so the decision for Curtin was to field your best 11 players or your best starting XI.Seeing Okugo relegated to the bench is a nod to Curtin’s stated desire to have central defenders (like White) play as central defenders and midfielders (like Edu) play as midfielders.

- Seattle named unchanged lineups that are essentially their best XIs the last two games in MLS, including a 3-2 win against Real Salt Lake last Friday. They make just one change today, with Obafemi Martins rested for Chad Barrett. Along with Martins, the bench includes Kenny Cooper, the second-leading scorer in the modern era of the U.S. Open Cup with 13 goals. That includes a goal in each game this season, six in total, plus five goals in seven MLS games against the Union.

- If you’re looking for a key for the Union tonight, it might just be taking care of Andy Rose, who has three goals in his last two games. He could really shift the balance making those runs off the attention given to Clint Dempsey.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Union-Red Bulls: Lineups and pregame thoughts

Union (4-2-3-1)
Bench: Blake, Le Toux, Nogueira, Maidana, Valdes, Brown, Williams

Red Bulls (4-4-2)
Bench: Meara, Kimura, Eckersley, Bover, Christianson, Stevenson, Sene

- Jim Curtin said pretty bluntly Thursday that he wants players training before a game. When Rais M’Bolhi didn’t arrive back in the states until Friday, the decision was made to go with Zac MacMath for at least one more game. The appearance is MacMath’s 100th in MLS, 99 of them starts.

- Given the conditions and the Open Cup final looming Tuesday, the Union are resting most if not all of their big guns. They have only four regulars out there, not including Carlos Valdes, Sebastien Le Toux, Conor Casey (who doesn’t make the bench), Cristian Maidana or Vincent Nogueira. The conditions are poor, and that might factor in, but the challenge is clear to the reserves to take care of business.

- That said, this isn’t a youth team. Brian Carroll is out there with the sole objective of keeping a clean sheet. Danny Cruz and Fred are well rested. The biggest revelation concerns Pedro Ribeiro, who apparently has supplanted Brian Brown in the forward pecking order.

- The gaping absence for the Red Bulls is MLS leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips, who’ll sit the bench with a hamstring injury. In place of his 21 goals this season, Thierry Henry will lead the line, and Tim Cahill gets a start after a sub appearance midweek. Given the glut of games for the Red Bulls (including CONCACAF Champions League Wednesday), not pushing Wright-Phillips makes sense. Saer Sene is also looming on the bench.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Jim Curtin weighs in on his future

It’s been a busy week for the Philadelphia Union, and that’s just the club’s participation in the rumor mill.

Rumors have been swirling particularly swiftly this week over the possible appointment of a new coach full-time. First, there was this report by’s Kevin Kinkead about a possibly imminent hire:

Then there was Union CEO and Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz quickly distancing himself from those reports to ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, adding the name of Rene Meulensteen to the list of potential replacements on the record for the first time:

(It should be noted that Meulenesteen’s visit(s) to PPL Park had been reported prior to Sakiewicz’s confirmation. This would also be a good time to point out my column on the matter, as published last week.)

The topic obviously came up in interim manager Jim Curtin’s weekly press conference on two occasions Thursday. Read more »

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Toronto-Union: Lineups and pre-match observations

Philadelphia Union (4-2-3-1)
Le Toux-Maidana-Wenger
Bench: Blake, Fabinho, Berry, Fernandes, Ribeiro, Brown, Wheeler, Cruz

Toronto FC (4-4-2)  
Bench: Konopka, Orr, Richter, Hall, Dike, Gilberto, Wiedeman

- Vincent Nogueira picked up a small groin knock that rules him out tonight, meaning the question of how Jim Curtin flows together all his midfield pieces will have to wait for yet another week. Cristian Maidana slots into the central attacking role, and Maurice Edu slides back into defense temporarily to pair with Ethan White in the absence of Carlos Valdes (international duty). Andrew Wenger, fresh off his brace against San Jose last time out, gets another deserving start at right wing.

- Look for the Union to try to exploit a battered Toronto backline missing Steven Caldwell and Justin Morrow. This is a team that has surrendered 11 goals in its last four matches, so expect the Union to get at them, perhaps targeting Nick Hagglund and Mark Bloom on the same side of the field with runs by Sebastien Le Toux and Amobi Okugo bombing in from deep in midfield.

- New manager Greg Vanney shakes a few things up for Toronto. In comes Daniel Lovitz, while it appears as though Dominic Oduro will be up front instead of on the wing. Gilberto apparently picked up a calf injury that will allow him to be on the bench, but his absence along with Jermain Defoe’s ongoing injury drastically hurts the Reds’ firepower.

- The key battle today, it would seem, is in the center of midfield. Michael Bradley can tip a game on its quickly, especially when he has a speedy forward like Oduro ahead of him. That puts the onus on Okugo and Brian Carroll to limit his touches and close down his time and space on the ball.

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