Blogs > Union Tally

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

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Union-Impact: Lineups and pre-match thoughts

Philadelphia Union (4-3-3)
Maidana-McInerney-Le Toux
Bench: Blake, White, Lahoud, Bone, Fernandes, Hoppenot, Casey.

Montreal Impact (4-2-3-1)
Di Vaio
Bench: Bush, Bernier, Brovsky, Gonzalez, Ouimette, Smith, Wenger.

- If there was any question about the health of Austin Berry and Sheanon Williams, the sloppy conditions at PPL Park likely were the tiebreaker in manager John Hackworth’s decision to hold them out another week. He’s certainly been happy with Ray Gaddis at right back (and today, he’ll be severely tested by Justin Mapp down the wing). And Aaron Wheeler has deputized ably in the center. Few defenders have what you would call “favorable” matchups against someone as prolific as Montreal’s Marco Di Vaio, but he was just as disadvantaged on paper last week against Jairo Arrieta and Dominic Oduro and still managed to turn in a great performance.

- The rest of the Union midfield is as it has been most of the season. Conor Casey is either not yet fit or not the right fit (I suspect it’s a bit of both) to start, but he certainly could play a role off the bench. Danny Cruz is an omission from the bench this week.

- For the Impact, a little surprise at seeing Patrice Bernier to make way to the bench this week. The Impact made three changes from last week, with Frank Klopas wasting no time reintroducing Di Vaio and Andres Romero after three-game suspensions to start the season. Andrew Wenger makes way, while Heath Pearce and rookie Eric Miller provide a threat going forward on the wings at the expense of Jeb Brovsky and Karl Ouimette, the goalscorer of the back-breaker last fall.

- In pondering which team, if either, the wet conditions favor, consider this: On paper, you’d think the Union’s ability to play on the ground would withstand the weather, while Montreal’s hope of lumping long crosses toward the head of Di Vaio would be dented. But keep in mind that this weather is reminiscent to the conditions in the 5-3 drubbing Montreal delivered at the Saputo Stadium last year.

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Friday, March 28, 2014

Mo Edu for the U.S.? Where the Union midfielder might land

The first few steps in Maurice Edu’s quest for a spot on the plane to Brazil this summer have been completed, the latest of which was his strong play through three games with the Union being recognized by Jurgen Klinsmann with a call-up to the U.S. National Team for the April 2 friendly against Mexico.

The call-up announced Wednesday came a year to the day of his last appearance for the Stars and Stripes, a 0-0 draw with Mexico in Estadio Azteca that marked the national team’s first competitive point in that arena against El Tri. Edu's call-up has the potential to be a historical moment in Union history as well.

Union midfielder Maurice Edu, right, competing with Brazilian Sandro
in a May 2012 friendly, will have a chance to state his case
for a spot on the American World Cup squad next week. (AP)

The question to be answered – by the 27-year-old midfielder’s play next week and in the coming months and the myriad variables surrounding the national team – is where Edu’s chances with the national team lie. It’s a query whose answer is anything but simple.

First, we can at least localize what Edu is fighting for. He’s most often been deployed as a No. 6, a holding midfielder, for the U.S., even if his position for the Union is generally more advanced. The bad news for Edu is that this is one of the most stocked eras of talent in U.S. history in that department. Klinsmann has held firm to a 4-5-1 (visualize the midfield as a 4-1-2-2-1), where Edu is in line as the single holding midfield parked in front of defense. At that position, he faces competition from Jermaine Jones and Kyle Beckerman, the latter of whom has become one of Klinsmann’s most consistent selections. The notion of Edu supplanting Beckerman seems unlikely.

The composition of the rest of the midfield – Michael Bradley as the No. 8 sitting on the shoulder of No. 10 Clint Dempsey between the lone striker with Graham Zusi and Landon Donovan occupying the wings – seems fairly foolproof. With Beckerman as the No. 6, that figures to be the lineup Klinsmann trots out Wednesday to give his starters a go against Mexico.  (And if so, per SI’s Avi Creditor, it would be the first time Bradley, Dempsey and Donovan started a game together since June 12, 2012.)

The issue for Edu, then, is to distinguish himself as a valuable substitute in what might be an outing of 30-45 minutes. At the very least, he’s on Klinsmann’s mind.

“We’re looking for Mo to show us that sense of urgency,” Klinsmann said in a release by U.S. Soccer. “To come back on loan, get playing time and jump into the Union team, become a leader right away and help them get off on the right foot in MLS shows that he understands that the timing has to be there now if he wants to play. He could have sat there on the bench at Stoke maybe not playing much, and then there’s no chance for him to get on the World Cup roster. But he understood that, made the decision to come back and now he’s picking it up. We’re looking forward to have Mo back with us because once he’s in a rhythm, once he is fit and really zoomed in, then he’s a very good player.”

So then, what lens should we gauge his contributions through? Here are a few suggestions:
Read more »

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Thursday, March 27, 2014

Now in the fold, how to fit Fred into the Union

There’s been little shortage of discussion on the protracted (I can’t call it “transfer”, since technically it wasn’t) saga involving the Philadelphia Union and Union original Fred. All the machinations came to a resolution weeks in the making last Thursday when the Union were officially allowed to ink the 34-year-old player to a deal via an allocation draft.

That poses the question: Where does Fred fit into the 2014 team?

The value of Fred, seen here sliding in on D.C. United's Chris Pontius
in an April 10, 2010 game, is very likely to exceed the number of minutes
he gets on the pitch this season. (AP)

Part of the reason why the Union sought him out and allowed him to train with them for the entire preseason before finally securing his services is that Fred gives manager John Hackworth so many ways to answer that question.

“Fred gives us another option in the midfield, more depth, but also good leadership,” Hackworth said in his weekly press conference Tuesday at PPL Park. “I think he can play as the No. 10. I think in certain positions, you could play him in wide positions. Even as a No. 8, it’s not like he doesn’t have the engine to go up and down the field. But Fred’s creativity and ability to open up a game are certainly more valuable as an attacking midfielder.”

Through the admittedly small sample size of the Union’s three-game start to the season, there’s no indication that the current occupiers of those starting positions are in danger of giving way. Despite some stumbles here and there, it’s been by and large a purposeful introduction to MLS for the likes of Cristian Maidana, Vincent Nogueira and Maurice Edu.
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Saturday, March 15, 2014

Dealing some truth on the Union's new celebration routine

In bringing together the various cultures and soccer philosophies the Philadelphia Union has attempted to meld this year, there were two commonalities this offseason: Creative soccer, and cards.

In Saturday’s home opener, both made it onto the PPL Park pitch.

After Leo Fernandes set up Sebastien Le Toux for the only goal of the Union’s 1-0 win over New England, they celebrated the way they usually spend their afternoon: By playing cards.

The Union’s foreign contingent – Fernandes, Le Toux, Vincent Nogueira, Cristian Maidana and Fabinho – celebrated the goal as they had planned to beforehand.

“During all the preseason, we play lots of cards with all of us in that group – Chaco and Vincent and Leo,” Le Toux said. “We always play cards after every meal during the preseason. It’s one of those things that we have all together. Before the game, we said that – because we all played today starting – if one of us scores, we were going to do that. Luckily it was Leo who turned the ball to me, so we did that to just have good fun all together and this is how we build chemistry. So it was just a fun time.”

Those card games sound like a pretty important facet in breaking down barriers between new teammates.

“In preseason me, Sebastien, Vince, Cristian and Fabinho we always play cards,” Fernandes said. “For five hours straight, we would play cards. Our celebration was us playing cards.”

The game of choice, according to Fernandes, is 22, appropriate for the No. 22 Fernandes, who offered in his postgame interview that it’s a game most of us wouldn’t have heard of. As far as I can figure, here’s a guide to how it’s played.

The effects of it, though, are obvious on the field.

“It helps us bond a lot,” Fernandes said. “I feel like one of the reasons we’re so close and why we’re playing so good.”

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Union-Revolution: Lineups and pregame thoughts

Philadelphia Union (4-1-3-1-1)
Maidana-Fernandes- Le Toux
Bench: Blake, White, Wheeler, Cruz, Bone, Hoppenot, Pfeffer
New England Revolution (4-1-4-1)
Bench: Knighton, Kobayashi, Sene, McCarthy, Woodbine, Bengtson, Rowe

- Many Union fans get the lineup they wanted this offseason, with Maurice Edu as the holding midfielder with Brian Carroll out with an undisclosed illness. There are two partnerships to watch here: How the dynamic between he and Vincent Nogueira change, and how Leo Fernandes and Nogueira balance responsibilities going forward and in defense.

- Sheanon Williams is out for a second straight game, giving Ray Gaddis another chance to showcase his ability at right back opposite Fabinho. Conor Casey is once again unavailable. Zach Pfeffer makes the bench.

- Without Carroll, Amobi Okugo will wear the captain's armband. No determination on whether Okugo is the full-time vice captain. Jeff Parke filled that role last year.
Read more »

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Saturday, March 8, 2014

Berry not expecting warm welcome from family in Portland

The trip to Portland isn’t easy for most opposing teams. For the Union’s Austin Berry, Saturday’s trip to Providence Park could be particularly familiar … and uncomfortable.

Berry, a native of Cincinnati and graduate of Louisville, has plenty of family up in the Pacific Northwest, where most of his mother’s family lives. And they’ll be turning out Saturday night to see his Union debut when the club opens the season against the Portland Timbers.

At least, he usually has family.

“There’s been a lot of trash talk already,” Berry said Tuesday after training at YSC Sports. “…They’re not my family for an hour and a half during the game.”

Berry’s connections to the area mean he’s a fan of the Portland Trail Blazers, but he’s the first to admit he’s not a Timbers fan.

Berry has an aunt and uncle who are members of the Timbers army, and it’s likely they won’t be exchanging many pleasantries during the 90 minutes.

At least the adjustment was easy when Berry was traded from the Fire to the Union two weeks ago: Chicago is due to make its biannual visit to Portland next week, meaning Berry’s family only had to alter its plans by a few days to see him play live.

Despite the hostile reaction he knows he and his Union teammates will receive, Berry still spoke highly of the atmosphere in Providence Park.

“I actually have a lot of family in Portland who have had to switch over their tickets instead of the second game of the season to the first game of the season, so I love playing there,” Berry said. “I’ve trained with them in the past and it’s such a good environment, so it almost makes raise the level of your game being in that kind of soccer environment, so I think it’s a great first game to have and I think we’re going to have a lot of fun and be successful at there.”

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