Blogs > Union Tally

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

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Union-D.C. United: Lineups and pre-Cup observations

UNION (4-2-3-1)
Bench: Blake, Fabinho, White, Fred, Pfeffer, McLaughlin, Hoppenot

D.C. United (4-4-2)
Bench: Worra, Rolfe, Kitchen, Korb, Kemp, Silva

- All eyes are on the Union’s goal (what else is new?) with John McCarthy getting the start over Andre Blake. McCarthy was the hero of the fourth-round win over Rochester with his performance in the penalty-kick shootout and is rewarded for that outing. His start denies Blake his first appearance for the Union since Aug. 15 of last year in his last chance for a game before leaving Friday to meet up with Jamaica for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

- The Union continue the theme of small improvements to the squad, largely of necessity. It’s just little tinkering here and there: A fullback swap with Sheanon Williams in for Fabinho, a shift on the wing with the reintroduction of Andrew Wenger for Zach Pfeffer.
- The injury relief hasn’t yet arrived for the Union, leaving the bench extremely thin, coupled with the Cup-tied Eric Bird and Dzenan Catic. If they need goals late, they can draw on, well, no one really.

- D.C. doesn’t go full-bore for this one, but it’s still a solid roster. Many of the veterans like Sean Franklin, Bobby Boswell and Fabian Espindola expectedly miss out, as does goalie Bill Hamid. But there’s quality in the side, including former Union trialist Facundo Coria. There’s also some pop on the bench Chris Rolfe and Luis Silva, plus don’t forget that Conor Doyle did this last week.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Union-Impact: Lineups and pregame obersvations

UNION (4-2-3-1)
Bench: Blake, White, Williams, Fred, Wenger, Casey, Hoppenot

Montreal Impact (4-2-3-1)
Bench: Kronberg, Reo-Coker, Donadel, Soumare, Tissot, Lefevre, McInerney

- As I alluded to in the preview, a lot of the focus on this sloppy day will be on the wings. Two of the most consistent performers for Montreal are Ambroise Oyongo and Donny Toia. They’ll be on the right and left, respectively, pitted against Ray Gaddis and Fabinho. Getting to the byline in the wet conditions will be vital. It’s also an area in which the Union, thanks to the rotation of Sheanon Williams, Fabinho and Gaddis, have some of their freshest legs.

- Montreal makes five changes from midweek, including former Union man Bakary Soumare headed to the bench for Victor Cabrera. Dily Duka is one to watch back from injury, while Patrice Bernier and Callum Mallace mean the Impact make wholesale changes in central midfield.

- Much of the attention will be trained up top for both teams. Dominic Oduro starts up top for the Union, but Jack McInerney will likely feature at some point, returning to PPL Park to play against the club that drafted him and for which he is the second-leading scorer all-time. The Union’s danger man is CJ Sapong, who is tied with McInerney for the franchise record of most consecutive games with a goal scored with four. He has six goals this season. Both sides of the McInerney-Andrew Wenger trade start on the bench tonight.

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

Friday, June 26, 2015

Winging it: Parsing the mystery that has been Andrew Wenger

There’s one significant conundrum on the Union that seems particularly relevant this week.

Actually, it’s a two-part quandary.
Andrew Wenger, seen against Rochester Rhinos in the U.S. Open Cup
last week, is still looking for his first goal of the season.
(Times Staff/TOM KELLY IV)

The first is just what has happened to the prolific Andrew Wenger that bedeviled opposing defenses last season as the Union surged from MLS basement to U.S. Open Cup final. The second installment is just how Wenger has managed to hold down a regular spot in the starting XI for a Union side in obvious need of an offensive boost not named CJ Sapong. The second part of the question is easier to answer: Wenger, while struggling offensively, has been a near-automatic selection for lack of other options, largely due to a bevy of injuries. Eric Ayuk’s defense remains suspect, as is Cristian Maidana’s when deployed on the wing (or centrally, to be fair).

It’s added up to Wenger, who’s somehow magically avoided the Union’s rampant injury bug, being second on the team in minutes played with 1,287, trailing only Maurice Edu (1,530). Wenger has played in all 18 games, the only Union player with that distinction, starting all but one. He hasn’t gone 90 minutes, though, since April 16. He logged 61 in Wednesday’s win over Seattle, drawing a penalty by catching Dylan Remick’s boot in the face.

It’s possible that some of that could change this weekend when the Union take on Wenger’s former team, Montreal. But again, that decision for manager Jim Curtin isn’t so cut and dry.

First and foremost, Curtin understands both sides of the equation as to why Wenger should see his minutes cut and why they haven’t been. Wenger has provided value defensively with his work rate, willingness to track back and his aerial prowess on clearing set pieces. But that’s not enough, not when one of the main facets of an attack not exactly boasting an explosive arsenal can endure half a season without a goal and just two assists (tally in a friendly against Reading not withstanding), especially given that his opposite winger, Sebastien Le Toux, is usually the one lauded for defensive cognizance.

Read more »

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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Union meet a familiar Open Cup foe, plus a Palacios update

Could a move for Honduran midfielder Wilson Palacios, left,
be in the cards for the Union? (AP)
The Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup got the fumbling-executive treatment by U.S. Soccer for its fifth round draw Thursday, which landed the Philadelphia Union another date with D.C. United.

The Union will host that match June 30 at PPL Park at 7:30. It’s the fourth time in six seasons that the teams are drawn together, with D.C. advancing in two of the previous three meetings (including in 2011 for what was technically a “play-in round.”) The Union beat D.C. United, 1-0, at PPL Park May 17 before dropping a controversial 2-1 decision at RFK Stadium May 30.

The winner of that game will travel to the winner of the New York Derby between the Cosmos, the last NASL squad left standing, and Red Bulls. The Round of 16 clash will occur July 21-22.

Whichever team prevails from the “East Region” in this year’s newly-instituted fixed bracket will host the semifinal against the survivor of the “South Region” from the quartet of Chicago, Orlando City, Columbus and the last remaining USL side, the Charlotte Independence. Semis will be held Aug. 11-12.

The draw for the host of the final will be performed prior to the semifinals, with the final date set at Sept. 29 or 30.

The Union advanced to the final of last year’s competition, losing the final at PPL Park to Seattle, 3-1 after extra time. The Union hosted four games in the tournament, only having to travel to FC Dallas for the semifinal.


One other bit of news: Manager Jim Curtin confirmed that Honduran midfielder Wilson Palacios’ trial has ended. He didn’t rule out a deal for the 30-year-old defensive midfielder, but indications are that the Union would have to clear space under MLS guidelines – likely in terms of international spots, money under the cap and/or roster spots – to make a deal for a player like Palacios work.

“We’ll evaluate things a little further,” Curtin said. “We’ll have talks with ownership and see what makes the most sense for the club and for his agent as well and make a decision that’s best for the team.”

Palacios was released by English Premier League club Stoke City after four injury-plagued seasons in May. He’s been in England since 2007, playing in the Premier League for Birmingham City, Wigan and Tottenham. He’s been capped 97 times for his country, representing them at the last two World Cups.

The MLS transfer window opens July 8, and Palacios would be ineligible to play before then.

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Union 1-0 Reading: Observations from Exeter

I took the drive up to scenic Exeter High School Tuesday evening primarily to work on something from the Reading United side, a feature on former Union U-18 product and Haverford School grad Brett Campbell, a junior at Georgetown who has had a torrid start to the summer.

There was more to see than just the handful of Reading standouts, though, in the Union’s 1-0 friendly win at Don Thomas Stadium. A few observations from the game:

- We have an Andrew Wenger goal sighting. It took Reading’s third goalie of the night crashing into a defender as he tried to collect a header by Steven Vitoria off a free kick, but hey, Wenger kicked a ball into the back of the net and then the ref blew the whistle and the scoreboard changed. That should be a win for Wenger considering how his season has gone, plus there’s the added bonus of doing it against his former team. It goes without saying how badly the Union need him to get going.

- The Union started the same lineup as Saturday (with the exception of John McCarthy in for Bryan Sylvestre), which was essentially the same lineup as last Wednesday (minus CJ Sapong for Fernando Aristeguieta), which was the same lineup as the previous Saturday. For nine outfield players, that’s four starts in 11 days. Granted, most only played for 30 minutes or a half in a glorified practice session, plus it’s a bit of a reward for the 1,200 Reading fans that showed up, one of the biggest crowds for a friendly in the teams’ partnership that created a really great atmosphere.

- Only two players went 90 minutes Tuesday: Richie Marquez and McCarthy. Remember that McCarthy must be the Union’s goalie in next Tuesday’s U.S. Open Cup match with Rochester since Sylvestre is Cup-tied.

- Tuesday was the first match in a Union kit for rookie Eric Bird, who started the season injured. More on that in Thursday’s paper. Read more »

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

Friday, June 5, 2015

Putting numbers to the Union's injury nightmare

The Union's lineup vs. D.C. United Saturday and Columbus Wednesday,
a rare repeat XI for Jim Curtin. (
Jim Curtin hasn’t been one to make excuses this season. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have an ample supply at the ready.

We know that injuries have persistently befallen the Union this season. But the number of absences has really been remarkable.

And Saturday, that total will eclipse the amount of injuries from all of last season even before hitting the halfway mark of 2015.

First, consider the lineup changes. The Union have played 15 MLS matches. They’ve fielded 14 unique lineups. Not until the 3-0 win over Columbus Wednesday did Curtin pencil in the same starting IX for a second time this season (and it withstood all of 37 minutes). That’s what happens when you use three goalies, five center back pairings and flip briefly between 4-2-3-1 and 4-4-2 formations.

The root cause of that upheaval has been the bevy of injuries sustained.

Note: Though MLS’s rules on injury reporting have improved significantly, they’re by no means standardized (and still voluntarily self-reported, which makes this database essentially nonviable), and the line between injured and unfit and eligible-but-overlooked is blurry. Antoine Hoppenot’s current hamstring issue, for which he’s still listed as questionable after being out then making the bench May 17 against D.C. United, is an example of one where the demarcations between fit and not selected aren’t clear. (As such, I don’t include injuries to Pedro Ribeiro and Richie Marquez to start last season and Eric Bird at the beginning of this season since they were likely to be absent even if healthy.) The numbers also don’t include the proportion of missed starts due to injury, like when Vincent Nogueira’s ankle knock allowed him to travel to Sporting Kansas City with very little real threat of playing. That means that numbers below are educated estimates, but the conclusion they illustrate even through the fuzziness is vivid.

By the best estimates last season, the Union lost 53 man games to injuries suffered by 14 players. They also suffered six one-game suspensions.

This season, through a mere 15 matches, the Union have lost 51 man games with injuries, affecting 14 players. With Conor Casey, Steven Vitoria, Andre Blake and Michael Lahoud not yet back to full fitness, they’ll certainly exceed last year's benchmark in Saturday’s visit from New York City FC. The 51 games through 15 matches puts them on pace for 115 man games lost over a 34-game campaign. That's in addition to nine game lost to suspensions, another figure that exceeds last season's.

Making things worse is how many different players have been bitten by the injury bug. It’s not as though one or two players have missed the entire season, skewing the number to the high side. Of the 11 players Curtin named in the starting lineup Wednesday, five had missed time this season, and the doesn't include the "play without training" plan that many, including Fernando Aristeguieta and Nogueira, were placed on of necessity at various points.

Here’s the grim reading of injuries:

2014 man games lost: Austin Berry 7, Danny Cruz 6, Sheanon Williams 5, Cristian Maidana 5, Conor Casey 5, Vincent Nogueira 4, Sebastien Le Toux 4, Ethan White 4, Zach Pfeffer 4, Brian Carroll 3, Fabinho 2, Michael Lahoud 2, Maurice Edu 1, Fred 1. Total: 53.

2015 man games lost: Andre Blake 10,* Steven Vitoria 6,* Michael Lahoud 5,* Conor Casey 5,* Antoine Hoppenot 5, Vincent Nogueira 3, Cristian Maidana 3, CJ Sapong 3, Raymond Lee 3, Sheanon Williams 2, Fabinho 2, Fernando Aristeguieta 2, John McCarthy 1, Ray Gaddis 1. Total: 51.

* absence ongoing

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,