Featured / MLS / Union / Union match reports

Match report: Seattle 0-2 Union

After watching their team win the US Open Cup on Tuesday, Sounders fans were not prepared to see the Union waltz into Seattle and take a deserved three points off a lethargic home side.

Second half goals from Freddy Adu and Brian Carroll lifted the Union into first place with a 2-0 win in front of a sold out crowd at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA. It was a night that should offer a lot to the Union’s confidence as they prepare for a playoff run against a strong Western Conference field.

On top of the heap again!

Strong at the start

Early on, the Union controlled possession and worked the ball onto the wings high up the pitch. Seattle’s response belied their tired legs, with free kicks and soft corners coming one after another. That Philly failed to capitalize on these opportunities looked a dangerous omen, as their dominance was bound to be limited.

Sure enough, after a 19th minute another Sheanon Williams long throw-in to a triple-marked Danny Califf led to a Sounders goal kick, the home team worked the ball the left, where the active Lamar Neagle put a cross into traffic that Pat Noonan could only scuff at Zac MacMath with a half-volley.

With Paunovic dropping deep into the midfield and Seattle conceding space, the Union had an axis around which to build attacks. Pauno found Justin Mapp on the left in the 22nd with a lofted ball and Mapp took on two defenders before putting a blind cross to nobody through the box.

Union use Mapp, Seattle attacks Garfan

Both teams continued to live on the far wing. Seattle was aiming their attacks at the impressive Gabe Farfan while the Union looked to break through Mapp. Seattle must have been lax on their video study this week because Garfan remained in top defensive form and wide attacks allowed Califf and Valdes to do their David Copperfield impressions and make the Sounders front line disappear.

Paunovic’s long shot in the 32nd was the next time either team got out of the midfield successfully, but it initiated a higher pace that would last the rest of the match.

In the 33rd, Lamar Neagle found space at the far post but his soft header was directed at MacMath’s waiting hands.

MacMath not hesitant

MacMath looked every bit his aggressive best despite a lingering ankle injury. His only limitation may have been his jumping ability, which led him to misjudge a cross in the 35th. Dropping the ball, MacMath had to scurry back to the net as Lamar Neagle quickly played in Brad Evans. The midfield man could only sky over from ten yards out.

The Sounders were holding more possession as the half went on, starting the ball deep and using Osvaldo Alonso as a playmaker. The Union’s stretched midfield diamond allowed Alonso space if Seattle could make a smart first pass out of the back.

Philadelphia came to rely on Justin Mapp’s incisive running to pressure the Seattle back four. Mapp was dangerous all night, with Seattle defenders unwilling to challenge him on the dribble.

Halftime sub for Seattle

Seattle made two halftime changes, one personnel and one tactical. Patrick Ianni replaced an injured Jeff Parke in the back and the team resolved to pressure Freddy Adu and Veljko Paunovic with more regularity.

Adu has struggled under high pressure since arriving, and this match was no different. But to his credit, he worked relentlessly to find space and stepped forward with aplomb when Paunovic dropped deep and left Le Toux stranded.

A spell of Seattle pressure led to a 49th minute cross that Pauno misplayed out for a corner kick. The tide seemed to be turning in Seattle’s favor and the Union were dropping as deep as they had against Chivas USA. Brad Evans seemed determined to make Philly pay when he curled a gorgeous shot off the underside of MacMath’s bar off a feed from Noonan.

Paunovic tests Keller

Fortunately for Philadelphia, they have had a consistent quick-strike offense lurking on the right all season in the form of Sheanon Williams. Catching the Sounders out after a poorly cleared corner, Williams spun a beauty of a cross to the back post where Paunovic powerfully headed towards the bottom corner. Kasey Keller had to be impressive to palm it out.

This play punctured whatever bubble of energy had been pushing Seattle forward, and three minutes later Justin Mapp was again driving hard at their box. What should have been a foul in the D popped the ball out to Le Toux for a wide open shot at goal. The Union’s top scorer could only softly dink a shot at Keller’s waiting arms.

Through a Farfan, of course

In the 59th minute, the Union finally broke through. Le Toux dropped into midfield to chest down for Paunovic, who first-timed a cross wide to Gabriel Farfan. The left back attacked James Riley with speed and tried to beat him on the endline. Riley was shielding the ball out when Garfan raced around him and tapped it into the six-yard box, where Freddy Adu roofed the go-ahead goal above Keller’s frustrated grasp.

It was just reward for two players whose high work rate was typical of another lunchpail performance from a playoff-caliber team.

Seattle was frustrated, and Lamar Neagle’s 63rd minute yellow card for cleating Paunovic on the shoulder was quite justified.

Carroll’s excellent run

The home team generated little pressure before Brian Carroll put the Union further in front in the 70th. Collecting the ball 30 yards from his own goal, Carroll used Le Toux as an outlet and took off upfield at a full sprint. Le Toux drove at goal, and with Seattle’s defense tracking back centrally, Le Toux found Carroll on the right with a soft through ball. Carroll made no mistake with a fine far post finish, leading the Seattle announcer to exclaim, “Outstanding counterattacking football.”

Seattle added Nate Jaqua and Sammy Ochoa to the mix in an attempt to pressure Valdes and Califf, but the Union were dropping deep and determined. A series of shots failed to trouble MacMath, who earned a shutout with only two saves.

It was a huge win for a team that has overcome a rough second half of the season to re-establish themselves atop the Eastern Conference. While a win at Toronto won’t clinch first place, the Union have positioned themselves for a playoff run with another fine late season performance.

19 Comments

  1. Brilliant 2nd half yesterday away from home!!!! Way to capitalize on chances (contrary to the US team!)!

  2. Rewatched the highlights and that Seattle announcer is phenomenal. We need to trade them JP and a 2nd round pick for him.

    • Yeah, Arlo White (@arlowhite on Twitter) is good. I am biased against everything having to do with the Sounders, and English MLS announcers grate, but he really knows what he’s doing.

    • I think Zumoff does a great job when he’s in there. Just needs a few more telecasts to get familiar with the team.

  3. I don’t mean to be overly sentimental but isn’t this our biggest win in team history? I mean it has to be.

    I was totally incomprehensible for the last 20 minutes too.

    • Yup IMO biggest win in team history! Also perfect game plan and execution of game plan…great team management from the beginning to the end!

  4. What about Garfan’s elastico to set up that goal? It got away from him, but still pretty awesome. It’s nice to see those kinds of moves in MLS.

  5. Is Mondy still the starter this year and going forward? After seeing both of their bodies of work, I’m not so sure Zac isn’t better. Particularly, for their cost, I think we might be better off with Macmath and bringing in another strong player (possible a LB to push Garfan forward). Just curious what others thought.

    • I’m not certain Mondragon wasn’t just supposed to be a one year stopgap until MacMath could start anyway (hell, in FIFA12 he is listed as retiring after this year).
      I would love to start MAcMAth going forward and keep Mondragon as either a mentoring 2nd Keeper or a coach.

    • MikeRSoccer says:

      We learned our lesson with Seitz and Macmath still does not command the box as well as Mondragon. Everything else they do Macmath is arguably equal to or better though. So let’s give Macmath another year behind Mondragon before we toss him in as the long term replacement.

      • Hello, this is Europe.

        We’ll take him!

      • Spot on Adam. I say play MacMath and get his value up. We might even score a nice transfer fee if he elevates his game. Mondragon meant so much in changing the tone of the franchise but I think we should run with our talented youth.

      • Yeah to bad thanks to the MLS and its Americanized rules all we’ll see of the transfer fee is something called an “allocation fund”

        I cant wait till teams actually own their own players.

  6. I’d like one more year of tutelage for MacMath under Mondragon, with more playing time for Zac (USOC games, two games in one week, etc.). I’d say MacMath’s shot stopping ability is already superior as are his goal kicks and punts. But yes, he does need to improve his command of the box.

    He is miles better than Seitz and Knighton though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*

%d bloggers like this: