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The Flyers on cleats? More like the Patriots

While watching Philadelphia Union’s match Thursday at The 700, somebody called the Union the Flyers on Cleats.

It might fit more to compare them to the NFL’s New England Patriots.

Nowak started a defensive midfielder (Toni Stahl) at center back, a center back (Michael Orozco) at defensive midfielder, a striker (Danny Mwanga) at attacking midfielder, and a right back (Dave Myrie) who was in way over his head. The Union listed four players as injured, but all played. Shea Salinas wasn’t on the injury report, but word has it he missed the game due to injury.

What gives? Did Nowak steal Bill Belichick’s playbook during the offseason?

Nowak’s lineup even tripped up the Union’s own PR staff, who got only six starters right. ESPN labeled the formation a 4-4-2, with Stahl at center back, but was he more defensive midfield than center back? (I watched on TV, where you can’t see formations as clearly as you can in person.)

Before the game, Nowak cagily refused to publicly reveal his starters until he sent them out onto the field. It’s not an unusual tactic. Other coaches do it, though perhaps not to the degree that Nowak pulled off on Thursday.

Did it work? Maybe for about 10 minutes. That’s how long the Union looked good on the attack, before Seattle scored their first goal.

So what’s next?

Nothing would surprise at this point.

Fred returns from suspension, so he’ll probably start. If healthy, Salinas could bring some speed to the wings. With Stahl suspended due to Thursday’s red card, Shavar Thomas may replace him, or perhaps Orozco would slide back to his more typical center back position. If Myrie’s in the lineup, it’d be a stunner, but there is no other natural right back on the roster. Orozco could go there – and most thought he would – but he’s left-footed and didn’t do that bad at defensive midfield. (His rocket shot on goal was the Union’s best attacking chance.) Jordan Harvey remains a solid left back option, despite his poor play in keeping Fredy Montero onside for the second goal.

But what would I predict for a lineup?

More surprises.

Nowak did it in the expansion draft, and he and Nick Sakiewicz did it on draft day with their wheeling and dealing. Thursday’s surprise lineup should have been no surprise.

Get used to it.

And imagine how interesting it’ll be once this team actually gets good.

Got an opinion on who should play where in the Union’s starting lineup against D.C. United on April 10? Let’s hear it. Weigh in below.

(Photo: Philadelphia Union)

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