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The Union wrap: 2-1 loss to New York Red Bulls

Same Le Toux + same Seitz + same brain cramp = same result.

Unfortunately for the hundreds of SoBs and other supporters making their way to the gleaming Red Bull Arena for the first leg of the newly minted I-95 derby, this formula was all too apparent.

Nowak, in his fourth game at the helm, continued his policy of mixing it up and keeping us on our toes.  He employed a defensive- minded 4-4-2 with Migs and Jacobsen patrolling the middle flanked by Fred and Torres.  The real shakeup though, was at the back with Shea Salinas making his first start for the Union on the left side of defense.  Harvey went wide right with Arrieta and Orozco tucking inside in absence of the suspended Danny Califf.  The effective partnership of Moreno and Le Toux continued up top.

It was the Frenchman, to whom the first real chance of the game fell, in the fifth minute after Moreno slid a delicious pass into the penalty area.  However, Le Toux’s side-footed effort wasn’t strong enough to beat Coundoul at his near post.

The next gilt-edged chance came for the Pink Cows.  Juan Pablo Angel was played in and nearly slotted home the opener but Seitz was up to the task, snuffing out a low-driven shot.

Yet it was the under fire Seitz who was seemingly at fault in the 50th minute, when he came out to punch clear a cross and totally missed the ball.  Harvey wasn’t so lucky.  After Seitz clattered into him, it was all the invitation Salou Ibrahim needed to nod home from 8 yards.  1-0 RBNY.

Philadelphia Union would find the answer in the form of arguably the best one-two punch in the East as Moreno eluded his marker down the right touchline, cut inside, and slid a ball across the face of goal which Le Toux made no mistake in blasting home.  59th minute, 1-1.

The goal seemed to inspire the visitors as they stroked the ball around confidently.  Their resurgence made the next event all the more heartbreaking.  Michael Orozco, attempting to deal with a floated cross into Angel, handled the ball in the area, giving the Red Bull captain a shot from the spot and he didn’t miss.  2-1 Red Bull New York.  67 minute.

One more chance fell to former Red Bull Nick Zimmerman, yet the winger could only muster a weak cut back in the box that was cleared away.  Game, set, match.  Another impressive performance on the road for the Union and another brain cramp that saw them drop three points.

Well, what did we learn?

  • Roger Torres is mortal. The teenage Columbian sensation has been getting high praise of late.  His creativity and craft have garnered a lot of attention.  However, we have to remember- he is still a teenager and prone to a shocker every once in a while.  On Saturday, he gave the ball away far too cheaply and tried to force things too much.
  • We still have no natural width. Nowak, for all intents and purposes, employed a midfield of four central players.  Fred, Jacobson, Miglioranzi, and Torres are all midfielders who love to linger in the center, leaving huge gaps out on the touches for the Red Bulls to exploit.  It led to the Jeremy Hall cross for the first goal.
  • Still too early to give up on Seitz. There are a few positions on a soccer field where confidence means everything.  One is striker.  The other is goalkeeper.  The more times Seitz comes up with key saves (like the one on Angel in the first half) the more confidence he’ll get, which will go a long way.  However, he still needs to improve his decision making.  If you’re going to leave your line to punch out, you better make sure you get the ball.
  • Fred is simultaneously the most frustrating and most electric. There are times you wanted to strangle the Brazlian, especially when he tried to dribble through two Red Bulls deep in the Union half.  Yet he is capable of a brilliant, Zidane-esque pirouette as well.
  • Pires would fit in nicely. If the persistent Robert Pires transfer rumors materialize into an actual transfer, the French connection should prove deadly for Philadelphia’s opponents.  Sure, Alejandro Moreno has been doing a great job dropping deeper to pick the ball up and put Le Toux in on goal but we can’t expect that to work all season.  It renders the attack one-dimensional.  A creative type like Pires, even on the wrong side of 35, could pry open defenses with a killer pass for Le Toux and Moreno.  Then Nowak could push Torres and Fred wider with Migs sitting deep and locking down the middle.
  • Sometimes all you need is a bit of luck. Yes, it’s a tired old football cliche but it’s apropos for the Union.  It’s tough not to play the what if game.  As in, what if Danny Califf and Toni Stahl don’t go all MMA on us, what if Seitz doesn’t go missing, what if Orozco uses the right set of limbs…who knows?  We could be undefeated.

Player ratings:

Chris Seitz: 5

Great save on Angel overshadowed slightly by miscue on Ibrahim’s header.

Shea Salinas: 6

Not the greatest of starts but not terrible either.  Made some timely tackles and often had a lot to do with little help.

Michael Orozco: 5

Terribly unlucky on the handball though you do have to question the outstretched arms in that situation.

Cristian Arrieta: 7

Crisp passing and technical proficiency out of the back.

Jordan Harvey: 6

Solid game.  Wasn’t permitted to get forward as much as he would have liked.

Roger Torres: 3

Errant pass after errant pass by the diminutive Columbian forced his removal at the midway mark.

Andrew Jacobs0n: 5

Tidy passing but mostly anonymous in the offensive third of the field.

Stefani Miglioranzi: 6

Solid tackling but most of his passes went sideways and backwards.

Fred: 4

Drifted inside far too often and failed to provide the Union attack with much needed width.  Held ball way too long.

Alejandro Moreno: 8

More quality service from the Venezuelan.  Put Le Toux in on goal twice.

Sebastian Le Toux: 8

All industry and endeavor from the number nine.  His fitness and finishing continue to be a huge lift for Philadelphia.

Subs

Danny Mwanga: 5

The overall number one never made much of an impact.  Was far too deep to be effective.

Nick Zimmerman: 3

Weak shots and poor crosses marred the return to the Red Bull faithful.  Golden chance to equalize in the 92nd went begging.

Jack McInerney: 7

Instant offense from Jack Mack nearly resulted in a goal for the teenage prodigy.

9 Comments

  1. I’m quickly tiring of Fred. Like you said, he is too eager to dance and prance in his own half, yet put him in the offensive third and he’s slow to shoot and quick to make a backwards pass. Its a bunch of nonsense and it looks like Torres is tagging along for a game of who can make the stupidest decision.

    Chemistry galore for the two up top. Besides their tremendous workrates, both seem to have gained a working understanding of the other remarkably quickly. Danny Mwanga looks set for a lengthy spell on the bench. Does he not look like molasses in boots every time he’s on the pitch? For THE number 1 pick he looks awful slow and twitchy on the ball, though yet again, Novak insists on playing him out of position.

    agreed that goalkeeper is about confidence, but enough is enough. being a young keeper and flying out at 100 mph and making silly challenges is one thing. sitting back and making slow decision after slow decision is another entirely. if this kid is so fragile then maybe he’s not the prodigy i thought he was when we signed him. sit him down for a match and let him mull it over from the sidelines. if that doesnt light a fire under him then we should all be concerned.

    bad luck for orozco, i thought his whole game was strong until that moment. what he was doing with his arms in the air, we’ll never know, but it seems a time is coming when these mistakes will get ironed out and the UNION will be a force.

  2. Fred’s taken some flack for passing on that open shot to pass to Union Jack, but I actually thought it was one of the most beautiful set-ups I’ve seen in a while in MLS — and the right play. Mac should’ve scored. That’s an example where Fred’s creativity can do wonders.

  3. Ed Farnsworth says:

    Your point about the Union having no natural width is well taken. Watching the match from behind goal, my friends and I were soon frustrated by the continuous sight of the Union getting clogged up on the left side of the pitch while Jordan Harvey (I think – still matching faces/names to positions) was all alone wide to the right.
    Your “what if” point reminded me of something I have thought in every match except the first one against Seattle: DC United, Toronto and the Red Bulls are all terrible, terrible teams. In the two losses, the Union controlled play for long periods of time – that they were not able to secure their first on-the-road points against Toronto or the Red Bulls is a real shame. A little more cold bloodedness up front and the Union might be 3 and 1.
    By the way, has anyone seen the attendance numbers for Saturday’s match? That shiny new stadium seemed awfully empty to me.

  4. Eli- couldn’t agree more.

    Dan- yeah, exactly. That would be the most electric part. I would just like to see him think in terms of the team dynamic more. His creativity is often overshadowed by his reluctance to do the simple. I think Nowak should give him a freer role, one just behind the front two. Then his creativity could be utilized better. And then I wouldn’t have to cringe and wince every time he picked the ball up in our half.

    Ed- I haven’t looked at the attendance numbers yet but I’d say 50-55% capacity at absolute most. Also- is it just me or were the ESC and co amplified by a mic? They went from inaudible to deafening in a matter of seconds. The stadium is beautiful but I thought the crowd was weak.

  5. 15,619. I think capacity is 25,000. Looked like about 12K to me though…

    I’m

    • Ed Farnsworth says:

      15k+ does seem generous.

      I hadn’t thought about the ESC being amplified until you mentioned it but you are right – they went from not very loud to loud without an appreciable rise in numbers.

      By the way, tip of the hat to the Sons of Ben – they made noise and weren’t at all obnoxious with their chants. I was sitting behind the goal under their section and, unlike when DC United was in Philly, I didn’t feel a drop from above at the final whistle.

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