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Philadelphia Union 1-2 Columbus Crew

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FzYlPxJeHMo&[/youtube]

Columbus Crew forward Stephen Lenhart headed in two brilliant goals to sink Philadelphia Union 2-1 on Thursday night at PPL Park.

Lenhart scored off perfect passes from Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Emilio Renteria in the 43rd and 50th minutes, respectively, to lead Columbus to the win in front of 18,001 fans in Chester.

Sebastien Le Toux drew and converted a penalty for the Union in the 48th minute, but it wasn’t enough. Columbus goalkeeper Will Hesper closed down a late flurry of shots by the Union’s Jack McInerney to secure the win for first place Columbus, who improved to 11-4-4, 10 points clear of second place New York. The Union fell to 4-9-3.

Both teams lost players to injury, as midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi went off in the 40th minute and Jason Carey gave way to Lenhart in the 27th.

The Union played hard, but it was clear that Columbus was the better team, scoring beautiful goals and playing terrific defense that threw the Union off all night.

Here’s a breakdown of some notable aspects of the game.

  • The Cristian Arrieta-Michael Orozco flip-flop experiment has not worked.

Orozco came into the season as a center back, and Arrieta came in as a right back. Their position flip-flop is not working. Both continue to show natural tendencies consistent with their typical position that hurt them in their new one.

Columbus defenders closed down the middle all night. (Photo: Nicolae Stoian)

Arrieta is poised on the ball and looks to push up in the attack. He has great vision and nice touch. He can send some great passes, like the beautifully lofted touch pass that nearly created a Le Toux goal, and he’s excellent on crosses. Unfortunately, that attacking tendency left him out of position on at least one counterattack, and his great crossing ability is wasted in the center of the field. Plus, he doesn’t seem physical enough to play center back. The problem is he may not be fast enough to play right back at this level.

Orozco, meanwhile, looks tentative on the right flank, whereas he’s typically the most aggressive player on the field. He’s not taking available overlapping runs, either by design to balance the more attacking Jordan Harvey or out of a natural tendency to want to stay home. His crossing isn’t nearly as consistent as Arrieta’s is. He’s being marginalized.

The signing of Colombian defender Juan Diego González Alzate could put an end to the experiment if he’s good enough to make the starting lineup. (At the very least, it brings much-needed depth on the back line.) The question is who takes a seat.

  • Kyle Nakazawa’s free kicks are so good that he might have to start again.

Depending on how bad Miglioranzi’s injury is, Nakazawa could be the beneficiary. He came on for Migs in the 40th and played ordinary ball in the run of play, but his free kicks threatened every time. He puts them high enough and in the right spots, and that led to the first goal. Considering the game is all about scoring goals (and how weak the Union have been on corner kicks), maybe it’s worth being patient with the rookie on the field.

  • Frankie Hejduk and the Crew's back line troubled Fred and the Union all night. (Photo: Paul Rudderow)

    The Union’s offense is sometimes predictable.

A forward comes diagonally away from goal to the center to take the pass. He swings it out. Everything works off this. At least half the attacks seem to start this way. Iro, Marshall and holding midfielder Brian Carroll threw this off all night. Meanwhile, Justin Mapp often left open tons of space on the right, while Orozco wasn’t filling it, further collapsing the shape. Fred continues inching toward the center from the left flank. Everything funneled down the center, except when Jordan Harvey came down the left side. (Credit PSP contributor Andrew Huff for this observation, as he pointed it out over and over again while sitting next to me Thursday night.)

  • The Union are generally a physically small team, and it hurt them at both ends Thursday.

Forward Alejandro Moreno is 5-10. Le Toux is 6-0. Danny Mwanga is a bit bigger at 6-1. None is particularly big, and the Union don’t really have an aerial threat to score on crosses, at least until Mwanga shows he can. On defense, Danny Califf is 6-2, 185, but the rest of the back line is average height. Watching Columbus center backs Andy Iro and Chad Marshal (6-5, 205, and 6-4, 190) dominate the smaller Union attackers while Lenhart and Renteria bullied Union defenders on the other end, this deficit became clear. Orozco is tough enough to man up with anyone, but he’s now out on the flank.

  • Random stadium observations:

    Just another reason why PPL Park is a beautiful place to watch a game. (Photo: Nicolae Stoian)

  1. Will Hesmer is my new favorite opposing player (at least this week). Absolutely classic how he tripped up the Sons of Ben’s “You suck, a*****e” call on goal kicks by running up to his goal kick and then stepping over the ball instead of kicking it, only to take the kick a few seconds later. It completely flummoxed the SoBs and had us laughing in the stands. The chant lost steam late in the second half. The guy sitting behind me with his two daughters probably appreciated that, considering his littlest girl said to her father at one point, “Daddy, what are they saying after ‘you suck?’”
  2. Nice turnout for a Thursday night game with only about 500 empty seats. Some season ticket holders didn’t turn out for the night game, which is understandable for a night game when you have children. (A regular near my seats wasn’t there, for example.) But many others did, and it looks like the Union have solved their problem with sections 102 and 112, as each was nearly filled last night, whereas they’re usually the most empty. (I call them the Scalper Sections, because that’s probably who has many of those tickets.)
  3. That was some damn good pulled pork and sausage, onion and peppers. But the green beans with the barbecue were horrid.
  4. The Doop song is growing on me. Well, maybe not the song itself, but the atmosphere when it comes on is pretty awesome. Of course, that might have something to do with the goal just scored, but whatever.

Player Ratings

GK Chris Seitz: 4

Sooner or later, you have to make the tough saves. Outside of one or two games, he really hasn’t, and it didn’t happen this game either. In his defense, he made the routine saves.

Don't worry, the fans still love you. (Photo: Paul Rudderow)

LB Jordan Harvey: 4

Harvey was beaten on the first goal when Stephen Lenhart headed in a perfect free kick from Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Considering he was giving away a few inches and at least 20 pounds, you wonder why he was marking him in the first place, but he did briefly allow the space Lenhart needed. Had a really hard time handling the similarly physical Emilio Renteria. Gave the Union some width playing like a wingback (which left him out of position on the second goal) but didn’t offer any crosses, opting instead for short back passes to the center.

LCB Cristian Arrieta: 5

Looked poised and creative when given the chance to be part of the offense and regularly moved up through the center of the field to play that role. But considering he’s playing center back, is this really what you want, particularly when it opens you to counterattacks?

RCB Danny Califf: 6

Lenhart beat him with a diving header for the second goal on a perfect cross from Renteria. The play was a thing of beauty, and Califf still nearly cut it off. Played a solid game overall, and it’s hard to fault him for a such a perfect play. More liable were Harvey, who pushed in too far on the attack and couldn’t get back down the flank on Renteria, and Arrieta, who played contain on the cross but never challenged Renteria.

RB Michael Orozco Fiscal: 4

Invisible. Failed to make several overlapping runs that were open for him down the right flank. His crosses were inaccurate. He muffed one or two routine plays and failed to connect on the doorstop of the goal when Kyle Nakazawa’s free kick went just beyond his reach. Had solid defensive positioning, but it’s abundantly clear he is out of his element at right back.

CM Stefani Miglioranzi: 9

Miglioranzi was playing his best game of the season when he left with an injury in the 40th minute. He was everywhere defensively, started several attacks from his deep position, and had a rare and dangerous shot on goal from distance that Hesmer made a good play on.

CM Eduardo Coudet: 6

Played another steady game, making smart, simple passes and holding possession but never seriously threatening on the attack.

Union attackers were looking up at Columbus defenders all night. (Photo: Nicolae Stoian)

LM Fred: 4

This wasn’t Fred’s night. He lost possession on a number of occasions, drew the yellow card that led to the the first goal, and generally seemed out of sorts.

RM Justin Mapp: 5

Deployed primarily as an inside-out winger, much like Arjen Robben for the Dutch national team, he occasionally looked dangerous coming in on his left to shoot. He had a few nice plays, including a sweet move down the right side followed by a perfect cross into the box for Le Toux. But he also dribbled too much, failed to make runs into space down the right flank, and seemed out of sync with his new teammates, the latter of which can be expected.

FW Sebastien Le Toux: 6

He drew and converted the penalty for the Union’s goal, but it was a borderline call that Columbus could easily argue should not have been given. His corner kicks continued to fall short, with one notable exception. Mapp set him up with a beautiful cross in the box, but Le Toux’s header went nowhere. Willed his way through the difficult challenge posed by Columbus’ two huge center backs, looking dangerous at moments but still struggling to overcome a solid defense.

FW Alejandro Moreno: 4

Like Le Toux, he was manhandled by Columbus’ big center backs. Unlike Le Toux, he didn’t have the attacking chops to ever overcome it. For the first time this season, it became very, very clear what the drawback is when you have a 5-10 target forward. Sooner or later, he runs up against a 6-4 and 6-5 pair of center backs. As much as I like Moreno, it’s probably time for the scoreless forward to take a seat.

Subs

Yeah dude, we even got bagpipes. (Photo: Paul Rudderow)

Kyle Nakazawa: 6

Nakazawa remains the Union’s best option on free kicks, with several excellent efforts, including the one that led to the Union’s goal. In the run of play, he seemed very ordinary, but considering how dangerous he is on dead balls, the trade-off was worth it.

Andrew Jacobson: 6

Jacobson came on in the 77th minute and nearly assisted on a second Union goal, but his give-and-go with Jack McInerney was stopped by Hesmer.

Jack McInerney: 7

Union Jack started the give-and-go sequence with Jacobson. He got it back, shot, was stopped, and then nearly sent in the rebound with a sliding attempt. An excellent effort showing more of the energy and creativity the young forward can inject into a game when inserted late.

16 Comments

  1. Mike Servedio says:

    I thought Mapp played well. He possessed well and had the desire to take people on, what you need from an outside midfielder. You are going to give up the ball sometimes on the dribble, but you have to keep the defenders honest. I thought his dribbling decisions were better than some other Union players, particularly Fred’s. And he shot from distance, which is nice to see. (also good to see from Migs)

    I fail to see what Moreno does to warrant 90 minutes. I realize Columbus is his old team. But at what point do you drop a forward that doesn’t score goals? When Mwanga is healthy, get him back in for Moreno.

    Seitz needs to come for the ball on that first goal. A soft chip into the box, knowing that his smaller outside back is marking the biggest guy from the other team means he needs to come for it. And Califf can’t let a striker streak in front of him on the run like that to head home that 2nd goal. Great header, no doubt. But stay goal side Danny, we all learned that in the youth league.

  2. Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

    It was driving me nuts to see both Mapp and Fred move every ball towards the center on their preferred foot, ruined any chance for width and fed right into Columbus’ strength, their two mammoth center backs.

    Funniest moment for me was Fred standing on the ball in the middle of the field waving his hands to the left wondering where his winger was… that’s you Fred, go sit on the bench.

    Dan, totally agree on Migs, he was EVERYWHERE before the injury and lets hope it doesn’t sideline him for long. What I didnt get was why Nakazawa came on. I understand he’s our best deadball option, but he’s still a complete liability during open play. Especially considering Novak’s love affair with Jacobsen it seemed smarter to swap him for Migs, like for like and not have to drop Coudet deep.

  3. another above average performance from union, and another frustrating loss. i agree it’s time for seitz to show his skill, but he’s largely been hung out to dry by his defense. i liked mapp and coudet’s calmness last night, but am surprised justin can run as smoothly as he can having only a left foot. le toux does all the little things, like winning 50/50 penalties. in the category of “people who are exactly unlike the person i just described,” and like curtis mayfield once sang, “you know that freddy’s dead.” bring the brazilian on as a sub if need be, but he clearly didn’t have anything to add to the game last night.

  4. Josh Trott says:

    That game was painful- once again the Union lost against the run of play. In the first half, and this was largely due to Migs, but Mapp and Coudet also had a big part in it- we dominated the center of the field. We routinely took the ball from Columbus with pressure, and passed toward their goal.

    I agree with Mike about the first goal- It was delivered slowly, and Lenhart got to it inside the six yard line. Seitz isn’t small himself.

    I do think that with a healthy Mwanga we win that game, because there were plenty of moments were a technical finisher would have gotten goals for us. However, we need to be better in the air, especially on defense. Anybody have numbers on how many goals have been scored off headers against the Union?

    They say the new good is renowned for his heading ability.

  5. jack stiller says:

    oh my god!! you dont know nothing about soccer, Califf lose the man in the second goal!! i know this is a cheap website but please watch the game before than talk

    • Hey man, thanks for reading. Every time you do, it’s another hit for the site.

      (See Mike’s earlier comment on Califf getting goal side on Lenhart. Maybe I let Califf off easy, but take a deep breath about it.)

    • Mike Servedio says:

      Jack, your comments are always so helpful. We’ll try watching the game first and then writing about it. I don’t know why we didn’t think of that before. Maybe you can offer some grammar tips as well?

    • Hey Jack, this website is the voice of real people from Philadelphia !!

  6. I have been one of the people this year who has not agreed with all those who have said Harvey has been our most stable and best defender this season. He has been consistently crap. Atleast Orozco and Arrieta have moments of brilliance filled with moments of shit. Harvey has done one thing right this year with his goal in Toronto and I would argue that was more luck than skill on his part as he has showed he can barely pass let alone shoot and cross. He is the main reason the Union lost yesterday. Did not jump when he was marking Lenart for the first goal, you cant even call that marking. Was out of position, who knows why because he certainly offers nothing in attack, for the 2nd goal as Columbus had free reign down his flank. If he has one more bad game I will boo him when I am at games.

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