Union / Union match reports

The kids are all right (Union 1 – Chivas 0)

PPL Park seemed to let out a collective groan as the starting eleven were announced.  All the usual suspects with the exception of Brad Knighton in goal and Nick Zimmerman who earned a rare start in an attacking midfield role that pushed Danny Mwanga up top as a lone striker.  The 4-5-1 formation should have congested the midfield and helped the Union to win more ball, yet it ended up costing the Union the little possession Chivas allowed and the aging pair of Coudet and Miglioranzi often resembled highway cones as speedy Chivas’ players darted in and out of their clumsy challenges.

Mwanga - Lonely Up Top

Once the ball was eventually won, a glaring deficiency came to the fore.  Having a back-to-goal, target striker works wonderfully when streaking wingers can expose gaps behind defenses.  For the Union, and Mwanga on this night, the lack of real width resulted in a well trapped ball being played directly backwards to its provider.  The jury is still out on Mwanga’s ability to occupy this target role since, without any supporting runs, his hold up play cannot resulted in positive, offensive movements.

As Coudet and Miglioranzi parked their power chairs ever deeper, Zimmerman, Fred and Andrew Jacobsen flowed in and out of the game, each popping up on both sides of the field as well as centrally.  The unit of position-less players understandably lacked cohesion and more than one move ended with Fred standing on the ball, gesticulating wildly before being tackled.  Needless to say it was a dull, frustrating first half for the home supporters, and had it not been for some poor finishing and absurd histrionics (fortunately waved away by the official) by Chivas, the Union could have found themselves down a goal at halftime.

After halftime, however, the team that returned to the pitch looked completely different, literally.  While Brad Knighton was retained in goal and Michael Orozco Fiscal moved into central defense, all nine other players were replaced, leaving this formation :

Okugo-Midfield Destroyer

Knighton

Williams-Arrieta-Orozco Fiscal-Stahl

Noone -Torres-Nakazawa-Okugo-Mapp

McInerney


And they came out firing.  Roger Torres was quick to try and stamp his authority on the middle of the park, serving the ball well and making inroads for the Union as the young squad quickly gained a footing in the first minutes of the second half.  Just as it was on the weekend, in the 48th minute Justin Mapp’s well-weighted ball found a darting McInerney who cooly buried the finish, all of this before the public address announcer had completed the comically long list of substitutions.

McInerney - Scoring Goals for Fun

As Chivas attempted to regain control of play, Amobi Okugo began to assert himself all over the pitch, canceling out opportunity after opportunity.  Settling in behind Torres and Nakazawa, Okugo not only retrieved the ball but was clever and accurate in providing his own service up the pitch.  With the Union pressing into the final third, two inch-perfect Nakazawa free kicks were not converted and the margin remained at one, and while that was enough on the day, the second half was not without its share of nervous moments.  Brad Knighton reacted well to parry clear a number of long-distance cannon blasts and was even quicker off his line to deal with a low, searching cross from the endline.  If his nerves following his dramatic ejection against Dallas were frayed, he certainly did not let on, and he was the first to every ball in and around his area.  One player who did have a nervy evening was new signing Sheanon Williams.  While his pace is everything that was advertised, he looked jumpy and unsure with the ball at his feet.  Its hard to make much of this first showing for the 20 year old Williams, but it is promising to see an outside fullback who can consistently make up yards of turf in a foot race.

Special mention to tonight’s officials who did very well in the face of the well-practiced simulation tactics of the visitors.  For my money, a player going to ground and holding his face is one of, if not THE, lowest tactics in soccer and to see it happen twice inside of a five-minute span made my blood boil.  The referee maintained both his composure and control of the match throughout, consistently waving play on as one after another player hit the deck, handing out only the most necessary fouls and cautions.  His judgments allowed for a flowing, enjoyable match and for that he and his crew deserve a great deal of credit.

Starters

Brad Knighton – 9 – The shot-stopping was great, but that’s not what stood out about Knighton’s performance tonight.  Quick off his line and strong in the air and brimming with confidence, he was sporting his best “No chance, not tonight” look throughout the match.

Jordan Harvey – 4 – Clearly has been reading the Philly Soccer Page’s assessment of his recent performances.  Tried early and often to get up field but still was unable to provide useful service and by the end of the first half had reverted to back passes at every occasion.  Earned a silly yellow card for a poor wrestling maneuver performed at midfield.

Juan Diego Gonzalez – 7 – When the alarm bells started ringing, Gonzalez kept his cool and made several vital tackles to keep the mounting Chivas threat at bay.

Danny Califf – 5 – Lack of speed was exposed, fortunately not too brutally.  His inability to provide any type of service going forward is a big concern since it both stymies counterattacks and causes dangerous turnovers.

Michael Orozco Fiscal – 6 – Largely anonymous in the first half before stepping into the center of defense and helping to shut the door on the Chivas threat.  Looked comfortable against a team he has seen before.

Stefani Miglioranzi – 5 – Flowed around the midfield but was not up to the speed of the game and did not win as many balls as we have grown accustomed to seeing from him.  Turned the ball over a lot without significant pressure.

Eduardo Coudet – 5 – Coudet’s audition as the free kick taker was a dismal one.  His two corners were wildly over hit and the hunt for a free kick specialist continues.

Fred – 3 – Ground to a halt, literally.  Took ten touches when two would have been plenty.  Personally responsible for killing many Union attacks.

Andrew Jacobsen – 5 – Largely anonymous.  Clearly is not an attacking player.  After having launched two long distance bombs in substitute appearances, Jacobsen has now been moved forward into the attack.  He does not belong there, and it looks like he knows it.

Nick Zimmerman – 6 – Looked good chasing deep balls but offered very little in the other facets of the game.  Ran into Mwanga’s space often rather than pulling defenders away, but ran hard and battled all over the field.

Danny Mwanga – 6 – Frustrating night for Mwanga.  Did well to hold up play but lack of support killed his momentum.  The few slicing runs he made were well-timed but saw him running after bad service.  Looking more and more nimble with the ball at his feet.

Substitutes

Toni Stahl – 2 – This kid cannot catch a break.  Used at left back, the gangly Stahl could not have been further out of his element.  It’s hard to blame him though and he might do well to be let go by the Union and allowed to restart his career with a club where he would have the opportunity to play his actual position.

Christian Arrieta – 6 – Vocal and commanding out of the back, Arrieta was not without his regular few mistakes, namely a softly-weighted header back to Knighton’s box that did not quite get there.  Looks like a player with all the tools to be an above average bench player.

Sheanon Williams – 5 – The speed is there which is a good thing, because with all the mistakes he made, he needed to do a lot of chasing back.  I’m willing to put most of it down to nerves and wait for his first MLS appearance.  Williams is still only 20, and with some polish could become a fixture.

Justin Mapp – 7 – Worked hard on defense and sprang McInerney for the Union’s goal with another lovely ball.  His one-footedness continues to be a problem given how completely one-dimensional it makes him.

Amobi Okugo – 9 – As far as I’m concerned, this kid is a starter.  His work rate is marvelous and combined with his soft touch on the ball and his tackling instincts it seems crazy that he is not getting more of a look in league play.  At every 50-50 ball tonight, Okugo won much more than his fair share of ball and has the veteran knack for knowing when to take a foul and slow the game down.

Roger Torres – 8 – Came out swinging from the opening whistle of the second half.  A constant danger to the Chivas defense, Torres was the most willing to try and make things happen.  As the match went on his eagerness got the better of him and he started taking on 2 and 3 players at a time.  Part of his maturation will involve slowing himself down, which is a MUCH better problem to have than trying to speed someone up.

Kyle Nakazawa – 7 – Strikes a mean free kick, two of which could have led directly to Union goals if not for some bad luck.  Like Torres, seemed eager to mix it up tonight and showed some fire as twice he came into confrontation with Chivas players in the middle of the park.

J.T. Noone – 5 – Started strongly with some deft touches that allowed the Union to retain possession.  Faded as the game wore on, seemed very unsure of what position he was playing.

Jack McInerney – 8 – Another game, another classy Jack Mac finish.  His composure in goal-scoring situations cannot be undervalued.

Zach Pfeffer – N/A – A late-cameo for the 15 year-old FC Delco product did not come to much, but he looked quickly up to speed and moved the ball well when called upon to do so.

(For photos from the match, click here.)

8 Comments

  1. I heard through the grapevine that Pheffer is going to sign with the Union in a couple of weeks as their first ever academy product, so I guess we should look out for the kid.

  2. brad knighton, world beater… and, before he’s traded, i hope fred realizes one of these games that we’re not playing fifa street but an actual 11-a-side professional game.

  3. Never played fifa street, but the video game comparison is very apt. He never looks as if he expects to be tackled, almost as if he believes that MLS is his personal no-contact all-star game.

  4. I can’t help thinking the only thing keeping Okugo out of the lineup is the mistake he made that led to the Man United goal. Otherwise, what has the Union starting midfield done to keep him out of the first XI?

    Off his line? Fiery? That’s not what we want in a Union goalie. Let’s stick with nervous and frustrating, thankyouverymuch.

    “the aging pair of Coudet and Miglioranzi often resembled highway cones as speedy Chivas’ players darted in and out of their clumsy challenges.” – Only the best of many lines. Great article, Eli.

  5. First, I agree strongly on the points that Knighton, Torres, and Okugo were Union standouts. However, it has to be said that the Union were an even worse side, despite producing a better result, in the second half, than in the first. The Mexicans pelted the goal and it was only excellent goal keeping that produced the shut out.

  6. Mike from Old City says:

    Love the praise for the officials when deserved. It legitimizes criticism when it is equally (and frequently) deserved.

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