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Union draw 1-1 with Houston

Philadelphia Union played to a 1-1 draw Saturday, coming back to tie the game on a ridiculously beautiful goal from Sebastien Le Toux.

Union goalkeeper Brad Knighton gave up a goal in the 12th minute on a weak punch clearance that Andrew Hainault pounded back at him into the back of the net.

Le Toux equalized in the 40th minute after Roger Torres fought through a Brad Davis’s tackle to the right side and, from about 30 yards out, lofted a perfect pass to Le Toux, who controlled it on a run at the penalty spot with his left foot, flipped to his right foot, and slotted it home past Pat Onstad. It was an audacious pass by Torres that few players would even think to make, let alone try.

The Union gave some regular starters a rest Saturday, with captain and starting center back Danny Califf getting his first game off all season, save for one he missed due to a red card suspension. Juan Diego Gonzalez replaced him to pair with Michael Orozco Fiscal at center back. Likewise, Torres, Kyle Nakazawa and Nick Zimmerman also got starts, along with Andrew Jacobson in midfield, perhaps the youngest midfield grouping starting all year for the team.

The Union were on their heels much of the time and ended up fortunate to walk out with a draw. Houston outshot Philadelphia 16-7 and won 13 corner kicks, many of them on forced clearances headed out of bounds by Gonzalez, who was under constant pressure on the left side much of the second half. Only five of those shots were on target though. Orozco Fiscal played a terrific defensive game, making some spectacular plays to shut down Dominic Oduro and the Dynamo.

Here’s what stood out in the game. (Disclaimer: I missed some of the first half, so some of these observations may seem incomplete, and my player ratings may be a bit off—or, if you think I’m clueless to begin with, a bit more off than usual.)

  • Orozco Fiscal was probably the most exciting center back I’ve seen in a while yesterday.

If not for the Torres-Le Toux connection, Orozco’s slide tackle to stop Dominic Oduro’s breakaway in the 64th minute would have been the play of the day. (See the video highlights above at the 3:14 mark.) Oduro went flying down the right flank with the ball, leaving Jordan Harvey in his dust and heading in for a one-on-one with Knighton. Orozco took a perfect angle, and when Oduro pushed the ball out ahead past the 18, Orozco gambled and made a perfect slide tackle, hitting ball first and then Oduro. Knighton picked up the then-harmless loose ball. Had Orozco mistimed it, it was a penalty. But he didn’t. He was perfect.

Another play Saturday epitomized his style of play, both good and bad. He gambled on a slide out near the 18 and missed. Houston turned it into a shot on goal moments later, but Orozco recovered and came flying back for a brilliant sliding block. No one play showed this guy’s strengths and weaknesses better. He’s so aggressive that he thinks he can make any play, and he’s so talented that sometimes he can. It means he misses big at times but also makes spectacular plays.

  • Welcome out of the doghouse, Roger Torres.

No, we didn’t know why he was in there either. But that pass was ridiculous, wasn’t it? He’s the most creative player on the team, perhaps along with Jack McInerney. It would figure that they’re two of the youngest. Nobody on the Union dares make that pass to Le Toux, but nobody has told Torres that he can’t.

  • Andrew Jacobson is the most underrated player on the Union.

He probably doesn’t yet see the game like Stefani Miglioranzi, due to having less experience. Migs does more with less talent because the game moves slower for him, much like they say for NFL quarterbacks. Things slow down in your mind. You see things before they happen. It’s experience and smarts. Jacobson’s on his way there, but talent-wise, he has so much more. Watch him effortlessly dance through defenders in a way that often only Latin players do in this country. He plays hard, with a lot of intensity, and he’s a definite keeper. Sir Alex Ferguson knew what he was talking about.

  • The Union’s left side looked like sieve on defense in the second half. Why?

I’m not sure where the breakdowns were, to be honest. If you can pinpoint them, weigh in via comments below. It wasn’t just Jordan Harvey at left back, though he was likely part of it. Maybe to a degree it was Gonzalez, who seemed slowed down after he cracked heads with Brian Ching and just kept heading balls out of bounds because he couldn’t get in position to do much else. And Oduro has that great speed out there on the right side. So was it the midfield? Was it the insertion of Jack McInerney and Danny Mwanga for midfielders, putting four forwards on the field at once? Did guys just get tired? I’m curious as to opinions.

Player Ratings

GK Brad Knighton: 5

Knighton played an ordinary game. The goal falls on him due to his weak punch out on a shot from Brad Davis that he easily could have caught. Later, he made a good diving stop on a Corey Ashe shot, seemingly learning the lesson that he better catch the damn thing.

LB Jordan Harvey: 5

Houston’s attack really hit from his side late in the game. Was it all on Harvey? Maybe not, but he surely played his part.

CB Juan Diego Gonzalez: 5

Gonzalez looked overmatched all second half. I think he may have been knocked a bit senseless from his head-to-head collision with Ching. Everything was slow. He made all the safe moves, some of them too safe, like repeatedly heading balls out past the end line. Probably should have been substituted.

CB Michael Orozco Fiscal: 8

See above. Yeah, I love watching this guy play, I admit. Rave forthcoming.

RB Sheanon Williams: 5

Was better defensively than against Colorado, though he still got a beat a few times. Still a threat on the attack. Again, an experiment worth continuing.

RM Sebastien Le Toux: 8

That goal was just beautiful. When you pull off a play like that, you don’t have to do much else.

CM Andrew Jacobson: 6

Solid game for Jacobson. Good in possession, made some nice moves to thread through the Dynamo, aggressive on defense.

CM Kyle Nakazawa: 5

Not a bad game, but not great. Pretty ordinary. Like most of his games. He’s good enough to keep up with everyone but not yet good enough to stand out. Did a nice job taking corner kicks.

LM Roger Torres: 7

The pass of the day. Torres changes the game with his presence.

ST Alejandro Moreno: 5

Another workmanlike performance, and another game with not much to show for it. One play really stood out. He took the ball down the right sideline and had Le Toux open across the field on a run. Moreno never looked up. Rather, he felt behind him for the coming contact from Brad Davis, slowed down, got hit, drew the foul and a yellow card. Davis was smiling after the play. He should have been. Moreno went looking for a foul instead of a goal. That’s his major flaw.

ST Nick Zimmerman: 5

Was Zimmerman playing more midfield or forward? He was listed at forward. Like Nakazawa, he’s good enough to keep up with the game but not to impose his presence upon it. A beautiful interplay among the midfielders put the ball at Zimmerman’s feet for a spin toward goal. Had he scored, it would have been a ridiculously memorable sequence. Instead, he lost the ball out of bounds. You can’t blame a guy for not being brilliant, but … it is what it is.


Danny Mwanga: 4

Came in for Zimmerman in the 59th minute and didn’t really impact the game.

Shea Salinas: 5

Salinas didn’t do much either once he got on, but it was nice to see him on the field again. Showed bursts, but a four-forward lineup is a strange thing to fit into.

Jack McInerney: n/a

See above.

(Photo: Paul Rudderow)


  1. You all know I hate that man on the left. But, that was not all his fault in yesterdays game. Danny Califf made his strongest case yet for why he and Orozco are the center back partnership we need. The combination of the always out of position and slow Harvey combined with Gonzalez who, although up against some very fast opposition, looked like he was 5 steps behind the run of play from the first minute on meant that our defense looked like swiss cheese yesterday. I have to say that if Brian Ching did not suck yesterday, and even still, it is an absolute miracle we came out of that game with a tie. I would also argue that the lack of a more defensive midfield hurt us yesterday. Typically we have two DMs in the center and yesterday we had Jacobson and Nak. I am a big fan of Nak and feel he is someone we should keep, but like many Union players the trouble is finding where we put him on the field. His free kicks are the best on the team, but his defensive skills and off the ball movement really make it hard to keep him on the field. Yesterday was another example of why we need a true wide back. You can not blame Harvey for everything yesterday, but the man has to step up sometime. I feel as though the CBs have carried him this year and yesterday Gonzalez could not bare the extra load and it showed. Knighton has shown clearly that the Union also need a veteran keeper. Him and Seitz have undeniable talent but the decision making for Seitz and the god awful punches/parries of Knighton scare the shit out of me. With Salinas and Torres as wide midfielders for next year I really feel that the two biggest areas for Union this off season should be a veteran keeper and a more than mediocre left back.

  2. honestly, i thought torres was the player of the game. he seemed like the only one doing things for stretches, he was creative, and had that sick assist. i think you’re rating of le toux is too high. had a pretty ordinary game aside from the goal which was admittedly beautiful.

  3. Ed Farnsworth says:

    How about the young guys getting a chance to show why they deserve to be on the Union next year? Sure, they gave a better showing in the first half than in the second, but still a fairly impressive display against a dangerous team for a group of players that haven’t had much time together outside of the friendlies.

    Torres’ crosses were simply beautiful, the cross to Le Toux, and Le Toux’s finish, world class. And Torres nearly did it again soon after with the cross to Moreno that Moreno kneed just wide.

    Is there any doubt that, when he’s on the field, Torres should be taking corner kicks?

    Mwanga’s chances for rookie of the year seem to be fading.

    Regarding Gonzales, he was crunched in a tackle during the first half and was visibly playing with pain after that, even before the collision with Ching in the second. He’s not the quickest guy on the pitch in the best of times but his experience, positioning and size usually provide him with some cover. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn he picked up some kind of injury – it looked like a pulled about a roll of tape’s worth of wrapping from his lower right leg shortly after the start of the second half.

    Memories of good play, particularly from earlier in the season, have prevented me from being too critical of Harvey, but he really was terrible on Saturday, getting burned on defense and turning the ball over cheaply on offense. At some point in the game, the people around where I sit at PPL started shouting “Don’t pass it to Harvey.”

    Orozco Fiscal’s tackle on Oduro was a thing of real beauty. The Torres-Le Toux connection may have been the play of the day, but that tackle takes my vote for save of the day.

    By the way, was that not some of the worst officiating you have ever seen? I know MLS refs are not particularly noted for their level of skill, but that match official was just terrible. Terrible.

  4. I was disappointed when the foul on Le Toux did not make the highlight reel. What I saw was the defender wrap two arms around Le Toux as the Frenchman took the ball past him, and drag him down. When the whistle indicated a foul on Le Toux I jumped out of my seat and yelled a combination or obscenity and inarticulate bellow- but it’s possible I missed a pull or tug from Le Toux from my vantage point. Anybody see that from somewhere beside the near endline?

  5. I saw it, Josh. Typically poor officiating. You usually won’t find that in the highlights though, because the highlights are provided by the league. (I’d make the obvious complaint about bias/cover-up by a PR-conscious league, but honestly, no one else will give you as comprehensive highlights as this, so that balances out.)

    re: Nick — Yeah, Torres was pretty awesome. Can’t disagree there. Sometimes, it’s a coin flip on ratings — do you give a 5 or 6? A 7 or 8? I could use the decimal point system that some use to split the difference, but I find that pretty ridiculous.

  6. Dan what does an MLS referee’s pay look like? Everyone complains about referees in their home nation whether your in England or Italy, but I really and truly believe that our referees went to the Byron Moreno school of reffing. Is it just that they are that bad or is the pay of MLS ref’s just not attractive to a person who is not desperate for a job? I was watching the LA galaxy/Chivas game yesterday just to hope I could see Beckham’s leg snap in half and the refs were horrible. They gave a straight red to a player who had been fouled with a spikes up challenge because apparently when he fell he landed with his feet on the guy that nearly broke his leg. I hate the galaxy with a passion, but even I looked at that as a terrible fuck up.

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