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1-0 loss to USL debutante Orlando

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union and Donald Montague

On Saturday night, despite the loud presence of a Sons of Ben contingent, the Union finished the domestic leg of their preseason on a down note with a 1–0 loss to Orlando City SC. For Orlando—of the USL Pro League, the third division in the American soccer pyramid—it was both their first match and first win since the club was announced in October of 2010.

The match

The course of the game turned on a red card awarded to Carlos Valdes by referee Andrew Chapin in the 19th minute.

According to live text coverage of the match on the Orlando SC website, Valdes took down Orlando’s Max Griffin to prevent a clear goal scoring opportunity. Chapin had originally awarded a penalty kick to Orlando but “the assistant referee correctly noted the foul occurred outside the box.”

After the Union’s win over the University of South Florida, Brian Carroll was quoted on the Union website as saying of starting goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon, “to be honest Faryd [Mondragon] hasn’t had a whole lot of work to do in the games.”

Against Orlando, in what may have been the his first dead ball test, Mondragon came up short against Lewis Neal’s free kick.

After the red card, the Union struggled to to insert their will over the course of the game. Said Kyle Nakazawa, “It was tough going down a man early, trying to play catch up for the rest of the game.”

Nevertheless, Union scoring opportunities were created.

In the 31st minute, Orlando’s Yordanny Alvarez turned the ball over to Danny Mwanga. Mwanga “managed to slice through Orlando’s defense, but the striker’s shot from the top of the box was wide of the near post.”

Minutes later, Sebastien Le Toux’s free kick from 25 yards out was sent over the bar.

In the 43rd minute, Roger Torres connected with Mwanga. His shot from inside the 18 went wide.

Despite these opportunities, the Orlando live coverage noted that “Philly is playing a 3 man back line, and it is resulting in a wide open left wing for Orlando.” A minute before halftime, Orlando’s Jamie Watson headed a cross from six yards out that went just wide.

In the second half, the Orlando live coverage said the Union went “with wholesale changes, typical for a preseason friendly,” adding that “mostly trialists are on the field right now for Philadelphia.”

While exact times are difficult to determine based on the coverage on Orlando’s website, approximately 15 minutes into the half Jack McInerney’s volley from inside the six yard box went over the bar.

Two minutes later, Nakazawa’s shot was saved.

Some ten minutes later, the match commentary notes, “The match has really slowed down with the trailists still feeling their way into the match.”

In the 83rd minute, a Nakazawa one-timer resulted in a near miss from the top of the box.

Just before the end of time, the Union had a final opportunity from a corner but Orlando keeper Sean Kelley was able to punch it away.

The lineup: First half

The Union has not released any information about the lineups used in any of its preseason exhibition games.

Using the Orlando live commentary, photos in the match recap on the Union website, tweets from Union players, along with some guessing, the Union lineup in the first half may have looked like this:

Goalkeeper: Faryd Mondragon (confirmed in the Orlando commentary and by photo in Union recap)

Defense: Carlos Valdes, because he was given a red card. A photo in Union recap shows Danny Califf in the center of the wall. A tweet from Sheanon Williams suggests he played. We assume Jordan Harvey started because that’s what he does.

Midfield: Here’s where things get a little confusing. The photo on the Union website with Califf also shows Brian Carroll, Amobi Okugo and Justin Mapp lined up in the wall, presumably set up against the free kick that led to the Orlando goal. Additionally, the Orlando commentary mentions Kyle Nakazawa. The Union recap also mentions Roger Torres. However, the Orlando commentary makes no mention of any first half substitutions for the Union. So, we are left with at least five Union midfileders in the first half: Carroll, Okugo, Mapp, Torres and Nakazawa.

Forwards: Danny Mwanga is mentioned in the Union recap and the Orlando commentary. Assuming he was playing forward, Sebastien Le Toux is mentioned in the Orlando commentary.

Conclusion: From what can be determined from the various sources, the Union had at least twelve players making appearances in the first half, one of whom was ejected from the game. Perhaps, after the Valdes red card, the Union made a substitution. If so, who came in for whom is unclear. (The Orlando commentary notes an eight minute delay between the awarding of the free kick that led to the goal and the resumption of their coverage: “Apologies for delay, we lost our internet temporarily…While we were gone, a Philadelphia player was red-carded for denying a goal scoring opportunity…On the resulting free kick, Lewis Neal scored the first ever Orlando City goal!” Obviously, the commentator was more excited to write about the first goal in the club’s history than to note whatever changes the Union may have made.)

In the end, to many of the above possibilities are simply guesses.

The line up: the second half

There is very little to go on here. What is certain from mentions in the Orlando commentary is that “wholesale changes” were made, that “mostly trialists are on the field right now for Philadelphia.” Leaving aside the Orlando’s possible lack of knowledge about the Philadelphia roster, what we can know for sure is that Nakazawa and McInerney are mentioned in the commentary for the second half.

Final thoughts

Mondragon tweeted after the match, “sad we lost today, we have to keep on working, awesome to see so many fans who traveled all the way from Philly!!!”

Sheanon Williams tweeted, “Couple off days then back to work things will improve.”

Amobi Okugo tweeted, “Thanks to the fans who came out to support….Greece up next”

This is not the way the Union wanted to end the US leg of their preseason. With no footage available of the foul, it is impossible to say if the referee was justified in awarding a red card to Valdes. It is easy to say, given that the match was an exhibition game, that it was a preseason friendly, the referee should have been content to award a yellow card. After all, this was not a competitive match, it was an exhibition match, and the foul does not appear to have been reckless.

Nevertheless, it must certainly chafe the Union that they continue to not be able to score goals against inferior opposition, at full strength or otherwise, with first team players or with trialists. Aside from Zach Pfeffer’s wonder strike, all of the Union’s preseason goals have come from the same two people who accounted for the vast majority of the club’s offensive production in 2010—Le Toux and Mwanga— and even they have not scored in the last two matches. Given that accurate information about who is actually playing at any given moment in these games is nonexistent—the club is not saying and there appear to be no beat reporters from the professional Philadelphia media with the team—it is difficult to judge the preseason progress of the team. That, dear reader, truly sucks.

Still, the fact remains: No one else has stepped up offensively.

The Union roster currently stands at 23. Some of those remaining seven spots must surely call for experienced and proven attacking talent.

One Comment

  1. Ed Farnsworth says:

    A commentor on the Brotherly Game puts the first half lineup as:
    Mondragon, Okugo, Califf, Valdes, Orozco Fiscal, Torres, Carroll, Nakazawa, Mapp, Le Toux, Mwanga.

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