Featured / Local / Union

Give me fantasy or give me death!

Soccer is a business. And like most businesses, it’s about results. More wins lead to more points lead to more fans lead to more revenue. I can understand this. Romanticism gives way to pragmatism. I can understand that.

Last year’s Union didn’t always get the results. However, the 2010 Philadelphia Union were very much an un-MLS side. They created little triangles all over the field. They kept the ball on the deck. They passed their way out of danger. In short, they played attractive soccer. They created chances and, with the help of Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga, even finished some. Sure, at times they looked completely inept in the back and Seitzy made more than his fair share of howlers, but they were mostly entertaining.

Doop 2.0 on the other hand, so far, not so much.

I know, I know…they were away and three points on the road surely can’t be cause for complaint. But am I the only one thoroughly underwhelmed and left wanting more?

I was greatly encouraged in the offseason by the signing of Columbus Crew midfielder, Brian Carroll, a player with a big engine and a wealth of MLS experience. However, after week one I can’t help but wonder if this is just another player in the Miglioranzi mold—a guy who looks great passing the ball backwards and sideways but never really scares anyone going forward.

If Barcelona v. Inter last year in the Champions League taught us anything it’s that possession without penetration is just masturbation.

Setting up with two holding midfielders seems to be the modus operandi of Piotr Nowak. Against the Houston Dynamo, the Union effectively employed three with the aforementioned Carroll and Migs joining Kyle Nakazawa in the center of the park. With Mapp failing to get any chalk on his boots and tucking inside, the center of midfield was hopelessly clogged. El Pescadito, admittedly much fitter than the last time he appeared on these shores, didn’t have the dynamism required to sufficiently trouble Houston’s back line. With the superb Brad Davis keeping Sheanon Williams in check all evening, the Union were nonexistent in the final third.

The introduction of Danny Mwanga on the hour mark and a tactical shift from the manager injected a bit more life into the game but failed to result in any meaningful chances. It was a bit more adventurous from Nowak but what about all the preseason talk of allowing players to express themselves or the quote about wanting his players to not be afraid to “dribble out of trouble”?

It was a clusterf*ck in midfield, an aging relic spearheading the attack and a fortuitous goal off a long throw. Where is the fantasy? The spectacle? Yes, it’s a results business but it’s also an entertainment business.

The two players I will always pay to see play are Xavi Hernandez and Paul Scholes. Sure, nothing gets the pulses racing like Lionel Messi carving up defenders on labyrinthine run or gets you out of your seat like that Wayne Rooney overhead kick against City. But for me, it’s the sheer class and elegance of a deep-lying playmaker, a maestro pulling the strings, picking out the pass that no one else sees that makes the beautiful game just that.

Where is he in the Union side? Exiled to the bench.

His name is Roger Torres.

12 Comments

  1. I hope you enjoyed getting that out of your system, cause tomorrow you’re gonna wake up in Nowak’s trunk. Despite the likelihood that I’m already doomed to join you there, I will agree heartily on this matter.

  2. Guys – does anybody remember how long it took us to earn a shutout last season? (Hint: Not. Spring.) How about number of goals scored by a defender? (3, 2 by OF)

    To a man, every Union player and coach said the same thing about the Dynamo: They like to get the ball wide and cross it in. Playing 2 deep mids against that system is highly recommended.

    Carroll has always played with a playmaker in front of him. Expecting him to launch attacks out of the back is misguided. He knows his role and he’s typically been very good at it. That playmaker? He doesn’t exist yet on the Union.

    If Torres or Nakazawa were on another team, all of us wouldn’t know their names. We act like they’ve proven something they haven’t. We just follow the team with such fervor that we believe these guys are being held back when, honestly, maybe they just aren’t there yet. They’re young.

    Guys like Xavi and Scholes are exceedingly rare. The closest the US national team has ever had in my life is Claudio Reyna. Maybe Stu Holden is closing in.

    But goodness gracious! The Mwanga snub was a no good, terrible, very bad decision. The clogged midfield though? That’s how Barcelona plays! But they do it with World Cup/Euro champion players. We don’t have those guys, but that doesn’t mean we can’t applaud the Union’s attempt to play possession soccer. They weren’t that good at it last year and they weren’t that good at it Saturday, but at least they tried.

    Take the three points. It’s the first game of the season and we shut out a team that hadn’t thrown up a round number since early July. Any fan of this season’s Manchester United team should be proud of that Union performance.

    • I believe Torres is that playmaker.

      I’ll take the three points. But I’m not a fan of Man Utd’s team this season. And when I posted this I had them in mind somewhat (Michael Carrick=Stefani Miglioranzi), but even more so their city rivals who spent 250 million to play for draws.

      So while I’m happy with the result, I’m not satisfied. Soccer is about pleasure. It’s about enjoying yourself. It’s about expression. Did it look like that last Saturday?

      By the way, has Le Toux ever looked that anemic?

      I’ll chalk week one up to an away-from-home-risk-averse strategy. But I want to go for the jugular tomorrow and get my DOOP on!

      Also, Adam- why is it necessarily a good thing that a defender scores? Should we be encouraged that our strikers and mids barely mustered a shot on goal while our centerback bungled one over the line from inside the 6?

      • Re: Defenders scoring – I’m just looking at the positives. There is no doubt that the Union beat the field with an ugly stick for 90 minutes, but they also showed that when a metaphorical Juskelainen drops a ball at their feet, they can turn it into a win in ways they didn’t last year.

        The Union’s offense looked worse than my attempt at making falafel, but I thought they still tried to play possession soccer. Ruiz wearing the new Nike Air Brick cleats and Nakazawa passing like he was playing Angry Birds at 2am in the cab ride home didn’t help much.

        But playing two rough and tough middies against a team that wants to cause havoc in the box? I can’t fault that.

        And if the Union keep playing like they did last Saturday, I will personally steal into the PSPs archive and republish this article in early May.

      • Fatality, Adam wins.

        We all seem to be in agreement, but I just created some audible laughter in my office.

        Brilliant.

  3. If Roger does not start on Saturday the SOBs need to start a Torres chant until Nowak puts him on, since if we say DOOP we have to pay the Union 5 dollars each.

  4. Adam just dumped a cold bucket of reality onto an inspiring plea for more exciting soccer. I can’t figure out who I agree with more. Call me insane, but I kind of like the more dynamic, offensive, positive soccer that results in a terrible record. Something about seeing a team go down swinging is more honorable than taking points home in a boring way.

  5. torres has shown he’s got skills and great potential. i don’t think he’s a finished product yet but he’s the most creative player in the midfield by far. i’d like him in there.

  6. Excellent reply Adam. I’m with you for the most part. I’ll accept Ryan’s concerns if they are still occuring a month from now, but I don’t believe the Union have ditched their dynamic, attacking style just because they were incompetent at it one time in a game where they were protecting a lead for almost the entire duration.

  7. Adam. Your consistent smarts and logic annoy me. It’s all correct, what you’ve said, but something still feels off.

    When you’re driving down the highway and you start to drift into the other lane, you dont grab the wheel with both hands and spin it as hard as you can. You make small corrections.

    I think a lot of the trepidation we feel about this team stems from the fact that its almost 50% new faces. A new goalkeeper and a new centerback, fine. Beautiful. That’s a small correction. But throwing out soooo many players and changing everything up doesn’t necessarily give fans the confidence that the team can go back to a strong, possession game, or that they even want to. With Amobi Okugo on international duty and Migs clearly struggling, how good would Andrew Jacobsen look slid in next to Brian Carroll?

    Nobody’s jumping off the bandwagon, far from it, but I refuse to acknowledge that the 1-0 victory was a stroke of managerial genius. The team looked poor and under-prepared, and they got their butts saved by some excellent play from Mondragon and the centerbacks.

  8. Well if Torres is a starter we don’t get to chant “Rog-er Tor-res (clap, clap, clap clap clap)…” like we can when he subs in to show us how the beautiful game should look.

  9. Pingback: CyberShotz:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*