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Speed-ranting: 11 thoughts for Matchday 11

As the Union prepare for Saturday’s showdown with Toronto FC at BMO Field there are plenty of positives to build on from the 2-1 victory over Chicago that saw the Union rise to the top of the Eastern Conference standings. Reading the buzz about the Union from this and other sites dedicated to the U, the following discussion attempts to identify and elaborate on the key issues in the minds of the Union faithful. Feel free to jump in on any one topic, or add a new one to the list.

More burden will fall on Le Toux with Ruiz away

1. Last chance to rest Le Toux.

With Carlos Ruiz departing for national team duty for Guatemala following this weekend’s fixture in Toronto, Saturday represents the last reasonable chance to rest Sebastien Le Toux for sometime. Le Toux’s struggles this season have been well documented and, with the expectations weighing even more heavily on the Union No. 9 once Ruiz has gone, a game off to rest and reflect from the bench might be just what the doctor ordered for the struggling hitman. News that Danny Mwanga has recovered from a slight hamstring knock would allow Ruiz and Mwanga to partner up top before Le Toux is thrust back into the spotlight next week in Colorado.

2. Meet Veljko Paunovic.

This signing has equal potential to be a blessing or a curse. Paunovic last played professional soccer in 2008. After trialling with the Red Bulls in 2009, Paunovic decided to give MLS a miss.

For the last three years, reports are that Paunovic has been coaching youth players and keeping fit by playing in an adult indoor soccer league, which, come to think of it, is the same thing I’ve been doing during that period. I do not deserve any time on the pitch for the Union and neither does Paunovic.

If his signing is intended to bring a veteran presence into camp to coach and work with the four young Union strikers, (Mwanga, McInerney, Agorsor and Houapeu) who are all age 20 and below, then brilliant. But, some have postulated that Paunovic’s signing comes to cover Ruiz’s absence on the pitch. That, if it is true, is very bad news for this team. Without El Pescadito, Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga should play the lion’s share of the minutes with Jack McInerney providing the spark off the bench. If Paunovic even once rises above any of those three players on the depth chart, then the Union coaching staff has made a tremendous error in judgement.

3. Peter’s World < The Cone of Silence

The Union’s attempts at secrecy are embarrassing. As of this writing, the Union have yet to acknowledge the Paunovic signing in any way.  Meanwhile, multiple credible media outlets, as well the player himself, have. As it did with this past summer’s acquisitions and departures, the Union have made a calamitous mess of things. Breaking news first allows an organization to control a story from a position of strength.  Remaining silent, while everyone else airs your laundry in the press depicts a weak franchise who cannot control its affairs behind closed doors. Either issue a gag order on every one involved with the Union or learn the lesson that a little, controlled transparency is a GOOD thing.

4. Seriously, where is Michael Orozco Fiscal?

This isn’t even about soccer anymore, I’m just worried about him. Wikipedia can’t even pinpoint his whereabouts. Michael, if you’re out there, we’re worried about you, let us know you’re alright.

5. Carroll’s Show

Anyone who reads my writing knows of my unabashed affection for Amobi Okugo. I think the kid has the skills, athleticism and the chops to be a great player. But the news that his ankle injury will require a three week spell on the bench sets the table for a more aggressive Union formation over the next few weeks. When Okugo went down early against Chicago, Carroll had a very strong game dictating the play as the solitary holding player. Against better teams, Carroll will have to step his game up even further, adding smart, strong service to the wings and forwards in addition to the ball-winning and leadership he already brings to the side. And please don’t get hurt.

6. Marfan, the man

I get that it was only one game. I get that Chicago provided very weak opposition. But, Michael Farfan’s performance against the Fire offered more quality service, guile and attacking play than we have seen from any player in the Union midfield, arguably including last year. So I’m going to get pretty excited about it. Deal with it.

The idea that after months of clambering for the Union to acquire an attacking center midfielder, we may have found the missing link within our own roster should make fans ecstatic. Now all we can do is sit back and enjoy watching the next steps in Marfan’s development, all while hoping that Peter Nowak continues to give him the opportunities to drive the offense forward in upcoming fixtures.

Try the other foot, Lefty

7. One less touch please. One more foot.

Despite flashes of genuine quality, Justin Mapp continues to leave Union fans tearing at their hair.  One second he accelerates through the midfield, eating up 30, 40, 50 yards on the fly. The next, he dribbles headlong into traffic, killing a promising move and causing havoc for the defenders who must defend the ensuing counterattack behind him. One second he gracefully traps a cross and delivers an inch perfect cross, while the next he uses just his left peg to dribble in a complete circle before using the same hoof to direct a pass directly to the opposition.

Never before in my soccer supporting life have I seen a player so unapologetically one-sided as Mapp. He does not even want to dribble with that right foot and, while his tendency to hold the ball two or three touches too long is frustrating, his monopodal approach to the game makes him far too easy to mark out of a game.


8. The best right side in MLS

The partnership developing on the right side of the Union defense is something special. Both Carlos Valdes and Sheanon Williams are in their first full seasons in MLS and yet are already clear candidates for the All-Star team. Not only do both possess excellent pace, technique, athleticism and vision, but the chemistry they have developed is second to none. As Chicago learned on Saturday, teams better look to attack the Union on our left flank, because the right one is closed for business.

9. Spread the word

We at the PSP, as well as many of you out there, are more than a little pissed that the Valdes-Williams ticket is not receiving more press around the league. That just means that it is up to us to go out there and drum up the support and recognition ourselves. Be it goal.com or soccernet, mlssoccer.com or one of the other national soccer sites, it’s time that we spread the word so that our less informed counterparts in other cities can begin to understand that which we in Philadelphia already know:

Carlos Valdes and Sheanon Williams are the best players at their positions in the league. Period.

With a name like Sheanon, it has to be good!

10. Where are the reinforcements?

With a roster still light in a number of positions, it is time for the Union to make the necessary acquisitions to strengthen a team that is pushing to be a playoff contender.  In the most recent reserve league match against DC, the Union back four consisted of Juan Diego Gonzalez, Marfan, Garfan and Ryan Richter.  Marfan has already staked a claim to playing time further up the field, Richter was also an attacking specialist in college and though Gonzalez is the only recognized defender who is not in the starting lineup, he has not shown well enough to even make the bench this season.  Rather than attempt to convert players, purely out of a need for defensive cover, why not go out and procure the correct pieces that were promised to the fan base?

When they passed on Benny Feilhaber, the Union brass again intimated that changes were coming. So? What’s the deal? The Union need, at minimum, a center back, an outside back and at least one more veteran, attacking-minded midfield player. Where are these mystery players? Who will they be?

11. Time to hand out a hiding

The Union are the best team in the Eastern Conference. Need proof? I will direct you to the league table. And while the early season results were knock down, drag out, 1-0 affairs, its time for the Union to warm to their current standing and go into matches with the swagger and confidence of a team that knows that they are going to bury more chances than their opponents.

Sure, Toronto is a tough place to play, but when you are as superior to your opponent as the Union are to Toronto, it’s time to take the gloves off and treat Toronto to an old-fashioned beating.

What is there to lose?

On the road, already atop the conference, why not go for the gusto from the opening whistle and then make the result stand up by pressing for a second. A third. A fourth?

In closing: UNION 4 – TORONTO 0.

You heard it here first.



epstorch@phillysoccerpage.com (Photo: Paul Rudderow)


  1. The league table shows RBNY ahead of the Union which, I presume, is based on goal differential. Need proof? http://www.mlssoccer.com/standings 😉

  2. Earl Gardner says:

    I’m confused about #10. Sheanon has not played a single minute in the Reserve League.

    • @Earl. Please accept my humblest apologies. Complete and utter mind cramp on my part. It has been fixed. Thank you.

  3. @AD22 – which is confusing since the first tiebreaker in MLS standings is –
    The highest position shall be awarded to the team with the better win/loss record in current regular season games against all other teams equal in points. (head-to-head competition)
    With GD being the second tiebreaker, so MLS is actually incorrect in their standings according to the rules posted here:

    Just saying.

    • They – The Red Bulls – have played one more game than us, that’s why they’re in first. It doesn’t necessarily make any sense, but in the end it shouldn’t matter since with a win we could be 3 points ahead and even on games.

  4. 3-0 at halftime. You’re starting to look like Nostradaum….

  5. Matt Mitchell says:

    >>One less touch please. One more foot.

    The Ron Flockhart of soccer.

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