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Match Report: Rapids 1-1 Union

Photo of cheater via FoxSports

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9prThKG3qI&feature=watch_response[/youtube]

Easing six goals into past the hapless Toronto defense is no way to prepare for the rough and tough Colorado Rapids. With a chance to earn their first two match road winning streak, Peter Nowak handed Jack McInerney his first start of the year and rewarded Gabe Farfan with a second straight appearance in the first team.

The Union came out less aggressively than against TFC, with Farfan more recessed into the midfield as part of a 4-4-2 with Nakazawa, Carroll and Mapp.

Nakazawa set piece

Yet it was the visitors who had the first big opportunity of the match. Eyes rolled all over Philly when Sebastien Le Toux ran up to a free kick twenty-three yards from goal. But the Frenchman merely ran over the ball, leaving the shot for Kyle Nakazawa. The in-form midfielder’s curler was acrobatically punched around the post by an airborne Matt Pickens. The Union would not have another shot on goal until the 66th minute.

Mac so close

But while the shots were not on goal, the chances were certainly there for the Union. In the 18th, McInerney dropped a pass to Mapp and threw his hands up when Mapp chose to dribble into the defense rather than loft a Torresball through the right side. Luckily, Mac continued to move and when Carroll won the ball back and popped a ball up to Mapp’s head, the midfielder guided a header behind the defense for McInerney. The teenager reached the ball before Pickens but could only stretch and toe poke over the net with no angle.

It was Mapp’s last meaningful contribution, as a tender hamstring forced him out in the 25th minute.

With a few generous assists from referee Jasen Anno, Colorado crept into the match. The Union’s set piece defense is a well-known weakness at this point, and in the 19th minute Andre Akpan rose above Jordan Harvey to power a header wide of the net.

Defending the free kick

It was Akpan again in the 22nd. Williams handed the striker off to Valdes and Akpan found an inch of space to fire at goal moving sideways at the top of the box. His near post strike was full of pace and movement, and Mondragon did well to push it wide.

Le Toux’s struggles continue

Nakazawa has relished his more advanced midfield role, and he pushed forward in the 29th before cutting back to an active McInerney. Mac’s perfectly weighted ball split the defense and found Le Toux in alone. His first touch was not vintage stuff though, and Pickens was off his line in a flash to snatch the ball from Le Toux’s feet.

More set piece trouble for the visitors in the 40th after a questionable corner kick decision led to a fantastic opportunity for Rapids defender Drew Moor. Moor won the initial corner but the ball bounced wide of the net and Conor Casey had to leap and half volley to put it back across goal. Drew Moor was unmarked in front but he couldn’t keep his header down and it looped over the bar.

Conor Casey had the last good chance of the first half when he peeled away from Danny Califf and dove to meet an early cross. Again, Colorado could not find the target on a free header, however, and the Union were off the hook.

As the teams stretched their legs in the second half, it was Jack McInerney again making an impression with his movement and passing. Colorado was backing off the striker in deference to his speed. A one-two with Le Toux released McInerney up the left and he bounced a cross to Garfan’s feet. Colorado quickly cleared, but Sheanon Williams stepped up to a volley and sent the ball just wide of the far post.

Over the next few minutes it looked just a matter of time until the Union broke through. The number of brilliant final passes to create opportunities was encouraging; the missed chances were many.

Open net for Daniel

In the 53rd, Keon Daniel had a chance to open his account when Gabe Farfan laid a ball behind the defense like an Olympic curler. Daniel streaked in far post but leaned back and lifted his shot well over the open net.

Notably, it was McInerney’s sumptuous feed that released Garfan up the right wing. One is left to wonder why the teenager was removed for Danny Mwanga five minutes later. Not that anybody should root against a Danny Mwanga sighting.

Mastroeni hurls self to ground

But if the McInerney sub is a mystery, the penalty called on Danny Califf in the 63rd minute is worthy of Agatha Christie.

Pablo Mastroeni is listed at 5’10” and 190 pounds. Maybe the rocky mountain air had an extreme effect on his balance, because he developed a sudden case of vertigo and collapsed in a heap as soon as he felt Danny Califf on his shoulder. The referee, clearly a fan of Michael Bay movies, decided that if nobody was going to create fireworks naturally, he would just insert them at random by pointing to the penalty spot. It was a truly awful decision considering how well the ref was positioned on the play. As far as dives go, Mastroeni’s performance was about as amateur as a professional player can get.

Conor Casey dinked the penalty up the middle, a lame shot that probably won him an extra pack of Oreos.

The disconsolate Union needed magic.

They got Mwagic (yeah, I said it).

Ohhh Danny Mwanga

The Union’s second shot on goal was a beauty. Receiving a ball from Le Toux, Mwanga executed a deft turn to the middle of the pitch and lasered a shot into the left side netting. It was the finish of a natural striker. Drew Moor dropped off and gave Mwanga more than enough space to make his decision simple. The blast require no run up or thought. It was a turn-touch-shoot moment that underlined the number of tools in Mwanga’s impressive arsenal.

The goal was Mwanga’s fourth of the year and the Union’s sixth from outside of the box.

In the 80th, the Union again had their defense tested by a Drew Moor header. The ball came in from the right and Moor had to twist his body to put the ball near Mondragon. Again, the defender could not find the net and the shaky Philadelphia aerial defense was let off the hook.

Mwanga had the last chance of the night when he tried a snap shot off a loose ball from a Williams’ cross. It was blocked by the defense and the Union left with a hard won but perhaps disappointing single point.

Certainly the offense was creative, but the finishing regressed to pre-Toronto levels. Fans will be pleased to see the strikers working extremely well together, even if Le Toux doesn’t have the genius touch of 2010.

The Union return home this Saturday for a showdown against the only team with fewer goals allowed than them—Real Salt Lake. Breaking down the RSL defense will take great understanding between strikers. The signs were promising on Saturday, but better finishing will be required against an RSL team with the only positive away record in MLS.

6 Comments

  1. I think this is a point Union fans can accept gladly. While we squandered any number of chances, so did Colorado.

    Someone also needs to comment on Nowak’s decision not to start Mwanga. Maybe the coach wanted the Congolese’s energy as a spark, and maybe he feared benching Le Toux would only further the confidence/form problems of last year’s star. Surely Mac looked like he deserved the start. Regarding this possible rationale, I wonder at what point does Nowak say to himself that the team’s success if more important than our beloved Le Toux finding his form?
    It seems, with his scoring on his first or second touch, that Mwanga is the best finishing option on the Union. He has the most goals, and around half the minutes of Le Toux or Ruiz, meaning he scores at over twice the rate of them (combined). In fact, given the options, I’d put Danny up there by himself, and insert an extra midfielder right now, just based on the talent that is there. You have the Farfans, Mapp, Daniels, Nak, and Carroll, not to mention Torres. If you put Torres and Mwanga together, you get Torrid Mwagic.

    • Just checked myself and I was off in my numbers. Mwanga has 611 minutes, Le Toux has 1080, and Ruiz has 806. It is still fair to say he is far more prolific than the other strikers.

  2. Le Toux needs to go back to his Nike footwear…Those adidas cleats have not helped him one bit…

  3. PhillyHotspur says:

    All and All….pretty fair result. The U definitely had the better of possession and chances via that possession. While, those Rapids had a # of chances mostly in the air that were awfully close.

    I’m a big fan of Le Toux and believe in him….So I’m willing to see if he can turn his form around. But, if by early July we continue to see the same, he should definitely be moved to the bench.

    And, while it was a soft PK, Califf needs to recognize that he can have no arm on a player while in possession in the box…..plain and simple. So califf is just as responsible as the zebra for that weak call.

    And, no Fat Chooch………..back to back games of productive and entertaining futbol…….And, isn’t nice to have two forwards who actually are constantly moving out on the pitch to promote better linkage w/ the MF ??

    Lastly……….Loooool on the oreo reference and Casey’s pathetic PK. what a pitiful PK attempt for a guy who has zero talent……

    All and All……….solid game for sure and for the most part, fair result. Danny should be starting……..Nowak – You know it, I know it and most of all …….the fans know it. GS

  4. On another note..

    Did you see their Supporters Section ?

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  5. Pingback: Union v Colorado quick reference

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