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Sunday morning manager: Union at DC

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Who do you think is more disappointed with Saturday’s 2–2 draw, DC United or the Philadelphia Union? For the second match in a row, the Union have shown they have the fortitude to come from behind and, if not secure maximum points as they did at home against Chivas, at least secure a point against tough, conference opposition on the road.

But as always, after a match—win, lose or draw—questions come to mind. Below are some questions to ponder over the holiday weekend. Feel free to include your own below.

The Questions

The obvious

How do we keep going behind to these teams?

The Union are showing they can come from behind. That should be the positive message, right?


Apparently finding his form, is he The Man?


Can you imagine a starting lineup without the pressure that Le Toux creates?

Seba’s touch has improved but the curse still remains when it comes to his finishing. What animal would be best sacrificed to appease whatever deity it is that he has obviously displeased, or is it simply a matter of finding the appropriate incantation?

Why is Le Toux still taking free kicks and/or corners?


The supersub role then it is, right?


Is Carlos Valdes experiencing a dip in form or is he simply human?

The Dragon

On that second goal, ought he have done better?


Can Harvey offer reliably decent service into the box?

Can Jordan Harvey work with Justin Mapp?

If not Harvey, then who?


Will the real Paunovic please stand up?


Remember them? Nice to see one of them back. Why are they used so sparingly (see last question).

Build-up play

Why is it that, for long stretches of play, the ball is delivered over top of the midfield rather than through the midfield? What happened to possession when so much forward movement seems to be based on hopeful fifty/fifty balls?

Left mid

Mapp versus Keon Daniel? Who should start at left midfield?

Where are the runs?

Service into the box, good or bad, what’s the point if the service isn’t met with hard runs?

Who are the Union?

Can we agree that it is the Union’s defense that keeps them in games? If so, are the Union a still incomplete, mediocre team overall that is punching above their weight thanks to great defensive organization, and, if so, is it time to start being we more realistic about their ultimate chances this season?

Or, are they a team that is a crafty transfer window pickup or two away from becoming the force of nature we have seen glimpses of throughout the season?

The comment section is open.


  1. Did Paunovic ever actually move with the ball yesterday? Or at all? It seems that if he gets it, he either drops a long-ball in or passes right back to whoever passed it to him.

    Since putting him in, the long-ball game from early in the season seems to at least work somewhat better, but I wonder if that’s what the team needs vs someone like Marfan or Naka in at CAM.

    Also, Le Toux in the midfield seems to make the most of him, but means you have three players (Farfans, Daniel) who deserve more time on the outside, it makes things rough. Le Toux also, for what it’s worth, seems to not link up as well with Williams as just about anyone else they’ve thrown in there. On the flip side, whoever is playing up front with Ruiz, with the exception of Jack Mac who had a number of chances against KC and Chivas, doesn’t seem to do very much.

    I don’t think you can or should take Mapp out. It seems every time the offense gets going, he’s the spark behind it.

    I’d love to see a lineup like:
    Mondragon – G. Farfan Califf Valdes Williams – Mapp Carroll Nakazawa M. Farfan – Le Toux Ruiz

    It’s roughly the same lineup as they had about a month ago when the offense was moving well, rather than playing over the top all the time.

    Now, this won’t happen because by signing Paunovic then starting him every game, I think Nowak showed that he prefers the over-the-top game, but it’s worth dreaming.

    • After watching the reserve game this morning, I can tell you confidentially that Nakazawa (captain this morning) is no Caroll, nor is he a Farfan/Torres. If there’s a solution at CAM or CDM, it isn’t him yet (still just a 2nd year player though). Bright side of 4-1 loss though: Amobi looked real good at center back as he played there in the 2nd half. Also, in both MLS games as well as this reserve game, Keon Daniel’s absence from the starting lineup is hard to fathom.

  2. Should have used a live chicken

  3. Passing in the offensive third – As has been written about at great length, the Union’s defensive shape, communication, and passing have improved markedly this season. This game, Carroll and Paunovic connected the defense to the offense well and made themselves visible and useful in getting the ball into the offensive third. Once the ball was there however, we just kept giving it away. Passes to nobody, weak dribblers when the ball needed to be moved crisply, largely straight forward or lofted entry passes when we’ve had much greater success with diagonal balls on the ground. I’m not comparing the Union to any of these teams, and we don’t have those players, but the U need to spend some time watching the Argentina NT, Mexico in the Gold Cup, or Barcelona, in general, and how they attack the final third. We don’t need to “be” those teams, nor do I wish to be, but there’s a lack of creativity, a lack of angular runs, and a general lack of purpose once we get the ball to about 30 yards away. If we aren’t going to be decisive in the final third, then we need to take better care of the ball and put a greater emphasis on possession and forcing mistakes on defense. Right now, we are stretching ourselves out, giving the ball away, and inviting the counter.

  4. There is almost no mid-field. The over the top game is not going to do it forever. The fifty-fifty balls are not the solution to a deeply rooted problem. Lucky is not always gonna be on their side. They need to add some class to the mid-field otherwise the team overall doesn’t appear … well … professional.

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