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Major lineup questions ahead of Colorado match

In two days, the Philadelphia Union return to regular season action. Their opponent: The fifth place Colorado Rapids. Or is that the Colorado Rapids, even with the Union on 31 points. Oh needlessly divided MLS standings, how you make confusion out of nothing!

Whatever you call them, the Rapids are a lot to handle. But with their best striker out and Faryd Mondragon playing an active forty-five against Manchester United Wednesday night, should the Union look to young Zac MacMath in goal on Friday?

This is one of three glaring issues the Union need to address before the second half of the season kicks off.

Goaling for broke?

Faryd Mondragon is a deserving All-Star. His influence on the team both in the locker room and on the field is hard to measure. Or maybe not: The Union have allowed 16 goals this season compared to 34 at the same point in 2010 (bonus points to anyone who can tell me how long it took the Union to give up 16 goals last year).

But at age 40, is a 2-day turnaround really the best policy for a keeper that absolutely, positively needs to be healthy come playoff time? All things being equal, The Dragon’s name is etched on the lineup card like a commandment. But things aren’t equal and this is a Friday match against a Western Conference foe with a mid-week game coming up.

Could this be the right time to let Faryd cool his heels?

He’s quick / he’s small / he really wants the ball / Roger Torres

Keon Daniel and Kyle Nakazawa were messes of nerves and mistakes against Real Madrid. But Daniel has been such a consistent performer that his spot in the first eleven should be assured. He is a responsible partner for Gabriel Farfan, and he balances Justin Mapp’s aggressive wanderlust with solid positioning and sensible defensive instincts.

Even with Michael Farfan’s showing against Real Madrid, it will be hard to displace Daniel. Especially since the Union need Marfan as their only cover at outside back.

While Nakazawa may not have played himself out of a job against Madrid, he certainly failed to live up to the high standards Roger Torres set against Everton. And it probably didn’t help that Torres had another strong showing when he was inserted at halftime against the Spanish giants and led the Union’s second half charge.

Torres is far from perfect. But with Brian Carroll in fine form and a sputtering offense, Peter Nowak may be forced to call the miniature playmaker’s name earlier in matches. If only Nakazawa and Torres could play together so the Union had someone to take the free kicks after Jeff Larentowicz bungles through Torres mid-cut.

With Amobi Okugo healthy again, the Union should look to Roger Torres as a viable starting option. At worst, he reverts to a giveaway machine and Okugo enters early in the second half and joins Carroll in shutting down the midfield.

Eeny Meeny Miney Mwanga

Quick show of hands: Who thought Carlos Ruiz was the most impressive striker against Madrid? Seba Le Toux? What about Danny Mwanga? Come now, Peter. I saw you put both hands up for Ruiz. Naughty Nowak.

Danny Mwanga faces a strange task in forcing his way between a strike partnership that has no desire to be a true partnership, yet can’t quite fail enough to fall apart. Individually, Sebastien Le Toux and Carlos Ruiz are having fairly good years. Certainly, you rarely find yourself turning to a friend and commenting on how dangerous either player looks at a given moment, but 7 goals and 7 assists combined is not a terrible return.

Yet here is Mwanga with 5 and 3 himself in 1/3 of the other two strikers’ combined minutes. And there was that small matter of scoring a wicked tying goal as a substitute in Colorado less than two months ago.

Does Mwanga fit into the starting lineup Friday? Common sense says yes, but intuition says no. If Le Toux and Ruiz are healthy they will start above the youngster, but at some point Peter Nowak will get tired of heading up the halftime tunnel down a goal. And Carlos Ruiz – he of the sudden bursts into action – will transition into a spark off the bench.

How do you think the Union should go out on Friday? Is it time to rest Faryd? Will Roger Torres have to start in the midfield before he finally puts something on the walls of his apartment? Will Mwanga remain a late game sub?

9 Comments

  1. Against Mastroeni and Larentowicz, no chance Torres starts. Faryd plays every minute unless he is physically incapable.

    As for Mwanga. He should start. That’s all I can say.

  2. Mondragon will play and Zac should not see any regular season time this year unless Mondragon is hurt…even if he is hurt I’d rather the Union go get someone else over Zac…I’d rather see Seitz play than Zac (just the experience factor)

    Not time for Torres to start against a team like the Rapids.

    Mwanga is best off the bench…What happened last time he started?

    I have changed my tune in regards to Nowak and his decision making…we are in first place and he seems to be the reason why…he knows what he is doing, second year team in first place with a solid starting lineup and depth taboot!

    Cmon the U!!!

    • I understand what your saying bout experience (Los 117) but Seitz…. i kinda puked in my mouth a bit

      • Seitz was just to get my point across…I imagine that if Mondragon went down the U would sign someone out of the pool with more experience immediately.

    • Mwanga is a great young player. Starter or substitute. The work he does when he starts has been strong and he has earned his starts. The best players should start. I understand that he has scored more off the bench, but he is the best striker on this team, therefore he deserves more minutes. That’s my opinion.

  3. I think Marfan should start in the middle over Naka and Torres (or Marfan outside with Daniel in middle). The Union will be better off that way. As for Mwanga, I’d start him up top with Le Toux and bring on Ruiz for Mapp later in the game. That is all.

  4. Los117- Mwanga’s last start was against San Jose in which he had 3 of the teams 9 SOG. That game was a cluster of defensive play in which the Earthquakes had no real scoring opportunities so they focused on jamming up the Union’s attack. Also, 6 of his 9 starts have been on away games where the Union are not as spectacular as they are at home. Finally, his best game of the season was one in which he started against Toronto if you remember. Hope that helps.

    • Helps with what? Convincing me that we should sit either our leading goal scorer or our assist leader? Mwanga scored two goals and had an assist against Toronto when he started. Thats great but Toronto has had 41 goals scored against them this year. The other 3 goals that Mwanga has scored have come from sub appearances (Col, LA, CHV). 2 of his 3 assists have come from sub apearances as well (NE, NY). In 8 out of 9 starts Mwanga has failed to register either an assist or a goal. He is definitely taking shots but he ain’t scoring when he starts other than against Toronto…he should be used as a sub.

  5. I share many of the above sentiments. Ever since the Gold Cup, Ruiz has started to really show up. He’s still more of a poacher, but that nifty little combination he had with Le Toux in the first half against Madrid was one of several plays in which he regained a healthy amount of my trust. I would say Le Toux maybe needs a rest, but I have hard time arguing with his assist numbers.

    Mondragon should probably start unless he is hurt. We’ve had several moments this season where has shown signs of fatigue/injury, but has bounced back with resilience. I don’t want to see MacMath starting unless we absolutely need him.

    People (obviously not PSP readers/writers) seem to forget how terrible Torres is at defending. While I admire his pluck and his dazzling control/speed on the ball, his finishing during the last two friendlies was so painfully predictable. If no one was immediately open, he would rocket it from distance. Granted, these were friendlies and he’d probably be less inclined to be so impatient during a league match. However, he always just seems really jumpy. If he were to show just a little more patience and composure, he’d be a starter for sure.

    /2cents

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