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Sunday morning manager: Crew 2-1 Union

When PSP runs our live commentary during away matches, we get lots of interesting comments and questions from readers. We take those comments and try to put together a list of questions that get to the heart of what Union fans want to know about the team.

The Question: Is it time to bid adieu to the diamond midfield, or are the Union’s problems with shape and possession a personnel instead of a tactical issue? And what’s up with Mapp and Migs in the lineup?

Comment from DTrain: I’m glad you guys are running [a live chat], because after seeing the U’s lineup, I need someone to talk me off the ledge. Please help.

Comment from Greg O.: Unhappy that Amobi isn’t start…

Comment from Andrew: i think everyone is unhappy amobi isnt starting and that mapp and migz are. Completely agree on adu. we should be playing a diamond with adu ahead of okugo/carroll. also, how does mapp manage to start every week?

In it’s current incarnation, the 4-1-3-2 is essentially a 4-1-4-1, with one midfielder posted deep and one striker posted high. The other four offensive players buzz around the formation like angry bees. One of the issues with this system is that it developed in response to Carlos Ruiz’s tough start in Philly. The 4-1-4-1 allowed Ruiz to stay high and gave his partner more defensive responsibilities. Instead of asking the strikers to hunt as a pair, one striker drifted deep and spearheaded the defensive formation alongside the offensive middie. Although Mwanga showed glimpses of good hold up play last night, one wonders whether he and Le Toux would be more comfortable in a traditional 4-4-2 where they can work as a line together.

The other issue, of course, is Amobi Okugo. Since his run in the first team ended with a freak ankle injury, the young midfielder has seen his place in the pecking order drop to where he is below Stefani Miglioranizi, a player whose best games this season have all come as a center back. We all complain about Amobi’s low minutes total, so can anyone think of a logical justification for it? Or are we stumped?

Finally, Justin Mapp continues to leech minutes from Michael Farfan. The argument here is not “Marfan rocks, Mapp sucks.” Instead, it’s that Marfan is obviously in form right now and we can all clearly see that Mapp is not. He has truckloads of ability and isn’t using them right now. At this point, defenses are just letting him run at them and waiting for the inevitable extra touch that allows them to get a foot in. Would a brief run in the reserves help?

The Question: What is the best place for Paunovic? He has picked up the scoring load is Ruiz’s absence but as long as he’s in the middle of the pitch, Freddy Adu will remain a winger and a non-factor.

Comment from MikeRSoccer: Paun has done something in the last couple of weeks that very few people on the team are willing to do…..shoot. Chicago etc.

Comment from RFCSean: PAUNSTAR!!!!

Love him or hate him, Veljko Paunovic has done as much as anyone to earn his spot in the starting eleven. Whether he has earned a full ninety week after week is more debatable, but clearly The Strikah from Strumica is filling a need right now. Can the Union operate with Paunovic and Adu on the field at the same time? It appears both players are most comfortable in a defense-free attacking midfield role. Paunovic is the only Union player to win aerial battles with consistency but Adu could bring a more continually involved presence to the offense.

The Question: What will it take for Le Toux to get tossed off of set piece duty?

Comment From Nat: Daniel takes corner kicks forever!!!!!

Comment From DTrain: Apparently, someone other than Seba CAN take corners!

Comment From RFCSean: Seba to be banned from corner kicks. Nice service from Neon Keon.

There are a number of ways to approach this question. First, the best set piece takers should be over the ball every time. Is Le Toux in the top two or three on the team? Given what we’ve seen from Daniel and Nakazawa, and what we know about Adu, Le Toux probably isn’t on this list. Second, on a small team, should a 6’0″ striker be over the ball or in the mixer? Judging from the number of goals the Union have off set pieces this season, the answer here is self-evident.

Third, just look at the evidence. Le Toux on set pieces is this year’s Seitz in goal. Dead balls are incredibly dangerous and even small teams can find ways to make them count. The Union have just not done that this season and something should change. Robbie Keane’s first goal for the Galaxy was that team’s 14th goal off a set piece this season. Set pieces are like special teams in football or power plays in hockey. They’re the little thing that can very quickly change the balance of a match.

The Question: The young guys that looked to be franchise cornerstones are currently bench players or 60 minute guys. Is this just a stage in their development? Has the push for points pushed their growth to the back burner?

Comment From DTrain: Predicted subs: Adu for Mwanga, Marfan for Daniel, JackMac for Paunovic

Comment From Andrew: as i said before the game, who is ready to sub okugo and adu for mapp and migs? anything change?

Mwanga, McInerney, Okugo, Michael Farfan and Roger Torres have seen veterans brought in to their positions over the past year. At this stage in their careers, are these guys where they should be? How has the coaching staff handled their development?

The Question: In what world was that a handball?

Comment From Nat: No way that’s EVER a penalty

Comment From Pahotspur: Exactly when did the intent aspect of handball disappear from the rule book?

Referees, and MLS refs in particular, are usually reluctant to call a handball on a cross unless the arm is clearly away from the body. In this case… wow. From slightly behind the play, the ref decided that Sheanon Williams had blocked a cross with an arm. There isn’t much more to say here. Is it just a case of bad luck, or was that an awful call?

The Question: Who should replace Valdes in the back against New England?

PSP Mike: Valdes called for a foul on Ekpo. Looks like a dive. He’s yellow carded an he’ll miss out on the NE game next week.

Miglioranzi? Gonzalez? Williams? Okugo? Adu?


  1. My semi-sarcastic comment about the subs turned out to be pretty darn close, so I’m going to take a shot at predicting Valdes’s replacement. It’ll be either Migs or Sheannon Williams will move inside with Marfan taking his spot.

  2. okuuuuuuugo at cdm with migz at cb. i actually like migz there. that should be his new position. bench and reserve cb.

    • I don’t mind Migs at CB with Amobi in a holding midfield role. When asked to deputize in the backline, Migs has been serviceable. Also wondering if a game off might actually be good for Valdes. The back four looked very fatigued v. the Crew and resting them maybe key to future success.

  3. I totally love the youth question. Going into this season I was pleased to know we had youth on our side and I couldn’t wait to see it grow. Bringing in Ruiz and Paunovic ruined that for me.

  4. Explain how this matches last nights call:

    “For a handball infraction to be called, a player must deliberately handle the ball with their hand or arm. A referee must determine if the player intentionally handled the ball. Nowhere in the FIFA Laws of the Game does it state that an unintentional handling of the ball is an infraction. So if a player has their back turned to a crossed ball that hits their hand, there is good reason to believe that it is not a handball. Even if a player gains an advantage after touching the ball with their hand, it is not a handball if the handling was unintentional.”

  5. MikeRSoccer says:

    I was going to comment on the line up and maybe say something like trying Paun out as a striker, but than I remembered that Nowak/Hackworth don’t use logic when developing the game plan. I have been wondering lately if Nowak makes a better director than a game day coach.

  6. Maybe Okugo “deserves” a start, but he rubs me the wrong way. I know he’s a Cali boy, so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, but on Twitter he’s prone to bitch and moan about the city, especially its weather. I get the feeling he’s not happy to be here …

    • That’s a little cynical isn’t it? He’s riding the pine behind a mistake machine who he’s better than in every possible way. He’s a teenager who is being COMPLETELY mismanaged by his club and after meeting him in person, I can say with confidence that you’re unlikely to find a nicer, more respectful kid out there.

  7. I’m not sure of an easy way to find this statistic, because I’m afraid that one would need to scour every match report to come up with the raw numbers. But to me, this league is very much predicated on the set piece. I was creating tactical summaries of this league, and it’s much more difficult than the Premier League or Champions League because open play tactical victories rarely earn results. In this league, results are earned on the set piece primarily, and nearly as much on blunders and PKs. The tactical discussion is only good to justify victory or lament defeat, or somewhere in the middle.

    So when you have a guy like Sebastien Le Toux pissing away set pieces, you’ve basically cut out one of your most likely scoring avenues in this league. And honestly, if you look early in the season, our bacon was often saved on a huge defensive blunder by an opponent or a marginal penalty drawn.

    Now the alternate argument would be: “Oh, he’s bound to come around one of these times!” Sorry, we’re in crunch time right now. It was fine to ride out this Le Toux storm when we were gaining results. We’ve struggled too long, we can’t be pissing away opportunities anymore.

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