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Preview: Union vs Energy Drinks

What: Union vs Energy Drinks

When: Sunday, May 13. 12:30PM EST

Where: PPL (For NY fans, it’ll be the stadium with people in it.)

Offenses: NY: 2nd, PHL: 18th

Note: Late Friday, the Union upgraded Zac MacMath’s injury status from “Out” to “Probable.”

The New York Energy Drinks come to PPL park disguised as the 2011 Philadelphia Union. Since Thierry Henry went down with a case of Elderly Leg, New York has popped off a string of 1-0 victories through the creative use of a makeshift back line and Kenny Cooper’s giant forehead.

While every game is important for Philly, this match has a lot of value for the Drinks as well. Almost incredibly, the Union are the hard part of the rest of their May schedule. If they win on Sunday, they can close out the month against Montreal and Chivas and jump out in front of the Eastern Conference. Kansas City faces Colorado and San Jose over the next two weeks, and DC opens BBVA in Houston before welcoming the Rapids.

New look

Aside from losing their star striker, the Drinks have been fielding a revamped back four while Roy Miller recovers from injury and Rafa Marquez battles recurring symptoms of being a terrible human being. Thus far the new guys — Conor Lade, Markus Holgerson, Tyler Ruthven and Brandon Barklage — have pitched zeroes in front of the unspectacular yet consistent Ryan Meara. This is doubly impressive when you add in that Dax McCarty is still feeling out the defensive midfield position and the team’s new 4-5-1 formation has given up a lot of possession to the opponents.

A few quick numbers: Since switching to the 4-5-1 with Cooper as the tip of the spear, New York’s opponents have had 58% of possession. They have outpassed the Drinks at a 527:380 ratio (NY was averaging 503 passes/gm in the 4-4-2). Opponents are dropping 23 crosses in to the Drinks’ seven. And, stunningly, the opposition has an 80% pass completion rate against New York. Yet the boys in back have given up zero goals.

This is unsustainable.

Or is it…

Clearly, New York can’t spend all season giving away space and assuming the ball won’t end up behind Meara. But they might be able to do it against Philly.

Ready to cringe?

The Union attack is 18th in goals, 19th in both shots and shots on goal. The Union’s primary striker, Lionard Pajoy, is tied with last place Toronto’s Ryan Johnson for lowest goals/90min of any forward with at least 700 minutes on the pitch.

Pajoy is scoring .13 goals/90. The next lowest (aside from Johnson), of any striker with at least 700 minutes played, is Portland’s Kris Boyd. At .31 goals/90 minutes. Pajoy has the 44th best goals/90 of all strikers league-wide.  You can keep saying Pajoy’s poor record is due to a lack of service until you’re blue in the face, but until another striker is given a chance, the rest of us will be shaking our heads sadly.

Kenny Cooper has a .91 goals/90 rate. Pajoy leads the league in offsides.

What to do

What does it take to get new blood on the pitch?

New York is going to cede possession. The Union need to recognize this. Matching up to the Drinks’ 4-5-1 with one of our own is playing into their hands. They will happily let the home team dink around the midfield until the boos reign down. So here is a better plan:

4-3-3

This formation should challenge the inexperienced back line of the visitors and force the Union to move up the pitch as a unit. Drop Freddy Adu on the right with Mwanga and Hoffman playing up the middle. The left channel is for long balls; if anyone gets in trouble, drop a ball in the left corner and let the forwards start a high line of defense. Or, if the right back gets sucked inside, let Mwanga chase and hold.

Why these strikers? Because Hoffman is known for his finishing. Because Mwanga is, let’s face it, the best hold-up striker on the team. Because Freddy Adu was very good in the right channel for the U-23s. Oh, and because they want and deserve the chance.

The midfield could be overrun, but that’s why you carry three holding players, right? Okugo and Carroll sitting behind Gavilan will push all attacks wide, where Williams and Gaddis can step up and pressure. Why keep a flat four with only one striker? Valdes and Califf should see Kenny Cooper as a challenge they must win. And they will.

In essence, the Union have to use their formation to announce that they know the Drinks have soft spots. And that this Philadelphia team is going to press on them. Hard.

If New York gives up 80% pass completion, the Union will tear them apart. If they give up 70%, opportunities should still be available. This team – starting with the coaches – has to look in the mirror and say, What we are doing isn’t working. Then they have to put their cards on the table (or their talented players relegated to the bench into the game) and see what exactly they have to work with.

Many people who attended Wednesday night’s win over Schalke saw the exuberant spirit that has been lacking this season. Particularly in the second half, the Union finally seemed like they weren’t playing not to lose.

When New York comes down from New Jersey, you cannot play not to lose. You play to win.

You play to win big.

Lineups

Union

  • GK: Zac MacMath
  • DEF: “Ray gun” Gaddis; Bearfight; El Kaiser; Sheanomenon
  • MID: Amobi “MoGo” Okugo; Brian “Not Andy” Carroll; Gabriel “Not Garfan” Gomez
  • FWD: Freddy “I’m still 22” Adu; Danny “Seriously, I have to be starting now” Mwanga; Chandler “Bing” Hoffman

Drinks

  • GK: Ryan “Punchedface” Meara
  • DEF: Conor “Cantget” Lade; Markus Holgerclosertinydancer; Tyler “The Crime Dog” McRuthven; Brandon “Dogsound” Barklage
  • MID: Dax “…Dax” McCarty; Jan “Jan” Gunnar Solli; Joel “Au pere” Lindpere; Dane “Judy Dench” Richards; “Bless you” Ballouchy
  • FWD: Kenny “FOREHEAD” Cooper

Injuries

Union

  • OUT: MF Roger Torres (L knee surgery recovery); FW Krystian Witkowski (concussion)
  • DOUBTFUL: DF Chris Albright (L big toe sprain)
  • QUESTIONABLE: DF Danny Califf (L hamstring strain)
  • PROBABLE: GK Zac MacMath (concussion symptoms); DF Gabriel Farfan (L hamstring strain) – Probable in the sense that he… won’t show the injury in his suit? The Union have listed Garfan on the injured list ever since his red card. Seems like they’re just poking the league a bit.

Drinks

  •  OUT: FW Jose Angulo (R knee sprain); FW Thierry Henry (R hamstring strain elderly leg); DF Stephen Keel (back strain); DF Wilman Conde (L groin strain); MF Teemu Tainio (R knee sprain)

4 Comments

  1. DarthLos117 says:

    Union offense will awaken and the U will run rampant against the Red Bulls.

  2. Your nicknames are classic…

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