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Winners & losers: Union preseason Matchday 1

Photo: Courtesy of Orlando City SC

Let’s all say it together.

“It was just one match.”

And again.

“It was just one match.”

Better? Good.

The Union “first” team certainly did fail to inspire in their preseason opener against Orlando City on Saturday evening, but this is the 2013 Philadelphia Union. What that means for fans is that it is not the solitary chance to see and evaluate players in a competitive atmosphere before the season kicks off on March 2nd against Sporting Kansas City.

Thus, rather than overly-scrutinizing a small sample size of play, we would rather focus on the players whose play stood out and those who earned a wake-up call.


1. Roger Torres
Buzz is buzz is buzz is buzz. And then you saw what everyone was talking about regarding Roger Torres. Torres hummed through the midfield like a well-oiled machine, dropping into his own half to exchange quick, sharp passes to begin the build before turning his attentions up field and picking apart the helpless Orlando City defense with surgical precision. It nearly wasn’t just his passing that was the talk of the match either. Miguel Gallardo may just well earn an MLS contract based on his save of Torres’ howitzer, alone. Yes it was just one match, but Torres was the best player on the pitch, hands down.

2. Leo Fernandes
Doesn’t get much better than that from a player who is quite literally playing for a contract. His goal was excellently taken, but he was also active in the possession game. Moving the ball quickly with Torres, Jordi Vidal and Greg Jordan, the second string midfielder taught the starters a lesson. And after tying up the match, Fernandes nearly set up the winner, knocking an inch-perfect ball over the heads of the defenders to send Antoine Hoppenot away.

3. Conor Casey
Other than score a goal, Casey did everything the coaching staff could have hoped for in his debut. Always one to move more like a rhinoceros than a gazelle, Casey still managed to keep the ball well at his feet, holding off defenders and laying off the ball simply, while even getting wide on occasion to steer in a couple of dangerous crosses. He looks fit and ready to go, making his signing look a shrewd piece of business. For now, Union fans must wait until the time when Hackworth pairs Casey with his most natural partner, Jack McInerney.

4. Eric Schoenle
Having surprisingly dropped into the supplemental draft, the Union thought they had grabbed a steal in Schoenle, and first looks suggest they might be right. Lining up beside a fit and eager looking Bakary Soumare, Schoenle failed to put a foot wrong in his 30 minute debut. Calm, cool and collected on the ball, he covered his defensive responsibilities well, stepping forward to make important, smart interventions.


1. Sebastien Le Toux
Back in a Union shirt for the first time since 2011, Le Toux reminded fans that times were not always rosy during his tenure at PPL Park. Le Toux’s concrete touches were put into even starker contrast against the nimble feet of Casey, leaving Union fans to offer up prayers that this is preseason rust rather than a foreshadowing of the 2013 campaign. His head-scratching, empty net miss after Danny Cruz struck the post summed up Le Toux’s night: Lots of running, very little quality in front of goal.

2. Danny Cruz
Cruz topped this list before he found a seam in the 51st minute and rang his shot off the post. In the end, that one moment added little to a performance that has become too typical from Cruz. The fact remains that he appears to lack the technical ability to hold down a starting spot in MLS. Against Orlando City, his one-on-one assaults failed to bear fruit, and on the occasions where he was set free with excellent through balls, his service into the danger area was woeful.

3. Keon Daniel
Top players have an internal thermostat for the game. There is a time for high-pressing, attacking play and a time for ball possession and match control. Keon Daniel’s thermostat appears to be set exactly opposite the other 10 members of the Union, whoever they are at a given moment.

4. Brian Carroll
The 2013 Philadelphia Union are Brian Carroll’s team. Wearing the armband should carry the weight of expectation that Carroll proves himself not only a top performer, but also shows leadership to this young Union team. Especially playing in the center of the midfield where he can truly affect the pace and style of play, Carroll was a bystander for large periods against Orlando City. Not only was his ability to link the defense and midfield negligible, but his defensive work was far from sharp either, as players brushed past him using both pace and brute strength. Being the captain means something. Carroll must show more.



  1. Winner 5: Soumare. Should start with Park hands down.
    Losers 2, 3, 4 and 5: The starting midfield. Carroll, Cruz, Daniel and M. Farfan.
    Clearly many fans and observers believe that the Union will only go as far as a CDM will take them. Such high expectations will never be met.
    Carroll aint got a chance to impress if he’s surrounded by two losers (three if ya include M. Farfan), right?

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      I really don’t understand your quarrel with Michael Farfan. He was forced to come way too deep to get the ball and after a slow opening 25 minutes, began to slice in some excellent balls. Not his best performance by any stretch, but still comfortably the best of that quartet.

      • Agreed. I think some people are overcompensating for what they felt was Marfan getting overrated last year and getting a pass on mediocre games, while Adu got beaten up constantly.

      • The Black Hand says:

        True, to some extent. Farfan is a good player…on the wing. I haven’t seen a lot of positives out of him as our main distributor. He is great on the wing, where he can challenge and often beat a defender. He seems out of sync with play, when in the central role. Not exactly what you want to see out of your 10. Torres showed quality. I think with experience, he could become a very, very good player. Hack just needs to commit, one way or another.

      • I prefer him on a wing too, but some of the really nice through balls he sent to Danny Cruz speak to his quality in the center.

      • I would like to see him and Torres paired in the middle in front of Carroll (triangle), so if need be either can drift out wide to create space while the other occupies the middle. I personally feel that’s the best way to utilize both, as Marfan is better on the wing but has shown promise in the middle, and until Saturday Torres hadn’t really shown the ability to occupy the middle by himself. Hopefully Hackworth tries several different combinations during the Disney Tournament. I’d rather see failed experimentation now then in the middle of June if injuries stack up.

    • This was a night to find out more about the fringe players and less to find a win. That said we need to think long and hard what we want on the field. do we want to play up the wings overlap our backs and hang our CDM and center backs out to dry. do we want to go up the middle be it with passing or long balls. do we want to be compact in defense and try to score on the break. Our game plan cant be so fluid that there isnt a game plan.
      all these styles take a different focus and we need to pick one get the best 11 for that system and play. Sometimes that means not having you best 11 individual players on the field but the best 11 for the sytem.
      I love Letoux, marfan, sheanon, gaddis, carroll and roger torres and want so badly for them to succeed but it may not be possible/reasonable for them to be in the starting 11.
      my plea is for the staff to make up their mind on a system and play that for a few months. otherwise we will never get a system where people anticipate runs and have real cooperative play.

    • The Black Hand says:

      I agree, Parke and Soumare should be our CB’s. In my opinion, we have upgraded our backline greatly. Soumare’s size is welcomed. Now, what to do with Okugo?? I don’t share your fondness for Carroll. His offensive support is nonexistent and if he is slipping defensively, then I do not see his spot in the XI.

    • Michael Farfan was class on Saturday night. The midfield should always go through him and not Keon Daniel, who saw a lot of the ball. He wasn’t as active as he should be, but his passing was crisp and dangerous for a first preseason game. It didn’t help that Cruz routinely squandered chances.

    • I think M. Farfan was decent as well, best performance? Nah, decent performance with moments of brilliance? In my opinion yes. I think Carroll, Cruz and Daniel were extremely disappointing yet, not shocking. All of them have good individual strengths but it just does not translate into good overall soccer. Le Toux seemed a bit frustrated at times as well as most of the players with deciding when to play quick and when to slow it down, many of them were not on the same page it seems like.

  2. Hate to say I told you so … but I told you so re: Le Toux. I hated the idea of brining him in because it meant putting Jack back on the bench, but also because he is the kind of player I can’t possibly see the coaching staff sitting no matter how bad he looks.
    Of course, this could change, but right now I fear we simply have another Pajoy situation from the first 10 games last year.
    Same thing with Carroll.
    I am not hating on them without reason. I just want a team where your form is all that matters, and right now if Le Toux looks miserable for 4-5 games, I haven no faith that Hack will have the balls to sit him like he should.

    • Andrew 'Calm' Down says:

      It was one preseason game…

    • Don’t be no cloud on a sunny day!

      It’s the first match of the pre-season, everyone needs to relax. We’re going to be treated to a host of different line-ups and formations in the next week with matches on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The technical staff is still tinkering, players are still getting acclimated to each other.

      Keep Calm and Carry On!

      • At this point I would PREFER Hackworth play a different formation and line-up over the next 4 days (3 games). Especially with the back-to-back Friday & Saturday we should see a totally different 11 to start both games. 1 of the issues I had with Nowak is he would experiment in the middle of the season with different line-ups then either go right back to what didn’t work or try something else different. With 3 games in 4 days, and hopefully 1 or 2 more coming between the Saturday games, now is the time to just try, and everyone needs to RELAX and let him do that. I don’t expect the players to be going 100% all the time now, they’re trying to gain their fitness.

  3. “still comfortably the best of that quartet.” That’s not saying much since the other three were deemed losers.
    I wouldnt say its a quarrel I have with M. Farfan. I actually think he’s great on the wing and should be moved permanently there. Its a different mentality.
    My issue is with fans and observers assessment of players.
    For example, Carroll scored one goal last year from a starting defensive position while M. Farfan starting from an offensive position scored only one (he also only had four more assists that Carroll).
    I expect a hell of a lot more offensively from M. Farfan but he just aint done it at all. He took the keys from Adu and hasnt pick us up yet.
    Your wrote “The 2013 Philadelphia Union are Brian Carroll’s team.” I think it should read: The 2013 Philadelphia Union are Michael Farfan’s team and we will only go as far as M. Farfan drives us.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      I think you’re twisting my words. Michael Farfan absolutely must be influential and prolific for the Union to have success. However, the Union must do everything possible to give the young playmaker a chance to run the show which means getting him the ball and putting a system in place that everyone knows.

      The point i was making was about Carroll and leadership. And I stand by it.

      • I agree that Carroll needs to be a leader vocally and through performance.
        My issue with Farfan comes down to his offensive performance as our CAM. He just hasnt been good enough there.
        I wish he would go back to the wing…and would love to see the following on Wednesday:
        M. Farfan————-G. Farfan

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Fair enough. You know I think okugo is better than carroll, but that doesnt matter.

        I mean this in earnest. why does everyone seem so set on le toux as a starter? Casey-McInerney seems like a perfect combination. Casey offers pretty much everything Jack needs to become a goal machine. Le Toux is good for Stoke ball, but I’m not convinced he’s a full time starter.

      • Since we’re offering up formations, here’s one I’d like to see Coach Hackworth experiment with during the Mickey Mouse Cup.



        Marfan ——— Torres


        LeToux ——– JackMac

        I’m intrigued by the idea of Conor Casey playing just behind the strike tandem of Seba and Jack. This would be a very aggressive formation, but I’m comfortable with using Amobi’s athleticism to cover a large part of the midfield.


      • The Black Hand says:

        Might be asking a lot out of Casey. Lots of running.

      • yup.. he didnt look like he had much pace on saturday.

      • I like that idea too but I would make Casey the CF as opposed to a CAM to reduce his running. Basically, he holds up the ball while Seba & Jack Mac run around him to find space, and Marfan and Torres alternate moving out wide and pulling inside. If fluidity is what Hackworth wants – and he should – then he should put a formation out there that allows those 5 to move freely and hopefully confuse defenders.

      • I think we need to do everything we can to be fast…Le Toux and McInerney offer more options while a Casey-McInerney (Le Toux) combo is one dimensional.
        Im not opposed to Okugo getting a start over Carroll. It could put things to rest…but until we actually see Okugo play the CDM spot on his own…he is just being judged on reputation and potential gained by his play at CB and his olymipic glory(?)

      • Andrew 'Calm' Down says:

        Is Richards with the team at the moment?

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        He played the final 30 at LB. Looked good.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        I have been informed that that player may have been trialist Shaun Francis. sorry for the confusion, im still not sure it was.

      • Any updates?

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        It was Francis. Richards did not travel with the team.

  4. Torres looked great, but I’m tempering expectations. He’s not going to have the space and time he had the other night against quality MLS sides. The Crew should be a better test for him. I’d like to see the 4-3-3 with Soumare at CB, Okugo in the midfield, and Jack up front. I think there’s some potential in that formation.

    • no matter what, jack needs service. His greatest weakness/strength is that he is a poacher. he cant regularly score on the turn, he really isnt a threat outside the box, he scores on headers but with his size this isnt an every game skill. He is great in the box especially within 10 yards but he needs some crosses. hopefully le toux can provide some speed up the wing and find jack and torres can find casey for some hold up play to allow for some space for everyone.
      I said it before and i will say it again. we need a system. fluid isn’t a name for a system and numbers don’t really make one either. everyone needs to work together and refine their cohesion and skill set to allow for complete play as a team. this has never occured for the union and never will if each week/game we try a different formation with a different set of skills needed by each player.
      Last year it seemed one game sheanon was hanging back on the right then next game up at the 18 half the game then next week hes behingd garfan on the left, then in the center with carlos. i know injuries happen and depth was an issue but he wasn’t the only one. how many didn’t play out of position/away from their strengths in our fuid system last year. how can reasonably talented players change each game and actually be successful when the best players in the world struggled when played out of position or asked to play to their weakness.

  5. Torres and Okugo looked the best of what I saw.. I wonder how long until Okugo gets poached from us? Not much talk about Casey. He looked slow, and the shot I saw him take looked weak. Preseason rust? the goal from leo was a beauty. The pass from torres reaffirmed my undying love for that little columbian, glad to see him show off.

  6. The youth looked great last night. Disappointing and loser imo, Okugo, he should be at CDM and that’s that. Carroll would be great if lateral and back passes counted as goals scored but they don’t and for whatever reason he still does not know the right time to go forward and if that is our path to move the ball up the field then it needs to be Okugo. Connor looked good checking back to ball and laying it back for the CM. Torres looked fantastic obviously.


    • Agree for the most part. I would definitely start Gabe and then switch Fernandes for Le Toux. But that is the lineup I’ve been hankerin to see for some time.

      • It would let Jack, Seba and Marfan really move around and pick their spots. I like for the attack to have some fluidity.

      • I like jack, seba and casey running around a bit. It would definitely make for some exciting soccer but this means that everyone needs to play tight and not turn the ball over in the midfield. This means no stupid plays, no hopeful balls from marfan to torres, no long over the top play which results in a turnover 90% of the time. otherwise it shoots us in the foot and seba will drop deep to help which begets more long balls which begets short kicks to CDM intercepted by the other team for an easy goal. also lets not experiment. lets commit and allow everyone to grow. a few losses/draws early that translate into a solid system is better than 16 different staring 11 that changes from a 4-4-2 to a 4-5-1 to a 4-3-3 to a 4-2-1-2 in the course of three weeks resulting in frustration and lots of losses and draws.

  7. Conor “Fucking” Casey! Love the big man! How long have we played without a target forward? Finally… While watching the game, I thought that Leo Fernandes was Vidal because he was so active getting the ball. Leo will make the team. Vidal—> the new Kai Herdling. He was tiny and nonexistent. Greg Jordan is better than Carroll, but neither are better than Okugo…get Amobi into the midfield now. Wasting his talents on the backline.

  8. I don’t understand the love affair with LeToux. Just read the Facebook blogs; he can do no harm, even if he stole your car. Let’s be clear. Last year, he could not score most of the season, until he was granted 4 PK goals. After that, he scored (I think all of them) the rest of the goals a one-thouchers-served-on-a-silver-platter. And considering that he is supposed the superstar lead scorer playing every 90 mins, not very impressive. As for pitch play, he CANNOT dribble the ball. He cannot pass, and he cannot aim from afar. Sure, he may be a nice guy, and he sure runs a lot. But the media and fans are still in love with him.

  9. Where to begin. Stop bickering and let’s realistically look at who we have to offer here. I’d like to go over the glaring problems we have.

    Defense. Soumare and Parke should be paired. Both calm and collected during their time, I see a return of the famous union defense we all missed. Williams on one side, either Gaddis or garfan or the tribalism (I forget his name) on the other (I like them both, but leaning towards Gaddis or the trialist).

    Okugo must replace Carroll as soon as possible. Okugo effectively defends and can cover vast amounts of the field while adding a sense of vision and offensive depth behind the CAM. Carroll cannot do that to okugo’s level. We have to shed any sentimental history with have with Carroll.

    Now onto the CAM issue. Marfan needs a few matches before we can assess what to do with him. If torres can last 90 mins (he’s struggled in the past doing so) then Marfan should move to the wing. Torres has shown he can and is an effective CAM and Marfan has proven his ability on the wing. Only time will tell. On the other wing, Cruz should be benched for either garfan (depending if he is lback) or Fernandes.

    On to forwards. Casey should spearhead with le toux and jacmac on this wings floating as they please. They both have spread and still can let jacmac poach on crosses from le toux. Casey MUST be the target in the box. His back to goal presence is staggering. Have occupy the center D while jacmac and letoux’s speed wears down the flanks generating real space for both midfield wingers.

    Le touxjac mac

    • Is le toux doesn’t work out:


    • Brian Carroll will not be benched (nor should he). He was just named Captain. One bad gaffe, in the first preseason game nonetheless, doesn’t mean Carroll isn’t a good player. He’s a big reason the team has been so good defensively the past couple of years. I agree Okugo should get a shot in midfield, but not at Carroll’s expense. If anything, he will play next to Carroll in a 4-3-3 formation.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        I agree. I think Okugo would be used as more of a box to box mid next to the purely defensive Carroll. It would be interesting to see Torres as the CAM, with Casey centering the forward line and McInerney and Marfan flanking him. D mids are Hack’s security blanket. No chance he just starts dispensing with them

      • The Black Hand says:

        Sounds like another Carroll/Gomez situation. That worked out well. I think that would be a giant blunder by Hackworth, setting us up for another campaign of interchanging personnel and ever-changing formations. Not too mention how narrow we will make the center of the pitch, with 3 centrally minded midfielders…and so it begins…

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        modern 4-3-3’s use 3 CMs. that’s how they work. width is provided by wings and fullbacks.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I see a lot of congestion just outside our 18, forcing our backs to play the ball long because there our no outlets with space. I hope I am wrong.

      • The difference being that Okugo can actually run and cover ground. Gomez had decent ability in the offensive half, but way too often got left out to dry because he couldn’t track back. This won’t be a problem with Okugo, who is more of a true box to box midfielder.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I agree that Okugo can run. I also think that he can cover the CDM, as well as provide offensive support (essentially playing his and Carroll’s proposed positions, freeing up a player like Daniel/Lahoud/Cruz to wear down the opposition). I think a Carroll/Okugo midfield would be great for protecting a lead. Of course, we would have to get the lead. I just feel like we have seen this before and it didn’t work.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Carroll’s captaincy was more by default than displayed leadership on the pitch.

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