Analysis / Union

Life without Mac, and other Union/MLS thoughts

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Five thoughts on the Union and MLS.

Ready? Go.

Life without Mac

Jack McInerney could miss the next five Union games while on international duty during the Gold Cup. His absence comes during perhaps the toughest part of Philadelphia’s schedule this year. Up next are Real Salt Lake, Houston, Chivas USA, Portland and Vancouver. Portland and Salt Lake are probably the two best teams in the league, with the two best goal differentials and the point totals in the standings. (Dallas is tied with Portland.) Houston and Vancouver are playoff teams. (Chivas is a cruel joke played on Carlos Bocanegra. More on this later.)

Fortunately, the Union’s deepest position is forward. They should be just fine up top. Sebastien Le Toux is similarly tailored for McInerney’s role of making runs behind the defense. Antoine Hoppenot provides good depth, and Aaron Wheeler has shown he can be the backup target forward to Conor Casey. (Suggestions of starting both Casey and Wheeler ignore the fact that they play similar roles for a club and probably have duplicative, not complimentary, skill sets.)

Le Toux should slide to forward in the starting lineup in McInerney’s absence.

Michael Farfan should play right midfield.

What’s wrong with Michael Farfan?

With Danny Cruz looking more effective (but no more technical) on the left and Le Toux possibly moving up top for McInerney, it makes sense to put Farfan back at right midfield.

Now, before you go on your anti-Farfan rant, consider why.

It’s his natural position. It’s where he has played best for the Union. If John Hackworth is going to snap Farfan out of his season-long rut, this would be a way to do it. Put him back in his comfort zone. See what he can do.

For you cynics out there, look at it as a chance for Farfan to show whether he should be traded or not. If he doesn’t flourish back at right midfield, maybe he’s so far into a rut that he’ll need a change of scenery. You might as well know for sure first whether the problem is him or where you’re playing him.

Philadelphia fans can turn on a player awfully quickly. A few weeks ago, Sheanon Williams was getting bashed by some. Obviously that’s history, considering his recent play. Before that, it was Sebastien Le Toux, who now leads the league in assists.

Farfan could be in the same spot. Anyone who questions whether his past good form was a fluke needs to recognize that his nasty dribble attacks from the right side down to the endline are not the type of thing at which you “overachieve.” You can either destroy a guy off the dribble and do a tightrope act along the headline before creating a goal, or you can’t. Farfan can, but he can’t do it going into the center of the field, where defensive help collapses on him. He’s an endline dancer.

Farfan needs to find his comfort zone again. It’s been a long time since he’s been in it. McInerney’s absence is a chance for him to find the game.

Maybe it will even let Roger Torres find the field in center midfield. (More likely Kleberson, but anything’s possible.)

Learn to punch

It’s become an all too familiar sight this season, watching Zac MacMath leap for a catch and drop the ball. This time, someone cleaned up the mess.

If he just punched the ball on that fateful stoppage time free kick Saturday, the Union would have walked out with a win.

There’s not much more to say about MacMath that hasn’t been said already. It’s time for him to take a seat on the bench, for his and the team’s own good. Unless Chris Konopka is the league’s worst practice player, he deserves a chance.

MacMath has shown he is a talented player, so he can fight his way back into the lineup, the same as everyone else. Michael Farfan, Sebastien Le Toux and others have been forced to do it. So did Sean Johnson in Chicago and Bill Hamid in D.C., and now they’re both on the U.S. national team roster for the Gold Cup. MacMath can do it too.

The underwhelming left back signing

A left back signing seemed logical for the Union.

A left back rejected by his last two teams in the Australian league, of all places, wasn’t what most had in mind.

It’s hard to get excited over a signing from an ordinary league the A-League. (Then again, Europeans used to—and still do—say that about MLS.) It sounds more like a “he just happened to be the foreign left back available in the MLS pool” type of signing than a “Ricardo Ansaldi made an absolute find here, and we really like him” thing.

Meet the new defensive depth signing. Ray Gaddis may not have to look over his shoulder anytime soon.

Poor Carlos Bocanegra

Life hasn’t been fair to Carlos Bocanegra the last two years. First, his team (Rangers) collapses financially and goes down to the bottom of the Scottish league. So he goes on loan, can’t get in the side of a bad team for one reason or another, and decides to return to the U.S. in hopes of jumpstarting his national team hopes.

And he gets stuck going to Chivas USA? Really?

Not fair.

Some will say it’s a perfect destination for him because of his Mexican heritage and location in southern California, where he grew up.

Nonsense. That team is an absolute disaster and will probably be in Orlando next year.

Here’s hoping he gets traded to Portland, who need help at center back. The long-time U.S. national team captain deserves better, and so does the national team. A healthy and in-form Bocanegra is still a good depth player for the national team at center back. It’s all too fashionable to say players are washed up well before they are. Bocanegra may not be the player he once was, but he can still play. But if he’s stuck playing for a miserable Chivas team that routinely surrenders fusillades of bullets against goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, Bocanegra may never show the form needed to make the World Cup squad.



  1. The Bundesliga season just ended, Nikolov is definitely fit.

  2. The Lopez signing has left a deep wound, and it’s understandable to still feel the pain of it after he was touted as the next best thing to fill the LB void. The team’s not hyping Fabio up, like they did Okai and Richards, but he at least deserves the Lopez treatment – 4 games to prove yourself (if he shows better than Gaddis) – before we start discounting the guy. In one sentence you talk about a possible change of scenery needed for Farfan to re-establish himself, but don’t give the same caveat to Fabio.
    I’m not holding my breath that he’s all that, but I’m at least willing to see what he can/cannot do before passing judgement.

    • Paul Costa says:

      No one is fairer than AD22! I, too, am hoping to be surprised.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Well, I’m not of the opinion that Marfan needs to be traded. That was just a concession to critics who say it. But sure, absolutely, Fabinho deserves to be evaluated on his own merits. I was simply looking at the acquisition itself from a GM type of standpoint. We’ll see what he can do on the field.

      • Nor do I, Dan; I believe Farfan isn’t being played in his best/natural position, but we couldn’t quite unseat Le Toux and his league leading (?) assists from the right side of the field. Now is Michael’s time to prove his mettle.
        Maybe this move stateside will prove beneficial to Fabio. Folks are already writing him off because he’s an “A-League reject” and “washed out LB”, but there’s no real basis for these opinions other than the initial reaction on the interwebs.
        Does anyone else picture smutty romance novel covers when you say/read his name? No, just me? Ok then …

  3. Unfortanetly, I don’t think anyone really expects Hackworth to drop MacMath, ever. Even of he scored an own goal with his face, oh wait…

    • The Chopper says:

      Hackworth and the front office are well aware of the MacMath problem. Yes, publicly the coach expresses confidence in his goalkeeper. He is trying to protect his damaged psyche. He already looks like a deer in the headlights every time a ball floats into the box.

      For whatever reason they want it to be Nikolav who puts him on the bench and not Konopka. I guess they want Zach to still feel like he is the future of this team.

      Protestations about this being a rebuilding year aside, Hackworth and Sakiewciz know this team needs to qualify for the playoffs this year. They know their goalkeeper is costing them points. The bench is coming for MacMath.

    • kingkowboys says:

      To go along with Chopper’s point, don’t expect a coach to throw a player let alone a keeper under the bus. It’s not going to happen nor should it unless you have extreme circumstances and a jacka$$ player. I think Nikolav would be brought in over Konopka simply because I am guessing Hack would see him as a more solid known option to make a playoff run. Personally I tend to agree though Konopka might be an option in the future Nikolav gets results quicker based on his experience.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    I’m still recommending that Wheeler start in place of Casey and plan to go with him for at least 60 minutes. The odds of Casey getting a yellow and being suspended before Jack gets back are pretty good, so it would be good to make sure Wheeler is in game shape rather than just throwing him out there to go 90. At RSL is the game the Union are least likely to win in this stretch, so it has the least risk if Wheeler were to do something to hurt them.

  5. Marfan has little understanding of his position at right midfielder. He more often than not drifts to the midfield, leaving his entire side of the field both lacking in the ability to switch, but also completely uncovered during a change in possession.

    He also – though this is not limited only to him – has no ability to see the rest of the pitch. He rarely pushes the ball forward, let alone switch it to the other side of the pitch.

    He needs to be transferred/traded for a more natural AMF who understands how to play the position.

  6. I think Wheeler should probably start one of the next two games just to give Conor Casey a rest. Asking the guy to play 70+ minutes in 3 games over a 7-day period is an awful lot. We’ll see what Wheeler can do when given more time. It is doubtful that the Union can win in Salt Lake anyway.

  7. kingkowboys says:

    I really don’t want to see Le Toux back up top. He’s doing fantastic at Right Mid and he’s not shown a liking to bouncing around. It took a benching to get him to play right mid. I think that giving Farfan a shot at the righ mid again is good but trumped by my desire to keep Le Toux in that spot.

    CAM really is up for grabs. No one on this team has excelled in that spot. So i’m fine with sticking in Fernandes, Kleberson, or Torres for that position. Hell i’ll take a HCI call up.

    I hope we get a LM in the transfer window. Cruz just doesn’t cut it and there needs to be someone who can at least rotate or sub with him. Hoppenot is not a left mid and pretty much ineffective in that spot. With Cruz or Hoppenot at LM Gaddis is on the proverbial “Revis Island”. Another reason why i’m ok with Gaddis at LB.

    • From where I was standing Marfan looked really good at LM during the RBNY game. They may have been down a man, but he looked much more composed, aware of his teammates, and creative than Cruz ever has.

  8. I think we can win in salt lake get an early shot on Saunders hell probably still it into the net.. I think we can get 9 outta the next 12 points

    • Yeah I think I agree here, Salt Lake and Houston are both missing significant pieces and if we show up with our heads screwed on straight I think we can give them a run for their money

    • Andy Muenz says:

      9 out of 12? Are you suggesting they will lose to Chivas? 🙂

  9. Marfan is a pure talent who is slowly regaining his confidence. He just needs to stop over thinking things and keep it simple. He has be playing better of late.

  10. I think in any circumstance trading away Farfan is a tad extreme. I think most would just rather see him as depth than a starting anything, (same goes with Keon). Mostly though, I think the problem we’re having has more to do with the fact that Hackworth is starting Farfan at CAM when Torres plays it more naturally.

    Also, a little bit off topic, but with all the focus that Hack has on finding Philadelphia-Native players, I’m wondering why Convey wasn’t an option for LM earlier this year when SKC made it known they were looking to unload him?

    20/20 hindsight I guess.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Probably some concern he might be a locker room cancer, considering how he left both San Jose and KC. Also, high salary, and the Union had no room in the salary budget earlier this year.

      • John Ling says:

        Also, I believe Convey said he didn’t want to play LM. But I could be misremembering.

      • John Ling says:

        Sorry, Convey didn’t want to play LB. I’ll try to remember to drink more coffee before I type…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


%d bloggers like this: