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Scrimmage today, Hack on preseason building blocks, Milan v Liverpool in Philly, more

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union

The Union will play New England in a 60-minute scrimmage at their training grounds in Deltona today at 3 pm. The game will not be streamed so follow the Union’s @TheUMatchDay Twitter account for updates.

In a curiously punctuated story on Saturday’s scrimmage against Jacksonville’s University of North Florida, UNF head coach Derek Marinatos says, “[The Union] came down last year to sign a five-year deal with the city. We wanted to wait until we had a team that could show some talent to them.” More on Saturday’s scrimmage here.

At the Union website, Kevin Kinkead talks to John Hackworth about the building blocks of preseason training, including three foundations of fitness, technique, and tactics. These foundations are themselves progressively grown in intensity over three phases of the preseason: the first week in camp at YSC, the first two weeks in Florida, and the final two weeks during which the team will be participating in the Disney World Pro Soccer Classic tournament.

Hackworth explains the approach is as scientific as possible. For example, the fitness aspect is overseen by fitness coach Kevin Miller, along with sports scientist Garrison Draper, and is monitored with the assistance of the adidas training technology miCoach. He continues,

We do the same thing soccer wise. We have a technical foundation and a tactical foundation, and then I always try to implement the mentality of what we want to do. These guys need to understand from the beginning as clearly as possible, how we want to play and what our mentality is like. Then you ramp up a little bit in Florida. You talk more about the details. You talk more about the tactics. You get them ready to play. The (third phase) in Florida, you’re actually trying to put it on the field, and seeing if guys can go out and execute those things, while still taking their fitness level, finishing all of the concepts, and working on all of the little details. We add in all of those layers as we go, so that by the time we leave Florida, we should in theory be on the same page and completely ready to play a 90 minute game.

Hackworth emphasized that preseason games aren’t about the scoreline. “The preseason games are preseason games. I know there are people out there who take a lot of stock in them and they don’t mean anything. We have a lot of different ideas that we’re trying to get across in preseason. For example, we will literally try to take guys from our first preseason game, and if they play 45 minutes, the next game they’ll play 60. The next game they’ll play 75. You want to get them to 90. We’ll try to give that opportunity to as many people as we think have a shot at making our roster.”

Acknowledging that the travel party that left Philadelphia for Florida will be smaller when it returns after players are cut, Philly.com’s Jonathan Tannenwald has a look at a theoretical 30-player Union roster that takes into account the leagues roster rules.

Most of the quotes in this report at MLSsoccer.com from Dave Zeitlin on Zac MacMath’s reaction to Andre Blake being drafted will be familiar from last week’s report from Marc Narducci in the Inquirer, but Zeitlin does include this interesting tidbit: MacMath drove Blake to training at YSC last week. MacMath said, “We got to talk a little about where he’s from, his school, all kinds of stuff. We’ve spoken a little bit and we talk here and there on the field. It’s going well so far.”

Speaking of goalkeepers, in case you missed it, the Union made a depth signing in Brian Holt on Monday. At 5-foot-8, he’s apparently the shortest keeper in MLS, one inch shorter than the likely World Cup bound Nick Rimando.

MLSsoccer.com judges the Union’s offseason acquisitions as the second best in the league behind Toronto and its wallet-busting spending spree. At ProSoccerTalk, Steve Davis unconvincingly quibbles that DC United deserves the second best tag.

The Brotherly Game on how Maurice Edu is not Freddy Adu.


Will it be AC Milan vs Liverpool in Philly on July 30 in the 2014 International Champions Cup? On Friday, World Soccer Talk reported that Real Madrid, Manchester United, Manchester City, AC Milan, AS Roma, Liverpool, Inter Milan, and Olympiacos would be participating in the tournament with — in addition to Philadelphia — Dallas, Washington DC, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Denver, Miami, Phoenix, Charlotte, Ann Arbor, Hartford, and New York serving as host cities. An announcement is expected today.

More from SI, which notes that team availability will be affected by whether a club is involved in qualification for the 2014-15 UEFA Champions League, while player participation will be affected by the World Cup.

US U-17 MNT head coach Richie Williams is full of praise for Hershey’s Christian Pulisic and his attacking teammates following their championship campaign at the Aegean Cup.


Player transactions:

  • Chivas USA have loaned former Union man Gabriel Farfan to Liga MX side Chiapas for six months with an option to buy.
  • San Jose have signed defender Jordan Stewart and former Union midfielder Shea Salinas to new contracts.

MLSsoccer.com has preseason news updates from Monday.

The New York Times talks to Philly native Bobby Convey about his move from Toronto to the Red Bulls. Convey says of working under Red Bulls coach Mike Petke, his roommate when he played for DC United, “He knows me and knows how I’ve changed. I’m married, we’re going to have a baby so I think I’m a completely different person from the one who was making mistakes as teenager…I think when I was young I was more selfish, mostly because you want your career to take off. But at this point, after playing so long, I know more what to expect.”

Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum says of Toronto’s spending spree, “Our ownership group are unbelievably committed to winning at all levels, (including) winning our fans back and winning in our community. Our fans truly deserve world-class teams…Winning does drive value up — value in the team and value in the league.”

Columbus Crew owner Anthony Precourt says of the team’s current crest, “We’re looking at ways we can evolve and change our logo. We want it to represent the Columbus we’ve come to know. I don’t think a construction crew is really representative. [Columbus is] not a blue-collar, manufacturing, industrial town. It’s a smart, young, progressive university town with world-class businesses. It’s a white-collar town. We want to be representative. We don’t see Columbus in the crest. There are things we can do to represent the capital city better.” Hopefully they do a better job than San Jose did.


Jurgen Klinsmann describes the spine of the USMNT as starting with Tim Howard, goes through Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, and finishes with Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore.

Landon Donovan says of the USMNT’s commitment to the attack, “We really emphasized this camp in being confident and playing, not just lumping the ball forward and hoping to see what happens. We wanted to take this opportunity in a friendly to be confident and try to play. We could go to Brazil and sit back for 90 minutes and pray that we get results, but that’s not how we’re going to progress as a soccer nation, so we’re going to go with the confidence to play.”

At ESPN, Doug McIntyre says the answer to the question of whether Chris Wondolowski goes to Brazil “may actually lie in another question.” Namely, will Jurgen Klinsmann have four forwards on the World Cup roster?

At SI, Brian Straus on the rising prospects of DeAndre Yedlin. Good luck to him but you’re not alone if you’re wondering how he was called into the USMNT January camp and Sheanon Williams was not.

Canada will host the USWNT on May 8 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg.


An announcement on the MLS website says the leagues commercial arm, Soccer United Marketing, is organizing a series of World Cup tune-up matches involving World Cup teams  Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and Spain, as well as Bolivia and El Salvador. Venues and possible other participants will be announced at a later date.

Speaking of the “supporters” invasion of his club’s training grounds — which will be Iran’s home base during the World Cup — Corinthians President Mario Gobbi said, “This represents the failure of the Brazilian state. It was something that shocked everyone, and it still hurts. Teams don’t lose because they want to lose. It’s something that happens in football. Authorities are the ones responsible for handling this type of violence, not the clubs.”

In addition to considering the use of video replays and the so-called “sin-bins,” aka the penalty box, in amateur soccer, the International Football Association Board will consider a proposal from the FA banning players from revealing personal messages on their undershirts. More from the AP.


  1. Man I have no idea what Klinsmann sees in Jones.

    Also, I understand he is Clint Dempsey, but his form this past 6-12 months has been horrible. If he goes into the WC with this same for he has been showing us … I’m not sure why anyone should be happy about that.

  2. Does Pulicic have any ties to the Union? Seems like he is one of the best prospects in that age group. Would be a great home grown signing in a year or two.

  3. At the end of the day (camp and preseason) this had better be a team that is competing at the highest level and glaring holes had better be plugged. Don’t over think the process like trying to fit square pegs into round holes. You’ve started to put the talent on the field put when it’s all said and done and Danny Cruz is starting then we’ll know who and what the problem is. Last chance!!

    • I have my doubts. Looking at the new acquisitions and sensing the pressure to get the best/most expensive players on the field, I have no doubt that on starting day there will be players playing out of position.

      • As long as they’re skilled and versatile enough to do so. But we know the saga of Gaddis for example — At some point it just becomes a liability when you need to make that “play” in a split second and you can’t because you don’t have time to or can’t make the adjustment. It’s becomes even more of and issue when you’re coach has done nothing to address the problem. It’s going to come down to John Hackworth’s ability to coach.

  4. Garfan always said he wanted to play back in Mexico. Looks like he got his wish.

  5. Interesting look at the roster. The way I see it, if we’re going to sign a veteran CB, we’ll probably have to trade somebody from the midfield. The only ones that look available to me (given that they recently acquired others) are:
    From the quotes though, it sounds like Hack is praying that Ethan White and/or Cope/Dershang will be able to fill that spot. Otherwise, he’s going to have to let go of someone he like.
    Also, is it just me, or are we looking a little thin at forward? If Casey or Jack get hurt, we don’t have a ton of quality behind that. Perhaps Maidana or Nogueira could play forward?

    • We’ll see if Hackworth has the guts to really sit or limit the playing time of Carroll, Cruz, and Daniels or find players who are an upgrade to what they bring(or don’t bring) to the team.

    • I think Le Toux and Hoppenot are the obvious slots behind JacMac and Casey. Nogeuira is a CM and Maidana is LM/CAM. Not sure if either has ever played as a forward.

    • I’d rather see Wheeler over Letoux/Casey/Hoppenot. He’s got excellent size in the box and seems more than capable on the ball. Any of his appearances last season seemed to create opportunities. Hoppenot creates opportunities with his speed, but his finishing was extremely lacking last season.

      • I can’t see Wheeler over Casey at this point. Based on what they both brought to the table last year Casey was the better player. Now Wheeler has room to improve and can learn from Casey as they should play similar styles. Casey is better with the ball at his feet. Wheeler is backup to Casey and Hop/Le Toux would be the back up to Jack.

        Also, depending on the formation there may be only one forward starting. It is only speculation as of right now but most seem to think that the formation will be similar to what the US Nat team runs in that it is a 4-2-3-1/4-3-3

    • It’s not just you as I have been thinking the same thing. Everyone has been so obsessed with the midfield (rightfully so) and the CB role (also rightfully so)…it’s as if our need for another quality foreword doesn’t even exist.

      Jack really struggled for half the year last year and this year he’ll prove if he’s the real deal or not. Casey is good but no Mike MaGee. LeToux found his place to provide service opposed to being a goal scorer on this current squad.

      Aren’t there any Macro Di Vaio types out there we can pick up? One can only wish…

      • I think the best option for the team is what Joe mentioned above, to use only one forward. Go with the forward who is in the best form to start (hopefully Jack) and bring the other off the bench. That either provides strength/aerial presence (Casey) or finesse (Jack). Assuming the midfield works the way it’s supposed to with the new players, they should only need one striker. Plus Cruz, Hoppenot, Daniel and Wheeler should be on the bench, so Le Toux or Maidana could move into that role late in the game.

  6. Few thoughts:

    ~Sheanon Williams had a down year last season, but I attribute that to a combo of tactics and weak RM play. I wouldn’t mind seeing Sheanon and Gaddis on the right side same time. Both prefer to attack, have the necessary speed to recover and our right footed. Letoux’s assist #’s last season were inflated due to a lack of left side options.

    ~McInerney has to get the first chance at striker. The fact that he scored as many goals as he did with team tactics that were made for Peter Crouch is astounding. Casey was a pleasant surprise last season, but Wheeler provides the same measurables and greater potential.

    ~Even the most loyal man alive can tell you that Brian Carroll’s inclusion in the lineup is questionable at best. Carroll is being played at CM because he’s looking to get Klinnsmann’s attention and goals/assists will help moreso than tackles. But he’s defensive in nature regardless and therefore Carroll’s inclusion becomes repetitive.

    Just my thoughts…#Doop

    • ***I meant Edu is being played at CM for national team reasons, not Carroll.

    • I think Union fans are going to have to resign themselves to seeing Carroll start as a CDM with VN and Edu playing in a more forward, box-to-box position. Maidana will most likely start as a LM/LW and either Le Toux or Cruz on the opposite side.

      • I agree and am resigned to Carroll’s inclusion. However, it seems like this is being done more in loyalty than what’s best for the team. Letoux doesn’t have the top end speed to play a simple give and go and get around the defense. It forces Williams to make the runs up the flank. I think if he could concentrate on defending first and his offensive production second, he would be the best RB in MLS. The problem is, he is forced by Letoux/Cruz’ inefficiencies to assume much more responsibility than necessary. His getting forward demands his immediate sprinting retreat when we lose the ball because Cruz/Letoux are such lacking defenders.

      • I think it makes sense to expect Carroll in the Starting XI, for the beginning of the season. Focus on defense the first few games while the completely retooled offensive philosophy jells. But I don’t expect Carroll to be starting every game this season.

      • With the backline as unstable as it is right now. I am pretty much expecting Carrol to be playing sweeper with him and Okugo trading places to move forward.

      • I don’t necessarily see a negative in Carroll playing if it is a 4-2-3-1 similar to the US team. That formation is likely to be the most common formation from the U this year but you could also seem a 4-4-2 diamond midfield. Pairing Carroll with competent players will not cause him to be caught covering for either lazy players or those who were out of position (Keon/Cruz). Carroll was ‘exposed’ last season because of this and any CDM would have had problems when Keon lazily runs back into play and/or Cruz is laying on the ground up field.

        Carroll’s main problem is he is not flashy so his play often goes unseen unless he is getting beat. He is still very good at what he does and that is playing as a disruptor. He is good in passing lanes and at reading plays to break them up. He is not good going forward but that was never his game, and for the longest time MLS as a whole didn’t deploy a box to box CDM for the most part. He is aging and his skills are diminishing and he may not have many years left particularly as a starter but I believe there is at least a year or two of quality left.

        If we could trade him to get a decent CB I would be all for it.

    • Williams was ranked the best RB in the league last season by SA and best under 23 by SBI, leading all right backs in assists. I think there is definitely room for improvement, but to say he had a down year is contrary to fact.
      I agree with the rest of your analysis, though. I guess the dilemma regarding Carroll is that Hackworth has to choose between a veteran CDM or an inexperienced CAM (Pfeffer/Ribeiro/Bone), as he’s made it very clear that he’s sticking with the 4-3-3. Imo the problem isn’t that Hackworth is picking Carroll in that formation, it’s that he’s not willing to reconsider the formation to begin with.

      • Sheanon didn’t live up to expectations last year. Whether he is the best RB in the league is a matter of opinion (not for me), but he far from a complete player and with respect to friends and editors here, he’s not USMNT material right now. He simply can’t shoot on target, and he is not good on the ball. His crosses did improve, and his defense is solid. I certainly want him in the back 4 (or 3 – Fabinho and LeToux wingbacks? nah.) Did he have to cover for weak defensive midfielders on the right? Most certainly he did, and he did a damn good job at it. I prefer to see him and Okugo as CBs to start the season. His aerial strength and report with Okugo are vital. As pointed out by others, so much change in the midfield demands a settled back line. I think Fabinho, Okugo, Williams, and Gaddis in front of either MacMath or Blake provides that.

  7. I’ve enjoyed seeing the MLS Player Transactions being included in this write-up this offseason. Thanks for putting them all in to one place 🙂

  8. Danny Cruz still being on the team tells me he will get some time over LeToux this year.(not just in us cup matches) It’s baffling, considering his salary compared to contribution to the team. Could a had a better winger with a ton more talent and potential with Jose Barril, probably half the price too. Barril has a ton of speed and runs at defenders. Cruz just runs up the wing and passes back to the fulback. Cruz is scared to run at defenders cuz he knows he’ll get embarrassed. Cruz really should be the one to get delt. Not a fan of Carrol, but they should keep him in case of Edu getting a call up. Can’t say I’m surprised by this, considering it’s hacks’ pet, just pissed cuz I know The U had better options in camp than Cruz. Not a good sign.

  9. Any word on whether the Union is still interested in Benji Joya? If so, when does that weighted lottery go down?

    • All interested teams need to get their name in the hat by the end of Monday. Lottery is based on the last 30 some games played. Announcement maybe today or tomorrow.

  10. The Chopper says:

    My guess is when the dust settles, Jack Mac starts the season as a sub.





    • Does ZacMac join him on the bench in your predicted line-up?

      • The Chopper says:

        That one I think is yet to be determined, based on how things play out in camp. My guess is, that unless Zak is clearly outplayed he may start the season in goal before being pushed aside. Playing him could raise trade value. But Zak won’t be around long.

        My feeling on Jack is based on the formation. If they stick 4-3-3 There really is room for just one central striker and it comes down to a choice between Casey and Jack. If Connor is healthy, I tHink he gets the nod. Maidana has the left and I just think LeToux is better suited to the wing role than McInerney. Plus Hackwprth already had Jack on the bench for spells towards the end of last year.

      • I don’t think Macmath will be on the bench. He’s either starting or traded.

    • I would be really really surprised for Jack Mac doesn’t start. Not sure how much mileage Casey has left. And with a revamped midfield the Union won’t necessarily need to chuck the ball up t a lone target forward. More passing on the ground, through balls, etc. Jack’s bread and butter.

      • Jack has already said on the record that he is out of here when his contract is up. I can’t see the Union feeling any obligation to play him for “player development” purposes if that is the case. Maybe to build his sale/trade value, but he has made it clear that he is not the future of the franchise.

      • They can still trade him. So better get his value up and give your team the best chance to win, while figuring out what to do next.

      • That is depressing, where did he say that, msg24365? Last year had to be really difficult for him, probably the worst good season a striker could have. That call up the USMNT camp really messed with his head, and he never recovered. I had hoped the offseason and preseason training would recalibrate his focus and dedication to being a team player. Strikers are a finicky sort though.

        I certainly think our new additions cater to Jack’s play and want to see him leading the line from day 1.

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