Fans' View

Fans’ View: But where are the goals?

Photo: Earl Gardner

It’s party time in Unionland, folks.

After two games, we finally have a right to be very optimistic about this season. This team is for real. Saturday was such a great day in Chester. From the chills I got coming off the Commodore ramp overlooking PPL, to the pregame Twitter scramble of trying to figure out why Carroll was out and Leo in, to the dominating first half possession, first DOOP of the year from Seba and satisfying drive home — it’s good to be a Union fan.

I’ve typically tried to always look for the positive when it comes to the Union, but now that there are so many things to be positive about, I can’t help but think about one little nagging question: where are the goals? I know, I know, it’s way too early to jump to conclusions, but still, it’s the only question from preseason that remains unanswered for me.

Prepare to have your mind blown: the team the scores the most goals, wins. Still with me? Good.

It may seem obvious, but it is nearly always the case that teams try to “protect” their leads, falling into defensive shells, often dropping points with late goals. Yet the most consistent stat in soccer that predicts the successful teams is not Goals Against (GA) or even Goal Differential (GD), it is Goals For (GF).

If you look at the last eight years of MLS, the team with the most GF has finished in the top three of the league every year and has won the Supporter’s Shield four of those eight years. Since the modern English Premier League started in 1992, the team with the most GF has won the league 13 times. This season is no different with Manchester City and Liverpool leading the GF category and well-poised for a run at the title (barring some tactical wizardy from The Special One).

In the past, the Union have rarely seemed to go after goals with the same intensity that they have tried to defend. That might be changing this year. That’s why this was my most favorite quote of the week from Hackworth:

The best way to close out games is to get the second goal. I’ll be honest; I don’t think we played well the second half. My expectation going out of halftime was that we were going to do the same thing like gain possession and have the highest number of passes. It’s hard but we were really determined to rectify the situation last week. The whole time [in the second half] I was urging us to step it up and pick up the pressure.

This is a literal game-changer from Hackworth, and if the team is able to sustain their high pressure and attack-oriented possession late into games, we should do very well this season.

For the amount of possession we’ve had early on, we should be producing more shots and more goals. Frankly, I’m not sure why this hasn’t happened. Perhaps it is because guys are still getting a feel for each other on the pitch. Nowhere is that familiarity as important as in front of the goal. Decisions in the final third often depend on two players being on the same page and thinking ahead of the defense. That should get better with time.

Another reason may be confidence. Guys like Maidana, Noguiera and Edu might be even more willing to take players on and produce their own shots as they feel more comfortable in their roles. Maybe Hackworth becomes more confident in the back four and doesn’t play with two holding midfielders frequently. Hopefully Leo continues to be oblivious to the fact that he’s young and inexperienced, because he played with an impressive amount of confidence given the circumstances. Jack thankfully has gotten off to a great start. We have every reason to believe that this team should be scoring in bunches.

So I wouldn’t say I’m worried at all, but it’s the only remaining box to be checked. If you had a choice between winning games by a scoreline of 3-2 or 1-0, which would you choose?

Personally, I’d much rather see the 3-2 games, and I hope Hackworth does as well. They say the best defense is a good offense, right? If we continue to be supportive as a fan base of players and coaches taking risks and going for the goals, we will all be celebrating deep into October.


  1. A win is a win is a win is a win. I will take a 1-0 victory any day of the week. There is no go reason to have goal scored against the Union for entertainment purposes.

    • No matter how many (more) goals the team scores, a win is always worth 3 points in the standings. That said, if the one goal comes early in the game, and the team bunkers in to hold it, why not go for the jugular and put the proverbial nail in the coffin with a second goal? The Portland game comes to mind … if they’d have doubled their lead, the stoppage time goal wouldn’t have mattered. It’s a big “if”, and hindsight is 20/20 and all.

    • Maybe you missed my point, it’s not just for entertainment purposes. Teams that are able to go out and get the goals generally finish at the top of the league, not the teams winning 1-0. The problem with tactically being happy with a 1-0 win, is that often that will turn into a 1-1 draw. In my opinion, it’s better to take the risks and keep going for more goals, even if it means you might give up one in the process.

      • 1-0 is not necessarily less entertaining. The first half in particular was a lot of fun with all the chances generated.

        I’d agree I’d like to see more goals, but I refuse to worry about it just yet. I think we’re due for them. These aren’t the Nowak bus park games.

  2. I’ve seen a bit of consistency with regard to the 2013 2nd half Union and the 2014 2nd half Union…granted only 2 games in so far. The Union need to take better advantage of being up by putting away more than 1 goal if this 2nd half dynamic remains in place. A greater buffer needs to be in place…or a better 2nd half performance.

  3. buzzkill_ed says:

    If this team can control the ball the way they have in the first two games, I’m faithful that the goals will come.

  4. I think this is mostly the team gelling and not quite having that final sharpness. The other part is still Hackworth. He can say all he wants, what we see is what’s happening, and he’s got them playing defensive or making bad subs. Here’s to hoping he learned his lesson and we start the scoring spree this weekend

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