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The Union’s co[l]itis attack, and other early season surprises

Photo: Kirby Hines, courtesy of Columbus Crew

So there I was Sunday morning, queuing up MLS Live to watch the Philadelphia Union-Columbus Crew game.

To my surprise, it was not available. “Waiting for feed,” it said the day after the game.

“What kind of Mickey Mouse operation was this?” I asked. Not the Orlando City kind, that’s for sure.

Oh, let me tell you, said my dear PSP colleague, Ed Farnsworth.

“Apparently,” Ed texted me, “someone hacked the audio feed of the Crew broadcast[,] and sounds of a woman in colitis were broadcast — no joke, Deadspin has a post w[ith] a clip up.”

I laughed. If I was going to have to wait to watch a game, that was a hilarious and perfectly acceptable reason. Supposedly a fan found an open microphone as a prank, which seems justifiable considering the supposedly horrid TV deal Columbus signed before the season.

I told my wife. She laughed. And the teenager in the house overheard.

“What’s colitis?” my innocent little girl said.

“It’s a digestive problem,” I told her.

Naturally, I didn’t mention that I suspected Ed had typoed his text message or been the latest victim of spellcheck humor. I liked it better this way, for a variety of reasons that I’ll let you identify on your own. I was quite fine with everyone imagining the sounds of a woman experiencing violent diarrhea while two TV commentators call a soccer game. The “GOOOOOAL” call would be awesome, surely.

I also didn’t want any spoilers on the game, so I didn’t check the Deadspin video right away. Therefore, I wasn’t lying to her, was I? No, sir. Sunday passed with me unsure of whether the Union-Crew game was marred by a woman moaning from painful indigestion or something quite different.

It’s hard to avoid a game’s result when you’re getting text messages left and right, 95 percent of which were about the game. But I managed it. I didn’t check my email. I neglected my PSP editing duties. I blew off Player of the Week votes for both PSP and the North American Soccer Reporters organization. Surely, people are pleased with me right now. I’m good at pleasing people.

The game finally became available on MLS Live sometime Monday. I got to it without spoilers, colitis or coitus. (Too bad about the last part, some readers might say. Alas, I try to keep soccer and coitus separate, so you can your Alex Morgan fantasies will have to remain in Sports Illustrated, while Sydney Leroux stays in ESPN’s magazine.)

After all that, I’ll share some observations totally in line with the first half of this column. File them under things you never expected to see this season. Among them was hearing a woman far too excited about Vincent Nogueira misfiring a shot off a perfect Ray Gaddis cross in the 76th minute. But hey, you know what they say about the French. We knew Nogueira was good, but we didn’t know he was that good.

Other things we didn’t expect to see this season
  • Leo Fernandes makes the leap

Fernandes didn’t impress last year. He looked like a guy with some foot skills but little awareness of when it was appropriate to use that fancy footwork. Now, he looks like has caught up to the speed of the game and simplified his playing style to magnificent effect. With his opportunistic attacking, he is making it very difficult for John Hackworth to keep him on the bench.

  • Aaron Wheeler, good center back

This guy looks like he’s been at this a while. He looked good last year as a forward. Now he looks like a real center back. Maybe this Wheeler guy is just a good soccer player.

  • Zac MacMath’s trouble from distance

The Union goalkeeper had a few fine plays against Columbus, but he has a disturbing tendency to sit lead-footed on shots from distance before reacting too late. Last year, Kelyn Rowe and Nick DeLeon victimized MacMath on shots from outside 25 yards. On Saturday, Bernardo Anor put MacMath in the wrong highlight reel with his 30-yard frozen rope, just a week after MacMath made one of the best saves of his career. What’s going on? Does MacMath see the ball late off the foot? Was he just the victim of some fluke shots? Regardless, the word is out: If you got the shot against Philadelphia, take it, regardless of distance.

  • Three Reading United players on field for Union

At one point, three players from the Union’s PDL affiliate, Reading United, were on the field: Fernandes, Wheeler and Ray Gaddis. All played very well. All went overlooked by other clubs and landed with the Union due to the inside knowledge gained via the Reading pipeline. Leo Fernandes was a 6th round draft pick last year. To put that in perspective, the MLS amateur draft only had four rounds this year after the supplemental draft was eliminated. Wheeler was never drafted. Gaddis wasn’t invited to the MLS scouting combine. Will the Union continue unearthing these gems now that former Reading coach and Union assistant Brendan Burke has left the fold? We’ll see.

  • Union can’t man the back post on corners

First Antoine Hoppenot against Portland, and then Chaco Maidana against Columbus. What’s the point of putting defenders on the post if they can’t clear the header sent directly at them? (That said, Sebastien Le Toux might want to consider marking a guy on corner kicks. We hear it’s useful.)

  • Union playing well, despite no Casey or Williams

Injuries have kept Sheanon Williams and Conor Casey off the field during the season’s first three weeks, but the Union still look good out there. Consider what they’ll be when these two get healthy.

  • Columbus: Better than predicted

The day after my season preview ran, I told a PSP colleague that I was pretty sure I’d made a mistake with Columbus. Guess what? It’s confirmed. This team is pretty good.

14 Comments

  1. keeping coitus and football separate? Renton and I are not sure about that one…
    “I haven’t felt that good since Archie Gemmill scored against Holland in 1978 !”

  2. Yeah, no sh*t on your last point. Columbus looks quite good indeed. I thought this was supposed to be a rebuilding year for them.

    And the Red Bulls look surprisingly crappy. I suspect they will recover at least somewhat (with pricey mid-season signings if nothing else). But so far the East already looks like it may have separated itself into the haves (Toronto, Houston, Columbus, Philadelphia, KC) and the have-nots (DC, Chicago, New England, Montreal), with the Red Bulls maybe somewhere in between.

  3. Southside Johnny says:

    I am in total agreement about Wheeler and Fernandez. In a year with some pleasant surprises, they are high on the list for me. Wheeler reminds me of Jason Werth, the former RF for the Phillies who looks so gangly and vapid when walking around and then morphs into an incredibly quick and athletic performer. Yes, he is a good (if unlikely looking looking) soccer player.
    I think Fernandez was out of his element last year. It is somewhat counterintuitive, but skilled players look better and play better when surrounded by better players.

    • Yes. Along those lines, creative players can’t produce creative plays if those around them don’t see it…plus he was rookie making the jump from a small school.

  4. OneManWolfpack says:

    I agree with everything you said… except the Columbus being pretty good part. They really didn’t impress me. It was there home opener, and we gifted them both goals. After that they didn’t do too much else in my opinion.
    .
    Best team so far in my opinion is Toronto. They look excellent. I’d say the Union and Houston are next. KC will be there in the end though.

  5. The point about the Union playing well really can’t be emphasized enough. Yeah, the game didn’t end the way any of us would have wanted it to, but the team generated shots and at no point did it really look like Columbus was taking the game to them. If we continue to have games where the team plays like this, we’re going to be winning more of them than losing.

    • Not if we don’t do a better job of scoring goals. If things keep going the way they are there will be a lot of games where we look to be the better team but wind up losing 1-0 or tied 0-0 or 1-1. I agree the style of play this year is far more attractive than it’s been but I’m very worried that the results will be the same without more goals and at this point I just don’t know where they’re going to come from.

  6. I see a lot of Philly fans getting on McMath. He had no shot on Anor’s shot. I was right behind the opposite goal and was directly behind the shot. It can right at the GK off Anor’s foot, and then proceeded to knuckle right towards the post/side netting. He had no shot. He saw it fine, but it was coming right at him. Once it started to fade to the corner, he had no chance.

  7. Philly Cheese says:

    Great read and excellent bullet points from Columbus game. We all want to assume the best after three games, but are nervous about lack of finishing and full 90 (or 95) minutes of intensity. When Willaims and Casey are healthy and we have two more options, that depth shows progress over last year. Playoffs are certainly not a lock.

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