Player ratings

Player ratings & analysis: Union 1-4 Columbus Crew

Photo: Courtesy of Columbus Crew

After Saturday’s demoralizing loss to Columbus, Ray Gaddis was asked what Philadelphia Union could build on going forward. “Just staying together as a team. And playing collectively as a group. It’s hard to say right now.”

Those first two sentences are cliches; ignore them. The third sentence is the reveal.

It is hard to say what the Union can build on from Saturday’s demolition. Twenty minutes of tight defense held the Crew without a shot at home. But then: One shot, one goal, and one team utterly failing to compete for the remainder of the match.

CJ defense

Sapong plays the passing lane to Higuain perfectly.

What happened?

The Union opened the match surprisingly well. They were prepared for Columbus’ attack, and CJ Sapong deserves particular praise for his work cutting out the passing lanes between the center backs and Federico Higuain. Andrew Wenger was getting to the touchline so Fabinho could find him with an outlet pass when Hernan Grana was caught high. If Philly’s counterattack was anything close to functional, the visitors would have exploited Wenger’s early breaks.

But the counterattack — and Wenger’s confidence — are very broken.

Columbus fullbacks: Mins 1-20. Before the Crew's opening goal, Philly was forcing the home side out of their preferred game.

Columbus fullbacks: Mins 1-20. Before the Crew’s opening goal, Philly was forcing the home side out of their preferred game.

First goal (spoiler alert) of many

And, unfortunately, the way Columbus broke through is more damning of Philly than praise-worthy for the Crew. A poor back pass from Fabinho forced John McCarthy into a hurried left-footed clearance. Tony Tchani simply headed the ball back where it came from and Ethan Finlay waltzed down the right and lofted a cross to Kei Kamara. The big striker was unmarked because Maurice Edu and Brian Carroll were both closing in on Federico Higuain without communicating. Edu was between a rock and a hard place, and picked the correct (i.e., more dangerous) man to close down.

Finlay’s ball and Kamara’s finish were both just that good. And Carroll’s (and McCarthy’s) closing speed was just that slow.

When Philadelphia’s aerial prowess is mocked — as it has been this season — the usual suspects are set pieces and winning long balls along the back line. But here we have another manifestation of the same problem.

The ball is sent back to McCarthy and it is completely impossible to guess what the rest of the team thought was going to happen. Brian Carroll is the only midfielder anywhere near an opposing player, meaning the rest of the team was not reacting as their goalie with distribution issues attempts to clear a ball with his weaker foot while being closed down by a speedy giant. This is not one of those “in hindsight…” cases. No, this is exactly what coaches mean when they talk about doing the little things right, and how those little things can have big consequences.

Union passes/shots: Mins 21-32. The Union never threatened between the first and second Crew goals.

Union passes/shots: Mins 21-32. The Union never threatened between the first and second Crew goals.

Second goal

After the first goal, the Union were never in the match. That Philly toughness that Jim Curtin so desperately wants to see in his team? Must have left it at home.

Prior to the opener, the Union did incredibly well to force Columbus away from their strengths. The Crew were playing up the left side, where Sebastien Le Toux’s surprising discipline was keeping Waylon Francis from moving play deep into Philly’s half. Fabinho was following Finlay’s runs up the other flank and Hernan Grana was a non-factor.

Grana, who has been stellar attacking up the wing from the fullback position this season, had four final third touches before the first goal. He had another four in the nine minutes it took Columbus to double their lead.

In fact, the Union’s strategy fell apart so fast that the first twenty minutes look like an anomaly while the nine minutes between goals one and two appear as a microcosm of the remainder of the match. Finlay dragged Fabinho deep over and over, Le Toux and Wenger lost their defensive discipline, allowing the Columbus midfield to dominate, and Grana’s advancing runs no longer left him out of position but firmly in the thick of the action. It was Wenger who was now caught out as the Crew unrelentingly pounded the right flank.

So was it ironic that Columbus’ second goal came from (literally) the second time they sent the ball to the left after the first goal? No. It was just good soccer.

As noted in the PSP match preview, Michael Parkhurst can fire off long passes with the best in the business. And when the Union overcommitted to the right side, it was a simple matter for Parkhurst to find Francis alone on the left. Take nothing away from Francis’ first touch or his gorgeous cross, but it was all far too easy for the Costa Rican.

And it was even easier for Ethan Finlay to finish off the aforementioned cross. Not once during the entire sequence was Fabinho goalside of his man. Even as Finlay signals his intent, Fabinho simply stays even and outside of the winger. Again: It’s the little things.

Third goal

John McCarthy and Mo Edu will take plenty of blame for the soft tally that effectively ended the match, but this is also where a very harsh spotlight must be turned on Sebastien Le Toux.

The Union stalwart is suffering through a hellacious campaign. He is leaning more and more on his running to pull him out of the rut his first touch, shooting, and lack of positional discipline have put him in. This has worked for Le Toux before, but right now it is doing severe damage to his team.

The third Crew goal starts from the back, where Emmanuel Pogatetz has shifted out left with Mohammed Saeid dropping between the central defenders. Le Toux presses Pogatetz, forcing the big defender to play long. But remember: Vincent Nogueira is hurt and the Union have made no substitutions since the second goal. This is still very much a team in a defensive shell.

When Le Toux chases Pogatetz, he leaves massive amounts of space between himself and any other Union player. The Union midfield reacts by stepping forward, and Brian Carroll steps to Tony Tchani, leaving Ray Gaddis to decide between staying deep (because — uh oh — the defense didn’t follow the midfield) or closing down Waylon Francis, who needs binoculars to see the nearest white shirt.

Gaddis ends up in two minds, and Pogatetz’s long ball pulls Edu out to the flank as cover. After that moment, all credit goes to Meram as he holds off a good defender and puts pressure on a young goalie who has just given up two goals on the road.

But it all started when the Crew successfully drew the Union out of their shell. Or Le Toux did, depending if you blame the guy who designed the trap or the one who fell into it.

More on the wingers: Wenger

I know, I know. Another analysis of the Union wing play. Spare me.

At this point, a combination of bad luck, good defense, and poor finishing have left Andrew Wenger and Sebastien Le Toux devoid of confidence. For Le Toux, this has led to a well-documented tendency to drift upfield and inside. Wenger has simply drifted away into some other place where fast, strong attackers can be smothered by lumbering out-of-position center backs.

Wenger attacks the defense, but quickly runs out of confidence and plays a poor pass wide.

Wenger attacks the defense, but quickly runs out of confidence and plays a poor pass wide. Click to play.

Against the Crew, Wenger finally became involved from the outset. And the results… were very, very bad. In the fourth minute, Fabinho released Wenger behind Hernan Grana and the Union man took off at what can only be described as Fred-speed toward the goal. Indecisiveness is written all over this run, but Wenger makes it explicit by hesitating after Michael Parkhurst commits before overheating his pass to the now-static Cristian Maidana.

In the eighth minute, Wenger again finds himself in the final third. This time he is facing up Grana on the wing with only CJ Sapong, Maidana, and six defenders nearby. Here we finally get down to the soft nougat center of Wenger’s confidence issues. Faced with such a scenario, the Union man pops an ugly, half-hearted cross into the box. No driving, shoulder down, into the much smaller Grana. No sitting on the ball attempting to draw a second defender then find Fabinho. No patience whatsoever. Just a near-tangible desire to not have the ball anymore.

Wenger chooses to cross into an empty box rather than try to retain possession. Click to play.

Wenger chooses to cross into an empty box rather than try to retain possession. Click to play.

Andrew Wenger is in a dark place right now. He knows that his coach, his teammates, Union fans, and even neutral analysts were expecting big things from him this season. He tried to put those expectations on his shoulders, but they seeped into his head and now they are in there like molasses on a water slide, slowing him down mentally and physically.

Maybe a lucky goal is all it will take to get the former No. 1 pick back on track. But the Union spend so little time in the final third that lucky goals, soft penalties, and deflected tallies are little more than wishful thinking.

I offer no answers. Time on the bench may help, but it could also leave the player alone too long with his thoughts. A stint in Harrisburg may do the same. Unfortunately, the Union can no longer wait around for Wenger to figure himself out.

More on the wingers: Le Toux

Sebastien Le Toux, of course, is another case entirely. Whereas Wenger disappears when frustrated, the Frenchman seeks involvement. And he has a tendency to seek it at the expense of his team.

Le Toux has always been a vertically oriented player. But last season he blossomed on the wing because he was willing to come back and start the build-up by releasing Nogueira or Maidana then galloping toward the box at pace. This season’s dearth of goals has seen Le Toux inch ever further up the pitch, taking him out of the build-up and making him an easy mark for defenders. No longer do they have to step to him and risk being beaten for speed; they simply wait for Le Toux to come then stick to him. Easy.

Yet Le Toux has only become more intent of getting on the end of plays. Instead of pulling back to the wing and helping the transition game become what it once was, he moves forward and leaves enormous holes for his midfield and fullbacks to cover.

This indiscipline has always been the bitter pill a coach swallows when he puts Le Toux’s name on the team sheet.

Le Toux wants to turn upfield instead of simply getting a touch and a foul. Click to play.

Le Toux wants to turn upfield instead of simply getting a touch and a foul. Click to play.

Normally, Le Toux drifts but he also stays involved and available for teammates, willing to check in even if his touch sometimes lets him down.

Against Columbus, the Frenchman showed no such penchant for team play. When the ball arrived, he wanted to go forward immediately. This led him to try and turn a Michael Lahoud pass through Waylon Francis, who probably still can’t believe he made such an easy tackle.

With his passing lane cut off, Le Toux heads upfield instead of checking in as an easy option for Maidana. Click to play.

With his passing lane cut off, Le Toux heads upfield instead of checking in as an easy option for Maidana. Click to play.

In the 51st minute, Le Toux became frustrated when Maidana could not find him in the left channel. Instead of removing Mohammed Saeid from the play by cutting inside, Le Toux started heading toward goal. This did not ask the impossible of Maidana, but it certainly was not the most helpful of solutions, as the Argentine made clear when he put his pass into the space he (and everyone else) expected Le Toux to move toward.

There is no simple solution here. Jim Curtin built his team around a transition game that flowed through his wingers and, right now, Curtin and those wingers cannot drag any production out of the position without using teenaged replacements.

So use them. Eric Ayuk and Sapong were not simply better than Le Toux and Wenger on Saturday, they were much, much better. They wanted the ball any way they could get it, and they came all the way back to defend. The Union have ridden Le Toux and Wenger before, but now those players must ride the bench.

Gaddis can cross with four Union players in the box. Instead he elects to go to the touchline.

Gaddis can cross with four Union players in the box. Instead he elects to go to the touchline.

Everybody’s feeling it

The wingers are most culpable, but Philly’s fullbacks are also deep in the depths of their own struggles right now. Sheanon Williams was benched in favor of a player who is simply not good enough to start in MLS. That is not meant as any sort of personal insult, but a reflection of recent performances against Dallas and Columbus. Ray Gaddis is in a similar boat to Le Toux, relying on his athleticism to make up for the fact that he is consistently left exposed and overloaded.

Columbus did their best to keep Edu off the ball.

Vitoria (23) and Edu (8). Columbus did their best to keep Edu off the ball.

It would be simple to point to Philly’s inability to pass out of the back as evidence. (Gregg Berhalter certainly noticed it. Just look at how he attempted to keep Edu off the ball.) But even when the Union get forward, the fullbacks lack any of the confidence they had last season when swift attacks granted them the time to play with purpose. In the 62nd minute of Saturday’s match, Gaddis had space on the edge of the box, looked up and saw four Union players in the box, and … took the ball wide.

This is legitimately strange. Not just because there were four Union players in the box, but more because fullbacks should be looking for exactly this type of situation to serve a ball in. The list of plays signaling a team-wide absence of confidence is piling up in this article. There is a trend.

Kamara has acres of space between the deep defense and a midfield caught high.

Kamara has acres of space between the deep defense and a midfield caught high.

The space between

Before Maurice Edu replaced Ethan White in the back line, Philadelphia had major spacing issues between both the fullbacks and center backs and between the entire defense and the midfield. Edu has been more positionally sound than White, but the Union continue to struggle with the gap between defense and midfield.

The problem often manifests when teams move the ball side to side and the Union end up stepping above the midfield stripe to press. The wingers move forward and separate from the shape, meaning the man under pressure has to play quickly, but often has multiple options (play wide, to the middle, or go long). A good press does more than simply encourage poor and/or rushed decisions, it also recovers the loose balls and turns them into opportunities.

Kamara had time to bring the ball down, turn, and play Higuain behind the midfield. Now the defense is in trouble and the midfield is out of the play.

Kamara had time to bring the ball down, turn, and play Higuain in space. Now the defense is in trouble and the midfield is out of the play.

Philly has had a notable lack of opportunities, however that problem may stem from the more distal issue of recovering loose balls. When the Union get stretched, the midfield hurries upfield to cover for the wingers, but the defense does not always follow. This is how a situation like that in the 60th minute of Saturday’s match develops. Philly gets stretched, but the back line stays deeper. So when a long ball comes in to Kamara, he is actually in enough space to bring it down and turn. One good pass and Columbus is running unopposed at the Union defense.

During the heyday of 2014, Philly was much more conservative in their pressure, often unwilling to chase into the opponent’s half unless the entire defense was set up (in other words, as a marauding band of pressure instead of a soloist). As the team seeks a way out of their current doldrums, the surprising answer may be very close at hand. Sitting deep is fine, but move as a unit and stay compact. It is a lesson Columbus has learned well over the past season and two months under Berhalter.

In fact, Columbus’ greatest trick may be the way they manipulate space on offense. They do not play with three midfielders simply to win the midfield battle. Instead, they use the midfield trio to empty out the middle, pulling one midfielder between the defenders and another near him as a short outlet. The fullbacks push high, forcing the defense to decide how in the world they want to deal with six players sitting across the back line.

Thus far this season, teams have had few answers. Columbus often ends up creating deep passing lanes through which they can bypass a defense as it stretches out to close down the deep midfielders. Federico Higuain is masterful at finding the right gap (one that gives him room to turn) and playing quickly once he has the ball. That quick play is key because it means the defense cannot recover in time to keep the Crew from running at the back line.

Player ratings

John McCarthy – 2

Probably the last of McCarthy for a while as Andre Blake is healthy and will look to provide stability at the goalkeeper position.

Ray Gaddis – 4

Few outright mistakes from Gaddis, but he continues to have trouble deciding where to be when he gets separated from his winger. After the opening stage of the match, Columbus spent much more energy attacking Fabinho than Gaddis.

Maurice Edu – 4

Far from his best, Edu was still much better than the Union’s worst. Beaten by Meram for the third goal on one of those plays you just wish you could have another crack at, Edu remained a notable and energetic presence despite the scoreline.

Steven Vitoria – 4

Touted as a difference-maker, Vitoria has merely been a warm body so far. He eschews the big errors, but he is slow on the turn and has trouble patrolling his outside channel.

Click to play.

Ethan Finlay does the business on Fabinho. Click to play.

Fabinho – 2

A bad day at the office for the Brazilian, who could not contain Ethan Finlay or get involved offensively. The intelligence of Finlay’s running should not be overlooked, but even the straight-ahead sprints were beating the Union’s struggling left back. Fabinho is many things, but he has never been called slow. By getting caught looking over his shoulder, the Brazilian is neutralizing his best asset and making life far too easy for attackers as good as Finlay.

Michael Lahoud – 4

Lahoud, once again, was far from terrible. He is also overwhelmed. The simple pass is rarely available, and Lahoud is still reluctant to spend much time on the ball in his own half (and rightly so, given the pressure he’s often under). Although this is some of the best soccer Lahoud has played for Philadelphia, it remains less than what the team needs. The blame should be spread across the midfield, but Lahoud’s limited passing range makes him an easy target on a team that is struggling to get out of their own half.

Brian Carroll – 5

Carroll wasn’t up to the bar he set in Kansas City, but he was hardly culpable for the team’s collapse. In the opening 20 minutes, Carroll was excellent, but he ran out of gas as the match wore on and was passed by far too easily.

Andrew Wenger – 2

Started brightly. Lacked confidence.

Ugly. Click to play.

Ugly. Click to play.

Sebastien Le Toux – 1

Le Toux will find his scoring touch when he puts the focus back on the team and takes it off his own struggles.

C.J. Sapong – 6

Great defensive angles for much of the night, plus Sapong put in a strong shift on the wing in the second half.

Substitutes
Click to play.

Curtin watches Ayuk’s backflipping. Click to play.

Eric Ayuk – 6

Fantastic goal. Here is Jim Curtin’s face after the backflips. It was 1-3, man.

Conor Casey – n/a

No impact.

Ethan White – 4

Competent, but not the assertive performance that gets him back in the first eleven.

Geiger Counter – 5

Little was asked of Chris Penso, and he delivered.

80 Comments

  1. Can we please stop giving Le Toux and Wenger excuses? Can we please stop even using the word confidence? It has nothing to do with that.

    They suck, they are finished. Wenger was never even a starter before we traded for him. Le Toux had a nice run but even in his best of times an objective eye could tell he was a limited player.

    I’m tired of riding out players that are shit now. These guys aren’t good wingers on playoff bound MLS teams. End of story.

    I would honestly start Ayuk and Jimmy on the wings the rest of the year. They are actually young enough to grow.

    • +1

      Wenger has one move. Teams quickly figured it out. He cannot adapt & has not developed a counter. Regular season MLS matches are not where you work this stuff out. Bench him, loan him out, whatever. But he does not belong in this lineup at any point in the near future.

  2. The most upsetting part of all this was when Saeid would drop back in between their CB’s and spread them out….pushing their flank backs way up the pitch………….we had no answer to it…….totally messed our shape up! The two CDM’s on Columbus were their engine room that make everything tick. I know youth club coaches who know how to counter that…………..

  3. My highlights of the match so.

    1. I got a PSP bottle opener. Thanks Guys!
    2. during halftime I went to Rustica to grab a couple of slices of pizza. Kids behind the counter were listening to Sonic Youths Daydream Nation like they were the first ones to ever hear it.(C’mahn now kids) but it was nice to hear Cross the Breeze again. I put the album on my phone when I got home.
    3. The Ayuk goal, flips and all.
    .
    Other than that this was the worst game I have ever watched. A game that not only makes you question why you are a Union fan but question all of your life choices in general. What am I doing with my life? Why am I doing this? Why am I even alive?
    The game was that bad.

  4. I was so disgusted by Ayuk’s backflips that I turned the TV off.
    .
    Scoreboard bro.

    • He is 18. And simply hasn’t been there before. I’d like to see your reaction to such a sick goal…I hope teammates told him that was dumb. But I don’t blame him.

    • It was his first goal of his MLS career since the other one was given away.
      .
      He’s 18.
      .
      He showed enthusiasm while others were packing it in thinking of the flight home.
      .
      Give the kid a break.

      • pragmatist says:

        +1. He was one of the few (maybe just him and Sapong) that looked like they wanted to be there.
        Maybe we need more of his enthusiasm, not less.

  5. Andy Muenz says:

    Earlier in the day I thought the dentist telling me one of my teeth is more mobile than it should be and I may need gum surgery was the worst thing that would happen Saturday. By halftime I realized I was wrong.
    .
    I expect that this coming Saturday the Union will experience their third home loss of the year…as many as they had in the expansion season of 2010…and it isn’t even Mother’s Day.
    .
    The good news is that at this pace, maybe someone will realize they are no longer a tweak or two away from the playoffs like at the end of the last two seasons.

  6. Probing analysis – it makes plain what has been evident for a few years – the Union don’t have the quality in any starting 11 that prevents opponents from focusing on shutting down 2 or 3 players and actually inviting the others to have the ball. Gaddis has been this way for a while (I remember a Houston game a while back were it was glaring 20 minutes into the game). LeToux’s consistent lack of technical ability questions his inclusion as an attacking player. Too many others to catalog. Stay close to Edu, Nogs and Chaco and you get the ball back.

    They also don’t have the quality to organize anything other than a counter. So opponents close down the technical players who can make it happen and we are left with LeToux, Wenger, Fabinho, Gaddis and Lahoud starting the counter.

    Does anyone have a DP spending comparison? the part above the budgeted amount of $387k (or whatever it is now)? I just assume we are at or near the bottom of that list. Indicative of the root problem.

    Some day the club will be sold …

  7. We’re really driving this “Philly through-and-through” thing to death. I don’t care if John McCarthy – or Jim Curtin – was born in Philly or Bozman Montana. Either get the job done, or move aside. McCarthy is not the answer at goal. Great kid, good story, not a starting MLS goalkeeper. As for Curtin, I was afraid the signing would turn out this way, just like the last internal signing did. Again, great guy, but doesn’t [yet] have the chops to be a manager in MLS. I’m sure he will one day, but right now this team is a mess. He’s got to get them organized and on the same page, and stop making silly or curious substitutions like his predecessor(s). Le Toux and Wenger both need a week out of the starting XI, Ayuk needs to stop with the backflips when it’s 3-1, and Blake needs to start in net. Saturday is a winnable game against Toronto, but then it’s @VAN, DC, @NYRB, @DC & CLB, and if they don’t beat NYCFC they may not win again until Montreal on June 27. There’s a real possibility this team could have only two wins on July 1st. Scary.

    • Don’t be ridiculous.

      There’s a very real possibility this team could only have ONE win on July 1st.

      • Which, by the way, is probably about when Sak will fire Curtin and hire Albright as the new “interim” manager, leaving him as sole coach-scout in the entire organization. Seriously, how many empty offices do you think they have in the FO?

      • The Black Hand says:

        You didn’t hear? The Unon sold the front-office. Running things out of the rear-office, from here on out.

      • winner winner chicken dinner

      • I thought they moved the FO to one of the men’s restrooms at PPL park?

      • The Black Hand says:

        New owners

      • I did see Sakiewicz and Sugarman hanging out at the beer garden after the training field rubbon cutting. They were just leaning on a table, chatting. The team hadn’t won yet. Glad they’re having a good time.

  8. For a tortured mathematical comparison, the average player rating is somewhere over a three for the starters, and I think that is generous at best. Fabinho was awful, and spent as much time looking at the back of his mark’s jersey as we did from the fixed camera that was used for the game broadcast. Le2 with the persistent gesturing and visible frustration with his teammates is showing much more Gallic emotion than useful leadership on the field; and this should be viewed from the position of a true fan of his earlier willingness to do whatever is asked of him on the filed, in any of the multiple positions that they have played him. I note that you picked up Carroll’s condition in the second half, and was sincerely hoping that he would be given a break with one of the substitutes. By the way, any fan that stuck with the pile of “accomplishment” that was presented on the field earned a rating of a 10. I think that we are all either nuts for doing so, or the definition of dedicated.

  9. Fabinho has never been called slow? Go back and watch last season’s game against Montreal when the 36 year-old Marco Di Vaio beat him cleanly on a 30 yard run down the flank. Yep, he’s painfully slow.

  10. el pachyderm says:

    Laughingstock.

  11. I blame Meram’s goal more on the fact that Edu was already on a yellow than anything else. Can’t be overly aggressive in that spot on the field without taking another yellow card and/or giving up a nicely-located (for Columbus) free kick.

    • How about blaming Edu’s positioning and poor lack of agility to get easily turned around and beat like he did? Meram should not get in that easy he isn’t that good.

  12. I’m not as upset by the back flips as I am at the rest of the team showing no heart,or hustle,or idea of what to do with the ball when there is no pressure on them… Sure the flips look silly when your down but the guy is a rookie… And one of the few bfight spots…I think he will learn from that. Very hard to watch thist eam….

    • Agreed. I’d rather watch a player with too much enthusiasm when we don’t stand a chance in hell than a player with too little enthusiasm when we’re still in it (aka the rest of the team).
      .
      If Curtin is on the other side of this, then I think he’s not so “Philly Tough.”

  13. Week in and Week Out it is the same sob story. I see maybe 2 points from a possible 27 over the next 9 matches. I would love to hear someone’s argument against that statement with how the current team is performing. Either way the Union are on the “Managerial Carousel” again, and hopefully that manager is not a cheap “in-house” alternative to an actual solution. The club also needs to over-haul the roster and cut a lot of the under-performing fat from it. Scratch this season and start the rebuild ASAP

  14. The union are a very unique team as compared to the rest of the soccer universe because they play in a first division league yet don’t have to worry, don’t at all have to fret about the one thing that happens to teams at the bottom…relegation. The U don’t have to face any consequences (safe in MLS and mostly full stadium) so nothing dramatic is going to happen. This is only the bottom if the Union are held accountable by us. Why would anyone trek to godforsaken Chester and spend decent money and time supporting this….this….THIS! I used to go outta my way to hype friends that prob wouldn’t seek Union fandom out for themselves on the team,but now I can’t even hype myself up

  15. A lot of these ranks I would say are high. It was a terrible display of soccer if you want to call it that at all. And honestly the best person on the field was probably Brian Carroll. Should BC get any praise, no cause they were all awful. But the fact that BC clearly made 2 to 3 passes that could have been clear goals if Wenger knew how to cut inside and take a shot was surprising. Also, what the hell is CDM doing being the only person starting the attack. Sapong was pretty useless most of the night and while Ayuk was a bit of a spark to little to late. Maybe one day this team will realize Wenger shouldn’t start. Le Toux should be the first sub off the bench for energy and veteran leadership. And a 4-2-3-1 does not work unless you get service and have a good front man. No tactics, no leadership and no help from the FO it’s sad.

  16. when i saw the play that you giffed of le toux tapping the ball directly into the feet of the opposing fullback i gasped and shuddered so forcefully that my wife asked me if something was wrong. and she was right to ask that because something is wrong

  17. The Black Hand says:

    Just finished bolting down the diving-board, up here on The Cliff…

  18. Waiting for Union Bible post that shows where this match was in the Book of Revelation and End of Days.

  19. el pachyderm says:

    Wonderful analysis as per the norm. This cannot and will not be fixed at least not by the current regime. If the issues were one or two and a few adjustments were made maybe- but the whole thing is dis-eased- offense goalkeeping defense shape spacing technique IQ. The whole thing is dis-eased. Euthanize.

  20. I thought Wenger started off so strong. I was excited, that maybe sitting a bit last week got him motivated or cleared his head or whatever. Then I realized it was just an aberration. *sigh*
    .
    McCarthy has gotta stop the hand gestures after every goal. I like the guy, and I wanted to punch him in the mouth by the end of the game.
    .
    I am loving Ayuk’s energy and talent. But he’s gotta learn “time, place, score” and that wasn’t the time, place, or score for doing back flips to celebrate a goal. Grab the ball and head back to the center circle.
    .
    I have mentioned before that I have an unabashed man crush on Le Toux. Dude’s gotta sit, though. He’s playing for himself rather than the team – or so it seems. Which is so unlike him, but that doesn’t matter. It can’t continue, and Curtin can’t ignore it because it sends the absolute wrong message.
    .
    Somebody up-stream mentioned, but it’s worth saying again. Brian Carroll actually had some very good weighted passes, that if Wenger had absolutely anything positive going on might have turned into goals. That said, I would be quite content if Brian Carroll never sees the pitch again.
    .
    Can *anybody* give a good reason why McLaughlin can’t seem to get minutes? Frankly, I’d be happy to rotate McLaughlin, Ayuk, and Sapong on the wings for most of the rest of the year, with Sapong also sliding into center-forward once in a while to spell Nando.
    .
    Jim Curtin, I’m afraid, is over his head. I like the guy. I want him to succeed. I love his honesty. I love that instead of giving bullshit he says, “I can’t answer that right now” and similar. But I said after 2014 ended that the best thing for Curtin would’ve been the team hiring a manager with experience and making Curtin the Heir Apparent under that coach. It’s a shame because now I think the only real recourse is to either ride out the year and suck more than a black hole, or make yet another coaching change. And since Nicky Sak will make the decisions either way, whatever we do will be the wrong damn choice…

    • el pachyderm says:

      An up beat guy you are John, I can feel the resignation in your rhythm today.

      • This one hurt. They came out and looked good, you know. Not great, but at least they gave the sense of having a mission, a plan. Then that stupid fucking back pass, and things went to hell in a hand basket. And there wasn’t even a need to make that damn pass. That’s the one time – the one damn time! – where we should hoof it up field, give Columbus the ball, and regroup. Or switch fields, swing the ball over to Gaddis or Le Toux on the opposite wing.
        .
        Fucking Fabinho…

      • The Black Hand says:

        Your pain mirrors mine. I haven’t shown your optimism…but I had always hoped that there, somewhere, lied a chance that we could turn things around, with a string of fine play. This was the match, where I realized that there is not a chance in hell that we turn this around. We are nowhere near bottom, yet…we will be, though.
        .
        Fucking Union…

      • The funny thing – not “funny like a clown” funny, more ironic (but not in the Alainis Morsette way) funny – is that I’m not normally an optimist. I’m also not normally a pessimist. I’m usually pretty good at being a pragmatist / realist.
        .
        Something about this team, though… I want to see the bright side. I want to find positives from each match, things that are worth recognizing. (Case in point, I guess: my comments about Brian Carroll above.)
        .
        But this match, more than any other over the past 5+ years… *sigh*
        .
        WSSFM

      • The Black Hand says:

        Somehow, this club has managed to get worse as the season progresses…instead of growing as a unit, they are separating like a ‘Big Bang’. Yes, there have been injuries…and yes are lacking talent, but this has to fall on the manager. This club should be showing something, by now…something.
        .
        IT WILL GET MUCH WORSE!

  21. I’m so tired…

    Tired of getting emotionally invested in the BS the front office keeps putting out and calling our team…

    Tired of reading the analysis on this site that so clearly and elegantly explain why WSSM…

    Tired of DVR-ing these games and staying up until 11:30pm watching the sad, sad state of the Onion.

    I need a break

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Dude I do the DVR thing all the time. And every time I think I’m going to see something different. It’s getting really hard…

      • Have to do what I used to with the late-Andy-Reid-era Eagles. DVR it. Check the final score, then decide if you want to watch it.
        Two hours of your life you will never get back…

  22. Wenger had a play in that game that was so bad I questioned if he had played soccer previously. Maybe all of the previous games this year and last have been mass hallucinations.
    .
    Anyway Maidana had the ball in the center of the field going into the final third. For some reason, there are a crowd of Union players on his right side and nobody on his left. Wenger must have been back on defense before the counter. Maidana comes up and starts going left instead of clumping up with the other members of the offense. The left sideline is empty so Wenger starts making a run up the line. Maidana sees him and is ready to pass the ball into that space…only for Wenger to inexplicably cut behind Maidana and head in the direction of the 3-4 Union players already clumped together on the right. With nobody to pass to, Maidana is forced to pass the ball back to our holding midfielders.

  23. Yep, that’s Wenger for you! Everyone on this site has been saying all season that he’s a great soccer player experiencing a crisis of confidence. But actually he’s a sucky soccer player who’s too lazy to try and win a header or make any kind of intelligent run.

  24. old soccer coach says:

    Look back at some of Curtin’s comments going into the season, the ones about playing slightly above capacity and managing to grab the last playoff spot that provoke the cricisms of setting mediocrity as the goal. They suggest he knew the Onion wasn’t going to be all that good. That suggests he has the ability to evaluate talent correctly.

    After the first layer of the Onion was peeled the rest was rotten against Columbus.

    We will learn a lot more on Saturday to come than we did Saturday last. if it is a repeat, then it is time to emulate Ben Olsen in 2013.

    • The Black Hand says:

      With all due respect, Coach; it didn’t take much ability to recognize that this club sucked. It did take talent to make this club suck SO much. Curtin has been tested…and he has failed, miserably. He is not the guy…not even a little bit.
      .
      We have no answer for Altidore. He is going to manhandle our CB’s. Get ready for more of the same…
      .
      FREE THIS FUCKING FRANCHISE!!!!

      • old soccer coach says:

        We agree to disagree about Curtin, Mr. Black Hand. He tells the truth, within the parameters placed by his employer, and made a brave decision to contradict his immediate boss directly on his boss’s most publicized recent decision. Often that gets you fired immediately. He’s not perfect. If the collapse in Columbus begins a trend of collapses then he will have lost the locker room, and that loss is generally not recoverable. In five and a quarter seasons we have had three managers, not Toronto’s rate of turnover, but not stability either. Stability is better than instability, generally speaking. Managers do make a difference; players make a much bigger difference.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Excellent rebuttal, OSC. I still disagree, but you explained your position perfectly.
        .
        I think that Jim Curtin could,one day, be a manager. This is not that day…nor is this the right club, for him. (The whole ‘hometown-boy’ thing sounds good but means little.) WE need an experienced football manager, who knows how to steer ships, not an in-house hiring coming from a terribly flawed system.

  25. The Black Hand says:

    I watched the Seattle-Portland match, last night. It was real football. Sloppy, at times, but there was quite a bit of fine play. Portland is lightyears ahead of our club…and we have been in the league for an extra year…so sad…

  26. BRING HACK BACK

  27. Rumor has it that they’ve found a new coach candidate.
    .
    https://thedhw.files.wordpress.com/2010/05/rainkane2.jpg

  28. and the new goalie candidate on the rumor mill is also creating some interesting discussion… particularly about popping the ball.
    .
    https://www.stanwinstonschool.com/uploads/attachments/17/edward-final-blog-post.jpg?1337098664

  29. I constantly find myself wondering: If it were not for Guinness and whiskey, would I be able to stomach this team? ‘It’s Always Funny in Philadelphia’

  30. The Union Bible says:

    The Crewcible 6:30 -6:45

    And lo, the unionites have been blessed with the gift of clairvoyance. For upon viewing the brigade that son of a curtain maker had assembled, the unionites knew they were doomed before the sacred rock was tapped.

    A crippling and inexplicable malaise of the heart did beset the brigade. And so it was, the anointed winger was the first to be stricken. He became so melancholy that he regarded the sacred rock as something evil, something to be given away with no thought or purpose. The one who was called “The Everything” by his people, brought nothing. The one who the unionites have been crafting a sun ark for did yet again betray his brothers by forfeiting the sacred rock to the black and gold clad crewman. There was one who was untouched by the pervasive malaise, the flippant one who was able to find daylight amongst the darkness. Though his display was deemed too demonstrative in a losing battle, he still provides hope for the unionites.

  31. Someone has to ask the Union what they’re doing (or, more likely, not doing) to address the plan Sugarman dropped at the end of last season — that a real front office organization would be created to support Curtin and this team. What on earth is Rene Mulensteen up to? When will the team hire a full time GM? I know he can’t answer those questions, but I’d pose them to Curtin tomorrow to put the FO on notice that the public has noticed.
    .
    None of this is even a little fair to Curtin. I think he did the most he possibly could and he’s getting punched in the gut for his efforts. I honestly thought this team had a chance of being a 5th or 6th place team, but the evidence so far says that even my modest expectations were foolish. Ugh…

  32. Benjaminho says:

    Adam, I think you are just beginning to trip over a major issue defensively. Despite having a coach that is a former all-star CB, the team is incredibly unorganzied when pressing. The 3rd goal is a perfect example which you touch on. Are they pressing high? If so, when? Who is dictating the line which they press at? Watching this game I’m not sure anyone on the field knows. As you note this then opens up a ton of space to play through and options galore. Far to easily did CLB by-pass the front line of players because of gaps opened by the front line deciding to press and the midfield line late to react. Way to easy. If the Union are to find any success this season they must be more compact in their shape defensively and must elimiate the maurading unsupported undisciplined kamakazi sprints fwd to press alone.

    Keep up the good work.

  33. Curtains on Curtain?

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