Saturday, August 30, 2014
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Thoughts on the Union's draw with the Galaxy

The scenario was so familiar that I've lost count of how many times I've seen it.

Thoughts on the Union's draw with the Galaxy

Philadelphia
Philadelphia's Danny Mwanga celebrates with teammates after scoring the equalizing goal to tie the game 1-1 late in the second half. (Ed Hille/Staff Photographer) Ed Hille / Staff Photographer
Gallery: Union 1, Galaxy 1

Union 1, Galaxy 1: Kerith Gabriel | Marc Narducci | Bob Ford | John Smallwood | John Gonzalez

The scenario was so familiar that I've lost count of how many times I've seen it.

Los Angeles got a relatively early (and relatively soft) goal from Landon Donovan, then proceeded to do just about nothing for the next hour.

For as much attacking talent as Bruce Arena's squad has, no team in MLS is better at defending a 1-0 lead. L.A. went ahead in the 24th minute, and I couldn't help thinking that the game was close to over already.

Call me a pessimist if you want. It didn't help that at the same time, I was watching the Phillies flail away at the Marlins' pitching while also trailing 1-0.

I actually liked the starting lineup that John Hackworth deployed. It was an honest-to-goodness 4-4-2, with no confusion as to which players had which roles in the attack. There was also a good balance between attack and defense in the midfield, and good width from Justin Mapp and Keon Daniel.

A lot of people complained about Carlos Ruiz, though. I wasn't yet convinced that he needed to be benched coming into the night, and I thought he made some positive contributions as a setup man in the first half.

But I saw Ruiz standing around waiting for the ball in many key situations in the second half. That's a bad sign, and it makes me wonder whether at the least he could use some rest.

If you think that it doesn't work for Ruiz, Le Toux and Danny Mwanga to all start at the same time - and I'd say a lot of people think that, including me - then do you start Ruiz or Mwanga with Le Toux?

Don't jump to answer too fast. If you start Mwanga, you lose the ability to use his speed and fresh legs as a super-sub. I also am not entirely convinced that Mwanga is ready to be a starter. He's fast and powerful, but I don't think his touch is refined enough yet.

I know some of you want to see Jack McInerney in the substitute role. Three goals in 20 games played isn't exactly a high rate of return, though. As with Mwanga, I think his time will come, but I don't think it's here yet.

With that said, the Union had to do something dramatic in order to get a result against the Galaxy. So John Hackworth threw caution to the wind and put every attacking player on the bench on the field: first Mwanga, then Roger Torres and McInerney came on as substitutes during the second half.

McInerney's intruduction was a bit risky, as it looked at one point like Faryd Mondragón might have to leave the game after suffering a groin strain.

It was practically a 3-3-4 formation, and it produced swarms of navy blue shirts in the Galaxy's 18-yard box. But as with the win over New York a few weeks back, the Union's goal came from a defensive mistake.

The draw was a deserved result in the end. But not for the first time, it's fair to wonder what could have been.

I'm not saying the Union should throw caution to the wind for all 90 minutes, but I think we can all agree that there's a balance to be found somewhere. The sooner the Union find it, the sooner they could potentially become a really good team, instead of a team that survives on one goal a game.

I don't think about the standings too much at this time of year, since it's still relatively early in the season. But it's worth remembering that the Union are a point off first place in the Eastern Conference, and they're there on merit.

(The Phillies are in pretty good shape too, in case you've forgotten... and judging from the Phillies game chats I've hosted this week, I think a few people in our region have done just that.)

So those are my few cents on the game. The video highlights are below, There's also a video analysis piece from the Daily News' Kerith Gabriel here.

Now it's your turn. What did you think of the Union's performance?

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Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
About this blog
The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, U.S. national teams and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Reach Jonathan at jtannenwald@phillynews.com or 215-854-2330.

Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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