Friday, July 31, 2015

Looking back at the soccer weekend

Analyzing the Independence's loss in the Women's Professional Soccer championship game and the Union's 3-0 rout of Chivas USA at PPL Park.

Looking back at the soccer weekend

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There's plenty to talk about from the Union's 3-0 win over Chivas USA on Saturday, but let's start with the Independence's loss to FC Gold Pride in yesterday's Women's Professional Soccer championship game. I had other obligations while the game was being played, so I couldn't do a chat. Nonetheless, it wasn't surprising that the Independence were routed by one of the best teams in the history of women's soccer.

On the whole, the Independence are due a tremendous amount of credit for how far they came this year and the style with which they played. Paul Riley put together a squad with a mix of youth, veteran American experience and just the right amount of international flair.

Unfortunately, they were matched up against a Gold Pride team that was by far the best in WPS this season. Marta is unquestionably the world's best player, and she got plenty of help in the attack from Tiffeny Milbrett and Christine Sinclair.

On top of that, the Independence had to travel across the country two days after playing their second straight overtime playoff game. It was just too much of a burden to overcome, and FC Gold Pride were deserved winners of this season's title.

Although WPS is on better financial footing than the old WUSA was, the current league still isn't in the best shape. We should all hope that it continues, especially with the Women's World Cup coming next summer in Germany.

We should also all hope that the Independence find a home next season that is more accessible to the many soccer fans across our region who were unable to get to West Chester this year. As you all know, I was as guilty as anyone of not getting out there often.

There are plenty of options available to Independence for next season, from PPL Park to Villanova Stadium or other college venues. Wherever the team ends up, hopefully the venue will be easier to reach by both car and public transit.

In case you didn't get to watch yesterday's game, you can check out video higlights below.

 


Now for a few thoughts from me in the wake of the Union's commanding 3-0 win over Chivas USA on Saturday at PPL Park. I wasn't at the game because I was covering college football, but I watched a replay of Telefutura's broadcast afterward. Soccer really can be a universal language sometimes.

- You know it's a good day for the Union when Alejandro Moreno and Fred score. I did some quick math and calculated the ratio of minutes played to goals scored for each of the Union's primary attacking players. Here's what I came up with:

Sebastien Le Toux: 2,070 minutes / 12 goals = 172.5 minutes per goal
Danny Mwanga: 1,210 minutes / 7 goals = 172.9 minutes per goal
Fred: 1,768 minutes / 3 goals = 589.3 minutes per goal
Justin Mapp: 635 minutes / 1 goal = 635 minutes per goal (2)
Shea Salinas: 711 minutes / 1 goal = 711 minutes per goal (1)
Alejandro Moreno: 1,642 minutes / 2 goals = 821 minutes per goal
Roger Torres: 853 minutes / 0 goals = nothing. (3)

There are two obvious external factors in the math: that Mapp's minutes are only since he joined the Union, and that Salinas was out for two months with an injury. But it's still noteworthy that Moreno's goalscoring ratio is as low as it is.

Torres' lack of goals scored is also noteworthy. I think he can be given a pass because of everything else he contributees, but I wonder if you feel the same way.

- The Union's defense did a good job of keeping Chivas USA star Justin Braun in check. Braun might not be the Goats' most stylish player, but he's definitely the spearhead of the team's attack. Braun took only two shots in the match, and both came early. In the eighth minute, he fired a shot well wide from about 35 yards after turning around Stefani Miglioranzi; and in the 21st minute, he hit a first-time shot right at Brad Knighton. That latter opportunity was about as open as Braun got all afternoon.

- Sheanon Williams had another strong game. He got involved on the attack on the right flank often, but not so often that he left too much space behind him exposed. Perhaps that was due in part to Justin Mapp, who has plenty of steel blended in with his pace and finesse. When Williams went forward, Mapp stayed back and defended. Danny Califf also did a good job of tracking back quickly on Chivas counter-attacks.

- Mapp hit a perfect corner kick on to Moreno's head for the first goal. I know we finished the debate about who should take the Union's set pieces a while ago, and it's been a few weeks since Sebastien Le Toux was finally relieved of that duty. But Mapp really did hit that service well: just high enough and with just enough spin to land in just the right place. Moreno also did well to head the ball high and into the corner of Zach Thornton's net.

- Zach Thornton should have saved Le Toux's free kick in the 69th minute. Yes, the shot took a deflection off Ante Jazic, and it might have hit another Chivas player in the wall too. But the ball ended up coming at Thornton rather slowly, and I thought he had enough time to react.

I'll post your Union player ratings tomorrow morning. Until then, fire away with your thoughts on the weekend's action. And if you didn't get to watch Saturday's win, here are the video highlights:

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Photos: FC Gold Pride 4, Independence 0
Photos: Union 3, Chivas 0
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The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, the National Women's Soccer League, the U.S. men's and women'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.

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