Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Take Two: Union at D.C. United

A few more thoughts after watching a replay of Sunday's game.

Take Two: Union at D.C. United

Sebastien Le Toux has played as both a midfielder and a forward for the Union. (Susan Walsh/AP)
Sebastien Le Toux has played as both a midfielder and a forward for the Union. (Susan Walsh/AP)

A few more thoughts after watching a replay of Sunday's game...

- We didn't see as much from Eduardo Coudet as we have in previous games. Sometimes it's good for a holding midfielder to be out of the spotlight, but with Coudet that's not the case. In addition to his defensive skills, Coudet has shown plenty of ability to play balls forward out of a deep midfield position. He did that some in the first few minutes of the game, but not as much afterwards.

Maybe that was a function of the field, because Coudet's best plays came before the rainstorm. But Coudet isn't a pace guy, so a slow pitch shouldn't matter too much

- If Alejandro Moreno's hamstring injury is as severe as it looked on TV, I don't see a need to rush Moreno back.
We all know how many things he does during a game, but I think now's the time for Sebastien Le Toux and Danny Mwanga to establish a real partnership up top.

Le Toux has said that he plays especially well with Moreno, and that he and Mwanga are still working on understanding each other's chemistry. Over the last few weeks, though, Le Toux and Mwanga have combined with great success. They could be the starting forwards for the Union for a while to come.

Playing Le Toux as a forward also opens up a midfield slot for Justin Mapp or Roger Torres. I said my peace about Torres yesterday, as you know. If Torres isn't healthy, then Mapp can start, or Fred can move to the middle, or any number of possibilities. The Union have a lot of midfield depth, but if Le Toux takes one of the spots that leaves good players on the bench.

- Among those players is Kyle Nakazawa, who had one of his better games on Sunday. Though he only played for 30 minutes, Nakazawa brougth some spark and energy to the midfield. His set-piece services were also very good, which bolsters the case that he ought to take them instead of Le Toux.

How about a starting midfield of Fred, Nakazawa, Torres or Mapp and Miglioranzi or Coudet? A foursome from there would balance attack, defense and just enough wing play to mix things up going forward.

- A foul by D.C.'s Pablo Hernandez led to United's second goal. I thought when the play happened that Hernandez stepped on Nakazawa's foot, and I still think so having watched the sequence again.

But Nakazawa being down at midfield does not excuse the rest of the Union's defenders from giving D.C. an enormous amount of open space to run through on their counter-attack. As Andy Najar moved down the right flank, there was no one marking Danny Allsopp. All four retreating Union players were looking at Najar.

Look at all the open space on the left side of the field as Najar gets ready to play the cross to Allsopp:

That's Danny Califf at the edge of the 18-yard box, and right back Michael Orozco Fiscal at the corner of the screen near midfield. It's fine if the wing backs overlap, especially given the lack of wide players in the Union's midfield. It's also not a crime to get caught out on a counter-attack. That happens all the time in soccer. But someone has to stay home, or at least keep an eye on players other than the guy with the ball. To have all the defenders on one side of the field is a recipe for trouble.

- Your eyes did not deceive you: those were gridiron lines on the pitch at RFK Stadium. The paint from last December's EagleBank Bowl still hasn't worn off the grass yet. To give you an idea of how long it's been since then, the EagleBank Bowl was the last game that the Temple football team played. The Owls' first game of 2010 is a week and a half away.

RFK Stadium is owned and operated by the District of Columbia city government, but that's still pretty embarassing. Especially for a stadium that used to have one of the best playing surfaces in Major League Soccer.

It's also a reminder of just how important soccer-specific stadiums like PPL Park have become. As much as I like RFK, and always have, D.C. needs and deserves a true home of its own. Here's hoping that United finally gets that place - and that it's not in Baltimore or some other place far away from the team's core fan base.

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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.

Jonathan Tannenwald
Lauren Green Inquirer Staff Writer
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