Friday, November 27, 2015

Union burned at both ends by FC Dallas

Aside from a few chances early in the game for the Union, Dallas was dominant, and the Union suffered their most lopsided loss of the season so far.

Union burned at both ends by FC Dallas


Time and again this season, the question has been asked as to when the Peter Nowak would finally loosen the reins on the Union's offense.

Fans and neutral observers alike have wanted to see more of Roger Torres and Danny Mwanga in particular, especially after their strong performances as substitutes in the last few games.

On Saturday, that wish was granted, as Torres and Mwanga both started against FC Dallas. Perhaps Nowak sensed an opportunity for a road win, since Dallas was without injured playmaking star David Ferreira.

If that's what the stage was set for, then the Union bus must have parked at the wrong theater. Aside from a few chances early in the game for the Union - including Amobi Okugo missing a wide open net after a great passing sequence in the 13th minute - Dallas was dominant, and the Union suffered their most lopsided loss of the season so far.

I use the phrase "most lopsided" on purpose, as opposed to "worst." The 2-0 defeat was the most lopsided because both previous losses were by 1-0 scores. I would rank the loss in Portland as "worse" than this, because the Union could barely keep hold of the ball in the rare moments when they had possession in the first place. At least in this game, the Union had chances to score.

It's also worth keeping im mind that Saturday's game came at the end of a stretch of three games in nine days. The Union had a week to get ready for their trips to Portland and Los Angeles, but all of one day to rest before flying to Frisco, Texas last Friday.

I'm sure that Nowak and his players would not use all that travel as an excuse for looking fatigued in the latter stages of Saturday's game. Still, it's worth pointing out that Sebastien Le Toux and Carlos Valdés have played every minute of every game this season.

Sheanon Williams has played every minute save the last 17 at Los Angeles. Danny Califf has played 90 minutes in every game this season except one that he sat out. Carlos Ruiz has played at least 80 minutes in every game except Saturday's and the home win over New York.

It was clear that Ruiz sat Saturday because of his lackluster performances against Portland and L.A. I wonder if Sebastien Le Toux also deserved to rest, or at least to be substituted out at some point on Saturday.

That would have lessened the burden on Le Toux, and it also would have avoided what I thought was a rather over-the-top 4-2-4 formation that the Union deployed in the second half.

It's one thing to play attacking soccer, but it's another to do so with four forwards. we've already seen that playing three forwards hasn't worked for the Union. Putting four forwards out there makes it even more difficult to move the ball among them all effectively, even with a Roger Torres providing service from midfield.

The Union didn't need to put four forwards on the field in order to create chances, either.

The starting lineup got the ball to within 10 yards of the FC Dallas net four times in the first 22 minutes of the game, but did not convert any of those opportunities. A goal at any point during that span would have radically altered the nature of the game.

The Union finished the game with a 61.1 percent to 38.9 percent advantage in ball possession. They had a higher passing accuracy than FC Dallas, 69 percent to 62 percent, and completed a far greater number of passes, 457 to 281.

But FC Dallas had a 13-8 edge in shots, a 5-1 edge in shots on goal, and a 2-0 win on the scoreboard when the final whistle blew. Those are the numbers that really matter.

Now the Union have a full week to prepare for a home game against the Chicago Fire, who have recorded only one win so far this season. By contrast, six of the Union's last seven games were against teams that made the playoffs last season, and the seventh was a road game against a Portland team that hasn't lost at home this season.

The Fire will be a good test of where the Union really stand right now. It's a game that the Union should win comfortably, not just by 1-0. If that happens, it will be a lot easier to put the loss to FC Dallas in the rear view mirror.
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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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