Saturday, November 28, 2015

Take Two: Union vs. Houston Dynamo

A few highlights and lowlights from watching a replay of Saturday's 1-1 draw at PPL Park.

Take Two: Union vs. Houston Dynamo


A few highlights and lowlights from watching a replay of Saturday's 1-1 draw at PPL Park...

- Sebastien Le Toux's goal will be remembered for a lot of reasons. Most notable among them, of course, is the way the ball seemed to stick to Le Toux's left foot as he received Roger Torres' pass. But the goal was built on much more than just the pass and finish.

Before Torres sent the ball into the box, he worked his way out of a challenge from Houston's Brad Davis. Torres was able to stay on his feet through the contact and recover the ball, and he had enough time to look up before delivering the pass.

That struck me as a real sign of maturity and confidence from the 19-year-old. Torres is 5-foot-5, 143 pounds, and Davis is 5-11, 175. I'd say there's a little bit of a mismatch there. Earlier in the season, when Torres was still getting settled in MLS, I'm not sure he would have fought to stay on his feet after contact like that. But Torres worked through it, and as often happens, he was richly rewarded for his effort.

- Here's a stat from the game that shouldn't get overlooked. Torres' 76 minutes played represented the most time he's spent on the field in a game this season. That performance did not go unnoticed by Union coach Peter Nowak.

"Roger played well," Nowak said. "He moved from spot to spot and played a great pass for the assist to Seba on the goal, so I was very happy to see that. Sometimes there's one pass like that, and then you try to do another one instead of doing the simple things and moving the ball left to right, but I was very happy with his performance.

- I was surprised that referee Kevin Stott did not stop the game
when Kyle Nakazawa stayed on the turf after Andrew Hainault pushed him down. I also think it was a foul in the first place, though Stott let quite a bit go during the game. As for Nakazawa staying down, I counted six seconds that he was on the turf.

I would ask those of you who are referees: is there a certain amount of time that you keep in mind to decide how injured a player is? Obviously six seconds isn't a long time, and to pick any specific number can be considered arbitrary. But I'd like to know what you do when you're out there in the middle of the field.

- The Union were lucky that Houston did not score in the last 10 minutes. Peter Nowak's decision to play three forwards and Sebastien Le Toux opened up big gaps in the midfield, especially on the flanks, and the Dynamo served a couple of crosses into Brad Knighton's box that should have been converted to goals.

You can't fault Nowak for going for the win, but I think his substitution strategy put too many pastry chefs in the kitchen and not enough line cooks. The Union's midfield in the last stages of the game was comprised of Andrew Jacobson, Kyle Nakazawa, Sebastien Le Toux, with earlier substitute Shea Salinas moving to left back after Jack McInerney replaced Jordan Harvey.

That meant the Union had a three-player midfield, which makes it harder to occupy the entire width of the pitch. So it wasn't surprising to see Dynamo players with space on the flanks to send crosses into the box late in the game.

The most glaring example came in the 92nd minute. Lovell Palmer passed the ball to Corey Ashe, who was unmarked on the left side about 25 yards out. Sheanon Williams ran over to close Ashe down, but Ashe had more than enough time to deliver a great cross on to the head of Cam Weaver. Fortunately for the Union, Weaver's header went over the crossbar - as did Brian Ching's header off a cross from the right side just seconds later.

It's a short turnaround this week, and with the baseball playoffs starting Wednesday the next few days are going to be really busy for me. So I'll post your player ratings tomorrow, then that will be it until Thursday's game against Los Angeles.

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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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