Like any fan in the months leading up to the inaugural Union game, I closely followed whatever information I could find about the team, most of which was speculation or random ranting. Most discussing fans did, however, arrive at a general consensus about the projected lineup. Given the players we had added or drafted, there appeared to be very little leeway at any position. Consequently, I probably wasn't the only one squinting at the tv and muttering to myself when our starting lineup was displayed.
I don't think its a stretch to say that our lineup is somehow significantly less certain than it was before the Union ever stepped on the field. This post is thus the attempt of one fan to make sense of the lineup moving forward. As the first game proved, this might be an entirely useless endeavor, but its always fun to speculate.
Disclaimer: My knowledge of soccer is based entirely on one MLS and a handful of national team games, mostly viewed at bars, plus some articles read mostly for time-wasting purposes. I'm shooting for one insightful comment, and at the very least I hope to spark some debate about who should be playing where.
Just to make sure we're at least close to being on the same page, my understanding of the projected lineup for the first game looked a little something like this:
Forward: Le Toux ------ Moreno
Midfield: Zimmerman? ----- Fred ----- Miglioranzi ----- Salinas
Defense: Harvey ----- Califf ----- Thomas ----- Orozco
So at least one outside midfielder was uncertain, while Fred and his red card would probably be replaced by either Stahl or Okugo. Instead, we put out a strange lineup of players, many of whom appeared to be playing partly out of position. I ran across one explanation that suggested most of the players who sat out were either out with injuries (Salinas, Thomas) or "limited" (Miglioranzi). Management so far has been able to secure information leaks in a manner that would make the CIA jealous, so who knows if that explanation is accurate. Either way we got to see some young promising players who could dramatically affect how this season pans out. The performance of the players who saw the field could go a long way toward determining who starts, or plays, from here on out:
Seitz (GK): Didn't appear to be at fault for either goal, (especially the second when Harvey kept Montero onside) but didn't make any stand-out saves either. Will most likely start in the next game.
Harvey (LB): As noted, kept Montero onside for the second goal. Didn't really participate in the attack. No glaring defensive breakdowns, but a lukewarm performance. Given that he was in the projected starting lineup, I would guess that his performance wasn't bad enough to warrant a replacement.
Califf (CB): The 1' yellow card (flop?) that no one appears to have seen, except the linesman. Avoided a red, which is always nice. No news is good news, appeared to have some decent passes out of the back. Team captain and the closest we can get to a definite starter.
Stahl (CB): We all know what happened here, he either provokes flops or enjoys kneeing people in the back. Had one good sliding clearance in the box on an attempted cross. I would guess that Thomas, generally heralded as an excellent expansion draft pickup, takes his place in the next game pending any unknown injuries. There have been rumblings of signing Abu Bakr, a CB, who (i think) is the only other option here. Despite this performance, I think Stahl gets more looks as the season goes on, maybe at DM though.
Myrie (RB): Exposed all night. Vintage Ray Lewis-type takeout to earn his yellow in the second half. Of all who stepped on the field on Thursday, perhaps the most likely to sit out the next game. I noticed one comment that suggested starting a orange parking cone in his place. I have to think that Orozco, a fringe national team player, returns to his natural position.
Jacobson (LM): Who? Not sure I really noticed him throughout the game. No offensive spark, hard to say how much he was helping back on defense. Given the uncertainty at this position, I wouldn't be surprised to see him start here again. Zimmerman would be our other option, although Le Toux played primarily as an outside winger in Seattle last year, and could be an interesting option should Nowak decide to start a young forward.
Orozco (CM): Held the ball well at times, delivered our most dangerous shot early in the game. Despite having a reputation for rough play, avoided a card. Definitely played well enough to deserve more starts, though hopefully at his normal position where he seems more in demand anyway.
Mwanga (CM): ???? Easily the most puzzling lineup placement for the first game. Played forward through college, drafted for his goal-scoring prowess. All I can think is that Nowak assumed he would be nervous in his first game, and wanted him to touch the ball early and often for the experience. Had a couple of glaring turnovers and didn't spark the offense at all. First substitution at halftime. My guess is we never see him here again, and he serves as a late-game forward sub for now.
Torres (RM): Really stood out, even to a inexperienced viewer. Was at the center of every offensive foray. A few suspect corners, but that could be attributed to the field. Potentially shares some blame for Myrie's one-man show in the back. Nonetheless, might be a revolt if he doesn't start the next game, I feel like we have to find a place on the field for him.
Moreno (F): Known for his flopping, but couldn't compete with Seattle. Didn't really influence the game, but also didn't see much of the ball from the midfielders. Picked up an unnecessary yellow, but who didn't.
Le Toux (F): A few promising moments. Scored on an offside call, generally appeared to be the more dangerous of the forwards. Some noticeable defensive plays tracking back. Will most likely start somewhere, has the kind of work ethic that Nowak purportedly likes.
Miglioranzi (46 ' CM): Appeared to plug a porous midfield in the second half. Conspicuously steady. Should probably be our starting defensive midfielder.
Okugo (71' CM): Made a few good possession plays in limited time. As a side note, played well in U.S. National U-20 game against Mexico yesterday.
McInerney (78' F): Was one nice defensive play away from breaking in alone on goal. Seemed more active at the forward position. Some fans gushed about his performance afterward, but in his limited time, I just didn't see it. Wouldn't mind seeing more of his speed/style as a foil to Moreno though.
My guess is that the defense for our next game mirrors the projected lineup. This unit was considered the strongest on our team heading into the season, so one would think it would also be the most settled. Additionally, with our young talent at the forward position (and 0 goals in the first game), I just cannot see starting Le Toux and Moreno for the foreseeable future.
A combination of who I hope to see, and who we can reasonably expect to see on the field April 10th:
Forward: McInerney ------ Moreno
Midfield: Le Toux ----- Fred ----- Miglioranzi ----- Torres
Defense: Harvey ----- Califf ----- Thomas ----- Orozco
Notes: Nowak has played a 4-3-3 and a 4-5-1 in the past, so even the formation is up in the air. Also noteworthy, here we would be starting the poor man's Brazilian midfield.