At the end of the 2011 season, there was every reason to believe the Philadelphia Union were embarking on a steady climb. Having gained valuable playoff experience, the young team would seek to acquire a proven goal-scorer and build depth at center back before pushing deeper towards the MLS Cup. Home field advantage would remain a strength - the team had only lost 4 of 32 regular season games played across two years at PPL Park and Lincoln Financial Field. The squad would also benefit from an unbalanced schedule that limited match ups with stacked Western Conference teams like MLS Cup Champion LA Galaxy to just one while setting up three matches apiece with the bottom four finishers in the Eastern Conference - Toronto FC, New England Revolution, D.C. United, and Chicago Fire.
A roster overhaul, a coaching change, and 12 losses (5 at home) later, the Union find themselves 16 points behind 5th place DC United. Only the top 5 in each conference advance to the playoffs this season. Even with two games in hand, it will require a tremendous run and epic meltdowns elsewhere to secure a spot in the post-season.
11 games played under Peter Nowak, 11 under John Hackworth, and 12 left to go... can the boys in blue make things interesting as they head down the final stretch? Hit the jump for a look at some numbers ahead of tonight's game.
22 games played
7-12-3 overall record (5-5-1 post Nowak) - 24 pts
5-5-1 at home (4-2-0 post Nowak)
2-7-2 on the road (1-3-1 post Nowak)
With 11 games in the books under each coach, who was most affected by the Hackworth-Nowak switch?
Under Peter Nowak, Lionard Pajoy started all 11 matches and saw 974 minutes of action, scoring 3 goals. Once John Hackworth took over, his playing time was cut in half - 5 starts, 516 minutes, 2 goals. It didn't come as much of a surprise when the Colombian striker was dealt.
Before: 10 starts, 657 minutes, 4 goals
After: 1 start, 318 minutes, 1 goal
Before: 0 starts, 77 minutes, 0 goals
After: 9 starts, 721 minutes, 4 goals
Before: 0 starts, 26 minutes, 0 goals
After: 1 start, 479 minutes, 2 goals
Before: 1 start, 160 minutes
After: 11 starts, 990 minutes
Before: 1 start, 179 minutes
After: 3 starts, 408 minutes
Carlos Valdes, Sheanon Williams, Brian Carroll, Michael Farfan, Gabriel Farfan, and Zac MacMath have played nearly every minute they have been available this season. That did not change with the coaches. Freddy Adu's minutes are nearly identical to the course Nowak had laid out.
Cristhian Hernandez saw a few minutes of action between two early-season sub appearances. Chandler Hoffman had one start and one sub appearance under each coach. Chris Albright and Porfirio Lopez remain mostly unused defensive subs. Chase Harrison and Chris Konopka each saw a game in place of a concussed Zac MacMath. Roger Torres has seen little action under either coach due to his knee injury. Danny Mwanga and Danny Califf were out of town before Hackworth could use them.
Jorge Perlaza didn't have a chance to play for Nowak, and has only seen the field twice for a total of 72 minutes in 11 games. Michael Lahoud was in town for three matches before Nowak was fired, but he has been involved in most games as either a starter or a sub. Bakary Soumare and Danny Cruz joined the team post-Nowak and Hack sent Kai Herdling home early.
I think it's safe to say the writing's on the wall for Gabriel Gomez. It's a shame, because the captain of the Panamanian National Team brings size and experience to the midfield. On a team that values under-sized, high-motor guys (sounds like the Eagles), he's the odd man out.
The Union have scored 24 goals so far this season. 8 were scored in the final 15 minutes of the first half, 8 were scored in the final 15 minutes of the second half. Only 2 (including the goal this past weekend) were scored in the first half hour of a match. Of the 28 goals allowed, 19 were allowed in the second half of a game.
Since the coaching change, the Union have scored 16 goals in 11 games. Freddy Adu has taken part (scoring, playing a crucial through ball, curling in a free kick or cross) in 6 of those goals. Of the 8 goals scored before Nowak left, Adu scored one and assisted one.
The U have only scored 6 more goals than Chris Wondolowski this season. The San Jose Earthquakes lead the league with 51 assists, and Philly are at the bottom of that list with 15. Landon Donovan and Graham Zusi have 11 assists each.
Michael Farfan (40), Freddy Adu (25), Gabriel Gomez (19), Carlos Valdes (15) are the team leaders in shots taken. Jack McInerney has 7 shots on goal and 4 goals. Gomez has 8 shots on goal and 5 goals.
The Union are 5-0-1 when leading at the half. They are 1-10-1 when allowing the first goal.
14 own goals have been recorded in the league this season. Keon Daniel and Amobi Okugo were charged with one apiece, and Freddy Adu's cross / Chase Harrison's run forced Jalil Alibaba into one in Philadelphia's favor.
All Time Union Scorers:
Sebastien Le Toux - 25
Danny Mwanga - 12
Jack McInerney - 8
Carlos Ruiz - 6
Lionard Pajoy - 5
Gabriel Gomez - 5
Freddy Adu - 5
Fred - 4
Justin Mapp - 4
Veljko Paunovic - 3
Roger Torres - 3
Michael Farfan - 3
Alejandro Moreno - 2
Michael Orozco Fiscal - 2
Antoine Hoppenot - 2
Brian Carroll - 2
Keon Daniel - 2
Carlos Valdes - 2
Danny Califf - 1
Kyle Nakazawa - 1
Sheanon Williams - 1
Gabriel Farfan - 1
Jordan Harvey - 1
Shea Salinas - 1
Michael Farfan is tied with Eric Hassli for 4th most fouls committed in the league with 49, and he has a game or two in hand against the three players above him (Diego Chara 56, Dane Richards 50, Gershon Koffie 50). To put that in perspective, Sheanon Williams led the team in fouls last season, with 38. Fred was the team leader in fouls committed in 2010 with 37.
Marfan was largely invisible against DC United on Sunday, but the silver lining is that he made it through the match without a card. As it was his 3rd consecutive game without a caution, he had one yellow card removed from his total. His brother, however, collected his fourth card and must accomplish the same feat to avoid a one-game suspension. Carlos Valdes and Gabriel Gomez have already used their one-time Good Behavior Incentives, and Gomez will serve a suspension if he ever has the opportunity to earn another yellow for the Union.
With Sheanon Williams' unwarranted red card this past weekend, the Union have tied their all-time season high with 5.
Top Yellow Card Earner:
Carlos Valdes - 12
Zac MacMath has had some shaky performances lately, though he has also kept us in a few games with some solid saves. Only 6 teams in the league have faced fewer shots, and only one of those teams (Colorado Rapids) has a losing record.
MacMath has faced 85 shots, made 59 saves, and allowed 26 goals. He has 5 shutouts so far this season (making him the all-time Union shutout leader with 8 overall). In 27 appearances for the Union, Faryd Mondragon saw 79 shots, made 49 saves, and allowed 28 goals for 7 shutouts.
Zac's early season shutout streak of 404 minutes still stands as the second longest streak this season (bested only by Jimmy Nielson's 414 minutes that ran pretty much at the same time).
Who would you like to see get more playing time as the season winds down? Goalkeepers generally get an extra year in the program, but interested to see what happens to the roster when McInerney and Okugo come off the Generation Adidas cap-exempt list? Assuming mostly wins at home and mostly losses on the road from here on out, do you think Hackworth will be in place at the start of the 2013 season?