It took quite a bit of inner debate to not give this week's Good nomination to Zac MacMath again. It took a wonder strike to keep MacMath from his 13th clean sheet of the season. Above and beyond that, he did more than his fair share to make sure that yet another goal deep in stoppage time was enough to save a point against the worst team in the league.
Since I'm trying to spread out the love, this week's Good award is going to go to Amobi Okugo. This is something that has been building for the last couple weeks and I think his efforts truly deserve to recognized.
I was very open about my opinion of Okugo last year. While many other outlets and fans were calling him one of the best in the league, I pointed to his misreading of long balls, failure to man mark on crosses, and inability to position himself in a way to stop danger before it reached the desperation point as reasons that he was far from one of the best in the league and rather just a young kid obviously playing out of position.
This season, and especially as of late, Okugo has completely won me over as a center back. While MacMath has been outstanding stopping shots, Okugo has blocked his fair share of shots. He seems to be everywhere along the back line. Parke is a solid piece at the back, but Okugo has been the stand out of the two. If the team can give him enough support to get into the playoffs where he would really be given the stage to shine he may even get a call for a chance to attend a Red, White, and Blue camp this winter.
There was plenty of bad to go around in a game that went down to the wire just to rescue a single point against by far the worst team in the league. I could have picked the lack of pressure on Nick DeLeon before his wonder striker. I could have picked the inability to force Bill Hamid into making a save for most of the game.
Instead, I want to point out a characteristic that worries me.
Michael Farfan has proven that he can be a great creative force in this league. He can make opposing defenders look silly, score fantastic goals, and set up his teammates for important goals, but he is also very prone to lapses in judgement.
Just as Farfan had started to have a real impact on the game playing wide to the left he was brought down by an obvious foul by Sainey Nyassi, only the foul was not called. Instead of staying on the ground and complaining to the ref like many other professional players would have done, he got up and took out the DC defender with the ball. Was it any worse than the foul to take him out? No, but it was so obviously retaliation that the ref had no other choice but to show a yellow card caution to Farfan.
To make matters worse, Farfan was sitting on the brink of being suspended due to yellow card accumulation and was actually 1 game without a yellow away from having that waived. Had he not received that yellow, he would have received a 1 yellow reduction to his total, meaning a yellow next week would not have meant a suspension in the season finale. Farfan did not control himself when he became frustrated, and his retaliation leaves the Union without a key starter in a must win game next week against Montreal.
This is not a new observation, in fact it was also apparent in his brother Gabe's time with the Union. For all of the good things that they do for the Union, they have a mean streak that can rear it's ugly head and really put the team in a bad position. It's great to have a bit of a mean streak and be the tough guy on the team, but you have to be able to control your emotions and know when it is best to let that frustration go rather than acting on it. Hackworth will have more lineup questions to deal with next week.
Speaking of John Hackworth, if you are not pissed about what is going on with this team, you aren't paying attention. It has been nearly a year and a half and each time when this team is in a position where they can make real moves in the conference and secure their spot, they not only fail to get up for the game, but the players on the field are not put in a position to take advantage of the opportunity at hand. My issues with John Hackworth can be summed up in 5 main points from the draw this weekend:
1. Starting Formation - you're playing the worst team in the league, who you've 5 goals against in the previous two regular season games against this season and you go super conservative in a must with game with only a single forward? Really?
2. Use of Kleberson - don't forget that up until this weekend Kleberson has been deemed not good enough by Hackworth to crack many of the game day 18 man rosters, let alone start. If this is what not good enough looks like I'd hate to see how not good enough a player like Roger Torres is.
3. Handling of McInerney slump - a center forward runs almost completely on confidence. When Jack was riding high on confidence he was leading the league in goals. He left for international duty on the back of a two game goalless streak, and returned to an offense that wasn't offering much support. Instead of supporting his young forward, Hackworth made him the point of blame for the lackluster offense. He benched McInerney and took away the opportunities he had to try and get back on track. In the last two games against the worst 2 teams in the league, who McInerney has 4 goals against this year Jack was limited to less than 80 minutes on the field out of the possible 180. In the end Hackworth got lucky with Jack grabbing a late goal, but he needs to jump on that confidence and get McInerney on the field from the kick off next week and feed him.
4. Dismantling of the defense - This is a defense that is capable of holding their own in the league, but only at full strength. With the trades of Gabe Farfan and Bakary Soumare the team has been left with absolutely no cover at the back. It shows each week when there are no defensive subs on the bench, and especially obvious this past weekend with LeToux needing to start at left back. The entire season has been a fan base saying prayers whenever someone goes down or when a ref is walking toward a Union defender and there is a question as to the color of the card. The team should not need to live on the edge so much.
5. Lack of talent evaluation - This goes hand in hand with both point #2 and #4. Between not seeing what creative players like Kleberson and Torres can bring to the roster to the complete failure of the 2013 SuperDraft and Supplemental draft the team is a mess. Hackworth told fans in the offseason that Garfan was the starting left back and Damani Richards and Don Anding were capable replacements. At this point in the season Garfan has been traded, Richards released, and Anding was nowhere to be found when the team needed a left back. Speaking of needing an outside back, why is Chris Albright on the roster if he is not able to come in and contribute a spot start against the worst team in the league? Don't forget about Stephan Okai being the "most ready player to join an MLS club and contribute right away." The majority of this roster that is contributing is still left from the Nowak years and Hackworth does not look too worried about replacing most of them.