One name. Zac MacMath.
He's been the target of much hate the last two years. Was he thrown in to the fire too soon? Does he give up too many soft goals? Is capable of organizing a professional defense?
I'm sure you have your own answers to these questions, and I'm not going to be able to sway your opinion. However, one thing you can't take away from him (for this week anyway) is that he is leading the league (okay, tied with Ricketts) for shutouts. Of his 30 starts this season, he has earned 11 shutouts, meaning that just over 1/3 of his starts he has allowed 0 goals. Pretty good for a kid in just his second full season as a starter.
Not appointing him the next Tim Howard or sending his name to Jurgen Klinsmann, but he deserves his credit for getting the job done more than any other keeper. If that form can continue into the playoffs, anything can happen.
Robbie Earle gets my vote for the bad this week.
Does the former Jamaican international offer great analysis to NBC Sports' coverage of the Barclay's Premier League? Yes. He is very insightful and it is obvious he does his homework and is ready to go each weekend.
Here's where the "but" comes in.
When it comes to MLS coverage NBC needs to draw a line. There was one line of color commentary that summed up the position that MLS now holds in the eyes of NBC Sports. With Sheanon Williams having to be subbed off after picking up a knock while defending the goal with Jack McInereny coming into the game Robbie Earle was a bit confused.
"You would expect (John Hackworth) to bring on a defender here."
That seems to make perfect sense, however anyone with any idea of the Union roster could have told you there were no defenders on the Union bench. Had Earle done any homework on the teams coming into the game he would have known that McInerney, Hoppenot, Wheeler, Fernandes, LeToux, and Torres are not defenders and would prevent Hackworth from bringing on a defender at anytime in the game.
If NBC Sports is going to try and make it seem like they care, even a little bit about MLS they need to either properly brief their on air talent before game time, or bring in talent that will give the league the attention they deserve. The real fans of this league will be able to see through the less than stellar job that they are currently putting forward.
This one goes out to John Hackworth.
Sure, the team came out of Kansas City with all 3 points, but it was a second straight weekend that he has shown that he has no idea how to use the strengths of the forwards he has. I'm not even talking about the use of Conor Casey in a strategy where he constantly was drawn out of position trying to start the attack that he was almost always trailing the play and unavailable to receive crosses in the box. It's also not the fact that he's helping to ruin Jack Mcinerney's confidence by benching him, rather than helping to build his confidence by giving him chances to score.
What I am talking about is the lack of any idea how to use Hoppenot and Wheeler.
Last week in a game the Union were down by a goal, Houston was sitting back and allowing the Union to cross the ball at will and Hackworth brings on Hoppenot. This week, with the Union leading the game and looking to defend the lead Wheeler is used. Here's the issue with that approach. Wheeler's strengths are in using his head and being less mobile than Hoppenot who thrives in open spaces and being able to get behind defenses.
In a game like Houston when the Union are crossing the ball so much, it is the perfect opportunity to throw on another big body into the mix to battle against the opposing centerbacks. Not to mention Hoppenot has never looked dangerous in a game where the Union are chasing a result when the opposition sits back.
On the other hand, against SKC with the opposition trying to pressure the Union and get back into the game the forward needs to be mobile, cover a lot of space to put the defense under pressure and strike on quick breaks. Within 10 minutes of entering the game Wheeler looked gassed. He didn't have it in him to take a great McInerney pass to goal and had to settle for a long distance shot. This would have been the perfect opportunity for Hoppenot, as it was a year ago when he chipped Nielsen to lock up the game.
The Union got away with poor in game management last week, but how many more weeks can they fail to use the talent to its full potential?