Brighten Up: A Positive Look At Some Union Numbers

USA TODAY Sports

Sixteen games into a 34 regular season, put your cynicism aside and take a look at some reasons to be optimistic about the Union. In contrast to its misadventures in 2012, the current squad provides a twinkle of hope for a city experiencing a terrible year in sports.

It would be easy to get caught up in the gripe-fest over how little the Philadelphia Union front office chooses to spend on its players... or how much it chooses to spend on the wrong players.

There is not much faith in certain midfielders who routinely make the line-up, but it's not clear that there is a revelation waiting on the current bench either. It is quite evident that there is a lack of communication between the goalkeeper and his back line (and there are other issues communication alone cannot fix) - only Chivas USA, D.C. United, and San Jose Earthquakes have allowed more goals this season and all three are bad soccer teams.

It would much more enjoyable, however, to stop feeling annoyed with a team tied for second in the Eastern Conference and fifth in the Supporters' Shield race out of 19 - ahead of New York Red Bulls, LA Galaxy, Sporting Kansas City, Seattle Sounders - all of whom I rate to be better than the U. Sure, most of the results responsible came against lesser opponents, and the upcoming schedule will be a real test, but only Real Salt Lake and Portland Timbers have scored more goals than the Union this season (and each have played an extra game).

With that in mind, let's take a look at some reasons to be optimistic about this squad as we near the mid-point of the season and await summer reinforcements:

Jack McInerney is in a three-way tie in the Golden Boot race (10 goals scored), which may get away from him a bit as he heads to the Gold Cup with the United States Men's National Team. He only needs one goal to match Herculez Gomez's 23 MLS goals, three goals to match Clint Dempsey's 25, and most importantly, four to match Peter Nowak's 26.

While it's highly unlikely he's going to set any league records a la Wondo or Lassiter this season, nearly every other goal scoring total is within reach, even if he sits out 5 matches due to the CONCACAF tournament.

Golden Boot winners have won with the following scoring totals over the years:
2012 Chris Wondolowski - 27
2011 Dwayne De Rosario - 16
2010 Chris Wondolowski - 18
2009 Jeff Cunningham - 17
2008 Landon Donovan - 20
2007 Luciano Emilio - 20
2006 Jeff Cunningham - 16
2005 Taylor Twellman - 17
2004 Brian Ching - 12
2003 Carlos Ruiz / Taylor Twellman- 15
2002 Carlos Ruiz - 24
2001 Alex Pineda Chacon - 19
2000 Mamadou Diallo - 26
1999 Jason Kreis - 18
1998 Stern John - 26
1997 Jaime Moreno - 16
1996 Roy Lassiter - 27

Jack Mac also leads the league (alone) in game-winning goals with 5.

Sebastien Le Toux is currently top of the league in assists with seven and tied for second in game-winning assists. He is also tied with Bobby Convey for 70th all time in MLS assists with 32, only eight helpers off of David Beckham's mark. In that same ballpark, to give some perspective of where that assist number falls among league greats, are Richie Williams (33), Brian Ching (34), Shalrie Joseph (35), Roy Lassiter (35).

Seba is also 67th all time in MLS goals scored with 33, tied with Guilermo Barros Schelotto, one behind both Eric Wynalda and Marco Etcheverry, 4 behind Thierry Henry.

Zac MacMath has 16 shutouts in his 56 career games so far - good enough for 29th all time in Major League Soccer. Tim Howard had 15 in his 85-game MLS career. Marcus Hahnemann 13 in 66. Brad Friedel 11 in 38. Obviously there are many more concerning stats (2nd most goals allowed in the league this season - 24 on 70 shots), but that's not what this post is for.

All-Time Union Regular Season Goals Scored:
Sebastien Le Toux - 27
Jack McInerney - 22
Danny Mwanga - 12
Freddy Adu - 7
Carlos Ruiz - 6
Gabriel Gomez - 6
Antoine Hoppenot - 6
Lionard Pajoy - 5
Conor Casey - 5
Justin Mapp - 4
Fred - 4
Roger Torres - 3
Veljko Paunovic 3
Michael Farfan - 3
Carlos Valdes - 3
Danny Cruz - 3
Sheanon Williams - 3
Brian Carroll - 3
Alejandro Moreno - 2
Michael Orozco Fiscal - 2
Amobi Okugo - 2
Keon Daniel - 2
Danny Califf - 1
Kyle Nakazawa - 1
Gabriel Farfan - 1
Jordan Harvey - 1
Shea Salinas - 1
Josue Martinez - 1

There is a very real chance that Antoine Hoppenot, picked in the third round of the 2012 Supplemental Draft will pass Freddy Adu's goal total by the end of this season.

During the 2012 season, the Philadelphia Union mustered just 112 shots on goal (worst in the league) out of 377 total shots (2nd worst in the league). 16 games into a 34-game season, the Union have already put 72 on goal (23 from McInerney - 3rd in MLS) out of 208 total shots (54 from McInerney - 3rd in MLS).

At this point in the year, several Union players tend to be in foul trouble (ahem... Michael Farfan), but Raymon Gaddis is the only player in position to face a one-game yellow card accumulation suspension with his next card. If he can play nice in his next two appearances, he will have one wiped from his card total as Conor Casey managed to do recently.

Marfan set the bar quite high for fouls committed last season, leading the league with 74, a number only eclipsed in a single season by Juan Toja, Simo Valakari, Carlos Ruiz, Matt McKeon, Diego Serna, Chris Henderson, Carey Talley, Mamadou Diallo, and Jeff Aunger since the league has existed. This season? He's tied for 6th on the team in fouls committed with 17. Fewer minutes played, but he's off the naughty list for now!

Maybe it's because the Eagles, Sixers, Phillies, Flyers, and Union didn't make the most recent playoffs, but I needed a little escape from the doom and gloom of Philadelphia sports there. Now back to complaining that the guy the Union did/did not sign is:

A. Too old
B. Too inexperienced
C. Too expensive
D. Suspiciously cheap
E. Injury prone
F. Likely to take the spot of that player I like because he retweeted me once
G. Wrong for this system
H. Too much like a player we already have
I. Quick to dive
J. Not worth the drama that comes with him
K. Small
L. One dimensional
M. Overly 3-dimensional (see: Eduardo Coudet)

Think Casey, Hoppenot, and Wheeler can pick up the scoring slack as McInerney heads to the Gold Cup? Interested to see if Michael Farfan can regain his form or if Roger Torres and Leo Fernandes can make a claim to a midfield spot in the absence of Kleberson, Lahoud, Cruz, and Daniel? Just happy the summer transfer window opens in less than two weeks? Tell us below.

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