Hello and welcome to the first edition of "Game-Changers" for the 2014 season. Throughout the year you'll read about refereeing decisions, coaching decisions, player mistakes, and lucky bounces that change the direction the game is going. Keep all that in mind as we begin to look back to the first game of the 2014 season.
None. I thought the referee was excellent. Yes, he had a few contentious decisions to make because of the way Portland and the Union played but there is nothing he did that can be included in here in terms of potential game changers. I'm sure once the real MLS referees are back, that will change.
Portland had to make an early change because of injury - but Porter's game plan remained in tact.
Subs in the 2nd half - while some may argue about this I do not think they had that much of a difference either.
One "coaching decision" that could be discussed was the fact the Union seemed to take their foot off the gas once they had the lead. The subs the Union made were all about sitting back and hitting on the break. Cruz and Hoppenot bring plenty of speed - and a lot of energy/hustle. The plan seemed to be working, and in particular Hoppenot was getting the ball, going into the corner and winning free kicks, which is textbook "running down the clock" technique. The last Union sub in my opinion was made because of a lack of other options. When Williams, Casey, and Ribeiro get back - I think a different sub will be made. Jack was running out of gas.
This tactical switch changed the game in that it allowed Portland to stream forward and attack. It had been working really well, and Portland was not getting any decent chances. In away games, especially against tough competition I don't think this is the wrong decision, it just didn't work out in the end.
Lucky Bounces. The only time there was a lucky bounce was early in the first half. Portland corner, free header, hits the post. Lucky for the Union it bounced away. If that goes in, then the 3-0 loss many of us were predicting could have happened.
Player Mistakes. Obviously the first person people will talk about here is Brian Carroll. Yes, if he was a bit more composed - a simple pass for someone else to clear at the end would have been better. Yes, he mishit his volleyed clearance. However, earlier in the game MLS MVP candidate Diego Valeri had an even worse whiff when he had a great chance to score. Maidana tried to get too fancy with a backpass to MacMath, who didn't get it cleared. Thankfully for the Union, that mistake was covered up by a great tackle/block by (I believe) Berry. Mistakes happen and it only really gets highlighted when goals are scored. Hopefully this won't detract from a much better performance from the captain.
This time Carroll's teammates didn't back him up when, and in truth the only real game-changer, the mistake the Union (entire team) made by falling asleep on a corner. Players asked about the full time whistle, they strolled into the box to defend the corner. The clock said 92minutes and 48seconds. A team trying for an equalizer did what they should and rushed. The Union didn't respond and lost a goal. It's that simple. Whether it was the amazing Portland home fans making so much noise that it made the Union go in slow motion, tiredness from a difficult game in poor conditions or just simply losing concentration, hopefully it is a one off.
THE BIGGEST GAME-CHANGER.
While the end of the game was disappointing (and i suppose since the game ended didn't change any of the flow of the game) there was 1 thing i can definitely say is a game-changer. No it wasn't anything to do with the outcome of Saturdays game - but it is more an outcome for the rest of the season. The game-changer for me is the addition of all of the new guys - each one of them looked great. The 2014 is going to be far more exciting than 2013. Berry and Okugo looked solid in defense against a very good Portland attack. Maidana's passing was exquisite. Therefore, my big game-changer for this edition is that the Union now have a very exciting team, and we should all look forward to the rest of the season.
Was there anything you felt changed the game more than those mentioned above - tell us in the comments section.