Another match down and yet another result that wasn't quite indicative of the Union's performance. Stood toe to toe with the Timbers in Portland: 1-1 draw. Go toe-to-toe with the suddenly fantastic Columbus Crew: 2-1 loss. Dominate a listless Montreal impact for a good majority of Saturday's tilt: 1-1 draw. So what is up with the Union? I have my opinions, and certainly the problems that the 2014 Union have are problems the 2013 Union wish they had. Results are results, however, and we can't be true Philadelphia sports fans if we aren't complaining about something wrong.
The question this week revolves around this unending cry for change that has developed among the Philadelphia sports' faithful. Is it time for a change on the pitch for the Philadelphia Union? If yes, how would the Brotherly Game staff change it? I also allowed for the staff to argue against change (and perhaps explain why Philadelphia fans' are a little self-conscious about their sports).
Let's dive into their answers.
Barry Evans - Change is needed. Whether it is before the game or during the game - any change would be nice. The 4-2-3-1 Hack is playing may work very well away from home, but when we are needing a goal late on, or when we are home against a team that is struggling, not having 2 strikers at any point is criminal for me. The system isn't going to correct the individual errors. Yesterday that error was on Amobi, he had been outstanding until that point, easily man of the match. However, I've never believed we have the team for a 4-3-3 in any way. Our best games last year were always been with two strikers up top. Casey and Jack know how to play with each other. Jack just can't play without a partner, and always seems isolated when he is that one striker. It was a bit better yesterday in the first half, the midfielders were generally getting forward with him and Jack put Vincent Noguiera through two times, Jack was put through himself one time.
Eugene Rupinski - Something has to change. The club has had the opportunity to be 3-1-0 right now but instead is 1-1-2. Losing points late to Portland and to 10-man Montreal shows a lack of focus. The club can't keep dropping points like this and expect to seriously contend. The thing that bothers me is the mental mistakes that keep causing these points to disappear. That's not a system issue, and doesn't seem to be an issue with just one or two players.
Matt Reppert - Honestly, they need to scrap this idea of the 4-3-3 or the 4-2-3-1 or whatever the hell they're doing and go with a 4-4-2 or some variation of it. McInerney is not the type of player that can handle being the lone striker, nor is Antoine Hoppenot. The closest is Casey and honestly, given his age I doubt the team can rely on him for much longer. McInerney does best when he has a guy to play off of. We have this highly improved midfield and no one up top can seem to finish when it matters.
Also, the dropping of points needs to stop. Now. Last year I can think of two games (Real Salt Lake and FC Dallas) they if they hadn't given up last second goals, the U sneak into the final playoff spot with 50 points.
Basically John Hackworth's coaching decisions are costing the team. I will admit his subs have gotten marginally better since Fernandes has been getting minutes and doing something with it. However, we simply do not have the personnel to make this 4-3-3 work.
William Murphy - Hack is a system guy, and he clearly has faith in his system. Fans always demand immediate success. When you make wholesale changes success rarely follows quickly. The Union have both a new system and new players to lean to accommodate. Players, especially ones from outside MLS, usually take time to settle. So players like Noggy are the exception rather than the rule.
I am attributing the pessimism and negativity of the fans is partially to Philadelphia sports fan culture and partially to the left over fear, anxiety and negative feelings about the playing and technical staff from last season.
This run will test both Hackworth's and the players' resolve and belief in the new system and each other. There is less than zero indication that regardless of the standings that Hack's job will be in danger anytime soon. So, I am assuming that he and the FO know that the transition may be a slow and bumpy one. The fans, however, aren't so patient.... welcome to Philadelphia.
Lots of folks are blaming the system and are advocating for an immediate change of formation and/or personnel.
It seems the question of lapses has two camps. Are they individual errors? If so, are they being made because of correctable reasons? Would more depth and competition or holding players to a higher standard and benching them for single poor performances send a stronger message? Or do you stick with them and give them the reps to play through purple patches?
The lapses are systemic and a technical staff issue. Is the technical staff dropping the ball? Are they of sufficient number and quality to correct those mistakes?
Jared Young - Jack and Conor did not register a single shot in the game. I don't blame the system or the formation but there is a missing link between the midfield and the strikers. Perhaps Jack isn't dynamic enough. Perhaps he's not getting the service the way he needs it. But that to me is the issue that needs fixing. (I'm going to do the research. Last year Jack and Conor were 45% of the team's shots, and this year the forwards are pretty far off that pace I believe).
JC Escobar - We need another striker to free up Jack. If the focus is on someone else, Jack can get lost and find the open spot. If he's the only one up there, he's got 2 CBs on him. He will disappear. We don't have the type of striker we need. We have poachers, poachers rely on 10 other players to get them the ball at their feet.
Heather Reppert - I think we need to bring in a different type of striker. One that isn't a poacher...then pair him up top with Jack. Ideally, I'd like two new strikers and cut Jack out entirely but that won't happen. Casey is not the answer, but a serviceable band-aid.
Like I said prior to the staff weighing in, the problems of 2014 would be begged for in 2013. Regardless of that the Union still have problems. With Hack persistence in his system it has to be said he has bought himself a little bit of time to work the kinks out (He bought his time via the off-season, by the way). Having Casey back will be much better as he provides just slightly more than a poaching goal scorer up top, but again is not a permanent fix for John Hackworth's Philadelphia Union.
The short-term fix for Philadelphia is to put Jack and Casey up top together. The duo scored 22 goals combined last year, which is good enough for more than half of the Union's goals in 2013. They have a familiarity with each other and there's no doubt that neither is very successful as a lone striker. Neither striker is dynamic enough to be the center forward in a 4-3-3 that Hackworth loves so much.
The question is who would be replaced? My vote is not for Brian Carroll unlike a lot of those who dwell the Union specific Internet. Keep the back four in any variation you want, Wheeler has proven himself worthy in a pinch and Gaddis is making some of us question whether he should return to the bench once Williams returns. My vote is unfortunately for a fan favorite in Sebastien Le Toux (and the gasp of a thousand soccer moms roared as they gathered, lighting their torches).
Seba, I love you, but if this team is to succeed I would rather see you coming off the bench for a tired Casey or McInerney, rather than playing in a midfield role which doesn't inspire the same performances that made you a fan favorite in your first two seasons here. Line up in a flat 4-4-2, Maurice Edu and Carroll control the middle of the field as Nogueira and Maidana take the right and left sides of the pitch, respectively. Jack and Casey return up top and now adding Le Toux to the bench where he can make an impact up top as a sub. Le Toux is a better striker off the bench than bringing in Hoppenot in my humble opinion.
Now a long-term solution is to add a striker who has the ability to create with the midfield and who is dynamic enough to create his own chances. Perhaps this can be done in the summer transfer window, but until then the Union have to get on with the pieces they have. That being said, I don't believe the Union will succeed unless they adjust.
Do you agree disagree? Please let us know in the comments and the poll below!