A difficult week for the Union faithful did not end well north of the border, as Montreal Impact squeezed out a 1-0 win against the Philadelphia Union. After the news of Eric Shertz's passing last week, many comments have been made from all around MLS. Watching the game from Eric's wake, the outstanding respect shown to Eric and his family showed that what we have with the Sons of Ben, Bearfight Brigade, and even the Union players and staff is special. Everyone is family.
Then news of other teams, D.C. United, Portland Timbers, and Real Salt Lake also paying respects illustrated it isn't just a Philadelphia Union family, but a Major League Soccer family. What happens in the 90 minutes on the pitch isn't as important as being part of the MLS family.
Maybe keeping this in mind will keep us sane because the 90 minutes on the field was certainly not good enough and continues the downward spiral of performances stemming from the Columbus game.
Now to the moments that changed this week's game.
1) The Starting Lineups.
The game was billed as a duel between Andrew Wenger and Jack McInerney" that would illustrate who came on top of last month's blockbuster trade. Montreal started Jack on the left, in a position that John Hackworth didn't think would work for Jack. Not to be outdone in the surprise department, Hackworth pulled a major one by starting Danny Cruz and Fabinho in the attacking band over Cristian Maidana and Sebastien Le Toux. The line-up honestly appeared as if it were a sub-bench and Wenger had been dropped from the starting XI.
To be fair, Cruz had a decent first half, and was far better than the completely ineffective and invisible Le Toux has been this year. However, when you have a player like Leo Fernandes who has done well this year and one of your DPs sitting on the bench, you have to wonder what Hackworth was thinking. It seems to me that he went for a "defensive, hard-working team" instead of one with the quality to be able to beat a Montreal squad that has struggled mightily.
2) Giving up a very sloppy goal.
Many Union fans will be blaming their "hated" player for this. However a closer inspection reveals this was not just on one person. It all started with Sheanon Williams, who had decent possession, and picked out a Montreal player with his pass. The pass was supposed to go to Maurice Edu who instead of trying hard to get back and get the ball back, simply jogged along. As with the Montreal goal at PPL Park, Amobi Okugo sat back too much and allowed Patrice Bernier to take a long range shot (something you really don't want to do when the conditions are wet).
It is clearly obvious for all who know the game Zac MacMath made the wrong decision trying to catch the ball, and as you may have expected the ball slipped out. Any keeper should know that in such conditions you have to try and push the ball to the side of the goal instead of just in front. But Zac didn't and Felipe was there to tap the ball home. Of course there is still even more blame to give on this goal. Whether it was assuming Zac would hold on to the ball, or put the save to the side/out for a corner, Aaron Wheeler just stood watching as Felipe ran by him and netted an asy goal. The Union have found themselves ball watching too many times this season. If they want to make a playoff push, they would greatly benefit from cutting out these individual errors.
3) McInerney vs Wenger - shots on goal.
With the fact the Union dominated possession (61%) shots (9-7 total and 5-4 on target) a you would expect, and be correct, Wenger had more chances. With his four chances, he managed two on target, though obviously without any goals as Troy Perkins made a nice save on his best chance.
At the other end, without as much possession, Jack Mac's pickings were slim. He did have one great chance however, with a Union turnover allowing him to be sent through on goal. Jack's good friend Zac MacMath managed to get the save this time however, and both Jack and Wenger ended their first game against their old teams with neither a goal nor assist.
Hackworth's substitutions were offensive minder and Frank Klopas brought on defenders to see out the 1-0 win. Unlike the Union, Montreal managed to hold on using this tactic. While it was nice to see offensive substitutions from the Union, the actual substitutions really didn't make too much sense.
Antoine Hoppenot on for Fabinho: All Hoppenot seems to be able to do is run at people and fall over. Sometimes it wins free kicks, but that didn't do anything to help create chances for the Union. But something is wrong with a game plan when a creative player in Maidana is sitting on the bench and Hoppenot comes on first.
Maidana on for Cruz: At this point in the game, Cruz had clearly ran out of gas. It was also great to see Maidana on the field, 66 minutes too late. It was the obvious sub to make.
Conor Casey for Sheanon Williams: Last week, there was a lot of criticism over the decision to not use an attacking sub when the Union were up a man. This week that wasn't going to happen again; Hackworth brought on Casey for a defender. Where I think it was the wrong substitution is that unless Sheanon is hurt/tired, Sheanon brings far more to the Union attack than Brian Carroll or Ray Gaddis. The amount of goals the Union get from Williams's long throws makes him a weapon that should be on the pitch when one is needed.
Overall, the substitutions did change the game. They gave the Union the domination people like to talk about in the middle of the pitch, but there were not that many chances created by the Union after the subs apart from.....
5) Hoppenot missing a free header in the 91st minute.
How sweet would it have been to turn the tables and snatch a draw from the jaws of defeat with a last minute equalizer. Maidana picked up the ball, did some tricks and passed to Vincent Nogueira. Nogueira did what he does and played a perfect cross to Hoppenot who was all alone in the middle of the six-yard box. Must score right? Well, the ball may have been closest to goal at the point of contact with the head than any other time. It really was a terrible effort, and illustrates precisely why he shouldn't be on the field unless the Union are ahead and he can thus pose a threat on the counter attack.
The last effort by Hoppenot was typical of the game as a whole. It was poor quality, sloppy, and one you really want to forget as quickly as possible. The Union have not scored a goal from the run of play in their last three games, and Hackworth's 4-3-3 (or 4-5-1) is simply not working.
For a discussion on the reason for lack of goals, keep an eye out for our "Hot Topic Question of the Week" article later this week. Can Hackworth work on something in training to make next week more enjoyable? Let's hope so.