I accept all of your welcomes back to the front pages of Brotherly Game this week. I know everyone missed this article and I know I sure missed writing it. This week could've represented a return of glorious magnitude that would've looked like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. However, this return is looking more like a disappointment of the same rather than the change we all hoped for (Thanks, Obama).
After picking up an unlikely win for the second straight time against Sporting Kansas City, in Kansas City, the Union were looking like a side that was about to turn its season around and head only up. A stern test on Saturday would immediately pit them against the red hot New England Revolution at PPL Park. There was a lot of hope, at least from my end, that the Union would be competitive against a team that they have typically had good luck playing.
The Union would be without several players for this game, lets count them!
2. Maurice Edu
5. Corben Bone
Notice anything about that list? Yes, there are 3 central midfielders on that list, which would leave the Union a little strapped in that position. The logical choice is to shift Amobi Okugo up to midfield and put our two remaining natural centerbacks together, right? Well, not exactly. That's not how John Hackworth saw it. He started Amobi at midfield and then shoved tweedle dee and tweedle dum in a centerback together (Aaron Wheeler and Austin Berry). The tall mammoth defenders created an unlikely pair and led everyone to question what Ethan White said about Hackworth's mom in order to be so low on the depth chart.
The Union lost 5-3.
So I asked the staff at Brotherly Game was the result due to a lack of depth or rather the mismanagement of the roster?
In honor of the upcoming Memorial Day, let's dive in.
John Rossi - The Wheeler-Berry pairing left the backline with little intelligence. Wheeler should not be starting, but if he does, it should be next to Okugo. I would've preferred White in the back, but I assume he's on the bench because he's been terrible in training. If Lahoud, Edu, Carroll, or Fabinho were available, Okugo or Sheanon Williams would have been in the middle with Berry, which would have been the best option. I'd blame the loss on the lack of depth, if I had to pick one of these options, but the Union lost because New England is really good.
Frank Cobbina - Playing Berry and Wheeler together was the first big error. They're two slow, big, most reactive centerbacks that need to play with a quicker centerback like Okugo or Sheanon Williams. Saturday was the time to finally throw Ethan White out there. I haven't been one of the people wondering why he doesn't slot ahead of Wheeler on the depth chart, but considering the players available and home game scenario it was a better time than any to give White his Union debut.
DOOP Cast - Isn't the lack of depth also Hackworth's fault? If you trade away Parke and replace him with Berry (who looks like a bust) then trade up to get the first pick and use it on a backup goalie, and sign Ethan White, then the problem of a lack of depth rests squarely on Hack's shoulders.
So it is clearly (to quote the question) a mismanaged situation both during the game (tactics and team selection were poor) and in picking a squad for this season.
In summary, Hack still does not know what he is doing and the sooner he goes the better. There is no way it could get worse if someone else takes over.
JC Escobar -Having to trade Parke caught Hackworth by surprise. They were not prepared for it.
Barry Evans - The situation on Saturday was both Depth depletion and mismanagement. The Union were basically missing 2 1/2 starters, along with 1 guy who could have filled in. When you have only a set amount of players in the roster, you are going to struggle when that happens. When you add in the fact that Hackworth has completely mismanaged the squad he has (Why no White again?) - that makes the situation even harder to get a result.
Jared Young - I have to give mismanagement the slight edge over circumstance. While playing the most games in MLS to date is taxing and the Union were without 3 of their deepest 7 players, there are a number of moves to challenge that have resulted in poor depth. I think the players would also agree that their execution lacked against NE. For example, the defense only had 6 clearances on Saturday and they average roughly 25 per game. NE can't be that evasive. They were just not in position to clear the chances enough. In the end, depth is clearly an issue, and it's the bigger issue in this case, and that falls on management.
Perhaps the Union looked so bad Saturday night against New England because they had seemingly rescued all of our hope Wednesday by winning for the first time since March. It could be possible that New England is an amazing team, on the verge of something special in regards to its path to the MLS Cup. Maybe it was the wrong match and the wrong time for the Union. Having played the most games in MLS play at the moment cannot be helpful either, right?
Yes, I understand there's a lot to factor why the Union dropped their 6th match of the season. I don't think any of those listed above have the most significance and in my eyes they can all be washed away. The Philadelphia Union headed into the match Saturday rather low on reinforcements in the center of the midfield. Thanks to the World Cup, injuries, and suspensions, Philadelphia attempted to stop another Eastern powerhouse in New England with a very peculiar lineup. I'm going to say that where the depth depletion was certainly hamstringing the Union, John Hackworth did not really help the teams cause by his decisions in how to field his limited team.
His back four is where I'll start.
Ok, I spent a good amount of time before the game rationalizing why Hackworth wouldn't put Berry and Wheeler together. I came up with one reason why he would and it trumped all. Fine, John have it your way. Why on earth must you switch Ray Gaddis and Sheanon Williams? Williams gave away the back line on the second goal like I've never seen before. I think it threw off the flow of the defensive shape big time. Even more so than that, what has Ethan White done to not even get ahead of Wheeler on the depth chart? Clearly he's not Jeff Parke, who we traded to acquire him, but I'm not sure there was a better time to start White. Even if Wheeler is playing better at CB, you've contradicted the theory of a like for like. When Austin Berry went down earlier in the season, Wheeler was inserted to make up for his size. Logically that makes White the back-up to Okugo, correct? Instead, we have the two hulking giants playing next to each other. There is no organizing quality between them.
I'm not saying that Ethan White was the answer of the match, but it just seemed to throw the defense completely out of whack to start two players in the back who have the same strengths and weaknesses while switching the wingbacks to their usual opposite positions.
The moves were confusing given the circumstance of the roster. Where there was a depletion of resources in the midfield, moving our best replacement for Carroll and Edu out of the back line should not completely destroy the unit as a whole. We had the depth to cover for the players missing, but it seems that an over-shuffling of the line up may have doomed the Union this week.