Welcome back to the weekly fun known as Monday Morning's game changers. Or as some of you may call it "the same article copied and pasted over and over again."
Although the Union performed well, especially in the first half, the game-changing moments tended to be the same again. You would hope that things would improve, given the Union having a whole week of training between games which most of the time should allow teams to work out issues. But that hasn't happened so far, and after 10 games the Union are off to their worst start in franchise history with only eight points, equaling the debacle that was the 2012 season.
The next games are against D.C. United (H), Sporting Kansas City (A), New England Revolution (H), LA Galaxy (A), Chivas USA (A), and Vancouver Whitecaps (H). As unionoscopy outlined here, that's a very difficult run of games. Why stop with Vancouver? That brings us to the World Cup break, which coincidentally consists of the 2-year anniversary Hackworth took over as manager. A poor run of games may mean the Union come out of the break with a new manager. If Hackworth does not turn the team around in those six games, he may find himself polishing his resume with specific attention to highlighting the development of Brek Shea.
To the game-changers from the Seattle loss:
1) The Union having their "skilled" players on the field.
John Hackworth spent the week explaining why Cristian Maidana hasn't played as much as a fan could expect from their DP attacking midfielder. According to John, Maidana is having trouble adapting to the US, citing staying up too late abd not putting enough defensive effort into his game. The real reason is likely the latter, but maybe having the game in Seattle meant that it fit in with Maidana's internal clock and he would be ready to go and show he deserves a place in the team. He certainly showed his worth, with his free kick being flighted in perfectly, leading to the Brad Evans own goal.
Compared to last week where it was more "effort over ability" in the starting lineup, this was much better, and the team played well in the first half. There was also a slight change in the formation, with Sebastien Le Toux tending to play as a striker instead of a winger. It worked; hopefully Hackworth showcases more of this lineup, though maybe without Le Toux himself, who when he was not being anonymous in the match was helping Seattle kill off Union attacks.
2) Zac MacMath saves another penalty
The Union had a good first half, but it nearly unraveled as Amobi Okugo was harshly penalized for hand ball in the box. A goal before half time may have been disastrous for the Union, but MacMath did what he seems to do best, and yet again a penalty kick was saved, adding to what ended up being a fantastic game overall. He stopped Martins in the first half when Wheeler let him get in behind, and gave one of his more dominant performances in the air, punching away balls instead of trying to hold on to them illustrating some improvement in that regard. His performance deserved at the very least a draw, but unfortunately the rest of the team and competition did not allow for that.
3) Le Toux couldn't score in a brothel.
While earlier in the day Real Salt Lake managed to come back from a two goal deficit at half time to win, it doesn't happen very often. Le Toux had two great chances to double the Union's lead just before the half time whistle, and completely whiffed on both occasions, managing only to find Chad Marshall with the shots. The Union create chances, but the lack of finishing has come back to haunt the Union in the form of costing them points. Le Toux's two big chances stand out as obvious times where he should have done better and given the Union a much needed second goal.
4) Marco Pappa being introduced.
Having a player come off due to injury is never a good thing. However, it turned out pretty nicely for Seattle on Saturday night. Fullback Dylan Remick injured his ankle and had to leave the game. Being 1-0 down, Sigi Schmid made an attacking change and brought on Marco Pappa, moving Evans back to left back. This provides a perfect demonstration of a sub changing the game. Pappa was at the heart of every creative move for the Sounders after coming on. From that moment on, Seattle dominated the game and Pappa was a large reason why. One reason why Seattle are one of the favorites for the MLS cup is the strength of their depth. While Seattle brought on Pappa and Kenny Cooper, the Union were bringing on Leo Fernandes, Antoine Hoppenot and Conor Casey. That's a big difference in the quality of subs.
5) Poor defending to allow two goals (the Aaron Wheeler game-changer).
Surprise, surprise. Once again Wheeler was out of position for most of the game. He gives up possession very easily and continually makes the wrong choices. The latest came on Seattle's first goal. A poor clearing header from Wheeler meant he had to go for the "second ball" and finish the clearance. For whatever reason, after going out of position, Wheeler decided to let Evans have all the time in the world to head the ball over the top to Obafemi Martins who slipped by Okugo and finished it off. Supposed "dominant defenders" need to do better than hang teammates out to dry like that.
Later in the game, Wheeler's defending bit the Union in the posterior again. Wheeler fell asleep defending a corner kick, allowing Chad Marshall to run on to the ball and power home a header. The Sounders commentators spent a large chunk of the game talking about the battle between Marshall and Wheeler on corners. With Marshall having so decisively winning the battle and Wheeler playing such inept defense, it may be best for all involved if Wheeler spends some time with Harrisburg City Islanders. Hackworth seems like the only person who realizes that Wheeler in central defense experiment is not working. It may be a but unfair to Wheeler, after all he is a forward being played out of position by his manager in important MLS games when he really should not have to as the Union have an actual center back (and former rookie of the year to boot) sitting on the bench watching a converted forward flail about hopelessly.
Bonus 6) Antoine Hoppenot's terrible "dive".
Though being chased by DeAndre Yedlin, Hoppenot found himself through with a perfect chance to get a cross in with time running out. Yedlin nudged him in the back but Hoppenot seemed to keep going. Then he "tripped over his own feet" and went over. Instead of getting upset he tripped over himself up Hoppenot pleaded for a free kick, giving off the appearance he had taken a cynical dive and not just had an embarrassing moment of clumsiness.
We know you aren't the best player in the league, but continually falling over at the first hint of contact is not going to get you calls. The referees have found you a diver, and now you may have the most obvious foul ever not go your way because of this. Worse yet, you give up a chance to create something by flopping over.