Game-Changers: The Perfect Storm

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

What led to the Union's somewhat unfulfilling 3-0 win over Chivas?

As our readers are well aware every week we" Monday Morning Quarterback" each Union game. What were some of the most interesting points of the game? What were the turning points?

1. The inclusion of Conor Casey

Saturday night's start was only his fourth of the season, as the acquisition of Andrew Wenger and the switch to the 4-3-3 has limited his playing time. However, with Wenger in John Hackworth's doghouse, and Le Toux on the injury list, Casey got the start. Wenger, while big, is able to move pretty well, and can serve passes better than the average target forward. Conor Casey offers no such versatility. At this point in his career, all Casey can do is head a ball, which severely limits the Union's attacking options when he is on the field. Any experienced defense knows that if Casey is on the field, the objective is to get the ball to the big man's head. Chivas does not have an experienced defense--they didn't on Saturday, at least. Usually, Bobby Burling and Carlos Bocanegra can be found in the center of the Chivas defense, but neither Burling nor Bocanegra were available this weekend. Instead, Coach Wilmer Cabrera started Eriq (I don't get the "q," either) Zavaleta and Tony Lochhead. Zavaleta, on loan from Seattle, is on the same boat as Wenger, in that he does not have a set position. Coming into the match he had only recorded 394 minutes of MLS play in his career. Lochhead is a defender with international experience, but he is accustomed to playing at left back. The Union were wise to send in endless crosses and, surprisingly, the crosses were good! Philadelphia completed 30% of their 20 crosses, which leads me to my next point.

2.The Utilization of Maidana

Cristian Maidana hasn't had as much success as the other two midfielders acquired in the offseason, but Saturday's game offered a glimpse of what he can do. He completed three crosses, the most notable of which being the assist on the second goal. Maidana is eighth in MLS in completed crosses, with a total of 23. He has only played 871 minutes, the second fewest number of minutes played by anyone in the top ten list of completed crosses. Much like other players on that list like Graham Zusi or Harrison Shipp, Maidana isn't known for his speed. They have excelled because they've been given license to do whatever they want on the field. Maidana has traditionally been a winger this season, but on Saturday, he was all over the place. Nogueira has been in that role so far this season, but he does not seem to have the same attacking instinct as Maidana. Fans have been calling for a three-man midfield of Maidana, Nogueira, and Edu for a while now and it looks to be a success in the early going.

3. Chivas USA's resistance to attacking, scoring goals, and playing soccer in the opponent's half

Chivas, much like the Union, have a very defeatist attitude. They've gone through years of misery, but this year looked more promising. MLS bought the club from its previous owner, Jorge Vergara, who many Chivas USA fans thought was the source of all the club's problems. Wilmer Cabrera was hired as manager, and the team made a number of exciting signings. Leandro Barrera, Mauro Rosales, and Martin Rivero were all added in the offseason, and Erick Torres, who scored seven goals in 15 games last season, returned to the club. That's an attacking unit that should worry every back line in the league, but it doesn't. Chivas doesn't attack--at least they didn't on Saturday night. The Union came into the StubHub Center and dominated possession 62% to 38%. Philadelphia attempted nearly 150 more passes than Chivas in the attacking half, and their completion rate was also significantly higher. If Chivas won't attack at home against one of the worst teams in the league, then when will they? If CUSA had a bit more confidence, that match would not have ended 3-0.

4. Wenger's tampering

On Cristian Maidana's 76th minute goal that clinched the 3-0 victory for Philadelphia, Andrew Wenger was pretty clearly in an offside position. From the time Maidana kicked the ball, to the moment it crossed the goal line, Wenger did not touch the ball. However, the ball passed between his legs, and Wenger's positioning complicated things for Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy. Firstly, Kennedy had to consider the possibility that Maidana would play the ball to Wenger's head. Secondly, Wenger's body diverted Kennedy's course ever so slightly, that it could be argued that Kennedy would have made the save were Wenger not there. This debate is centered around the passive offside rule. FIFA states that while in an offside position, a player cannot interfere with an opponent. Interfering with an opponent is defined as "preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play a ball" and "making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent." Did Wenger interfere with Kennedy's ability to make a play? Yes. The offside flag should have gone up and Chivas would have had less of a deficit to overcome in the final minutes.

What were your game changers? Let us know below.

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