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Guest Post: Thinking About That First Half Against Seattle

Some analysis of the first half of the Union-Sounders game on Saturday.


This article is a guest post written by @ThePhilaPanda.

It seemed as if head referee Jorge Gonzalez was composing music with his whistle throughout the final 10 minutes of the Philadelphia Union's and Seattle Sounders' afternoon match at PPL Park. However, when the Union needed him to blow it just one last time, Gonzalez was out of breath.

Can't blame this one on Gonzalez, though.

The Union tied the Sounders of 2-2 and gained a single point in the standings, yet it still felt like a loss.

From opening kickoff it appeared the Union came out flat. Weakside defenders were ball-watching, guys were piling up in the box instead of making organized runs on long throw-ins and corner kicks, and there were unmarked green jerseys everywhere. Players seemed disconnected from each other and more interested in watching the play instead of becoming a part of it.

Seattle would take advantage of Philadelphia's laziness through their aggressive offense, earning a corner kick in the 10th minute. Forward Eddie Johnson headed a brilliant ball towards net.

Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath followed the ball well and appeared to have initially stopped Johnson's shot, but just couldn't keep it out.

Great cross. Great shot. Horrible coverage. He was wide open.

That's what happens when you do not communicate and stay organized in the backfield. Johnson cruised into that slot and wasn't challenged by a single Union defender.

Not one.

For the 10 minutes that followed Johnson's goal, the Union still appeared sluggish. Weakside midfielders were walking on both offense and defense.

When an adjecent man gathered the ball and was aggressively defended, there was no square or drop support. Long passes that Frank Lampard doesn't try were flying around Chester like lost seagulls from Jersey.

Then in the 14th minute, things slowly began to take shape for the Union. Midfielders were coming to the ball and squaring up, dropping it back when they felt the pressure coming.

Micheal Farfan was pinching in on defense, but was breaking wide when the Union stole possession. Short, accurate passes helped the Union loosen up, yet risky, forced through balls kept causing turnovers.

By then Philadelphia was a little warmer and got a little sharper. Fundamental strategies like short-short-long passing combinations that got the ball to an open winger with space to see the field and make better decisions.

In the 17th, Conor Casey dropped a nice little pass off to a streaking Danny Cruz, who got a decent cross off that eventually became another Union turnover.

More defensive struggles came for the Union in the 18th minute as Sounders forward Lamar Neagle received a ball that two Union defenders didn't even lunge for. Neagle's shot was nothing of concern to MacMath, but with two Union defenders within arms reach of Neagle, it was concerning to see how easy the Sounders forward split the Philadelphia back line of defense.

As disorganized as the defense seemed to be, it was Philadelphia's offense that began to take control. Again small, quick, accurate passes helped the Union develop a rhythm.

Sounders head Coach Sigi Schmid does a fantastic job of coaching his players to keep a strong defensive formation, but the Union began to pick them apart through their crisp ball movement and continued possession. This led to a brilliant pass from Union right back Sheanon Williams to Jack McInerney. whose shot just graced off of the crossbar.

It took 34 long minutes, but it was easily the Union's best chance thus far into the match.

Philadelphia continued to chip away at the Sounders defense as they began to change the field instead of forcing balls inside. And suddenly, the Sounders became the team bunching up inside as the Union spread out throughout Seattle's half of the pitch.

A quick counter by the Sounders in the 36th minute led to another Johnson chance, but MacMath was up for the challenge and came out aggressively to deny Johnson his second goal.

Despite Union defenders still being out of position when midfielders got caught up in trouble, the Union's wing play opened up the field so that Farfan and McInerney could finally have some room to take some touches and make some off-ball runs.

From the 40th minute on, the Union kept control of the ball and continued to find gaps in the Sounders defense on offense with their quick and sharp passing.

Yet despite a horrific clear by Amobi Okugo that went backwards and over the Union's own goal line, and a questionable yellow card given to Farfan, the Union went into halftime only being down the lone goal scored early by Johnson.