The Good: New Additions
It would have been understandable if the newest additions to the Philadelphia Union needed time to get acclimated to MLS, but it seems they really came out flying. There is still room to grow, but it is already obvious the skill level of those brought in to the team is of a higher level.
Cristian Maidana was dazzling going forward. Early in the first half what he can offer was on full display as he beat a man just inside the Union's defensive half, pushed the ball forward with speed, and then fired a sharp cross to McInerney at the opposite side of the box, who's shot was blocked for a corner.
Maurice Edu and Vincent Nogueira were true forces in midfield and outplayed the Portland midfield. When Edu or Nogueira are on the ball there is more purpose in their touches and intentions that was completely missing from the 2013 central midfield, and is a level never seen before in Blue and Gold. They force their opponents to make decisions at top speed and then take advantage of mistakes.
Austin Berry was a bit tentative at first, but had a strong game in the end. He was on hand for several blocked shots and powering headers at the back. Also, credit is due for attempting to organize the defense before the last second corner that cost the Union 2 points. In the replay you can see him raise his hands to call everyone back to defense before being pushed aside by Okugo. At least someone was thinking of organization in that moment.
The Bad: Lack of Concentration
Union fans should be used to this story by now. The team is holding on to a hard earned win or draw, only to have points dropped by a last second goal. The last 10 minutes of the game it looked like the Union had finally learned how to hold a lead late. Both Hoppenot and Cruz were making strong runs deep into the Portland half, drawing fouls and keeping the possession away from the Union's goal. The Union were not sitting deep, allowing for a sense of calm going into stoppage time.
Then, with one lapse in concentration, Portland took their chance. A Portland turnover gave Brian Carroll the ball in midfield with little pressure. Instead of acting as a true veteran and holding possession, or at least playing a slow chipped ball to the corner flag for Portland to chase or throw in, he drilled a clearance straight to the Portland right back. Even though there was a very limited amount of time left it allowed Portland to stage one last attack. We all know what happened then. A corner was earned, an unfortunate touch (this should not be a point of blame, by the way), and a complete lack of marking in the box allowed Portland's newest forward to easily head home, giving MacMath no chance at making a save. It was a goal that could easily have been avoided and needs to be avoided if the Union are going to reach the heights they are aiming for.
The Ugly: Premeditated Substitutions
Somethings never change. In 2013 it was the constant addition of Antoine Hoppenot for Danny Cruz around the 60th minute. Saturday night against Portland it was obvious to expect Danny Cruz for Sebastian LeToux as they were both battling for the same position in preseason. The second sub of Hoppenot for Maidana was a bit of a head scratcher. Maidana didn't seem as desperately in need of a substitution as McInerney did at the time and it robbed the Union of one of their best players in possession. Seeing as the left wing was the position that Hoppenot had replaced Cruz in constantly last season, it is only logical then to assume that this was planned well before the substitution took place. In game management has never been one of Hackworth's strengths, but with a heightened level of talent in the squad, if it does not improve it will only lead to promising moments for the Union faithful followed by continued let downs.