The Union have never won in Columbus, and despite positive vibes coming from the Union in the previous games, that did not change this time. Going to Columbus may well be difficult for anyone this year, but it was hard not to feel that the Union had the chances to get something. If we're not for some poor finishing, a good save and Jack Mcinerney being one shoe size too small they may have come back to PPL next week undefeated. What were the points in the game where things changed for the Union?
I'll start with possibly the biggest difference from weeks 1 and 2 to week 3:-
1) Aaron Wheeler started over Ethan White in the absence of Austin Berry.
While Wheeler may have "done admirably", but he isn't a natural defender. Either Ethan White is worse than he showed last year in DC, or Hackworth prefers Wheeler's height in defense along with Okugo. I would guess the former. Wheeler has tended to sit a bit further back because of a lack of well, something. Whether that something is experience, confidence or ability is almost irrelevant. What is relevant is that it changes the way the defense functions and affects the way the team plays. The defensive line can't push up without him, and the rest of the team then has to sit further back to protect the space. His perchance to "thump the ball forward" indiscriminately without finding a forward target was also a difference, as it usually meant Columbus regained possession quickly and started their attack again. While Wheeler being back on defense may work at a pinch against poor teams, let's just hope Berry gets fit soon. So far Wheeler has been on defense for 135 minutes, and we have generally played the familiar "sit back and hit them on the break" tactics from last year, and not the exciting forward thinking team we saw in the first 135 minutes of the season.
Directly linked to that:-
2) Lack of support for Jack McInerney.
One of the exciting things about the first few games has been the amount of players getting forward into the opposition box. However there were at least 2 instances that cost the Union on Saturday. Both times, balls through to McInerney found him behind the defense, towards the edge of the box - and he lifted his head for the easy pass to.... nobody. Sure, on one of those occasions he found a player, but the support was so slow getting there that the Columbus defense managed to get back to cover. McInerney should have had the shot earlier and scored - but the better chance of scoring is to pick out a teammate in the middle to tap in (basically what Le Toux did for Fernandes' goal). Jack never got that chance and that is worrying.
3) 2(3) individual mistakes.
Maidana can claim two individual mistakes.. The first goal could also easily be blamed on Le Toux. Yet again, our corner defense was found wanting. It was Le Toux's turn to fall asleep this time, as he took a leisurely jog to somewhere in the box, exactly where he wasn't needed. Meanwhile - the player he was marking wandered free, into the middle of the box and got his head on the ball. On the post, perhaps Maidana was surprised at how few players were around the Columbus scorer, and whiffed on clearing the ball. 1-0 Columbus, when they had hardly put any pressure on the goal. Suddenly they were all over the Union in terms of pressure, although the defense did a good job snuffing out any danger until....
Just before half time. Maidana did his best to win against Le Toux playing turnover. This time, Maidana's poor touch led to Anor getting the ball 40 yards out. The defense went backwards, Anor put the ball into the corner of the net, and it was 2-0 Columbus. The Union were now in trouble. The defense and midfield had done their job of keeping MacMath's goal protected but 3 individual mistakes and the Union had a mountain to climb.
4) Leo Fernandes coming in for Maidana
This was the only really positive game-changer for the Union. Fernandes came in and staked a further claim for playing time by his performance. Maidana had been very poor, and Hackworth did what he had to by bringing the young Brazilian on. Leo changed the game for the Union - he seemed determined to get us back on level terms. He managed to get on the end of Le Toux's cross for his first MLS Goal (congratulations Leo). He also had a major role in most of the Union's other chances, but they just didn't get finished and the Union lost. If it wasn't for Leo's performance, then everyone would be talking about the first 2 games being a another false dawn for the Union, instead of talking about their promise.
Going forward - let's hope we'll have no more game-changing goals from corner flags. If i was coach Hackworth - the whole team would be putting extra effort into sorting this issue. Oh how I long for the happy game-changing moments of the first 2 games.
What are your thoughts on the match?