Another week goes by and another week raises the question, what is wrong with the Union's set piece defense? The Brotherly Game staff dives into this week's hot topic. Well the Union's dreams of an undefeated season goes away with little surprise. Another thing that was of little surprise to anyone was that the Union let in another set piece goal this week as Columbus reminded the U that we're not exactly where we'd like to be. It seems like our issues this year are far better than what they were last year, and that is a good thing, but what is it with the Union's set piece defense?
Is it the coaching? Is it the player's fault? Is it our fault for expecting too much of the Union so early on that we'll blame everything that goes wrong in a desperate search to find something negative against our beloved Union because we're so used to them being horrible? OK, I may have touched a soft spot for some of us pessimistic fans, but it's a thought indeed for the U and its fan base.
I posed this question to our beautiful writer's here at tBG: What is wrong with the Union's set piece defense and why can't they seem to fix it?
Let's see what they said.
Nicholas Youngstein - Accountability. Everyone has to WANT to participate in defending those. The more "want" wins out usually.
Ed Welsh - Not enough work at it in practice.
Eugene Rupinski - Poor defending of set pieces is a direct result of coaching. Either the club is not doing enough work on it in practice, or they're not doing enough of the right work on it in practice. Either way it's on the coaching staff to fix that. Until they do, you'll keep seeing the Union continually get burned on them.
DOOP Cast - This is a broken record. Yes, individuals (Le Toux in this case) are responsible but strong leadership and good coaching can eradicate the kind of ball-watching that keeps costing the U goals. 20% blame to players, 80% blame goes to coaches.
William Murphy - Set Pieces are always a coaching issue for me. Sure guys can switch off and make individual errors, but that is less likely to happen the better drilled they are as a team. This has also been a theme with the organization since season one really. I always remember the old military axiom:
"When it hits the fan, you WILL NOT rise to the occasion, you will default to your LEVEL OF TRAINING".
I believe that applies here as well.
Barry Evans - It seems Hackworth commented on missed clearances, but that happens in every game without there being a goal. The biggest cause of the issues for me is falling asleep with the marking. Maybe they are playing with a zonal system instead of man-marking system? They certainly don't follow their marks anyway. The whole team against Portland, Le Toux this week, there's no reason to jog around the box watching the ball reach a player without anyone being within 6 feet of them. The team consistently doing this comes down to tactics/coaching for me. The way we defend set pieces continually gives up goals - obviously it's not working - we need to change the way we defend. Players don't decide in the heat of the moment which way to defend corners.
Matt Ralph - In the Portland game, the entire team fell asleep and wasn't ready for the quick corner. Yesterday it looked like confusion and a lack of communication was the problem. It's up to the coaching staff to work through these problems on the training ground but the job of the guy wearing the armband to make sure everyone is on the same page in the moment.
Jared Young - It's hard to excuse Le Toux's walk in the park during that corner kick against the Crew. The rest of the team seem locked in battle. There seems to be a lack of accountability for the fact that it only takes one person napping to give up a goal. The coaches have to raise the urgency but players need to make it happen.
You typically think the Union's worst enemies are DC United, New York Red Bulls, maybe Sporting Kansas City, or even every other team in the MLS. I, however, believe the Union's worst enemy is set piece defense. Historically, we are horrendous at set piece goals. This has not changed or ever been different as much as I can remember and it is not a problem that is a real issue to fix. This has got to come down to coaching. It seems to always come down to lack of concentration when I look at the two Union goals allowed on set pieces from not only individual players, but the whole team. Either no one is listening to an organizer of the defense (i.e. Zac MacMath in Portland) or one player just decides to daydream before the play begins (I'm looking at you, Le Toux).
If its instances of things going wrong on set pieces all the time for a team, regardless of the players on the field, I tend to lean more towards a lack of emphasis in practice. It seems that the coaching staff does not take the time to correct this issues, or even value set pieces as an issue. Before this year I can understand our struggles being a typically small team with very little height anywhere on the pitch, let alone in defense. Now this is no excuse. We have plenty of height with the additions of Austin Berry and Maurice Edu, even Aaron Wheeler (who was in place of Berry against Columbus) is a massive man anywhere he is and should be capable.
I could be over-analyzing as this was one instance in this early season, but its little things here and there over the course of 5 years that tend to build up in my mind. Hackworth already was walking a fine line before this season started that with one or two slip ups he could be sent walking. This could very well be the first point of a laundry list of issues going against him if he doesn't coach his team on how to defend set pieces.
Please vote in the poll below and feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with our assessment of the Union's set piece defense!