Firstly our apologies for the lack of game-changers thread in the past week. Despite a busy schedule and entertaining games full of game-changing moments, my work schedule didn't allow the time to write these. I will refute all allegations that any ball-watching was the reason for lack of articles however.
On to game-changers for this weekends Houston game.... having missed 2 game-changing filled matches, this one had very few moments that could be considered game-changers. It was a very dull, boring game with little in the way of clear cut chances. Houston seemed happy to get a point, and Hackworth is probably happy to get a point*. When you have two teams happy to come away with a point then 0-0 draws where the most interesting thing is which beer you can get at half time will be the outcome.
*I'll clarify now that I don't believe any of the Union players were happy to get a 0-0 draw. That all comes from my belief that Hackworth is the kind of coach that feels first and foremost don't lose, then maybe he can sneak a win. I would guess the players don't like that theory but when your coach wants you to play that way, you will play that way.
1) Brad Davis being injured/unable to play.
Houston are one of the teams in MLS that don't have any real superstars. What they are however is a team capable of beating anyone. A major reason for this is Brad Davis's left foot. There aren't many in MLS better at delivering the ball than Davis, and Houston have always used that to great advantage. However, an injury in the first half of the Houston vs FC Dallas game the other week meant that Davis missed this game. Houston are nowhere near as good a team without him* and this should have given the Union a reason to go out, dominate and get 3 points. Unfortunately, the only difference Davis made was Houston were just as poor as the Union over the course of 90 minutes.
*As may be teased out by the fact they lost to New England last week.
2) Half time whistle.
|1st Half Total Shots
|1st Half Shots on Target
|2nd Half Total Shots
|2nd Half Shots on Target
Taken together, the River End saw 22 shots with two on target while fans at the Bridge end saw one off-target shot in total. Whether it was an invisible wall, hurricane force wind, or masterful half-time tactical discussion, all of the action took place towards the river end.
If I were to guess, it would have to say it was an invisible wall, and that the same wall was in front of the goal (there's no other reason for such poor shot on target ratio is there?*). There was a shot that went into the river from Real Salt Lake last week and Houston must have been trying to best RSL and put three balls into the river. And yet, the Union's shooting wasn't much better.
*Gremlins are too unrealistic.
3) Red Card to Kofi Sarkodie
The first yellow card was a clear yellow. Kofi Sarkodie was late, and took down Vincent Nogueira with a sliding tackle. There could be no complaints about it. The second yellow card however, if referee Armando Villarreal instantly realized that Sarkodie was already on a yellow card, he probably does nothing. Not that Sarkodie wasn't time-wasting, he was, however referees will tend not to send a player off for this offence. Of course, instead of the Union players reminding Villarreal that it was Sarkodie's second yellow card, they should have left him to continue playing. Maybe the Union would have won then as for the third time this year they struggled when the opposition had a player sent off. It's happened three times, and the only goal came from the penalty given following Ibrahim Sekagya's handball in the box. Oh and the Union have conceded from the run of play up a man. Fun.
4) John Hackworth making attacking substitutions after the Sarkodie red card (plus other substitutions)
Wait, that didn't happen? Oh. I assumed it must have and I missed the sub. I take it that Striker Aaron Wheeler went up front and played as a striker for the rest of the game? Oh, that didn't happen either. Yes, a man up, John Hackworth didn't make a change at all. "We were playing well" was his reason. How many shots on target came from that? Ah. None. Great. As for his other subs, it was great to see Leo Fernandes come on....for Cristian Maidana, one of the most creative players on the field yesterday, right, that makes sense. And then a tired Casey off, for a guy in poor form in Sebastien Le Toux. No tactical change at all. In a game where nothing really happened, the biggest chance of having a game-changer changed nothing.
5) A new Beer at PPL Park
While walking back to my seat at half time having bought a "For club and country" scarf, I noticed a big red T on top of the tap. I stopped and thought "no, it couldn't be," but it was. I saw someone selling the fantastic Tennents Lager for the first ever time in the United States.* While this had nothing at all to do with game-changers on the field, at least the knowledge I can drink some Tennents will make what happens on the field more enjoyable.
*When speaking to the person in front of me in line, an Irishman, he was saying the exact same thing
So there you have it. A very poor game to discuss game-changers. There were penalty decisions and attacking substitutions in the RSL game I could have spent lots of time discussing had I the time. There was defensive mishaps and penalty decisions in the loss to the Red Bulls. This game..... not so much. Let's hope next week's trip to Montreal is more entertaining, and not because Jack McInerney has his scoring boots on.
6) For those that will never join us in the stands again
While writing this, terrible news broke that fellow Son of Ben/Bearfight FC member Eric Shertz passed away during the night. The news makes everything else written above meaningless. He was a great person, a fantastic father, and is going to be missed by many. His death reminds us all that the game we watch, discuss, even fight about really does mean nothing in the end, and that the most important thing about being a Philadelphia Union fan is being able to spend time with friends and family, with the 90 minutes on the field an added bonus. Rest in peace, Eric.