As expected, it rained in Seattle Saturday night as the Philadelphia Union continued their expectation of losing. Now to be fair the Union did their best against MLS' hottest club in the Sounders and did so while putting a scare in the players donned in neon green. After scoring only as the Union know how -not in the run of play- it took Seattle quite a while to break down the frantic and haphazard defense half filled with natural defenders.
The equalizing goal from Obafemi Martins was a big let down in what was shaping up to be an impressive performance in rainy Seattle. As the Union have found this season, you can't have your cake and eat it too. This is the moment that gave Seattle life without a doubt. If the continued sloppy and mistake-laden defense tightens up, that goal doesn't happen. As far as I see it two players are to blame: Maurice Edu and Aaron Wheeler.
So I asked the staff here at Brotherly Game who they thought was to blame.
Read their answers below.
Nicholas Youngstein - Wheeler, for winning the first header and not contesting the 2nd one, which I feel he would have won against Brad Evans. The other reason why Wheeler needed to win that ball is he vacated his position next to Amobi Okugo, which is where Evans' header went. Granted, Edu could have tracked the run and filled Aaron's spot.
Heather Reppert - Edu, he is the veteran in that situation and should be leading the charge.
Barry Evans- Wheeler, easily. You just can't run out of position like that and not challenge for the header. While they shouldn't, I would bet that Edu, Okugo, and everyone but Martins thought Wheeler was going to go up for the header and win the ball, so were caught on their heels.
Andrew Stoltzfus- Edu was standing next to Martins and moved a total of one step in tracking him. If Edu wants to go to Brazil I expect a lot more out of him.
Phil Schwarz - I would say John Hackworth was at fault for playing a striker at center back against the best attack in the league.
DOOP Cast - Wheeler, a good center back would have made a better initial clearing header. His second 'fake you out challenge' was flat out embarrassing - really terrible. He is good for at least two comical/disastrous errors per game through not much fault of his own. Clearly he shouldn't be there.
Jared Young - I agree with the first header being the biggest issue. While Evans' header was excellent the ball should not have been handed to him on a silver platter by Wheeler. Sadly, I was trying to imagine which Union player would have been most likely to make that header and couldn't come up with one.
This is becoming an almost irreversible situation in Philadelphia. Now, where I had zero expectations of a victory in Seattle, the matter in which the Union manage to lose games is tragic. A defensive mistake here, a set piece mishap there. It is something that even my satire is bored of mocking.
There were positives, sure. Cristian Maidana answered John Hackworth's criticism during his presser to put in a stellar performance, whether he was playing on the left side or not. Vincent Nogueira shines as he always does and as a unit the midfield, in my opinion, won the battle against Seattle's midfield in the first 60 minutes of the game.
Then came the Union's collapse as we've seen so many times this season. The 61st minute goal by Obafemi Martins was that of composure, but it was also a gift. It seems the Union are in the giving mood this season, as they blew yet another lead to give away points and if that wasn't enough they give the goals away too.
As Seattle pushed for an attack, a deflected ball (by CRISTIAN MAIDANA, see Hackworth he plays defense) led to an aerial clearance by Aaron Wheeler. As the clearance is shanked by Wheeler, who seemed to have misread the flight of the ball, he runs out of position to follow up his play. Without any realization that he was in fact in his teams' defensive third and not Seattle's, Wheeler feigns a challenge on Brad Evans who looked to head the ball forward. Evans heads the ball through to Martins who races by four Union players who are rooted to the spot. Goal scored, no questions about it.
Who was to blame? I've narrowed it down to two potential culprits: Aaron Wheeler and Maurice Edu. Judging from far too many views of the goal, I can see Raymon Gaddis as also a culprit who is ball watching while Wheeler strolls out of position, allowing Martins to occupy that space. I will, however, pardon him due to him actually racing back, albeit too late, to defend. The other player who was rooted to his spot by Evans' ball in was Edu. He did not move to cover Wheeler's position, save for one step.
Edu's involvement in that play was non-existent and his lack of coverage in defense has been a pattern this season. He was one of three players who fell asleep on Kyle Beckerman's goal against Real Salt Lake and he jogged back and forgot to cover Thierry Henry as he one timed a rocket into the net against New York Red Bulls. I can see where if Edu gets back to cover that all three of these goals might not have happened, but in this case I don't believe he's the most at fault.
I've picked on Aaron Wheeler a lot in my articles and with just reason in my opinion. As Doop Cast mentioned, Wheeler is good for a blooper or two almost every game. Teams in this league, especially Seattle, will rip you to shreds if you make mistakes in your own third. Aaron Wheeler continues to have the mentality of a striker with no real awareness of danger. Those great tackles he makes on occasion are the results of frantic and panicked defending. If Wheeler challenges for that second ball like a true center back we don't have this discussion. And yet week after week here we are talking about the same crap.
Let us know what you think in the poll and the comments below!