In the last week we have seen the World Cup end for the USMNT (despite Tim Howard's amazing performance) and all the Cinderella teams go out, including Colombia but not before an awful challenge by Juan Zuniga ended Neymar's hopes of scoring the winning goal in the world cup final thanks to a vicious knee to the back fracturing one of Neymar's vertebra leaving him laying on the ground fearing paralysis. Injury scare aside, it was an entertaining week in Brazil. Could we be entertained as much while watching the 4th of July game in Frisco, Texas? If you were, good for you! Here are the game changing moments of last Friday's Philadelphia Union and FC Dallas game!
1. The Union get grounded at the airport on Thursday.
The Union were playing from behind before they ever got to Texas. It is never a good thing to be flying to the match on the morning you are due to play no matter the cause. especially when it is over a three-hour flight. Earlier this year, the Union stayed out in California when they had the back-to-back games against LA Galaxy and Chivas USA. They were rewarded for that by picking what may be the easiest three points they will find all season in their game against Chivas. This time, whether or not the flight was a factor, the team were not table to prepare for the game in a satisfactory way, and in return they lost a game where they never looked like going to win.
2. Sitting too deep for the first 20 minutes.
There was one point during the first 20 minutes where it appeared Union manager Jim Curtin told Danny Cruz not to pressure the Dallas players too high. It was obviously therefore tactical reasons that Dallas had so much of the early play. When a team plays like that, chances tend to be created. And when chances get created, eventually goals will come. Curtin may have got it correct last week against New England, but this week, if he did instruct was the players to sit back so far, he got it all very wrong.
3. The referee not allowing Conor Casey to play.
The ball went to Conor Casey and free kicks were called. It was the pattern of the game, and the Union are going to struggle when that is the case. Did Casey actually commit these fouls? Some of the time, yes. However, there were times where any contact was minimal, and Casey was penalized for "being big." Without being able to get the ball to Casey to start the attacks, there was a need for a plan B , and the Union didn't really seem to have one of those.
4. Offside decisions did not lead to goals.
In the post-game interviews, it was suggested that the second Dallas should have been disallowed because of offside. Unfortunately it was not offside, and neither was the first for that matter. Defensive slacking once again haunted the Union.
On the first goal, Maurice Edu went out to try and win a header outside the Union's 18-yard box. Unfortunately, the ball ended at the feet of Blas Perez, and Sheanon Williams ran out to meet him. Oops. A little lob over the top, no central defenders in position, Fabinho or Michael Lahoud couldn't make it back to cover, and Tesho Akendele finished a one-touch volley with ease. This was the first time the retooled defense got caught out of shape, and it was likely due to Edu playing out of position as he would have been wiser to not go after the header. Maybe things will improve, but that was typical of goals against the Union all season.
For the second goal, Fabinho tried to make a clearance into a group of players including Sheanon Williams, and the ball hilariously bounced off Sheanon into the back of the net. Though the Dallas striker in an offside position at the time the ball was played, he neither made any attempt to play the ball nor interfered with an opponent, and the goal rightly stood. In this case, Fabinho needed to make a more careful clearance. Putting it out for a corner kick is a better result than attempting to launch it through a tight pack of players where a wrong deflection can easily spell doom, as it did Friday night for the Union.
5. The quality of substitutes were not good enough.
Andrew Wenger for Cruz. Aaron Wheeler for Casey. Fred for Amobi Okugo. Those are not substitutions that are going to change the game for the better under any circumstance, and the quality of the team definitely worsened following them. But let's be clear, there wasn't any substitution Curtin could have made that would have improved the team, leading to a win. The quality is just not present for that to happen. The other players on the bench (Andre Blake, Austin Berry, Brian Carroll, Leo Fernandes) are not going to make a difference either. If the players in the Union starting XI don't get a lead, they may struggle winning more games down the road
When you factor in Edu's deserved red card, and an annoyingly quiet night for Sebastien Le Toux save for a yellow card for dissent, and it was a game to forget. Perhaps most of this can be blamed on the flight issue and having an unusual match day schedule. At least Amobi Okugo was awake enough to sneak into the box and get his first goal of the season.
Next week, the Union are home against a good, fast, young Colorado Rapids team. We'll see what Curtin has in store for his first league home game this Saturday, but first, with a midweek U.S. Open Cup sandwiching the Dallas and Colorado games, what importance will he place on Tuesday's quarter-final at PPL Park?