The Good: Individual Performances
Andre Blake was the stand out performer against Houston. His MLS debut might have been a loss, but there is still great promise for the future of his career. Even though his athleticism was touted as his strong suit in the predraft workouts, it was impressive to see him in competitive action for the first time. Sure, he had a few flubs, but for the most part he commanded his area and strongly flew above attackers to grab crosses. His double save on a breakaway in the second half was thrilling and one that not many keepers in the league could have made.
It was also great to see Carlos Valdes back, even if it was his second appearance. It is such a calming feeling to have him back on the backline and once he is in charge of a well rested group it should be a tough test for any league opponent.
Bonus good: WE'RE HOSTING A CUP FINAL! That won't ever get old. Make sure to get your tickets! Let's fill PPL and make it a fortress.
The Bad: Unbalanced Roster
The roster was thrown around this past week with so many games in such a short span of time, but there is a real lack of balance to the roster. Three starting keepers, no width to the left, beyond Conor Casey, no one to hold up play, and worst of all a complete mess of a midfield.
Jim Curtin has mentioned he wants to run with Valdes and White at centerback, which is fine after some decent performances from White, however it creates a log jam in the midfield. All of Maurice Edu, Amobi Okugo, and Vincent Nogueira are strongest in a holding, defensive role in the center of the field and the currently injured Maidana playing best in a free floating, attacking role in the center as well. LeToux has been playing well as a wide midfielder and hasn't been pushed into an obvious forward role. The left is still a giant question mark with Cruz and Wenger playing out of position. The only other players contending for playing time are Lahoud and Carroll, who also feature in the center of the pitch. It is a giant jigsaw puzzle for interim manager Curtin to sort out.
The Ugly: Unlucky Scheduling
I hate to make excuses, but two games in Texas in early August were too much for the Union. The loss to Houston was a calamity of errors, culminating in a depressing ending to a great week. Ray Gaddis' face after the own goal said it all. The team was drained of any and all energy. In a playoff race you never want to overlook games, however, this one is easily forgiven. There will be games coming up in the weeks ahead to build the case for a playoff position and bigger games (i.e. that little championship game we'll be hosting) to look forward to.