Last season you may have read my weekly piece called The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. With a new year comes a new approach to breaking down the Union's matches. Welcome to the Spin Zone! This year I'm going to give you each perspective so no matter if you want to be excited super fan or the pessimistic negative Nancy, there will be something here for you to use in your weekly arguments with your buddies.
So read the offerings below, choose your side, and most of all...Enjoy!
I know 0-0 isn't a lot to go off, but let's dig a little deeper here. The stats all point to the Union being the dominant team here. The Union had a commanding lead in total shots (16-2), shots on goal (4-0), passing accuracy (75%-59%), successful crosses (26%-13%), corners (5-1), clearances (8-34), and fouls (11-23). The Colorado Rapids only lead the game in tackles (34-8) and of course the negative stats like offsides (5-1), yellow cards (3-2) and red cards (1-0).
However, we don't need statistics to prove to us just how dominant the Union were. Beyond a single chance from Dominique Badji that felt like a single moment of terror before the rookie shanked the shot wide of the goal, there wasn't a single chance with any real venom from Colorado. In fact the only thing Colorado seemed interested in doing was disrupting any chance for a game of soccer to break out. The kind of tactics that an obviously inferior team will take.
So if the Union were so dominant, why didn't they win? I'm glad you asked that. On a day that hovered just above freezing, with only a few weeks of training with their newest target forward, and the rest of the team just coming out of preseason, there are bound to be a few rough spots. There were definite goal scoring chances that fell just wide, high, or within reach of the keeper that when in mid-season form, would be scored by the likes of Andrew Wenger, Conor Casey, and Sebastien Le Toux.
Moving forward past this game there are positives to take. The relationship between Andrew Wenger and Ray Gaddis has the making of a very dangerous tandem. Wenger is building off a good end of the 2014 season, and against Colorado Gaddis seemed to know the perfect times to overlap and put extra pressure on the opposing defense. Fernando Aristeguieta and Vincent Nogueira - the Frenchmen on the field - are also going to be a joy to watch this season. Beyond what they bring to open play, they are going to draw an unbelievable amount of free kicks. Colorado actually led the league in fouls the first week, with only Real Salt Lake coming close. Tie all of that in with the ability to switch the style of the attack with option of CJ Sapong or Cristian Maidana and there is a lot to be excited for this season.
Let's start with the obvious. All your non-soccer watching buddies who you spent all off-season talking into joining you at PPL Park or the local bar for the home opener complained the whole way home about the stereotypical 0-0 tie that they had to endure. It's going to take you all season, a deep cup run, and a legit chance of a championship all teamed with continued Philadelphia style sports depression in all other major sports leagues to win them. At least Chip Kelly is doing his part.
Forget about those "friends" for the time being. Beyond the embarrassment of the team letting you down in front of people you were trying to impress, the team didn't really show much to get excited about. I mean, they weren't even playing a team that was interested in playing the game for crying out loud. Colorado sat back and dared the Union to break them down and the home side just couldn't get the job done. After all of the talk of a revamped attack and the big name DP striker coming in, it was more of the same toothless attack we've grown to know from the blue and gold.
Another thing we have grown to loathe over the years is questionable coaching decisions. From the head scratching substitutions of Peter Nowak, to the wildly out of position players of John Hackworth, now we have lack of oppositional awareness under Jim Curtin. Instead of coming out with a formation that could pick apart Colorado's stingy defense, the attack played right into the hands of the awaiting Rapids defense. Center backs with an average height of 6'6" with MLS veteran Marcelo Sarvas and newcomer DP Lucas Pittinari sitting in front of them allowed the Union to bang their heads against the wall time and time again, allowing only half chances, but never a clear look on goal.
No matter how much changes with the blue and gold, the more things stay the same. Just more failing execution on the field. If the Union can't be an "inferior" opponent like Colorado, how do they expect to make a run at the playoffs?
Random Thought of the Week:
Clint Dempsey put up two goals to help the Seattle Sounders romp reigning Eastern Conference champions New England Revolution. He's a massive figure in the league on a team that showed every intent in Week 1 to steamroll anything in their way on the road to another chance at the treble. Should the USMNT star continue his role as Seattle dominates the 2015 season he would be a shoe-in for the MVP award. An award that is named after one Landon Timothy Donovan.
Despite what you may think of the league naming the most valuable player award after a player who won the award just once in his fourteen year career in the league, think about the irony of Dempsey winning the award in the first season under the new name. For the past five years or so the two leading stars of US soccer drew a Lionel Messi / Cristiano Ronaldo sized divide between fans of the game in this country. It was #TeamDonovan vs #TeamDempsey at any discussion of the soccer program. Every time a camp roster was released. Every time one of them would score a goal. The rivalry was real and got testy sometimes between fans, pundits, and even spilled over as USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann was obviously #TeamDempsey with the omission of Donovan from the World Cup roster.
Just when we thought the debate was finally over. That we would never have to have that silly argument again between friends, family and drinking buddies. The idea of Dempsey becoming the first ever winner of the Landon Donovan MVP Award is almost too rich to imagine. Only 33 more games to wait!