The worst season in Union history so far has not improved since the last game changer article, as the Philadelphia Union come back from Columbus without a single point. Of course Columbus Crew SC are one of the top teams in the East and the Union are not, so a loss wasn't surprising. It was the manner of the defeat that hurt the most. So how did it happen?
1) The wrong player was dropped.
After the 2-1 loss to New England last week, defender Sheanon Williams was the first big name casualty of Jim Curtin trying to shake things up. Williams was caught out for both goals, and didn't get on the field this week. However, you have to ask if it was the correct move to make. Williams was certainly not the only player to blame, with Ray Gaddis being caught at both goals and Andrew Wenger also being at fault. Should Gaddis have been dropped? No. However, Williams shouldn't have been dropped either.
The back line has hardly played together all season due to injuries. The best defenses all over the world all tend to have played with each other a lot, becoming a unit. That's how the team was when they did well in the 2011 season. Williams, Gaddis, Steven Vitoria and Maurice Edu need to play together for more games without dropping anyone for costing goals. Give this unit some time to gel and add Andre Blake back there instead of John McCarthy, and maybe this defense will have a chance
Another reason not to drop Sheanon is that his replacement, Fabinho, is terrible as an MLS defender. He showed this on both the second and fourth Columbus goals, as he got caught out on both of them. Columbus were also targeting him all game. It never ends well when the opposition knows there is a weak link that can be easily targeted.
2) A counter-attacking team caught on the counter attack.
Philadelphia started the game out well. They had a lot of positive play in the first twenty or so minutes, with Andrew Wenger looking hungry if not providing quality as yet. However, Columbus then scored a goal, almost against the run of play and it came pretty much from a counter attack that the Union defense were all out of position for. The ball was played to John McCarthy who cleared to a Columbus player. From then it was a quick and incisive attack, as Ethan Finlay and Tony Tchani set up Kei Kamara at the back post. Edu left the player open, and Ray Gaddis was nowhere near the play to cover. It was an easy and composed finish from Kamara, and it was much easier than it should have been.
Another thing the breakaway goal meant was the Union's game plan to sit back as much as possible was ruined, and there was now no need for both Brian Carroll and Michael Lahoud to play. These tactical reasons were why Brian Carroll had to be replaced with Ethan White, as you could easily say that Carroll was one of the more productive parts of the team until then, breaking up many plays and finding a teammate more times than not. The problem with Carroll is that he doesn't have the drive of Edu.
Later in the first half, it was 3-0 to Columbus as Sebastien Le Toux allowed Emanuel Pogatetz to clear easily. Justin Meram got the ball and he was able to turn past Edu far too easily, and Gaddis couldn't get back to help. What should have been luckily for the Union was that Meram hit his shot weakly straight at John McCarthy. What wasn't lucky is that the young keeper decided to commit an error of Seitzian magnitude as he let the ball squirm through into the net.
It was yet another poor display from McCarthy, who didn't register a single save. While he does look somewhat comfortable making easy catches, his decision making is still not good enough and it is hopefully time to see what Andre Blake can do in between the posts for Philadelphia.
3) Bringing on Eric Ayuk.
We have to have something positive in here right? Well that positivity is definitely the effort and play of Eric Ayuk. Not only did he show enthusiasm, but he definitively got his first goal of the season. Unlike the last time he was flipping all over the place, there wasn't Zach Pfeffer's backside to claim this one. Ayuk rose like a salmon at the back post to power home a header from CJ Sapong's cross. It was a goal that Conor Casey would be proud of. If Ayuk can provide goalscoring to go along with his general wing play, there is no way that Le Toux or Wenger should start another game ahead of him this season.
4) Cristian Maidana wasn't Cristian Maidana.
While Cristian Maidana is a very important piece for the Union, it wasn't his game on Saturday. Passes were misplaced, he held on to the ball too long at times and just didn't link with his teammates as he has done for the rest of the season. I'd love to put it down to the general malaise the Union were playing with, but Maidana shouldn't let that affect him.
As I was writing this, I was watching Game of Thrones. Unless some drastic changes are made, a simple switch from the Stark motto of "Winter is coming" can be made to "Losses are coming". In Jim Curtin's press conference, he mentioned that he learned a lot from the result, especially on the players who will continue to give effort no matter what, and those that give up. We will see what the lineup is on Saturday to get more insight in to what Curtin was talking about.