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Game Changers: The Song Remains the Same

Every week we "Monday morning manage" the previous Philadelphia Union games, talking about the major points in the game that changed momentum, led to goals and won or lost the points for the Union. This week Game Changers seeks inspiration – okay, the will to write - from Led Zeppelin. Maybe because this team is sinking like a lead balloon.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The dogs of doom are howling more as the Union have lost four straight games. While their opponents have scored a whopping 10 goals in those four games, the Union have attempted just 10 shots on goal. Goals against = shots on goal. Not good. Let's try to get through this week's Game Changers with the help of Led Zeppelin. Robert Plant is a noted Wolverhampton Wanderers fan, so maybe there's good soccer karma somewhere in here.

Leading up to the match -  "Upon us all a little rain must fall" - The Rain Song


The week started with the return of Rais MBolhi and ended with the "emergency" signing of MLS pool keeper Trey Mitchell. In between were two injuries to Andre Blake and starter John McCarthy and the signing of a goalkeeper Brian Sylvestre, who had made a total of eight appearances since 2011, at any level. The fact that the Union were able to sign Mitchell while they had a healthy MBolhi is puzzling. Under MLS rules, teams can add such a player for a game if they have less than two goalkeepers available. The Union had two such keepers, but they were allowed to bring along a pool keeper anyway.

In the end, Brian Sylvestre did not cost the Union this game. He ended up making seven saves, many of them solid.

26' - "And my eyes fill with sand, as I scan this wasted land" - Kashmir

Great pass from Ayuk goes wasted

The Union, as they often do, started brightly in the match. They were connecting nicely in passing triangles and building possession while limiting Vancouver's dangerous chances. The Union finally had their breakthrough in the final third in the 26th minute when Eric Ayuk sent a brilliant ball across the box right in front of goal. He could not have walked the ball to a better spot for the cutting Andrew Wenger. But Wenger continued his ineptitude this season by driving the ball directly into the goalkeeper Ousted. He had half the net to his left wide open. Wenger no doubt did not see Ousted flying across the goal and thought he had a tap in. But this is the kind of awareness that the Union are sorely lacking time and time again. The goal would have given the Union a 1-0 lead and much needed confidence. But as with so many moments this season, the moment was completely wasted.

32' - "Been dazed and confused for so long..." - Dazed and Confused

Union exposed on the counter, again:

Just six minutes after Wenger's miss the Union were caught on a counter. Cristian Techera, who was an emergency replacement in the 12th minute for Mauro Rosales, played a ball to a streaking Pedro Morales. He was played onside by a flat footed Sheanon Williams who was caught ball watching (sound familiar?). Morales chipped the ball around a helpless Sylvestre and the Union were down 1-0.

Seeing yet another goal scored against the Union on the counter got me thinking - just how often does this happen? I looked at the goals scored against the Union during this four game streak. Nine of them were scored in the run of play, the other being the long brilliant set piece goal from Giovinco. I watched all nine of the other goals and counted out 1) how many Union defenders were in the 18 yard box when the shot was taken and 2) how many defenders were deeper than the ball when it was shot (other than the goalie). Here are the results.

The Union had a total of 20 defenders in the 18 yard box for the nine goals. That's basically an average of TWO defenders in the box, per goal. That's a lot of space for shooters to work with. Now get this. Only three defenders were deeper than the ball when those nine shots were attempted. That means six times the shooter had just the keeper to beat. So almost all the defenders in the box were chasing the play and not a factor. For a team that is supposed to be playing defense first, that is atrocious.

44' - "Could it be you've found another game to play?" - That's The Way.

Maidana makes key pass to Rivero and referee misses call

Cristian Maidana has been one of the few bright spots in this young season. But his back pass just before halftime all but put the game on ice for Vancouver. It's hard to tell why Maidana felt a back pass was the right thing to do. He wasn't under pressure and he had Edu open to his right. It's also not clear who he was passing the ball to. If it was to his goalie then he left the ball about 15 yards short. If the pass was to Ethan White then he missed an easy pass by a mile. Whatever the case, it was a terrible lapse by Maidana.

Octavio Rivero and Ethan White battled for the terrible pass and Ethan White lost the battle. It looked like Rivero makes contact with White's legs and also extends an arm with a push in the back. The contact wasn't strong but enough to knock over White and draw a foul. If that wasn't a foul, then Edu's foul on Giovinco was also not a foul. The Union can't catch that break they so sorely need. No foul was called and Rivero found himself one on one with a yet-again-helpless Sylvestre. 2-0 Vancouver. Game over.

Which game were Maidana and the referee Ismail Elfath watching?

78' - "Oh Baby, the river's red, oh baby, in my head" - Four Sticks

Richie Marquez picks up a red card:

When it rains it pours. Richie Marquez made a play on a ball but got there just after Cristian Techera. His foot was low but his studs were up and he clipped the heel of Techera. There was no malice. Ismail Elfath immediately pulled a straight red. Almost no one will tell you that should have been a red card - the studs up being the aspect of the play that could be pointed to when staring at a rule book. Nevertheless, the reaction of Techera as he rolled around the ground in pain no doubt influenced the call.

The Union don't have more options at center back and desperately need the return of Steven Vitoria for the next match. If he can not go Maurice Edu will likely slide back to pair with Ethan White. That would force Brian Carroll to start at defensive midfielder alongside Nogueira.

Darren Mattocks added a third goal on a breakaway and Vancouver laughed their way to three points. None of these game changers point out the glaring gap in talent between the Union and one of the best MLS has to offer in Vancouver. The Union are a depleted bunch but the lack of depth can't be ignored. A key player in Mauro Rosales goes down and Cristian Techera comes in and impacts the game. The Union haven't been getting those types of positive performances from their starters, let alone their bench.

What's your state of mind after the match? Here are two Led Zeppelin quotes...which one best applies to how you are feeling?