MLS Regular Season

30 July 11:34 am

Practice today was easier than yesterday with not as many intensive drills and more scrimmage/game-like situations being worked on.

As per usual, the team opened up with short passing and laying the ball off to the waiting player, all while working it around in a circle.

While the outfield players were passing, the goalies worked on moving back and forth in front of the net and around the box while blocking close range shots. Only Andre Blake and John McCarthy did this as Brian Sylvestre did non-ball work as he recovers from his hand injury.

After passing, the team broke up into wing players, forwards, and defenders for a 4v3 scrimmage. There were always four players on offense, plus the help of two players on each wing, working the ball into crossable positions in order to swing it into the box. Richie Marquez was able to participate in this part of practice since it was limited contact.

The scrimmaging eventually wrapped up with the team moving over to work on their half-field offense. Centerbacks were given the rest of practice off as all wing players, midfielders, and forwards worked on getting the ball out wide and then playing early balls into the box to a target forward. In this particular drill, both C.J. Sapong and Fernando Aristeguieta looked good.

Zach Pfeffer was back in practice today after his journey to Colorado for the MLS Homegrown game. Michael Lahoud was also a full participant in practice today as well.

29 July 1:00 pm

Today’s practice was hot, humid, and long. Because it is a mid-week practice, the Union went from 10-11:40 with high-intensity drills and short rest in between. The next few days leading up to the game are easier but with more game-specific prep.

Andrew Wenger and Richie Marquez were both out on the field again today but both did light running and conditioning before heading back inside and out of the heat. Michael Lahoud was able to participate in the possession and technical parts of practice before leaving to do strength and conditioning drills.

Danny Cruz was back in practice for the second day, practicing with the Union for the week while his team in Norway is on a break.

The team opened up practice with short diagonal passing before splitting up into three teams, with two teams competing against each other while the other team practiced moving around on offense, working on their touch and passing across the field.

Practice then switched to a 10-on-10 scrimmage with Andre Blake and John McCarthy playing as the two keepers. Eric Ayuk and Ray Gaddis both looked strong today, excelling on offense and defense respectively.

Zach Pfeffer has yet to return to the team after his appearance in the MLS Homegrown Game last night. After a full day of All-Star game related activities, Pfeffer will return to the Union tomorrow. You can follow his journey here.

16 July 3:57 pm

A hot topic throughout much of the season for the Philadelphia Union has revolved around two key offseason additions prior to the 2014 season. Acquired to bolster the team's lackluster midfield, Vincent Nogueira and Cristian Maidana have both made immediate impacts since joining the club, both of whom came at relatively bargain prices. After all, neither player falls under the designated player threshold and both have proven to be absolutely crucial players.

That is, when they can stay on the field. Nogueira actually started 28 of the club's 34 regular season games last year, but battled some nagging injuries at times during the second half of the seaon. Maidana, on the other hand, started 23 games and missed a vital stretch in August as the club tried to push for the playoffs. This year, each player has faced injuries that have forced them to miss an extended period of time. But what's resulted has been more than a trend.

The Union are 5-3-3 when Nogueira and Maidana combine to play at least 120 minutes. They're just 1-7-1 when the two are at 119 or less. Even worse, they haven't even grabbed a point (0-6-0) when the pair combine for 90 or less minutes. Note the table below, with games of more than 120 highlighted. The other pattern comes in how the table is sorted -- chances created.


Opponent Chances Nogueira Maidana Both Result
vs. POR 15 90 89 180 W
at DC 13 90 90 180 L
vs. COL 13 85 45 130 D
at LA 11 66 90 156 L
vs. SEA 11 90 78 168 W
vs. NYC 11 90 82 172 L
vs. FCD 10 90 0 90 L
at NYC 9 63 32 95 D
vs. NYC 8 90 6 96 W
vs. DC 8 87 90 177 W
at RSL 8 90 79 169 D
vs. CLB 7 79 90 169 W
vs. MON 7 90 81 171 D
vs. NE 7 0 63 63 L
at CLB 7 0 90 90 L
at NYR 6 90 90 180 W
at SKC 6 0 0 0 L
at VAN 5 28 90 118 L
at CHI 5 67 0 67 L
vs. TOR 5 0 90 90 L

Rocket science? No. Beating a dead horse? Maybe. But it's pretty clear to see the Union, at the very least, are a league-average team with both players in the starting lineup and healthy. In the group of highlighted games (11 in total), the Union are averaging exactly 10 chances created per game. In the non-highlighted games (9 in total), they're averaging 6.8. The league average is 9.25.

Of course, if you want the easy route, you can watch this. Or this.

One other note to pass along about these two: the Union are 4-0-0 when Nogueira scores a goal this year and 3-0-3 when Maidana registers an assist. Draw your own conclusions.

ELSEWHERE: The Union will be without Maurice Edu due to yellow card accumulation. Mo now has eight yellows on the season. Edu will once again be suspended following another three yellows cards. Sheanon Williams and Nogueira both sit at three yellow cards, two away from their first suspension. You may realize Nogueira has picked up four yellows this year, but had his number reduced to three because of the 'Good Behavior' rule.

Without Edu, there's a good chance Ethan White will be back in the starting lineup to pair with Richie Marquez in the back. This pairing worked pretty well the last time the Union faced Toronto when Marquez made his MLS debut. Against Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco, the Union held Toronto to just three shots on target and no goals in the run of play -- Giovinco curled in a beautiful free kick. Of course, the Union still lost the match, 1-0.

16 July 1:12 pm

The team practiced today in near perfect conditions, with the sun out but the humidity nowhere in sight.

Today the team worked on long, diagonal passes, trying to drive it into the person receiving it. This eventually changed from driven passes to passes of mid-level height and then finally to long balls in the air which the players had to bring down.

After the passing drills were complete, the team broke into two separate squads, setting up a 5-on-3 situation with goalkeepers. There were always four players on the offensive side against three defenders, with the fifth player (either Vince Nogueira or Brian Carroll) making a late run into the box. Additionally, there were two players on each wing that had to stay on the outside and feed the ball into the middle.

Both Crisitan Maidana and Brian Sylvestre seemed to be in top form today, with Maidana curling some beautiful shots into the corners of the goal while Sylvestre showed off amazing dexterity for a guy his size.

The team then split in two, with the defensive players going with Curtin and the offensive players going with Sorber. The defense worked on compressing, chasing, and clearing the ball while the offense worked on playing the ball as it comes in off the wings.

The day ended with a full field passing drill, working against training dummies set up in Toronto’s formation and Curtin coaching the team on how to best break them down.

15 July 2:24 pm

Today’s practice was slightly cold and rainy with a slight breeze coming off the water. It drizzled for most of practice but started to pick up towards the end.

Both Fernando Aristeguieta and Eric Bird were back in full action today, participating in contact drills for the first time in a few weeks. Derrick Jones and Rodolfo Zelaya were also practicing with the team again today.

Andre Blake is still away on international duty with the Jamaica Men’s National Team as they advanced to the knockout stages of the 2015 Gold Cup.

The players opened up practice by doing their usual series of passing drills, working on their first touch and getting the ball to opponents in give-and-go situations.

This transitioned into a 7-on-7 passing drill, trying to maintain possession against constant pressure. There was another team of seven on the outside that passed the ball back in to the team with possession. The outside players were limited to one touch while those on the inside had an unlimited amount. The rounds lasted for three minutes with ten passes in a row equaling a point.

While most of the players did that, Zach Pfeffer, Eric Ayuk and Sheanon Williams all had an easy rest day because each of them played a full 90 minutes yesterday.

The teams broke down like this:

Green: Ethan White, Vince Nogueira, Ray Gaddis, Cristian Maidana, Sebastien Le Toux, Fernando Aristeguieta, Conor Casey

Grey: Raymond Lee, Jimmy McLaughlin, Steven Vitoria, Maurice Edu, Fred, Eric Bird

Orange: Antoine Hoppenot, Richie Marquez, Fabinho, Brian Carroll, Derrick Jones, Rodolfo Zelaya, Andrew Wenger

11 July 6:20 pm

The Philadelphia Union take on the D.C. United at 7 p.m. tonight at PPL Park. Here is the lineup:

 

Formation: 4-2-3-1

 

Starters:

ST: C.J. Sapong, MLS start No. 77, Union start No. 8

LAM: Andrew Wenger, MLS start No. 55, Union start No. 37

CAM: Cristian Maidana, MLS start No. 37, Union start No. 37

RAM: Sebastien Le Toux, MLS start No. 167, Union start No. 124

LDM: Brian Carroll, MLS start No. 312, Union start No. 123

RDM: Vincent Nogueira, MLS start No. 43, Union start No. 43

LB: Fabinho, MLS start No. 46, Union start No. 39

CB: Richie Marquez, MLS start No. 9, Union start No. 9

CB: Maurice Edu, MLS start No. 87, Union start No. 49

RB: Ray Gaddis, MLS start No. 97, Union start No. 97

GK: Brian Sylvestre, MLS start No. 10, Union start No. 10

Bench: John McCarthy, Sheanon Williams, Ethan White, Zach Pfeffer, Fred, Antoine Hoppenot, Conor Casey

 

Career Stats vs. Portland

C.J. Sapong (5 GP, 4 GS, 1 G, 1 A)

Andrew Wenger (1 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Cristian Maidana (1 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 1 A)

Sebastien Le Toux (6 GP, 6 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Brian Carroll (5 GP, 5 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Vincent Nogueira (1 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Fabinho (2 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 3 A)

Richie Marquez (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Maurice Edu (1 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Ray Gaddis (2 GP, 2 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

Brian Sylvestre (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)

10 July 3:56 pm
This Saturday, the Philadelphia Union will play host to the Portland Timbers, a red hot team that has won six of their last seven games, only losing 5-0 against the LA Galaxy. With the exception of that game, Portland has allowed only two goals in their last six contests.
 
In a season where Diego Valeri and Will Johnson have missed significant games, the Timbers have been forced to rely on a steady defense in an increasingly competitive Western Conference. Despite the significant attacking talents around the league, Portland’s backline has stood up to the test, allowing only 1.05 goals a game. This defensive effort has been achieved through a variety of factors, most notably the outstanding play of center backs Liam Ridgewell and Nat Borchers. While they are a ruthlessly effective pairing, Ridgewell and Borchers go about their play in drastically different styles, and the numbers back it up. 
 
Liam Ridgewell is a highly mobile and active center back, as evidenced by his 131 clearances (2nd most in MLS), 74 recoveries, 11 blocks, and 25 interceptions. He has additionally won 65 duels, 34 of which were in the air, giving him a ground duel percentage of 59.5% and an aerial duel percentage of 69.4%, both of which are outstanding numbers amongst MLS center backs. Ridgewell has achieved these numbers using his high motor and strong frame to break up plays all over his team’s defensive half. But despite Ridgewell’s tremendous energy and mobility, he is a less refined passer of the ball, with a total passing accuracy of 77.3% and an attacking half accuracy rate of 60.7%.
 
Meanwhile, Nat Borchers has adapted his game to accommodate Ridgewell’s strengths and weaknesses. While his partner is quick to move up the field and breakup play, Borchers uses his positional awareness to fill in holes away from the ball and maintain Portland’s defensive shape. This more conservative and disciplined playing style has led to reduced numbers (88 clearances and seven tackles won), but has been quietly effective in its own right. Because of his tendency to hold shape, Borchers has accumulated 20 blocks over the course of the season. And most notably, he has only conceded six fouls and has yet to earn a card in his sixteen games played thus far, a key reason that Portland is dead last in fouls conceded per game. Borchers has also bolstered Portland’s attack in utilizing his distribution ability, with a total passing accuracy of 87.7%.
 
Despite their differences, Liam Ridgewell and Nat Borchers have become one of the most feared and respected center back pairings that MLS has to offer. Their partnership has boosted Portland to third in the West, and the Union attack must come in well prepared in oder to have a chance at breaking them down.
 
10 July 12:03 pm

The conditions at practice today were perfect. Not too hot, not too humid and a gentle breeze blowing over the field that helped keep the temperatures down.

The weather conditions seemed to have a direct impact on the player’s mood, with the players joking around, smiling and just having a generally good time.

After the players warmed up a bit, they were split up into three teams. The teams are as followed:

Pink: Maurice Edu, Derrick Jones, Sheanon Williams, Ethan White, Ray Gaddis, Raymond Lee, Eric Ayuk, and C.J. Sapong

Grey: Zach Pfeffer, Steven Vitoria, Conor Casey, Jimmy McLaughlin, Richie Marquez, Andrew Wenger, and Antoine Hoppenot

Blue: Cristian Maidana, Sebastien Le Toux, Fabinho, Fred, Vince Nogueira, Dzenan Catic, Brian Carroll, and Santiago Dittborn

The teams competed in a juggling drills where they all had to link arms in a circle and juggle the ball between them from one end of the field to the other before knocking into the top corners of the goal.

They then switched to a game of transition possession, having to complete ten passes without the opposing team getting a touch and knocking over to the other side of the field. Depending on who you ask, either the pink team or the grey team won (it was a hot topic of discussion).

Practice then shifted over to a full-sided scrimmage with two teams playing against each other. As they played, Curtin was coaching them on what they should expect from Portland and how they can counter it.

The day ended with shooting practice, first with a shot coming from near the top of the box which was then followed by crosses being played in from the wings.

Of particular note, both Chaco and Nogueira looked very good today, finishing almost all of their shots very clinically.

09 July 11:50 am

Practice today wasn’t as hot and humid as the past two days have been but conditions still weren’t perfect. Curtin and the rest of the coaching staff had the players take it relatively easy today, working more on preparing for the Portland game than technical drills.

After the players warmed up, they began a two-sided game with five players on each team and two additional players on each wing. Brian Carroll and Vince Nogueira wore green and played for both teams in the center of the pitch. The teams broke down like this:

Orange: Andrew Wenger, Cristian Maidana, and C.J. Sapong (always had to remain on the offensive half), Steven Vitoria, Ethan White (on defense), Ray Gaddis, Sebastien Le Toux, Zach Pfeffer, and Fabinho (playing the ball in off the wings)

Grey: Dzenan Catic, Eric Ayuk, Fred (on offensive half), Maurice Edu, Richie Marquez (on defense), Raymond Lee, Derrick Jones, and Sheanon Williams (on the wings)

Both teams were talking a lot as they moved the ball around and especially when the ball was crossed into the middle, calling other players off, etc.

John McCarthy looked particularly good in goal today, making multiple saves at full stretch and at close range.

Practice then switched over to full field passing drills with Curtin coaching them on what they can expect from Portland and how to pass the ball around against them.

During this drill, the players were asked to finish on goal with Ayuk, Pfeffer, and Wenger all finishing well.

The team wrapped up practice by crossing balls into the box from the wings and having forwards run in and knock the ball into the goal.

While the offensive and wide players were doing that, Edu, Marquez and White did a crossbar challenge which Edu ended up winning.

 

 

07 July 12:36 pm

Practice today was hot and humid with very little wind making tough conditions for the players in just their second day back from their long weekend.

Everyone was in practice today with the exception of Cristian Maidana, Eric Bird and Andre Blake. Maidana will return to the team tomorrow after flying back to Argentina this weekend to get married. Bird, on the other hand, was in Vancouver for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup Final cheering on his girlfriend Morgan Brian. Blake is away on international duty with Jamaica while they compete in the Gold Cup.

U-18 Academy player Derrick Jones practiced with the team as they needed an extra body on the field in order to run full-sized drills. Everyone participated in the passing drills, including Fernando Aristeguieta, who used the long weekend to continue rehabbing his ankle injury.

Practice then switched over to a full 10-on-10 game where the goal was to work it to a specific area on the wings while under constant pressure from the other team.

This eventually became a regular full-sized scrimmage with John McCarthy and Brian Sylvestre in goal. Fernando was limited in participation for these contact drills but he did get some run in, marking the improvement he has made.

Sebastien Le Toux also looked very good, showing that he is almost back to full health after his injury against the Rochester Rhinos.