So, here we are. 19 games into the 2015 MLS season, just over halfway done. What do we think?
Wait, don’t answer that. You’re probably not very happy, right? I mean the team is only 5-10-4, not exactly a record that makes you smile and say “I think we have a chance to win the MLS Cup this year”.
So sure, the record might not be great. We’ve let up far too many goals, something that head coach Jim Curtin and many other members of the team have admitted to. Sure, there are times this year when the Union have struggled to score goals, with some of the team's best players going through goal droughts.
But nobody is hiding those facts.
In the first 11 games, the Union went 1-7-3, only scoring 10 goals while conceding 21. That isn’t exactly a recipe for success. However, it’s important to remember injuries have nearly paralyzed the team throughout the first 3-4 months of the season. Take the goalkeeper position, where Brian Sylvestre, a player who started the season essentially as the team's fourth-string goalkeeper, has been forced into action. That doesn’t mean Sylvestre is playing bad, he’s been very good since joining the team on loan from the Carolina RailHawks, but his playing time was the result of a combination of poor form and a series of freak injuries, forcing the team to look elsewhere.
In the nine games that Sylvestre has played, he has only allowed 14 goals, and that includes the blowout losses to Vancouver Whitecaps and Los Angeles Galaxy (eight goals allowed in the two games combined) that weren’t entirely his fault. In fact, he had seven saves against Vancouver, which at the time, was tied for the league-high in a single game this season.
So while Sylvestre has been having himself a good season, he isn’t the only one. The team looked itself in the mirror after the Vancouver loss and decided things needed to change.
Since the game against Vancouver on May 9, the Union have gone 4-3-1 in league play and 2-0 in the US Open Cup for a combined record of 6-3-1. In those 10 games, they have scored 14 goals while only allowing 12, leaving the team with a positive goal differential for that stretch. That includes a 5-1 drubbing to LA Galaxy.
Key offseason acquisition C.J. Sapong has found his form, scoring five of his six goals in that stretch. Sheanon Williams has roared to life, solidifying his spot at right back with a couple of very impressive performances while Fabinho has played out of his skin at left back since coming on for an injured Ray Gaddis on May 17.
The resurgence of Brian Carroll and the technical midfield duo of Cristian Maidana and Vincent Noguiera have helped to lock down the center of the pitch, giving more room to the players on the wings to maneuver around opponents.
While some would try to take away from this Union team, keep trying to look at the positives rather than the negatives. Yes the season started poorly, but since the middle of May, they’ve been playing like one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference, something that shows in the fact that the New England Revolution, who sit in second, are only five points ahead of the Union in the standings (and they're even in games played).
So as we prepare to enter the second half of the season, enter it thinking about how this team primed to string together a run of results and how at the end of it. Who knows, they may be driving down the streets of Philadelphia holding not one, but two pieces of hardware.
The Philadelphia Union take on the D.C. United at 7 p.m. tonight at PPL Park. Here is the lineup:
ST: C.J. Sapong
LAM: Andrew Wenger
CAM: Cristian Maidana
RAM: Eric Ayuk
LCDM: Brian Carroll
RCDM: Vincent Nogueira
LB: Sheanon Williams
CB: Richie Marquez
CB: Maurice Edu
RB: Ray Gaddis
GK: John McCarthy
Bench: Andre Blake, Fabinho, Ethan White, Zach Pfeffer, Fred, Antoine Hoppenot, Jimmy McLaughlin
Career Stats vs. DC
C.J. Sapong (9 GP, 4 GS, 1 G, 0 A)
Andrew Wenger (5 GP, 4 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Cristian Maidana (4 GP, 4 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Eric Ayuk (2 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Brian Carroll (16 GP, 16 GS, 1 G, 0 A)
Vincent Nogueira (4 GP, 4 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Sheanon Willams (10 GP, 10 GS, 0 G, 3 A)
Richie Marquez (1 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Maurice Edu (10 GP, 10 GS, 1 G, 1 A)
Ray Gaddis (5 GP, 5 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
John McCarthy (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
The weather for today’s practice was perfect, hot and sunny but with a cooling breeze coming off the water.
Everyone was in practice today with the exception of Fernando Aristeguieta who is still trying to come back from an ankle injury.
Practice began with passing drills, working on the long through balls on the ground while utilizing only two touches. This then shifted over to long air though balls, trying to get the balls to drop in past the defenders(training dummies).
Goalies were again working on bouncing ball and reaction saves, working more on saving balls that fall into the box.
Practice then switched over to a game of transition possession, with three separate teams trying to complete 10 passes while under duress from an opposing teams. Michael Lahoud and Sebastien Le Toux did not participate in this but instead worked on rehabbing and doing other strength and conditioning exercises.
The three teams broke down like this:
This then turned into small-sided games on a shortened field. Orange won the first two games, green won the next two, and then grey won the final game. Antoine and Sheanon looked particularly good, both scoring for their respective teams.
The Philadelphia Union take on the Montreal Impact at 7 p.m. tonight at PPL Park. Here is the lineup:
ST: C.J. Sapong, MLS start No. 76, Union start No. 7
LAM: Zach Pfeffer, MLS start No. 11, Union start No. 11
CAM: Cristian Maidana, MLS start No. 36, Union start No. 36
RAM: Eric Ayuk, MLS start No. 5, Union start No. 5
LDM: Brian Carroll, MLS start No. 310, Union start No. 122
RDM: Vincent Nogueira, MLS start No. 42, Union start No. 42
LB: Fabinho, MLS start No. 45, Union start No. 38
CB: Richie Marquez, MLS start No. 8, Union start No. 8
CB: Maurice Edu, MLS start No. 86, Union start No. 48
RB: Ray Gaddis, MLS start No. 96, Union start No. 96
GK: Brian Sylvestre, MLS start No. 9, Union start No. 9
Bench: Andre Blake, Sheanon Williams, Ethan White, Andrew Wenger, Fred, Antoine Hoppenot and Dzenan Catic.
Career Stats vs. Montreal:
C.J. Sapong (7 GP, 4 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Zach Pfeffer (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Cristian Maidana (2 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Eric Ayuk (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Brian Carroll (8 GP, 8 GS, 0 G, 1 A)
Vincent Nogueira (3 GP, 3 GS, 1 G, 0 A)
Fabinho (4 GP, 4 GS, 1 G, 0 A)
Richie Marquez (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Maurice Edu (3 GP, 3 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Ray Gaddis (6 GP, 6 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Brian Sylvestre (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
The Philadelphia Union U-18s were in action again today for the final day of group play in the US Soccer Development Academy playoffs. The U-18s took on LA Galaxy’s U-18s in the final game for U-18 Group E.
The U-18’s game was first, playing against the LA Galaxy at 9 a.m.. The Union U-18s are unable to advance beyond the group stage, making this the final game for some members of the team.
Today’s lineup featured a bit of a shake-up, running a 4-1-4-1 formation with Yosef Samuel up top. This was Samuel’s first game action in the USSDA playoffs.
The game started fast for the Union with Samuel getting off some good looks early and actually putting on into the goal in the 8th minute off of a long distance strike. After the goal, the game opened up more for both sides as both were playing for pride after being mathematically eliminated.
The Union continued to high press, even after the halftime break, causing some mayhem for the Galaxy. They took their foot off the gas a little bit but managed to keep it close. Towards the end, coach Peter Fuller started to put more on the seniors in, giving them the chance to play in their final game. They managed to hold the game as it was and when the final whistle blew, the Union had won 1-0.
Today was a good day for practice, with the weather being cool but humid, allowing the players to recover more and prepare for the game tomorrow.
Practice opened up with triangle passing, working on the one touch pass and controlling the ball when if comes to their feet. Curtin stalked around the team as they did this, calling out mistakes and praising those who deserved it.
After the triangle passing, the team moved over to transition possession, where they had to complete at least ten passes before attempting to play it down to where the other team was waiting.
While this was going on, all three goalkeepers worked on their reflexes, especially pouncing on balls that bounce in the box.
Practice wrapped up with 10v9, where the team with 10 played without a keeper. The teams broke down like this:
After practice was over, the team voluntarily decided to work on shooting. Curtin told them the focus was getting it on goal rather than scoring a spectacular goal, something that should increase the number of rebounds in the box.
Always nice to updates stats after three points. Today, let's take a look around the league and see where the Union and some players stack up.
C.J. Sapong -- consecutive games with a goal.
|Union -- Franchise||Games||MLS -- 2015||Games|
|Jack McInerney (Sept/Oct 2012)||4||Charlie Davies (April-May)||4|
|Sapong (June-present)||4||Chris Wondolowski (May)||4|
|Sebastian Lletget (active)||3|
|Five others tied||3|
C.J. Sapong -- goals per minute played
|Sebastian Lletget||LA Galaxy||73||3|
|Anatole Abang||NY Red Bulls||89.5||2|
- Sapong is also tied for 9th in MLS with six goals scored. Kei Kamara leads the league with 12. Full list here.
Cristian Maidana -- assists
|Ethan Finlay||Columbus Crew SC||9|
|Benny Feilhaber||Sporting Kansas City||8|
|Sebastian Giovinco||Toronto FC||7|
|Clint Dempsey||Seattle Sounders||6|
|7 others tied||5|
Maurice Edu -- minutes played
|Bobby Boswell||D.C. United||1625|
|Baggio Husidic||LA Galaxy||1590|
|Perry Kitchen||D.C. United||1571|
|Omar Gonzalez||LA Galaxy||1542|
|6 others tied||1530|
- Brian Sylvestre is tied for 10th in MLS in clean sheets with four. Full list here.
- Andrew Wenger is tied for 6th in MLS in games played with 18.
- Union are eighth in shots on goal (74) and 10th in goals scored (20).
- They're second in goals scored (11) on the road.
- Despite being last in MLS in goals allowed, the Union are the only team in the league not to concede a goal in the first 15 minutes.
- They're 12th in MLS in average home attendance at 17,493.
The Philadelphia Union take on the Seattle Sounders at 7 p.m. tonight at PPL Park. Here is the lineup:
ST: C.J. Sapong, MLS start No. 75, Union start No. 6
LAM: Andrew Wenger, MLS start No. 54, Union start No. 36
CAM: Cristian Maidana, MLS start No. 35, Union start No. 35
RAM: Zach Pfeffer, MLS start No. 10, Union start No. 10
LDM: Brian Carroll, MLS start No. 309, Union start No. 121
RDM: Vincent Nogueira, MLS start No. 41, Union start No. 41
LB: Fabinho, MLS start No. 44, Union start No. 37
CB: Richie Marquez, MLS start No. 7, Union start No. 7
CB: Maurice Edu, MLS start No. 85, Union start No. 47
RB: Sheanon Williams, MLS start No. 138, Union start No. 138
GK: Brian Sylvestre, MLS start No. 8, Union start No. 8
Bench: John McCarthy, Ray Gaddis, Ethan White, Eric Ayuk, Fred, Antoine Hoppenot and Dzenan Catic.
Career Stats vs. Seattle:
C.J. Sapong (5 GP, 3 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Andrew Wenger (3 GP, 3 GS, 1 G, 0 A)
Cristian Maidana (1 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Zach Pfeffer (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Brian Carroll (7 GP, 6 GS, 1 G, 0 A)
Vincent Nogueira (1 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Fabinho (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Richie Marquez (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Maurice Edu (1 GP, 1 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Sheanon Williams (5 GP, 5 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
Brian Sylvestre (0 GP, 0 GS, 0 G, 0 A)
The Philadelphia Union U-18s and U-16s were both in action today, with the U-18s taking on Kendall SC and the U-16s taking on Weston FC.
The U-18’s game was first, playing against Kendall, an academy team from the Southeast region. They held Kendall off for a majority of the first half, only conceding one goal off of a long pass in the 38th minute.
They started the half down 1-0 but managed to pull even in the 50th minute when Frederick Gil wove through the defense to tuck the ball into the back of the net. Kendall scored two minutes later to go back ahead 2-1. The Union continued to claw their way back to even after Mo Conde was able to direct his header past the goalkeeper in the 60th minute.
The game continued to be played close all the way to the finish where Kendall SC was able to score in the 89th to win the game 3-2. Since the Montreal Impact U-18s won today against the LA Galaxy U-18s, the winner of Kendall vs. Montreal on Friday will advance to the quarterfinals.
The U-16s also faced a tough test against Weston FC, keeping the score 0-0 until Weston managed to score in the 60th minute. Weston were given an extra burst of energy after scoring and started to win every 50-50 ball. The Union weathered the storm and scored in the 70th minute thanks to a goal from Tiger Graham.
With the score tied at 1-1, the Union turned it up one more notch and managed to score in the 79th minute, with Jack Skahan netting the goal after getting on the end of a throw in from Graham.
They would go on to win 2-1 and sit in first place in their group. Their next game is on Friday against the Houston Dynamo U-16s.
Said Academy Director Tommy Wilson after the U-16 game, “I'm really proud of the boys and Weston are one of the best teams we've played. The boys once again showed great resolve coming back from a losing position to win the match. Our focus now turns to the last game on Friday.”
The Philadelphia Union Academy U-16 team played their first game of the 2015 US Soccer Development Academy playoffs today, facing off against Everton FC Westchester.
The Union U-16s are the number two seed in the tournament and came out of the gates playing like it. Starting in a 4-4-1-1 formation, star in the making Justin McMaster played in his preferred number 10 role while Andrew Verdi got the starting nod in goal.
The Union took it to Everton in the opening minutes, forcing a corner and then a save off the line, all before the nine-minute mark. While they played a high pressure system, they had one or two mental lapses on the defensive end that called for Verdi to make some pretty remarkable saves.
The pressure from the Union eventually broke down the Everton defense, with the team scoring their first goal of the tournament through Tiger Graham, who was assisted on the goal by Jack Skahan. The game would go into halftime with the Union up 1-0.
The second half saw both teams come out with renewed energy but it only took two minutes for the Union to break through and score again, this time it was McMaster on another assist from Skahan. Both Skahan and McMaster would be subbed out in the 64th minute but the offense remained for the Union as one of the substitutes, Raheem Taylor-Parkes, scored just two minutes after being subbed on for McMaster.
Everton would go on to get one back but that was the end of the scoring on the day for both teams. Both teams looked tired at the end of the game with chances becoming less and less frequent. The game ended in a 3-1 Union win.
The Union U-16s will be in action again tomorrow when they face off against Weston FC at 2:30.