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.
For those of you who don't know, the Union beat the New York Red Bulls in penalty kicks yesterday after going down a man in the first half. You can read the recap of the game here but in the mean time, take a look at some of the highlights from Twitter during/after the game:
— Full90SportsEU (@Full90SportsEU) July 22, 2015
THIS counter attacking goal by Philadelphia Union pic.twitter.com/MWl9mi6v7B
— Coral (@Coral) July 22, 2015
— Colleen Fitzpatrick (@ColFitz429) July 22, 2015
— Paul Costa (@Oreland827) July 22, 2015
— Daniel Studio (@danielstudio3) July 22, 2015
— U.S. Open Cup (@opencup) July 21, 2015
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) July 21, 2015
Today, the longest running tournament in the United States continues as the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals continue as the New York Red Bulls host the Union at 4 p.m. in Harrison, N.J. and the Houston Dynamo visit Sporting Kansas City at 7:30 p.m.
The final quarterfinal game is Orlando City SC traveling to Illinois to take on the Chicago Fire on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
With all of that said, here are some quick notes about each game:
Real Salt Lake vs. LA Galaxy
First things first, the RSL-Galaxy game. This game was played a week before every other quarterfinal, kicking off on July 14 in Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah. The only thing of particular note in this game was that it was Steven Gerrard’s competitive debut with the Galaxy, coming on as a sub in the second half. The game would go almost 90 minutes before Aaron Maund scored the 87th minute header that gave RSL the 1-0 lead and ended up being the only goal in the game.
RSL will now take on the winner of Central bracket which will either be the Houston Dynamo or Sporting KC.
New York Red Bulls vs. Philadelphia Union, 4 p.m.
The Union look to continue their run to a second straight Open Cup final. Full game preview here.
Sporting Kansas City vs. Houston Dynamo, 7:30 p.m.
In this matchup between two Western Conference opponents, we see a tale of two teams. One team, the Dynamo, have struggled to find a consistent form all season but managed to beat the Colorado Rapids 1-0 in order to advance to the Open Cup quarterfinals. On the other hand, Sporting KC is one of the best teams in the MLS, winning seven of their last eight games through all competitions, including a 6-2 stomping of FC Dallas that saw them lead 5-0 at one point in the second half while forward Dom Dwyer finished the game with four goals. Tuesday’s game will be a tough task for Houston, especially since they are playing in Kansas City.
Chicago Fire vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m.
Orlando City SC will fly up to Chicago on Wednesday to take on the Fire as they look to advance in their first U.S. Open Cup as an MLS team. Chicago has a deep history with the Open Cup, winning in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006 while finishing as runner-ups in 2004 and 2011. Chicago was one of the two MLS teams that played lower division opponents in the Round of 16, the other being the New York Red Bulls. They beat the Charlotte Independence 3-1 behind a brace from Mike Magee. As for Orlando, they beat the Columbus Crew SC 2-0 on June 30 with goals from Kaka and Carlos Rivas.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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, 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)
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:
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.
South-American playmakers have always been a valuable commodity in MLS, and this year is no different. Big name players such as Federico Higuain, Kaka, and Pedro Morales have driven their respective offenses with a devastating array of passes in the attacking third. Amongst all of these playmakers lies Cristian “Chaco” Maidana, Philadelphia’s Argentinian midfielder and undisputed No. 10. While atop Philadelphia’s midfield, Chaco has led the Union with 46 chances created (key passes plus assists) and it isn’t even close. The next man up is Sebastien Le Toux, who has 23 chances created. Through the Union’s latest MLS fixture against Montreal, Maidana has joined an elite company of MLS’s playmakers, as he trails only Javier Morales and Shaun Maloney in key passes per game. Oddly enough, Maidana is one of three Argentinians in the top five, joining fellow countrymen Javier Morales and Matias Perez Garcia.
Surprisingly, Maidana’s teammates have failed to make good on 44 of Maidana’s 46 chances created, with his two direct assists coming off of goals by Vincent Nogueira and Fernando Aristeguieta earlier in the season. However, MLS has done well to track both primary and secondary assists, placing Maidana in a four-way tie for 4th place on the MLS leaderboard. Chaco also failed to receive credit for numerous Union goals that he created, including all three of Philadelphia’s goals in an early season matchup against Real Salt Lake.
The league average conversion rate (goals per shots taken) in the 2015 season has been 0.101, roughly one goal for every 10 shots taken. In comparison Union players have converted 0.04 percent of Maidana’s chances created. This comparison of averages would dictate that Maidana could easily have anywhere between three and seven direct assists had his teammates’ finishing been more clinical. So despite how excellent Chaco’s creative efforts have been thus far, the numbers would indicate that he will be even more effective as the season wears on.