Since Jim Curtin took over as head coach midway through the 2014 season, the Union have more or less earned a reputation as a counterattacking team. Regardless of how you feel about the stigma, the numbers have supported the argument, with the Union trailing in possession in eight of their 12 contests this season.
And while a lot has been made about their overall possession (or lack thereof) this season, it’s actually relevancy it’s debated – and not just by Curtin. On Sunday night, thanks to one of the club’s better passing days all season, their overall number jumped to 46.75 percent on the season, good for 16th in MLS.
But, the greater possession didn't neccessarily equate to better chances. So how important is possession, really?
Joining the Union in bottom quarter of the league’s possession are three of the top four teams in the Western Conference – FC Dallas (also tied on top of the league's table), Vancouver Whitecaps and San Jose Earthquakes. Toronto, the other, is fourth in the league in goals per game. And, all are above the playoff line, although admittedly it is only the middle of May.
Sorted by possession, here's how the league ranks:
|Team||Possession||Games Played||Chances Created||Goals||CC P/G||G P/G||Conversion|
Looking at the teams along the bottom quarter with the Union, possession hardly influences Vancouver's ability to get in goal-scoring situations – only five teams create more chances per game. As for Dallas and Toronto, they've simply been finishing at a very high level. At the end of the day, the only stat that matters is how many you put in the back of the net, but possession isn't the issue for the Union right now.
The bigger issue for the Union lies in the chances created department, which typically does not historically correlate off possession. But the lack of chances for the Union can be correlated to missing Vincent Nogueira and Cristian Maidana for stretches this season, especially Nogueira.
However, that would be misleading if you were to look at overall numbers. Nogueira has created just five chances this year, compared to Maidana's 23 – far away the team leader.
Here's a breakdown of each game, listed in order of chances created. Note the minutes Nogueira and Maidana, respectively played.
|Opponent||Chances||Nogueira mins||Maidana mins||Both||Result|
It's clear that Maidana has been most effective when playing with Nogueira underneath him. Through 12 games this season, the Union have created eight or more chances in six games. In the other six games that they created seven chances or less, the Union were without either Nogueira or Maidana in the starting lineup for every single one of them. And in four of those, Nogueira didn't even play. Yes, the draw at NYCFC hardly featured Nogueira and Maidana together, but the two were both on the field for the decisive, end-of-the-game goal against NYCFC at home. And they were excellent together in games against Salt Lake and Colorado (when Maidana came on at halftime).
You may also notice the team's record in these two sets. In those first six games, the Union are 2-1-3 with the lone loss coming when they were sent to 10 men in the first half against FC Dallas. They're also creating 9.3 chances per game in those contests, slightly above league average. In those other six games, while missing either Nogueira or Maidana (or both), they're 0-6-0. Right now, the equation seems to be Nogueira + Maidana = more chances. More chances, well... the better odds of a result, regardless of possession.
Finally back to Nogueira, and it's pretty simple: the Union are 2-2-3 when he starts; 0-5-0 when he doesn't.
We'll see if this pattern continues Sunday with Nogueira and Maidana both likely healthy for selection.
Press Conference Recap:
This week, Conor Casey took to the podium as the star of the player press conference. Here are some of the best parts of his presser:
On playing a full 90 minutes on Sunday:
It was great, you know, first and foremost just to get the win. And to play it was definitely a grueling 90. A little bit sore but definitely excited to play, excited to win, and looking forward to this weekend.
I mean practices has been good, they’ve been sharp a couple months now. So I think the fitness, if you can get that good base fitness in practice then in the game, its kind of a different animal. Getting those minutes on the field will definitely help to push the fitness.
On playing the New York Red Bulls and their high pressure style this weekend:
It doesn’t effect my playing style as a forward that much. I think that we understand that they’re playing quite a bit different then they did last year, in terms of their pressing. It will be something that we’ll certainly have to deal with, especially since we’re playing there, but you know I think my job individually remains the same in terms of just trying to work hard, hold the ball up, and score.
After Casey spoke, head coach Jim Curtin held his weekly presser. Here are some highlights:
On playing the Red Bulls on Sunday:
It doesn’t get any easier for us having to go to New York, a rival game. New York will certainly be a tough task, a team that’s in very good form, a tam that high presses all over the field. I think the team that has the best midfield in the league going right now between Dax McCarty, Sacha Kljestan, and Felipe. A team that, if I’m being honest, gave us a lot of issues in the preseason even though the scoreline in that game was very much in our favor They created a ton and were very good against us. A team we respect, a team we know is going to be good, a coach I know in Jesse Marsch. Anytime you go on the road in this league its difficult to get wins but that’s going to have to be our task.
On preparing for the Red Bulls:
Yesterday was more of a regeneration day. We pushed the group that didn’t get a lot of time. Today we focused on dealing with, because their three midfielders are so comfortable on the ball and versatile, they have a way of really getting forward and creating a numbers advantage in the midfield. Lloyd Sam is another underrated player that is having a great year, that can come inside, can beat you one on one outside. They a tendency to outnumber you in midfield. That’s something that we worked on today, dealing with the extra number, its not so much man to man, its more about guys looking around, cutting off passing lanes, and doing their job, sometimes dealing with two guys and doing that in a smart way. With their high press they put their defenders on islands and they ask them to make tough one on one plays and they’ve a very good job. Their backline has done a great job of making those individual efforts because they do press so high and put a lot into making you turn the ball
Week One of preseason is in the books as the Union wrapped up its first phase of training with the annual open practice on Friday at YSC Sports. After having the bitterly cold weekend off, the team departs for sunny Tampa, Fla. Monday morning so long as the snow holds off.
But what a week it was. Initial thoughts: this team is fit. Credit the dedication of some players who basically adopted YSC as a second home during the offseason. But the same can be said for those who left Philly during the offseason. As Jim Curtin noted in a recent interview with Delaware County Daily Times writer Matthew De George, a shorter offseason helps:
“It used to be when I played you’d be off for almost four months and, I’ll say, you’d have a lot more fun. It’s become much more of a year-round, full-time thing, and I can tell by the way (the players) came in that they’re really dialed in.”
Like everyone else, it was our first look at quite a few players, including second round pick Dzenan Catic. The NAIA Player of the Year has certainly looked the part so far, showing off his prowess in front of the net. Catic has caught the eye of just about everyone including Union beat writers Kevin Kinkead and De George.
Dzenan Catic https://t.co/y6xc71WyJT
— Kevin Kinkead (@KevinKCBS3) January 28, 2015
These are 7-on-7 half-field drills, but Dzenan Catic has scored 5 or 6 times in the 40 minutes I've been watching. He just knows where to be
— Matthew De George (@sportsdoctormd) January 30, 2015
Midweek, Catic joined Greg Orlandini and Eli Pearlman-Storch on the KYW Philly Soccer Show. If you haven’t heard it, you can listen here.
Moving on, Wednesday night included a Meet the Team event at Fado’s in Center City. All team members attended the renowned soccer bar, giving the top 150 Union Rewards Program winners a chance to meet their favorite players.
— Union Fan Services (@UnionFanService) January 29, 2015
Thursday was Media Day, allowing all Union players and coaches to meet with local broadcast rights’ holders. It’s also a big day for the Union video department, which shoots pretty much everything that fans see on the big screen during the year. Maurice Edu and Antoine Hoppenot got in on the fun.
The fun ramped up Friday with the annual open practice. A large crowd filled into YSC to catch the Union’s final session up north, and just about every fan in attendance got a hand shake from Curtin. Jim made the rounds after practice, but also gave a few young fans the memory of a lifetime beforehand. Yes, Union twitter, Jim Curtin is the man.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) January 30, 2015
Oh, and Ray Gaddis is too.
— ray gaddis (@raygaddis) January 30, 2015
And, yes today is the Super Bowl. The guys do have the day off and you better believe there’s some rooting interest out there. Diehard San Francisco 49ers fan Richie Marquez is, let’s just say, not rooting for the Seahawks. Boston native Sheanon Williams might just have a rooting interest, too. We made the rounds and got quite a few to go on record with their Super Bowl prediction. Final tally: a tie, 9-9.
|Maurice Edu||Seahawks||By at least 10|
There are a couple of other big games Sunday to note. Another chapter of the Old Firm rivalry was written Sunday morning, with Celtic beating Rangers 2-0. Maurice Edu, the former Rangers player, was on set with Fox Sports 1 to analyze the game. As usual, Mo killed it. Also coming up at 2:30 Eastern, Rais Mbolhi and Algeria take on Ivory Coast in the 2015 African Cup of Nations quarterfinals. The winner will play the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, Feb. 4.
Lastly, there’s just so much this week, but be sure to check out first week reactions from Edu, Catic, C.J. Sapong and Sebastien Le Toux. Also, a look at the first week of preseason Through Ben’s Bifocals.
Contact Philadelphia Union press officer Chris Winkler at email@example.com.
It’s week five of the #UnionTop10, just one more week before you select the Final Five winners.
Last week in Week No. 4, it was this pairing between Zac MacMath’s heroic saves in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal against FC Dallas that was matched up against the atmosphere of the fans in attendance in September’s U.S. Open Cup final.
After the dust settled, it was MacMath and his pair of stops against Blas Perez and Victor Ulloa that moved on with nearly 62 percent of the vote. While many of you commented on Facebook regarding the unforgettable nature of the USOC finals atmosphere at PPL Park, MacMath and his efforts will move on.
Coincidentally enough, it’s a pair of saves that are looking to move in this final week of voting as a pair of memorable stops kept hope alive in both matches for the Philadelphia Union. First up, we offer these back-to-back clearances off the line from Carlos Valdes against D.C. United. If you can’t recall this one, so after saving an attempt from Conor Casey, United goalkeeper Bill Hamid quickly restarts play with a long service to Fabian Espindola.
Espindola gets in clean on goal and looks as if his well-placed shot by Zac MacMath was going in until...
So it’s a pair of beauties from Valdes against another huge MacMath moment when he secured the Union a point in the final moments of the club’s match against Chicago earlier this season. On a windy April day and with time winding down, MacMath came up huge against at the time the reigning MLS MVP in Fire midfielder Mike Magee.
Not once, but twice…
Last pairing before YOU select the “Final Five.” Will it be Valdes coming up clutch against United or MacMath coming up huge against Chicago to preserve a point on the road? Vote below and then for the last time when we place the five finalists in order for you to decide the definitive best play of 2014; as always thanks to those that have voted and tell us why you picked who you did in the comments below. Voting this week is open until next Tuesday, Dec. 16.
Voting window for the Final Five pairings will open Wednesday, Dec. 17 and close with a champion moment crowned on Friday, Dec. 19.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re now three weeks into the #UnionTop10 after Andrew Wenger won for the second time by beating Danny Cruz his no-angle blast with 76 percent of the vote to move into the Final Five.
Wenger now owns two spots in the Final Five, after edging Sebastien Le Toux in Week No. 1 with his first ever goal for the Union. Another first goal won Week No. 2 as Zach Pfeffer joined the party with his first career MLS goal that knocked off veteran Conor Casey.
Moving on to Week No. 4, we have a pair of moments from the team’s breathtaking run during the 2014 U.S. Open Cup. It’s the heroics of Zac MacMath in the semifinals against FC Dallas versus the atmosphere at PPL Park for the final against Seattle Sounders FC.
First up is MacMath. Of course if it wasn’t for his effort in the semifinals, the Union wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play in the championship one month later. MacMath made five saves as the Union forced penalties after 120 hard-fought minutes. But it was his performance there that stole the show. First it was against Blas Perez to give the Union the advantage. Next it was against Victor Ulloa to clinch it.
MacMath's penalty stopping abilities have been well-documented this year, highlighted by stopping each of the first three attempts he saw in MLS this season. By season's end, only Nick Rimando had stopped more penalties. So what makes this so special is the fact MacMath was already in his opponents' head as soon as the game was to be decided by penalties. After getting beat to each side on the first two attempts, MacMath was all over Perez's attempt with a diving stop to his right. His team didn't let him down, scoring on each of their four attempts at it was up Ulloa to score to keep the game going.
And it led to this...
The first finals appearance in team history. With a trophy on the line, the pre-game buzz surrounding the stadium was palpable. Then the players came out of the tunnel for what was arguably the best pre-game atmosphere in PPL Park history. And it never quit, as the Union pushed on deep into extra time. We managed to find video with no voice over so you can really hear the emotion that bellowed from every seat that night. The video is roughly 10 minutes in length, but we don't think you need to watch that much (unless of course you really want to) to get the feeling of just how loud PPL Park was and another reason what soccer is here to stay in the Greater Philadelphia region.
So now it's on you the fans. What did you like more? Was not one, but two penalty saves enough for you?
Or can you believe the scene at PPL Park for the club's first ever appearance in a championship? Vote now and tell us why in the comment section below.
And thanks for all of the votes and keep them coming. We're just two more weeks away from the Final Five.
Contact Union writer Chris Winkler at email@example.com
Week No. 2 of the #UnionTop10 is in the books and it was youth over experience as a matchup between homegrown midfielder Zach Pfeffer and veteran forward Conor Casey found Pfeffer moving on to the "Final Five" with over 75 percent of the vote.
Both plays were awesome but you the fans have spoken and so it’ll be Pfeffer and his first ever goal in Major League Soccer that moves on along with Andrew Wenger's first ever Union goal , a winner in Week No. 1.
Now as we move onto Week No. 3, it's another Wenger special up against a great goal earlier this year from Danny Cruz in a commanding win against New England in Foxborough, Mass.
But first, we examine Wenger’s blast against San Jose, his first of two in a 4-2 win over the Earthquakes in August. What makes this one special is the amount power and sheer lack of an angle Wenger has when he blasts this one past San Jose’s Jon Busch.
What’s great on this play is (well, besides the ball into the box from Sebastien Le Toux) is how it looks as though Wenger’s first touch fails him. Playing the ball away from the onrushing defender it gave the illusion that Wenger killed his angle in front of net, but the turn of the hips and hitting the ball dead on made no mistake that it was headed top shelf.
It’s only right to pair that one with another great goal this season, this one from Danny Cruz against New England. Now with this one, yes the shot was insane in its own right, but watch the run from Cruz which starts at the edge of the Revs’ 18-yard-box.
After taking this one basically coast to coast, the speedy midfielder takes advantage of the ridiculous amount of space given by Revs defenders and launches a “Cruz missile” (see what we did there?) that gave Brad Knighton no chance of getting a hand on it. What’s great about this play is that Cruz smartly took advantage of the spacing between him and defender AJ Soares and use what has always been a trademark power shot to put the Union ahead, 2-0 in the eventual 3-1 win.
Okay, you’re up. Which one moves on? Will it be Wenger’s goal from virtually no angle or Cruz’ fast break and rocket shot? Polls are open now until next Tuesday, Dec. 2 so vote for your favorite and tell us why in the comments below.
Thanks for all who have voted so far. We’ll be back with our Week No. 4 pairings next Wednesday, Dec. 3.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org
On Tuesday we announced the launch of the annual #UnionTop10 series arrives Wednesday.
Here we are.
We kick off week one of the five-week "Best of"series with a pairing of two firsts this season. We pit scoring stalwart Sebastien Le Toux against fellow teammate Andrew Wenger. In Le Toux’ it was the goal he scored to kick off the 2014 Major League Soccer season at home with a 1-0 win over New England, finishing off a great run from midfielder Leo Fernandes and scored his first of 12 League goals this season.
What’s really significant about this goal is that Le Toux extended his mark of scoring in Union home openers to four.
In 2010, it was a trio at Lincoln Financial Field against D.C. United, followed up with a penalty kick goal in PPL Park’s opener against Seattle in June of that year. In 2013, Le Toux got the ball rolling in the black third kits against Sporting Kansas City and of course this beauty on March 15 this season…
We pair that with Andrew Wenger, the Lancaster, Pa. native who arrived just before the April 12 match against Real Salt Lake via a trade from Montreal for Jack McInerney. People wondered with Jack Mac coming off a 12-goal season the year before if Wenger could come in and follow suit. Not only did he follow suit, but scored this goal against Real Salt Lake that put the stamp on his arrival to Philadelphia with authority.
What’s significant about this goal is that just minutes before Wenger scored, McInerney in his debut for Montreal, scored to put the Impact up one. But before the grumblings could begin on the loss of Jack Mac and his production, Wenger left no doubt with this thing of beauty.
Now you decide.
Which moment moves on to the Final Five? Will it be Le Toux keeping the streak going or Wenger’s authoritative PPL Park debut? Cast your vote below. Voting is open until Tuesday, Nov. 18 so make sure you have your say on which moment moves on. We’ll host the next pairing right here on philadelphiaunion.com on Wednesday, Nov. 19.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at email@example.com
So you’re probably wondering where the Daily Doop has been…
And judging by the emails, we’ve received we know you have.
Well, much like our fans the shock and awe of Saturday night’s loss to the Crew resonated among our staff, so much so that we really didn’t know what to say.
While spirits are still high as players look to end the season on a high note, the idea that we actually had something meaningful to say after Saturday, would’ve been a lie.
When you get punched in the mouth like that it’s hard to speak for a few days, you know?
However, the show goes on as the home finale looms large as Sporting Kansas City is up next this Saturday (7 p.m., purchase tickets) and the first two days of practice have been quite positive with the Union players still jockeying for position as to who will crack the starting XI this weekend.
One thing that doesn’t look likely is the notion that interim manager Jim Curtin will play a lot of reserves in these final two.
When asked that during his weekly press conference Tuesday, Curtin told reporters:
“I’ll always be a guy who will play young players. I’ll play old players. I’ll play the best team. [Sebastien Le Toux] got an ankle injury so there might be a spot that opens up. I’m going to play the best team. It’s not a charity – its pro sports…I’m not just going to give guys games because the season is over. I still believe in playing guys who earn it during the week in practice.”
You could call it “coach speak,” but Curtin doesn’t really do coach speak very well, so…
The players were off Wednesday (except for rookie goalkeeper Andre Blake and Harrisburg City Islanders goalie Brian Sylvestre both who came in for an extra training session today), but two of them were gracious enough to spend their off day giving back to fans via social media. Both midfielders Danny Cruz and Amobi Okugo were active on the Philadelphia Union Twitter and Instagram accounts, with Cruz taking over Instagram showing his day off:
Coffee shop selfie in university city ...about to catch a movie...any suggestions??
And giving a lucky fan a pair of field seats for submitting this awesome photo:
So many great photos thank you all for sending them in! @tyronej146 a lot going on in this pic and I love it ...you are the winner of 2 field seats to this weekends game...we will get in touch with you! #DOOP
Meanwhile Okugo was Day No. 3 deep into his Trivia Week:
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) October 15, 2014
Both are giving away field seats for this weekend’s match against Sporting Kansas City, so log on, play along and they could pick you. Even if you aren’t picked today, Okugo’s contest runs through Friday, and the prizes include four (4) tickets for Saturday (Thursday’s prize) and a $50 gift card to Tilted Kilt (Friday).
On Wednesday, Union CEO and operating partner Nick Sakiewicz sat down with CSNPhilly.com on-air personality Marshall Harris for a two-part interview to discuss all things Philadelphia Union past, present and future:
— Kerith Gabriel (@sprtswtr) October 15, 2014
Couple interesting things discussed in the sit down that will air Friday, Oct. 24 (7 p.m. on The Comcast Network; 11:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet):
Sakiewicz says getting bona fide attack minded striker is “number one” offseason priority.
Alludes to the fact that our contingent of goalkeepers “need to get games” under their belt.
And that he knows “the shelf life of Philly fandom” is short and that doing all it takes to get wins and only wins is the main mindset going into offseason preparation.
Now this is cool…
In conjunction with Major League Soccer, Chipotle, a major league sponsor created a series of videos showing behind the scenes at the inaugural Chipotle Homegrown Game during MLS All-Star weekend. Here’s the first post below. You can check out to the entire four part mini-series here.
That’s all for today; we WILL return tomorrow and Friday with our weekend wrap now that the sting is finally gone.
Catch you all tomorrow.
Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org
We all know the feeling.
The alarm clock goes off and we hit snooze. After 3-4 rounds of pressing reset on the clock we know that we need to wake up and start the day. We stumble out of bed and begin our day. Depending on your situation you may have kids that you need to get ready for school which always adds stress to your morning routine. If you don’t have kids you may have a few extra minutes that allow you time to get a fresh cup of coffee and start your day.
Whatever your situation, I believe your morning ritual is such a key factor in how your day goes. I admit I’m guilty of coming downstairs and reaching for my cell phone. I know that it’s not the best thing for me since it will most likely initiate a stress response and that is not an ideal to start the day.
Below are five (5) ways you can start your day that can have a positive impact on your health:
1. Take ten deep breaths before you jump out of bed. Many of us wake up worrying about what we need to do for the day. By taking ten deep breaths this allows you to tap into your parasympathetic system (rest and digest) which is a good way to start your day.
2. Before you reach for the coffee grab a large glass of fresh water. By adding some sea salt and lemon this will kick start your hydration for the day.
3. Get in a quick workout. If you are short on time, here is a circuit workout (videos included) that you can do with only one kettlebell or one dumbbell. Set a timer for 15-20 minutes and rest as much as you need to. Warm up with some foam rolling for five minutes and add in some mobility work (i.e. ankle mobility, hip mobility, thoracic spine mobility as well as 10 body weight squats and 10 push-ups). Keep this workout short and as always focus on good form.
One important note: Do not do this work out without FIRST warming up.
- A1. Kettlebell swing: six (6) reps (Note, if you do not know how to do a proper deadlift do not do a kettlebell swing. First learn how to do a deadlift and hinge at your hips.)
- Video: Kettlebell swing
- A2. Kettlebell goblet split squat: six (6) reps/side
- Video: Split squat- Goblet
- A3. Kneeling kettlebell lift: six (6) per side
- Video: Kneeling kettlebell lift
- A4. Kettlebell single leg RDL- six (6) reps per side
- Video: Single leg RDL
- A5. Turkish get up: 3 reps/side
- Video: Turkish get up
- Rest 60 seconds and repeat
4. Eat some fat and protein with a small amount of carbohydrates. By doing this early in the day it will allow you to experience the following:
a. Steady sugar levels
b. Satiety. You will feel comfortably full as you start your day. It won’t be a feeling of being bloated but rather a feeling of being satisfied as you start your day.
Here are two options for you:
Two (2) eggs (organic if possible), cooked in grass-fed butter with red peppers and some cheese mixed in. Add in a side of strawberries.
A smoothie with Hemp or whey protein, spinach (leafy), frozen raspberries and coconut oil (melted). Add in some ice and blend it up.
5. Mix in some Yoga. The morning is a great time to clear your mind and by adding in a 5-10 minute routine it can help you later in the day.
Please keep in mind that you don’t have to do all five of these things listed above. Pick one of these tips and implement them into your routine. Over time develop your own routine that will allow you to have a minimum of twenty minutes each morning for yourself. I know this will seem impossible for some but if you look at your schedule I am sure that you can carve out time for yourself. That may mean that you need to go to bed earlier or put down your cell phone. Your morning ritual is a key player in your health and well being.
Good luck with your training!
Follow Union fitness coach Kevin Miller on Twitter: @kmillertraining and on Instagram: kevinmillertraining. Also, Miller is a featured panelist on Philly.com's Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc). For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health