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.
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)
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.
Big Brothers/Big Sisters
Beginning this Fall, Big Brothers / Big Sisters comes to the Union! 25 kids from Toby Farms Middle School in Chester PA will meet with their “Bigs” twice a month all year, at PPL Park for lunch, laughs and activities. The Union Staff can’t wait to meet their little brothers/sisters in the Fall!
New Philadelphia Union Foundation Partnership with Philabundance
Coming soon – the PUF will partner with Philabundance in their mission to increase healthy habits and hunger relief. Specific support will go to Philabundance’s new grocery store in Chester: Fare & Square Market.
Chester City United Summer Camp
The Chester City United Summer Camp will take place from August 3rd to August 7th 9am to 12pm at the STEM middle School field and small playground. This free camp will give local Chester kids the opportunity to learn soccer skills, drills, and play games as well! It will be open to all ages and all participants will receive a t-shirt. To register and learn more go to http://www.wtydf.org/
Chester City United Fall League
CCU will be back beginning in the Fall! With tactics and drills covered in practice twice a week, the club of over 50 participants is match-ready for their intramural competitions on Saturdays at STEM Middle School field and small playground. Fall League will run from September 1st through November 1st, Mondays and Wednesdays 5:00 to 6:30 and games Saturdays from 10:00 to 12:00. To register and learn more go to http://www.wtydf.org/
On June 5th, The Special Olympic Unified Relay Across America ran by PPL Park as part of a cross country relay to help raise money and awareness for Special Olympics. Union player Maurice Edu ran alongside Union Staff, Toyota Staff members, and Special Olympic participants and helped raise awareness for this awesome cause!
Special Olympic Exchange Match
In other Special Olympic news, the MLS and Special Olympics have partnered together to create a special pregame match before a Union home match on August 1st right here in PPL park. MLK high School has been chosen as the Philadelphia Union Special Olympics Team to play against the New York Red Bulls Special Olympic Team.
This summer the Philadelphia Union Foundation in partnership with The Allstate Foundation and Chester Upland School District will undertake the process of refurbishing a classroom in a local Chester school. More updates to come!
We have added a new product to our store! Head over to our store to check out our new Philadelphia Union Foundation Bracelet. 50% of the proceeds will go to benefit the Philadelphia Union. Click here to take a look! http://www.hattieweselyk.com/philadelphia-union-foundation/
The 5th annual River Cup returns September 19th. The annual friendly match will feature Union front office members against the Sons of Bens, the official supporters group of the Philadelphia Union. Proceeds will benefit the Philadelphia Union Foundation. Tickets can be purchased by clicking here!
Join Union first team players and the Delaware County Brewfest for a fun filled day. Come support the cause!
Chester Salvation Army Summer Camp
The Philadelphia Union Foundation will help support the efforts of the Chester Salvation Army as they begin their summer soccer camp. The camp will go from June 29th to August 6th and the Foundation will help by donating much needed equipment.
Chester City Safe Playgrounds
The Union Foundation will continue to work with Chester City to promote a safe area for children to play. The events will take place throughout the summer and the Philadelphia Union Foundation will be on site with games and prizes.
Soccer for Success Updates
Chester Upland Soccer for Success is a collaboration between Widener University, the Philadelphia Union Foundation, Eastern Pennsylvania Youth Soccer Association, and Crozer Keystone Health System. The past season of Fall 2014 was overwhelmingly successful! Soccer for success combines physical activity, nutrition education, mentorship, and family engagement to help children in their local communities. Soccer for success is a national program that has successfully helped transform children’s lives. For more information on the program click here! http://www.ussoccerfoundation.org/our-programs/soccer-for-success
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.
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.