Play-by-Play Plus: A look back at New York and a look ahead to Columbus
When Conor Casey scored the game tying goal in the 63rd minute against the Red Bulls on the road this past Saturday, I felt pretty confident that the Union would come away with at least a draw after 90 minutes against the Red Bulls. I kept that feeling until Thierry Henry put together a moment of brilliance when he cleverly scored the game winner off of a feed from fellow Frenchman Peguy Luyindula in the 81st minute.
Moments before, Henry nearly electrified the crowd with his near miss off a bicycle kick which would have been an early Goal of the Year candidate if he had scored. When you see a goal like the one Henry scored, it's tough to pin the blame on individuals. I'd rather see credit given to the former French International for a job well done.
For the Union, there were good and bad parts to this 90 minute affair. On the plus side, I continue to like the overall defensive work of Jeff Parke and Amobi Okugo, both individually and as a central defense tandem. What Okugo lacks in size is made up for in the way he reads the game and positions himself. He's also good on distribution, and recovers well. Keep in mind that he's still very young and still new to the position, so his growth spurt will continue.
What was also great was to see the work of Conor Casey, who came on as a sub in the 61st minute. Casey gives you something that no one else can duplicate on this Union team. He's not just strong in the air, but he's also effective. He thinks that every cross or other aerial ball is his and his alone. It's that willingness to contest every ball that has opponents concerned. He's also a good finisher and good team player. If he can stay healthy, what you saw on Saturday only gets better.
Now on the downside, the team can't really be happy about two shots on goal, one of those from left back Raymon Gaddis, the other from Casey off the bench. The possession stat is also low at 40.2 percent. That means you are spending a lot more time without the ball than you want. Overall, it's still been a decent start to the season, the club is 2-2-0 after four games and has been in every one of those games.
But the place where they need to improve is on offense.
Of the four games played, they have scored just five goals with two coming in the road win at Colorado. Scoring three goals total in their other three games has resulted in one win and two losses.
Bottom line, if you average a goal per game in MLS, odds are you are going to have a losing season. Only the Los Angeles Galaxy of a few years ago could win games consistently by a 1-0 score line.
Philadelphia's next test comes Saturday versus a well-rested Columbus Crew side whose last game was March 23, a 2-1 road win at D.C. United.
The Crew are 2-1-1 in 2013, coming into Saturday with a two-game unbeaten streak. Federico Higuain remains the player to watch. He came into the league late last year and picked up five goals and seven assists in just 13 games played.
Those numbers should go up dramatically along with his games played this season. Striker Jairo Arrieta is another player whose numbers should also rise from his nine goals and four assists in 18 games played last season. Steady Eddie Gaven is back, coming off a career high nine goals, and the team acquired speedy forward Dominic Oduro in a trade with Chicago to help bolster their offense.
Defensively, goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum returns for his second year as the number one goalkeeper. Last year he led MLS in saves. Central Defender Chad Marshall has some help this year in the form of Brazilian Glauber.
This is only the second home game for Columbus this season – its last was a 1-1 stalemate in the home opener against San Jose.
Live Well Network has all of the game action for you this Saturday beginning at 5 p.m.