When you look at the Union's 0-0 draw at New England this past Saturday, a few things jump out at you.
First, the team dominated over New England in all of the relevant stats. In terms of shots, Philadelphia had an 18-9 edge, and it was 7-3 Union in terms of shots on goal.
Add in ten corner kicks (the Revs had three) and nearly 65% ball possession and it’s enough to make you scratch your head and wonder how that edge doesn't guarantee a win.
Normally you would say that it was a lack of finish, some bad luck or both.
In this case, however, while both of those statements do apply, you also should factor in the play of 37 year old goalkeeper Matt Reis, who looked a bit like he did in his prime, making seven excellent saves as the difference maker in the game. Reis stole a point for New England.
If Reis is not on his “A” game, the Union win by two or three goals. Or, perhaps if the Union were just a bit sharper in anticipating in the attacking third, they would have ended up a winner in the first game under Team Manager John Hackworth since he had the word interim removed from his title last week.
Hackworth's earlier statement rang true when he referred to his team as “not executing in front of both boxes.” Surely a Michael Farfan moment of brilliance was wasted in the game when none of his teammates made supporting runs to either get a cross, or get a rebound.
Likewise, late in the game, despite their domination, the Union nearly gave up a goal or two because of some loose marking in the box. A loss at New England with the way the team played would have been crueler than Wednesday's loss in stoppage time to Columbus.
Right now, the Union look like they could use a little time to re-energize after playing three games in eight nights. Their next game isn't until September 15th at Toronto.
I was glad to see John Hackworth get the title as Team Manager this past Thursday.
John is a man who is highly respected by his peers in the coaching profession. He knows the game, knows the league and he knows the players. Plus he is familiar with the salary cap and the league structure in terms of the way business is done. He deserves this opportunity to lead this team.
In the remaining nine games, while trying to win, Hackworth will be evaluating the team with an eye towards the 2013 season. Who does he want to return? Who does he want to weed out? Does he want to try a player or two in a different position, or change his formation? Does he look to make a trade before the September 15th deadline with that trade being more about next year, rather than this season?
There's plenty on John Hackworth's plate these days. Under Hack, the teams record is a respectable 5-6-3 with a +1 goal differential. Despite not executing in front of goal as he would have liked, the offensive flow has been better. One would assume that a goal scorer (perhaps two) will be on the off season shopping list, unless the team can pry someone from another MLS team before the trade deadline.
When you look at the top teams in MLS, most of them have at least two big goal scorers on the roster, some have more.
At the moment, the Union are giving it everything they have on the field. Expect that to continue for the remainder of the season, even if – or when – the mathematics deem the playoffs unreachable.