These past few days have had a number of ups and downs. Needless to say, while frustrated by Thursday’s loss against D.C. United, I was proud of our performance and result against a good Houston team. With the win on Sunday, we continue to be in the playoff race. Even though the chances may be slim, we will always play hard for every point.
With two matches so close, our coaching staff prepared the roster strategy for the week. We knew that we were going to have to use a number of players, go deep into the roster, and show two different line-ups for the two matches.
On Thursday, we went with an attacking-oriented line-up in a 4-3-3. Danny Cruz was up high on the left with Jack McInerney in the middle and Antoine Hoppenot on the right. Antoine has been most effective coming off the bench, but he deserved the start and we thought that he would stretch United’s back line. Keon Daniel stepped in for the suspended Michael Farfan, giving him the chance to be a playmaker. Keon did a good job, especially in the second half. Also, Gabriel Gomez was given a chance in place of Michael Lahoud.
The drawback with an attack-oriented line-up is that it can leave you vulnerable. In this case, Brian Carroll was left alone in the holding midfielder role and while we pressed for a win in the second half, pushing forward, we were susceptible to the counter attack, resulting in United’s game winner. It was another frustrating result after dominating possession and creating many good goal scoring opportunities.
On Sunday, we made five changes from our line-up on Thursday. In addition, we decided to make a tactical switch to a 4-4-2, which we felt would allow us to attack and defend more effectively against Houston’s 4-3-3. Michael Farfan, back in the starting line-up, lined up on the left side of midfield, while Danny Cruz went back to his stronger right side. Michael Lahoud joined Brian Carroll in the middle. Up top we went with Josue Martinez as the highest striker and partnered him with Freddy Adu slightly underneath.
Opportunities haven’t presented themselves lately for Josue. This game set up well for a certain role and job we thought he could do and he embraced that. Ray Gaddis stepped into the line-up at right back and we moved Sheanon Williams over to left back for the injured Gabriel Farfan . As always, Amobi Okugo and Carlos Valdes partnered as our central defenders.
We played a complete game on Sunday. Ray Gaddis caused Houston all sorts of problems with his forays into the attacking half, ultimately creating our first goal by Freddy. In addition to helping contain Houston’s dangerous attackers, Sheanon pushed forward and supported Michael Farfan on the left. Josue stretched Houston and opened space for Freddy and Marfan underneath. Danny Cruz was effective and dangerous all afternoon. Zach, Carlos and Amobi controlled the backline, while BC and Michael Lahoud outworked our opponents in the center of the park.
Ultimately, we were able to get a good win and the three vital points that we needed to stay mathematically in the hunt for the playoffs. The character of this team is to never give up and we will continue to give it all we have.
One more quick observation, with Freddy and Keon both leaving the game with injuries, we leaned on our cagey veteran, Chris Albright, to come in and help maintain our discipline and preserve the result. It was great to see Chris play an important part on the field, as he is so important to what happens with our team off the field.
We head to Columbus this weekend, including a reserve league match. Reserve League matches allow more players to gain playing time and show what they can do. As I have said before, soccer is sometimes a cruel sport. You can dominate a match and lose. When goals come, they sometimes come in bunches. We’re looking to take the momentum from Sunday’s match into Saturday against Columbus and keep it going.
It has been said before, but can’t be said enough – the support we get from all of you, especially in the stands at PPL Park, is crucial, unparalleled and greatly appreciated. You really do make the difference and we are so happy that we could bring you the win. Can’t wait to see and hear you again at the match on October 6 – hopefully bringing home 6 more points after travelling to Columbus and Chicago.
Jungite Aut Perite