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A Look Into the Past: A Comparison of Old and New Union Players
July 10, 2012Posted by on
There have been many changes this season to our beloved Philadelphia Union with the loss and gaining of numerous players. As of late, the Union have arguably been playing the best soccer of any MLS team. So how does this new team compare to that of previous seasons? To investigate this we will take a look at how the starting line up the Union used this past Sunday against Toronto FC compares to ex-Union players that still currently play in the MLS.
Union Starting XI vs Toronto FC:
Macmath; G. Farfan, Valdez, Okugo, Williams; Gomez, Carrol, M. Farfan; Adu, McInerney, Pajoy
Ex Union Players Still in MLS starting XI:
Seitz; Harvey, Califf, Thomas; Mapp, Salinas, Nakazawa, Jacobson; Le Toux, Mwanga, Moreno
Before I start, I want to state that I have respect for FC Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz. Despite the anger that was aimed in his direction by Philadelphia fans for his questionable playing in 2010 he has always been respectable toward Union supporters and Front Office. This season Seitz has made four starts ending with a record of 0-2-2 and allowing five goals. It is hard for me to even make an argument on how this can be better than Zac Macmath’s stellar performance so far this season. With 14 starts so far, Zac has allowed 16 goals and posted 5 shut outs. Macmath can thank the back four in front of him for making this season easy for him so far. Zac has only had to make 37 saves in league play this season compared to current save leader Matt Perkins’ 70. The 20 year old goalkeeper has also come up huge when the game called for it by making amazing saves particularly at point blank range. The Union’s starting keeper has only had one noticeably bad game and that was the season opener loss to Portland where the wet conditions, turf field, and nerves may have hindered his ability to perform at his potential.
When it comes down to it, it is a no brainer on who is having the better season in 2012. Chris Seitz simply has not played enough this season to even raise an argument against Zac Macmath. The fact that he did not walk away with a win from any of his starts does not help either.
Winner: Zac Macmath
The Back Line:
I cannot say enough good things about the Union defence this season especially Carlos Valdez. They have consistently locked down in front of goal and also made great desperation plays when necessary (i.e. those few goal line saves against LA last week). Defensive midfielder turned center back Amobi Okugo has fit in nicely alongside Valdez after the departure of Danny Califf while Sheanon Williams has been phenomenal like usual. Losing ex-union captain Califf was a blow to the team this season but after trying a few differently back lines the team has started playing the same great defence they have been known for.
The Philadelphia Union have lost three defenders that still play in the MLS: Jordan Harvey (Vancouver Whitecaps), Danny Califf (Chivas USA), and Shavar Thomas (Montreal Impact). These are three strong defenders with the weakest one, in my opinion, being Thomas. Both Thomas and Harvey find themselves just beginning to become regular starters for their respective teams. Thomas has taken over for injured Matteo Ferrari in the last four games for the Montreal Impact who came away with one win and three losses in those games. Those games included a 3-0 loss to Toronto FC at home. Although the 11 goals scored against the Impact in those four games cannot be fully blamed on Thomas, he is partially the involved. Harvey has recently earned a starting position again for the Vancouver Whitecaps and it appears he will stay there for bit. Jordan started on July 4th against Colorado due to the suspension of first string left back Jun Davidson. His performance that game led Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie to say it was “… the best he’s played since I’ve come to the club”. Harvey played well enough against the Rapids to earn his spot in the starting eleven again this past weekend where he put in another worthy performance even though Davidson was available. Lastly we have Danny Califf. The former Union captain was only just sent to the west coast team but has been doing some solid defending alongside Rauwshan McKenzie. Califf has always been a consistent defender and that trend has continued in LA. Chivas may not be putting up big numbers on the scoreboard but there defense has been making sure their opponents don’t either, for the most part at least.
Maybe it is my bias but I feel that Philadelphia’s defense wins this over the past Union players. Posting three shut outs in their past five league games, the Zolos have been making it tough for every offense they go up against. This is especially amazing when you consider that half of the back line is not even listed as a defender.
Winner: Current starters
The midfield is where the comparisons between current and ex Union players start to get interesting. While our current midfield has been incredibly creative and does more then it’s fair share while attacking with the ball, defensively they have been mediocre, even laughable at times. Opponents have been able to easily work their way through the middle of the field forcing our defense to work harder than they should. We saw this multiple times in last week’s game against the Galaxy. I understand our midfield tends to be more offensively minded, but this is not an excuse for shabby defending. Offensively the midfield has been amazing. They have been making it easy for Jack Mac and Antoine Hoppenot while also being able to keep possession and pass the ball around when needed.
Of the four former Union midfielders still in the league only two have been consistently getting time on the pitch: Justin Mapp of the Montreal Impact and Andrew Jacobson of FC Dallas. Justin Mapp has been proving to be a force in the midfield, exploiting space given to him and helping to create chances. Unfortunately, Mapp has the same problem he had while playing with the Union last season (other than only using one foot); he seems to show up and disappear too often. There has been multiple times while watching the Impact this season that I have 100% forgot Mapp was on the field. Despite this, Justin Mapp has been playing well enough to consistently make it into the Impact’s starting lineup. Andrew Jacobson is part of a team that has not won a game since April 14th. With a winless streak that long, it is not just one person’s fault; it comes down to the whole team.
Although all the ex-Union midfielders are talented players, it is hard for me to talk up a midfield whose top player is Justin Mapp. It also does not help the former players’ cause that the current squad has been playing great soccer lately.
Winner: Current Union
This comparison is probably the hardest to decide between. The current Philadelphia offense has been putting on a clinic, scoring fifteen goals in their last five games. The scary part is that this offensive onslaught is only a recent development and I am still a little hesitant to say that the form the players are in is here to stay. Of the three starters up top against Toronto FC, Jack McIerney has been the most consistent, scoring 3 goals in his past 3 league games. Freddy Adu has looked better than he did earlier in the season and had an amazing game this weekend causing many iffy moments for the Toronto defense. Still the weak part of our current starting lineup appears to be Lionard Pajoy. Pajoy has been more involved lately but still has major weakness that lead to missed chances. The most noticeable of these weaknesses is his first touch on the ball. For a striker, if your first touch is not near perfect every time scoring will be a rarity.
Chivas USA may not be playing the best soccer lately but one thing is consistent for them, Alejandro Moreno. Moreno played for the Union in 2010 before being sent to Chivas. While at Chivas, Moreno has played very well, creating chances for his team and holds the number two score of all Chiva’s players on MLS’s Castrol Index. In spite of only having two goals so far this season, I still feel he is a necessary force to have on the field. Playing only 300 minutes for his new team, the Portland Timbers, Danny Mwanga is one of the most recent Union departures. Other than scoring a magnificent goal last week, Danny is having the same problem he had when he played in Philly; he cannot seem to gel properly with the team that is playing around him. His lack of shots and goal scoring opportunities makes him a minimal threat to most defenses. Lastly, we look at a player that holds a special place in most Philadelphia Union fans’ hearts, Sébastien Le Toux. While wearing the blue and gold Seba was a goal scoring machine while also being an all-around good guy. Since joining the Whitecaps, Le Toux has played nearly every possible minute but has not found the back of the net nearly as often as he did when he was in Philadelphia, scoring only 4 goals in his 2012 campaign.
Choosing between these two line ups is tough for me. If I chose off of the form players held while they still played for the Union, I would go with the former players in a heartbeat, but if I was going off of how players are currently playing I would go with our current lineup. When it comes down to it, and if I was forced to choose, I would go with what we have now. Our offense is scoring multiple goals per game but the horror of our early season performance still hangs in the back of my mind.
Winner: Current Union
The moral of the story is that things could be much worst. We have a great team that is scoring consistently and is defending beautifully. Although some of the above could stream from my personal love for this club, I still feel that most of what I stated holds true. My only hope, and I’m sure it is the same hope that all Union fans have, is that our team continues to play the same game they have been playing for the past few weeks.