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Seattle Sounders 2 – Philadelphia Union 0

The honeymoon lasted all of 33 seconds. That’s how long it took veteran centerback, Danny Califf, to get booked last night. For all the  preseason talk of discipline, having Toni Stahl sent off for his second bookable offense after just 40 minutes didn’t exactly bode well for Nowak’s theme.

After a couple of  initial mistrapped balls and nervy touches, Philadelphia Union settled down quite nicely and strung together some tidy passes. They dominated the first 10 minutes of play with patient build up in Seattle’s last third. However, right back Dave Myrie was opened up time and time again by the overlapping runs of last year’s overall number one pick, Steve Zakuani. It was the Seattle forward who got in behind Myrie after a penetrative pass by Freddy Montero and  slid in Brad Evans who finished with a low, right-footed shot past Union stick-minder, Chris Seitz. One-nil to the Sounders.

Just five minutes or so later, a skillful pirouette by ex-Sounder Sebastian Le Toux allowed the Frenchmen to shake his defender and get himself in a great position in front of goal. Much to the chagrin of the traveling Sons of Ben, Seba lost his footing on the wet turf and his tame effort was easily gobbled up by the waiting arms of Kasey Keller.

The next event would effectively decide the match. Already on a yellow, Union defender Toni Stahl was adjudged by referee Ricardo Salazar to have fouled Fragile Freddy sufficiently enough to warrant a second caution. It would be his last. With the Blue and Gold on ten men, the Sounders easily turned the tables, with the aforementioned Montero putting the chances of salvaging a point to the sword with a ridiculously easy goal. The Union defense fell asleep at the back post and Osvaldo Alonso (looking more like Xabi Alonso last night) pumped in a ball to Montero’s diving header. 2-nil, Seattle. Good night and good luck.

All things being equal, losing 2-0 away to one of the top teams in the league, after being reduced to 10 men isn’t a bad result. Yet some concerns were surely raised by the manner in which Philadelphia Union fell to defeat.

Here are some things we learned from last night:

  • Dave Myrie is not an MLS-quality defender.

He looked off the pace most of the evening, was caught napping on both goals, and was skinned alive by many a Sounder attacker. If the defense is supposed to be the great strength of this team, I’m not sure if he can be a part of it. One game is surely too soon to tell but based upon last night’s evidence, we won’t go far with Myrie as a defensive starter.

  • Danny Mwanga isn’t a midfielder.

Alexi Lalas’ point about playing Mwanga out of position was well taken. Here is a young man playing in his first professional match, in front of tens of thousands of screaming fans and millions more on a national television broadcast. Why take him out of his natural habitat? Mwanga is a center forward, a young man who at this point in his career relies on pace and power to get in behind defenders; dropping deep to pick up the ball isn’t in his skill set. He looked completely lost at times and completely anonymous the others. He could have been more useful as a forward sub.

  • Roger Torres looks like the real deal.

The few moments that brought the oohs and ahs last night were the result of the diminutive Colombian and his bag of tricks. He made Seattle defenders look silly a handful of times near the right touchline. If he can work his tricks into the team dynamic, he could be a serious weapon and more than worthy deputy (or partner) to the returning Fred.

  • Speaking of which…we missed Fred desperately.

Although it would be woefully naive to pin the defeat on the absence of one man (although one could argue the absence of the referee’s brain), the suspension of Fred was felt deeply. Union lacked his vision and razor sharp edge in and around the area. For all Le Toux’s deft touches and Andrew Jacobson’s tidy passing, the attack was relatively toothless when it came to the final quality.

  • Where is the width?

Time and time again, Union attackers would cut inside, clogging an already congested middle. Considering the soggy Qwest Field turf, the better option would have been to isolate outside backs, get to the end line and whip in crosses to the danger area. On a wet surface, anything can happen. The Union failed to take advantage here.

It’s difficult to remain this analytical and detached. After all, we’ve been waiting years for this. The giddiness from seeing our very own team line up has yet to wear off. There are many among us who would still be riding a blue and gold wave of euphoria had Philadelphia Union lost by twenty. The mere physical manifestation of what, up until this point, has largely been an abstract concept, was enough for some.

But how long will this honeymoon last? The two preseason deficiencies, discipline and goal scoring, continue to be problem areas. Here’s hoping on April 10th, against I-95 rivals D.C. United, we begin and end with the same amount of players.

6 Comments

  1. Pingback: Who should the Union start against DC United on April 10? « C. Horridus

  2. Peter Idler says:

    I couldn’t agree more with your analysis.

  3. How bout Toni Stahl? He’s not a center back. How bout Michael Orozco? He’s not a midfielder. Both were playing in their first MLS games as well. Sure seems like Novak overthought this one.

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