We keep seeing games where Philadelphia Union play well enough to win but don’t. Their road loss to D.C. United wasn’t one of them.
The Union fell 2-0 to last place D.C. in an ugly game marred by poor weather, worse playing conditions, and two big mistakes that cost the game.
Danny Allsopp scored both goals to give D.C. their fourth win of the season and their first under new coach Ben Olsen, a Philadelphia-area product. Allsopp’s first goal came after Union center back Danny Califf slipped on an attempted clearance and left the ball at Allsopp’s feet inside the box. His second came on a counterattack after a Kyle Nakazawa giveaway.
The Union outshot D.C. 10-8 (with only three on goal) and had six corner kicks to just two for D.C., but it didn’t matter as D.C. broke an eight-game winless streak to win their first game in two months.
Here are a few things that stood out.
- Dismantle the second goal. It falls largely on Stefani Miglioranzi.
Watch Miglioranzi on the counterattack after Nakazawa lost the ball. He jogged back on defense, rather than run. The result was it created a 3-on-2 against Califf and Juan Diego Gonzalez. Gonzalez picked up Andy Najar, who had the ball on the right flank. Califf was forced to choose between two attackers at the 18: Branko Boskovic, who was nearest Najar; and Allsopp, who came down further out to the left. Califf logically chose Boskovic because he was closer to the ball. Boskovic smartly stepped over Najar’s pass to let it go to Allsopp, who drove it home.
Before Nakazawa lost the ball, Miglioranzi was being marked by Allsopp, so they were right next to each other at the counterattack’s start. Migs even took the first steps in reaction to the counter, but Allsopp outworked him and got the goal. (Side note: Notice right back Michael Orozco Fiscal practically walking back on the counter. Had he run, could he have caught up with Allsopp?)
- The Union’s lack of a center attacking midfielder was glaring.
Once Sebastien Le Toux moved up to forward from right midfield after Alejandro Moreno’s injury, there was almost no movement forward from the midfield. Only Justin Mapp, one of the few Union players to look good at times on the attack with some nice dribble breakdowns, really ever pushed through. Fred, potentially hampered by an injury suffered in the first half, was ineffective outside of a nice cross to Le Toux early on. Eduardo “Chacho” Coudet continued to play deep with Stefani Miglioranzi, and neither had an impact on the attack.
To some degree, it’s tactical, as the Union’s 4-4-2 continues to play more like a 4-2-2-2, with very little width. Le Toux likes to stay wide when he’s playing midfield, but when he does that at forward, there’s no one but Mwanga cutting into the box for his low crosses.
But it’s also personnel. Fred could be that guy at CAM, but not while he’s out on the wing. Roger Torres could be that guy, but not while he’s on the bench. Nakazawa played further up field upon replacing Coudet, but he’s yet to show much besides terrific service on free kicks.
- In contrast, Branko Boskovic is the type of guy the Union are missing.
D.C.’s midfield outplayed Philadelphia’s largely because of Boskovic’s presence. With one solid center attacking midfielder, it freed up Andy Najar and Santino Quaranta to play wider on the wings. Boskovic’s presence in the middle gave the wingers more space, and both were terrific with service and the ball at their feet. Boskovic’s smarts helped create the second goal. He’s a designated player but has a salary of $516,200, nothing in the David Beckham or Thierry Henry neighborhood. If the Union could find someone like him and get Shea Salinas healthy, grouping them with Mapp or Le Toux on the other wing could have good results.
- Fullbacks Michael Orozco Fiscal and Jordan Harvey are bringing little to the table lately.
Orozco isn’t a fullback, certainly not yet. This is obvious. His crossing isn’t great, he’s hesitant to push forward sometimes (thanks probably to having spent so much time at center back), and he’s not nearly as aggressive as he is in the middle of the field. Harvey had played well for much of the season, but since the all-star break, he hasn’t done much. He’s not threatening with crosses on the attack and too often finds himself in a no man’s land between good attacking position and a safe location from which he can adequately get back on counterattacks. (The second goal was created in the space he vacated pushing up.) Again, the 4-2-2-2 and the tendencies of the midfielders are partially the culprits here, and both fullbacks are still solid when actually in the act of playing defense. But you can’t hide the fact that these guys aren’t playing that terrifically lately.
- Shea Salinas can’t get healthy soon enough.
Just in case you forgot about him. Not that you would. But just in case.
- Major League Soccer’s record for fewest clean sheets in a season is two.
The Union still have yet to record one after 20 games. They have 10 games left.
GK Chris Seitz: 4
Seitz was put in very difficult positions on both goals, so it’s hard to pin blame on him for either. Poor communication with Gonzalez late in the game led to a corner kick. An attempted clearance well outside the box nearly came too late as Allsopp nearly beat Seitz to a ball seemingly slowed by the wet field.
LB Jordan Harvey: 4
Harvey didn’t show much positive this game. A long shot after a dead ball went miles over goal. A chip or two into the box landed in traffic. He had some trouble with Najar, but then who doesn’t?
CB Juan Diego Gonzalez: 5
Gonzalez looked OK most of the game, with decent defensive positioning and solid passing out of the back. But what happened on that play toward the end when he and Seitz both went for the same ball, leaving Seitz sprawling at nothing? Then Gonzalez took the ball down to the corner before inexplicably dropping it out past the end line for a corner instead of kicking out the side.
CB Danny Califf: 4
The slip and fall on the clearance created a goal. A bad pass nearly put the Union in very bad position another time. Still, he was good in the air and continues to have to clean up messes made by others. Obviously not a great game, but judge it on more than one play.
RB Michael Orozco Fiscal: 5
Started a great attack with a nice long pass to Le Toux, then continued his run onto goal, but he has to collect Danny Mwanga’s short pass to put it on goal, even if it’s a bit behind him. Played a decent defensive game, but he just seems like a fish out of water at right back.
CM Stefani Miglioranzi: 4
Must take much of the blame for the second goal. Had some poor passes during the game and generally seemed awkward and off the mark on the wet playing surface.
CM Chacho Coudet: 5
Coudet didn’t do much of note before coming out for Nakazawa in the 59th minute. Played deeper than Nakazawa as Fred and Mapp ate up much of the space in the middle of the field but didn’t put forth the beautifully lofted through balls we’ve seen in other games.
LM Sebastien Le Toux: 5
Le Toux started the game at left midfield but spent most of his time at forward after Moreno’s injury. Made a good run to get a direct shot on goal early on, but D.C. really clamped him down otherwise.
RM Fred: 4
His cross to Le Toux set up the Union’s best opportunity on goal. Other than, he had nothing. Continues to collapse the Union’s width, and with Orozco not pushing up a ton from right back, that’s a problem.
ST Danny Mwanga: 4
If Mwanga had led Orozco just a tad bit more late in the game, Orozco might have scored. Mwanga didn’t do much today.
ST Alejandro Moreno: 4
Pulled for Mapp in the 16th minute due to injury.
Justin Mapp: 6
Mapp was one of the few Union players to acquit himself fairly well, putting a few crosses in the box, dribbling through the defense, and generally looking active on the left wing.
Kyle Nakazawa: 4
Might have been fouled on the play that led to the second goal, but referee Alex Prus was in good position and didn’t call it. Waved off by Le Toux again on a free kick before he finally got to take a crack at one late. Looks more and more like a free kick specialist and little more.
Nick Zimmerman: 5
Zimmerman got a rare opportunity to play more than 10 minutes in a regular season game. He won a free kick deep down the left side and generally looked active. Didn’t do much else though.
(Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz. For more photos from the game, click here for Gajdamowicz’s photo essay.)