Photo: Nicolae Stoian
It may not have been perfect, but Lionard Pajoy sure answered his critics.
Pajoy scored two goals Sunday against the New York Red Bulls, just days after netting in a friendly against Schalke 04. He ranked first in the league’s MLS Castrol Index for the week. He put more shots on goal in one game Sunday (4) than he had in his first eight MLS matches combined (3). He found enough space to take eight shots, and had his finishing been a bit truer, he could have had three or four goals on the night.
But that’s no back-handed compliment. It speaks to how well Pajoy put himself in good attacking positions.
Two of Pajoy’s three goals on the week were headers inside the box, showing that if there’s one thing Pajoy can’t be doubted on, it’s his aerial ability in front of goal.
Several things changed in this match, and the key was formation and a strike partner. Pajoy was no longer deployed as a lone striker, but rather on the left wing in a 4-3-3 with Danny Mwanga in the center and Freddy Adu on the right.
But that doesn’t mean all Pajoy’s touches came out on the left.
If you look at the game’s chalkboard, you’ll see most of Pajoy’s touches came in the center of the field, with at least 10 of them inside the penalty area. Meanwhile, if you follow the same link and view Mwanga’s heat map, you’ll see nearly all his touches came in a central area within 30 yards from goal.
It appeared watching the game that Mwanga opened channels and occupied defenders in a fashion that helped free up Pajoy. Regardless of Mwanga’s apparent lack of confidence in firing on goal, the Red Bulls clearly respected him. They didn’t offer the same regard to Pajoy, and he made them pay for it.
And it probably didn’t hurt that Rafa Marquez, despite a pair of beautiful passes, didn’t play much defense.
Pajoy has taken a lot of criticism in recent weeks, including from me. (I called for Danny Mwanga to start and linked that to replacing Pajoy. What I should’ve done was make that case and leave open the caveat of starting them both, but I didn’t feel like getting into the old Peter Nowak formation discussion.)
But give credit where credit is due. Pajoy had a great week. As a result, Lionard Pajoy is PSP’s Philadelphia Player of the Week.
Brian Carroll had a great game as a lone holding midfielder, despite the scoreline. Chris Agorsor scored yet again for Richmond in USL play, and even though he’s not from Philly, someone mentioned him, so we’ll mention him too.