Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz
The good news first.
The Union grabbed a road point in Frisco, Texas, their first in three trips to FC Dallas. Chase Harrison not only survived his first MLS start, but he also fought through the barrage of George John and Andrew Jacobson shaped missiles hurled at him over the 90 minutes, making important saves and showing strength in the air.
Now the bad news.
The rest of the match.
In his Union debut Michael Lahoud played more minutes than he had in the previous 10 matches for Chivas USA. Traveling east in exchange for Union captain Danny Califf, it seemed unlikely that Lahoud would crack the Union’s already crowded midfield, but with only one training session under his belt, Peter Nowak handed the Union’s newest player a start in Frisco, Texas.
It was a decision that appeared questionable with the announcement of the team sheet and only grew more incomprehensible during the match, with Nowak calling the player to the sideline a handful of times in the first half just to explain his positioning and role on the field. Coming off their most composed performance of the season against New York Red Bulls, Nowak’s gamble on Lahoud led to a midfield that was disjointed and confused, committing turnovers with reckless abandon and failing to connect on even the simplest of passes.
That was not a 4-3-3
Keon Daniel? At striker? Really? Was it his two glaring misses against the Red Bulls that earned him the role alongside Mwanga and Pajoy up top? If the Union were truly serious about giving a 4-3-3 the chance to be successful, Josue Martinez would have earned the start up top, with Daniel dropping into midfield at the expense of Lahoud. The attacking trio that did so well to pressure the Schalke defense represents the Union’s best threesome at the moment and should have been deployed were the Union taking the formation seriously.
The left-footed Daniel was at a complete loss playing forward on the right wing. With the brand new Michael Lahoud tasked with creating out of the midfield, the organization of the Union was a complete shambles, and the pipeline of service to Mwanga and Pajoy ran dry.
You call that defense?
While Danny Califf was out in California, preparing to help Chivas USA knock off the Galaxy for the first time in five years with his Man of the Match performance, the Union defense was beaten, battered and torn apart by a lone striker. With Dallas playing narrow through the midfield and only Blas Perez to worry about up top, the Union still failed to converge on the danger posed by former Union man Andrew Jacobson. Deployed in a more attacking role against the Union, Jacobson had time and space at the top of the box to dictate play. It was his run in the 5th minute that forced Harrison into action and resulted in the corner kick that yielded Dallas’ opener.
And it was all preventable. His first game as full time captain did not see the end of Carlos Valdes’ upfield ramblings, and he was caught far out of position by Jacobson after being slow to recover from a full field run. With a first time goalkeeper behind him and the 5’8″ Sheanon Williams at his side, Valdes must give his attacking forays a rest and focus on shutting the door at the back.
Moves further up the field served to destabilize the defense as the constantly rotating midfield trio of Lahoud, Gabriel Gomez and Brian Carroll did not do enough to shield the defense, with Michael Farfan particularly exposed on the right wing. Defensive cover improved when Keon Daniel dropped back into the midfield, but where the Union had taken the match to the Red Bulls, they lacked the energy and tenacity to press Dallas and subsequently dropped too deep in defense, making the job easier for the hosts.
Chase Harrison – 6.5
Made up for a few nervy moments in the early going with a confident, physical second half performance. A more established goalkeeper would have gotten calls Harrison did not, and he had to endure a battering all night. For all the contact he received, the fact that only one whistle was blown is a shocking indictment of MLS officiating, especially considering the blatant nature of Jacobson’s late game body blow on Harrison. But for the debutant, whatever does not kill you makes you stronger, and he grew in confidence throughout the match. If he is able to shake off the bumps and bruises he earned on Saturday, the Union coaching staff should not hesitate to call his number again, if MacMath’s injury delays his return another week.
Michael Farfan – 4.5
The deficits in his defensive game were exposed by the more technical FC Dallas side. Got skinned down the right flank on multiple occasions with Dallas easily controlling the center of the park and then spreading the ball wide to the lively Bryan Leyva. It’s hard to lay too much of the blame at the feet of the makeshift fullback, but it was not his best day at the office as he was forced to spend more time retreating than pushing forward. Will be eager to see his brother return from injury as he will be itching to get back into the midfield where he is most comfortable. Pushing forward, Farfan is still the Union’s most dangerous one-on-one threat, and the need to defend undeniably hampers his creativity. Did manage to force Hartman into a diving save when he cut inside of two men and unleashed a powerful left-footed drive.
Sheanon Williams – 5.5
It is hard to imagine that Williams can survive the whole season playing center back. He’s forced to throw his whole body into every aerial challenge to climb above strikers who are consistently 4-8 inches taller. With the midfield sputtering in front of him and his partner looking for work too high up the pitch, Williams spent more time chasing Blas Perez than he would have wanted. He still shows his lack of center back experience at the MLS level at times, especifically when it comes to stepping up too quickly and allowing an attacker to race in behind, but he continued to show 100 percent commitment to the cause. His effort and vocal leadership were among the few bright spots for the Union.
Carlos Valdes – 4
Not the match the Union would have hoped from their now full-time captain. Jacobson’s early run left Valdes for dead in the 5th minute when the Colombian failed to fully recover from an ill-advised run up field. With his team, and specifically his defense, needing a strong veteran presence at the back, Valdes was less than his usual confident, assured self. He took too many chances in attack and did not marshal the backline with his usual authority. Valdes should recover in time for Toronto from the gash he received over his left eye late in the match, but if he doesn’t, the Union will be in for a nervy 90 minutes at BMO Field.
Ray Gaddis – 7
If he keeps up his play, Gaddis will force his way into both the Rookie of the Year and Union Player of the Year discussions. Again deployed out of position at left back, Gaddis shut the door on the normally dangerous Jackson and continued to fearlessly bomb forward in attack. Despite finding joy down their own left flank, Dallas kept looking for Jackson, but the Union rookie won the battle all night, showing composure in defense and smarts when he looked to facilitate the attack out of the back when possible. Only Sheanon Williams completed more passes than the rookie fullback, who shows no nerves or hesitation on the ball. Even in his brief development this season, Gaddis has added physicality to his game, and the combination of pace and power already make him a difficult matchup for anyone in MLS.
Brian Carroll – 3.5
Less than a week after putting in a Man of the Match-caliber performance against New York, Carroll was MIA in a big way in Dallas. Not only did he fail to provide a passing outlet for the defense and midfield, he was also caught in possession deep in his own half, a major no-no for a holding midfielder. Defensively, he let the normally defensive-minded Andrew Jacobson find space aplenty at the top of the Union box. If the Dallas midfielder was known for his finishing, Dallas would have almost certainly secured all three points.
Michael Lahoud – 2
Had absolutely no business being on the pitch for the Union and did little to justify his selection. Showed a good motor as he cruised around the pitch, from side to side, popping up all over the place, but rarely where he was needed. As one of only three midfielders deployed to begin the match, the Union coaching staff put their trust in Lahoud to catalyze the offense, and he simply was not up to the task. The majority of that blame falls on Nowak’s shoulders for the controversial selection, but rather than play simple, composed soccer, Lahoud tried to do too much, forcing his passes and delaying on the ball. After three violent, dangerous fouls, the Union were lucky that they were able to exchange Lahoud for Martinez early in the second half, since a better referee would not have hesitated to send him off.
Gabriel Gomez – 5
It’s a good thing Gomez scored a goal with his final touch of the match, since before that fortuitous play, he had been a virtual bystander. With Dallas flooding the middle of the field with Jacobson, Hernandez and Marcelin all looking to take up space in the heart of the pitch, Gomez was completely overrun and resorted to over-dribbling and pumping the ball aimlessly up field. For the Union to have any success, they cannot have a central midfielder completing only 63% of his passes for a total of an unacceptably meager 19 completions in 58 minutes.
Danny Mwanga – 3.5
Spent too much time trying to be a target forward and not enough time trying to be himself. Showed back-to the-ball well, drawing fouls and playing quick passes back into the midfield, but for Mwanga to convince Unions fans that he has his confidence back, he will need to square up on a defense and run at them. He did none of that Saturday. For all the good things he does, like showing physicality and making clearing runs for his midfielders, Mwanga’s lack of cutting edge is keeping him from showing up his doubters. Until he rediscovers that striker’s selfishness and bags a couple of goals, the questions about his play will linger.
Lionard Pajoy – 3.5
Showed some fancy footwork late in the game that nearly set the table for the Union, but otherwise isolated himself and looked uninterested in attacking the defense. Like Mwanga, also failed to register a single shot over 90 minutes. When the Union are going all guns, they can afford for Pajoy to sit wide, creeping in to surprise the defense or pounce on a loose ball. But when they are struggling for possession and shape as mightily as they were against Dallas, he needs to come find the ball and look for work. It was not until the after the Union had equalized that he rose to this challenge. Once he did, he showed some silky skills on the ball, but it was too little too late.
Keon Daniel – 2.5
Likely shocked to hear his name called as a striker in the locker room, Daniel struggled to affect play up top. His passing was off the mark, he was too easily dispossessed, and he did not have any comfort with the midfield behind him. For the third week in a row, he was badly exposed on set piece defense.
Josue Martinez – 6
Should have started the match if the Union indeed wanted to play a 4-3-3. When he came on, Martinez helped to turn the match for the Union, showing drive and intent as he attacked the Dallas defense. Questions linger about his touch, as he misplaced simple passes to kill off what looked to be promising builds out of the midfield. With the Union needing a victory over hapless Toronto, the Union coaching staff should consider starting Martinez up top with Mwanga and Pajoy in order to take the game to Toronto early and often.
Amobi Okugo – 5.5
Remains the only Union midfielder committed to one- and two-touch passing. He looked to keep the ball moving quickly and spread the field well, bringing the outside backs into play as the Union attacked. Some of the veterans in the starting XI would do well to regard the youngster as an example as he moved the ball quickly amongst his fellow midfielders before switching fields with consistent accuracy. Will rue his missed chance when he skewed Pajoy’s cutback wide in the final moments of the game, but should Gomez’s injury require him to miss time with the Union, Okugo has proven that he is capable and prepared to start.
Porfirio Lopez – 4.5
Made his return to the first team for the first time since March and did just enough to keep Dallas at bay. Was very fortunate that Kadlecik failed to notice his elbow to Blas Perez as it would have resulted in a definite ejection. The disciplinary committee likely will not miss the incident and the Union could be without Lopez when they travel to Toronto. While his play was enough on the night to see out the road draw, Lopez didn’t do enough to prove that he is more than an emergency defender.
Mark Kadlecik – 2
The type of performance to which MLS fans have unfortunately grown too accustomed. The speed of the match passed Kadlecik by and he never fully had a handle on proceedings. Made mistakes all over the pitch, and while he split his mistakes fairly evenly between both sides, it was an inadequate performance. Should have sent off Lahoud in the first half, yet somehow failed to notice his late, dangerous challenge on Pertuz, which ended the defender’s night through injury. Also managed to whistle only once as Dallas challenged Harrison late and physically in the air. Each of George John’s lunging efforts could have, and probably should have been called, but the real shocker is how Jacobson managed to drop a shoulder into the Union keeper’s chest in the late going without receiving so much as a foul.
Additionally, Kadlecik favors the overly histrionic, in your face style of refereeing most notably practiced by the man for which the Geiger Counter is named. Inappropriately aggressive, he appeared to lash out at contrite players, creating further chaos when a calming influence was needed.
Preferred lineup for Saturday’s match at Toronto FC
MacMath; Gaddis, Williams, Valdes, Garfan; Marfan, Carroll, Okugo; Mwanga, Pajoy, Martinez