Photo: Earl Gardner
The matches are coming fast and furious as the Union look to close out a disappointing 2012 campaign.
John Hackworth’s latest tactical shift, done in the name of generating more offense, proved, in practice, to do just the opposite.
Gabriel Gomez and Keon Daniel lacked the speed, accuracy and quality to set the table for the Union’s three forwards. With the ball failing to make its way forward, Jack McInerney was forced to drop deeper into midfield, turning provider for Antoine Hoppenot and Danny Cruz, a new look for the Union, and certainly not what the coaching staff would have drawn up in the locker room.
With the Union still struggling for goals, Hackworth will likely ring the changes again, welcoming back Michael Farfan into a playmaking role and perhaps reintroducing Freddy Adu, whose late game cameo proved one of the more composed performances on the night.
After the ratings, check out PSP’s video of John Hackworth’s postgame press conference and locker room interviews with Sheanon Williams, Jack McInerney, Antoine Hoppenot, Amobi Okugo and Chandler Hoffman.
Zac MacMath – 3
Keeper’s who leave their line MUST claim the ball. Had MacMath held his ground, Pontius’ would have been looking at a difficult, tight-angled shot under pressure. Instead MacMath abandoned his goal, allowing for a much more simple finish for DC. 90 minute focus is a critical component to any keeper’s game, yet it has proven to be a trait rarely exhibited by one so young and inexperienced.
Sheanon Williams – 5
Full of fire and intent, Williams’ frustration at the midfield’s lethargy boiled to the surface on too many occasions. With no linkage between defense and attack, he had too much to do, too often. Williams’ ceaseless commitment and willingness to call out his less energetic teammates shows his continued maturation as a leader for the Union.
Amobi Okugo – 6.5
A second straight top performance from the technically superior Okugo. Kept Pajoy, Pontius, DeLeon and Boskovic in his back pocket with vastly improved positional awareness to go along with his already rock-solid tackling. Pushed the game through the midfield, trying to raise the tempo of his sluggish side, even getting forward on a number of occasions.
Carlos Valdes – 6
Strong and consistent throughout, Valdes still looks a step off his pre-World Cup Qualifying best. Looked too interested in arguing with the official and jockeying with former teammate Pajoy for position. Still, 90 percent of Carlos Valdes is better than 100 percent of most MLS centerbacks and his 90th minute sliding tackle on Chris Pontius in the box was one for the highlight reel.
Gabriel Farfan – 3.5
A second straight off night from the fullback who failed to convert on his regular bag of tricks. Got his angles all wrong on United’s goal, though he probably had done enough to force Pontius into a low-percentage shot were it not for MacMath’s gaffe. Must rediscover his fighting spirit, because the pouty, argumentative figure he has struck against DC and Toronto is not getting the job done.
Brian Carroll – 4
Uncharacteristically exposed in defense, Carroll’s struggles can be directly pinned to the unfortunate task of picking of the pieces Gomez and Daniel left in front of him. With the other two-thirds of the midfield in such poor form, Carroll was always going to struggle to cover so much ground.
Gabriel Gomez – 3
Yet another poor performance from a player whose early season form has been all but forgotten. Ever since Hackworth switched the Union to a three-man midfield, Gomez’s lack of mobility has been brutally exposed. Perhaps it was unfair to task Gomez with running the Union offense, but if this match was a test of his abilities going forward, he certainly failed. Ballooning balls forward is antithetical to Hackworth’s system, especially considering the Union’s dearth of attacking height.
Keon Daniel – 2
Slow and methodical with everything he does, Daniel failed to make an impact on either side of the ball against DC. With McInerney, Hoppenot and Cruz screaming for the ball as they bombed in behind the United defense, Daniel was consistently found wanting in his distribution as he delayed his passes, killing the Union attack. Defensively, showed very little range and to say Daniel looked disinterested seems an understatement. It is hard to imagine that he will continue to figure in Hackworth’s plans after such a thoroughly underwhelming display.
Danny Cruz – 4.5
Did all the little things right without managing to effect the game in the final third. Looks better suited to a midfield role where his excellent work rate can be used in possession and on defense. Tasked with scoring goals, Cruz technique let him down and he has yet to develop any attacking chemistry with his new Union teammates.
Jack McInerney – 5.5
An unusual performance from McInerney, who was forced to both fight McDonald and Jakovic, twice climbing highest to head on goal, while also dropping into midfield to work out of the No. 10 role. While his petulant outbursts of frustration must be curtailed, McInerney put in a committed shift, especially considering the non-existent Union midfield. As he told PSP after the game, “Keon or Gomez, they’ve gotta be in that space. If they’re not going to be there, someone’s gotta be there to pick up the ball and spray it. The space was there so I just took it.”
Antoine Hoppenot – 3
Largely anonymous as a wing forward, Hoppenot worked hard to cover his defensive responsibilities but had precious little to do in the attacking third. Made a mess of the two chances he had, first taking a heavy touch after receiving the ball in the box, which dragged him wide of Hamid’s net. Later, Hoppenot would fail to convert a tap-in after the DC keeper was unable to hold McInerney’s powerful shot, though the offside flag saved his blushes on that occasion.
Josue Martinez – 3.5
With no one pulling the strings, Martinez did a lot of running with little to show for it. Had two chances to break the deadlock but missed his shot wide and failed to get on the end of Hoffman’s flicked header.
Chandler Hoffman – 4
A few smart touches, but like Martinez, Hoffman struggled to assert himself in a side full of strikers, but devoid of playmaking creativity.
Freddy Adu – 5
Brought a much needed steady hand to the midfield. Though he only played 13 minutes, he used them to show the gulf in class between himself and Daniel/Gomez.
Baldomero Toledo – 5
In a match expected to be a slugfest, Toledo slowed the game down and put a damper on the nerves of both sides. Sure, plenty of small decisions seemed to go the wrong way, but Toledo got the big ones right, keeping the latest Union-DC grudge match from devolving into a violent, dangerous spectacle.
Preferred Starting XI for Sunday’s match vs. Houston Dynamo
MacMath; Gaddis, Okugo, Valdes, Williams; Carroll, M. Farfan, Adu, G. Farfan; Hoffman, McInerney
Post match press conference with Union manager John Hackworth
Post match interviews with Sheanon Williams, Jack McInerney, Antoine Hoppenot, Amobi Okugo and Chandler Hoffman