Photo: Courtesy of Orlando City SC
Let’s all say it together.
“It was just one match.”
“It was just one match.”
The Union “first” team certainly did fail to inspire in their preseason opener against Orlando City on Saturday evening, but this is the 2013 Philadelphia Union. What that means for fans is that it is not the solitary chance to see and evaluate players in a competitive atmosphere before the season kicks off on March 2nd against Sporting Kansas City.
Thus, rather than overly-scrutinizing a small sample size of play, we would rather focus on the players whose play stood out and those who earned a wake-up call.
1. Roger Torres
Buzz is buzz is buzz is buzz. And then you saw what everyone was talking about regarding Roger Torres. Torres hummed through the midfield like a well-oiled machine, dropping into his own half to exchange quick, sharp passes to begin the build before turning his attentions up field and picking apart the helpless Orlando City defense with surgical precision. It nearly wasn’t just his passing that was the talk of the match either. Miguel Gallardo may just well earn an MLS contract based on his save of Torres’ howitzer, alone. Yes it was just one match, but Torres was the best player on the pitch, hands down.
2. Leo Fernandes
Doesn’t get much better than that from a player who is quite literally playing for a contract. His goal was excellently taken, but he was also active in the possession game. Moving the ball quickly with Torres, Jordi Vidal and Greg Jordan, the second string midfielder taught the starters a lesson. And after tying up the match, Fernandes nearly set up the winner, knocking an inch-perfect ball over the heads of the defenders to send Antoine Hoppenot away.
3. Conor Casey
Other than score a goal, Casey did everything the coaching staff could have hoped for in his debut. Always one to move more like a rhinoceros than a gazelle, Casey still managed to keep the ball well at his feet, holding off defenders and laying off the ball simply, while even getting wide on occasion to steer in a couple of dangerous crosses. He looks fit and ready to go, making his signing look a shrewd piece of business. For now, Union fans must wait until the time when Hackworth pairs Casey with his most natural partner, Jack McInerney.
4. Eric Schoenle
Having surprisingly dropped into the supplemental draft, the Union thought they had grabbed a steal in Schoenle, and first looks suggest they might be right. Lining up beside a fit and eager looking Bakary Soumare, Schoenle failed to put a foot wrong in his 30 minute debut. Calm, cool and collected on the ball, he covered his defensive responsibilities well, stepping forward to make important, smart interventions.
1. Sebastien Le Toux
Back in a Union shirt for the first time since 2011, Le Toux reminded fans that times were not always rosy during his tenure at PPL Park. Le Toux’s concrete touches were put into even starker contrast against the nimble feet of Casey, leaving Union fans to offer up prayers that this is preseason rust rather than a foreshadowing of the 2013 campaign. His head-scratching, empty net miss after Danny Cruz struck the post summed up Le Toux’s night: Lots of running, very little quality in front of goal.
2. Danny Cruz
Cruz topped this list before he found a seam in the 51st minute and rang his shot off the post. In the end, that one moment added little to a performance that has become too typical from Cruz. The fact remains that he appears to lack the technical ability to hold down a starting spot in MLS. Against Orlando City, his one-on-one assaults failed to bear fruit, and on the occasions where he was set free with excellent through balls, his service into the danger area was woeful.
3. Keon Daniel
Top players have an internal thermostat for the game. There is a time for high-pressing, attacking play and a time for ball possession and match control. Keon Daniel’s thermostat appears to be set exactly opposite the other 10 members of the Union, whoever they are at a given moment.
4. Brian Carroll
The 2013 Philadelphia Union are Brian Carroll’s team. Wearing the armband should carry the weight of expectation that Carroll proves himself not only a top performer, but also shows leadership to this young Union team. Especially playing in the center of the midfield where he can truly affect the pace and style of play, Carroll was a bystander for large periods against Orlando City. Not only was his ability to link the defense and midfield negligible, but his defensive work was far from sharp either, as players brushed past him using both pace and brute strength. Being the captain means something. Carroll must show more.