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CHESTER, Pa. – Heading into the 2013 season, there were a lot of questions swirling around the Philadelphia Union.
And following their season-opening 3-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City at PPL Park on Saturday, there are, well, still a lot of questions.
Let’s dive into some of them with the first “Inside Doop” of the year.
Three thoughts from Saturday’s game
1. With veteran strikers Conor Casey and Sébastien Le Toux joining 2012 leading scorer Jack McInerney and sparkplug Antoine Hoppenot on the frontline, the forward position seemed to be one of Philly’s strength this year. But Union manager John Hackworth decided to start only one of them – Le Toux – in an attempt to overload the midfield against a savvy and technically strong SKC team. The tactical decision appeared to work for much of the first half as the Union dictated play and Le Toux opened his 2013 account with a pretty goal. But there was simply too much offensive firepower left on the bench, and by the time Casey, McInerney and attacking midfielder Roger Torres came into the game in the second half, it was too late to erase a two-goal deficit.
2. Hackworth made some other curious lineup decisions, starting Keon Daniel as a central attacking midfielder, starting Michael Lahoud as a defensive midfielder and pushing Gabriel Farfan into the midfield while allowing Ray Gaddis to start at left back. Daniel had a beautiful assist on Le Toux’s goal but the biggest revelation was probably Gaddis, who may have been the best player on the field in the first half. And Farfan is certainly happier in the midfield than he is at left back, so that one looks like it could be a win-win for everyone.
3. It was a beautiful moment when Le Toux scored within the first 20 minutes of his first game back at PPL Park after a year away. But the franchise’s all-time leading scorer missed an absolute sitter shortly after that, which would have given the Union a 2-0 lead and perhaps changed the course of the game. That could be one reason why Hackworth would say it was hard to find any positives from the loss – not even Le Toux’s goal.
Three questions for the upcoming week
1. Will Hackworth change the formation from a 4-5-1 to a 4-4-2 or even a 4-3-3 on Saturday when the Union take on Colorado in their first road game of the year? It seems likely that will be the case, because if the Union manager continues to start just one striker, a quality player like Hoppenot may never get used and both Casey and McInerney will be severely underused.
2. What about Bakary Soumare? The high-priced center back only played one game after being signed in the middle of the season last year but came into the preseason completely fit and healthy. Still, Soumare didn’t see the field at all in Saturday’s opener with Hackworth opting to use Amobi Okugo at center back. If Soumare ever does feature at center back, Okugo will likely join the midfield alongside Brian Carroll – which could be a very good thing for the team’s midfield. But right now, that’s looking like a very big ‘if.’
3. One of the biggest storylines is Conor Casey’s return to Colorado, where he starred for the last six seasons. You’ve got to figure Casey will be amped to show the Rapids what they’re missing after releasing him last November. But the question is will he even get the chance to do that?
Stat of the week
Le Toux has played for four different MLS teams, but has scored 26 of his 32 career goals as a member of the Union.
Quote of the week
“We’re extremely disappointed. We feel like we let the fans down. We feel like we let ourselves down.” – Hackworth’s first words at the postgame press conference following Saturday’s 3-1 loss.
Player of the week
We’ll give the nod to Le Toux for providing one of the most memorable moments in franchise history. Welcome back to Philly, Mr. Frenchman.