Perspective is an interesting thing. If you look at things from a glass half full perspective then you're probably pleased that the Union have lost just one of their last five matches. If you're a glass half empty kind of person then you are probably a bit concerned that the Union have only won one of their last five matches.
It's difficult to really get a handle on the Union's 1-1-3 record over the last five games. They play well, create chances, and don't score. They also don't play well, don't create chances, and don't score. Tonight they look to play well, create chances, score, and pick up a much needed three points as they host Chivas USA (8PM/ABC) at PPL Park
Ever since their stunning six goal outburst against Toronto on May 28th they've gone on to score 1, 1, 0, and 0 goals over their last four games. Their inability to find consistent scoring is nothing new.
Peter Nowak took extreme measures in his attempt to jump-start the offense last week when he started Sebastien Le Toux, Justin Mapp, Veljko Paunovic, Jack McInerney, and Carlos Ruiz. Who knows, had Danny Mwanga been healthy he may have found himself out there as well. His roll of the dice resulted in exactly zero goals.
The most troubling part of the offensive ineptitude is not their lack of chances, but their inability to finish. Le Toux has consistently been the biggest culprit. Considering his work rate it's tough to criticize the guy, but the reality is he needs to start converting his chances.
To be fair it was probably unrealistic to think he'd duplicate his breakout 14 goal, 11 assist performance from last season. However, the fact that he's scored as many goals as Danny Califf this season is a major problem. I mean, at least Califf's goal was from the run of play. Le Toux's lone goal was from the penalty spot back on April 30th against San Jose.
It's at the point now where there's not a whole lot Nowak can do lineup-wise. The only suggestion I'd have is (and this is assuming he's fully fit) to let Mwanga start and play the full 90 minutes.
He's the lone option they have up top who if need be can win a foot race, shoulder his man off the ball, hold up play, or beat his man 1 v. 1. In other words he's their most complete goal scoring threat. He's listed as "probable" for tonight. Here's hoping he gets the starting nod.
Chivas USA comes to town as the eighth place team in the Western Conference with 17 points from 15 games. They'll be without a familiar face, former Union player Alejandro Moreno, who is on international duty with Venezuela at the Copa America. Based on his performance for the Union last season you wouldn't think Moreno's absence would be a big deal. You'd be wrong. Moreno is tied with three other players for the team lead in goals with three.
In Moreno's absence the goal scoring load will fall to Justin Braun, Marcos Mondaini, and Nick LaBrocca. The matchup between the 6'3" Braun and the middle of the Union back four will be a must watch.
Defensively they'll be without longtime US international Jimmy Conrad, who is out with a concussion. Another former US international, Heath Pearce (and his much beloved mustache), will be responsible for organizing and leading the Goats back line.
The Union currently sit in first place - tied with the New York Red Bulls. They'll need to pick up points, particularly at home, before New York welcomes back Tim Ream, Rafa Marquez, and Juan Agudelo from the Gold Cup.
Here’s the lineup I hope we see today: Mondragon, Harvey, Valdes, Califf, Williams, Mapp, Okugo, Carroll, Le Toux, McInerney, Mwanga.
Final Score Prediction: This will be their third game in a week, so it may be tough to muster up the necessary energy, but they need to play desperate here. I'll say the Union win it 1-0.
The Toni Stahl Memorial Union Player Most Likely To See Red: Califf, who is going to be climbing up Braun's back all night.
Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin, US Presswire