MATCHDAY: Effort and Will vs. Touch and Skill -- the Danny Cruz problem

MATCHDAY: Effort and Will vs. Touch and Skill -- the Danny Cruz problem

Much of the fan frustration in the Union so far this season --
especially without Freddy Adu to kick around anymore -- has been directed at
midfielder Danny Cruz.

I'm not as down on Cruz as some of the vitriol I see on Twitter
proves others are, but I don't think he really has  a place in this team,
especially as it is currently constructed.

No one doubts that Cruz puts out maximum effort. The guy has
taken free kicks to the head multiple times this season and is in constant
motion down the right flank. He runs his ass off for 90 minutes and can be a
pest to opposing left backs and left midfielders. He even had a great touch and
assist on a Conor Casey goal in the win over D.C. United.

But one thing Cruz does not have is anything resembling a good
first touch (or second, or third). He does not have the on-the-ball skills to
take on defenders one-on-one, and while he can deliver a good pass here and
there, he is not that strong a crosser of the ball.

If John Hackworth is going to play with two attackers -- Casey
and Jack McInerney -- or even three when Sebastien Le Toux is on the field
(something I expect to see today against Seattle), then those remaining in the
midfield need to be able to keep at least a little bit of possession.

Brian Carroll is not the greatest passer in the world (I'm being
kind today) and Michael Farfan has spent much of the season in the witness
protection program (more on this next week). The Union need someone on the
right flank who will take on defenders, and I'm not even sure such a player
exists on the roster. In the absence of that, they at least need to focus on
possession.

That's where designated player Kleberson comes in, as my old friend and
soon-to-be-dad Dave Zeitlin pointed out earlier this week
.

He is more of a holding midfielder than attacker, but in my
limited viewing of his play (read: YouTube clips) he would be well-suited in
front of Brian Carroll with Farfan or Daniel on the right. I'm sure Kleberson
could also handle playing wider, as well.

Hackworth said this week that he was hesitant to use Kleberson
on turf last week at Gilette Stadium considering his lack of experience on
artificial surfaces, which is understandable. But we're past the point of
"getting acclimated" with the system or his teammates, or
"ability to play 90 minutes." You're either ready or you're not. And
it's time to see what the new guy can do. And if that means Danny Cruz -- by
all accounts a great guy and great teammate who gets far too much grief from
fans in my book -- needs to sit down, then so be it.

Today's Game: 

Philadelphia Union (3-3-2, 11 points) vs. Seattle Sounders
(1-3-2, 5 points)

4 p.m. -- PPL Park -- TV: 6ABC

Prediction Sure to Be Way Off:

After a few games with the same (or roughly the same) lineup, I
expect one or two changes (Le Toux, maybe). Based on the Sounders' slow start,
the Union should expect three points at home. But I have no idea what to
expect.

Union 1, Sounders 1.

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Instant Replay: Eagles 33, Colts 23

Instant Replay: Eagles 33, Colts 23

BOX SCORE

INDIANAPOLIS – Stop us if you’ve heard this before: the Eagles looked really good in the all-important third preseason game.
 
The offense hummed, the defense stuffed, and the team took down Andrew Luck and the Colts 33-23 at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night to improve to 3-0 this preseason.
 
Now, take that with a grain of salt. Heck, take it with a shaker of salt. The fan base was fooled last year when Sam Bradford and the Eagles looked Super Bowl-bound with a Preseason Week 3 win over the Packers. Cue up The Who’s “We Won’t Get Fooled Again.”
 
Still, the Eagles’ starters were impressive against the Colts on Saturday night on both sides of the ball.
 
Sam the man
Just like he did in this game last year, Bradford was extremely efficient. He completed 17 of 20 pass for 167 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception – and the interception wasn’t his fault.
 
https://twitter.com/RoobCSN/status/769697863236542465
 
Give credit to the first-team offensive line too. Despite the shuffling on the line, Bradford was kept pretty clean most of the night, was sacked just once.
 
Wideouts look like wideouts
The Eagles’ wide receivers caught footballs on Saturday night, an important check mark on the “are we a real team yet?” list. Josh Huff came to play on Saturday night and had an impressive game; he had a 38-yard catch in the first half. Huff is still dangerous when the Eagles can get the ball in his hands.
 
Perhaps the one play that will have Eagles fans most excited was a fade from Bradford to newcomer Dorial Green-Beckham for a four-yard touchdown. The Eagles tried a fade to DGB earlier in the game, but it looked like he weirdly stopped on the route.
 
One negative was Nelson Agholor’s drop in the first half. Bradford hit him in the hands and the second-year wideout popped it in the air for an interception. Rueben Randle didn’t get much work with the first team.
 
We also saw plenty of three-tight end sets, a sign of things to come. Trey Burton continues to catch everything, which included a touchdown pass on Saturday night.
 
Doug gets creative
The Eagles’ first touchdown came on a 9-yard jet sweep carry to Huff. We’ve seen the Eagles work these plays in during practice, but it finally happened in a game. While many fans have been rightfully frustrated by Huff, his versatility remains the big reason why he’s probably on the 53-man roster.
 
Dominant D-line
The Eagles need their defensive line to be the catalyst for the defense and it was on Saturday night. Connor Barwin, Beau Allen and Bennie Logan had first-half sacks. And they weren’t the only ones causing pressure. Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Vinny Curry and Taylor Hart also caused trouble.
 
A couple times, Jim Schwartz lined Cox up as a defensive end and Curry inside at tackle. Cox crushed Luck on one of those plays.
 
Keeping Luck in check
The Eagles held Luck to 134 yards and no touchdowns, while the Colts first-team offense had just 129 total net yards and was 2 for 7 on third downs. Luck made a few solid throws, but didn’t do too much damage.
 
Rest of the D
The rest of the defense certainly benefitted from the strong play up front. Mychal Kendricks didn’t stand out good or bad in his first game of the preseason. The team worked in undrafted rookie C.J. Smith with the first team to get an extended look at the youngster.
 
Nolan Carroll missed a tackle in the second half that led to a big gain. Carroll did start the game with Leodis McKelvin, completing his ascension to starter over Ron Brooks. A little later on that same drive, Carroll picked off a pass to end a long drive from the Colts. It was the Eagles’ eighth interception of the preseason and third in the red zone.
 
Kicker battle
Caleb Sturgis already appeared ahead of Cody Parkey for the kicker job and Saturday certainly didn’t do anything to change that. Sturgis hit a 32-yarder and a 47-yarder, while Parkey missed an extra point.
 
Injuries
Curry left early with a knee injury and didn’t return – although he wasn’t expected to continue to play anyway. Wendell Smallwood and Chris Pantale left the game early to be evaluated for head injuries. Pantale did not have a concussion and returned. Hart left the game with a knee sprain and didn’t return.
 
Several Eagles were ruled out earlier in the week and didn’t play: Carson Wentz, Jordan Matthews, Aaron Grymes, Mike Martin, Alex McCalister, Hunter Sharp, Joe Walker and Isaac Seumalo.
 
Up next
The Eagles wrap up the preseason next week, when they host the Jets on Sept. 1. After that, they’ll have a little over a week to prepare for the season opener at home against the Browns on Sept. 11.

Roland Alberg's goal, assist propel Union past Sporting Kansas City, 2-0

us-roland-alberg.png
USA Today Images

Roland Alberg's goal, assist propel Union past Sporting Kansas City, 2-0

BOX SCORE

CHESTER, Pa. -- Roland Alberg entered the game at the perfect time.

With his club holding the man advantage as a result of Jimmy Medranda’s second yellow card in the 57th minute, Union manager Jim Curtin tapped Alberg off the bench to replace Fabian Herbers in the 65th minute. 

Two minutes later, the Union took the lead. From the left side, Fabinho found Alberg at the top of the box, where he teed off a shot at that ripped past Alec Kann to open scoring in the eventual 2-0 Union win over Sporting Kansas City on Saturday at Talen Energy Stadium.

It was Alberg’s ninth goal of the season.

The Union now have wins in back-to-back games for the first time since March, pushing their record to 11-9-7 and temporarily jumping them over the New York Red Bulls for third in the Eastern Conference. SKC falls to 11-12-5.

Facing Sporting Kansas City at Talen Energy Stadium for the first time since the 2015 U.S. Open Cup title game, the Union, who lost that game in penalty kicks, wanted to dictate tempo. However, the club was unable to break down SKC’s stout midfield until the red cards started flying.

Already down a man, things began to unravel for SKC in the 87th minute, when Roger Espinoza was shown a straight red for tossing what appeared like an inadvertent elbow to the midsection of Alberg. 

In stoppage time, up two men, the Union put the exclamation point on the win. Alberg found Tranquillo Barnetta in an open pocket of the SKC defense, and with space, the Swiss veteran placed his shot to the right and in, sealing the 2-0 win.