Like the rest of you, we really have no idea what to expect when the Union take the pitch for the first time tonight at Qwest Field in Seattle. An expansion franchise in the first game of its inaugural season playing in front of a loud, raucous, packed house, against a team that will contend for the MLS Cup this year.
Qwest Field is unique in its architecture, like a huge clamshell that captures crowd noise and rains it down on the field. The fans there have set the bar high for new MLS franchises, which is a great thing for the league. Soon it will be our turn here in Delco, and there is a large contingent out in Seattle right now. Make us proud, SoBs & Co.
Aside from the hoopla of this huge first game, here's what our man Rev will be watching to see:
Formation - Apparently Peter Nowak is going to play a 4-3-3. How does this shape fit the talent on the team? On paper the Union's biggest strength is in the back. So, having Danny Califf, Michael Orozco, Shavar Thomas, and presumably Jordan Harvey in the back four should be their greatest strength.
- With Fred unavailable due to picking up a red card in the season finale last year who controls the midfield? It looks like Roger Torres, Amobi Okugu, and Stefani Miglioranzi will patrol the midfield. Torres and Okugu are both 18 years old. How do they hold up playing in a hostile stadium and having to cope with a veteran European star/underwear model like Freddie Ljungberg?
- Finishing - They did not score in their final two preseason matches. Who steps up amongst Alejandro Moreno, Sebastien Le Toux and Nick Zimmerman? Everything written about their training camp and preseason games indicate that Le Toux has been their most dangerous attack option. Le Toux, who is returning to Seattle, where he played last season, would obviously love to return and put one past all-time US great Kasey Keller, who will be between the sticks for Seattle.
- Keeper - Chris Seitz will start in goal for the Union. He's a 6'3", 230+ pound 22 year old who has vast international experience at the U-20 level. Nowak coached him in the last Olympics. How does Seitz control his area? Technically, does he set up his walls effectively? It'll be interesting to watch him mature over the course of the season.
- Youth - The Union have 9 players on the roster who are 22 or younger - including first overall pick Danny Mwanga, who is 18. How do they acquit themselves in their first professional game/season. I'd be mildly surprised if he sees the field tonight, but I am most looking forward to seeing 17 year old Jack McInerney play. To use a soccer term he seems "cheeky" - having scored a goal from 40+ yards out against UNC in their preseason opener.
- Set Pieces vs. Run of Play - It'll be interesting to see whether their presumed defensive posture translates to offensive chances on the counter attack. Can they generate offense from the run of play? How is the service from the flanks? How aggressive will they be in having their outside backs join the attack? In the alternative, how dangerous are their set pieces? Who is going to take corners and free kicks? Does Fred's absence affect their ability to execute on free kicks? For a team that will likely struggle to score goals they'll have to generate quality scoring opportunities on dead ball situations. While with the 76ers Larry Brown was a master at designing inbounds plays out of timeouts. Can Peter Nowak do the same and potentially steal a goal this way?
Here's a look at the roster, if you want to put names to faces.
Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images.
Rev will be along with a post tomorrow looking back on the Union's first game. Good luck to our boys out there tonight! Chances are we'll hear this at some point:
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