Notes on the Union's Tough Loss in Toronto

Notes on the Union's Tough Loss in Toronto

Our man Rev reviews last night's tough loss for us. These are his words.

The soccer gods must’ve been held up at the border, because the Union certainly deserved a better fate last night. Following a straight red to Danny Califf in the 34th minute the Union were forced to play down a man for 60+ minutes in an hard luck 2-1 loss to Toronto. A loss is a loss, is a loss, but under the circumstances I thought the Union played fairly well. It’s just unfortunate, and somewhat amazing, that in their three games they’ve played down a man approximately 40% of the time. They’ve got to find a way to finish games with eleven players on the field.

Truth be told though, were it not for the E-6 on Chris Seitz on the Dwayne De Rosario goal on the free kick following Califf’s red card the Union were in line to earn a point, which would have been a fine result.  Instead they have to wait until they play again next Saturday in order to put this loss behind them.

As expected Peter Nowak went with the same starting eleven as last week in the home opener against D.C. They again came out in a 4-4-2 with Seitz between the sticks, Jordan Harvey, Micahel Orozco, Danny Califf, and Cristian Arrieta in the back four, Roger Torres, Andrew Jacobson, Stefani Miglioranzi, and Fred in the midfield, with Alejandro Moreno and Sebastien Le Toux up top. I’ll give you some general impressions and observations before getting into an analysis of how each Union player fared.

  • It was nice to see Max Bretos handling studio duties for ESPN. Since moving over from Fox Soccer Channel I’ve really only seen him on ESPNEWS. I know he rubs some people the wrong way, but I’ve always enjoyed him, particularly his over-enunciation of Spanish names.
  • Everything started well for the Union as they had the better of the possession early on. They drew two early yellow cards on Toronto, including a crunching tackle by Raivis Hscanovics against Arrieta, which could have been a straight red. It was just an ugly tackle.
  • They played another well conceived short corner resulting in a chance from distance by Jacobson. To me that’s a sign of a disciplined team who works on set pieces in training. On the opposite end of the spectrum they need to do a better job defending corners. Marking has been lax resulting in too many good chances. They’re going to give up a goal on one of these soon.
  • The Harvey goal was a thing of beauty. The Union have showed they can score in transition. This instance was all the more impressive considering they were down a man at the time. From the time Fred won the ball at his own 18 the Union strung together six passes as Harvey made an 80+ yard run to get on the end of the Torres pass. I thought this would have been a backbreaking goal, down a man, in stoppage time…I guess not.
  • As commenter MikeB pointed out in the game thread (fyi – I was beyond thrilled there was a game thread) the decision to take Roger Torres off and introduce Shavar Thomas into the game was questionable at best, and damaging at worst. Nowak has done a fine job thus far, but it’s fair to call into question a number of his decisions here in the early going (starting David Myrie, playing Orozco, Toni Stahl, and Danny Mwanga out of position against Seattle – somewhat necessitated by the Fred suspension, and last night’s decision to bring in Thomas).

We’ll take the player analysis from the backline forward.

  • Seitz – another rocky game for the keeper. Obviously, spilling the De Rosario free kick was a huge mistake. That cannot happen from your #1 goalie. It’s as simple as that. He was whistled for the penalty which led to the game winning PK by De Rosario. It was encouraging to see him come off his line on the play, but I thought he hesitated in making the decision to come out. It was a foul and Toronto deserved the PK. I cannot say I’ve seen a whole lot of improvement from Seitz thus far.
  • Harvey – by far his best game of the season. He ran all night. His overlapping runs were well timed. Scored the Union’s lone goal on a tremendous run from the back to get on the other end of a perfectly weighted cross from Torres. He took the goal well. Oh, and all the more impressive he made that goal scoring run from the back while the Union were down a man.
  • Orozco – aside from an early miscommunication with Seitz played a relatively error-free game. Got forward on occasion just missing a scoring chance off a Torres free kick into the box. Was forced to take control of the back line following Califf getting sent off.
  • Califf – early on combined well with Orozco in shutting down De Rosario. They didn’t give him much space on the ball. Was shocked that the official gave him a straight red. Yes, he played an awful ball back to Seitz and compounded the mistake by fouling de Guzman, but I did not think it warranted a red. He did not impede a clear goal scoring opportunity. He had not been booked or warned prior to that foul. I thought the card was harsh.
  • Arrieta – was phenomenal before they went down a man. Got forward and played a couple of dangerous balls into the box. On multiple occasions he stepped up and picked off passes when the Union played a high line. Was forced to shut down his offensive runs and play conservatively following the Califf red.
  • Torres – he just keeps getting better with each game. Creates so much space for himself with his misdirection. His service was stellar. I was encouraged to see him uncork a shot from distance, despite the fact it was blocked. As mentioned already he played a gorgeous ball to Harvey for the goal. If they’re not negotiating with his Columbian club team to extend his loan they better start.
  • Jacobson – was more involved in the offense than he had been previously. Attempted a couple of shots from distance. Good work rate throughout, particularly when they went down a man.
  • Miglioranzi – honestly, the quietest central midfield player I think I’ve ever seen. He doesn’t stick out (good or bad). Very conservative in his play. Not a bruising holding midfielder, and not a string puller either. Perhaps there are subtleties to his game I am missing?
  • Fred – he’d probably be my man of the match. Unbelievable skill and patience on the ball. Gets out of incredibly tight spaces. So calm. Was singlehandedly responsible for jumpstarting the transition on the Harvey goal. There is no panic in his game. He’s really fun to watch.
  •  Moreno – was also instrumental in setting up Harvey’s goal thanks to some nice combination play with Le Toux. Drew an early foul resulting in a yellow on Usanov. Once again, being forced to play down a man forced him into chase-mode and was not given the opportunity to check back and hold up play.
  • Le Toux – had a snap header on goal in the 49th minute thanks to a tremendous cross into the box by Torres. Ran tirelessly all night. Withdrew into a midfield role in the second half as they tried to hang on for the tie. He’s just a skilled, hardworking, versatile player.

SUBSTITUTES

  • Shavar Thomas – here is a direct quote from my notes “55th minute defensive sub for Torres.  Sees yellow in the 57th minute. Good to see he channeled his inner-Myrie. “ He was brutal in his  first appearance for the Union. Nowak’s decision to take Torres off was made all the worse by  Thomas’s performance. They are clearly lacking depth in the back.
  • Amobi Okugo – played around 20 minutes or so. Did nothing to warrant criticism or praise.

 Again, this being an expansion side I am trying to be realistic in my assessment. I thought this was a total 180˚ - in a good way – from the way they played down a man against Seattle. Obviously Toronto is not as quality a side as Seattle, but I was incredibly impressed with them and thought they had the better of play. They do not play again until next Saturday night when they travel to northern New Jersey to take on the Red Bulls. Hopefully they figure out a way to keep all eleven men on that brand new field up there. 

Photos by  Abelimages / Getty Images

Philly Mayor goes to bat for Eagles fans, cheesesteaks against John Oliver

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HBO's Last Week Tonight

Philly Mayor goes to bat for Eagles fans, cheesesteaks against John Oliver

Charter schools. They're complicated!

After watching John Oliver's segment on them over the weekend, you'd agree there is plenty of nuance involved in the charter school debate. But also that some of them are dirty as all get out. An underground nightclub at a SCHOOL? Jeez. That can't be okay anywhere.

It's a solid segment. But it also took a couple of unneeded digs at the city of Philadelphia, its cuisine, and its sports fans.

That irked the Mayor of Philadelphia and he fought back today on Twitter.

"Agree on charter oversight but English soccer fan who eats fish from newsprint can't judge Eagles fans, cheesesteaks," Jim Kenney tweeted.

Take that you fish-eating Brit!

You can also watch the entire John Oliver segment from Last Week Tonight below.

On Eagles' roster bubble, Marcus Smith finally showing signs of improvement

On Eagles' roster bubble, Marcus Smith finally showing signs of improvement

Final cuts are a little over a week away. Marcus Smith is trying to impress a coaching staff that didn't draft him. Steven Means has had a very good preseason. Smith has little to show for his first two NFL seasons.

If time is running out on the former first-round pick from Louisville, it's not weighing on him.

"I try not to think about those things," Smith said. "Just go out there every single day and not worry about what's going on around me because everything will take care of itself."

Smith, in his first year as a 4-3 defensive end after struggling in two seasons as a 3-4 linebacker, missed the preseason game against the Bucs with a concussion but actually played very well Thursday night in Pittsburgh, with four tackles, a sack, two tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry.

It didn't count. But it was the kind of performance the Eagles have been waiting for since they made Smith the 26th pick in the 2014 draft.

Smith played just 68 snaps as a rookie, getting more than seven snaps in only four games. Last year, he played five or fewer snaps in nine of 16 games.

But new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz has given Smith every opportunity to shine, and he liked what he saw in Pittsburgh.

"The thing I'm most proud about with Marcus is that he's done a good job in the run game," Schwartz said.

"He's a very skilled athlete. He's fast and he's smooth. I think he was a quarterback when he first went to Louisville. I mean, that stuff shows. Where he's really making good improvement is setting the edge of our defense [and] attacking tackles.

"He did that against a physical group from Pittsburgh. That was a great sign."

Smith was asked about his run defense being an underrated part of his game, and he disagreed with the assessment.

"For myself, it's not an underrated part,  but everybody else thinks that it's underrated because they see me as just a pass rusher," he said.

"But I also know that I can play the run and stop the run and rush the passer at the same time, and when you have both those tools then it allows the coaches to be able to put you in the game more."

When the preseason began, it was just kind of a foregone conclusion that Smith's time in Philly had run out.

Now, he's battling not only for a roster spot, presumably with Means, but also for playing time behind defensive ends Vinny Curry, Connor Barwin and Brandon Graham.

Smith insists he's not worried about where he fits in on a roster that's loaded on the defensive line.

"I don't think about those things because if you think about things you can't control you tend to not do the things that you're supposed to do," he said.

"So I just worry about what I can control and just get better and play well."

Smith is on three special teams units — kickoff, punt and kickoff return — which gives him a few more opportunities to show he belongs.

More than anything, for the first time since he got to the NFL, he's brimming with confidence.

That, more than anything else, was missing the last two seasons.

"I feel really comfortable just because the scheme and the type of defense that we're playing, it allows me to just be a defensive end and go make plays," he said.

"My confidence level is really high. I feel that when I'm out on the field I can't be stopped."

Russell Wilson still affecting Eagles' decision-making

Russell Wilson still affecting Eagles' decision-making

By now, most Eagles fans have probably heard stories that the team coveted Russell Wilson in the 2012 NFL draft but waited too long and wound up watching helplessly as he went to the Seahawks. Doug Pederson was just an offensive quality control coordinator with the Birds back then, but even he realizes how losing out on a franchise quarterback altered the course of history.

“If we’d have drafted Russell Wilson in 2012, we’d still be here as coaches,” Pederson said with a smile.

That's what Pederson told Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com, and there might be a bit of truth to it. Despite concerns over his stature, it turns out Wilson was an outstanding NFL signal-caller from the jump. And while he was surrounded by a dominant defense and ground attack, he likely would've been a winner just about anywhere.

Actually, Wilson may not have been good enough to save Andy Reid's head coaching job in Philadelphia or his staff — after 14 years, it was time, and an offensive line depleted by injuries was the real reason behind a 4-12 final season. Regardless, Pederson learned something from waiting too long on Wilson in the draft, and based on the Eagles' aggressive move for Carson Wentz this year, the organization did too.

Simply enough, if you like a quarterback, Pederson says, “Take him. Take him. Take the best available one. If you’re not planning for the quarterback position, you’re probably not going to win many games.”

...

“There’s a lesson there. Seattle, they felt like we did with Russell Wilson,” Pederson said. “We got Nick Foles right after that, and I love Nick Foles and think he’s gonna be a good quarterback in this league and do well for Kansas City. But if you’re not planning for that position ...”

For as much criticism or questioning as the Eagles have faced for their plan at quarterback this year, "take him" certainly was not the issue. In addition to all of players and draft collateral they gave up for Wentz, they also invested large sums of money into current starter Sam Bradford and long-term backup Chase Daniel.

If you think Pederson and executive vice president of personnel Howie Roseman's experience of missing out on Wilson didn't play a role in those moves, the head coach made it quite clear to the contrary. While Eagles fans would prefer the known quantity and proven Super Bowl champion under center, you can't say this regime hasn't done everything in its power to erase that mistake.