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

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."