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

Ryan Howard's miserable May continues as Tigers out-power Phillies

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Ryan Howard's miserable May continues as Tigers out-power Phillies

DETROIT — Back when they were racking up National League East titles and filling Citizens Bank Park night after night, the Phillies could slug with anyone.
 
Those days are gone.
 
So even on a night when they got some power from two young up-and-comers in their lineup, the Phillies still couldn’t get enough to match up with the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.
 
“We don’t have enough pop to go blow for blow with them,” manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
The Tigers belted four home runs, three against starting pitcher Vince Velasquez, in beating the Phillies, 5-4, at Comerica Park (see Instant Replay).
 
Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph both homered for the Phillies, but Ryan Howard, no longer even close to the player he was during those aforementioned title years, slipped deeper into the May quicksand. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .156 on the season. He is 4 for 48 (.083) in the month of May.
 
“Man, it’s been brutal,” Howard said after the game. “I’m not going to lie. I need some breaks, man. It’s been tough. I’ve hit some balls hard, but they’re not finding any real estate out there.
 
“I have to keep grinding and swinging. Luckily, it’s still early to get it turned around.”
 
Yes, it’s early for some guys.
 
But it might not be that early for Howard. He’s 36 and in the final year of his contract. His slump has coincided with Joseph’s ascension from the minors. Joseph played first base Monday night and looked good at the position. In addition to hitting a game-tying homer in the sixth, he had a double. Half of his six hits in his first seven games in the majors have been for extra bases.
 
Joseph will continue to play first base while Howard serves as the designated hitter in the final two games of the interleague series in Detroit. After that, Joseph is expected to start against lefty Jon Lester in Chicago on Friday. If he keeps hitting — and Howard keeps struggling — the situation could be ripe for Mackanin to continue to play Joseph, even against the right-handers Howard usually sees.
 
“I'm going to look at it a week at a time,” Mackanin said. “We'll see. At some point it might come to that, but I can't say it's imminent.”
 
If Howard starts spending more time on the bench, it will be part of a downhill progression that started in the second half of last season when he became a platoon player. Will a progression to the bench ultimately lead to his being released in the coming weeks? Well, if Joseph keeps hitting and continues to earn playing time, management may have to seriously ponder the move.
 
Even with Franco and Joseph hitting home runs, the Phillies didn’t have enough to match the Tigers’ thunder.
 
Miguel Cabrera belted two home runs and in the seventh inning clubbed his 500th career double. He then came around to score the go-ahead run on a single by Victor Martinez.
 
Entering the game, the Tigers were among the top teams in the American League in batting average (.265), runs per game (4.60), homers (56) and OPS (.758).
 
Meanwhile, the Phillies couldn’t get much lower in offense. They ranked near the bottom in the National League in batting average (.233), runs per game (3.23), homers (32) and OPS (.651).
 
“You look up and down their lineup on the scoreboard and it looks like everybody is hitting .300 with eight or 10 home runs,” Mackanin said. “It can be daunting.
 
“The middle of their lineup hurt us with the long ball. We knew they were swinging the bats well lately. They weren’t earlier. Now they’re swinging well and we couldn’t contain them.
 
“We got 12 hits of our own. But they’ve got a lot of power on that team.”
 
The Phillies are at the start of a challenging trip — three in Detroit followed by three against the Cubs in Wrigley Field. The Cubs have the majors’ best record. The Phillies, a surprising four games over .500, will be tested on this trip.
 
They did not pass the first test. Velasquez had trouble commanding his pitches and for the second straight start ran a high pitch count. He took a 3-1 lead to the mound in the fifth, but it evaporated quickly under the weight of homers by J.D. Martinez and Cabrera. Reliever Colton Murray also gave up a homer in the inning. He also allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh as Mackanin held David Hernandez back in case the Phils got a lead.
 
“Velasquez didn’t have any command of his secondary pitches, pretty basic stuff, and he left some fastballs over the plate,” Mackanin said. “You have to throw quality pitches to a lineup like this. If you make mistakes against them, they don’t miss. If you don’t command your secondary pitches against good hitters, they become like sharks and smell blood and hit the fastball.”
 
Velasquez said he should have gotten the loss, not Murray.
 
“You can’t shy away from hitters and I did that,” he said. “You’ve got to pitch inside. I pitched around them.
 
“I’ve got to do something about this. I’ve got to challenge hitters.”

With game on the line, Pete Mackanin benches his best player for lack of hustle

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With game on the line, Pete Mackanin benches his best player for lack of hustle

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DETROIT — Phillies manager Pete Mackanin made a strong statement Monday night when he benched his best hitter in the seventh inning of a tie game.
 
With Odubel Herrera on the bench for the final innings, the Phillies went on to lose, 5-4, to the Detroit Tigers (see Instant Replay).
 
Mackanin did not regret his decision to yank Herrera and his team-high .335 batting average from the game.
 
“It’s important to me to set that tone,” Mackanin said. “When you don’t hustle, I’ve got a problem.”
 
Herrera had singled in each of his first three at-bats. He drove in the Phillies’ first run with a hit in the third inning.
 
But when he bounced back to the pitcher and took his time getting to first base in the seventh, Mackanin abruptly pulled him. Even Ryan Howard said something to Herrera in the dugout.
 
“He didn’t run,” Mackanin said. “One of the ingredients to our success to this point is the fact that guys play with energy and they play hard. We’re training them to play the game the right way and not running is not the right way.”
 
Herrera said he did not run because he was “frustrated” and “angry” with the at-bat. He said Tigers reliever Justin Wilson “got in his head” by varying his delivery times. Herrera even mentioned that Wilson quick-pitched him.
 
“The pitcher was playing with me,” he said. “I have to learn from it. I didn’t think [Mackanin] was going to bench me, but I understand why. I can’t argue. I was frustrated. I respect the decision. I know that I did wrong. I have to learn from my mistakes and it won’t happen again.”
 
Mackanin is a huge fan of Herrera. He has predicted the 24-year-old Venezuelan will someday win a batting title.
 
But Mackanin indicated after Monday night’s game that Herrera might be developing some bad habits — at least when it comes to the hustle that Mackanin values. The front office values it, too. Playing with “energy” is something the front office frequently says it wants to see, and the ability to get his players to play with energy is one of Mackanin’s strengths.
 
“I’ve seen it in the past and it’s been trickling in,” Mackanin said of Herrera’s occasional lapses in hustle. “I didn’t like it and I made the decision. He knows he should have run.”
 
Jonathan Papelbon put a chokehold on Bryce Harper’s neck last year in Washington for a similar transgression.
 
In the Phillies’ dugout Monday night, Herrera got a little talking-to from Howard.
 
“That was great to see,” Mackanin said.
 
Said Howard: “Doobie's got a lot of promise. He’s going to be around this game for a long time. He makes things happen. He brings energy to the game.
 
“The pitcher lost the grip and had to double-pump. If you’re running hard, maybe he makes a bad throw and you’re on base.
 
“I just told him, ‘You’ve got to keep going. I know it’s not the at-bat you wanted, but look at me, bro, I’m still out there grinding.’ If he’s running there, the pitcher could throw it away and he could be on second and we could squeeze a run out.”
 
Howard went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .156 on the season. He is 4 for 48 (.083) in the month of May (see story).
 
Mackanin said his message to Herrera was complete. Herrera will be back in the starting lineup on Tuesday night.

NBA Playoffs: Raptors hold off Cavs to even East Finals 2-2

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NBA Playoffs: Raptors hold off Cavs to even East Finals 2-2

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TORONTO -- A series that once looked lopsided is now even.

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points, including a driving layup in the final minute, and DeMar DeRozan had 32 as the Toronto Raptors evened the Eastern Conference Finals by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-99 in Game 4 on Monday night.

DeMarre Carroll scored 11 points and Bismack Biyombo had 14 rebounds as Toronto improved to 8-2 at home this postseason and got back on level terms after big losses in Games 1 and 2.

"We've been counted out, and we like that challenge," DeRozan said.

The next challenge for Toronto? Game 5 on Wednesday night in Cleveland, where the Raptors are 0-3 this season, losing by a combined 72 points.

"We have to continue to make sure that when they punch, we punch back," Lowry said. "And if they punch three times, we punch four times."

The Raptors are 2-6 on the road in the playoffs.

After a 10-0 start to these playoffs, the Cavaliers are counting on home court advantage to help them reach their second straight Finals.

"Going back home we have to play a lot better and I think we will," LeBron James said.

Cleveland lost consecutive playoff games to an Eastern Conference opponent for the first time since dropping the final three games of the conference semifinals to Boston in 2010.

"We had a few defensive breakdowns that you can't have down the stretch of a game, especially in the playoffs," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "They executed every time we made a mistake."

James scored 29 points and Kyrie Irving had 26 for the Cavaliers, who trailed by as many as 18 points. Channing Frye scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.

Lowry scored nine in the fourth and DeRozan had 12, connecting on five of six shots.

"It's a cakewalk for me when (Lowry) gets going," DeRozan said. "It opens up everything."

The Raptors led 78-69 to begin the fourth but Frye made consecutive 3-pointers as Cleveland opened the final quarter with an 8-0 run, cutting it to 78-77. The Cavaliers made their first 11 shots of the fourth quarter.

"It wasn't enough because we got off to a horrible first half once again in this building and you're playing catch up the whole game," James said.

Frye's errant 3-point attempt at 4:12 was Cleveland's first miss of the fourth. DeRozan made two free throws at the other end and, after another miss by Frye, Carroll made one of two to put Toronto up 99-96 with 3:23 to go.

A long 3 by Irving made it 101-99 with 2:00 left, but DeRozan answered with a driving bank shot at 1:33. Toronto got the ball back after Biyombo blocked J.R. Smith's 3, and Biyombo kept the offensive possession alive by rebounding Lowry's missed shot. After a timeout, Lowry let the shot clock wind down before driving for the decisive layup, making it 105-99 with 22 seconds to go.

Toronto jumped out to a 13-5 lead as Cleveland missed eight of its first 10 shots. Following a timeout, the Cavs made five of their next six to cut the deficit but the Raptors led 27-24 after one quarter.

Lowry scored 15 points in the second, making three of Toronto's four 3-pointers, as the Raptors opened a 57-41 halftime lead despite not shooting a single free throw in the first two quarters. It marked the first time a team led by 15 or more at halftime in a conference finals game without shooting a free throw since Game 2 of the 2001 East Finals between Milwaukee and Philadelphia. The Bucks made two of six from the line, the fewest ever made in an NBA playoff game at the time.

DeRozan shot Toronto's first free throws at 6:13 of the third after being tackled by Smith on a drive. The foul drought came after Raptors coach Dwane Casey was fined $25,000 for criticizing the officials following Toronto's Game 3 win.

Fans cheered derisively when Matthew Dellavedova was called for Cleveland's first foul of the game at 8:56 of the second.

Not much to Love
After shooting 3 for 19 in Game 3, Kevin Love shot 4 for 14 in Game 4. He finished with 10 points. Love did not play in the fourth after appearing to injure his left ankle when he stepped on referee David Guthrie late in the third. "It didn't feel too great," Love said. Lue said Love's health was "no concern."

Fair and foul
Cleveland didn't shoot any free throws in the third quarter and had just two in the fourth. Twelve of Toronto's 19 free throws came in the fourth.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: James and Irving each had six assists. ... Cleveland shot 3 for 23 from 3-point range in the first half. The finished 13 for 41. . Cleveland's Dahntay Jones served a one-game suspension for hitting Biyombo in the groin in Game 3.

Raptors: Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas was active but did not play. He's been out since spraining his right ankle in the third quarter of Game 3 against Miami on May 7. ... Toronto is 10-1 in the playoffs when holding opponents below 100 points.