The Inside Doop: What went wrong?

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The Inside Doop: What went wrong?

When John Hackworth took over as head coach for Peter Nowak three weeks ago, the Philadelphia Union began to look better on the field while creating more good feelings off of it.

But despite that, the Union have still struggled to win games consistently, as evidenced most recently by their disheartening 2-1 loss to the Houston Dynamo on Saturday.

What went wrong for the Union as they dropped to 3-9-2 on the season and 1-2 in league games since Hackworth took over? Lets take a look back and then a look ahead to whats next in this weeks Inside Doop.
Three thoughts about Saturdays game.

1. The turning point of the game was obviously the call that led to the game-winning penalty kick goal from Brian Ching late in the second half. Was it a good call? Probably not. Should it have mattered? People seem to fall into two camps on this issue, with some saying the Union should have done more to make sure it didnt and others complaining about the referees power to make game-changing calls on questionable plays like this one. In this particular case, I fall more into the camp of the latter, although I respect Hackworth for what he said afterwards

2. Instead of complaining about the call, Hackworth chose to focus on his teams own shortcomings. Namely, he critiqued the fact that the Union failed to capitalize on a couple of easy chances to pull ahead 2-1 just minutes after tying the game early in the second half. Its probably not a coincidence that the missed opportunities happened with Jack McInerney a striker that knows how to finish and someone thats come alive under Hackworth missed the game due to illness.

3. One of the bright spots for the Union was on Keon Daniels goal as the midfielder scored on an impressive left-footed blast from distance. Hackworth later said the coaches have been encouraging Daniel to shoot more. But it will be interesting to see if the goal helps Daniel stay in the regular rotation, considering Saturday marked his first start under Hackworth and that the Union already have a crowded midfield.Three questions for the upcoming week

1. The Unions defense has been strong recently, having not surrendered more than one goal in a league match since May 13. In fact, the Union have only given up 17 goals all season, which ranks third in MLS. But the unit will face one of their biggest tests of the season Wednesday with a difficult road matchup against Landon Donovan, David Beckham and the rest of the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy, who have scored three goals in each of the past three games. Will the Unions defense crack in California?

2. Hackworth did some lineup and formational changes in Houston, in part to give some players rest during a grueling stretch. The main players who sat out were Freddy Adu and McInerney, two of the main cogs in the 4-3-3 system that had worked so well for the Union in their last two contests coming into Houston. If McInerney is feeling better, Hackworth will likely insert those two back in the lineup against the Galaxy. But after a bout with food poisoning, will the young strike be ready to go in time for the game?

3. Its too early to talk about must-win games but if the Union cant get any points against the Galaxy and then lose to Toronto on Sunday, they will be in last place in the Eastern Conference at almost the halfway point in the season. There will still be time, of course, to put together a winning streak but at what point, if at all, do they stop believing that making the playoffs is a possibility?
Fact of the week: With his goal Saturday, Keon Daniel became only the sixth Union player to score through 14 league games this season. Last year they had 16 different goal-scorers.
Quote of the week: We had two chances to put the ball on frame and their sitters really. They have to be finished. Those are the critical moments of the game. Union interim manager John Hackworth
Player of the week: Amobi Okugo continues to shine at center back and gets the nod this week. The third-year player didnt make any mistakes and made one possibly goal-saving tackle in the penalty area.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for CSNPhilly.com and MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.

Union draft Chris Nanco, Jack Elliott in third and fourth rounds

Union draft Chris Nanco, Jack Elliott in third and fourth rounds

With an eye on potential, the Union selected two forwards and a defender as they wrapped up the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 MLS draft on Tuesday.

With the 55th overall selection, the Union grabbed Chris Nanco, a Canadian-born forward out of Syracuse. The 5-foot-6 speedster, who led his club with 15 points over his senior season, was listed as a second-round talent on some draft boards.

Moving into the fourth and final round, the Union selected West Virginia defender Jack Elliott with the 77th overall pick. Opposite of the diminutive Nanco, Elliott, out of London, stands at a hulking 6-foot-5. Also listed as a defensive midfielder, Elliott showed a twinge of offense and started all 16 games for the Mountaineers in his senior season, playing a part in eight shutouts over that span.

Back in 2015, the Union moved defender Ethan White to New York City FC for the 82nd overall pick in 2017. That trade finalized on Tuesday when the Union selected productive Spanish forward Santi Moar out of Pfeiffer University. Moar scored 14 goals and 19 assists in 20 games with Pfeiffer as a sophomore in 2016.

Although these picks aren’t guaranteed to be with the club by the end of training camp, the Union will heavily utilize USL affiliate Bethlehem Steel to assist in the development of prospects who do make it.

Without a first-round pick, the Union traded up to select Marcus Epps, an attacking midfielder in the early second round. They also added depth at right back Aaron Jones with the 33rd overall pick.

Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

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Union trade up in 2nd round to draft Marcus Epps, also add Aaron Jones

With no first-round picks in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft on Friday in Los Angeles, the Union were still able to add what they were looking for. 

“We got two players today that we want to be with the Philadelphia Union for a long time,” Union manager Jim Curtin said.

The club made a splash early in the second round by trading the 42nd overall pick, originally acquired by the Union, sending Zac MacMath to the Colorado Rapids, and $50,000 in 2018 General Allocation Money to the Minnesota United for the 25th overall pick. 

With that selection, the Union plucked Marcus Epps, an athletic right wing midfielder out of the University of South Florida. 

“We didn’t want to wait any longer,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “We were afraid Marc would go sooner, so we made sure we were ready to do a deal and creep up the board so we could get him.”

Epps admitted he didn’t know much about the Union. He wasn’t in attendance at the draft but was thrilled at hearing his name called over the MLS live stream.

“I’ve been on the phone with family and friends,” he said. “I was huddled around the laptop, streaming in and hoping to hear the good news. 

“I was definitely surprised and excited.”

Epps, listed by MLS at 5-foot-10, is 22 and a native of Jackson, Mississippi. According to both Stewart and Curtin, Epps is an adept one-on-one player and a skillful attacking winger that fits the Union’s style. He’s also right-footed and stated that he has experience on both the left and right wing in the midfield.

“He has speed, he has agility, he’s a big boy,” Stewart said. “The combination of those factors and the philosophy that we have at the Philadelphia Union, we believe we can develop this kid to be something very special. If you have the ability that he has on the ball and the speed that he has, that can create a lot of chaos in the opponent’s half. That’s something we look forward to developing in Marcus.” 

However, while Epps’ numbers at USF aren’t eye-popping, Stewart isn’t worried. The young player spent most of his senior season with an iliotibial band injury but scored eight goals and nine assists in 75 games over four seasons with USF. 

“We bring players in to develop them,” Stewart said. “If they had all the numbers in college or youth teams, they would have gone one or two. He has certain qualities that not every player has. Keegan Rosenberry (current Union right back) didn’t have the numbers other people had at the same time. I think we made a good choice with Keegan.” 

Even with their move up in the second round, the Union still possessed their original second-round pick — the 33rd overall selection. There, they added depth by drafting aggressive 5-foot-9 right back Aaron Jones out of Clemson. 

“I’m delighted to join the Union and excited at the direction that franchise is moving,” Jones said. “I’m extremely proud of what Keegan was able to do last year. It’s [what] I want to emulate in my career. I want to push him and try and play as many games as I can next year. Injuries happen in sports, so if the chance is given to me, I’m going to take it.”

Jones, who hails from Great Yarmouth in the U.K. and claims to be a set-piece specialist, transferred from Georgia State to Clemson for the 2015 and 2016 seasons. Like Epps, Curtin, who noted Jones’ soccer IQ and tenacity, sees the right back fitting in nicely with the Union style.

“He really impressed us,” said Curtin, who noted that Jones will compete with Rosenberry and Ray Gaddis for playing time. “He’s a kid who will compete from Day 1. He wins his one-on-one battles defensively, he embraces the defensive part of the game and he’s a guy that wants to get better every day. He has a Union mentality and will be a guy our fans will be high on.

“He has an impressive skillset.”

The Union will take part in the third and fourth rounds of the 2017 draft on Jan. 17, in which the club owns the 55th, 77th and 82nd pick.