The Inside Doop: Finding some offense
CHESTER, Pa. – Through most of the 2012 season, the Philadelphia Union simply could not score.
But in their past six games, they’ve found the back of the net 15 times, capped by a 3-0 dismantling of Toronto FC on Sunday.
How have they done it? Let’s take a look in this week’s “Inside Doop.”Three thoughts from Sunday’s game
1. It’s hard to pinpoint one reason why the offense is clicking but interim manager John Hackworth knows not to mess with a good thing. Unlike his predecessor, Peter Nowak, who seemed to love tinkering with the lineup, Hackworth is sticking with what works – which, in simplest terms, is a fluid 4-3-3 formation that allows talented players like Michael Farfan, Freddy Adu, Jack McInerney, among others, to have the confidence and freedom to create dangerous chances in the offensive third. Toronto, of course, is the worst team in the league, but the offensive show the Union put on was still a thing of beauty.
2. Michael Farfan has been absolutely outstanding. The second-year midfielder followed up his one-goal, one-assist outing in Wednesday’s thrilling 2-1 win over the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy with two more assists against Toronto. His ability to find the open man and make pinpoint through passes, as he did to spring super-sub Antoine Hoppenot free for the team’s third goal Sunday, is one of the main reasons why the Union look poised to make a playoff push. The way he and his twin brother Gabriel can control the ball on their foot is also a lot of fun to watch.
3. While the offense has been getting most of the attention for the Union’s sudden revival, the defense has been solid as well, especially in its shutout of Toronto. Philly’s backline foursome of left back Gabriel Farfan, center backs Amobi Okugo and Carlos Valdes and right back Sheanon Williams has been working very well together to limit the work of goalkeeper Zac MacMath of late. Three of the four have even made saves off the goal line in the past two games, which is not something you see very often.Three questions for the upcoming week
1. The Union have another busy week as they face Sporting Kansas City in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals on Wednesday, followed by their first-ever game against the expansion Montreal Impact on Saturday. Judging by Hackworth’s history, we have a pretty good idea that he’ll stick with a similar lineup and strategy for the big U.S. Open Cup game. One thing that will be interesting to watch for, though, is what kind of fan support there will be for Wednesday’s contest against SKC. The Union have certainly played up the importance of the tournament and the fans seem to be excited about the team’s deep run, too. But getting a full stadium for midweek U.S. Open Cup games has not been an easy task.
2. Prized acquisition Bakary Soumaré has still not made his Union debut as he works toward full fitness. An imposing center back, Soumaré will certainly help the Union’s backline when he does make his way into the lineup … but at who’s expense? Okugo has been arguably one of the team’s best players over the past few games but his natural position is at holding midfield. And the team’s starting holding midfielder, Brian Carroll, has been one of the team’s most reliable, if sometimes overlooked, players. It’s definitely a question moving forward but also a good problem to have.
3. Freddy Adu was one of the best players on the field in Sunday’s win and was thrilled to play a full 90 minutes for the first time in almost a month. But will he remain a 90-minute player? Hackworth seems to like replacing him in close games, sometimes with the speedy Hoppenot. Adu, however, wants it to be known that he’s willing to be a two-way player, so he doesn’t have to come out early. We’ll see what happens.
Fact of the week: In the last four meetings between the two clubs, the Union have outscored Toronto by a 10-4 margin.
Quote of the week: “Sometimes you just get in the zone. I just wish I was in that zone all the time.” – Freddy Adu
Player of the week: Michael Farfan was not only the best Union player this week; he was arguably one of the best players in the league.Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for CSNPhilly.com and MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.