The Inside Doop: Winning streak snapped
And there goes the winning streak.
After reeling off three straight league victories for the first time in franchise history, the Philadelphia Union dropped a 2-0 decision to the rival New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
How did it happen? Let’s take a look in this week’s “Inside Doop.”Three thoughts from Saturday’s game
1. Despite winning the possession battle, the Union only mustered two shots on target. Could that be because one of their top playmakers, Freddy Adu, didn’t make the trip because what the team called a “team matter?” It’s certainly possible but Adu has been up-and-down this season and the Union were still unlucky not to score on a Josue Martinez breakaway in the first half and when Antoine Hoppenot was called offside in stoppage time. The offense wasn’t great but it also wasn’t terrible.
2. The main issue from Saturday’s game was controlling New York’s 6-foot-3 manchild of a striker, Kenny Cooper. He headed home the only two goals of the game against a Union backline that just didn’t have enough height to effectively match up with him. Cooper could have easily had a couple of more goals too, if not for some more big saves from Union keeper Zac MacMath. The backline has been effective most of the season but perhaps a weakness was exposed Saturday in New Jersey.
3. Hackworth had an interesting quote after the game when asked about the team’s apparent frustration at the referees. “On our part, it’s a lack of composure,” he said. “However, I don’t think it’s unwarranted.” He didn’t expand on that because, he said, he didn’t want to get fined. But the inconsistency of MLS referees has seemed to hurt the Union in recent weeks – namely, in their US Open Cup loss to Sporting Kansas City and again Saturday when the Hoppenot offside call on a late goal appeared to be unjust. Unfortunately, there’s not anything the Union can do about this, other than try to keep their composure even when calls don’t go their way.Three questions for the upcoming week
1. Obviously, there is no greater question right now than the availability of Adu. Since Hackworth didn’t elaborate on what the specific “team matter” was, rampant speculation began on whether the former child prodigy could be on his way out of Philly. But based on a couple of tweets from Adu and a comment from Hackworth, it appears to be nothing more than a disciplinary issue and that Adu will be available for next Sunday’s game against New England. Still, it’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
2. Before the Revolution visit, PPL Park will host the MLS All-Star game Wednesday, pitting the league’s best players against English Premier League power Chelsea. The MLS All-Stars will be looking to avenge back-to-back losses to Manchester United but perhaps the biggest thing Union fans will be looking for is center back Carlos Valdés, the only Philly player to make the squad. How much will Valdés play against Chelsea? Will he be able to shut down their high-powered attack? The only thing we know for sure is he’ll definitely hear a loud ovation from the crowd when his name is announced.
3. Could Bakary Soumaré be ready to go after the all-star break? The talented center back was signed by the Union a month ago but has yet to suit up as he recovers from a knee injury. The timing of his return could be interesting since it became clear Saturday the Union could use more height in the box to defend set pieces and crosses. And at 6-foot-4, Soumaré has a lot of that.
Fact of the week: The only other time the MLS All-Stars played Chelsea, they picked up a 1-0 victory in 2006, on the strength of a goal from Dwayne De Rosario and the coaching of Peter Nowak. De Rosario is back on the all-star team this year but Nowak, of course, won’t be there – even though he was originally tabbed as the head coach before getting dismissed by the Union.
Quote of the week: “Soccer’s a funny game. You can play really well and lose and play really bad and win. I’m not saying we played really well but in a lot of ways, we did what we wanted to do. Just the result didn’t go our way.” – Union manager John Hackworth
Player of the week: Yes, he gave up two goals in Saturday’s loss. But Zac MacMath continued his strong play of late with five saves, including a couple of very impressive ones.Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for CSNPhilly.com and MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.