Conor Casey 3

What went wrong Saturday for the Philadelphia Union?


If we boil it down, the Union’s failure to make the playoffs was about an offense that simply doesn’t work. Alas for the young Union, Philadelphia’s entire season was there in microcosm on a chilly Saturday afternoon at PPL Park.

The Union needed a win Saturday at home over Sporting Kansas City. Obviously, that meant needing a goal – and that’s something of a problem around PPL Park. Consider that John Hackworth’s team had scored just 22 goals in 16 previous matches at PPL Park. That’s just not good enough. (Had Philly sneaked into the post-season, it would have gone in with the fewest goals at home.)

Hackworth’s team wasn’t bad on the road, where its grinding style earned points sufficiently for a club with post-season ambition. But at home, where teams generally feel better about attacking, Philadelphia’s offense was stuck in the mud way too often.

Even when Hackworth’s team did produce a goal or two in 2013, so much of that was simply about a hot striker. First it was spring scoring sensation Jack McInerney, and then Conor Casey took over for a spell in the summer. When the inevitable cooling off arrived, the Union output disappeared.

Why? Start with the lack of creativity; Michael Farfan simply isn’t there yet as a prime-time playmaker. And the Brazilian DP Kleberson just never panned out. (When your veteran DP playmaker has to come off after 64 minutes in a match you simply must win, as he did Saturday, something has gone terribly wrong.

There’s no discernible attacking plan at PPL Park, other than a general use of Casey as a hold-up target. And when the Union does get balls forward, there’s just not enough quality in the crossing, shooting and movement near goal.

Worst of all, perhaps, was watching the Union before the break. Again, this was a match where Philadelphia had to score. And yet, too many times, Hackworth’s team just didn’t get sufficient numbers forward, which seems inexcusable.

Get a few more players forward early, and perhaps the last 30 minutes Saturday at PPL Park would not have looked like such a fire drill, as the Union desperately played the hit-and-hope game.

Now they’ll have an entire offseason to sort it out. There is plenty of young talent around PPL Park  — but those youngsters need direction, a playmaker … and a plan.

Klinsmann blames Costa Rica loss on Mexico hangover

Jurgen Klinsmann

The United States lost their third straight match on home soil tonight, the first such losing streak since 1997.

Following an extra-time loss to Mexico on Saturday, the U.S. failed to compete in a friendly against Costa Rica, putting in another poor performance as the side continues to struggle.

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In his post match press conference, Jurgen Klinsmann said his team was still shaking off the loss against Mexico, and couldn’t recover in time for tonight’s game.

Yes, the United States’ match against Mexico went 120 minutes. Yes, it was a very tough game both physically and mentally. However, it’s time for Klinsmann to stop making excuses.

[ MORE: Three things we learned from the USMNT’s loss to Costa Rica ]

Of the starting XI against Costa Rica, only four started against Mexico. Of the six substitutes Klinsmann brought in today, only Bobby Wood played in the Mexico match, and for less than 25 minutes.

The problem isn’t that the U.S. lost tonight; it’s that they didn’t even show up. What Klinsmann needed to do was walk into his press conference and say, “We didn’t come to play tonight. We stunk. That can’t happen and we need to be better. It starts with me.”

[ PLAYER RATINGS: Howard’s return highlights poor performances from USMNT ]

Top teams don’t dwell on past results. Top teams rebound quickly and back up poor performances with strong performances. When a top team would have bounced back, the United States fell flat.

Clearly the argument is, well, the United States isn’t a top team. But isn’t that what Klinsmann was brought in to do? To help develop the USMNT into a top team? The least they could do is act like one, and that starts with the manager.

College Soccer Update: Tragedy strikes USC Upstate with horrible car accident

USC Upstate
USC Upstate
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No interviews today. No star players and programs. Just mourning.

USC Upstate lost four students earlier this week, two of them men’s soccer players, in an early morning car accident this weekend. A fifth was injured when the car they were driving in ran off the road, hit a tree, and caught fire.

James Campbell and Mills Sproul are the soccer players who’ve left the pitch for the final time.

[ MORE: College soccer news ]

USC Upstate’s athletic department held a candelight vigil on Monday, and honored both players with online memorials.

From Campbell’s, entitled “James Campbell Was an Intense Player Whose Competitiveness Made Those Around Him Play Harder”:

While Kyle Juell and James attended different high schools, they played club soccer together. “James was intense and passionate on the field,” Juell said. “He was the kind of aggressive player you wanted as a teammate. He was fun and warm and full of life and he cared so much about his teammates.”

From Sproul’s, entitled “Mills Sproul Put the Needs of Others Before His Own and Was Accepting of All”:

Mills’ teammate Deon Rose said that Mills was like the brother he never had.

“The first time I met him, I knew that he was special,” Rose said. “Not because he asked me if we had beaches in Canada or how Canadians survived without Chick-fil-A, but because he had an unconditional love for everyone and everything.”

Our thoughts are with the USC Upstate team, and entire community. Rest in peace.

Three stars of the week

1. University of California Santa Barbara — The Gauchos leapt from “receiving votes” to No. 14 in the nation. The Gauchos have won five-straight, all in-state, by a combined score of 13-3.

2. Joey Piatczyc, West Virginia — The midfielder leads the nation in assists with 12, one coming in Tuesday’s upset of Penn State, a match in which he also scored his first of the year. The Mountaineers shocked PSU with a 3-0 home win in Morgantown.

3. Francis Atuahene and Colin McAtee, Michigan — The Ghanaian freshman is a lightning bolt, and keeps producing goals along with the redshirt senior McAtee, who hails from San Diego. The Wolverines beat Duquesne 3-0 on Tuesday.

Other notes

— Creighton dropped two of its 24 first place votes, one each to North Carolina and Stanford, but remains the No.1 men’s team in the nation.

— Wake Forest hasn’t allowed a goal in three matches, against quality competition in NC State, South Carolina and Boston College. There were stretches in the 2-0 win over South Carolina where they looked unbeatable.

— Speaking of the Demon Deacons, they’ll face dangerous UNC on Saturday in what will be a cracker.

— Also No. 1:Florida State (Women’s D-1), Gannon (Women’s D-2), Trinity of Texas (Women’s D-3), Pfeiffer (Men’s D-2), Franklin & Marshall (Men’s D-3).