What went wrong Saturday for the Philadelphia Union?

2 Comments

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.

Schweinsteiger waiting on visa, training in Mallorca

instagram.com/bastianschweinsteiger
Leave a comment

Bastian Schweinsteiger is waiting on a visa to make his trip to Chicago official.

It’s a formality, albeit a bit trickier now given the political climate in the United States. The former Manchester United midfielder is training at Real Mallorca ahead of the move.

The transfer was announced one week ago, and Schweinsteiger is anxious to get back on the pitch. Set for a 1-year, $4.5 million deal, the midfielder has not missed any Chicago matches yet.

[ MORE: Under-the-radar Premier League XI ]

The Fire is 1-1-1 to start the new season under Veljko Paunovic, and has three home matches next: Montreal (Saturday), Columbus (Apr. 8), and New England (Apr. 15)

Report: Arsenal interested in Leicester keeper Kasper Schmeichel

Getty Images
Leave a comment

According to a report by The Sun, Arsenal is monitoring the progress of Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.

The rumor does make sense. With Petr Cech at 34 years old and having a poor season in front of net and backup David Ospina failing to challenge him for the starting job, the Gunners are looking elsewhere to bring in a potential future starter.

Schmeichel has been one of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League the past two seasons. Last season he led the Foxes to the Premier League title, organizing a stunningly good defensive line of patchwork players. This season, the defense has largely regressed and let Schmeichel down, but he has still performed well and has the metrics to remain one of the league’s top shot-stoppers.

The Danish keeper is 30 years old himself, but that puts him in his prime for a goalkeeper. He has been with Leicester City since 2011, and he will tick 250 appearances for the club with his next match. Schmeichel was rumored to be a member of the secret player delegation that worked hard to see Claudio Ranieri pushed out of the club, a sentiment which he and the other players have strongly denied.

Still, with an improbable Premier League title in hand and an appearance in the Champions League quarterfinals now on the cards, there probably isn’t much else for him at Leicester City. It’s possible Schmeichel could look to bank on his past performances and secure a move to a bigger club this summer.

Should Arsene Wenger stay with Arsenal past this season, a possibility that looks more and more likely, he could look to move on from Cech despite signing the former Chelsea goalkeeper just two summers ago.

Diego Costa injured, but will stay with Spain squad for friendly

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chelsea striker Diego Costa pulled up in Spain training on Sunday, and with the Blues in first in the Premier League and Costa in great form, there were obvious concerns.

With Costa struggling with leg and ankle injuries, the RFEF informed Chelsea that there was an issue, and Costa was pulled from training and sent for tests. X-Rays at the local hospital in Madrid were negative, and he’s rejoined the squad.

According to the RFEF, doctors will continue to monitor the 28-year-old and he will continue with the national team for the rest of the international break. With a World Cup qualification win over Israel already in the books and just a friendly against France to go on Tuesday, it’s odd that Spain would risk Costa moving forward, but they will continue to keep him around.

Costa has scored 18 goals this season to lead the Blues, and he scored in the win over Israel. Spain takes on France in Saint-Denis on Tuesday, with both teams leading their World Cup qualification groups. Spain has a goal-differential lead on Italy with both teams miles above the rest of the Group G, and France is ahead of Sweden by three points in Group A, with the Netherlands back in fourth.

Foul or flop? Player “headbutts” referee, is sent off

Associated Press
Leave a comment

Well, there must be something in the water down in Brasilia, because things got a little weird this evening.

Flamengo drew with Vasco da Gama 2-2, but that was just the start.

In the 54th minute, with Vasco da Gama leading 1-0 at Estadio Nacional Mané Garrincha, 36-year-old Luis Fabiano was sent off for “headbutting” the referee. Headbutting is in quotes because looking at the video, it certainly appears there was little to no contact, and the referee flops.

Yes, the referee flopped. Take a look:

To be fair, Fabiano was already on a yellow, so getting in the referee’s face even without the headbutt/pelvic thrust would likely still have seen him sent to an early shower.

So the former Porto and Sevilla man was sent off, and Vasco da Gama was down to 10 men. Immediately after the red card, Flamengo took advantage, powering in a pair of goals via Willian Arao and Orlando Berrio to take the lead 2-1. But Vasco wouldn’t quit, and they earned a penalty five minutes into stoppage time, which Nene buried for the 2-2 draw.

To top things off, a player named Yago Pikachu scored the opener for Vasco da Gama, which was followed by a delay in the game seven minutes later after a power surge in the stadium. Go figure.