MLS Snapshot: Philadelphia Union 3-3 Colorado Rapids

Leave a comment

One game, 100 words (or less): Up 3-1 in with 15 minutes to go, the Union are undone when an Michael Lahoud’s attempted bicycle kick catches Jared Watts in the face, turning a potential clearance into a straight red and a penalty kick. Seven minutes after Dillon Powers’ conversion, Deshorn Brown burns Sheanon Williams ahead of his sixth goal of the season, one that costs Philadelphia its second home win of the season.

Goals 

Philadelphia: Casey 16′, Williams 31′, Wenger 74′
Colorado: Serna 18′, Powers 79′ (p.k.), Brown 86′

Three moments that mattered:

16′-18′ – Bang-bang – A promising start for Colorado appears to go for naught when former Rapids star Conor Casey gets the ball back after his long switch to Raymon Gaddis. The right back’s eventual cross finds Casey just outside the six-yard box, moving across a flat-footed Shane O’Neill for the game’s first goal.

Two minutes later, the visitors’ strong start pays off, producing a quick equalizer. Powers, in possession, draws attention to the middle of the park, giving Dillon Serna room to cut onto his left foot after being found in the right of the box. Beating Zac MacMath near post, Serna’s left-footed finish makes it 1-1.

Just past the half-hour, another O’Neill miscue allows Sheanon Williams to restore the hosts’ lead. The Union would take a 2-1 advantage into intermission.

74′ – The Philly high point – Amobi Okugo, midfielder, pays off. Taking the ball off rookie Watts 28 yards from goal, the midfielder-cum-defender-dum-midfielder races toward the byline. Cutting the ball back with his left foot, Okugo gets some help from a deflection while finding Andrew Wenger, whose first touch finds the back of the net, giving Philly a 3-1 lead.

When Lahoud gives away a penalty minutes later, the goal looks crucial. After Powers’ conversion, Philadelphia’s lead is reduced to one (3-2), leaving the 10-man hosts 11 minutes from full points.

source: Getty Images
Deshorn Brown’s late equalizer salvages a point against 10-man Philadelphia. It also tied him for the Rapids’ lead in goals. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

87′ – And, the low – Lahoud’s mistake has cost Philadelphia their second home win of the season. With a brilliant turn around Williams, Brown beats MacMath from just outside the box, his sixth goal of the season bringing the Rapids even, 3-3.

Lineups

Philadelphia: MacMath; Gaddis, White, Williams, Fabinho; Lahoud, Okugo; Maidana (Wheeler 82′), Le Toux, Cruz (Wenger 69′); Casey (Carroll 80′)
Colorado: Irwin; Wynne, O’Neill, Moor, Burch; Watts (Hairston 78′), LaBrocca; Serna (Torres 83′), Powers, Hill (Alvarez 65′); Brown

Three lessons going forward:

1. Philadelphia keeps finding feet to shoot: Central defense has been a problem all season, even if the culprits have changed. Whereas the beginning of the year it was Okugo, Aaron Wheeler, and Austin Berry, now it’s Williams, who was joined in the middle by Ethan White today. Given the plague striking the position, it may only be a matter of time before Maurice Edu, suspended for today’s match, is symptomatic, too.

Give credit to Deshorn Brown for his sublime touch, above, but Williams just can’t let that happen. He can’t take that risk, a man down, at the point in the game, knowing there’s nobody behind him. He has to keep the play in front of him.

Perhaps this is where it should be mentioned: Williams is not a center back, normally. He’s there because Philadelphia has three good fullbacks and zero, maybe one (Edu) good central defender.

That number would be higher if Okugo was still in the picture, but as Jim Curtin’s selection showed, that picture has changed. Perhaps permanently so.

2. The resilience of Colorado’s attack: The Rapids came into the day with 24 goals in 17 games – a fine number, but one that was helped by a league-leading six penalty kicks (a number that moved to seven today). With players like Brown, Powers, Vicente Sánchez, and Gabriel Torres, you might expect more.

Pablo Mastroeni, however, has shaded toward the conservative side, something you can after to do with such a diverse group of attackers. Add Edson Buddle to the mix, and Colorado has the ability to rekindle’s last year’s width or go with the more centered approach they’ve shown this season. They can play through Powers as well as rely on players like Sánchez to get them into attack. They have options.

Those options create variety which, late in matches, becomes resilience. With a number of ways to beat you, Mastroeni can adjust to the game’s circumstances, perhaps explaining why the team is 7-5-5 despite a relatively modest +5 goal difference.

As for all those penalty kicks, the team is also third in the league in open play goals. Considering nobody on the team has scored more than six times, the Rapids have a lot of ways to beat you.

3. Momentum blunted for Philadelphia: The Union were unbeaten in three ahead of last week’s meeting with Dallas – a match that looked like theirs to lose, given Fabián Castillo’s suspension. Lose, they did. With the 2-1 loss, Philadelphia dropped its first game under Curtin, a defeat that threatens to become a streak with today’s result.

By itself, the loss would be heartbreaking, but the fact that it displayed all the problems the Union had under Hackworth will be especially demoralizing. If Philadelphia management are really trying to turn a page this summer — changing leadership ahead of a signings that are supposed to address the team’s ills — today’s result was a reminder: Merely changing the coach is not going to change this team.

Where that leaves them:

  • The draw keeps Philadelphia in seventh place, though New York’s win leaves the Union five back of fifth.
  • Colorado gains ground on second place Real Salt Lake, sitting one point behind their Rocky Mountain rivals ahead of RSL’s visit to the LA Galaxy (tonight).

 

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.