Matthew Reppert: How Deep Is The Rabbit Hole?

What happens when you lose to the “worst team in the world?”

What happens when your coach has utterly destroyed any chemistry that your team may have had? Can we be mad about this match? Maybe not, considering that before the match 5 out of 6 MLS Soccer editors/experts picked Toronto to beat the Union, with the other one predicting a draw. Many people scoffed at the experts, myself included, this was a Toronto FC team that was 0-9-0 coming into this match.  They had also played a midweek game against the Vancouver Whitecaps which got them the Canadian Championship.  Physically and emotionally they were spent.  Pretty much we had everything in our favor.

So why is Toronto now 1-9-0?

Last week I wrote about how the Union were “Teetering on the Drop-off” now, we’ve not only fallen in, but the team has hit the bottom and continued digging.   Much like Neo in the Matrix, we’re going to find out just how deep this rabbit hole goes.  Red pill all the way baby! We’re digging all the way to the core of the freaking EARTH.

As for Toronto’s goal, I can’t honestly blame on any player in particular.  Did Lahoud miss clearing the ball? Yup.  Did Sheanon Williams fail to mark Danny Koevermans? Oh yes.

However, the question must be asked, when Raymon Gaddis was subbed out (being Ill) why did the Union only have Michael Lahoud to fall back on? Granted, Lahoud has been used as a RB by Chivas USA, however, he occupied a spot that Sheanon Williams used to.  The winning goal ended up coming because Lahoud, a midfielder by trade, failed to clear the ball and then couldn’t mark Nick Soolsma who brought it into the box and crossed it to Koevermans who promptly hit it off Konopka, Koevermans then buried the goal that ended up winning the game.  But tell me, if Williams had been in his RB position, would the ball have been cleared? Would Soolsma have gotten a clean run into the box? Would Koevermans been as unmarked as he was if Williams hadn’t been playing the CB position which he obviously is still trying to settle into?

What if we actually had another CB that knew how to mark players, a crafty veteran that knew where to be when a player like Soolsma was in the box with the ball?

If only we had a player like that anymore eh?

I feel like a broken freaking record when I bring up what Peter Nowak has done to the team.  It has been said that the Union will be “active” in the transfer window.  I would like to point out that any moves made won’t help the team this season in any major way.

You see, if you go off pure statistics, by Sportsclubstats.com the Union as they currently sit, have a 3.5% chance of making the playoffs.  Furthermore, let’s look at our next few games and make some educated guesses as to whether or not the Union will win, lose or draw.  I want to preface this by saying “Anything can happen, its sports,” and say that my evaluation on the capabilities of each team is done on its current record and play as well as the quality of team they have at this moment so having said that let’s look at the upcoming schedule.

DC United, Sporting Kansas City, @Houston, @Los Angeles, Toronto FC, Montreal, Chicago, @DC United, Real Salt Lake…

I stopped with Real Salt Lake because that is the final game before the All Star Game and that’s when we hit the apex of this season, also its a few days before the close of the summer transfer window.  So, let’s break this down GAME BY FREAKING GAME.

DC United

As of this writing is currently sitting at 1st place in the Eastern Conference. We managed to beat them 3-2 last year at PPL Park.  However, the “Fortress of PPL” is no longer that.  Currently we’ve now lost as many games at home as we did the entirety of last season, including the playoffs.  DC currently has the most goals scored in the league with 28; however, their defense is a bit suspect with 19 goals allowed, which is actually more than the Union have allowed.  However, the problem is, is that our offense, being so anemic, can’t help the defense if it has an off game.  This is a rivalry game and PPL should be rocking, however, I don’t think that the Union offense will be able to match DC’s and furthermore, I don’t think that the defense, as tough as they’ve been in certain games, will be able to keep DC off the score sheet and if DC gets up on us, I have a very hard time believing that the Union can match them goal for goal.

Prediction: Loss

Sporting Kansas City

Started out the season with an incredible win streak, since then? Not so much, before their recent win against San Jose, Sporting Kansas City went 0-3-1.  However, Kansas City is a good team, they have a pretty good attack with Kamara, Sapong, and Bunbury leading a 4-3-3 that they’ve been able to use pretty effectively.  I wouldn’t call them a huge scoring threat like the New York, San Jose, or DCs of the league.  I would say that they are efficient though, with 17 goals scored and 10 allowed, Kansas City has a decent defense and an offense that is comfortable winning games by a goal or two.   However, I can’t ignore the fact that Kansas City is too decent a team to keep from scoring at least a goal.  We have a rookie RB (Raymon Gaddis) a converted RB starting at CB (Sheanon Williams) and a midfielder converted to a LB (Gabe Farfan). I find it very hard to believe that Kansas City won’t use the inexperience of Gaddis and Williams in their respective roles to make scoring chances happen and as the Toronto game has shown us, eventually even the worst teams will convert one chance.  However, it may work to our advantage that Kansas City isn’t a goal scoring machine and the Union could salvage a point out of the game if the defense holds and the offense manages to sink one into the net.  This match is also the last one before the summer transfer window opens.

Prediction: Draw

@Houston Dynamo

Before the season even started, I’d penciled this match as a loss.  Houston’s BBVA Compass stadium is going to be a difficult place for most teams to play this season.  The environment combined with the utter brutality of the climate of Texas means that many teams are going to be utterly gassed sometime in the second half.  I think it may only be by a single goal, but Houston will win this one.

Prediction: Loss

@Los Angeles Galaxy

This is a tough one to predict, LA hasn’t been the team it was last year, for whatever reason.  However, I can’t ignore the fact that LA has some quality players, love them or hate them; Donovan, Beckham and Keane are at the very least decent players.   Before the Toronto game I would have said that this was a winnable game because of the fact that LA has been awful in goals allowed with 21.  This could be a match that the Union could steal a win.  However, the Galaxy might be going all out to get 3 points, considering that they have a tough slate of games prior to the Union match against Salt Lake and San Jose, they might be going all out to try and beat a team that they’ve had success against in the past.  I think that between two desperate teams LA will get the goal that gives them the win.

Prediction: Loss

Toronto FC

Here is where the team needs to seek some kind of redemption for the debacle in Toronto.  This is where the team must come out in front of the home crowd and show the fight and goal scoring ability that was utterly lacking in the match at Toronto.  People were PISSED after losing at Toronto.  Can you imagine the anger that would be felt if they failed to beat Toronto at home? The Chester Police Department might want to have the Riot Gear on standby just in case.

Prediction: Win

Montreal Impact

So far this expansion franchise is doing better than we are in terms of goals scored and points.  However, Montreal to put it mildly has sucked away from home with a 1-6-1 record to date.  Montreal’s defense which hasn’t been able to put it together has given up 21 goals so far.  This is a game that the Union should win.

Prediction: Win

Chicago Fire

Another tough one to call because Chicago isn’t exactly playing at a top level right now but they’re doing decent for themselves.  With 15 goals scored as well as conceded, Chicago isn’t exactly blowing anyone away on defense or offense.  However, looking over their schedule, Chicago has been very…eh, away from home with a 2-3-1 record.  This could be a trap game, if the Union are indeed coming off two wins against Toronto and Montreal, they could start getting cocky and blow this game.  However, I’m banking on a point here.

Prediction: Draw

@DC United

See my above comments about DC’s attack.  Combine that with the fact that it’s in RFK and the fact that DC currently have a 6-1-2 record there and the Union don’t win this one.

Prediction: Loss

Real Salt Lake

Real Salt Lake currently has more away wins than the Union has wins COMBINED.  You tell me who I think is going to win? Okay, okay, more in depth analysis.  Salt Lake currently has 22 goals scored while allowing 14 in, so basically they’re pretty solid offensively and defensively.  Furthermore, looking at some of the teams they’ve beaten, New York, Seattle and Colorado, these are not easy teams to beat and yet they have. Salt Lake is one of those teams that generally are hard to get a draw against, let alone a win.  I’m sorry guys, but I’m marking this one as another home loss.

Prediction: Loss

So, after going through each game here is the record I’ve come up with.

2-5-2

So, combining that with our current record, that would have us sitting at 4-12-4 which means we would have 16 points around the All-Star game.  In case you are wondering, that wouldn’t even get us a playoff spot if the season ended today.  Basically, we would be tied for 6th place with Houston.  Can the Union still “technically” make the playoffs? Of course, they’re not mathematically eliminated yet; however, we’re talking a string of victories against teams that are only going to get better.  The Union will no doubt attempt to improve themselves in the summer transfer window, but the front office and the fans would be foolish to think that the rest of Major League Soccer won’t do the same.

It’s freaking May, I don’t WANT to think our season is over, but after that showing what am I supposed to say? “Oh, it’s only the 11th game of the season guys! Still plenty of time to turn it around!”

I’m sorry, but I’m not delusional enough to think that much can be salvaged from this season.  So here is what I propose happens after the All Star game if the team has roughly the same record that I posted above.

Throw the young guys out there. I’m talking about putting, Cristhian Hernández, Zach Pfeffer, Amobi Okugo, Chandler Hoffman, Jack McInerney, Jimmy McLaughlin, Josué Martínez, Greg Jordan, Krystian Witkowski and Antoine Hoppenont out there in starting roles.

Why?

Because we might as well see what we have with each guy if they get consistent starting time and I’m not talking about giving them a single start, I’m talking about putting these guys out there consistently and furthermore, start them in the positions that they’re used to playing in.  That means you don’t put Cristhian Hernández, the former USDA U-18 Academy Player of The Year as a freaking LB or a defender period.  Put him as a goddamned attacking midfielder or forward.

“We don’t want to just give up on the season!” You might cry to which I would respond “What exactly would we have to lose at that point?

If we enter the All Star Game with a 4-12-4 record or one that is slightly better or worse, at that point, what IN THE HELL would we have to lose? You might as well see what each young guy can do if you take them off the Nowak leash.  Guys like McInerney and Martinez have yet to see the field in any consistent role despite both either showing good flashes in reserve games or showing some attacking prowess as a sub.

Nowak said this after the Toronto game, “I congratulate Coach Winter because they wanted it more, they played better. They competed for every ball. They chased every ball. That’s how teams should play in this league.”

So tell me Peter, why didn’t our team play like that? What exactly is YOUR excuse? I notice that after every loss so far to date, Nowak seems to blame the all-encompassing team aspect of the game for the loss, but never seems to admit that his tactical decisions are to blame.  He has yet to acknowledge any fault on himself for how the team has been handled, in either the coaching part or the general manager part.

For Christ’s sake Peter, at least ADMIT that you were wrong in trading Califf or Le Toux, there is no shame in that.  Hell, Ruben Amaro, the General Manager of the Phillies admitted he made a bad trade after Chase Utley was discovered to be injured when he said, “We’re not stocked full of middle infielders right now. I mean, I don’t look particularly intelligent for trading Wilson Valdez. If we have Wilson Valdez right now, we wouldn’t have a need. But, we did. And we’ll deal with it.”

Most people I heard didn’t call Amaro a prick for admitting it, hell, most of them were at least somewhat glad to see Amaro taking responsibility for a trade that hurt the team.   I know I was. But no, Nowak and the Union are basically looking at the fan base and saying, “Well it’s not OUR fault, why would you think that?”  It’s gotten pretty goddamned insulting.

The most horrifying thought is that Nowak seems to actually believe that the moves he has made are all the right ones, take this quote for example when referring to Sheanon Williams sliding over to CB, “To me, it’s the easiest position to play, he’s a great defender, very good with the ball and not afraid to go forward. I think he will embrace the position in a pretty good way.”

Now, besides this being incredibly condescending towards the CBs of the world that spend years honing their craft and becoming good at what they do, it smacks of pure, unadulterated craziness.  Yes, some players are capable of learning new positions in sports, but it takes time and doesn’t always work. Hunter Pence is an outstanding outfielder; the guy obviously loves playing baseball and will hopefully be a part of the Phillies lineup for years to come.  However, he CAN NOT take over the third base position and this is not because Hunter Pence sucks.  Sheanon Williams is a great defender…when he’s a RB. This isn’t a knock on Sheanon; it’s a knock on the coaching staff that seems to think that any position on the field can be played by anyone.

The contempt for both players and fans by the coaching staff is astounding.  With players being mere interchangeable tools that can be rotated to various positions without any regard as to how well they will actually play in those positions and if the player disagrees with you or your vision? They can be discarded and replaced without regards to team chemistry or form.  The fans meanwhile are meant to be ignored and discarded, we’re fans, I get that.  We don’t always have the most neutral opinions, but when it comes to the team however, don’t treat us like idiots.  Don’t play Michael Lahoud solely because you traded Danny Califf for him and want to stick it to those of us who think that the trade was beyond stupid (i.e. most of us).

Now, I’ve heard some people argue that the Union shouldn’t have been a playoff caliber team last season, that we simply “got lucky” with some of our matches.

If you want to argue that, then I would ask you when exactly were the Union supposed to be competitive?  Most people that I’ve read and personally spoken to said that an MLS expansion team should be able to compete for a playoff spot around the third season of existence, yet not only have the Union regressed in their third season, they have looked outright pathetic to date. So even if you felt that last season was a fluke, this season should have been the one where the team “puts it together” which of course we haven’t.  In fact, I can point to only one regular season match where the team looked good and that was the New York match which we of course, lost.

But we’ve got nowhere to go but up right? Currently ranked last in MLS’ power rankings, that’s pretty much true, but pardon me if I don’t take solace in someone saying, “Well, we CAN’T suck any more than we have been, am I right?”

Finally, I want to close out with a plea to the Union front office.

I’ve come to accept that this season isn’t probably going to amount to much, but please, Nick Sakiewicz or whomever is responsible for this sort of thing.  Let Peter Nowak go as soon as you are able to.  I know it’s not happening before the All Star Game, but for god’s sake, show the fans that you CARE enough about the future of the team to know when to dump a coach who is no longer good for the team.  Do it right after the All Star Game, but if you’re not willing to do it then, do it as SOON as the season is over for the Union and don’t use the “But we need stability!” argument because allow me to present you a few names.

Martin Rennie, Jay Heaps, Óscar Pareja, Jesse Marsch…

Know who any of those men are? They are current head coaches of MLS teams that assumed control of their clubs before the current season; know what else they have in common?

They’re all doing better than we are.

– Matt Reppert (@MatthewReppert)

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About Section133

A Group for Supporters of the Philadelphia Union in PPL Park section 133. Our Purpose is to Defend Section 133 from the AWAY Supporters of ALL other MLS Clubs.
This entry was posted in Major League Soccer, Philadelphia UNION and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Matthew Reppert: How Deep Is The Rabbit Hole?

  1. rich says:

    Dont they play the Red Bulls on 7/21. so doenst that make that the last game before the All star break.?

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