Union supporters, not time to panic yet

Union coach Peter Nowak: 'I can't deny our effort.'
Union coach Peter Nowak: 'I can't deny our effort.'
Posted: April 08, 2011

Should you be one of the supporters primed to press the panic button after the recent pair of Union losses, might I suggest a deep breath and a mood stabilizer.

I say this especially to the readers who filled my Outlook inbox with emails expressing concern that the club has already fallen from grace and is returning to the mediocre efforts of its inaugural season.

Mind you, just four games into the season - in all competitions.

Here are excerpts from a couple of the best ones:

What is the Union bringing to the table offensively? On paper we have one of the best front three in the league and we only have two goals to show for it?

 - Ryann, West Chester

 And a personal favorite:

"They may have two wins but they also have two losses. This doesn't look like a playoff team right now. You have players playing out of position, coaches and players getting ejected and tough stretches ahead (against New York, Seattle and Real Salt Lake) that I don't know if they'll even take two out of those three at this point.

 - Semaj, Chestnut Hill 

Seriously Semaj, in the words of hip-hop group EPMD - "You gots to chill."

Is there cause for concern? Depends on how much is in your glass. If it's half full, keep in mind the defensive corps headlined by Faryd Mondragon is statistically among MLS' best. Mondragon saw 23 shots - eight on goal - and made six saves in the Open Cup. He boasts a 0.33 goals-against average in MLS.

If it's half empty, harp on clear evidence that the Union (2-1-0 MLS, 2-2-0 overall) is still trying to develop offensive cohesion.

And silly mistakes that plagued them last season have arisen. Jack McInerney isn't available for tomorrow night's game against 1-95 North rival New York due to his ejection against Los Angeles last Saturday, and if the Union had defeated United on Wednesday night in the preliminary round of U.S. Open Cup play, center back Carlos Valdes would be watching from the sideline against New England in the next game at PPL Park.

And if you watched any of the minimal footage or scanned the Twitter feeds from Wednesday's thriller, then trust penalty kicks to have been the focus of yesterday's midmorning practice. The Union converted just two PK's out of four as United held off a Union rally in overtime.

All cause for concern, yes. But panic mode? Stop it.

"Soccer is one of those games that always give people something to complain about," Union manager Peter Nowak said. "Last year it was our defense, this year it's our offense. Look, we still have a couple of guys that offensively are not on the same page, but I look at [last week against LA], we were playing guys who are and who could be designated players in this league and we made them work for their goal against us. I can't deny our effort."

 

MAKE WAY FOR 'PINK COWS'

The Sons of Ben have come up with the catchy moniker for their Eastern Conference rival, but it's hard to deny that RBNY not only has a game changer at every position but is most lethal up top. RBNY recently acquired forward Dwayne DeRosario, formerly Toronto FC's disgruntled All-Star who, in his New York debut last week, dished an assist on RBNY's only goal in a tie against Houston. RBNY coach Hans Backe runs a 4-4-2 formation that, with the addition of either designated player forward Thierry Henry or forward Juan Agudelo, is far from fuchsia.

FRIENDLIES ON THE HORIZON

For those eagerly awaiting the Union to announce its slate for international-club exhibitions, give it about "30 days or so." Nick Sakiewicz, CEO and managing partner of the club, said deals are being finalized but the European timetable at this point is causing a snafu.

"Too put it lightly, these Euro teams are hard to pin down," Sakiewicz explained. "The challenge is that European season is coming to a close and a lot of the teams we are talking to are vying for UEFA Champions League and Europa League spots. But we are in active discussion with a number of Spanish, German, Italian and French League clubs."

Coincidentally, a few days before the Union embarked on its 2-week training session in Greece last month, Sakiewicz spoke to the Daily News before coming back from a Euro tour of his own in which he held meetings with clubs in France (Lyon), England (Arsenal), Germany (Eintracht Frankfurt) and Italy (Fiorentina) in an effort to "develop partnerships."

When also asked about an upcoming exhibition schedule, Peter Nowak had this to say:

"Our focus for friendlies are that we are also trying to establish long-term relationships with teams, we don't want to play a game and then that's it. As we continue to try and integrate our youth system, it's important to have teams where we can send our younger players for development."

Stay tuned . . .

ODDS AND ENDLINES

The Independence kick off its second season Sunday in New Jersey when it takes on Delran native Carli Lloyd and Sky Blue FC (6 p.m.). The Independence will host MagicJack SC (formerly the Washington Freedom) at its new home on the campus of Widener University Saturday, April 16 (7 p.m.) . . . The Union is sponsoring a 5k run/walk in honor of fallen Chester soccer player Will Trippley at PPL Park tomorrow. Registration is at 9 a.m., race is at 10 a.m.

UPCOMING GAME

Red Bull New York

(1-0-2, 5 points)

at Union (2-1-0, 6 points)

When:

Tomorrow night, 7 o'clock

Where:

PPL Park, Chester

TV:

ESPN2

On the web:

Streaming video at MLSSoccer.com

For kicks:

It will be the third game in a week for the Union, which hopes to return to winning ways after losses to Los Angeles and Wednesday night's penalty-kick thriller against D.C. United in the preliminary round of U.S. Open Cup play . . . As for the Red Bull, its bolstered attack featuring Toronto FC transplant Dwayne DeRosario has allowed New York to remain undefeated in league play . . . The Union is 1-2 in all competitions against RBNY, the last meeting a 2-1 Union win at PPL Park . . . Keep an eye on budding RBNY stars in 18-year-old homegrown talent and U.S. national team forward Juan Agudelo and defender Tim Ream, a 2010 MLS rookie of the year candidate.

INJURY REPORT (as of Tuesday)

Out for the Union:

Gabriel Farfan, MF (right toe)

Probable:

Danny Califf, DF (left knee meniscus)

Out for the Red Bull:

Chris Albright, DF (knee surgery recovery); Greg Sutton, GK (concussion)

NEWS AND NOTES

Utility man Ryan Richter was named La Salle's male scholar-athlete of the year last night. Richter, already a NSCAA first-team scholar All-America, led the Philadelphia Soccer Six in scoring for the second year in a row with 14 goals. He's also just the second Explorer to be drafted into Major League Soccer (Cesidio Colasante, 1997).

DID YOU KNOW?

Former Union midfielder Fred, now with D.C. United, is the proud father of a baby girl named Isabella. Little Izzy was born Wednesday, about 12 hours before the Union's 7:30 p.m. game against D.C. United in the U.S. Open Cup in which Fred - reacquired by D.C. from New England in February - started as a center midfielder until being subbed in the 89th minute.

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