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A Philadelphia Union blog hosted by Christopher A. Vito and Matthew De George

Sunday, April 29, 2012


There are two ways to diagnose Raymon Gaddis' performances in a Union kit:

For one, he's a rookie who Saturday was making only his third career start. But, on the other hand, he's playing on a backline that had a reputation for stout, stingy, goal-preventing play.

Something had to give against San Jose, and it was the latter.

The Earthquakes prevailed, 2-1, against the Union. It wasn't exclusively because of Gaddis' play, but rather a confluence of related events, that led to the Union suffering their first loss since March 24.

The Union are strapped on the backline because of left back Gabriel Farfan's three-game suspension (one down, two to go -- by the way). And because offseason get Porfirio Lopez clearly has fallen out of favor with the Union technical staff (Saturday, Lopez was a healthy scratch who didn't make the gameday 18), that left Chris Albright as the only other defender available.

So what took place against the Earthquakes was a number of players lining up out of position. Sheanon Williams, a rock at right back, shifted to the left to cover up the absence of Farfan, and Gaddis played the right. But Williams, who is not naturally left-footed, did as much as he could to hold down that spot. That often left the Earthquakes picking correctly which side to attack, leaving Gaddis to mark guys like Steven Lenhart (who had two goals) and MLS leading scorer Chris Wondolowski.


“I think (Farfan's suspension) changes us a lot due to the fact that, No. 1, Sheanon goes out on the left, where he's not as comfortable," said Union centerback and captain Danny Califf. "So you take him off the right, where he's not only comfortable but he also is a huge part of our offense, and you put him in a spot where he's not as comfortable and that takes away our left-sided attack out of the back.

Califf continued: “Nothing against Sheanon, but he's not left-footed and he's not used to playing there. He's athletic, but he's not going to give you anything (there). It's hard, right? He just can't do what Gabe does on the left. He gives us that on the right, but it's just not there on the left. It's kind of a dynamic of our game that's completely lost. Not only do we not have the left, but now we don't have as much on the right."

Califf, playing the role of a good captain and one unwilling to throw a rookie under the bus, said there's plenty the Union can do to help Gaddis adjust. Here's Califf's strategy:

“I think Ray does a great job, but he's still a kid and he's still got a lot of inexperience and he shows flashes of being a brilliant player, but he needs more games," Califf said. "When we lose Sheanon on the right and an attacking guy on the left, it hamstrings us when we're trying to play out of the back. … A lot of times we have to be there for him a little bit more – try and talk to him a little more than we necessarily talk to Sheanon and organize him more. It's not fault of his own, but it's something we now need to address as a group a bit more. I think that will help him if we can establish somebody who can play in front of him on a more regular basis, so that he can develop a relationship with the guy in front of him. That will be huge."

Looks like the Union have a tiny issue on their hands. They hadn't given up a goal in 408 minutes and, Saturday, they relinquished two in a span of 17 minutes.

If they can't find the right grouping to play in front of goalkeeper Zac MacMath, they might have trouble ... beginning this weekend in Seattle.

(Photo: Philadelphia Union/Greg Carroccio)

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Saturday, April 28, 2012


Without trying to do so, San Jose coach Frank Yallop diagnosed the Union's problems quite accurately Saturday night.

"Sometimes," Yallop said, "football is cruel."

Indeed it is. The Union (2-4-1) learned that the hard way, in falling to the Earthquakes (6-1-1), 2-1, behind a 93rd-minute goal from Steven Lenhart.

An argument can be made that the Union showed reluctance to push offensively until Lenhart, who had a brace, scored the first of his goals in the 76th minute.

“If you look at the amount we possessed the ball in comparison to San Jose tonight, it's not good enough,” said Danny Califf, the Union's captain who returned to the pitch after sitting the last two games. “When you defend for 75 to 80 percent of the game, you get tired and when you get tired, mistakes happen.

“There's no way around that. If we're going to get out of this up-and-down thing and be successful over the long haul of the season, we're going to have to establish better possession.”

"We were a little more reserved. We were dropped a little far off," said Union assistant coach John Hackworth. "We made adjustments in the locker room and came out and put them under a little pressure in the second half and changed the game."

And when two forwards were on in the later minutes?

"I liked our chances at that point," Hackworth said.

In summation, here are the opportunities the Union had prior to Lenhart's goal:
  • 34th minute: Freddy Adu takes a corner. Nothing.
  • 37th minute: Adu takes a restart. Nothing.
  • 55th minute: Kai Herdling heads Adu's corner. Wide right.
  • 72nd minute: Lionard Pajoy makes a good run. No shot.
"In the first half, really, I think we made life easier for them," said forward Danny Mwanga, who wasn't utilized until being subbed on for Pajoy in the 75th minute.

Aside from Gabriel Gomez's goal in the 83rd minute (pictured), the Union had nothing going.

Really, there was nothing there for the Union, which is a cause for concern for a team that harbors six strikers on its roster. How much longer can the Union allow their offensive woes, which include scoring only five goals in seven matches, be allowed to persist?

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Fun fact: Kai Herdling doesn't speak English. Well, at least that's what he told reporters afterward. Here's how he described his performance: "Give me one, two weeks. I'll be OK." (If you can't write a story around that quote, you're just not trying hard enough.)

(Photo: Philadelphia Union/Greg Carroccio)

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We're less than a half-hour removed from kickoff at PPL Park, and here are some observations on the Union's lineup tonight against the San Jose Earthquakes:

Califf's in, Carroll's out. Centerback and captain Danny Califf returns to the pitch for the Union after missing two matches with a hamstring tweak. Ironically, that's the same ailment keeping Brian Carroll out. The defensive midfielder is missing his first match of the season.

Where's Porfirio Lopez? The Union invested a lot of energy and money in securing Lopez to bolster a backline weak spot, on the left side. What does it say about Lopez if the Union value the play of rookie Ray Gaddis and the fitness of veteran Chris Albright over him?

What's up, Kai? The Union welcomed German import Kai Herdling Thursday, 10 days after signing the forward/midfielder to a contract. He's in the starting XI. Let's see what he brings to the offense.

Homegrown kids. Cristhian Hernandez, who has played all of 18 minutes this season, and Zach Pfeffer, who hasn't played at all, are subs on the gameday roster. I'm not saying you have to play the kids, but if you show them a commitment, you better get them minutes at some point. Otherwise, what good is it for their progress?

ON THE WEB: Check out my feature, in Saturday's Delco Times, on goalkeeper Zac MacMath. The second-year pro hasn't permitted a goal in 332 minutes, a franchise record.

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Thursday, April 26, 2012


It's official: Peter Nowak, fined $5,000, will be suspended for Saturday's match against visiting San Jose.

But here's the kicker: He'll miss the next match, too.

It took five days, but Major League Soccer's disciplinary committee finally ruled on Nowak, who stepped out of the coach's box and onto the pitch last Saturday --- a league-wide no-no --- while breaking up a scrum during the Union's 1-0 win at Chivas USA. Nowak was sent off in the 86th minute and, until 6 p.m. today, had awaited what he termed "a verdict" from MLS.

The verdict is in, and the Union will be without their coach Saturday against the Western Conference-leading Earthquakes. He also will be forced to take in next weekend's match at Seattle from a club-level suite, rather than on the sideline.

Additionally, the Union were hit with a $5,000 fine, while Chivas USA incurred a $2,500 fine.

Wednesday, players and coaches alike made it sound as though losing Nowak for one match won't be that big of a deal.

Said assistant coach Rob Vartughian: “Nothing changes. We’ve all been around each other for a number of years. Our preparation for this game will be no different than how we’ve approached anything else. Do you have a voice on the sideline with Peter? No, you don’t. But at the point the game starts, it’s up to the players. There are certain things you can do to adjust, and we’ll have to do those. It’s not like Peter’s not here this week. He’s still very much the voice.”

(Times staff photo / ERIC HARTLINE)

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There's a guy coming to town this weekend who has eight goals in seven games.

San Jose brings more to PPL Park Saturday than the Western Conference's best record. The Earthquakes also feature Chris Wondolowski, one of MLS' most consistent strikers and its leading scorer this season.

Here's what a few from the Union have to say about Wondo, and how they can maintain their 332-minute scoreless streak:

“He makes a lot of little situations,” said goalkeeper Zac MacMath. “Fortunately I was able to play against him when I was with the U-23s in California in January, to see a little of him there. … He's very good, gets his shots off and makes the most of his chances.”

“You have to be aware of where he is in the box at all times,” Union defender Sheanon Williams said.. “He likes to lull you to sleep and then pop up in a different spot and he finishes extremely well, especially with his head. … It's important to find a mark. That'll be really important for us. We can't just let him drift. We have to be on him at all times.”

“Chris has been consistent for years,” said Union boss Peter Nowak. “For us it'll be a challenge. They are a handful.”

My guess is Wondolowski tallies, but the Union prevail, 2-1. How do you think the Union will do against Wondo?

(Photo: Associated Press)

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012


It looks like the Union will be without Peter Nowak for Saturday's match against visiting San Jose.

The Union boss was dismissed from last weekend's 1-0 win at Chivas USA when he stepped onto the pitch to contest a red card issued to Gabriel Farfan in the 86th minute and to break up the shoving match between players from both teams.

Wednesday, during his weekly press conference at PPL Park, Nowak said he didn't want to get into details, but said he's expecting to be suspended once "the verdict," he said, comes in from MLS.

By MLS rules, Nowak will not be permitted to view the Union's home game from the sideline at PPL Park. Instead, he will be in a private suite. His communication level with his players will be restrained, however.

So without Nowak, how does the Union's lineup change?

Will assistant coaches John Hackworth and Rob Vartughian have their hands tied on the backline, with centerback Danny Califf returning from a hamstring injury and left back Farfan serving a one-game suspension? Will the assistants try their hands at a two-striker configuration? Will they play Kai Herdling, the German midfielder they signed a week ago, who is expected to arrive Thursday?

What's your take on what the lineup will look like? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

(Times staff photo / JULIA WILKINSON)

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Sunday, April 22, 2012


The Union began the weekend in ninth place in the Eastern Conference table. After Saturday's road win at Chivas USA, they're in sixth ... and they're only three points from second place.

From ninth to sixth, and maybe second by next weekend.

That's quite a turnaround. And that's largely thanks to Zac MacMath.

A second-year goalkeeper and first-year starter, MacMath posted his third consecutive clean sheet Saturday in a 1-0 victory over Chivas. The shutout extended MacMath's scoreless streak to 332 minutes. He hasn't given up a goal since the 28th minute of a 1-0 loss at Chicago March 24.

Here's the skinny: Until the Union establish any degree of consistent offense, they're going to need to lean upon MacMath.

The Union average less than a goal a game, with four in six matches. That means Union manager Peter Nowak will take extra effort in making sure his backline is working to its fullest potential, so that the Union can score early and hold a one-goal advantage.

“You can see that we bunkered in a little bit," MacMath said Saturday. "We had to. We were down two guys (following red cards to Gabriel Farfan and Keon Daniel). We just stayed together as a team, communicated and worked really hard.”

Centerbacks Sheanon Williams and Carlos Valdes played well against Chivas. As did Raymon Gaddis, making only his second start in MLS. But Gabriel Farfan fell victim to chippiness late, getting issued a red card in the final minutes. With Danny Califf on the mend, it looks like Porfirio Lopez would be a safe bet to return to the lineup next weekend.

All of that amounts to MacMath playing well under pressure. He's made nine consecutive saves in a span of four games. He's going to need far more than that if the Union want to continue their ascent in the Eastern Conference table.

(Times staff photo / JULIA WILKINSON)

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Friday, April 20, 2012


Major League Soccer president Mark Abbott said earlier this month, on a visit to NASL franchise Carolina Railhawks, that MLS could support a club in the Southwest region of the United States, even if it doesn't seem likely to happen in the near future.

At the very least, MLS has the support of someone in the Union's locker room.

Union forward Jack McInerney thinks the Southeast could handle a franchise and said one would thrive there. Born in Chattanooga, Tenn., educated in Bradenton, Fla., and whose family makes its home in Alpharetta, Ga., McInerney said Atlanta would be ideal.

“It all depends on location,” McInerney said earlier this week. “The Atlanta area isn't like a big city like Philadelphia. There are swaths around. It just depends on where they put it. Soccer is big down there, with all the youth and club teams."

As for particular states, though, McInerney said take your pick.

“Definitely Georgia, or if they went down to Florida, it'd be a good option,” McInerney said. “The league has grown so much. North Carolina could hold a team, too. It's just a matter of who wants to put in the work to get a team.”

Abbott told reporters the buy-in price to join MLS is $100 million. Twice has MLS attempted to put franchises in that region of the country: Tampa Bay Mutiny, which played its inaugural season in 1996, and Miami Fusion, founded in 1998, both were vacated by the league in 2001. League officials have said they're satisfied with a 20-team format. And with MLS currently at 19 clubs, and only wanting to add a 20th to the New York market, that leaves the Southeast region on the short end of the stick.

No one's saying it'll never happen … but it might take a while.
 (Photo courtesy

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Thursday, April 19, 2012


It sounds like MLS commissioner Don Garber likes the idea of using his league as a guinea pig for the sport on a global scale.

Garber said Thursday while speaking to the Associated Press Sports Editors that he'd be OK with implementing goal-line technology as soon as possible, should it pass through FIFA's rules-making body later this summer.

Here's how it would work: A ball-tracking system would coincide with a magnetic field that accompanies a special ball, which would send a signal to the referee less than a second after the ball crosses the goal line.

The rules board meets July 2.

Said Garber: "We're interested in being a test league and we hope that we could achieve that. I would be open to whatever it is that could be done to ensure that we have goal-line technology."

So what do you think? Should MLS be the first league to test out this stuff?

(Photo: Associated Press)

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Saturday, in their home date against Columbus, the Union -- in conjunction with MLS -- unveiled the jerseys to be worn in July for the MLS All-Star Game vs. Chelsea FC at PPL Park.

What do you think? I could take it or leave it. Just screams, 'Uninspired,' with a black jersey and neon green trim. I do, however, like the crest of this All-Star Game, with the Liberty Bell festooned within.

Also, United States Soccer released the new look of the national teams over the weekend, with an American-flag inspired jersey for the U.S. men's and women's teams.

Now this I like. The red hoop-style jersey is unique, better than your run-of-the-mill solid-color kits and an improvement over the last jersey the U.S. sported, which featured a blue-sash color pattern across the front.

So, what are your thoughts? Leave them below in the comments section.

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Monday, April 16, 2012


Think the Union don't know they're having a tough time scoring?

Monday, they announced the signing of yet another striker, the sixth on their roster, in an attempt to snap out of a goal-scoring malaise that has limited them to three tallies in five matches.

Enter Kai Herdling, a 27-year-old German midfielder/forward who's on loan with the Union until June 30, according to one report, with an option to stay on with the Union until the end of the calendar year.

Per Union and MLS policies, the terms of the agreement with Herdling will not be disclosed.

If nothing else, Herdling provides the Union with a temporary fill-in for Roger Torres, the crafty 20-year-old midfielder who will be out at least for another six weeks after undergoing surgery to repair his balky left knee.

What the Union are hoping for is Herdling to take to MLS the way he had in Germany. With Hoffenheim II, the reserve team for Hoffenheim 1899, Herdling ranked second in the league with 14 assists. Last season, he tallied 19 goals in 30 appearances as Hoffenheim II's captain.

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Sunday, April 15, 2012


So the streak is over. The Union, who hadn't scored in 241 minutes, not only got a goal, but they also picked up their first win of 2012 by topping Columbus, 1-0.

What does that mean for the season? Here are three observations from Saturday's victory:

1. This defense can carry the Union. How often have the Union had to rely on Sheanon Williams, pictured, to play centerback? Umm...never. So when pressed into the spot by a pregame warmup injury to Danny Califf (hamstring tweak), Williams handled it admirably. That also meant Raymon Gaddis, a SuperDraft selection, got his first start and playing time. All told, the Union backline -- with goalkeeper Zac MacMath -- kept the Crew off the scoresheet and extended their opponents' scoreless streak to 252 minutes.

2. Why so conservative? The Union scored a first-half goal off a penalty kick, then turned around their game and went all defensive. They hadn't been generating enough offensive runs and scoring opportunities to make it worthwhile to sub out Freddy Adu in the 62nd minute, but that's what happened. For a team that hadn't found the back of the net in the better part of three matches, the Union needed to keep their foot on the pedal and, instead, they pulled back and tried to preserve the one-goal cushion.

3. A must-win that the Union won. How often are we five matches into the season, and the Union are faced with a must-win scenario? Saturday presented one, with middle-of-the-road Columbus in town. Peter Nowak's club had to have this one, with a West Coast roady to Chivas USA next up, followed by a home date with San Jose and another trip West to visit Seattle. Two of those teams are near the top of the Western Conference table and, while the other isn't, it's always daunting to cover 3,000 miles and pull off a victory. The Union needed three points against the Crew, and they got them.

**Rookie Antoine Hoppenot, a supplemental-draft pick, made his debut when he checked in for Lionard Pajoy in the 90th minute.
**When Gabriel Gomez converted a penalty kick in the 37th minute, he became the second player in franchise history to score a PK goal. The only other: Sebastien Le Toux.
**Adu got 63 minutes in his first playing time since returning last month from the United States U-23s, who failed to qualify for the Summer Olympics.

(Photo: Associated Press)

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Friday, April 13, 2012


Midfielder Roger Torres underwent what the Union term "successful" surgery Friday morning after sustaining a medial collateral ligament sprain and minor meniscus damage in his left knee.

The club announced Torres, a 20-year-old Colombian, is expected to miss six-to-eight weeks.

Torres, who has scored three goals and logged nine assists since joining the Union in 2010, sustained the injury Monday while helping the Union to a 4-2 win over New England in a reserve-league match.

That's all the information the Union provided.

Wednesday, Union manager Peter Nowak said he preferred not to set a timetable for Torres' return. Instead, he texted me saying, "We will most probably (know) on Friday."

While MCL sprains don't always require surgery, this could be a sign that the Union would prefer not to play around with Torres' injury and would rather have him guaranteed to return to the lineup.

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Thursday, April 12, 2012


A few odds and ends from Wednesday's press conference at PPL Park:

**The jersey the MLS All-Stars will wear against Chelsea July 25 will be unveiled at halftime of the Union's match Saturday against visiting Columbus. In case you didn't hear, Union boss Peter Nowak will manage the All-Stars.

**Why Chelsea? Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz said MLS, outfitted by Adidas, wished to book a fellow Adidas-sponsored club.

**Up to six tickets to the All-Star Game, which will air on ESPN, are available to each Union season-ticket holder account until April 25 at a special price, according to Sakiewicz.

**Union manager Peter Nowak said Freddy Adu “will play” Saturday against Columbus. Nowak would not say whether Adu, a scratch March 31 against Vancouver after returning from a U.S. U-23s callup, would make the Union's starting 11.

**Union midfielder Roger Torres will miss Saturday's match, and possibly even more beyond that, after spraining the MCL in his left knee Monday during a reserve-league match. Read more about it here.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012


If you were worried about the status of midfielder Roger Torres, you had good reason.

Wednesday, Union manager Peter Nowak told reporters the status of Torres, who sustained a left knee MCL sprain Monday, "doesn't look good" and that he wasn't willing to establish a timetable for the 20-year-old Colombian's return.

Torres, who was hurt in Monday's 4-2 reserve-league win over New England, has played 72 minutes in two matches this season.

Here's what Nowak had to say about Torres' injury:

On how soon Torres could return:
“It doesn't look good. I'm not the doctor. I'm trying to find the way right now to see that it's not only MCL. It could also be the meniscus. It could be a couple of things. If we were to decide to clean this up, not going one thing and trying to see if the other thing will work, it could be that it's a combination of things that we need to clean up in his knee, and that the therapy would be even longer. I don't want to predict any timetable for Roger, but it doesn't look good."

On the risk of returning too soon:
“Do you compensate something for something and actually you injure something else? I'm not talking because it was a bad foul. His knee went completely inside, so I knew something from the beginning was wrong. They will try to determine today and tomorrow what will be the definite procedure on this, but the MCL sprain is pretty bad and additional pieces were affected. Additional stuff is affected as well. There's still swelling, so you have to wait until the swelling to go down. You run the MRI to try to figure out the other part that got injured, and the other parts got injured, too."

Nowak made it clear that the Union's training staff will conduct an MRI on Torres' knee and determine the kind of treatment he'll need to endure.

Perhaps Nowak is playing up Torres' injury. Perhaps he isn't, and one of his top offseason signings (the Union purchased Torres' loan and own his rights outright) is legitimately hurt.

Only time will tell.

(Photo: Associated Press)

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Tuesday, April 10, 2012


The air's kind of out of the balloon.

According to FOX Soccer and Soccer by Ives, two reputable sources within the American soccer community, Chelsea will visit PPL Park July 25 to face the MLS All-Stars in the league's annual all-star game.

A formal announcement is expected Wednesday during an 11:30 a.m. press conference at PPL Park.

MLS all-stars have played an English Premier League team in seven of the last eight years. The MLS stars have lost the last three.

The Union hope to have a representative in this year's game, the first major MLS showcase in the three-year history of PPL Park. Sebastien Le Toux made the cut in 2010 and Faryd Mondragon earned a spot in 2011.

If I was to wage a guess, Sheanon Williams has as good a shot as anybody to make the 2012 all-star team. Not only is the right back consistent, in that he's missed only one match since debuting in 2010, but he's a lockdown defender who can make runs into the offensive third of the pitch. He's been the Union's top player to this point of the season.

Who do you think from the Union deserves consideration? Leave your thoughts below.

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Monday, three Union players spent part of their day on the south lawn of the White House, playing soccer as one part of the 134th annual White House Easter Egg Roll.

Union defender Danny Califf, defensive mid Brian Carroll and goalkeeper Zac MacMath were there repping the Union.

“Any time there’s something that’s emailed to you with ‘White House’ in the title, it’ll give you a double-take,” Califf told “To be able to do this – and take my family along – is probably one of the coolest experiences I’ve had. I’m honored.”

Other MLS reps on the south lawn were: New York Red Bulls' Kenny Cooper and Stephen Keel and D.C. United’s Stephen King, Robbie Russell, Chris Pontius and head coach Ben Olsen.

Here are some photos from the event:

(Photos courtesy Philadelphia Union)

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Friday, April 6, 2012


Once more, the Union did one of their affiliate clubs a solid.

The Union announced Friday they will face Reading United AC, their United Soccer League affiliate, in an exhibition match Saturday, June 9 at 7 p.m. at Albright College's Shirk Stadium.

That makes three times in as many years the Union will go up against their affiliate club. They played to a 1-1 draw last season.

"Philadelphia Union are deeply committed to our player development partnerships with Reading United A.C. and the Harrisburg City Islanders,” said Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz. “These games give us an opportunity to get together in each respective market, bring some exciting soccer to town and see how the stars of the future match up against Major League Soccer professionals. We are honored to have such great partners."

Here's some ticket info concerning the game:
Reduced price pre-order tickets for the game are $12 and general admission will be available online at through May 31, 2012. Tickets purchased after May 31 will sell for $15.

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012


By the time the Union next play, they might be their healthiest all season.

According to Union boss Peter Nowak, the club is using its bye week to its fullest potential. Only rookie Krystian Witkowski, who suffered a concussion two weeks back, is sidelined as a non-participant in training.

Nowak said centerback Carlos Valdes, who has taken hits to his head in three of four matches this season, "is OK" and his fitness shouldn't be questioned for the Union's April 14 match vs. visiting Columbus. Valdes, who wore a padded helmet March 31 against Vancouver, absorbed an elbow to the head from the Whitecaps' Atiba Harris.

Also, Freddy Adu, who was granted “a couple days off” by Nowak, should be fresh when Columbus comes to town. Adu was at PPL Park for the scoreless draw against Vancouver, but didn't make the 18-man gameday roster. He was coming off a stretch during which he played three matches in five days with the U.S. U-23s, who were attempting to qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics.

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Monday, April 2, 2012


In the sixth minute of Saturday's match, Sheanon Williams was off to the races.

He sprinted from one end of the pitch to the other, crossing midfield while possessing the ball. He covered something near 45 yards, traversing the middle of the pitch and slicing through Vancouver's defense. He did all of that, but didn't manage a shot on goal or even a pass to one of his teammates.

That show by Williams has to be regarded as a success. Here's why: With only two goals through four matches, the Union rank among Major League Soccer's least-productive clubs. So they need every bit of offense they can muster ... even if it's coming from non-scoring runs by Williams, who has 0 goals and 3 assists in parts of three seasons.

Williams, a 23-year-old right back from Boston, has been given permission by the Union's technical staff to make runs on the wing, or up the middle, to convert otherwise disregarded possessions into potential goals.

That's why Williams and left back Porfirio Lopez may start the match in a four-man backline, but guys like Keon Daniel and Brian Carroll, starting midfielders, will fill in gaps when those two make runs up the wing.

“I don't think the coaching staff has ever limited my runs or how much I get forward; they encourage it,” Williams said Saturday, following the Union's scoreless draw with Vancouver. “I want to get forward as much as possible to help out our attack. They've given me complete freedom to get forward and that's something that works for me and I like that they feel comfortable with me going forward.”

In a lineup that favors flux, Williams isn't going anywhere any time soon. He's started all but one match (March 24 at Chicago, due to a U.S. U-23 callup) since joining the Union late in 2010. So the Union will look to use that consistency to their advantage.

Even if that means allowing a defender to trigger their stale offense.

Is that a good sign for the Union's struggling offense? Leave your comments below.

NOTE: The Union will face New England a week from today, Monday, April 9, in their first Reserve League match. It'll kick off at Chester Park (708 Ridley Drive, Wallingford, Pa.) at 10 a.m.

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Sunday, April 1, 2012


Fun's over, folks. Back to business.

Saturday marked the end of a weeklong hub-bub surrounding Sebastien Le Toux's return to PPL Park. The Union favorite, traded to Vancouver in the offseason, got cheered during a 0-0 draw.

Le Toux, who stuck around the Whitecaps' dressing room in order to meet up with Union media, said he enjoyed his return to the city where he earned all-star distinction, MLS Best XI status and ranked among the league's top-five goalscorers in 2010 and 2011.

“I knew it would be something special, but I was not thinking as much,” Le Toux said. “I'm just thankful for the fans.”

After lauding the Union faithful, Le Toux patted his teammates on the back. Vancouver (2-0-2) sits near the top of the Western Conference table.

“We are building it,” Le Toux said. “We are getting better. … We have lots of quality, but we have to work on our patience sometimes and work on everybody and (remember) that we are a group.”

Aside from Le Toux, defender Jordan Harvey (who got the start) and backup goalkeeper Brad Knighton (who didn't see the pitch) also felt right at home at PPL Park.

“I spoke to both of them (Le Toux and Harvey) before they got in, more just to catch up,” said Union captain Danny Califf, who contributed to the cleansheet. “I hadn't spoken to Sebastien in between the time he's been gone. I've spoken to Jordan a lot more often. He was my roommate here and he was my best friend on the team, so I've continued that relationship. It was great to see them and see them out there today. It's relationships like that that make this job cool.”

Well, that being said, it's back to the drawing board for the Union (0-3-1), who have more than a week to shake off their early-season rust before resuming play with an April 14 match against visiting Columbus.

The bye week comes at an opportune moment for Peter Nowak's club, who look like they need a timeout --- even if it's only four matches into the season. Now, before we jump to any conclusions about where this team is headed, though, let's remember that the Union clinched a playoff berth in 2011 even after going eight matches without securing a win.

Just playing devil's advocate.

(Times staff photos / COLIN KERRIGAN)

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He wasn't in the Union's starting lineup. He wasn't on the gameday roster, either.

So if he didn't play, let alone dress, for Saturday's match against visiting Vancouver, where was Roger Torres?

The 20-year-old midfielder was seen exiting a press-level suite with teammates Freddy Adu and Cristhian Hernandez. When asked why he didn't play, Torres said didn't have a concrete answer. Torres' name hadn't been included in either of the Union's injury reports this week.

"I'm not sure why," Torres told me.

Union boss Peter Nowak, in his press conference following the Union's scoreless draw with the Whitecaps, made it sound as though he benched Torres because he was unsatisfied with his youngster's work ethic.

"Roger, it’s competition. We have three offensive guys, with Jack (McInerney), Danny Mwanga and also Josue Martinez on the bench, and we need to have a cover as well with Amobi Okugo and also Chris Albright.

"...The competition is always good. We have three guys coming back from the Olympic team as well and it’s going to be two good weeks of training to make sure we’re going to get the fighting spirit and the performance we presented today. Overall, I think we’ve been preaching for a long time about the fighting spirit, about fighting for each ball and making tackles in the right time going forward."

Torres, whose rights were acquired by the Union this offseason, has played in only two of the club's four matches, logging only 72 minutes. A criticism of Torres in the past has been his stamina and his inability to give more than a few minutes off the bench.

It'll be a while before we see whether Torres will be on the pitch next for the Union (0-3-1), who enter a bye week.

(Photo: Associated Press)

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