Saturday, May 26, 2012

Union Struggling to Replace Key Players

Lets face it, the Philadelphia Union are having a hard time playing as a team and scoring goals. I think one of the factors influencing the Union's performance is the instability of their lineup and holes left by key players.
Although coach Peter Novak often shifted players around last season, the Union had a lot of stability in their defense with few changes occurring. This resulted in one of the best defenses in the MLS for 2011 led by veteran goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon.

PPL Park home of the Philadelphia Union
It is a different story this year. Young Zac MacMath has taken over the starting goalkeeper position and after a few shaky games, has done quite well. But losing their veteran goalkeeper and captain is hard to replace.

Yet he was not the only vital player traded away. Sebastien Le Toux, the Union's leading goalscorer in 2010 and 2011, was traded away at the beginning of the season. Then, about 5 games into the 2012 season, the Union's current captain and central defender, Danny Calif was traded to Chivas USA in a curious fashion.
Le Toux scored more than 50% of the Union's Goals

These three players made up the heart of the Philadelphia Union last season, and removing them has left a hole too big for any other players to fill. The Union's Coach has brought in a number of new players and several of them have been looking pretty good, but no one has been able to replace the goal scoring ability of Le Toux, or the leadership of their veteran goalkeeper and central defender. 

In the end, many hoped the 2012 season would bring an opportunity to make a run at the MLS Cup after reaching the playoffs last year. However, it appears to me that this will be a building season allowing newly acquired players to try to fit in and get accustomed to things in Philadelphia. 

So far, the Union Coach has been shifting players around, and trying different formations without much to show for it. Hopefully they will find a combination that works and keep their best players for next year, instead of trading them away as they did last season.

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