May 4, 2013, 1:58 PM EDT
Much of the fan frustration in the Union so far this season –
especially without Freddy Adu to kick around anymore — has been directed at
midfielder Danny Cruz.
I’m not as down on Cruz as some of the vitriol I see on Twitter
proves others are, but I don’t think he really has a place in this team,
especially as it is currently constructed.
No one doubts that Cruz puts out maximum effort. The guy has
taken free kicks to the head multiple times this season and is in constant
motion down the right flank. He runs his ass off for 90 minutes and can be a
pest to opposing left backs and left midfielders. He even had a great touch and
assist on a Conor Casey goal in the win over D.C. United.
But one thing Cruz does not have is anything resembling a good
first touch (or second, or third). He does not have the on-the-ball skills to
take on defenders one-on-one, and while he can deliver a good pass here and
there, he is not that strong a crosser of the ball.
If John Hackworth is going to play with two attackers — Casey
and Jack McInerney — or even three when Sebastien Le Toux is on the field
(something I expect to see today against Seattle), then those remaining in the
midfield need to be able to keep at least a little bit of possession.
Brian Carroll is not the greatest passer in the world (I’m being
kind today) and Michael Farfan has spent much of the season in the witness
protection program (more on this next week). The Union need someone on the
right flank who will take on defenders, and I’m not even sure such a player
exists on the roster. In the absence of that, they at least need to focus on
That’s where designated player Kleberson comes in, as my old friend and
soon-to-be-dad Dave Zeitlin pointed out earlier this week.
He is more of a holding midfielder than attacker, but in my
limited viewing of his play (read: YouTube clips) he would be well-suited in
front of Brian Carroll with Farfan or Daniel on the right. I’m sure Kleberson
could also handle playing wider, as well.
Hackworth said this week that he was hesitant to use Kleberson
on turf last week at Gilette Stadium considering his lack of experience on
artificial surfaces, which is understandable. But we’re past the point of
“getting acclimated” with the system or his teammates, or
“ability to play 90 minutes.” You’re either ready or you’re not. And
it’s time to see what the new guy can do. And if that means Danny Cruz — by
all accounts a great guy and great teammate who gets far too much grief from
fans in my book — needs to sit down, then so be it.
Philadelphia Union (3-3-2, 11 points) vs. Seattle Sounders
(1-3-2, 5 points)
4 p.m. — PPL Park — TV: 6ABC
After a few games with the same (or roughly the same) lineup, I
expect one or two changes (Le Toux, maybe). Based on the Sounders’ slow start,
the Union should expect three points at home. But I have no idea what to
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