The Union, fresh off picking up its first three points of the season, travel west to face Chivas USA at the Home Depot Center (10:30PM/The Comcast Network). In the last pregame post I wrote that the Union needed to pick a style of play and stick with it. Well, with consecutive shutouts it certainly looks like Peter Nowak has opted to focus his attention on the bolstering the defensive third.
Perhaps the most impressive part of the current shutout streak is the fact that the Union held Columbus scoreless without Danny Califf and with rookie Raymon Gaddis making his first career MLS start. Sheanon Williams, who shifted to center back in place of the injured Califf, was at a physical disadvantage against the taller Crew forwards, but managed to hold his own. Gaddis was shaky, but the rookie possesses enough pace to overcome the bulk of his miscues. Hopefully his MLS debut jitters are behind him and he can settle down and play a more composed game.
The offense remains a work in progress. The lone Union goal against Columbus came on a Gabriel Gomez penalty kick. Freddy Adu, who played his best game in a Union kit, served a dangerous ball into the box, which was handled by Eric Gehrig. Gomez converted a cheeky chip right down the middle for the lone goal of the game. Scoring from the run of play has been a major challenge for the U – as they’ve scored a single goal (Lionard Pajoy against Colorado) without the benefit of a whistle stopping play.
With that being said, there were some positive signs last week. Brian Carroll returned to his customary lone holding midfielder role. The move freed Gomez up to be more positive in his play. Whereas in previous weeks you’d rarely see Gomez cross the center circle – against Columbus the Panamanian pushed forward towards the edge of the Crew penalty area. The move opened things up for the Union, and allowed Gomez to contribute to the attack.
Another positive development was the play of Adu. Freddy was confident and aggressive on the ball. You saw him take on defenders and perform the sort of multiple step-overs your accustomed to seeing him unleash when wearing a US uniform. I am still not quite sure why Nowak took him off so early last week, but Adu was by far the most dangerous Union player.
Chivas enters the game in fifth place in the Western Conference (3-3). Strangely, the Goats are 0-3 at home and 3-0 on the road. Something will have to give tonight as the Union has yet to pick up a road point. Former Union man Alejandro Moreno is still plugging away in MLS. Moreno is one of four Chivas players to score so far this season.
Juan Pablo Angel, who was so dangerous when wearing a New York Red Bull shirt, is available for selection tonight by Chivas manager Robin Fraser. Angel has missed time with a concussion, but if chosen by Fraser could present a challenge for a Union back line who will be without Danny Califf for a second consecutive week.
Chivas is not a particularly high scoring team – scoring four goals in six games – so it’s not out of the question for the Union to earn a point, or three, despite traveling cross country for the match.
Lineup I’d Like to See: Zak MacMath, Gaddis, Williams, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan, Carroll, Keon Daniel, Gabriel Gomez, Michael Farfan, Adu and Pajoy.
Final Score Prediction: The Union earn its first road point of the season with a 1-1 draw.