The Union kept their undefeated streak at KC alive as Brian “Rambo” Brown opened his MLS account. A big point against the defending MLS champs solidified Philly’s status as Kansas City’s kryptonite.
Rambo: First Blood
In the 71st minute, Brown delivered a pass to Ray Gaddis and then charged forward into the box. A pinpoint cross by Ray found Brown, who contorted his head to put the ball in the back of the net. Rambo’s equalizer clinched an unexpected point for Philadelphia. Brown seems full of confidence, and he looks to be fighting for Wenger’s role as the spot starter who is the first sub off the bench. Hopefully, this is the first of many goals to come.
While Rambo scored, it is important to remember he is still very raw. After his goal, Brown got on the end of several counters, but he lost the ball in the box each time. I think he has the potential to be a big player for the union, but he is a work in progress. Remember, Wenger scored in his Union debut.
After the signing of Rais M’Bolhi, all eyes were on Zac MacMath. In the face of adversity, Zac had a solid game. He made a handful of saves, few of which were truly challenging. Of note, a poor clearance by Zac in the first half led to a Sporting counter. Zac’s punching save didn’t clear the ball properly, and Zac was forced off his line to clear the ball away hectically. Rais was signed to limit these nervy moments.
I can’t blame Zac for KC’s lone goal as his defensive line left him out to dry there.
The Starting XI
With Chaco injured and Lahoud on international duty, Curtin opted for a defensive lineup. The two players were replaced with Carroll in midfield and White in the back. Okugo was meant to play as a box to box midfielder who could contribute in the attack.
This lineup was unable to truly challenge a patchwork Kansas City backline featuring only one of their normal starters. Curtin’s plan from the beginning seemed to be to jam the KC attack while hoping to nick a goal on the counter.
All in all, the defense had a solid game. The lone goal came off a very poor header from Ray. Both central defenders seemed to lose track of Graham Zusi who received a pass in the box that he calmly slotted into the back of the net.
Aside from this goal, the defense looked more organized and improved compared to the Hackworth era. Edu and White made some big stops, while Williams put in one of his best shifts of the season. Ray got beat several times on the left, but he had one of his best games going forward all year.
While Ray assisted on the Union goal, his best run forward led to a perfect ground cross at the end of the first half that Williams completely missed.
In the end, Philly gave up only a single goal to the MLS champs and blanketed Dwyer, KC’s most dangerous attacker.
The midfield really missed Maidana tonight. As expected, the three defensive midfielder lineup of Nogueira, Okugo, and Carroll lacked the creativity to string the attack together. While Okugo was meant to go push higher up, Carroll was the player who looked the most dangerous of the three in the final third. The center of the pitch seemed to cry out for a player like Fred or Pedro all game long.
On the outside, the game was a tale of two wingers. Le Toux is the embodiment of inconsistency. Several times, Le Toux either got on the end of a long ball or kept a play alive only to flub the final result. Tonight was very disappointing for Mr. Philadelphia Union.
Cruz played very well. He has long been a whipping boy for fans. Admittedly, I hated him in 2012 and the first half of 2013. Tonight, he played his role well. Cruz offered some good direct width while pestering KC all night long. Early in the second half, Cruz found a way to dribble past three KC players and deliver a fine ball to Carroll whose shot was saved. Cruz is really starting to find good form with this team.
Poor Connor Casey. Much like in the Hack era, Casey found himself on an island most of the night. Connor did well to battle Aurelien Collin, but his midfield struggled to serve him the ball. In the first half, Connor delivered a perfect cross that found Le Toux outside the box, but the Frenchman couldn’t put his shot on target. A healthy Chaco should help Connor find support in the attack.
I don’t understand how Wenger is still the first sub off the bench. He has very little to offer this team other than size and athleticism. Wenger will never provide a goal when we are chasing a game. I am very disappointed that Curtin has been sticking so closely with him.
Rambo was the complete opposite of Wenger. He simply looks confident. Brown did well to get his head on Ray’s cross and flick it on target. After the goal, Brown used his speed and size to get on the end of Union long balls. I would have liked to have seen more composure to hold the ball and wait for teammates to arrive in support, but I love that Rambo is confident enough to take a defender on.
Fred didn’t have much time to make an impact. Most importantly in this short appearance, he kept the ball flowing when the Union had possession. Grandpa likely should have come on at the time Wenger did as the game was crying out for a creative midfielder.
Jim Curtin kept the team organized while frustrating KC. Sporting had several chances in the first half but most were from outside the box and few looked dangerous.
I would have liked to see Curtin attack a young, inexperienced backline more. Igor, Palmer-Brown, and Peterson were two very young players and a midfielder playing out of position. We rarely punished them for their inexperience.
Le Toux: 3
Zolo of the Match:
Brian “Rambo” Brown has to get the nod here. In a night when few Union players truly stood out, Rambo scored the all important equalizing goal.
Ray certainly looked dangerous in the attack, but his poor clearance lead directly to KC’s goal.
What did you think of the Union tonight? Who was your Zolo of the Match?