Blogs > Red Cards

Bob Weiser started playing soccer as a youth and has been following the sport ever since, dating back to days of watching the Bundesliga on PBS on Saturday afternoons.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Goalkeeping woes cured

I was vocal all year long that I thought Chris Seitz was costing the Union games and Peter Nowak finally got around to benching him to play Brad Knighton regularly. I just wish Nowak had pulled an Andy Reid and made this decision two games into the season - the Union could be headed to the playoffs if he had.

One play in Saturday's game against Chivas USA proves my point: It was early, maybe 20 minutes in, and the game was still scoreless. Chivas played a long ball to an open attacker on the left wing. The ball was about 20 yards out from goal and Knighton made a decisive move to come out, slide and try to beat the forward to the ball. He got there about a second ahead of the Chivas player and the scoring attempt was thwarted.

Had Chris Seitz been in goal, he probably would have come out to the 18, then tried to backpedal a bit and watched the forward chip it over his head for a 1-0 lead. His indecisiveness would have cost the Union a goal and may have completely changed the outcome of the game.

Instead, Knighton made the play - and a couple of others - and the Union had another shutout. Knighton has started the last three games and the Union is 2-1. He's given up one goal and posted two shutouts.

Hopefully, he's earned the starting gig for 2011.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

First clean sheet of the year

Peter Nowak, apparently, had finally seen enough of Chris Seitz in the Union goal after Seitz allowed a disappointing goal a week ago. That was good news for Union fans as Brad Knighton got the start Saturday night at PPL Park against the Chicago Fire. Knighton didn't disappoint, making several impressive saves and leading the Union to a 1-0 win and the first shutout of the MLS season.

I have been clamoring for this change for months and, hopefully, this time it will stick. Knighton started a game earlier this year and got a red card early in the first half. It was back to the bench after that, but Knighton earned another start after Saturday's effort. He made at least 3 quality saves and seemed to be in the right spots. He came out to the ball, rather than sitting back and waiting, like Seitz seems to do regularly.

Another beautiful goal from Sebastien LeToux, his 11th, as he pursues the MLS Golden Ball.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blacked out in my house

Before I went to bed Saturday night, I made sure to check my TV listings to make sure I had set up my DVR to record the Union's match against D.C. United. Sure enough, on Channel 506 in my Verizon FIOS lineup, the game was listed. The 2 p.m. start was good to go and I could watch the game when I woke up.

I woke up around 2:30 and the living room TV was being occupied, so I turned on the TV in the bedroom. Checked out 506 and saw a Little League World Series game. What the ...? Are you serious? This isn't the first time this has happened. Can't remember which game it was back in May, but I had a similar problem with not being able to see the game.

When I finally got on my computer that afternoon, sure enough the Union had sent out an e-mail telling us the game had been moved to the LiveWell Network. I don't know why and I really don't care why. All I knew was, I missed the game. Again.

It's awfully hard to write a blog about a game you don't see. So I'm really not going to try. I'll just say, a 2-0 loss to the worst team in MLS isn't a good day and it's the fourth time the Union has been shut out this year.

With a game at Gillette Stadium against the New England Revolution, it was a chance to win a couple of road games and really solidify a not-last-place finish. There's still another chance Saturday.

It's also the last chance to keep the streak of having exactly one win in each month that the Union has played more than one game (Philly was 0-1 in March with a season-opening loss against Seattle) and it would be a nice way to head into the final six weeks or so of the season. The Union is a disappointing 0 wins, 3 losses and 2 ties in 5 August matches.

And maybe I'll actually get to see this one.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Two games, two losses, some bad fans

Chris Seitz didn't start Sunday's game against FC Dallas ... The TV announcers said he had a stomachache Saturday night and prior to the game. Funny, every time I see Chris Seitz on the field, my stomach starts to turn.

So because Seitz was sick, me and several thousand Union fans got our wish - Brad Knighton started in goal. Too bad it only lasted 20 minutes - and too bad he made a Seitz-like mistake. His bobble with Breck Shea bearing down led to a penalty kick and red card on Knighton that forced Seitz into action.

I don't know if the stomachache story was just a rouge or what, but he didn't look sick. In fact, he looked as good as he has all year. He made a tremendous first-half save on a shot from Shea and then another strong save on a header in the 72nd minute. He came out on a cross and looked assertive. And then he didn't and Jeff Cunningham spit the defense of the new guy - Juan Diego Gonzalez - and Jordan Harvey to give Dallas the lead. One more Jeff Cunningham goal and it was all over. Of course, it was probably all over when the Union went down a man, but the team managed to hold things together for about 45 minutes. Doing it in 120 minutes was probably too much to ask. Especially against Cunningham and Shea.

It's interesting to watch Peter Nowak try to piece a new lineup together. Three of the 10 field starters Sunday weren't on the team two weeks earlier. I'm willing to take some lumps now if it makes the team better in 2011, though. It's probably too many changes to really impact 2010, but as long as the team plays like it has this season, that's good enough.

Had a chance to go to the Union-Crew game at PPL Park last Thursday. It was Delaware County night and that meant half-priced tickets for Delco residents. I was going anyway, but it was nice to save $15. The game got me wondering: Do opposing teams come into PPL and just try to survive the first 30 minutes? That sure seemed to be the Crew's approach. I would have loved to see how this game turned out if Stefani Miglioranzi hadn't gotten hurt. He was outstanding in the 40 or so minutes he played. It also hasn't helped lately that Danny Mwanga hasn't been fit enough to play.

A final thought on the behavior of the fans at the Crew game: I hadn't noticed this in the three previous games I attended, but if this is what soccer in Philadelphia is going to be like, I'm going to be loud and outspoken against the fans that show no class. You know who you are - mostly the Sons of Ben. It's awesome that you guys are as loud as you are. It's awesome that there is so much support for the team. But Philadelphia already has a bad reputation and anyone who can actually hear what the fans are shouting throughout the game has to just think, 'oh, well, that's Philadelphia.' It isn't, but thanks to you guys, it's just adding to the reputation. Don't try to convince me that you're saying 'Your socks have holes.' You're not. You are calling the opposing goalie an a**hole. Admit it and stop it. And while I didn't think you were shouting 'F*** You' repeatedly, that's what it sounds like at the other end of the field. There are children in the stadium. Tone it down and show some class.

Monday, July 19, 2010

All Union, all the time

The Union had an impressive week, getting its first shutout, or clean sheet, with a 1-0 win over Celtic FC of Scotland in the first night game at PPL Park and following that up with a 2-1 win over Toronto FC Saturday on Sebastien LeToux's late penalty kick.

Of course, it should be pointed out that that first shutout came with backup keeper Brad Knighton in goal, not starter Chris Seitz. I've been saying for weeks that Knighton deserves a shot to play over Seitz, whose inconsistencies and inexperience have cost the Union on a couple of occasions. I was disappointed to learn, then, that Seitz was back in goal Saturday against Toronto.

But the good news is they got 3 points against Toronto, a team that had an eight-game unbeaten streak heading into the game. Toronto, by the way, features Jon Conway, the Sun Valley High School graduate who is the only Delaware County high school product playing in MLS. See Chris Vito's story here:

Despite temperatures in the upper 90s again Saturday, LeToux was all over the field. His work ethic is simply amazing.

Up next is a friendly against Manchester United Wednesday night at Lincoln Financial Field. Man U will be holding a clinic Tuesday night from 7-9 at Chester Park for local youths. The Union's next MLS match is against the New England Revolution July 31 at PPL Park.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Spain 1, Holland 0

The 2010 World Cup final seemed destined for penalty kicks. Still scoreless, time winding down before Andres Iniesta gave Spain the only goal it would need to win the World Cup for the first time in the nation's history.

Before the goal, however, the game was a physical battle that featured a record number of yellow cards - and one pivotal red to Holland's John Heitinga in the 109th minute. Whether or not the cards against Heitinga were warranted, the game was filled with hard fouls and the Dutch got away with what should have been a red card earlier when Nigel De Jong stuck his studs in Xabi Alonso's chest.

Frankly, the Dutch have no one to blame but themselves for the loss. There were plenty of opportunities for both teams to score. Spain had chances and the Dutch had chances. Arjen Robben could have easily had two goals if not for some outstanding saves by Golden Glove winner Iker Casillas.

The Dutch had their share of possession in the match - seemingly a lot more than Germany had against Spain in the semifinals. They were a fingertip away from Maarten Stekelenburg stopping that game-winner as well.

In the end, it was a great tournament with a back-and-forth final where Spain ended its drought and Holland lost in the final for the third time, the first since 1978.

Diego Forlan of Uruguay was deserving of the Golden Ball. I wouldn't have voted for him, because no matter how hurt he was, he should have been able to finish the semifinal loss. I was just as surprised to see David Villa come off for Fernando Torres in the final, though. Not sure I'll ever understand the substitution patterns of these coaches.

See you in Rio in four years.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The end is near

Unfortunately. As in, the end of the World Cup is near. Fortunately, a great month of soccer should conclude with what shapes up as a great match.

Spain takes on the Netherlands today at 2:30 p.m. The winner will be World Cup champions for the first time. Dutch fans are used to disappointment, having lost to West Germany in 1974 and Argentina in 1978, both times on the opponent's home soil. They won't have that disadvantage this year as whichever European side wins will be the first to win a World Cup outside Europe. Good thing they get to host a lot of World Cups, huh? History isn't on Spain's side - no team has ever lost its first game in the tournament and gone on to win it all. Spain lost to Switzerland, 1-0, what seems like years ago now.

Maybe that loss woke Spain up. The team has played very well since the loss, led by David Villa, Xavi and Carles Puyol. Spain figures to try to possess the ball with its short passing game, much like it did against Germany. The difference? I don't think Holland will let Spain play keepaway like Germany seemed to do. The Dutch will pressure the ball more and try to find its own offense.

Holland is led by Wesley Sneijder, Robin Von Persie and Arjen Robben and has the firepower to match Spain.

Prediction: Spain 2, Holland 1

Soccer is a cruel sport

That's about the only way to describe the Union's 2-1 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday at PPL Park. It was the first time I was unable to attend a home game.

But what I grasped from watching the game on FSC:

Once again, the Union totally dominated a game only to come up short. Maybe I'm a homer, but I feel like this team is significantly better than its record/results. The Union could have been up 3 or 4-0 against San Jose. They had several golden opportunities in the second half, including Danny Mwanga getting pantsed before Jon Busch made a great save, then Busch robbing Sebastien LeToux a couple of times. Then LeToux got bodychecked by a San Jose defender at about the 18-yard line. The defender made no attempt to play the ball and simply used his body to prevent LeToux from getting to the ball.

But the game was lost on a poor free kick from Roger Torres that led to a breakout by San Jose. Torres has been a major disappointment after a great start to his season. At the other end of the field, Jordan Harvey was between Arturo Alvarez and Chris Seitz. You just can't let the guy get a shot off there. Take him down. Take the yellow card, give the free kick and allow your teammates to get back and get set up. Of course, once the shot got past Harvey, you just knew it was going past Seitz, right? I mean, other than a PK in his belly against Seattle, the guy hasn't made one clutch save yet this year. I was ready to give him the year a few weeks ago. Now, I want Brad Knighton a start. Even if its against Celtic and Manchester United, let's see if he shows any better in game action. It's time for a change.

On the same front, I want the central defense shored up and changed. This team has allowed two goals in all but three of its matches. It has yet to record a clean sheet. Why? As much as Seitz is at fault, he's not the only problem. Danny Califf is big and physical. Too bad he isn't any good. Get him off the field now. Cristian Arietta was supposed to help out when he joined the team. He was the Defender of the Year with the Puerto Rico Islanders in 2008 in the USL. He must have had a hell of a team around him. This group just isn't cutting it.

Two games this week - the Celtic friendly Wednesday at PPL and another home MSL match Saturday against a Toronto FC team that the Union should have beaten earlier in the season up in Canada. With five of the next six league matches at PPL, its the perfect time to play a push for a playoff spot. If the team doesn't pick up a bunch of those 15 points, the playoffs are probably going to be out of reach.