Before Saturday's game against Toronto FC, The Philadelphia Union had scored 8 goals in 10 MLS games. They had scored 1 goal in 4 MLS away games. On Saturday, they scored 6. Six! A new club record for most goals ever conceded by TFC, and after a few encouraging weeks, a fresh new low in this helter skelter ride of a season.
How the hell did that happen? Well, I think it came down to the defensive selection put out by Aron Winter. Adrian Cann was rested, which in itself isn't a bad decision as he's looked tired and more error prone recently, a fact confirmed in Winter's post match press conference. Ty Harden was his replacement though, and it quickly became apparent how important Adrian Can actually is to the defence, and how little depth TFC currently has.
Dan Gargan isn't a great defender by any means, but amid a solid defence his limitations can be covered up for, and it's probably fair to say the same about Ty Harden, but both of them together at the left side of the defence proved disastrous, early and often. It was Gargan's poor defensive effort that led to Philadelphia's first goal, in the 2nd minute. In the 11th minute, a poor clearance from Harden gave the ball to the Union, which led to their 2nd goal. Gargan was substituted at half time, whereas Harden was still on the pitch to allow Justin Mapp way too much time and space to score Philadelphia's 4th goal, and completely lost Danny Mwanga allowing him to score their 5th directly from a corner, before being taken off himself in the 73rd minute.
it would be harsh to blame just those 2 players, as there is a lot of fault to spread around. The first half was right up there in the list of worst TFC performances ever. Confused defending, sloppy passing, barely anything happening up front, 3-0 at half time was not a matter of bad luck, it was well deserved, the third goal coming just before half time after what was a very nice passing move that would have got past better defences than Toronto's.
A very entertaining start to the second half saved the game from being TFC's worst ever. As well as Danleigh Borman coming on at half time for Gargan, Javier Martina also came on, replacing Julian De Guzman. He moved to Right Wing, with Nick Soolsma joining Maicon Santos at centre Forward, and for 20 minutes, it was like watching Kevin Keegan's mid 90's Newcastle side, TFC's new found attacking intent leading to plenty of chances.
A suddenly interested looking and effective Maicon Santos forced a great save from Faryd Mondragon in the 48th minute, before beating him in the 50th. Set free behind the defence from a lovely Borman pass, he knocked the ball around an onrushing Mondragon before slotting it into the empty net. Tony Tchani had a chance in the 51st minute but didn't really connect on his shot from outside the box, Santos had an ambitious 40 yard shot in the 54th, Joao Plata found his way into the box on the right side and forced a save from Mondragon in the 55th. From the ensuing corner, Tony Tchani knocked the ball across the face of goal, but no-one could get a head to it. In the 59th minute, a giveaway form the Union's Sebastian Le Toux led to Borman again linking with Santos, this time a low cross from the left leading to an easy tap in, and suddenly it was only 3-2.
It was breathless stuff, but unfortunately, all that attacking left TFC very vulnerable at the back, the Union had 4 decent chances, and Stefan Frei had to make two very good saves before TFC scored their 2nd, so it was only a matter of time before TFC's luck ran out. A poor Frei clearance led to a goal in the 62nd minute, Faryd Mondragon almost scored in the 65th, a goal kick bouncing over Stefan Frei, who just got back in tiime to stop it going in, and he had to make another great save in the 68th minute.
By then TFC's momentum was gone, and the game was a formality, aside form Philly scoring two more goals, the 6th coming in the last minute to break TFC's goals against record and seal what Aron Winter referred to post game as a humiliation.
So where do we go from here? Hopefully the only way is up, this season was always going to have it's poor moments, bad games where things just aren't working, the new system falls apart and the lack of depth in the squad is exposed. It had been over a month since the debacle in Seattle, so really TFC were due for another shitshow and that's what we got.
After that game, there was a rethinking of the tactics, the Santos as Attacking midfielder experiment was given up on, and it led to a series of much improved games, only the one win, but a few ties and some encouraging performances throughout a busy schedule and without the services of our best Centre Forward Alan Gordon, culminating in a very creditable 0-0 draw in Colorado. Hopefully, with a lighter schedule and finally having a full week to practice, TFC can again rebound, put some good games in and rebuild their confidence.
How the squad loks a few weeks from now will be the key to that. Dicoy Williams and Julian De Guzman will soon be missing on Gold Cup duty, and there's a chance Joao Plata may be going to the Copa America with Ecuador, so reliable replacements are going to have to be found. In defence, Adrian Cann will surely return, but will Ty Harden get another chance, or will Nana Attakora finally be allowed off the naughty spot and into the starting lineup. The summer transfer window will be open soon, and Winter said post game his priorities are signing someone who can create goals, and someone who can lead, in defence and in midfield, hopefully he can bring in at least a portion of that wish list.
At some point it will all go wrong again, any success this season may have to be measured by just how long TFC can make the gaps between their disasters. Bob Marley's Three little Birds with the lyrics 'don't worry about a thing' has become a staple in the BMO Field pre and post game music selection, maybe they should think about adding the Beatles' Helter Skelter.
When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slide
Where I stop and I turn and I go for a ride
Till I get to the bottom and I see you again