The Inside Doop: Adu returns just in time


CHESTER, Pa.The Philadelphia Union can finally breathe a sigh of relief after winning their first game of the 2012 season, beating Columbus on Saturday at PPL Park by a 1-0 margin.
How did they do it? What do they need to think about moving forward? Take a look below as we break down everything going on in Union-land in our weekly postgame feature.
Three thoughts from Saturdays game
1. Because of the late scratch of captain Danny Califf and Gabriel Farfan supplanting Porfirio Lopez at left back, only center back Carlos Valdes was in the same spot on the backline as in the previous game. And yet for the second straight contest, the Unions defense led Philly to a shutout. For that, credit must be given to rookie Raymon Gaddis (who played very well at right back in his MLS debut) and Sheanon Williams (who seamlessly transitioned from right back to center back to help hold down the fort). Defensive depth has been an area of concern for much of this franchises existence but Gaddis, Farfan and othersincluding veteran Chris Albrightare making sure thats not an issue this season.
2. Freddy Adus first MLS game since the opener on March 12 came at a good time as the big-name midfielder created a couple of chancesand Phillys only goalwith confident dribbling and well-placed crosses. Union manager Peter Nowaks pregame lineup made it seem like Adu would play in a central attacking midfield role behind lone striker Lionard Pajoy, but the 22-year-old ended up playing mostly on the wing, where he was able to cut to the middle and serve crosses. At least for one game, it looked like a pretty good spot for him.
3. After the game, Columbus coach Robert Warzycha called into question the handball in the box that led to Phillys penalty-kick goal but replays showed it was a fair call. What was more interesting was how Gabriel Gomez decided to take the ensuing PK, going for a chip down the middle, which could have easily been saved had Columbus goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum stayed on his feet rather than guessing a side and diving. You could tell afterwards that Nowak was a little wary about that decision from Gomezespecially with Philly starved for a goalbut the manager admitted it took courage. It certainly did.
Three questions for the upcoming week
1. How are the Dannys doing? Its been a tough start to the year for Califf as the Union captain has now missed three of the clubs first five games. The good thing is Saturdays scratch wasnt controversial like in the Unions home opener when Califf questioned that he was actually hurt. But this one could prove to be more problematic because of the nature of the injury, and the Union will likely be conservative in trying to bring Califf back. Danny Mwanga, meanwhile, was also held out of action this past weekend because of a rib contusion but the top overall selection in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft said he hopes to be back for this Saturdays game vs. Chivas USA. Even if hes healthy, though, he might not play as he seems to be falling behind in the striker pecking order. Which brings us to our next point
2. Will Nowak opt to go with a five-man midfield and a lone striker again this weekend, just like he did vs. Columbus? The formation, with Lionard Pajoy alone up top, and Adu, Gomez, Michael Farfan and Keon Daniel behind him (and Brian Carroll acting as a lone defensive midfielder), worked well against the Crew as the Union made fluid and dangerous runs in the attacking third. But with so many young strikers aching for playing timea list that now includes rookie Antoine Hoppenot, who made his MLS debut Saturdaywill Nowak be able to get away with a one-forward formation without halting the growth of those young strikers? And now there could be even more of a logjam with the addition of German midfielderforward Kai Herdling, who the club announced Monday will be loaned to them.
3. How will the Union fare on the West Coast? Before last Octobers win in Seattle, the Union were winless in their first nine games in the Pacific Time Zone. And, most recently, they were handled by Portland in the 2012 opener. But there is one reason for optimism for this Saturdays game vs. Chivas USA in California: Chivas are 0-3 at home so far this season.
Fact of the week: The Union have not scored a goal in the run of play in the last 293 minutes of action.
Quote of the week: Its not me. I love Danny Califf. Dont get me wrong.Union manager Peter Nowak, making sure reporters know there wasnt any controversy this time with Califf being scratched from the lineup
Player of the week: Williams and Gaddis did tremendous work defensively, and Gomez, Carroll and Daniel all helped Philly control the midfield. But, in the end, its Adu who earns players of the week honors because, quite simply, he made the most things happen and proved to be the sparkplug Philly needed to, at least somewhat, awake from their early-season offensive slumber.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for and Email him at and follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.

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