Did Peter Nowak out-think himself against Seattle?
Reader Stoehrst had this to say in the comment thread for my live blog last night:
I have to say, the most worrying thing for Philly is the way Nowak just seemed to totally misuse what was available to him. Stahl may be capable of playing CB but he’s a natural defensive mid. Conversely, Orozco may be capable of playing holding mid but he’s a natural center back. Why swap them? To me, that’s a massive gaffe on Nowak’s part. Instead of having two players in their comfort positions in a game where you’re starting a team full of rookies and teenagers, you contribute to the madness by playing them out of position. He did the same to Mwanga. Danny is a striker, and instead was being told to play in a creative midfield role. He looked lost for the entire 45 minutes he was on the pitch, like he wasn’t sure what his responsibilities were. Alejandro Moreno is a guy who’s not unused to playing in the hole behind the strikers, so why wouldn’t you have Mwanga partnering Le Toux up front with Moreno behind and Torres/Jacobson on the wings? I was disappointed to see such poor decision-making from Nowak in just their first match.
I thought it worth devoting an entire post to discuss this. Did the suspension of Fred and the injury to Shea Salinas cause Nowak to over-think the game against Seattle? This is certainly not an uncommon problem amongst managers (hello, Rafa Benitez).
Salinas has been playing on the left wing for the Union, while Fred has been playing his natural role up top as an attacking midfielder. Torres has been on the right, with Miglioranzi or Stahl as the D-mid.
With the absence of Fred and Salinas, it seems that Nowak wanted to keep the structure of his lineup in tact. No Fred? Pop-in Mwanga. No Salinas? Replace him with Jacobson.
The problem was that, as Stoehrst points out, Mwanga was totally out of his element all game and, as a result, Moreno and Le Toux had little service to speak of.
As for the Orozco/Stahl switch, I’m not sure what that was about. It may have been that, with Fred out and Mwanga replacing him, Nowak wanted speed and strength in the D-mid role–an enforcer role better suited to Orozco than to Migil. So, if that was indeed his thinking, it was easy for him to move Orozco up because Stahl is a solid CB.
In the end, I’ll give Nowak the benefit of the doubt on this one. In retrospect it wasn’t the best line-up. But the team started out well. There were two, far more significant problems last night. 1) The team deflated after the first Sounders goal. 2) The team gets far too many yellow cards. Let’s not forget: if Stahl had not received his second yellow, the second half could have been a totally different story.