There is a scene in "The Express," the movie that depicts the life of famed Syracuse University halfback Ernie Davis, in which Davis runs into the gym just in time to join his Orangemen teammates in a series of suicide sprints.
Syracuse ran said sprints because of a humiliating loss to Holy Cross - a whipping-boy program - in a game it should have easily won.
That scene was played outTuesday night after the Union's 2-1 loss to Red Bull New York, its second loss by the same score to the I-95 rival in a 72-hour period. Union boss Peter Nowak made his young club run sprints around the pitch at Red Bull Arena for an extra 25 minutes after the game.
"If you don't want to run during the game, you can run after it," Nowak smartly replied when asked his reason behind the punishment. "These guys need to know that this type of play is not acceptable; we can't keep having games like this."
Union CEO and managing partner Nick Sakiewicz added: "They're lucky it wasn't me [making them run], because I don't think they ran long enough."
Set aside Tuesday just for a second, a game that I honestly feel comfortable in calling the worst display by the Union this season. A young, ineffective group backed by a tentative Chris Seitz between the pipes allowed Red Bull New York to dominate and embarrass the Union - thankfully in front of a small collection of onlookers.
If "Team Tuesday" was the same Union team that lost to Seattle, Toronto and New York last Saturday, then it would be so easy to write off Nowak and these players as a collective bust.
But the Union has played relatively sound, tough, technical soccer. Soccer that if freak circumstances didn't arise, may find this club arguably with a .500 record or better in the league heading into tomorrow, instead of its 1-3 Eastern Conference basement dwelling mark.
"I know we are a good team; there is no way you can get me to believe otherwise," said assistant coach John Hackworth. "Take away what happened to us in Seattle and Toronto and in New York and you see we have the ability to play very good soccer."
Hackworth has a point. Take away the Toni Stahl red card in Seattle, the Danny Califf clothesline-turned-red-card in Toronto, the sun-eclipsed ball that deflected of Michael Orozco's face and trickled down his arm in the 18-yard-box, amounting to a game-winning penalty kick in New York, and I'd probably be writing a different column.
The season doesn't get any easier with tomorrow's game in Los Angeles, followed by another away match against defending MLS champion, Real Salt Lake next weekend. Statistically, the Galaxy boast the league's best scoring tandem in Edson Buddle (seven goals) and Landon Donovan (four assists). But the second-best tandem in the league? Union forwards Sebastien Le Toux (four goals) and Alejandro Moreno (three assists).
"It's a long season, it's not a sprint; we have to start getting points on a consistent basis," said Moreno. "We can't turn off in key moments of the game and we have to stop making stupid mistakes, period."
Stupid mistakes that amounted to points for the opposition, mistakes that have the Union reeling, and mistakes that have Peter Nowak, again, seeing red.
So they ran. Like they did in "The Express."
The end result of such punishment for the Orange?
They went undefeated the rest of the season and won a national championship.
Tomorrow marks the first in a pair of West Coast trips for the Union. The Galaxy, led by coach Bruce Arena, is up first, and the story of this group has been the play of Edson Buddle. His seven goals and three multigoal performances lead the league. Buddle is playing with a carryover yellow card, however, which may slow his voracity. Galaxy keeper and current Jamaican international Donovan Ricketts has been a wall, allowing a lone goal in five games and boasting four clean sheets for a league best 0.20 goals-against average. A healthy Landon Donovan has taken off with the role of playmaker as midfield extraordinaire David Beckham nurses an Achilles' tendon injury.
"We need to go to LA and come out with a result," said Hackworth. "Edson Buddle is on fire, but we need to contain him and limit his opportunities for chances. Our job is to go in and steal some points. They are a hot team right now, but we are a good team, too, one that is capable of swaying the result in our favor."
Sebastien Le Toux made the trip to Los Angeles but he is not expected to play tomorrow night, already listed as a reserve. According to the game notes, the Union is giving Shea Salinas a run up top with Moreno. Le Toux was scheduled to have an MRI late yesterday, but test results have not yet been disclosed.
Set in a 4-4-2 formation, the other probables find Stefani Miglioranzi sharing a central midfield spot with Fred. Roger Torres and Toni Stahl are on the flanks and, from left to right, Jordan Harvey, Michael Orozco, Danny Califf and Cristian Arrieta complete the defense.
A couple of points to keep an eye on in tomorrow's match:
* Will crafty midfielder Roger Torres play a full 90 minutes? Torres hasn't played a total 90 in all five appearances for the Union this year.
* How will Miglioranzi fare against his former club? He started 20 games for the Galaxy last season after coming off an injury year in 2008.
* Will 37-year-old former national teamer Gregg Berhalter outplay 30-year-old former national teamer Danny Califf in the back? Berhalter was a member of the 2002 and 2006 U.S. World Cup squads. Califf has never played in a FIFA World Cup match but does have 20 caps with the full national team.
Union (1-3) at Los Angeles Galaxy (4-0-1)
When: Tomorrow, 10:30 p.m.
Where: Home Depot Center, Carson, Calif.
TV: 6.2 ABC (Live Well Network)
Comcast HD channel 245; Verizon Fios channel 466
On the web: Streaming webcast on MLSSoccer.com
For kicks: No rest for the weary as the Union go from a two-gamer against the Red Bulls, the Eastern Conference's best, to a Saturday night showdown against the early favorite to win the MLS Cup . . . Galaxy forward Edson Buddle (seven goals) garnered player of the month honors, leading the Galaxy to the league's best record in addition to helping his own chances to earn a spot on Bob Bradley's U.S. World Cup roster. David Beckham is out for the season with an Achilles injury, but star forward Landon Donovan continues to lead by example.
Out for the Union: Kyle Nakazawa, MF (illness). Questionable: Sebastien Le Toux, F (left knee sprain)
Out for the Galaxy: Sean Franklin, DF (left ankle sprain); Dema Kovalenko, MF (right hamstring strain); Leonardo, MF (right quad strain); Eddie Lewis, MF (left foot contusion); Clint Mathis, MF (left knee surgery).
HE SAID IT
"He's arguably the best player in America right now."
- Union assistant coach John Hackworth on L.A. Galaxy forward Landon Donovan.
The last time the Galaxy had such a solid start was 1996, MLS' first season. Andrew Shue was one of the players on that '96 squad, but soccer was his secondary profession. Where was Shue's primary paycheck coming from?
B. Court Reporting
By Jamie Clary, author of "The First American Soccer Trivia Book," available at: www.soccerprofessor.com
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