Bethlehem Steel FC’s new signing Ken Tribbett, the unheralded Drexel University product who was an acknowledged dark horse to make the final 28-man Major League Soccer roster at the start of pre-season training camp, scored the opening goal off of a free header from a corner kick in the 17th minute then helped preserve the clean sheet from his central defensive position as the Philadelphia Union blanked the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League 2-0 in an exhibition contest played at the Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Florida, on Saturday night.
Ilsinho, the veteran Brazil international who turned out for renowned domestic clubs SE Palmeiras and Sao Paulo FC before spending six seasons with powerful Ukrainian club FC Shakhtar Donetsk, is still only on trial with the Philadelphia Union in Florida this winter but was the architect of both the goals scored in the match. The 30-year-old attacking midfielder, who has a bronze medal to show from the 2008 Summer Olympic Games as well as one full cap for the senior national team of legendary Brasil, took the in-swinging corner kick that Tribbett latched onto and was clearly the driving force behind the Union’s second goal in the 30th minute, as well. After skillfully settling a long pass out of the air on the right wing, Ilsinho worked a nifty one-two with Vincent Noguiera and then made a penetrating run into the box before squaring the ball for Leo Fernandes, who did well, himself, to get in between two lackadaisical Tampa Bay defenders and tap the ball home .
Matt Jones, the 29-year-old veteran English goalkeeper recently arrived on loan from Portuguese side CF Belenenses, made his first start for the Philadelphia Union and pulled off a couple of high quality saves in the second half to register his first career shutout for his new club in the process. The first of the those two stops occurred in the 53rd minute when the Union’s Brazilian left centerback Anderson, stationed just a few feet away from the penalty spot, curiously volleyed the ball towards the Philadelphia net and Jones was forced to dive to his left to palm the danger away. Statistically speaking, one cannot credit a save on a potential own goal but it was still a “star-worthy play”, as Lehigh Valley IronPigs broadcaster Matt Provence would be wont to say.
Jones had another top class save for the Philadelphia Union, this one from even closer range, in the 63rd minute when Tampa Bay Rowdies trialist Konstontine Mollinger ran onto an inviting ball played into the box and fired from about ten yards away. Prior to crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the last clean sheet that the Englishman had turned in anywhere was on behalf of CD Tondela in the Portuguese first division match against CD Nacional Madeira played on August 30th, a period spanning almost six months. Although Jones, who appeared in ten top flight games in Europe this season, did lose his first team place in early November, his last start for Tondela was actually not all that long ago, a 2-2 draw with traditional Portuguese powerhouse Sporting Lisbon well after the New Year on January 19th.
Der Fussballzuschauer has said it before and will say it again – one should not be too surprised when Jones beats out Jamaica international Andre Blake and becomes the Philadelphia Union’s first choice at Talen Energy Stadium this season.
As for Tribbett, aside from notching his first career goal for the Philadelphia from a set piece early in the contest, the 23-year-old who spent all of last season with the Harrisburg City Islanders in the United Soccer League gave a good all-around account of himself at right centerback in the Union’s flat back four. It was the third consecutive appearance in Philadelphia’s starting line-up this winter for Tribbett, who has never before played in a regular season Major League Soccer game in his brief professional career. Indeed, Tribbett is the only one of the five players currently under contract to Bethlehem Steel FC who have appeared in pre-season for the Union this winter to have played in all four of the MLS club’s four exhibition contests in Florida this year.
As for der Fussballzuschauer’s impressions of Tribbett’s performance, I found the MLS hopeful to be rather dominant in the air (as one might very well have expected from reading scouting reports beforehand). I also thought that the Colorado transplant tackled effectively, intercepted passes well, and maintained good positioning – which, of course, certainly contributed to Philadelphia’s being able to keep a good defensive shape on the whole. Tribbett also looked comfortable on the ball while being safe and secure with his distribution.
As a matter of fact, the more and more the match wore on, the more Tribbett was beginning to remind me of der Kaiser, Franz Beckenbauer. What, with the way the BSFC player was aggressively advancing the ball upfield and all! Alright, so the Tampa Bay Rowdies play in the second tier of American professional soccer and perhaps it showed a little bit on Saturday night – still, there can be no denying that Tribbett was easily one of the better players on the entire pitch.
Philadelphia Union line-up versus Tampa Bay Rowdies :
M. Jones – Fabinho, Anderson (Marquez 73), Tribbett, Rosenberry – Carroll, Noguiera – Pontius (Restrepo 61), Ilsinho (Le Toux 73), Fernandes – Sapong (Herbers 73)
PHILADELPHIA UNION vs TAMPA BAY ROWDIES
match tape on YouTube :
“Achtung, Baby! – Der Fussballzuschauer Als Trainer”
Let’s breakdown the game film of Bethlehem Steel FC signing Ken Tribbett (# 18) scoring the first goal of the game for MLS club Philadelphia Union against the NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies side. To review, the Union’s opening strike comes as a result of a corner kick taken by the Brazilian maestro Ilsinho in the 17th minute of the match. Readers will note that this particular sequence begins at the 40:12 mark on the YouTube tape and generates a laundry list of teachable moments for all the youth soccer players out there.
The best replay sequence to highlight how the Union executed very well and also show why the Rowdies, in fact, defended rather poorly is the one from behind the goal cage that commences at the 40:48 mark on the YouTube tape.
From out of the group of players all bunched together off to the left of the penalty kick spot, the Union central defender Tribbett will make an intelligent and effective diagonal run to the near post on the goalkeeper’s right hand side. Fatal Flaw # 1 for the Tampa Bay defense was the simple fact that none of the Rowdies in the box could be bothered to track Tribbett properly. Typically speaking, in a set piece situation such as a corner kick, it is the defensive responsibility of a striker (or perhaps a central attacking midfielder depending upon the team’s formation) to pick up an opposing centerback who has pushed up into the penalty area.
Fatal Flaw # 2 for the home side was that the Tampa Bay goalkeeper needed to address that in-swinging ball in the air, either by catching it or punching it away to safety at the highest possible point. It will always be very difficult for any field player to jump up and win an aerial dual with his head against an opponent who can jump up and outstretch his arms, end of story. But Tribbett is permitted to make contact with the ball roughly six yards from the goal line and that is a real problem – unless the shot comes right at him or is, perhaps, within arm’s length, even the greatest goalkeeper in the world is always going to have incredible difficulty simply because there is virtually not time at all to react.
Now, on the other hand, take nothing away from Tribbett’s work in front of the goal because, after all, the Philadelphia Union hopeful reallly did put on an absolute clinic in terms of finishing skills – always head the ball low far post, any coach worth his salt can tell you that straightaway.