Player ratings

Analysis and Player Ratings: Union 1-2 Impact

Photo: Courtesy of the Philadelphia Union

Carrying a lead and momentum into the halftime break, both John Hackworth and Marco Schallibaum had choices to make. Both managers needed a win and, following a toothless first half performance, Montreal never looked like beating Zac MacMath.

So Schallibaum prepared his team to change. Less long balls to the less than towering Marco DiVaio, better use of the wings and, after 8 minutes of the second half, a formation changing substitution.

When Andrew Wenger replaced Patrice Bernier, the Impact suddenly became the potent attacking team the rest of MLS had seen through the first half of the season. Both Justin Mapp and Davy Arnaud got on the ball to beat their marks, DiVaio floated around finding space, and Felipe sat in a more traditional playmaker’s spot, pulling the strings.

The results were staggering. Montreal stormed back to claim not only the equalizer, but also the seemingly inevitable match winner

In other words, the Union punched, Montreal counterpunched, and the Union got knocked out.

Wrong spot for Jack

Despite restoring Jack McInerney to the starting lineup, Hackworth did not truly return to his typical 4-4-2 formation. Clearly on instruction to drop off and play more defense, McInerney patrolled the midfield much like he would earlier in the season when helping his team to defend a lead. Perhaps he was asked to help protect Kleberson, or put an extra body in midfield to combat the Bernier-Hernan Bernardello partnership.

Whatever the rationale, it was a mistake.

Yes, McInerney helped keep Montreal at bay for the first 45. But without the young striker plying his trade on the last shoulder of the defense, the Impact defenders hardly struggled to contain the Union outside of the occasional perfect entry pass, first by McInerney himself and then by Kleberson for the Union’s opener.

With a combined age of 70 between their center back pairing, Montreal’s defense was asking to be worn out. Instead, Hackworth’s tentative approach to Saturday’s match meant that they were still fresh and ready to push forward once their attack got going, so they were hardly ripe for Antoine Hoppenot’s picking, as McInerney usually leaves opposing defenses.

Holding a lead

The Union are not great at finishing games, but that has not altered their approach. Left short on the bench by the suspension of Michael Farfan and injuries to Keon Daniel and Sebastien Le Toux, Hackworth still waited too long to bring on midfield reinforcements.

When confronted with the need to hold a lead, Hackworth’s pattern is fairly typical. First, the insertion of Antoine Hoppenot is meant to pin back an opposing defense. Next, Hackworth makes the inevitable replacement of Danny Cruz who, despite having started all 31 matches for which he has been available, has only completed a full match three times. Then in the dying minutes, the Union boss brings on an all-out defensive-minded sub to try and see out the result.

Three chances to change the game, three negative moves.

All fairly well scripted.

Hoppenot could be thought of as an attacking sub but, considering that unlike McInerney or Cruz, he needs to drop in to get the ball before running at the defense, his insertion pushes the Union further towards their own goal.

Once the Union have lost momentum, their lack of midfield creativity often ensures they never regain it. Against Montreal, it was no different. Starting for consecutive matches for the first time since May, Kleberson offered a bright start, but come the hour mark, his lack of match fitness showed. Removing McInerney, who had accepted his role and tenaciously defended as much as he attacked, rather than Kleberson, effectively handed Montreal the middle of the pitch. Felipe and Bernardello suddenly had a laboring Kleberson and straightforward running Hoppenot to contend with, rather than a defensively-motivated McInerney and the fresh legs of Leo Fernandes.

While the latter configuration may not have offered the inspiration to go ahead and score another goal or two, it would have better allowed the Union to compete in central midfield and so kept Montreal for taking over complete control of the match.

Build through youth? It couldn’t hurt

Considering the bench options available to Hackworth on Saturday, one might ask the question about the potential inclusion of a player like Jimmy McLaughlin or Cristhian Hernandez. True, neither has played a single minute in this season’s MLS campaign, but unlike Roger Torres, Matt Kassel, Gilberto and to a lesser extent Leo Fernandes, they have played consistent minutes throughout the year.

With the dissolution of the reserve league, the Union might do well in future years to look to their Harrisburg-based players as potential options to fill roles late in the season or to rotate those players more frequently to insure that they see the pitch often enough to remain sharp in match situations. It may not have helped on Saturday, but both McLaughlin and Hernandez are technically astute players whose skills may have offered the Union a pressure release as they tried to keep the ball and hold off Montreal’s rampant attack.

Set piece defending

The Union should do it.

Karl Ouimette was not the only Impact attacker handed a free run on the match-winner. His captain at the time, Matteo Ferrari, was also left completely unmarked and could have easily finished the chance himself.

There is no excuse for that.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 5

Made only 1 save and looked slightly jumpy at the back. Nearly conceded a goal when an overly ambitious throw came right back at him. Neither goal can be put on the Union keeper though, with DiVaio’s spinning effort giving him little chance and none of his defenders doing their part on the winner.

Sheanon Williams – 5

Got forward well enough in the first half while keeping Arnaud from establishing himself. The second half was a different story, as the Impact captain was far more influential.

Amobi Okugo – 6

Forced to do a great deal of work at the back, Okugo dealt with most of it with his typical calm, composed demeanor. Was unlucky to get turned by DiVaio for the Impact’s opener when the wily Italian timed his turn perfectly to create separation on Okugo.

Jeff Parke – 8

The Union’s best player on the afternoon, Parke made every critical intervention. While he has been found wanting for pace in the past, Parke moved his feet and positioned his body in a manner that cut off DiVaio at every turn.

Ray Gaddis – 4

Restored to the left flank, Gaddis struggled to push play forward or link up with Fabinho. Kept a close eye on Mapp for most of the first half before joining his team in being overrun in the second.

Danny Cruz – 3

Playing against the youngster Ouimette, Cruz probably expected to run riot. But Ouimette got the better of the Union winger at almost every turn. Cruz’s involvement in the attacking third was limited to a handful of badly mishit passes and shots.

Brian Carroll – 3

When Montreal turned up the attacking pressure, Carroll faded out of the match. As the supposed leader of his team, some blame for this loss falls to him, as the Union sat back and tried to defend a one-goal lead rather than searching for a second goal, or even some simple clock-wasting possession. Loses an extra point for the silly yellow card he took that will now see him miss his first match of the season, the finale against Sporting Kansas City.

Kleberson – 6

Showed just what the Union was missing out on when Hackworth refused to play him. His perfectly weighted pass to Fabinho was only one in a series of clever, smartly hit balls from a player who looked keen to push for the win. Ran out of gas in the second half, but the blame for that falls to Hackworth for not hauling him off for fresh legs or giving him the minutes earlier in the campaign to get up to full fitness.

Fabinho – 5

Scored a screamer of a goal when he ghosted in behind the Impact back line and buried his shot behind Troy Perkins. Otherwise, he did very little to further his team’s cause.

Jack McInerney – 4

Asked to play behind Casey to help with defensive pressure in midfield, McInerney played his role dutifully, even springing a few players, Fabinho most notably, from his new role. But, as mentioned above, Hackworth removed the most dangerous part of McInerney’s game by asking him to play in this manner, and the young striker never looked like scoring.

Conor Casey – 6

Bullish in his approach up front, Casey mixed smart hold-up play with some impressive footwork. Yet, the big man was unable to maintain his composure, conceding 5 fouls while earning a yellow card for dissent and the ire of referee Petrescu. For Casey to be successful, he needs to keep his head, keeping the play in the attacking zone rather than handing over possession through the concession of fouls.

Substitutes

Antoine Hoppenot – 4

Unable to get on the ball, Hoppenot languished up front. Mixed it up physically, but could not do enough to turn the momentum back in the Union’s favor.

Leo Fernandes – 4

Aside from a soft header straight at Perkins, Fernandes played an anonymous quarter of an hour.

Roger Torres – N/A

Did what he could in limited minutes to push play forward, including picking out Williams with a late free kick. In the end, he did not have enough time to influence the match.

Geiger Counter

Silviu Petrescu – 3

Kept the game from finding its rhythm with 39 fouls called in total. At times, it appeared that he just wanted to blow his whistle. Was too easily taken in by flopping from Fabinho and Camara, though he did correctly wave Cruz back to his feet after a pair of overly dramatic tumbles.

29 Comments

  1. Sheannon really had a poor game. They were sniffing around that flank all game long.

    Also, I think we can finally say that Brian Carroll should not be leading this team next year. While they look to improve the wing midfielders, and the CAM, they need to look at replacing him at CDM. Whether that means moving Okugo up there, playing Keon Daniel in a position more suited to him, or getting somebody new I’m not sure.

  2. Surprised that I haven’t seen more comments regarding this, but I’m SUPER DUPER EXCITED that BC will not be able to play next weekend. I’m hoping that was his last game as a Union player.

    Out-muscled, out-played, and has no aggression or desire to help the team. Giving him the captain’s band was a mistake from the start.

    • Ok who replaces him this time? Keon? Lahoud? Both are kind of injured, both aren’t ideal at their best.

      • who gets the armband?

      • Okugo replace BC. Back four is Fabhino, Parke, Williams, and Gaddis. It won’t happen, but I’d bet 90% of the PSP readers would prefer it to whatever Hackworth actually puts out there.

      • Parke gets the band.
        I am guessing that Keon if healthy will replace Carrol. He should be servicable in that role.

      • If it were up to me I’d move Okugo up, move Sheannon to the middle and have Gaddis and Fabinho as the outside backs

      • I would wager Parke gets the armband.

      • I disagree with moving Okugo up. Fabinho is a bit of a liability at left back, you lose what Williams brings on the right side and Okugo is bound to be a bit rusty at midfield. I think that move over all would be a net loss and disrupts the one thing you can more or less count on this year, the Unions back 4.

      • Gilberto. Parke gets armband, or Casey.

        Williams is a terrible center back, and Fabinho is a terrible fullback. Okugo probably doesn’t have much hope in the midfield until we get rid of Carroll and get a suitable centerback to replace him back there.. not like we didn’t have that scenario sorted earlier this season.

      • There’s no way that Keon can play DM. He doesn’t have the work rate or range to handle that role.

        If Lahoud is fit, he would be the least disruptive to plug in there. I would love to move Okugo up to DM, but that creates some bad match-ups along the backline.

        We could see the debut of Gilberto in that role or Hack will have Keon and Farfan play together in a deeper central midfield.

      • For anyone that thinks that Okugo would be rusty in midfield, go back and check out the stepover that he pulled on Bernadillo in the 1st half. He would do great in that role if we only had the depth to actually be able to put him there on Sat.

      • For me Kleberson plays there, with Farfan in front of him. I’d love to see Amobi get captain as recognition for a fantastic season, and i think if he continues to improve he is a future USMNT captain too.

    • To be fair, aren’t there a lot of players on this team who get out-muscled and outplayed? He’s the most experienced player on a young – several Supporter’s Shields and 2 cups – and while he has never been the best player on the pitch for the Union, we don’t know what type of impact he has in practice or off the field. If he was the one costing us games I’d agree with you, but without a central playmaker in front of him (at least until recently), the continued inclusion of Cruz and partnering with Keon Daniel for most of the year it’s hard to blame Carroll for the Union’s troubles.

  3. its hard to believe Petrescu was voted MLS referee of the year last year.

    also i give stade suputo a 1 on beer selection. coors light and ONLY coors light at 99% of the beer stands. that is unacceptable and hard to make sense of.

    • Sounds like you were lucky to be at the game rather than having to try and watch it on TV. On TV we saw about 50% of the game and 50% closeups of the bench, players who did something 2 minutes earlier who were now walking around, and replays during the actual action.

      • did they show the nesta/gaddis hug? everyone in the stadium got a good laugh out of that. but the second goal was soul crushing. the stadium exploded. louder than ppl.

    • At least the poutine avec la viande fumee almost makes up for the beer selection (which is a travesty, I agree).

  4. The Chopper says:

    I know many believe returning Okugo to the midfield makes sense since that was his “natural” position when he came to the Union.

    However, he has been more proficient at CB then he ever was while playing in the middle of the field. It just could be that by accident he has found his best spot on the field. Good center backs are hard to come by and he is still young and going to improve.

    I think we may see Gilberto get his chance this week as he apparently looks great in training and is probably already penciled in to replace Carrol next year.

    How about start Kleberson with Farfan on his right and then after 60 minutes or so when Kleberson tires, move Farfan to the middle and insert Cruz on the right who can run like a lunatic for 30 minutes and drive the defense crazy.

  5. OneManWolfpack says:

    “When confronted with the need to hold a lead, Hackworth’s pattern is fairly typical. First, the insertion of Antoine Hoppenot is meant to pin back an opposing defense. Next, Hackworth makes the inevitable replacement of Danny Cruz who, despite having started all 31 matches for which he has been available, has only completed a full match three times. Then in the dying minutes, the Union boss brings on an all-out defensive-minded sub to try and see out the result.

    Three chances to change the game, three negative moves.

    All fairly well scripted.”
    .
    That is why I read this site. Spot on analysis. If you can write it and we can see it… why does it continually happen?!
    .
    I need to see some real dedication from the FO next year to improve this team. If not, I think this is the last year of my season tickets. This team should be and can be… better than this.

    • Yup, I thought long and hard before renewing my season tickets this year.

      I’m giving them another year, but if I’m not satisfied that we’re moving in the right direction, I won’t renew.

  6. Shannon has had a good year, probably one of the best on the team. He is capable of mailing it in though, and that’s what he did on Saturday. He looked disinterested and sluggish from the off, and only sporadically played positive.
    This team relies too heavily on the fullbacks for offense and for defense. By the end of matches they are spent and the CBs consistently get pulled out of position to cover for them.
    Gaddis is thought to be the quickest player on the team, but he too is a liability late.
    One can make the argument the Union’s poor play from wide midfield all year is the main culprit behind this condition, and I would agree.
    That set piece winner though… Williams and Gaddis (and Carroll) just stood there. Shameful.

  7. At the same time, Fabinho’s goal from Kleberson’s perfectly weighted pass was a joy to watch. More of that, please.

  8. Southside Johnny says:

    I guess you could say I’m ready for it to end. I have been reflecting on the season a lot lately. It seems to me that there were a few great moments, a few pretty good matches and even some short stretches that kept hope alive along with a fair number of admirable achievements for individual players. But all in all, it was a frustrating and disappointing season for me. It seems that a number of us want to lay blame on individual players for the overall mediocre performance that we saw. I think that is totally unfair. Admittedly, there are guys I often ranted about and wanted to slap the snot out of, but I can’t think of any player who didn’t seem to do his best at what he was expected to do. It wasn’t lack of effort or heart that cost us points. When we collectively cringed at doomed line-ups and formations and substitutions and roster moves, it wasn’t the players who were responsible. It’s really a pretty decent bunch of MLS soccer players who worked hard and conducted themselves well on and off the field. Let’s lay the blame where it belongs.

  9. Pingback: Union vs Impact quick reference

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