Player ratings

Analysis & player ratings: Union 1-1 Timbers

Let’s get it out of the way:

Oof. What a gut-punching, painful way to end a match.

First, the team’s most veteran presence in Brian Carroll launches an all-too-familiar hoof forward when better, simpler options were available. Then he tries an unnecessary side volley when the prior straight-ahead hoof would have done the job. Cue Gaston Fernandez standing along next to Zac MacMath while Fabinho and Ray Gaddis ambivalently jog towards other marks and Antoine Hoppenot trots in far too late.

It was a very bad moment for a number of players that cost the Union two points on the night.

Ok. Enough of that.

Pretty performances abound

Enough of that, because there was some serious quality on display from the Philadelphia Union, both individually and collectively. Considering the brief amount of playing time the team had in preseason, the collective cohesion that developed during Saturday’s 90 minutes should be applauded.

But the individual efforts are what have fans giddy going into this Saturday’s home opener.

While there are still spacing bugs to work out in the Union’s three-man midfield, Maurice Edu and Vincent Nogueira took no time in showing that there will be no period of acclimation required for either. Edu dictated play in the middle of the park with a rare mixture of toughness and physicality. He seems to always know the precise moment to swoop in and assist a teammate, and he puts himself in ideal spots to make plays.

As for Nogueira, the Union have a player who, while never having been an attacker in the past, has all the tools to push forward in MLS. Coming in fully match fit and flying after spending the European season with Sochaux, his dynamic dribbling and passing was matched by his intensity. Often seen chasing center backs up alongside Jack McInerney, Nogueira looked equally comfortable popping up 25 yards from his own goal, looking to collect a pass and start forward.

And when Nogueira did start forward, Cristian Maidana was waiting to get in on the action. Speaking of tremendous technical ability, Maidana has all the qualities the Union were looking for in a creative player and seems equally comfortable playing left, right and center.

Mac attack

With quality and support oozing out of the midfield, McInerney looked engaged and eager to find space for himself and connect with his teammates. Watching him pick his spots to poke and prod at the Timbers defensive line, it would have been easy to forget that, while entering his fifth professional season, McInerney is still only 21.

With questions looming about his consistency and ability to be a prolific MLS scorer, getting off the mark was the best thing the could have happened, from both McInerney’s and the Union’s perspective. With Maidana, Nogueira, Fabinho and Williams (once he is back on the pitch) all looking to pick out McInerney, a confident early start to 2014 could easily lead to some high goalscoring totals.

Flip-flopping issues
Congested formation with Maidana on the right.

Figure 1. Congested formation with Maidana on the right.

For all the good on display from the Union in Portland, John Hackworth’s decision to swap Maidana and Le Toux, and later Cruz, was a curious one. Not curious in that Maidana struggled — he certainly did not — but curious in what it did to the Union’s overall team shape.

With Nogueira finding the center of the park crowded between Carroll and Edu, he slid out to the right, as he did in the preseason. This proved helpful in supporting Gaddis, but once the wing swap occurred, space became hard to come by. (See Figure 1.) Le Toux’s natural inclination is to slide centrally, while McInerney seemed more intent on attacking Norberto Paparatto, Portland’s left center back.

In 2013, the Union attacked via the right flank almost exclusively, barring Fabinho’s solo forays forward. In 2014, they simply do not need to. That’s a lot of offensive firepower limited to a small area of the pitch, especially once Sheanon Williams returns from injury.

The fact that Hackworth could field a left-sided triangle of Maidana and Fabinho with Edu supporting play and a right-sided trio of Le Toux (or Cruz) and Williams with Nogueira supporting is an ideal situation. Saturday’s match certainly showed how much ability the Union boss has to work with, but too often the play had to be so good because there was so much congestion on the right side of the pitch. Leaving Maidana to operate on the left/center should open up even more space, making the Union more dynamic and dangerous.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 5

Barring one unfortunate flap at a cross, MacMath didn’t have much to do. Punched well a few times and was clearly wary of trying to catch the ball in the wet conditions. Still, not a performance brimming with confidence.

Ray Gaddis – 4

Struggled to balance attack and defense and was forced to scramble towards his own endline on numerous occasions to clean up the space behind him. Added very little going forward and seemed out of his depth exchanging short, quick passes with Nogueira and Maidana. Still a very good defensive cover option, but not yet up to Sheanon Williams’ level.

Amobi Okugo – 8

Coping well with all that he faced, Okugo looked very much the assured veteran next to the jumpy Gaddis and the acclimating Berry. Made a number of critical interceptions and pushed well into the midfield to put a body on Fernandez and Urruti.

Austin Berry – 7

A tad slow to read his teammates, Berry still made a big impact on the match with his prowess in the air. He was on the scene on several occasions to both track a dangerous runner and then rise above him to win a powerful header. The chemistry with Okugo and Fabinho will continue to develop, which should result in the Union becoming a pretty solid defensive outfit.

Fabinho – 5

Given a sympathy point for being left on an island, Fabinho struggled to assert himself in the game. The Union clearly wanted him pressed high up the field, which Caleb Porter quickly recognized and sent Nagbe to attack him. For what he offers going forward, which is roughly one good cross out of about three, Fabinho remains a defensive liability, too often lunging into tackles. Until he cleans up his defending, the Union coaching staff must allow him to sit deeper for protection.

Brian Carroll – 4

Worked well with Edu in the first half to put the clamps on Valeri when Portland came through the center, but he abandoned space far too readily when Nagbe got the ball on the right flank. Lost himself too often in the second half as the speedy Timbers’ attackers often proved too much. At times, it looked as if Edu and Nogueira were both working around him, rather than with him. Then there were the two costly mistakes at the end of the match, both plays that a team leader should not make.

Maurice Edu – 8

Edu is as cool as the other side of the pillow — if you keep your pillow in the freezer. Late in the match, Edu had the presence of mind to take a cutback cross down off his chest, facing his own goal with Timbers players streaming in behind him. Not only did he take the ball down, he turned up field and started the break. Possesses the unique trait of being able to go 100 mph while still maintaining full control of himself. While he looked a hair off of full match fitness, Edu looks every bit the difference maker the Union are expecting him to be.

Vincent Nogueira – 9

Brings a tenacity and skill set that has never been seen in the Union midfield. Will only improve as he takes over the center of the midfield and develops more chemistry with Maidana and McInerney. Nearly played in the perfect ball for the Union striker on a few occasions. Some of his build-up play, both personally and in tandem with Maidana, was simply dazzling.

Sebastien Le Toux – 4

Now that the Union have acquired such a quality batch of technical, savvy players, Le Toux looked out of place among their ranks. He also failed to show the discipline required of a winger. When he cut into the heart of the pitch to get on the ball, he was betrayed by his chronically heavy first touch.

Jack McInerney – 8

Did about as much as could be asked of essentially the only forward in this Union setup. Showed well for the ball before peeling off to make support runs up both wings. Exchanged passes well with Maidana and Nogueira and the pair began to look for him after an opening half hour in which his runs went unspotted. While Edu would have liked to open the season’s scoring for the Union, he will probably admit that it was far better for the team to have McInerney get off the mark. (Also, the defender on the far post may have had a play on the ball without McInerney’s touch.)

Cristian Maidana – 9

The Union have always needed a creative, clever, attack-minded midfielder. In Cristian Maidana, they now have him. He showed off the full range of skills both in the middle and attacking third and will clearly be on both the scoring and assisting sheets before too long. While he showed well individually on the right, the Union should still look to keep him on the left, where he can combine with Fabinho going forward and slide into the center of the pitch to create havoc.

Substitutes

Danny Cruz – 5

Brought a directness that Le Toux lacked but did not find his way into the match with respect to gelling with his teammates. If he delayed slightly on his bursting run through, McInerney’s ball might have found him onside for a goal.

Antoine Hoppenot – 4

Went from ruthless, effective time-waster, to last-second goat when he failed to get back into the box in time to either cover his post or put a body on Fernandez. As a late game substitute with fresh legs, that simply cannot happen.

Aaron Wheeler – 4

The Union quickly learned that bigger doesn’t always equal better when it comes to maintaining possession. Wheeler threw himself around for the final few minutes but eventually deferred to his more technically skilled teammates.

Geiger Counter

Ioannis Stavridis – 6

While he may have missed a shirt tug here and a foul call there, how nice was it to watch an MLS match without seeing a referee strutting around like a peacock, trying to steal the spotlight? I salute your efforts, Mr. Stavridis.

Preferred Lineup for Saturday’s Home Opener vs. New England

4-3-3

MacMath; Williams, Okugo, Berry, Fabinho; Carroll, Edu, Noguiera; Cruz, McInerney, Maidana

New England laid an egg against Houston this weekend, looking terrible in the process. Scott Caldwell looked particularly suspect, which plays right into Nogueira and Maidana’s hands. If Le Toux were more disciplined, he’d be ideal against the talented but slow Chris Tierney. He’s not though, and thus the linear running of Cruz would offer the Union a direct route up the right flank. Pressing New England high up the right flank could be enough to drop their defense deep into their own box, allowing Nogueira and Maidana the space to dictate play.

98 Comments

  1. What I also loved most about Nogueira is how in control he was. Vocally and physically. So often I would watch him and see him yelling to teammates, making gestures, and generally just being the field general.

    He seems to know exactly what to do on the field and it’s great that he has no problem letting his teammates know.

  2. Southside Johnny says:

    You nailed it again. As much as it kills me to say this, I totally agree with starting Cruz over LeToux next match. He was less in the way this time, but does not help with widening the pitch. I see that Jack came in at #10 on the much maligned (here, at least) Castrol ratings.

  3. I’m a Brian Carroll fan, have been since his D.C. and Columbus days (pre-Union existence). I won’t make excuses for him, since neither of those plays were Captain-esque. That being said, Fernandez was WIDE open in the box. Whether Carroll hits it or not, a player that wide open will score 9 times out of 10. The marking has to be better all around, and better decisions and organization has to be made by the leaders of this team. Their organization was good throughout the game, so I hope this is an anamoly and not the norm. They have to be able to finish games like this off to be legitimate Cup contender.

    • Agreed. That goal was a team mistake.

      • Agreed. Everyone was slowly meandering towards where they should have been to defend. It seems a little unfair to blame Carroll, who was one ofthe only people near where he should have been. Even the cameraman/ producer was not ready forhte corner.

    • Totally agree Brian, It just seems from the video that he could have been more calm and conservative with how to clear or disrupt the corner kick. It looked like all he had to do is just get in front of the ball. He just doesn’t seem sharp in any aspect right now. Having said that it wasn’t his worst game ever but I feel that he’s going to be a burden on the field and if they want to be true contenders for the playoffs and for the cup, I think he needs to be replaced, but yes you’re totally right about the whole team being completely lazy off the corner it was really hard to watch and embarrassing.

    • Yeah how is he even the captain over Edu?

      • He was the captain last year. Replacing the Captain when he’s still on the roster can be a tricky thing. I know Nowak did it, but he’s not exactly a role model for personal skills.

  4. I like your insight on LeToux. He has always suffered from a terrible first touch and imprecise passing, but it really stands out now that he is surrounded by folks who don’t have those problems.

    I’ll be curious if Hack ever experiments with others at that position, or if it’s Seba’s for life.

    • Le Toux and Cruz will both get their chances. Realistically though, neither of them are good enough. I hope Pfeffer gets a chance this year. While he may still have some growing up to do, I imagine he’d at least be on the same level as Cruz and Le Toux, and with some match experience could prove to be the answer we’re looking for. But we’ll never know if he rides the pine all year.

  5. Interesting. So the Union’s new midfield basically covers up for Cruz’s shortcomings and allows him to do what he does well (i.e., run, until his little legs go too fast and he falls down).

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      Given the solid nature of the Union’s three man midfield triangle, the formation allows freedom for a purely vertical threat. Ideally that is Le Toux, but he doesn’t seem to want to do it. Cruz will do it and even if he isn’t hugely effective, he will still pin his fullback deep, likely dragging a CB deep with him. That alone is beneficial in giving the CMs more room in which to operate.

      • Le Toux would be the better option but he plays too much like a forward who roams the pitch. While Cruz is not the better overall player, he is a very linear player and does have a gift for drawing cards from the opposition.

      • I agree with PSP Tim that Hoppenot should be included since both Letoux and Cruz are not good with the ball at their feet. Maybe Hack should consider playing them on defense instead. I think Hack has got to try lots of guys out at right mid/winger. My first choice is Rebiero. Let’s see what he can do. He is much more talented that Cruz and Letoux. Heck, I would even consider Keon! Maybe he would flourish with our awesome new midfield.

    • If that’s the argument, then the question isn’t just Le Toux vs. Cruz running vertically, it also has to include Hoppenot. With Maidana seeming to command a starting spot wide left, these three will be battling for the starting spot opposite and substitute minutes. I don’t see that as a bad thing.

    • Was I the only one who saw that there was some serious French Connection going on between Nogueira and Le Toux? They seemed to be in sync with each other, making tricky backheel passes and overlapping runs. I would like to see Seba continue in that position since a) I still think he’s a better player than Cruz; b) I think this partnership with Nogueira might really gel if we give it time; and c) he offers the nice corner kick service that Cruz doesn’t offer, which should not be minimized. (Though maybe we can give that job to Maidana.)

      • +1, definitely French Connection!

      • I agree about being careful not to underestimate the value of Seba’s corner kicks. Many of them were spot on and as the team gels and gets more playing time we will see results from that. I also saw a little “french connection” going on, although as previously stated there are some concerns about Le Toux’s ability relative to the newcomers.

      • +1. I thought Le Toux looked pretty good at times. Give him more time with these guys. He’ll shine. He always finds a way to eventually, despite what the haters say.

  6. Granted it has only been one game, I really hope to see Edu or Nogueira captain this team in the near future. They are both true leaders. Interested to see if this is true on the practice field as well(I assume it is).

  7. Andy Muenz says:

    While I think Wheeler was a decent choice as the final sub, I think the way the Union used him was completely wrong. He has been training as a defender. Portland just replaced a defender with a forward. Why not play Wheeler as a 5th defender. I don’t remember whether he was back for the fatal corner kick, but if he had been playing as a sweeper, it’s possible that there wouldn’t have been a corner kick in the first place.

  8. Can I just say how good it feels to see “Analysis & Player Ratings” at the top of a page? It’s been way too long of an offseason, and I miss looking forward to these articles every Monday. Not that the other stuff on PSP isn’t good. It’s great reading material. Very insightful stuff. I just love seeing people arguing match ratings. It’s kinda like watching the WWE Royal Rumble PPV. There’s always good opening matches, but I’m always thinking “Wow, this is a really good match… OH HELL, GET TO THE DAMN RUMBLE ALREADY!”

    Glad I got that out of me.

  9. +1 on the strange winger swap. I thought the left wing was left alone in terms of attacking options for most of the second half, although I liked the partnership between Maidana and Nogueira who controlled the play making on the right side of the pitch, which allowed Maidana a couple of chances to drift centrally and use his favored left foot to take shots.
    I have to say that partnership was lost when Hop came on and in my opinion considerably reduced the U’s attack as the left side of the pitch remained almost unused. This was key to allow the timber’s control of the game and eventually (along with defensive mistakes) the tie.

    • I thought the swapping midfield positions were fantastic and this marks a serious evolution in the level of football the U is playing. This is a taste of “total soccer” in the dutch model and we saw first hand how much it threw off Portland’s midfield and game plan. Chaco drifting to the right is a perfect example. That play where he cut inside to his left foot and cranked a shot reminded me of Arjen Robben . I think we still think too much of outside wingers stuck in this vertical run to lob a cross in with their “stronger” outside foot. That is so 1980s. Dynamic players on either wing are the hallmarks of modern football and that includes “outsde-in” players like Chaco on the right. Someone should have drilled this into Ray’s head last season when he played left back. There is nothing wrong with cutting inside to your preferred foot as an outside wing. If done correctly, it adds a new threat (just ask Arjen Robben).

  10. Jack Mac had a terrible first touch on a perfect Maidana pass, early in the game. I thought that Casey would have found a goal earlier with the kind of support the forward was getting- I give him a six.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      His movement opened up so much space for his teammates, something that Casey likely would not have been able to do. While he did clank that chance (definitely remember that one). He worked his socks off and put himself in great positions. With the goal in this one, I would expect them to start falling from the run of play for him.

      • I’d have loved to see Mac’s chip over Ricketts go in. It would have been the goal of the week.

        • I agree, that would have been sweet. I said it before and I’ll say it again, Mc is a hardworking poaching goal scorer, not a crafty player and finisher with style. A goal is a goal, but he doesn’t have the skill yet to make chances for himself and finish them. For example, the way Maidana made room for himself to get that shot off at the top of the box. At only 21 he still has a couple of years to improve, maybe Maidana can mentor him in this area.

      • LeToux’s greatest success in MLS was as a forward for the Union. If the new midfield renders him surplus to requirements in that area, could he move up top and bump Hoppenot or even Casey down the depth chart?

        • Certainly possible. He has always been best as a forward.

          • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

            He’s been his best as a forward in a dump and chase offense. This team will no longer pump balls forward for him to go track down. Playing striker for the Union this year will require guile and intelligence when it comes to how runs are made. Not sure Le Toux can be that type of player.

  11. buzzkill_ed says:

    I still start Le Toux for Cruz but Le Toux is on a short leash. That, and I think Cruz is more valuable overall as a sub.

  12. The Chopper says:

    Can’t argue with the numbers. Pretty much spot on. Still, it was another one goal game and the finish came from who else, but McInenrny. I expect Chaco, Edu and Nogueira to put one in every now and then, bit this team definitely needs another finisher. Not sure what Casey might provide this season. The Union should be looking for another striker as well as an outside defender. There are more than enough usable midfield bodies.

    LeToux and Cruz are sharing that spot for now, but I expect to see a number of players get some minutes in that position as the first few months of the season progress.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      Here’s a question for you (and everyone). Jack and Casey are your goalscorers, we can all mostly agree on that. Who is number three? Someone has to step up and put in a few goals to help these guys. Somewhere in the range of 6-7 goals.

      • Maidana. No doubt. That guy is nasty.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        What if the rest of the scoring is more spread out than one guy with 6-7 goals? What about 2-3 from Berry, 2-3 from Okugo, 2-3 from Williams, 3-4 from Hoppenot, 3-4 from Le Toux, 3-4 from Cruz, 3-4 from Maidana?
        That’s pretty much what most of them have averaged over the last year or two.

      • After this game, I’m not sure if putting Casey and Jack together will be best. Have to see how it works out, but I loved our midfield domination and could easily see Maidana and Nogueira putting in a good handful each from open play. Edu and Amobi from set pieces. Jack may not exceed last year’s tally just because he won’t have to for this team to succeed.

        • Casey and Jack could only really work in a 4-4-2 (which I honestly think is a better formation for the U).

          In a 4-4-2, the Midfield SHOULD be Chaco, Nog, Edu, Le Toux, with Edu playing box to box.

      • The Chopper says:

        Maidana will get a few if this formation remains in place. But I do not see another real finishing threat (a potential) 10 plus goal guy on the roster.. And I am not sure Casey will be good for that this year. That next guy is on somebody else’s roster right now.

      • Definitely Maidana. I don’t see Hack playing Casey much in a 4-3-3 formation. Is he gonna put Casey in as a winger? Or does he put Mc there and Casey in the middle? I think a 4-4-2 formation fits the team better(Carroll out).

      • Maidana for sure. But, instead of a #3 goal scorer with 6-7 goals, we could get Maidana, Nogueira and Edu with like 5 apiece.

  13. I have to give a little bit of a boost to the ratings for Fabinho and Gaddis (maybe a +1 each) for not getting ripped apart down the wings by Nagbe. Granted, both looked a step slower than the Portland wings and both took a yellow, but the Union did not draw this match because they conceded from the wings. Tough to balance getting forward and staying home against another team that is so active from the fullback and wing spots.

  14. The Black Hand says:

    Very accurate ratings, Eli. Our new midfielders are very, (very?) good. Carroll and Letoux appear to be nowhere near their counterparts. Carroll might as well have been a practice cone. Edu was the meat in that defensive mid. He is very strong on and off the ball. I think he makes Carroll obsolete. Letoux was more worrying to me. He offered very little cohesive play and he is in too important of a position to put in a shoddy performance. I think that Jack and Casey are going to enjoy their ‘set-up men’. Noguiera and Maidana were both fantastic and they should only get better. Berry provided a stout, physical presence and appeared to mesh well with Okugo. I feel optimistic about the club and that is strange for me.

    • I agree with everything here, Le Toux is worrying me, but something tells me a lot of this may be caused by the coaching staff and the “switching sides” they keep trying. He should stick to the sideline and put in crosses.
      .
      This team would be even more potent with Casey in for Carroll, and Edu could no doubt handle the defensive responsibility.

  15. Jason Kolodziejski says:

    I can’t stand LeToux, I was happy when he left the first time. That guy can kill more promising runs then any player I’ve ever seen. He isn’t that fast, his dribbling is bleh and his first touch is horrendous. Overall, I hope they just move him.

  16. Look what Cruz does as a starter or sub is going to be ineffective. Most of the time last season they had to keep the ball away from him on the opposite side of the field and that isn’t going to work. Just because Le Toux isn’t the answer we shouldn’t have to just play Cruz. WE HAVE OTHER OPTIONS. Hopefully the guys with skill in the midfield tell Hack who they would prefer to play with and he listens to them.

    • The Black Hand says:

      I liked Cruz, as a sub. His downhill play kept the Portland defenders from cheating up. Hoppenot was the same way. Both are dangerous on the counter. Didn’t mind either sub, given the situation.

      • I agree. I’ve said for a while I thought Cruz would be a great fit for that sub role. Between his straight-ahead, downhill style and his knack for drawing cards, he seems well suited for it, with a spot start here and there as needed.

      • i think it’s gotta be one or the other with cruz/hoppenot. both of them on the field brought the union offensive presence way down.

  17. Fair ratings, not much to quibble about here aside from Carroll getting a little too much blame undeservedly.
    -
    What really got me excited during this match was there was a sequence in the first half where the Union were countering and Maidana waltzed right around Chara as if he were a traffic cone which I rarely ever seen. Plus, Chaco didn’t even seem like he was really even moving that fast yet he totally left Chara in his dust. Very impressive.

    • The Black Hand says:

      +1, regarding Maidana. His settle-turn-blast from the 18 was impressive, as well.
      .
      Carroll’s play was…well Carroll. He wasn’t awful, just didn’t really bring anything. Edu deserves the lion’s share of the credit for shutting down Portland’s talented mids. He was everywhere. Carroll, as Eli mentioned, seemed to be an obstacle that his fellow midfielders had to work around and compensate for.
      .
      As for blame; the coverage on the corner was awful BUT…no Carroll giveaway=no corner. No Carroll misplay of corner=no way that ball gets to the wide-open player.

  18. One big problem with the ratings, you’re still using last year’s measuring stick. At this rate, half the team will be getting 10′s every game if they continue to improve. We may need to readjust. :)
    .
    I unfortunately have to rate Zac a little lower. Thought he got lucky on several occasions being out of position, came out for crosses and didn’t get them, and didn’t seem to do much to organize his defense – especially on the goal. He bears more responsibility than Carroll for that goal in my mind.
    .
    Still think we should rate Hack’s game management in these posts. I’m torn about his substitutions. While they were probably good choices of players, I wonder if he needed to make them. The starters were doing such a good job of containing Portland, that perhaps they would have killed the game off better? Gotta think Maidana may have done a better job of keeping possession than Hoppenot. Dunno, what do you guys think?

    • i agree about the subs. i would have liked it if chaco stayed out there and then you sub in hoppenot instead of wheeler. i know hoppenot made a mistake on that last corner (he wasn’t the only one) but i thought he was doing a really good job of killing time

      • Chaco was sucking air in the second half before he was subbed. Hack replaced him with fresh legs, no complaint about that. A tired player in the second half, no matter how good he is, can turn out to be a liability.

        • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

          At that point though, isn’t that why Lahoud exists? Defensive player who can keep possession and has spent extended minutes on the right?

          • So that begs the question, were Hack’s tactics off? Time wasting by Hop, or more defensive cover from Lahoud? Were the U searching for more goals?

            • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

              I don’t know. Up until getting lost on that corner, Hoppenot had been extremely effective at keeping the ball and winning fouls. I probably would have brought on Lahoud instead of Wheeler. Considering Wheeler was up front where Cruz, Hoppenot and Nogueira were already doing a good job of maintaining possession, it would have been my preference to put Lahoud in behind those guys.

  19. Le Toux wasn’t ineffective and I saw him making Portland’s defenders keep him well in their sites. Le Toux’s first touch (once)may not have been up to snuff but Danny Cruz? Le Toux made some nice flicks to Nogueira and Edu which turned into dangerous scoring chances. Why upgrade the midfield triangle just to cover up for Cruz? The first time he doesn’t track back or flops or looses control of the ball it’s a rap. I would give Le Toux a 5 because he did make runs to open up space for Nogueira. They seem to be reading and communicating well which is a plus. Cruz is better coming off of the bench and his direct play would not have been effective after the first 10 mins. It about ball control which is what Carroll forgot in the dying seconds. I think your grading of LeToux was a bit harsh IMO.

    • Agreed, not Le Toux’s best match, but the “poor first touch” and “poor passing” argument(which I don’t agree with) is a reason to favor… Danny Cruz? Not so sure that’s the solution. Le Toux’s superior crossing and non-diving BS style of play would also be sorely missed. Content with Cruz as a sub, however.

    • +1. I mentioned upstream in this thread that I thought there was some serious French Connection going on between Le Toux and Nogueira. We might want to let that develop.

  20. It seems like people are going to either extreme here on Carroll, when its probably closer to the middle. He definitely did not bear all the blame at the end. Macmath did not take control, Gaddis did not pick up his mark, and Hoppenot was way to lax getting to the back post. That being said, the first and bigger part of the blame is Carroll’s inexcusable kick sideways and total whiff.
    .
    Speaking of Carroll, I think it may be beneficial to sit him a game. He needs to know he is not immune to benching. Realistically, most people would argue, his sole purpose on the field is defensive cover and pressure release, calmness, and veteran presence. None of those happened in the last few minutes. One could argue that some of his positives get in the way of the larger positives of Edu and Nogueira. Either way he will not sit, at least not for a while.
    .
    Le toux had a rough game, but not horrible, and I think Cruz’s performance underlined why he is good as a sub. He is not the answer as starter, it may not be Le Toux but it is not Cruz.
    .
    In the end it was just so enjoyable watching the new talented players, and remember they should only improve while working together.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Yeah there is no reason Edu can’t do his (Carroll’s) job. I know it’s been one game, but we know what Edu can bring to the field and he just confirmed it Saturday night. And I also agree that regardless of your standing on the team, no one should be immune to benching.

  21. There is no reason, under any circumstance that Dani Cruz should start over Le Toux…
    should start over anyone on the bench…
    should start over anyone on HCI…
    should start over anyone the academy team…
    should start. Period. End of discussion.

  22. I saw Fabinho’s shortcomings in preseason. Would be interesting to do a little late game experimenting when Marquez comes back from injury. He has a history of playing outside back and is a much more solid defender even if he does not attack as well.

  23. OneManWolfpack says:

    I just want to say that if we play like this again this week, it will be a rout. Midfield play like this can dominate this league.

  24. Great to see these high ratings: what a difference with last year!!! Again I’d like to see a rating for Hack. Think it was Hack’s mistake to put in too many attackers; I attribute the loss to him.

    • The Chopper says:

      It obviously didn’t work out, but I actually like the idea of trying to press forward with the one goal lead instead of sitting back and absorbing pressure (which never worked last year).

      Poor execution at the end, but philosophically I was ok with it.

      • I agree with the idea of pressing high as well, specially on the timbers in the last minutes of play when they went all in and subbed out a defender in the last 5 minutes of regular time.

        Unfortunately Neither Cruz nor Hopennot are that strong when it comes to taking that pressure to opposing teams in their first third of the field, so I’m not sure that was Hack’s plan of attack to close out the game. It rather seemed that they were content to manage the 1-0 result and run the clock at the end (specially with Hoppennot). But I think that would have been better accomplished by ensuring guys with ball control skills remained (or were brought in) to the pitch.

        The goal came from a couple of bad decisions / defensive mistakes, but it was perhaps a consequence of the pressure the timbers put on the union after the change in the team’s shape and disposition brought on by the subs.

      • Southside Johnny says:

        +1

    • The Black Hand says:

      I, oddly, liked Hack’s adjustments (aside from swapping wings). While bringing in defensive-minded players, to protect a 1-0 away lead, would have seemed fitting; we didn’t really have the right personnel. Clogging the midfield would have disrupted chemistry and compressed our overall shape, welcoming Portlands backs to join in on attack. Hoppenot and Cruz are fast. Both can be damaging on the counter, especially against a tired back line. Hacks move’s kept Portland’s back line in check. I was surprised to see that Hackworth was capable of that kind of foresight. Could have been dumb luck. Either way, point for the manager. For all intents and purposes, his strategy worked.

    • But you see, comments like this are also why it’s tough to rate the coach. You attribute the loss to Hackworth. (It was a draw, but I know what you mean.) Doesn’t he also get credit for the positive, by putting out a good lineup that got that lead to begin with? What about the tactics that drove the Union’s control of solid stretches of the game? Who deserves credit, and who deserves blame?

  25. It was a joy to watch. Noguiera has rocketed to the top of my favorite player list. I am so pumped for Saturday – can’t come quick enough.

    • The Black Hand says:

      I’m in Camp Edu. He’s damn good.

    • I’m torn between all three of them, each brings unique value and they already work well together. It will only get better, this lineup has so much more potential than any of the teams we had in last four years. Can’t wait for the first DOOP on Saturday!!!

  26. Did the Union really go three for three in offseason acquisitions? With the jury still out on Blake and the draftees, this is really impressive. (And I’m someone who has had ZERO faith in this front office for over two years.)

  27. Huge step forward for the team…thought they played a great match up until Jack scored. Seemed like once they went up a goal they started playing too scared. Like, “wait we’re winning against Portland…on the road? What should we do now?” I understand they wanted to waste time, but if you have a legitimate chance to score, why not take the shot? I thought hoppenot could have put them up 2-0. I thought Carroll played well…until he inexcusably turned the ball over and allowed Portland one final chance to pull out a draw.

    Great job on the player ratings…spot on!

  28. Awesome to see the Union playing attractive soccer. I’m going to bed early every night this week just to make Saturday get here that much faster. I can’t wait. The hope and potential of victory and a successful season is absolutely addictive and exactly what was missing from the fan experience last year.

  29. Southside Johnny says:

    I’ve been thinking how nice it is to have so many guys I like on this year’s roster and to have a cautious optimism about management for once. My love/hate ratio is on a huge upswing. This feels like it could be a really special season…or maybe my bipolar meds just need to be adjusted…

  30. I never thought I’d see the day where someone said Cruz should start over Le Toux but you got a point.

  31. I stayed up late and watched the game. I was so happy to see the midfield be creative and keep Portland chasing them. I was surprised to see we only had 40 ish% of possession. seemed like we had more. May have been the excitement of the game..I really enjoyed watching TheU hang tough in the poor conditions. I really love Monday PSP with all the comments and points of view! Hands down the best site! -1 for the whole team for the last 30 secs. Other than that ratings are spot on!

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