Player ratings

Analysis and player ratings: Union 2-2 RSL

Photo: Earl Gardner

It is officially a trend. Going into Saturday’s match with Real Salt Lake, most fans would have probably accepted a draw against one of the truly elite teams in MLS, despite being at home. Yet in the end, once all was said and done and the draw was officially recorded, it was hard to not want for more. And unlike past weeks, in this one, the Union were the side scoring just before time was called.

Rewind a week and a draw on the road in Chicago also probably sounded a reasonably appetizing proposition. But when a team proves that they have the goods to get the job done and then fall short, the sinking feeling is natural.

At this point, after only 6 games, that sensation has become alarmingly commonplace.

The Vincent Nogueira problem
Nogueira Heat Map vs RSL

Nogueira Heat Map vs RSL

John Hackworth has a problem. It’s a good problem, but it is a problem just the same. He has gone out and acquired a player who, if the first 6 matches are any indicator, will be in the conversation with guys like Bradley, Zusi and Valeri for the best midfielders in MLS. When Nogueira sits deep, he is the perfect relief valve, constantly available for his teammates and eager to quickly return the ball and keep play flowing. When he drives forward into the attack, as he did on Saturday when he served up Andrew Wenger’s first Union goal on the most silver of platters, his inch-perfect service can leave defenders with no hope.

But, he is only one player.

And he is playing two positions.

Looking at his heat map from Saturday, it is clear that Nogueira makes himself a presence all over the field. While his boundless energy and his optimal positioning make him an enormous asset to the Union, he is not proving to be the answer in the advanced, attacking midfield role that the Union so desperately need filled. Take nothing away from Nogueira, because it is not due to a lack of ability. Rather, it’s the fact that, while top-tier playmakers are carving out space for themselves in the attacking third, Nogueira is off somewhere else doing work.

Whether he’s offering Ray Gaddis a partner in a defensive double team or helping Sheanon Williams cleverly pass out of trouble, Nogueira has proven to be a selfless, committed teammate, but he is not in the proper space, from an attacking standpoint, to be the guy who’s running the show.  He is playing as a box-to-box midfielder. And he is playing it beautifully.

Given the amount of territory he covers and number of plays he makes on both sides of the ball, it would be hard to imagine that if he dropped back a level, where Maurice Edu currently resides, his game would look any different.

Smart passing, tons of movement, defensive support, and a few surging runs into the final third where he could set up his forwards would remain the hallmarks of his game.

So back to Hackworth’s problem. Does he drop Nogueira back to the box-to-box role and slide Edu into the DM slot (where he has looked most comfortable, both for club and country)? Or does he work with Nogueira to focus his play, changing his positioning so that the presence and involvement he has shown all over the pitch can be concentrated into the areas where he can have a more consistent and potent offensive impact?

Magic Mulholland?

While Nogueira’s versatility creates a positive conundrum for his coach, the Union’s current predilection for falling asleep at precisely the wrong moment will have Union fans tearing out their hair almost as fast as their team is currently giving away points. And for the record, Kyle Beckerman’s 85th minute tally is a far more egregious example than Luke Mulholland’s opener.

The opener was down to a very clever, extremely well-timed burst on Mulholland’s part. Could Austin Berry, Amobi Okugo and Ray Gaddis have reacted faster, sprinting into the box to clear their lines on the small chance that Zac MacMath pulled of some PK heroics for the second straight week?

Absolutely they could have. But credit must also go to Mulholland for having the wherewithal to drift away from the pack of defenders, time his run to match Javier Morales’ run-up and arrive in the box just in time to bury the rebound. Sometimes a good play makes a goal, and as excruciating as it was to watch after MacMath did manage to pull off yet another save from the spot, it is hard to point too many fingers.

Credit Mulholland.

Other problemzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

However, on Beckerman’s goal, much like Gaston Fernandez’s equalizer in Portland, there is plenty of blame to go around.

This time it was Berry who, like Brian Carroll in Portland, took a casual swing and got a lot less of the ball than he would have hoped. Why neither player made the simple play and booted the ball into row ZZ is still up for discussion. But what was done was done. Hackworth and his staff will have to sort out the mess that comes from having players quit on a play, far too comfortable in the expectation that mistakes won’t happen.

At some level, having that kind of confidence in your teammates must be a plus. However, continuing to work until a safe clearance has been made and making sure everyone is supported on the off chance that something unexpected happens is what makes a good team.

Sebastien Le Toux, Edu, and Gaddis were all guilty of coming to a complete standstill at the top of the box, while Carroll was so focused on Morales that he failed to see Beckerman right in front of him.

With tough games coming up against Eastern Conference rivals New York, Houston and Montreal, both of whom are beginning to warm up after slow starts following playoff seasons last year, Hackworth must make immediate adjustments or risk finding his team looking up at the at the rest of the table come May.

Player ratings

Zac MacMath – 9

Not only did he make 5 important saves (one being a penalty), but MacMath commanded his box in a manner that Union fans have never before seen. Quick off his line, strong in the punch and secure in his handling, the Union goalkeeper on Saturday afternoon bore little to no resemblance with the timid, quiet MacMath of this time last year.

Sheanon Williams – 6

While his wayward crossing may have been the tip-off that Williams was making his first start in 2014, his positioning and passing interplay were exactly what the Union needed. One of the busiest Union players on the afternoon, Williams got stuck in early, driving up the field and pinning Chris Wingert back.

Amobi Okugo – 6

Covered an immense amount of ground, allowing Williams the freedom he needed to press forward and nearly connected on a few well-aimed long balls. With Carroll collapsing into his lap, Okugo has not had the same effect with the ball at his feet of late and will need to take more leadership of the backline and demand his midfield either find a mark, or push their entire line higher.

Austin Berry – 4

Clearly targeted in his first game back from injury, Berry was unfortunate to see two glaring errors cloud what was an otherwise productive day at the office. His 2 tackles won, 5 interceptions, 14 clearances, and 11 recoveries are pretty stellar numbers for a defender, but in the cruel world of the centerback, any major mistakes can wash away all that good work. And Berry made two such mistakes on the day, first clobbering Olmes Garcia to concede an early penalty and then going too casually into a challenge with Morales, which resulted in RSL’s second.

Ray Gaddis – 5

Like Berry, Gaddis was largely impressive on the afternoon, but he will be frustrated that the two times he switched off, joining the gaggle of Union onlookers to both of RSL’s goals. Gaddis is turning into an extremely talented defender, capable of taking an opposing winger out of the match, yet he is still often guilty of ball-watching. Despite still looking a bit clumsy on his left foot, he represents a large upgrade over Fabinho.

Brian Carroll – 4

Carroll’s afternoon was a maddeningly inconsistent display which slid back and forth between cheap turnovers, smart marking, and negative play. The Union captain deserves plenty of credit for keeping Morales from having his typical effect on the match, yet he must also accept some blame for unsettling his teammates by dropping deeper and deeper and unleashing a consistent barrage of negative passes that put his back four into unnecessarily tight spots. Okugo in particular was put off his stride as he ended up taking Williams’ spot at right back, with Carroll retreating into his position. Now that the Union midfield has been stocked with quality, Carroll must improve the quality of his distribution.

Maurice Edu – 5

Spent most of the game looking out of sorts and frustrated. With RSL in their traditional narrow diamond, Edu struggled to assert himself and find spaces with Carroll, Nogueira, Le Toux and Fernandes all in such tight quarters. As the game opened up in the second half, Edu found happier hunting grounds and capped off his late surge with a perfectly headed goal to steal a point for his team. It is clear that Edu has yet to completely decipher his role. With Carroll sitting where he prefers to play and Nogueira popping up in front of him, Edu’s game on Saturday was far too lateral.

Vincent Nogueira – 8

As mentioned above, Nogueira did a little bit of everything. Even when he went missing offensively, he was active in helping the Union to win the ball and maintain possession. His assist to Wenger for the Union’s opener was a true thing of beauty, but for him to continue to set the table in that manner, he needs to commit himself to staying higher up the pitch.

Sebastien Le Toux – 3

RSL’s narrow alignment was no secret — there was always going to be space out wide for the wingers to exploit and, as Adam Cann mentioned in his preview, “the Union need to be able to play quick balls into wide areas and follow the play.” Unfortunately for the Union, as has become his habit, Le Toux was all too eager to switch places with Fernandes. And rather than work the left flank, where he could find space to run at Tony Beltran, he drifted into the almost comically-overcrowded center of the pitch where his presence was more detriment than benefit.

Andrew Wenger – 7

After having a very Jack McInerney first half — i.e. smart running that resulted in good chances that ultimately went begging due to a lack of clinical finishing ability — Wenger got off the mark beautifully in the 55th minute. Nogueira’s ball may have been out of a dream, but Wenger had plenty of work left to do, taking the ball smartly down off his chest before lashing home with his second touch. Continued to press hard on the wing until he was ultimately replaced.

Leo Fernandes – 6

Continued to show the quality that has seen him force his way onto the pitch, but he was physically outmatched and went missing for extended periods before again running out of steam late in the match. Still, Fernandes’ guile on the ball is ideally suited to the partner with the likes of Edu, Maidana, and Nogueira, and as he continues to feature more frequently, Fernandes should only grow stronger and more consistent.

Substitutes

Conor Casey – 5

Introduced perhaps too late to get a true foothold in the game, Casey managed to make life interesting for RSL despite struggling to find the pace of the match. Whether he was blazing his shot over the bar, or heading just wide of the near post, Casey seemed a step slow in reacting to his chances to find the back of the net. While neither chance could be categorized as simple, Casey likely would have buried at least one of them in last season’s form.

Cristian Maidana – 7

Like Casey, Maidana was hardly given enough time to make an impact, yet the Argentine exploded off the bench to inspire an impressive late surge from the Union. Operating from his preferred left flank, Maidana looked likeliest to set up either the winner, or the equalizer, from his first touch. Hopefully this impressive cameo can spur him back into the form he showed in Portland.

Antoine Hoppenot – N/A

Hopped on the field just in time to join in the celebration of Edu’s equalizer.

Geiger Counter

Alan Kelly – 6

In the eyes of many Union fans, Kelly’s night was about the three penalty decisions with which he was confronted. And to the referee’s credit, he probably got about two and a half of them correct. The easiest was the 4th minute decision that went against Berry. As unfortunate as it was to concede a spot kick so early, Berry certainly fouled Garcia, and being as the foul occurred in the box, Kelly acted appropriately.

Nat Borchers’ late clip on Fernandes’ ankle seemed little more than incidental contact, but Fernandes’ first claim after he appeared to have his foot/ankle stood on by Luke Mulholland was the most difficult to decipher. While it seems clear that Fernandes was clipped and probably deserved the penalty, the manner in which he exaggerated the contact, flailing his upper body and arms before hitting the deck, might give some insight into Kelly’s decision to wave away the claim. Given the unnecessary simulation, Kelly gets half credit.

Preferred starting XI for Wednesday’s trip to Red Bull Arena

4-2-3-1 (Let’s call it what it really is)

MacMath; Williams, Okugo, Berry, Gaddis; Edu, Nogueira; Wenger, Fernandes, Maidana; Casey

89 Comments

  1. Not really much to say about to this game the good was good the bad was bad Wenger might work out and Zac MacMath or Blake is at peak trade value. RSL is a good team and the Union Defense is working its way back up to fitness. So I’ll take the tie and wait and see.

  2. First, Zac did play very well, again. However, what he need to work on now is reading the play of the game. With 15-20 minutes left, he kept trying to push the attack and rolling the ball to his teammates way too quickly. He plays to often like a 22-year-old. Calm down and be the solid presence, and that will carry to the rest of the team.
    I like Carroll, and he adds a lot on defense. But at this stage, he is simply getting in the way on offense, makes inaccurate passes, and is impeding Edu from performing at his best by keeping him out of position. With Maidana back in form, your proposed lineup is correct.
    I have faith that we are about a month away from putting it all together. I’m just hoping that we can still earn points while they figure it out.

    • That was the strategy for the whole team, If you noticed that after every foul the Union would do a quick start almost immediately. The Union were really pushing their luck with those until finally the Ref finally called them on that and brought the ball back after a start in the second period.
      /
      So I think you have to look to the sidelines for the reason Zac was getting the ball rolling quickly.

      • I agree, to a point. The keeper has to dictate the speed of the game from the back, and he has to be able to read the tired legs of his defenders, particularly Sheanon, who isn’t fully fit yet. But, yes, it was a joint effort from the coaches and Zac. But that plan has to change as the game dictates, and Zac needs to have the leadership ability and confidence to override his coaches when it comes to that.

  3. Love your starting 11. Let’s get that in front of the coaches.

    I think the Union made a concerted effort to switch the point of attack more decisively and it worked really well. I give Edu high marks there.

    I think your logic on the Edu/Nogs pairing is perfect.

    Finally, would love to see a post about how much more enjoyable the product on the field is than the last couple years.

  4. this was the match where i thought all the pieces were in place. quality starters and substitutes. i’d like results but i appreciate the dilemma and realize patience is needed to find that chemistry. i still feel we have all the right ingredients, but Hack needs to prove he’s a good cook.
    Edu or Carroll. it doesn’t seem like both are working.

  5. Love the starting 11, totally agree on it. Zac really continues to impress. I was someone who was a littel down on him but I have to say I’ve been really impressed lately. Especially being there in person, you can see he is directing the players in front of him much better. Maidana needs to start next game for Le Toux, simple as that. I love Le Toux as much as everyone, but he was all over the place Saturday in the worst way possible. It’s maddening watching him stand next to Wenger over and over. He was so good last year staying wide and delivering crosses, why would he not want to continue?
    .
    Also, I hate to keep adding on, but Carroll had one of the worst performances in a long while. A 4 is the most generous rating I’ve seen. I’d rather he be totally absent from the match than be actively effecting it in a negative way. He has to sit a game, if only to get his head straight again. Your question of what to do with Nogueira is crazy. Why would we move what has been our best player and tell him to change his thinking? The ONLY reason is to keep Carroll on the field. Taking Carrol off immediately clears up what Okugo, Edu, and Nogueira should be doing.

    • Also, I killed Carroll on his whiff in the Portland game, and wanted to kill Berry Saturday, but I watched Kompany do the exact same thing Sunday morning, on a much larger stage. I guess it happens even with the best players sometimes.

  6. ebradlee10 says:

    May I suggest a link to the MLS game/stats page when posting this after every game?

  7. I’ve noticed that Maidana seems to play much better when he gets the ball in the final third. He relies on tricks to create space, which tend to be much more effective when he’s closer to goal. If he can save the tricks for the final third while playing simple passes elsewhere, we should start to see more consistency from him.
    .
    And let’s be honest, this is a creative-minded player that’s still adjusting to a more physical league than he’s probably used to.

  8. spot on about le toux and i really like your preferred eleven for next game. i think you said it best on the podcast- something along the lines of le toux needs to sit for a minute so he can just ‘cool his heels.’ perfect way to put it

  9. Nice job on the ratings- except I’m not as generous with the ref- you don’t call the penalty or not call it because of arms flailing. You call it on the foul. I’m excited to see Maidana start after that run. Also- I don’t think Casey should start yet. Being a bit older it’s going to take time for match fitness. I like Wenger up top.

    • +1 on the pk comment. if it is a foul in the box they should call it regardless of how any player reacts to it

      • I get the feeling the Union have a reputation among the referees for diving (thanks, Freddy). We’re not going to get the benefit of the doubt if a player falls like he’s been shot, unless maybe Salazar is refereeing.

        • i get your point and i think you’re probably right but its really frustrating because it makes it seem like its our fault when in reality the onus is on the ref to properly watch and judge what is actually happening rather than have preconceived notions of what he thinks will happen

          • You’re absolutely right, but the refs are human. My hope is that Okugo is as vociferous behind the scenes with his own team’s theatrics as he is on the field when the other team does it. I thought he was going to take a swing at Velasquez for that pratfall in the box, right after the non-call on Fernandes.

      • soccerdad1150 says:

        Only that’s not what happens 99% of the time (on the PK called). There was NO obvious scoring chance, as far out as he was, and it’s questionable if the guy was even in the box. Only a stupid and/or inexperienced ref imposes himself on a game like that, especially so early. And when he does, he generally looks for an opportunity to make up for it somewhere along the line. Don’t play that “a foul’s a foul” BS. It’s not reality. That REF was horrible.

        • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

          Not sure what game you were watching. Berry CRUSHED Garcia. It was a completely obvious foul. The ref probably didn’t want to make the call but it was so darn obvious he had no choice.

          And yes, he was in the box.

    • Watched the play on TV again yesterday and the referee seems to waive it off saying that the defender got the ball first. Fernandes clearly made the touch on the ball, and regardless of who touched it, the takedown from behind prevented Leo from staying on the ball for a possible shot attempt. Should have been a PK. I’m okay with the no call on the 2nd Leo takedown, as that just looked like feet getting tangled incidentally.

  10. Just some random observations and comments…
    .
    Last week, somebody suggested that maybe MacMath reacted to the PK instead of anticipating. I definitely got that impression this week. And I find that idea fascinating. I also think it deserves to be mentioned that, again, after making the PK save, MacMath was extremely quick to get back to his feet, and even managed to get a hand out toward the ball as it sailed past. He had no shot at it, but I love the quickness to regain his feet.
    .
    Aside from the PK and its aftermath, I too thought he played well. He made some big stops, was aggressive when he needed to be, and seemed in control throughout. I actually *liked* him pushing play at the end – I want my team to go for the win, not settle for the draw.
    .
    Nogs looks to have an impressive touch on the long pass. It’s not just the assist on Wenger’s goal. He had a few long balls that were well placed for his teammates.
    .
    I agree Le Toux had a bad match. Though I do think his corners were better this week than they had been. I do have to wonder if the switching fields thing comes from the bench, though. Is Le Toux doing what he’s told to do by drifting inside and even switching to the left? Or is he drifting on his own, forcing the players to effectively switch?
    .
    I think Brian Carroll can still be an effective player in this league. He’s smart, he’s still good at breaking up passing lanes, and he can bring intangibles such as leadership and experience. I just don’t think he’s a good fit for this team any longer. He doesn’t fit in with the other players on the field, and he doesn’t fit the system. I have to think there is somewhat of a trade market in MLS for Brian Carroll, even if it’s just getting back allocation money or a 4th round pick. This just isn’t the right fit for him any longer.
    .
    I know it’s a small sample size (1 game) but Wenger seemed to me to be a lot more active and involved than McInerney. Certainly, part of that is adreniline or whatever for playing his first game as a Union player, likely with friends and family in attendance. I’m interested in watching if it continues.
    .
    I think the big difference between 2013 Leo and 2014 Leo is that 2014 Leo looks more direct. He’s ditched the step-over, gotta-beat-you-while-looking-good moves and instead just goes out and makes positive plays. Hopefully the growth continues, because if so he’s going to be a fantastic value player. edit to add: I do think the second “penalty” was a dive, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Leo hears from the league about it.

    • The Black Hand says:

      I loved Carroll’s leadership, when he stood behind Amobi and watched as our young CB argued the penalty. Carroll’s intangibles are becoming very difficult to view, without a microscope. His play is beginning to warrant more boo’s and less excuses.
      .
      I agree with everything else 100%!

      • buzzkill_ed says:

        I noticed this a lot last year too. Just give Okugo the armband already.

        • Interestingly Carroll handed the arm band to Edu when he was subbed out. Edu is without the question the experienced, veteran leader the team needs, but Okugo is the last remaining original and he embodies everything the team should want to portray moving forward, especially because he has survived and thrived since the dark ages of 2012. If you polled the fans who they want as a captain I’m confident Okugo would narrowly beat out Edu.

          • buzzkill_ed says:

            That’s fair. I meant nothing against Edu. I just meant that I noticed it’s almost always Okugo talking to the ref on behalf of the team.

          • I noticed that when it happened, and I suspect it’s because Edu was closer at the time.

          • The players and staff choose the captain, not the fans. Traditionally, it almost always goes to the veteran.

    • sort of a tangent here but i agree completely about carroll. he is still really good at what he does and i could see other teams being interested in him. the first team that comes to mind is new england. last time i checked they are really hurting for a defensive midfielder

      • The Black Hand says:

        I think that the league has moved past Carroll’s abilities. It’s tough to fit such a one-tracked player into any system, without sacrificing a lot. I could be wrong. Year after year of the Union limiting themselves, over a manager’s blind insistence to start Carroll, has left me quite bitter towards #7.

    • I also agree about McMath’s distribution. While there are times to hold the ball and give a tired defense a breather, I much prefer him rolling and throwing to his fullbacks than booting 50/50 balls downfield. This team is skilled enough to posess and build from the back, and those types of short , safe outlets tend to disappear the longer a keeper waits.

      • unless a player is streaking down the field and into usable space, I can see no reason to ever punt the ball in Football. Unfortunately, here in america we play soccer and are yet to realize true quality lies in building from the back even in the face of high pressure. To watch continental europeans break a full field press with quality movement and calm is to wander under the Sistine Chapel and marvel. Of course this would require rehearsed orchestrated play with a clearly defined plan. What is our plan again?

    • +1 on Carroll. I am not a Carroll basher — the guy really adds something on the field, even if it’s not necessarily the easiest role to perceive for the observer, and his offensive limitations may be acceptable for someone.
      But he really doesn’t seem to fit on our squad at this point. The pace of the game seems past him sometimes, not on the defensive side, but on the offensive side. And his defensive abilities are somewhat surplus with Mo Edu around. I think trading him (for another forward, if possible) would make a lot of sense.

    • Leo seems to be reading the game with more maturity, finding the right spots to offer and help teammates than being quick with his choices.

      Regarding Noguiera comments, agreed, I bet he is realizing more and more that this ain’t The French First- his direct lofted and marvelously placed passes finding led footed players all around. Opps. Opps. Damn. Missed it. Easy to tell Le Toux, for one, has been in America too long, his quality of touch so bad—- except for the stellar goal he scored against Dynamo three years ago. That touch was amazing.

    • MacMath did not read that penalty. He planned to go to his left before it was even taken as evidenced by his fake step right during the run up. I believe he was even quoted last week after the McGee save how he studies the pk takers.

  11. The Black Hand says:

    Pretty spot on, Eli. I think Carroll deserved a 3…he was awful. Fernandes could be shied a point, as well.

    Wed will be a good gauge of Hackworth’s managing skills. Will he roll out the usual suspects or will he choose his personnel wisely, knowing this is a busy week? Williams and Casey are nowhere near fit to handle so much football, in so little time!

  12. JediLos117 says:

    Brian Carroll wasnt on the field when RSL scored their second goal.

    • He was not, but he was on the field for the other 7 goals against us this year. Its time to put the old worthless dog DOWN!

      • JediLos117 says:

        My comment was specifically in response to this article which implies that Carroll is at fault for RSL’s second goal…although as I had said he was not on the field.

    • The Black Hand says:

      This is true…and I would say there is a strong chance that Carroll would have clogged that space, preventing the score.
      .
      The flip-side can be: maybe we would have threatened MUCH more with quality distribution and linkable play from our DM. We could have been able to, not only hang with the big dogs, but beast them. There are a lot of talented options on this club. They should be looked at.

    • was wondering if anyone was going to call that. good one Jedilos.

  13. Also, only tangentially related…
    .
    3rd home game of the season, 3rd different traffic pattern coming out of Lot B. And in all cases, it seems like they don’t want me to turn right onto 291 for some stupid ass reason.

  14. I agree with most of your player ratings, Eli. Except that I would give Ray Gaddis a point for being very active getting into the attack. He frequently comes under criticism for not doing so, especially when he plays on the left. This game he was up the sideline all the time.
    —-
    Regarding your prefered starting XI, I really feel like Nogueira’s skills would be somewhat wasted playing him back with Edu (which is I believe what you were implying). I would like to see something more like a 4-1-3-2, as follows:
    Gaddis, Berry, Okugo, Williams; Edu; Maidana, Nogueira, Fernandes; Wenger, Casey
    I think this gets the personnel to play to their strengths.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      This is really a question of semantics considering we both picked the same players. However, as I stated in the article, if Nogueira played alongside Edu as a box-to-box midfielder, his play would probably look identical.

      He does not spend enough time attacking to be considered an out and out CAM and the box-to-box role still gives him plenty of freedom to push forward whenever he chooses.

      He’s played this role for his entire career and he’s exceptional at it.

    • The Black Hand says:

      That’s my preferred lineup, as well. Only problem, this being a packed week. Hackworth needs to balance fitness levels and playing time.

      • Hackworth should have made subs on Saturday with that in mind. Nogueria came over here in mid-season form (literally, mid-season), so it shouldn’t be expected that he plays 90 minutes for all 34 games. Even with the 2-week World Cup break he’ll be exhausted by August, given the heat and travel. Hopefully Cruz & Fabinho are available to to come off the bench if needed, and I don’t think he can start both Casey and Wenger, bring one off the bench to provide some rest for Saturday.

  15. I agree with all the ratings except Berry. As a central defender who frankly I expect a bit more out of he needs to not take plays off especially when he is the one responsible for the penalty. I watched the replay many times and he clearly hesitates and gets a oh no face as he tries to react at least three steps too slow. Could he have caught mullholland. we will never know as he really didn’t try. I was always told from day one of anything don’t take off plays but especially if you just caused the turnover/penalty/etc. I don’t mean to be overly harsh but rewarding your goalie by watching him save a penalty that you made happen is not a great way to welcome yourself back. for that and his involvement in the other goal he deserves a 3 or even a 2.

    • I have to agree, I think he deserved a lower rating as well. It seemed like every time RSL was in a dangerous position it was because Berry was too slow reacting to the ball or made a stupid mistake in the back. His performance did not inspire much confidence. Let’s hope it was just a bad day. I wonder if we’ll ever get a chance to see what Ethan White can do?

  16. old soccer coach says:

    With reference to the starting eleven, consider alongside the offensive capabilities of our attackers, their defensive responsibilities. Casey will work into better shape, but seems long past the day when he can be a high pressure single striker on defense. My immediate guess when I saw that Wenger was starting was that it was for defensive pressure purposes. Le Toux also fulfills the high pressure defensive responsibilities effectively, whatever his other flaws. A high pressure defensive scheme needs ten fast, well-conditioned players, not nine plus a turtle, no matter how wise the turtle, especially with the positional interchangeability that the professional game creates and demands in the central and attacking thirds. The other team will identify the turtle and attack through him, exploiting the leak in the dyke, so to speak.

  17. Thanks, Eli!
    Ratings are pretty good and despite all the moaning and complaining, this is a much better team than last year, or maybe even any other Union side to date (maybe too early to say that, but this team looks great when they are clicking and incredibly frustrating when they are not). Check out this article:
    http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2014/04/12/armchair-analyst-how-philadelphia-union-have-become-most-frustrating-team-ml

    1. Hack has proven to be a shrewd manager in the player scouting and acquisition department, but he continues to suck really hard as a game manger and tactician. My frustration stems from this past weekend’s Montreal vs Chicago game. MTL were used to playing a formation that placed DiVio as the lone striker. Enter Jack Mac, and the coach switches to a 4-4-2 with DiVio and Jack Mac up top. Jack Mac scores.

    MTL is not married to a system and any manager worth his/her salt would come up with the BEST formations depending on pitch, opponent, etc. So, I am not buying this 4-3-3 or nothing mentality. Use the best tools you have instead of focusing on a “system”. I hope Hack mixes it up, but I am not holding my breath since he has proven to be completely unimaginative in that department.

    2. RSL game. As soon as the subs were made, the Union came alive. What was the main change? Carroll out and attacking minded payers inserted. We were dangerous, so why is there still a question as to Edu vs Carroll? Edu should be the DM (and the way he plays it, It would be more of a box to box – look at Beckerman and note that Edu is a better all-around player than Beckerman), and Carroll should ride the pine. Winning trumps loyalty any day of the week. My $.02.

    • #1 is generally true, though I thought he made the right adjustments this past game, bringing on Maidana and Casey, for Le Toux and Carroll. Less predictable, and it did change the shape and philosophy to going forward more.

      • He did make the right adjustments, but I hope Hack “learns” from those adjustments. The Union looked like a playoff team in the last 15 minutes because of it.

    • Did you not see how we played last year? I’d say he did exactly what you accuse him of not being able to do. Our cross the ball into the box plan was the best example of adapting your game plan to the players available you could imagine.

      • Cross the ball into the box instead of taking some risks with the bench? That’s a pretty 1 dimensional solution and we became a one trick pony so no, last season does not fill me with confidence in Hack’s game management and adaptation. I am really hoping to be proven wrong this season.

  18. I apologize for beating the dead horse here, but I agree that Carroll’s time has come and gone. I have been a fan of Carroll since his time with the national team, and for his career he has been a steady, consistent player, relying on his strengths to cover up his weaknesses. But after Saturday I am ready to move on. The final pass as the first half came to an end was it for me. With Edu and Nogueira constantly looking to move play forward, Carroll’s backwards passes are killing this team. I would much rather see Edu and Nogueira behind Fernandes in the midfield triangle, with Le Toux (Wenger if Casey starts) Maidana and Wenger up top. Okugo gets the armband. If Edu plays at the level he needs to make the World Cup roster, and Nogueira continues to play that box-to-box role, then the clear need is offensive help, NOT more defensive cover. I would take either Leo or Maidana as the CAM moving forward, especially with Wenger and Casey both being able to hold the ball up. Hackworth has shown a propensity for playing his favorites (see Danny Cruz), but if Carroll’s play doesn’t improve then he has to move on from him.

  19. I’m just going to take the stance that dropping points by tying is better than dropping points by losing while hoping the lineup that is begging to be played makes its way to the front of Hack’s mind.

  20. Please don’t ever say “booted” again. I get sickening flashbacks of soccer moms yelling at their kids to boot it. That being said, I agree with the Ref assessment on the PK. It touches on another issue with PPL Park. The loudest fans(including Sons of Ben) seem to be the least knowledgeable. Stop screaming for fouls and offside calls that aren’t even close, make sure you learn the rules first. Just because you go to every game holds no bearing on your soccer IQ. That goes for you, guy in the Brazil hat and Sambas with the Brazil flag on the heel. Better to keep your mouth shut and have people assume you don’t know the game then to open it and remove all doubt. And another thing, just throwing on any jersey for the game doesn’t work if you’re over 10 years old. Why are there grown men wearing Chelsea kits to Union v RSL? I won’t even touch on the animals wearing football jerseys.

    • First off, I’ll note that I’m not the guy in the Brazil hat and Sambas. But the supporters ‘screaming for fouls and offsides that aren’t even close’ aren’t ignorant of the rules. They’re simply trying to influence the referees’ calls to support their club. It happens in every stadium around the world.

    • As long as their yelling for the U and they aren’t yelling abusive or obnoxious things who cares? There’s always someone that knows more about the game than you do. Yes, even you. Let people have fun and make noise. I want PPL rocking as loudly as we can get it. If everybody without a high soccer IQ was silenced it would make for a pretty lame atmosphere. As for the throwing on of any soccer related apparel, I am right with you. That is really just someone trying to impress.Oh…and no I’m not the Brazil hat guy. Ew…just ew.

      • +1. I want everyone to be loud. Especially those who believe they possess a high soccer IQ, but frankly, who cares if they are supporting the home team?

    • buzzkill_ed says:

      Pretty sure that’s what home field advantage is all about. The River End is at a bad angle to begin with and of course Union fans are going to have a bias. Have you ever been to another sporting event with loud fans? It’s kinda the same everywhere.

    • Great point! I get so annoyed when I see so many people in barca jerseys. To each his own, but it just annoys me. Glad you brought it up, of course those people aren’t reading this.

  21. Your assessment of Noguiera is spot on. Unfortunately he seems to be realizing he needs to be everywhere for the team to be effective. My hopes are he remains patient and willing to bring us along to his level of understanding regarding the game. Clearly smarter than everyone else on the field.

  22. Caption on the photo:
    .
    “Vincent Nogueira does his best Jack McInerney impression to help ease the hurt among his teammates.”

    • There is no question he was perturbed at points this past week- particularly during the first 26 minutes when the Union looked a bit too much like the harried U14 travel team I watched the other day.

    • I believe that was directed at Sheanon for some weak off the ball movement. By the way, I thought Sheanon could have been a 4. Yes, he was very active, but his crosses were atrocious and his legs were gone after about the 60 minute mark. I’m certain he will play much better when his fitness returns.

      • I agree his crosses was poor but if you had a pull quad yours would be too…with better finishing up front he may of had a couple assists did anyone notice that and what a prefect pass to Vincent and he in turn made a spectacle pass to Andrew …..accentuate the positive people. The team is learning to play together they will be hard to beat ……

      • I also thought Williams wasn’t up to his usual standards. And I’m willing to chalk it up to rust and fitness. Even with being sub-standard (compared to what he can do), he still brought a lot to the game.
        .
        Or put it this way, I guess: I’d rather have “sub-standard” Williams than Fabinho in my starting 11.
        .
        Also, I didn’t realize just how much I missed yelling “BOOM” on his throw-ins…

        • John, I have to say, to me the long throw ins are so unappealing. Is it really a weapon? Particularly when Sheannon brushed off Noguiera late in the game (while standing in an ideal position behind defense as Noguiera was about to make a quick throw in to him) in favor of the “Boom” that ultimately turns in to a turnover. Noguiera dropped the ball and walked away in what looked like disgust or disbelief, likely thinking to himself, “are you kidding me?, you were wide open” Please, Hackworth, enough with the long throw in as weapon. Tacky. Untactical. Useless in almost every instance.

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