We’ve reached the last player ratings of a long 2016 season. When, exactly, did that season end for the Philadelphia Union?
Was it when the referee blew the final whistle? When Giovinco scored that backbreaking opening goal? When the Union turned up for the playoffs in their ghostly white kits for no particular reason?
No — it ended for the Union in the 30th minute of the game at Red Bull Arena, when Josh Yaro suffered what proved to be a season-ending concussion.
Tribbett or not Tribbett
All year, Jim Curtin skated by with a tandem at one of the center back positions. Yaro and Ken Tribbett essentially alternated based on who was available. A Tribbett injury gave way to Yaro, a red card put Tribbett back in the lineup, a howler saw Yaro play until he was injured, etc. and so on.
Most observers (yours truly included) saw this as a curious move. Yaro is currently a much better centerback than Tribbett, and has more long-term potential. Yaro is faster, can pass the ball like a midfielder, reads the game well, and is not prone to unbelievably boneheaded plays.
Tribbett, on the other hand, is tall.
Yaro, however, was unavailable against Toronto FC, as he was for the preceding two and 2/3 games of the season. With Tribbett in the lineup, the Union conceded 10 goals.
Tribbett is directly at fault for two of the three goals scored by Toronto in the Knockout Match. On the first, he wildly mishit a clearance back towards his own goal, then failed to track back and mark Giovinco as the Union began scramble defense to cover for his error. With the match hanging in the balance, Tribbett then could not make a simple defensive clearance, simply gifting the ball right to a wide-open Jozy Altidore.
Rarely does one player have such a clearly disastrous evening. Tribbett revealed — not for the first time — that he is not of the quality to be a regular starter on an MLS team. The Union will need to fortify this position in the offseason. (Hey, does anyone have Steven Vitoria’s number?)
That first goal felt like a backbreaker, and not just because the goal rejuvenated an anxious Toronto crowd.
The Union struggled to score goals down the stretch, and it wasn’t because their good shots weren’t going in. Rather, the team simply created few scoring attempts. I’m not as good at figuring what went wrong as Adam is, but let me point out a few things I noticed.
- Vincent Nogueira’s value to the Union came from the way he tirelessly connected offense and defense, moving the ball around the field in a way that created danger. With Nogueira long gone, and the Union fullbacks pulled back, too often the team became stretched into an offensive group and a defensive group. In this poor shape, completing any passes to put the forwards in dangerous positions became a challenge.
- Without good team shape, the Union kept doing their favorite thing: punting balls to C.J. Sapong. But I wonder if Sapong’s holdup play is as valuable as the coaching staff thinks. Sapong reminds me of a (very) poor man’s version of Olivier Giroud. He’s a big dude, an old-school No. 9 who scores some nice goals but also disappears for long stretches of the game. This season, Arsenal moved Alexis Sanchez into the No. 9 role, which transformed last year’s stagnant and predictable attack into something much more fluid and dynamic. In short, the Union are predictable with Sapong, and while they are unlikely to bring a player of Alexis’s caliber to the team anytime soon, it might be worth considering what type of striker the team plays at the top of the formation.
- Down 2-0 and chasing the game, Jim Curtin should have been more proactive with his substitutes. Ilsinho’s entrance changed the game because he supplemented Barnetta as an attacking midfielder, able to pick up the ball and drive at the defense in a way that Fabian Herbers failed to do in the preceding 60 minutes. But needing two goals and with only 30 minutes to get them back, did it make sense to continue playing two deep-lying midfielders and a full defensive line? Curtin frustrates me, and one reason is because he seems unable to adapt to new situations as they present themselves. He is stubborn to the point of recklessness, a trait that I hope softens with time in the manager’s chair.
Andre Blake — 4
It seems churlish to pick at the performance of the player most responsible for the number of points the Union earned in the regular season. But Blake wobbled under pressure, making a critical error on the opening goal and looking jittery after that.
Keegan Rosenberry — 4
Struggled to get forward, but did some solid work defensively. Ultimately sacrificed for the first time all season.
Richie Marquez — 4
Not an especially great game, but relatively error-free. Had a nice header in the build-up to Bedoya’s goal, earning him an assist.
Ken Tribbett — 1
Harsh? Tribbett gifted Toronto the margin of victory. His performance was unacceptable and ultimately ruinous.
Fabinho — 3
Nearly gave away a foolish early penalty, lost Giovinco on the opening goal, and didn’t add much offensively.
Warren Creavalle — 6.5
Put on one of his best games of the season, and with three broken ribs at that! Creavalle might not be an every game starter, but he’s a useful depth piece and he came to play on the biggest stage.
Alejandro Bedoya — 6
Gets one point for scoring the goal, a very nice finish at close range. Really struggled to find the game in the first half but became more comfortable as the Union switched into attack mode.
Chris Pontius — 5
A quiet night for Pontius. Will the Union keep him this offseason? No player scored more goals, or offered more leadership, than the ex-DCU man did for Philadelphia this campaign.
Tranquillo Barnetta — 6
Fittingly the most dangerous player on the pitch for the Union in his last match with the team. Active early against Michael Bradley, even earning a yellow card, Barnetta offered good delivery on set pieces and worked to bring his toothless teammates into good positions. Good luck at St. Gallen, Tranquillo — I’ll miss you.
Fabian Herbers — 4
Another player who wilted a bit under the bright lights of the playoffs. Herbers turned an anonymous performance on the wing.
C.J. Sapong — 3
For the 150th consecutive game, failed to score despite being the team’s designated scorer. A typically physical effort that produced little end product. Rightfully hauled off late in the match.
Ilsinho — 6.5
The Brazilian was an impact sub, eager to push the play in a way the Union were lacking before his entrance. Even got a secondary assist with a header in the box to Marquez. If this was his last game with the Union, you have to say he gave his all.
Roland Alberg — 5.5
Along with Ilsinho, brought some energy as the Union sought to mount a comeback. Should have come on earlier.
Charlie Davies — n/a.
N/A could describe the entirety of Davies’ Union career, unfortunately.