Photo: Paul Rudderow
It was cold, it was close, and it’s fair to say Philadelphia Union deserved a better result.
But this team looked much more prepared to bring the game to a Toronto team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year, and it gave us a much better look at the first team than the trip to Vancouver provided.
Andre Blake — 8
At this point we expect exceptional performances from Blake, and while this performance wasn’t his most acrobatic, it showed that he’s more than just a human highlight reel. Take for example the way he took a boot to the face in the 67th minute, shutting down Tosaint Ricketts and giving us a look at the (suspiciously quick) MLS concussion protocol. It was a brave play, and paired with the diving punch in the 74th minute to make sure Justin Morrow didn’t score (again), was a major part of keeping the Union in this game.
Keegan Rosenberry — 4
Maybe it’s not fair to hold a sophomore to this high of a standard, but more is expected from Rosenberry. His passing was disorganized, and he slept on Morrow twice, allowing a goal the first time and forcing Blake into the above-mentioned flying play off his line. That said, he still had a Marquez-esque tackle in the 38th minute, and he’s capable of doing a lot for this team. He just has to actually do it to get an above average score.
Oguchi Onyewu — 6
If Rosenberry failed to meet high expectations, Gooch exceeded low ones. For someone that was basically expected to be as much a coach as a player, he put in a powerful performance that silenced any concerns about him having to stand in until Yaro comes back. Maybe he should clean things up a bit, but that could have been largely a product of match officials completely losing control of the game.
Richie Marquez — 4
Marquez seemed to make so little an impact on the game that it prompted the question of whether he might be sharing some of his secrets with the rest of the back line. Sharing skills like that is a good thing, but failing to make an impact is not. While it’s hard to note anything he did wrong, failing to make a contribution is performing well below the standard expected from him.
Fabinho — 5
A surprisingly defensive game from the Brazilian, with relatively little exploration of TFC’s end of the field in the first half. He did get a bit more aggressive once the Union were behind though, and overall, he played the reliable and stable play we’ve strangely come to expect from him.
Haris Medunjanin — 7
It’s becoming clear that Medunjanin isn’t the player to do obviously amazing things, but he does perfectly set up his teammates to do them. Take for example the cross to Pontius that let him set up Simpson’s goal in the 11th minute. It was a simple pass changing sides of the field, but it swapped the Toronto defense’s attention away from Simpson allowing him to get in position and take advantage. We might need to stop calling him the new Nogueira and start calling Vincent the old Medunjanin.
Derrick Jones — 7
He received a lot of praise after the Vancouver game, but this game really showed he was ready for MLS and capable of performances well beyond what one would normally expect from such a young player. He was calm on the ball, assertive with his skills, and willing to take chances to make things happen. He showed a little green in letting Altidore rope him into committing a foul that lead to the first-half stoppage time PK, but that says less about his experience and more about the type of player Jozy is.
Alejandro Bedoya — 3
You miss a penalty kick, and you get a bad grade. Granted it bounced off the bar, so it was close. Still, close isn’t good enough, and neither was the rest of the captain’s performance. His passing was sloppy, and more than once he passed into double coverage rather than holding the ball when he wasn’t under pressure. His reckless challenge on Toronto goalkeeper Clint Irwin in second half stoppage time would have earned a card in a match with a competent referee. A player with Bedoya’s experience, pedigree, and paycheck needs to do better.
Fabian Herbers — 6
He’s not the best player on the field, but Herbers is putting in work this season. Lots of quality service to other players in front of goal, but when the situation presents itself (like it did in the 62nd minute), he isn’t afraid to take a shot himself. Of course that shot didn’t result in a goal, but it was enough to remind the Toronto defense to take him seriously, and that’s exactly what you need to break down a back line and open up opportunities for yourself and others.
Chris Pontius — 5
Part of Toronto’s plan appeared to be to play Pontius out of the game, because he never saw the opportunities we usually expect from him. Despite that, he provided the assist on the first goal and would have racked up a few more if other players had found the back of the net.
Jay Simpson — 6
If we felt like abusing statistics, we could say he was on pace to score 3.2 goals this match before he got injured. It wasn’t a particularly pretty goal, but it’s enough to open his account and showed his intent to score any goal possible for this team. We’ll see if his leaving the field was more about taking precautions in the frigid temperatures than an actual problem.
C.J. Sapong — 5
There’s reason to be concerned about C.J., especially given that he seems to get ignored quite a bit when other players are looking to pass the ball. Either the rest of the team doesn’t trust him, or he isn’t demanding the ball when he’s open. That’s not a great look for a striker valued for his hold-up play. But he did score a goal, hopefully shaking off whatever ghosts are still haunting him from last season.
Fafa Picault — 5
Not much time to look at the Gazelle, but his speed could obviously be a major asset for the Union if he inhabits the Union archetype of supersub. It did seem he got bossed off the ball a little easily at times, and perhaps his time in Europe took away some of the physicality American players stereotypically possess.
Roland Alberg — 5
Short appearance for the Dutchman coming on for Pontius at the 89th minute. Not much to judge him on personally, though he was American football-tackled in stoppage time which segues nicely into our next section.
Mark Geiger — 1
WOW. Even if you could ignore the suspect call that lead to Altidore’s penalty goal, you’d be left wondering why Jozy was allowed to essentially body check players at will off the ball without so much as a talking to.
Even if you could ignore that, you’d be confused as to what did and did not count as a foul, let alone a card. This game got physical because these are two physical teams, but it’s a referee’s job to make sure that doesn’t get out of hand. You do that by establishing clearly and early that certain behavior will not be tolerated, something Geiger seemed hesitant to do.
All that aside, his understanding of time mechanics is below that of your average sports radio personality. In a close game, you let the final attacking play happen, you don’t blow the whistle even before the full allotment of stoppage time has passed.
Player of the Game
Andre Blake. This was an easy decision. He played well, showed extraordinary skill, and continues to make goalkeeper the one position Union fans don’t have to worry about. And it’s hard not to give it to the guy who literally got kicked in the face for this team.