Player ratings

Player ratings and analysis: Union 1-0 Pumas

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Michael Farfan’s well-taken second half goal may have settled Philadelphia Union’s chippy 1-0 win over Pumas on Saturday, but the friendly was the first chance for a number of the Union’s new signings and young players to feature at PPL Park. With a number of injuries among the team and players away on international duty, the squad for the friendly was an even mix of regulars and reserves, all getting the chance to impress.

Here’s what stood out from the match.

Roger Torres misses his chance

He showed up to camp fit. He was arguably the best player of the preseason. The midfield has struggled to find consistency and the fans have been calling for his inclusion. In a team full of youngsters, he was the veteran.

If there was a time when Torres needed to take the reins of the Union offense it was on Saturday.

And he didn’t do it.

In an uneven first half, Torres struggled to find touches and then pick out passes when he did get on the ball. The negative parts of his game were all still there: Backheels that became turnovers, blind passes intercepted in the middle of the field, ineffective defensive efforts. It’s fair to say he was not surrounded by many first team players, but overall it’s not the game many hoped to see from Torres.

Formations

I’m reluctant to play the numbers game when naming formations, but for the most part the Union used a variation of a 4-3-3. In the first half, Michael Lahoud patrolled in front of the back line while Torres and Leo Fernandes played in front of him. Antoine Hoppenot was central with Jimmy McLaughlin and Cristhian Hernandes pushed out wide on the top.

The second half’s formation didn’t change much. Perhaps Aaron Wheeler pushed a little higher to play more of a target role.

Both formations only featured one holding midfielder, with Lahoud in the first half and Carroll and the second. Both players put in solid shifts, protecting the back four and breaking up play nicely. It’s been suggested before that Carroll works better as a single holding midfielder, and that seemed true for Lahoud as well.

Winners and losers

The clear winner of the evening was Aaron Wheeler. The 6-4 striker entered at halftime and was involved in virtually every good move the Union had going forward. John Hackworth even went so far as to refer to Wheeler as a “cult hero” in his postgame press conference. His hold-up play keyed Farfan’s goal. Wheeler won headers in his own box late in the game and tracked down balls just lumped forward. If Conor Casey is still on the mend, he could be a good change of pace for the Union strike core.

Greg Jordan quietly put in a decent shift at center back in the second half when paired with Sheanon Williams. He was solid against a technical Mexican side, but doubts remain that he can hang physically with some of the bigger MLS strikers. Lahoud showed well both in the midfield in the first half and at right back in the second half. Chris Konopka looked comfortable between the pipes.

As stated above, Roger Torres was probably the biggest disappointment. Leo Fernandes and Christhian Hernandez had a few nice moments but also failed to make much of an impact. Hernandez had two good chances to score and took neither. Jimmy McLaughlin really struggled to get involved, and Pumas found success attacking the space behind the right winger.

Player Ratings

Chris Konopka -7

He didn’t have a ton of work in the shot-stopping department, but he commanded his box well. He was also sure-handed on a good number of Pumas crosses. His distribution, on the other hand, left a lot to be desired, and a few mis-kicks went straight into the stands. Whether it was nerves or just rust, it was a concern.

Sheanon Williams – 6.5

Not Williams’ flashiest performance, but a decent 90 minutes. Failed to advance too far up the right flank in the first half, and Pumas were able to throw in a few crosses from his wing, albeit with little danger. Decent when moved into the middle in the second half without being called upon too many times.

Jeff Parke – 7.5

Parke is a presence on the Union back line. He wins everything he contends for, makes timely tackles and finds good passes out of the back. He was turned around once or twice, but a solid performance overall. Looked good wearing the captain’s armband for the first half.

Amobi Okugo – 7

Continues to grow his partnership with Parke. Not a dominant performance by Okugo compared to his previous work this season, but a fairly tidy 45 minutes.

Ray Gaddis – 5

Gaddis was probably the weakest link on the Union back line. He continues to push play inside when on the ball in his own half and was burnt more than once when defending one-on-one.

Michael Lahoud – 7

Good effort from Lahoud. He protected the back line admirably in the first half and kept the ball moving in possession, though with the same limited passing range we’ve come to expect. Moved to right back in the second half, he was reliable without being too noticeable. He certainty didn’t join in the attack as much as Williams does from the position but he defended well.

Roger Torres – 4

Torres, and his many supporters, will be disappointed he didn’t show better.

Leo Fernandes – 5

Did not have great chemistry with Torres in the first half, and the two didn’t support each other as much as would be hoped. Picked out a few good passes but also at times seemed overwhelmed with the pace and physicality of the match.

Jimmy McLaughlin – 4

Was the most disappointing part of the front three. Drifted out of the game for large periods of time only to pop up with the ball at his feet followed by an errant pass.

Cristhian Hernandez – 5

Had two of the best chances for Philadelphia, forcing a good save in the first half and missing the net badly on a gilt edged chance in the second. But similar to McLaughlin, disappeared for minutes at a time. Also struggled physically, especially matched up with the larger Pumas center backs.

Antoine Hoppenot – 7

The most active forward by far in the first half. Found good space behind the Pumas a few times only to be stranded with minimal support. Did well in the second half driving at the Pumas defense and should have had an assist when Hernandez couldn’t turn his great pass on goal from the top of the box.

Subs

Greg Jordan – 7

Quietly had a solid game partnered with Sheanon Williams. While he faced the Pumas second team most of the second half, Jordan did well picking out good passes from the back and remained strong in the air throughout his 45 minutes.

Aaron Wheeler – 8

Man of the match. Held up the ball well. Showed surprisingly quick feet for a big man. Even came back into his own box to win defensive headers late in the game. Reliably he found himself in good space, whether as an outlet for a long ball straight from the defenders or checking back into the midfield.

Brian Carroll – 7

A good effort from the skipper. The holding midfielder even fired a fierce drive that forced a good save from the Pumas keeper. Was authoritative in the middle of the pitch and played with a bigger physical edge than we’ve seen the last few games.

Michael Farfan – 7

A fairly anonymous performance was completely buoyed by the goal. The run down the center of the pitch was timed to perfection, and his finish was calm, collected, and into the corner of the net. The Union need that run and finish from him more often.

Sebastien Le Toux – 7

Typical workman like effort from the Frenchman. Had a good pass into Wheeler in the build up to Marfan’s goal. Brought stronger technical ability to the right side of the three-man attack in his 30 minutes.

Jack McInerney – 7

The young striker continued his strong play. He got behind the Pumas defense once only to be denied by the goalkeeper. Another time, only a last ditch tackle from a retreating defender could stop his shot. He showed better chemistry with Le Toux and Marfan (and Wheeler).

 

19 Comments

  1. I will say this Torres was out there with no support. While Wheeler was out there with mostly starting players.
    So I think that is worth a half point either way in evaluations. Torrest had almost no support out there while Wheeler only had to worry about doing his job.

    • JediLos117 says:

      Konopka, Wheeler and Lahoud were def the big winners.
      .
      Ive always rated Lahoud but to see him at right back was absolutely a welcomed sight.
      .
      Konopka should be competing for a starting spot and MacMath should be worried…feel much better knowing he’s waiting in the wing.
      .
      Wheeler looks to be everything Conor was.
      .
      Everybody else played to expectations. Super glad we got the win…lets keep this momentum going…red bulls should be worried.

      • Wheeler still needs to bulk up. He was getting pushed around for set pieces.

        Parke wore the captains armband well.

        and I would rate Jac Mac as one of the dirtiest forwards in the league if it wasn’t for the fact the Antoine Hoppenot was in the league.

      • Jeremy Lane says:

        Just as long as they play for us, I’m fine with it…

      • +1

      • Gordon Strachan says:

        There’s is a certain quality with goal scorers=they score goals.

        Before we replace Casey with Wheeler let’s see some of that first!

      • JediLos117 says:

        Both Casey and Wheeler are way down the Union striker pecking order at this time…#9, #11 should be staring no matter what until one slumps, #29 should continue to sub in late.
        .
        It really is that simple right now.

      • Completely agree with you Jedi. Unfortunately, though, the Union coaches have a history of making our lineup decisions much more difficult than they need to be.

        Here’s to hoping we find our steady lineup early this season and let them gel accordingly.

      • Southside Johnny says:

        I am with you, but I would still love to see Le2 and Mac with either one of them in a 4-3-3.

  2. The Black Hand says:

    Hopefully this is not Torres’ ONE shot at getting time. Getting thrown out into a friendly with a bunch of reserves is hardly a fair crack at making the starting XI.

  3. Shockingly, I chose Lahoud as the man of the match (perhaps because he was one of a few that put in a full 90).
    .
    Torres’ poor performance was clearly his own doing and not a result of being with reserves. Lahoud consistently found him with excellent passes out of the back only to have Roger turn the ball over with his first touch. He missed a few excellent opportunities to put Hoppenot in behind the defense. His horrendous back heel turnover 30 yds out in the center of the pitch should have resulted in a goal for PUMAS.
    .
    Seems like the ratings always put too much emphasis on the goals. Wheeler really looked out of place for his first 30 minutes – aimless runs and defending empty space in transition (which is understandable in his first minutes). Surprisingly did get pushed around despite having about 4 feet and 200 lbs over most of the PUMAS team – definitely did not show the deft touch that Connor Casey has in the past. Marfan didn’t make an impact on the game except for his goal. Same with Jack – easily should have had a goal being 1v1 with keeper and chose to try to chip him (when the keeper was 3 feet away) rather than slot to side. Unlike Jack – that is usually his forte. If you’re going to weight goals heavily in the ratings, than a missed goal should lower the rating equally.
    .
    Overall though, a great defensive performance against a very good, technical PUMAS side.
    .
    My 2 cents.

    • JediLos117 says:

      Agree about Torres, his decision making and performance had nothing to do with his teammates.

    • Mike Servedio says:

      I thought this was one of Lahoud’s better performances. Solid if unspectacular. I thought Wheeler was good even early on and found some nice spaces to collect balls and keep them moving, even if he wasn’t always getting going forward.

      I can’t speak to how Eli does his ratings, but I do put a good amount of emphasis on goals. They are hard to come by in soccer and generally a good goal or an assist will bump up a rating for me.

      I think the goal of doing individual player ratings is inspire this exact kind of discussion though. Each of us sees the game a little bit different and smart, well argued comments do just as much to evaluate an individual’s performance as my rating as the writer. Cheerio.

  4. I thought entering this game that, like previous friendlies, this was a chance for fringe players to prove their worth, and I’m not sure anyone outside Wheeler really took that chance and ran with it. I will say that Torres was out there with a line-up that looked like a reserve team, but that should have made him look even better as he should’ve clearly been the best offensive player. He was not, and that’s disappointing. Aaron Wheeler may have been out there with more 1st team players but he may have been the best of the offensive subs. I would love to see more of him as a 2nd half sub to bring some height and physicality late in the game, especially if we’re tied or trying to close out the game.

  5. I think that Konopka has real skills as far as stopping the ball, and took charge of crosses and play in the box very well. I recall the shot in the first half that was a true screamer; Konopka was perfectly positioned and handled it as if it had been flipped to him by a teammate. That being said, at least two clearances were played directly out of bounds, and on balls dropped to him, he played them short and ineffectually. Any of his short clearing balls could have led to quick comebacks by Pumas if a bounce had gone wrong. His punting is fairly short as well. I like the confidence in the goal box, but that is truly a weakness.
    I also was underwhelmed by Roger Torres when he was out there. He seems to need to put the extra degree of difficulty onto everything that he does. I have no problem with a bit of flair, but sometimes a pass is just a pass, and doesn’t need to be a feint, a fake or otherwise deceptive. I agree with the assessment that he didn’t help himself much out there; another chance lost to more hot-dogging when workmanlike would have done better for him.

  6. Perhaps this lack of quality which we saw from Torres is why he hasn’t seen the field. He looked lost, Hack called him over more than once encouraging him to stay higher up the field. I know we love to speculate and ask questions of the coaching staff, its great fun on blogs, but now I understand why he isn’t getting on the field. disappointing performance from him.

  7. I wonder how much this game figured into the final decision of who to send to Harrisburg this season. Hernandez and McLaughlin clearly seem to be works in progress, while Jordan looks promising but definitely isn’t going to get much playing time with the Union’s first squad right now.

    Hopefully all three of them will be strong contributors on the island this year and develop a lot with more playing time.

  8. Southside Johnny says:

    I think you were kind to Gaddis. He has clearly shown that, at least so far, he is the “weak link” in the back. He has a lot to offer but not at LB and will cost us goals while killing the effectiveness of the guys around him. Teams quickly pick up that soft spot and work it.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Gaddis, for all of his lefty troubles, does some nice work on the pitch. His quickness allows him to recover and he cuts off angles well. Though I agree, his refusal to play the ball on his left focuses the ball towards the center of the pitch too often. This is going to become a problem, when we face the good clubs. I like his offensive contributions, though. A lot of nice opportunities have resulted from Gaddis’ runs. I’m not sure we have a better option at LB

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