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Union lose 4-1 to Colorado

Four days after recording their statistically biggest win ever, Philadelphia Union suffered their worst loss ever with a 4-1 defeat Wednesday to the Colorado Rapids.

Colorado’s Omar Cummings scored twice in the first 15 minutes, and two second half goals sealed the game and the Union’s playoff hopes. Cummings found just enough room in the defense to toe-poke in the first goal seven minutes in, and then he was inexplicably left unmarked on a corner kick to score the second after 15 minutes.

The Union looked sluggish from the outset, perhaps worn down from the high altitude in Colorado and having to travel there for a road game after just playing on Saturday. Union manager Peter Nowak used all three of his subs at halftime, yanking midfielders Fred, Stefani Miglioranzi and Justin Mapp and replacing them with Andrew Jacobson, Jack McInerney, and Kyle Nakazawa.

In perhaps the lone bright spot for the Union, McInerney scored an 89th minute goal long after the outcome was decided to collapse the margin just enough so that the loss merely tied a Union record for worst loss, rather than break it. (The Union lost 3-0 to Real Salt Lake on May 8.)

The loss essentially puts an end to the Union’s already slim playoff hopes.

Here are some key points to take away from the game.

  • Two stats summarize the game: Colorado outshot the Union 17-6, while the Union outfouled the Rapids 16 to 3.

You wouldn’t even need to look at the scoreboard. Those stats say it all. The Union looked a step behind all game. At the end, it began to look like an amateur league blowout in which the discouraged losing team stops getting back on defense, and the goals start piling up.

  • Dismantle the Rapids goals, and you’ll see clear mental breakdowns on defense that led to them.

The blame for the first goal starts with Sheanon Williams, takes a swing over to Amobi Okugo before undeservedly tarnishing the center backs in the eyes of most spectators. Macoumba Kandji had the ball on the right of the goal near the end line, while Cummings was in the center of the box, a bit to the left, marked by Williams. Okugo looked like he was going to cover the top end of the box nearer the ball, but he fell back to the left when Jamie Smith floated into the box behind him. That left Cummings space to cut into, and Williams failed to warn Danny Califf of the cutter. Califf noticed Cummings too late, so Cummings found space to collect Kandji’s pass and slot it home.

On the second goal, Stefani Miglioranzi lost his mark Jeff Larentowicz on the corner kick. Okugo had been marking Cummings but stepped up to get Larentowicz. That left Cummings open behind him. Okugo couldn’t reach the header because he’d moved himself out of position, and Cummings scored.

On the third goal, Williams failed to seal off Colorado’s Wells Thompson on a Pablo Mastroeni free kick. When Knighton stopped the shot, the rebound went to an untouched Thompson, who slotted it home while Williams walked toward the goal and watched. Williams knew Thompson was his mark — if you watch the replay, you’ll see Williams follow Thompson from one side of the box to the other before the shot — and just forgot about him while watching the free kick.

  • Sheanon Williams has to learn how to play defense.

We’ve raved about his attacking prowess and long throw-ins, but Williams was seriously exposed in the Colorado game as the project many viewed him to be. He was consistently out of position all night and can draw primary blame for at least two goals. There would have been another in the 53rd minute had Cummings not shot wide on a breakaway taken through the space where Williams should have been. Williams’s runs down the right side make things interesting on the attack, but it’s clear why some viewed him as a project at right back. His background is as a forward and midfielder, with a relatively recent conversion to right back. He has loads of potential there, with athletic ability, speed, a great throw-in and aggressive attacking. But any time you see a defender walking while his mark is scoring a goal, a tongue-lashing is in order. He’s a right back, and defense is part of the job.

  • The Union’s 4-2-2-2 is an abomination that needs to die in a fire.

It’s clear the Union keep playing this formation largely because they have too many holding midfielders and not enough wide or attacking players, so hopefully the team brass does what it needs to do in order to change the personnel makeup next season to resolve this problem. Mastroeni and and Larentowicz dominated the Union’s center midfielders all game, but unlike them, they’re able to push up through the midfield and move forth the attack as box-to-box players. Migs and Okugo are defensive midfielders and nothing more, and the fact that they couldn’t help the attack—and that Fred continues to do absolutely nothing when put out on the wing of this formation—put the Union on their heels all night.

That said, two attackers the Union do have didn’t see action. Shea Salinas didn’t make the subs bench for the second straight game, despite not being on the injury report. Why? Don’t know. Probably still recovering from the leg fracture. Roger was on the bench but never got off it, suddenly in the doghouse and going nowhere fast.

  • The Union are out of the playoffs.

The Union still have a mathematical chance to make the playoffs, but it’s just about nonexistent. They’re sitting on 27 points with four games left, while the Seattle Sounders now occupy the 8th playoff spot, with 39 points. The only way the Union could get in is if Seattle loses all their remaining games and Philadelphia wins all theirs—AND the Union somehow obtain a better goal differential. Right now, Seattle has a 14-goal advantage on differential over the Union, so … yeah, the playoffs aren’t happening. We’re not crying over it—they’re an expansion team built with youth, so we knew what to expect—but there it is.

Player Ratings

GK Brad Knighton: 6 5

You can’t give up four goals and get a good rating, but it’s hard to blame Knighton for any of the goals. He had a couple of fine saves, particularly one late after the Union started giving away breakaway counterattacks with alarming regularity. If anything, maybe he could have gotten a hand on the first goal, but even that was a nice shot from Cummings. (Late add: He might’ve caught Mastroeni’s free kick too, but it was a very powerful shot on which a catch would’ve been less routine than Williams’ missed mark.)

LB Jordan Harvey: 5

Harvey stood out no more or less than any other Union player in terms of responsibility for Wednesday’s debacle. Some weak tackles, occasionally out of position, didn’t do much absolutely great or horrible. Called for the foul that set up Mastroeni’s free kick and the third goal.

CB Michael Orozco Fiscal: 5

Did an excellent job containing Kandji on a one-on-one breakaway late. Was marking Kandji when he assisted on the first goal and could have been pressing him more closely to close down the passing lane. Ordinary game, but not a bad one. Hard to stand out positively as a defender when your team is giving up four goals.

CB Danny Califf: 5

Califf had a rough night with the refs. Got called for a questionable yellow card that should have been a foul and nothing else. Later got called for a foul against Drew Moor on a set piece upfield when it was very clear that Moor hit him first. On defense, he was left out to dry by Williams on the first goal. On quick glance, he looks like the guy to blame, but he’s not because he was forced to clean up someone else’s mess. That’s basically the story of Califf’s season. He’s the captain, and he’s the janitor.

RB Sheanon Williams: 3

See above. Very poor game defensively for Williams, and he didn’t do anything on offense to offset it.

LM Justin Mapp: 5

Mapp looked slow and tired before coming off at halftime. He kept Colorado on their toes with some dribbling attacks, but none really threatened in the end.

CM Stefani Miglioranzi: 4

Miglioranzi gave away some easy passes, lost a mark on a corner kick that helped cause the second goal, and was taken off at half time. Not a great showing.

CM Amobi Okugo: 4

Okugo looked over his head all game. Failed to maintain possession well, gave away the ball a few times under pressure from Larentowicz and Mastroeni and made a poor choice that led to the second goal.

RM Fred: 3

Did nothing. Absolutely nothing. He should never start another game on the outside in this 4-2-2-2 abomination.

ST Alejandro Moreno: 4

Looked slow. Never got into the flow of the game, thanks to the absence of creative links in the midfield.

ST Sebastien Le Toux: 5

You know it’s bad when even Le Toux has a subpar game, but even then, that may be because there was nothing coming from midfield. Threatened to score late in the second half but was defended well and fell down in the box without a penalty call.


Jack McInerney: 6

Put himself in the right place to pick up a deflection and slotted it home nicely. Once again showed he has very good finishing ability. Needs more playing time.

Andrew Jacobson: 5

One of the few Union players who didn’t look like he was playing at half speed. Active throughout, picked up a card, but didn’t really distinguish himself for the most part.

Kyle Nakazawa: 4

Didn’t do much. Still hasn’t shown he can offer much in the run of play, but he is young and has time.

(Photo: Philadelphia Union)


  1. Ed Farnsworth says:

    A game on Saturday, traveling halfway across the country for a Wednesday game at high altitude, then back home again for a game on Saturday. Who comes up with these schedules anyway? (It’s a bit like what the Independence had to go through last week in the WPS playoffs minus two games that went to extra time.) Prior commitments kept me from watching the game live. Seems like I picked a good one to miss.

  2. I agree that Knighton wasn’t to blame for all 4 goals (I won’t give him a pass on all 4 of them tho) but how come when Seitz was hung out to dry by the defense no one said that, but now tonight Knighton gets the gift of “but it’s hard to blame Knighton for any of the goals” Talk about two faced reporting.

    • Mike Servedio says:

      The defense has been poor all season for sure, and Seitz was hung out to try plenty of times. But he also was given plenty of chances to bail his team out with a big save and couldn’t come up with it. And the last straw seemed to have been the cross he let in in the Kansas City game, a goal that can basically only be attributed to an error on his end.
      I don’t think there is anyone here at PSP headquarters that believes Knighton is an elite keeper. I know he still makes me nervous as hell. But he has 2 more clean sheets than Seitz and the defense certainly played better in front of him in all of his starts (save for last night obviously). So there is something to be said for him.
      But as for the goals from last night? I’ll give him a pass on all four. Which one should he have saved? The first one was a slow roller for sure, but the best striker from the other team, wide open from 8 yards? Not his fault. The same striker, wide open on a set piece to volley in? Not his fault. The third goal you can blame a little bit for. Maybe he could have parried the free kick away from the center of the goal a little better. But it was definitely swerving and dipping and he was lucky to stop it all. Someone needs to mark Thompson on the rebound. And the fourth one where it was basically 2 on zero? Not his fault.
      I think what it comes down to though, is that Seitz had his chance to claim that #1 role and he couldn’t do it. So now Knighton has that shot for probably the rest of the season. In my opinion though, the Union is best served in finding a veteran keeper in the off season. Probably a center back, and maybe a left back too, but that’s a whole other story.

    • Knighton doesn’t get any passes that Seitz didn’t get. I’m probably Seitz’s biggest defender at PSP. For one of many examples in which Seitz didn’t get blamed for goals, see https://phillysoccerpage.net/2010/08/28/union-come-back-to-win-2-1.

  3. Once again the defense was absolute garbage, but this time Knighton gets a pass and rated a six? He should’ve at least gotten a hand on the first goal (maybe enough to guide that toe-poke around the post), whiffed on the second and spilled the third. Admittedly, Brad has played well the past few games and has helped the U earn their first two clean sheets, but in both matches the back four played nearly flawless football. My two major concerns with Knighton are his propensity to punch/parry/spill shots and his sometimes ill advised forays to the edge and beyond of his box. Now, maybe, with the playoffs out of reach, Seitz can get another shot to reclaim the number one spot. Fingers crossed that Danny’s shoulder is better for the Dynamo game, he brings a different dynamic to the attack and draws attention away from LeToux. And here’s hoping the gaffer gives starts to Torres, Union Jack and Salinas on Saturday. We’re all a little salty after this abombination of a game infront of mostly empty seats in Colorado, but the big picture still shows that the Blue and Gold have had a pretty respectable season for an expansion side.

  4. “but it’s hard to blame Knighton for any of the goals”

    “On the third goal… When Knighton stopped the shot”

    I generally agree with the ratings, but I think a rating of 6 for Knighton is too high (the highest of all the players, really?). Granted, the rest of team played horribly and the defense made many mistakes. And yes, Knighton had a few good saves. But the third goal was clearly a mistake – Knighton attempted to catch the ball and it bounced of his chest. While yes he technically “stopped the shot”, he also played it right back into the center of play. And then you attribute blame to Williams for not preventing Thompson from getting the rebound? Huh.

    And Williams gets a 3 while Harvey gets a 5? Were we watching the same match? Again, I’m not sure either one played particularly well but I don’t think Harvey warranted a higher rating.

  5. Couldn’t agree more with everything in this article. Can not blame knighton, califf, or orozco for this game. It has been well established that our teams wide play is its weakness in every part of the game from offense to defense to midfield the wide players are useless. I am wondering if Nowak has decided Salinas is done for the season besides fitness and practice work as a broken leg is often destructive to a career. I do not understand why Torres, the only other wide midfielder is not playing though. Everyone knows I hate harvey, but the williams experiment is making me think we should use him as a wide midfielder as long as he can learn to cross. Migz was horrid last night, but hasn’t been great lately and I believe jacobson has really covered up his poor play recently. Paired with okugo, though, he looks terrible. I have liked okugo, but his decision making was rarely correct last night. Shopping for the off season is simple, right back, left back, another wide middie and a veteran keeper. Between orozco, califf, and gonzalez I really feel we are set for center backs, as long as the CBs aren’t also playing RB and LB as they have done this season. I am going to go out there and say I like knightons crazy runs outside the box. I can’t blame seitz for a lot of the losses because the defense was atrocious, but the one thing we can all agree on, I think, is seitz was bad at decision making. He couldn’t decide do I go out or stay in and was often caught somewhere in the middle. One of the earliest lessons a goalie gets is no matter what make a decision and commit, don’t get caught in the middle. Knighton is good at that part, which shows me he has the fundamentals and with the help of a veteran could be a great keeper for us.

  6. Jon makes a good point about the Mastroeni free kick that Knighton didn’t catch, so I probably should’ve given Knighton a 5. It was a very hard shot, but yeah, he could have caught it. Still, if Williams hadn’t blown his mark so completely, he could have cleared the rebound. The mark was more routine than the catch, so I put more on Williams. Aside from that … well, y’all obviously read what I thought about the goals and Williams’ defensive performance. I still think Williams is a project worth sticking with, however.

  7. Brion Shreffler says:

    That was one of the worst displays of football I’ve ever seen- and I mean that in regard to both teams. It was a boring lackluster match where Colorado seemed to be the only ones keen enough to realize ‘hey there’s not a damn thing going on here, let’s try this and see what happens.’

  8. To blame Sheanon for these goals is very poor reporting most of the time when a Goalie spills the ball back in the play of the game he is scored upon . Defence starts with the whole team . The midfield was very week tonight . A lot of the plays started there and should of been defended there . So people stop blaming any one player and say the team didn’t play well tonite . Sheanon made goal.com mls team of the week three weeks in a row for his good play and he is young and fresh he will improve.

    • Well, it’s not reporting. That part was opinion. So you’re free to disagree. You’re right that defense is a team thing and that the midfield was poor, but Williams still made the errors I pointed out.

  9. I enjoy reading your comments, and I too feel like that is a poorly scheduled time frame; however, when it comes to game time, you just have to bring it on. You have to give all you have and if you gave it all you had, then walk off that field proudly. I must hand it to Colorado that they took advantage of the situation and brought their best and were there to play.

    See ya

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