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Midseason review: Philadelphia Union

We’re 17 games into Philadelphia Union’s first season, and the team is a point out of first place with two games in hand.

Surprised? Not us. PSP predicted the Union would have 29 points at this stage of the season over a month before a game was played. Careful scrolling on our page today because we are hot.

This team has a lot of talent. New players like Keon Daniel, Michael and Gabriel Farfan, Carlos Valdes, Brian Carroll, and Faryd Mondragon have drastically changed the makeup of the squad, while fellow newcomer Carlos Ruiz has polarized the fan base. Young second-year players Sheanon Williams and Danny Mwanga have made major steps forward, while last year’s superstar, Sebastien Le Toux, has soldiered through a new role, flourishing in some aspects and struggling in others. All of them prompt consideration of their performances.

With that in mind, we offer these midseason grades of the Union roster. PSP’s writers weighed in with their ratings and thoughts, and we averaged them out to come up with a composite PSP rating for each player. Those who haven’t appeared in a game yet don’t get a rating, and we don’t spend as much time commenting on them because it’s hard to evaluate what you haven’t seen.

Take a read, and then tell us what you think below in the Comments section.

Goalkeepers

  • Faryd Mondragon –  7.3 (17 appearances, 17 starts, 1530 minutes, 0.647 Save %, 0.94 GAA)

Adam: 8. If the team struggles, his overwrought antics will drift into parody. But he turned the Union’s biggest weakness into a huge positive, and for that alone this first place team and its fans owe him their thanks.

Ed: 8.5. Sure, he’s no shot stopper. But he is the talisman of a rejuvenated Union.

Eli: 7. Goalkeepers have to stop shots and when it comes right down to it, that is Mondragon’s weakness. That said, there is no one out there who can discount the contribution who has made to a vastly improved backline.

Andrew: 6. Obvious upgrade from last year. While his leadership qualities are unquestioned his actual goalkeeping has been suspect, especially in coming out on breakaways and set pieces.

Dan: 7. His shot-stopping has been up and down, but his confidence and control in the back have helped steady the back four and produce one of the league’s best defenses. A terrific pickup, and a potentially ideal mentor for rookie Zac MacMath.

  • Thorne Holder

Adam: Easily the best Thorne Holder on the team.

Ed: Nothing personal, but I hope I never have to see him play this season.

Eli: Who? Seriously, Brian Perk is good enough to start for the Galaxy but can’t stay on the Union roster? I call shenanigans.

Andrew: No League action.

Dan: He’s spent much of the season on the injury report with a concussion and sickness. Never a good sign.

  • Zac MacMath

Adam: Thus far, MacMath is the most consistent Maryland product to suit up for the Union.

Ed: As with Holder, I hope I never have to see him play this season. He has long been touted as the best young goalkeeping talent in the country—I get why he’s good for the future. But I still wish the Union had spent their first round pick on a defender.

Eli: The Union got nothing for Knighton, who I would prefer to see backing up Mondragon. Nowak would probably have given Knighton the start that he was too afraid to give MacMath.

Andrew: Looked good in friendly versus Reading but no league action.

Dan: Should have gotten a start when Mondragon was hurt. That he didn’t shows Peter Nowak learned a hard lesson from last season.

Defenders

  • Danny Califf  – 8.2 (16 appearances, 16 starts, 1440 minutes, 1 goal, 0 assists)

Adam: 7.5 Watching the Union last year, it was clear that Califf and Fred were both talented guys, but it seemed like they might be wandering down that slippery slope towards the end of their careers. Aussie Fred is gone, but Califf has fully justified his place in the side this season. Playing next to the more adventurous Valdes, Califf is the closest I will ever see to Jamie Carragher. And that makes me happy.

Ed: 9. Seems to be often maligned by fans, but he is a rock. And when you need an enforcer to bust up some big name forward, Danny’s the one you call. Vancouver’s Eric Hassli describes him as “a bit of a pain in the ass” and that’s good enough for me.

Eli: 8.5. I’ve come over to Camp Califf. With a confident passer of the ball at his side Califf has settled down and is just playing defense, something, it turns out, he’s REALLY good at.

Andrew: 8. Lack of speed is countered by aerial prowess and tactical knowledge, very solid partnership with Valdes. Graceful in relinquishing captain duties.

Dan: 8. Smart, tough and steady. Takes good angles in recovery, which can make up for his lack of speed. Has a knack for getting a foot on shots on goal. Key team leader who showed a lot of class in dealing with how Nowak stripped him of his captaincy.

  • Jordan Harvey – 6.8 (16 appearances, 16 starts, 1241 minutes, 0 goals, 1 assists) — JUST TRADED

Adam: 6. Every guy can’t be an all-star. The knock on Harvey last year was that he couldn’t deal with pressure and did his Cheshire cat impression in the offensive end. Harv has been better on both sides of the ball this year, although he struggles mightily when his outside midfield support goes “Off the Mapp.”

Ed: 7. The hardworking journeyman. If there was any depth at his position, would he get so many starts? Inconsistent in the attack and his service into the box leaves much to be desired.

Eli: 7. The Union have an all-action, rampaging fullback. His name is Sheanon Williams. On the other side of the field they have a strong consistent defensive presence. All the Harvey hate of last year has dissipated, and for good reason.

Andrew: 7. Very solid defender but lack of distribution and attacking skills can hinder the offense.

Dan: 7. Good left backs are hard to find, and Harvey is a good one. Hard-nosed, smart defender, but he doesn’t add much in the attack.

  • Carlos Valdes – 8.9 (17 appearances, 17 starts, 1530 minutes, 0 goals, 0 assists)

Adam: 9. Mondragon brings the attitude. Valdes brings everything else (and, honestly, he brings attitude too). Nobody sets the tone for the Union like Valdes. Tough, fast, relentless, good in the air, adamantium exoskeleton… Valdes embodies everything that this team excels at when successful.

Ed: 9.5. He. Is. The. Man. The only thing that prevents me giving him a 10 is that I think he’s been slipping up lately. I guess blood runs through his veins just like the rest of us.

Eli: 9.  Solid. Calm. Powerful. And he can distribute. Acts the part of an elite center back by winning all the mandatory challenges and then going above and beyond for the rest. Never backs down from a physical challenge, yet doesn’t lose his head and commit silly fouls in dangerous locations. The fact that he is not on the All-Star ballot IS A CRIME!

Andrew: 9. Arguably one of the best CBs in the league. Possesses exceptional positioning and tackling coupled with above-averge speed. Has shown a knack for getting forward and threatening on set pieces.

Dan: 8. Valdes has been terrific most of the season and probably deserved an all-star nod, but he has struggled a bit recently, notably in the DC United game. Offers great coverage when Sheanon Williams attacks and is a better ball-handler than most center backs.

  • Sheanon Williams – 9 (17 appearances, 17 starts, 1513 minutes, 0 goals, 2 assists)

Adam: 9. The only thing he hasn’t done is score a goal. Shutdown defender, offensive spark plug, energetic winger are all terms that could describe The Sheanomenon at different points in the season. Like Mondragon, he took a position of weakness and turned it into a strength. MLS fullbacks are mostly physical. Williams is that and more, showing good instincts and rarely getting caught too far upfield.

Ed: 9. If he isn’t on the national team radar, the radar is broken. Easily one of the most dynamic players on the team if not in the league. Quick as lightning, tough as nails and every time he takes a throw in the final third it is like being given a free kick. And his spell at center back was a revelation. Is sure to add more assists to his current tally of two. If he doesn’t end the season with a goal or two, he and I will both be surprised.

Eli: 9. If we are evaluating purely on a player’s ability to play his own position, Williams may be the MVP of the team. He matches quickness and guile with strength and determination. Huge props to Hackworth for bringing him in and giving him a consistent spot to grow and develop. The only thing keeping Williams from being the Union’s right back for the next ten years is Europe. I just hope he gets to where the red, white and blue a few times first.

Andrew: 9. Most improved player. Shown the ability to defend top-tier opposing talent while wreaking havoc up the flanks. Long thrown-in contributed two assists early in the season. One of the best and most consistent RBs in the league.

Dan: 9. Sooner or later, Europe will call again. Williams’ great speed allows him to bomb down the right side and recover faster than most, but that attacking mentality does leave him vulnerable to the counter. His throw-ins prompt comparisons to Rory DeLap. May be the league’s best right back this season.

  • Juan Diego González Alzate

Adam: What did he do wrong? And are the other practice cones jealous that he gets his own locker?

Ed: The door is that way.

Eli: If you’re not good you’re bad. And Gonzo is bad.

Andrew: Coaching staff has more trust in Marfan playing in the back, enough said.

Dan: Gonzalez was pretty good when he played last season, so his complete benching this season has been a surprise. His salary and lack of playing time make him trade bait.

  • Ryan Richter

Adam: I want to see him play. Dude is rumored to be an incredibly hard worker. It’s worth having someone like that on the roster to push the regulars.

Ed: As is the case with Pfeffer, I’m always rooting for the local lad. I just hope his fate is not the same as last season’s local, JT Noone.

Eli: I will continue to support him as a reserve, but the chances of him seeing first team action are very, very slim. Of course, I’ve said that before…

Andrew: Don’t see Richter seeing first-team action in a Union jersey anytime soon aside from friendly action.

Dan: Another Nowak effort to convert midfielders into fullback depth. Will it work?

Midfielders

  • Brian Carroll – 8 (15 appearances, 15 starts, 1221 minutes, 0 goals, 0 assists)

Adam: 8. BC had a slow start, as he was paired with BC-who-can’t-pass, aka Migs. A series of strong performances has shown Carroll to be the type of defensive midfielder who can make a good back line look great and let a bad offense miss chance after chance and get away with it.

Ed: 8.5. Quietly showing himself to be one of the three best acquisitions for the 2011 season. Rarely noticed because he’s rarely beaten.

Eli: 8.5. Didn’t look the part in the early season when saddled with a holding partner. Once he was given the keys to the midfield he excelled. No fuss, no muss, great work rate. Will be one of the big keys to the Union closing out the season on the same high with which they began.

Andrew: 7. Sole job is to shield the back four and absorb pressure. While distribution is questionable, his defensive work is crucial when playing with two-attack minded outside midfielders.

Dan: 8. Carroll has been so good of late that his play has forced Nowak to acknowledge the Union don’t need to play with two defensive midfielders. His great defensive coverage means Nowak can deploy a more attacking player alongside him, and when that happens, the Union attack awakens. As a result, he may be the Union’s MVP so far.

  • Keon Daniel – 7.7 (12 appearances, 5 starts, 619 minutes, 1 goals, 0 assists)

Adam: 7.5. Neon Keon plays with the consistency and calmness of a regular starter. But he isn’t. I cannot figure this one out. He scores a goal and he’s out of the lineup.

Ed: 7.5, I would start him over Mapp in a heartbeat. My personal favorite, he has been smooth and confident in whatever role he’s been asked to play.

Eli: 7.5. Has to be losing his faith in humanity as he watches Mapp bumble around the pitch week in and week out. As the Union consistently fail to maintain adequate possession, Daniel has proven to be one of the few players who is actual calm, cool and collected with the ball at his feet. Let the man play!!!

Andrew: 8. Rivals all Union players in composure, vision and technical ability. Excels on both sides of the ball. More playing time would grant Daniel a higher rating.

Dan: 8. The Trinidadian international should be getting more time and more starts. Very composed on the ball, good vision, and offers better defensive coverage than most of the Union’s other outside players. That said, should he playing in the center instead?

  • Gabriel Farfan – 6.2 (7 appearances, 3 starts, 304 minutes, 1 goals, 0 assists)

Adam: 6. The statline says zero assists, but Garfan cannot help that Keon didn’t finish one of the prettiest passes in Union history. Playing outside back, outside mid and, of course, wide forward, the Farfan who didn’t come through the draft put in stronger performances as the season has gone on. He has shown flashes of Michael’s skills but might have a lower ceiling than his brother. Certainly a quality guy for any situation.

Ed: 7. Like his twin brother, he’s shown tremendous versatility and confidence beyond his age. Like his brother, he sure has been played out of position an awful lot for a rookie.

Eli: 6. The Union’s future left back? Midfield conversion is all the rage these days. Let’s just hope that if he gets a chance, its a real one. Not just forty-five minutes and then on to the next.

Andrew: 6. Technical and creative, skills translate well to an outside mid role. Can be caught out of possession when trying to do too much.

Dan: 6. A great find by the Union. Good technical ability and speed. He has the creativity and the explosive first step the Union had been lacking on the flanks.

  • Michael Farfan – 6.6 (5 appearances, 3 starts, 346 minutes, 1 goals, 1 assist)

Adam: 6.7. We drafted a dynamic wide midfielder with a knack for one-on-one encounters who can cross with either foot. Well, no need for that. Let’s put him at outside back and center mid. He can do to others everything Chris Pontius did to the Union for DC.

Ed: 7. The best draft pick, the only one who has played. Given the inconsistency of his on-field assignments, it is hard to believe he has acquitted himself so well in his first season.

Eli: 7.5. Michael Farfan should be in the starting XI for the Union. He has done nothing BUT proves that he deserves it, yet he has been marginalized of late. He has the vision and technique to play in the attacking central midfield role and the speed and anticipation to play on the wing. HE NEEDS TO BE ON THE FIELD.

Andrew: 6. Clearly not an outside back, Marfan excels in a more creative role. Technically sound with the ability to play the final pass and contribute goals.

Dan: 6. A very similar player to his brother, though perhaps more poised on the ball. Played so well at center attacking midfielder that he may have shown he belongs there instead of at outside midfielder. (He’s definitely not a fullback.) Might be the best draft pick of the year, considering his acquisition also led to the signing of his brother from Mexico.

  • Justin Mapp – 5.5 (14 appearances, 12 starts, 914 minutes, 2 goals, 1 assists)

Adam: 4. Justin Mapp is super-talented. Often, this is cited as a reason for why he deserves chance after chance in the starting lineup. But Mapp has shown nothing more than the inconsistent and mercurial play of a man who refuses to take a team on his shoulders no matter how many times it asks.

Ed: 6.5. Too few moments of greatness, too many disappearing acts. One dimensional, or at least one-footed.

Eli: 4. Mapp had two good games. That makes it even harder to watch him now. A player who provides zero defensive cover better be scoring or creating buckets of goals, but Mapp has taken to dribbling aimlessly in circles, delaying his passes and losing possession in critical locations. With tailor-made replacements in Keon Daniel and Gabriel Farfan chomping at the bit on the sideline, Mapp should consider himself lucky that he’s one of Nowak’s “automatic” starters.

Andrew: 7. Has the ability to be the offensive spark every game but can drift in and out of games. Scored some crucial goals and dribbling ability is top-notch. Consistency is the main issue.

Dan: 6. Mapp has been very up and down, alternating between brilliance and invisibility. He nearly always gets by the first defender, but the question is what he does with it afterwards. Defenders know to play his left foot, which puts him at a disadvantage, but he’s clearly a dangerous player.

  • Stefani Miglioranzi – 3.4 (8 appearances, 6 starts, 521 minutes, 0 goals, 0 assists)

Adam: 3. Sorry, Migs. It was always going to be an uphill battle with Carroll on board and Okugo on the rise. Miglioranzi might pop up again on another team, and he can protect the back four for a team in need of depth.

Ed: 4. This year’s goat. Much the same as last year, there just were more and bigger goats in the herd then.

Eli: 2. Migs doesn’t even look like a pro right now. It’s hard to say this about a guy who did so much for the club last year, but I cannot stress this enough. If you can’t kick the ball, you can’t play soccer. And Migs can’t kick the ball. Or hustle. Case closed.

Andrew: 3. Should be last season with the Union. Has not played well in any showings and should not receive first-team minutes going forward.

Dan: 5. Migs hasn’t been as bad as some say. Rather, he’s found himself in an unenviable position when played next to Carroll, because they’re basically the same player—except Carroll is better at it. Still a potentially solid sub when trying to hold a lead.

  • Kyle Nakazawa – 6.3 (13 appearances, 9 starts, 808 minutes, 1 goals, 2 assists)

Adam: 7. What Nakazawa is: A developing center midfielder with offensive potential and a high work-rate. What Nakazawa is not: An outside midfielder with any range beyond defensive stalwart. He earned his goal against Toronto and has been punished for it with decreased playing time ever since.

Ed: 6.5. Just when he scores his first goal and it seems like he’s about to become a regular starter, he disappears from the lineup. Still young and full of potential, it’s not his fault he’s often asked to play outside his natural position.

Eli: 6. What position should Nakazawa play in the pros? He doesn’t seem like the type who is creative enough to play at the top of the diamond. He isn’t fast enough to be a wing. And he doesn’t have the grit to be a holding midfielder. He feels a lot like a 70th minute substitute who enters a game that has lost its shape already. Though given the Union’s formations this year, that might not be such a bad thing.

Andrew: 6. Best deployed as a hardworking box-to-box center mid, but often ineffective when used out of position on the flanks. Steadily improved since his rookie campaign.

Dan: 6. The Union played much better when he was at center midfield with Carroll. When he left, the attack caved in. He plays hard and seems to be constantly improving. His sudden benching was a surprise. He is a waste when deployed on the flanks.

  • Amobi Okugo – 6.2 (8 appearances, 5 starts, 466 minutes, 0 goals, 0 assists)

Adam: 6. He has talent for miles, a great attitude, and a good soccer mind. When Okugo matches all these skills with regular playing time he will show us just how long Michael Bradley has left as an international starter.

Ed: 7. Sidelined by an injury for several games just when he was becoming a regular starter. A future of the franchise player: a strong defender in the midfield with a nose for going forward and actually shooting.

Eli: 7. Holding midfield is a veteran’s game and at twenty years old, Okugo already has the skills and wherewithal to get the job done. Occasional lapses in concentration have cost him, but his speed and work rate are unmatched on the Union and as he further refines his passing arsenal and focus, he will become an elite player.

Andrew: 5. Covers ground and looks to get forward. When he’s on has nice distribution skills. Inexperience can lead to mistakes throughout the game. Injury came at an inopportune time.

Dan: 6. Good range and athletic ability. Solid, smart passer, but doesn’t offer much on the attack yet. Carroll’s great play probably marginalizes him and means he should be Carroll’s backup and not a regular starter, but the opportunity to play behind him will make Okugo better in the end.

  • Veljko Paunovic – 4.7 (4 appearances, 4 starts, 264 minutes, 1 goals, 1 assists)

Adam: 4. Paunovic isn’t bad. But he isn’t particularly good either. More specifically, he isn’t the big-push signing a team makes when they want to solidify their place at the top. When involved, Paunovic can be a solid, dependable ball-mover. But he drifts in and out of matches with alarming regularity and the Chivas first half aside (a half they lost), the Union have simply not been very good with Paunovic running the show.

Ed: 6.5. Like everyone else, I don’t like that he has taken time away from the youngsters. Putting that to the side, he is showing himself to be a smart mid-season acquisition who has been involved in some of the Union’s best chances on goal of late. The goal he scored against Chivas was confidently professional. Advantage: Nowak.

Eli: 3. Paunovic couldn’t be more unnecessary if he tried. He can play a lovely through ball into the box, but then where does he go for the next fifteen minutes? The propensity to disappear from matches is fine for the occasional striker, but not a central midfielder. Michael Farfan and Keon Daniel would be better choices to play at the top of the diamond. Just an all-together, pointless signing. Loses an entire point because he is keeping Marfan off the field.

Andrew: 5. Has shown passing range and some finishing capabilities in small sample size. Can be caught in possession and has shown to be a few steps behind at times. Shown the ability to deliver the killer pass and should be more effective as fitness increases.

Dan: 5. Good vision, plays unselfishly, and sends some great passes on the attack. Smart player. Still, his fitness remains lacking, and he doesn’t have the hop in his step that the Farfans and Daniel have. He disappears for long stretches. There’s a role for him in this team, but it’s probably not be as an every game starter.

  • Roger Torres – 5.1 (11 appearances, 2 starts, 302 minutes, 1 goals, 0 assists)

Adam: 5. Huge goal followed by small influence. You get the sense that center mid minutes were his to take and he left them sitting until an old Serbian wandered through.

Ed: 5.5. Sure, he’s a fan favorite. After all, he’s technically gifted, young, tiny, and (frankly) adorable. Plus, he scored that goal against the Red Bulls. But I don’t buy it. He defends poorly, is easily pushed off the ball, and seems to have one play: the little chip over the backline. How anyone can seriously think he is deserving of a starting role is beyond me. New York aside, how effective has he been as a sub? Not very.

Eli: 5. Michael Farfan is bigger, faster, stronger and more talented than Roger. Until Roger gets a little more steel in his game and stops hitting backspin lobs to everyone, he will continue to languish low on the depth chart.

Andrew: 5. Other than one game winner, don’t see they hype. Cannot defend and lacks needed pace. His role is best served as a late game sub when chasing the game. Distribution skills are overrated and consists mostly of unsuccessful lob passes.

Dan: 5. Torres simply has not progressed. He has tantalized with the spectacular, but the emergence of Daniel and the Farfans has meant that a few highlight reel plays no longer make up for the fact that he’s a defensive liability who still needs to learn his attacking limits. More playing time might accelerate the learning curve, but with so much depth at midfield, that time should come in the reserves.

  • Levi Houapeu

Adam: He played striker and attacking mid in college. Often he carried his team by himself. Can’t even get a sniff of the pitch.

Ed: Not sure what he has that Chris Agorsor didn’t. Not sure  that we’ll see him play anywhere outside of a reserve game this season, either.

Eli: I’m concerned that he is due for a pointless sacking soon. Can someone explain to my why they needed to get rid of Agorsor? The kid was making $14.00 a week. Let him hang out and work hard in training.

Andrew: No league action.

Dan: We hear he’s fast.

  • Zach Pfeffer

Adam: Ladies Love Cool Zach.

Ed: The stories of his imminent first team debut continue to pop up, but the appendectomy surely set that date back. That and the Old Serb. No matter, he has nothing but time to develop.

Eli: Pfeffer should have been with the U-17s. Maybe he could have breathed some life into them. I’m on record as saying that he should see zero time with the first team this year. It’s just too soon, why would you rush it for any reason other than a publicity stunt?

Andrew: In friendly action has shown to be a quick center mid with good passing and technical ability.

Dan: We hear he’s young.

Forwards

  • Sebastien Le Toux – 5.6 (17 appearances, 17 starts, 1530 minutes, 1 goals, 6 assists)

Adam: 4. Not a bad first half by any stretch, but viewed in light of the expectations, Seba has been utterly disappointing. Plenty of assists but few goals? Is Le Toux this year’s Alejandro Moreno? No. He has been closer to this year’s Fred. Trying to do too much, touch a bit off, often on a different page than everyone else. Much, much, much more is expected of the Union’s workhorse.

Ed: 7. He’s banged them off the post, been wide by just inches and even had legitimate goals disallowed. Yet he perseveres. His numbers are obviously down, but with his work rate, can you imagine a Union lineup without him starting? He does seem to turn the ball over a lot…

Eli: 5. I love industry. Guys working hard to make something out of nothing. But strikers are evaluated on goals scored and Le Toux’s touch in front of goal (and most other places on the field) has been absolutely brutal. Should have been sat down for a breather weeks ago, yet dutifully battles on, missing chance after chance.

Andrew: 6. No one doubts his work-rate and movement, but has squandered too many chances to merit a higher rating. Passing has come on as of late but finishing has seen crucial points dropped. Le Toux of 2010 would have at least 6-7 goals by now.

Dan: 6. Le Toux continues to create chances for himself and others with his hustle, speed and good passing, but he simply has to finish. It’s clear that he’s lost his confidence in front of the net. One wonders how many goals he’d be netting if that confidence hadn’t taken a hit when the move to midfield forced a major adjustment. When he plays with Mwanga, their chemistry is obvious, and they make each other better. He’s a forward out of position at midfield.

  • Jack McInerney – 6 (10 appearances, 3 starts, 299 minutes, 0 goals, 0 assists)

Adam: 6. He needs to score. He needs to play, shoot and score. Lost in the Mwanga hype, McInerney is a more cerebral player than given credit for, and when he starts playing chess instead of checkers (which was probably good enough to beat everyone prior to his MLS career), he could be something special.

Ed: 6. Not there yet. Despite having a just-one-speed reputation—attack goal—he has been strangely reluctant to pull the trigger.

Eli: 6. A shockingly smart player given his age. He makes mature runs and puts himself in the right spots. The goals will come with time. The idea of a Mwanga-McInerney strike partnership in a few years is mouth-watering—if they’re both still on this continent.

Andrew: 6. Looked strong as a sub. Great movement and passing for a young player but has failed to convert a few fairly routine chances. Improving nicely since rookie campaign while finding minutes hard to come by.

Dan: 6. Explosive and daring. Puts himself in great position near goal. He’s hesitated on a few shots this season, but he’ll learn from that. He’s young and still has to feel out when to shoot at this level and when not to.

  • Danny Mwanga – 8.3 (15 appearances, 8 starts, 862 minutes, 5 goals, 2 assists)

Adam: 8. He is very good. He is getting better. He will be a starter by playoff time.

Ed: 8. He’s the future of the franchise… but he’s not there yet. Recent starts have shown that perhaps Nowak is right to use him in the second half for, even when he has started, he has only scored in the latter frame.

Eli: 8.5. Mwanga looks damn good. He is the only Union forward who shows the whole bag of tricks with any consistency. Despite being forced to consistently come off the bench, he is tied for the team lead in goals and has earned an extended run in the starting lineup to prove that he can own the first half the way he owns the second. Thumbs up to Nowak for recognizing a player with such a truly elite skill set. Thumbs down to Nowak for handling him oh-so poorly.

Andrew: 9. Strength, speed, skill and finishing make Mwanga a nightmare for opposing defenders. Tremendous upside and talent make for one of the most promising prospects in the league. Consistent playing time would do wonders for his development and confidence. Best forward the Union have.

Dan: 8. Mwanga has scored some brilliant goals this season. He’s drastically improved his hold-up play, and his intuitive chemistry with Le Toux makes the Union a better team. Unfortunately, when he plays with Ruiz, he gets marginalized.

  • Carlos Ruiz – 5.4 (13 appearances, 12 starts, 1071 minutes, 5 goals, 0 assists)

Adam: 4. There is nothing, nothing, wrong with bringing in a veteran presence to solidify the front line. With a wealth of young talent and the leadership of Moreno gone, the Union needed it. But the team has built an offense around the diminutive Guatemalan, and not a particularly good one. Five goals is a good return but the team has played it’s best soccer without him.

Ed: 7. If he had a higher work rate, was more consistent and had fit more easily into the starting position he has owned since he joined the team, Ruiz would be (tendency to fall over aside) hailed as a hero. Wait a second, that’s another player, isn’t it? On a tear since returning from the Gold Cup, if he continues his recent good form he’ll be another Nowak “I told you so.” I don’t care anymore so long as the Union win.

Eli: 5. He certainly has gotten his. But at what cost? It is clear that he makes those around him worse and it is no shock that the quality of the team improved in his absence. Unfortunately, Nowak over-tinkered and killed off any positive momentum that had been building. Still, if Ruiz can add to this current run of good form, we may be singing a different tune at the end of the year.

Andrew: 7. Ruiz was brought to Philly to score goals and has done so. Work rate and hold up play has increased of late. While movement may sometimes by lacking, can create and finish chances fairly consistent.

Dan: 4. He’s on a nice streak and has a nose for the goal, but it doesn’t change the fact that he makes his teammates worse instead of better. He’s an extraordinarily talented player who doesn’t hustle and detracts from the team for most of the course of a game. He has five goals, but let’s remember that one was blind luck and another went through a goalkeeper’s legs when it should have been stopped.

6 Comments

  1. Adam Cann says:

    What midseason grade does Nowak get?

  2. U guys got it wrong with Le Toux and Ruiz…somehow Le 1 hit wonder is ranked higher than Ruiz who although not my favorite has been scoring…you all put too much feeling into these ranking especially when discussing Ruiz…As for Nowak…he is doing something right with a second place second year team!!! I still dont like him…

  3. How did Le Toux get 3 grades above a 5? He’s played mainly striker (even when he starts in the midfield, he ends up playing up top) and he has failed to score from the run of play. The Union don’t score more when Le Toux and Mwanga play together, they only scored more against Toronto, who had arguably the worst defense in the league when we played them (and not arguably afterwards). Le Toux has been terrible. His touch has been poor, he’s wasted many opportunities, and he gives the ball away. A Kenyan marathoner can have a high work rate, but it doesn’t make him a good soccer player. Le Toux has not been a good soccer player this year.

  4. btw, with Richter, I got to watch him in the reserve game in D.C. at RB, I thought he looked rather impressive. Big physcial presence, who also gets up the field almost as much as Williams (although not quite as quick-footed on the ball). I could see him getting a spot-appearance at fullback, here and there, now that… sigh… Harvey is gone.

    • Adam Cann says:

      @Chris – Awesome! Thanks for the report on Richter. More news on these lesser seen guys is always welcome.

  5. Pingback: The Philly Soccer Page » Raves: Keon Daniel

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