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Player ratings and analysis: Revs 0 – 3 Union

Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

On Wednesday night at Gillette Stadium, the New England Revolution put together an organized and disciplined first half against a far superior opponent.

Sunday was much, much different.

Short passes? Yes, please.

From the opening whistle, the Union imposed a style and pace on the game that New England could not match. With Kyle Nakazawa at the top of the midfield diamond, Philadelphia looked to play a pass-and-move game that brought the fullbacks and the strikers into play with regularity. Those who have bemoaned the team’s reliance on hopeful aerial passes this season were rubbing their eyes in disbelief as the Union played short, simple passes and controlled the ball with patience in the final third.

At its best, the 2011 Union midfield could be described as dangerous, fast-breaking, and active. At its worst it has been a disorganized mess of chipped passes and awkward spacing.

Sunday night, for the first time, the midfield was thoroughly in control.

Between Keon Daniel, Gabe Farfan and Kyle Nakazawa, it seemed as if the Union could play triangles on the left side of the field until the 43 Revs fans at Gillette called it a night and went home to make ritual offerings to their Tom Brady posters. This effortless ball control allowed Justin Mapp to play to his strengths. The winger roamed away from his right-sided position looking for opportunities to take people on, like a samurai or a sightseeing bus.

Early involvement for the front men

Even more beautiful was the involvement of the strikers. Sebastien Le Toux, for one, saw his pass completion percentage shoot up thanks to the simple, possession style that allowed the Union to poke and prod the Revs with patience.

Naka knows best

Kyle Nakazawa’s critics are loud, but his ceiling is high. Take a look at the assist leaders around MLS: Brad Davis and David Beckham are free kick specialists and excellent crossers of the ball. Jack Jewsbury of Portland is in the same mold. Naka has the ability to become that type of player, but he has not learned to create space for himself in MLS. Matches with a high volume of passes are excellent confidence builders, and the Union brass deserve credit for showing confidence in Naka by giving him the full ninety on Sunday.

Whether you love him or hate him, he is currently the best option for the Union at attacking mid. And the team’s two most dominating performances have featured the UCLA product at the top of the midfield.

So good I don’t want to talk about it

It’s fun to talk about the Union’s midfield because the defense was good to the point of being, well, boring. We can only hope Rajko Lekic and Kenny Mansally got Carlos Valdes’ autograph because otherwise they won’t take anything away from the game.

Garfan grows in influence

The Revolution offense was so bad that it remains difficult to grade Garfan as a left back. He played a strong if undisciplined match against San Jose, and Sunday he could have put up a tent in the New England half because he was camping out there. But no matter how good he is going forward, zero goals allowed in two starts on the back line bodes well for Garfan.

And even better is the strong relationship Gabe has established with Neon Keon, whose knack for bringing defenders into the flow of the offense made Jordan Harvey look Brazilian at (short) times.


Now that we’ve done some analysis, perhaps we can spare a moment to indulge our darker side and taunt Benny Feilhaber. Dear Benjamin, as the most expensive player on the team, you would be the one expected to step up when your All-Star center midfielder is suspended. Yes, Sheanon Williams is good, but that doesn’t mean you should just give up every time you see him! How is he going to get better if you don’t challenge him. Go home and think about that. You’re already home? But I’m only two-thirds of the way into my rant! Oh, you always leave after 2/3rds…

Going forward

All told, there are few negatives to focus on as the Union head into a week of friendlies. It’s notable that for all the pressure they applied, Philly’s first two goals came off a flicked clearance and a set piece. Holding possession in the opponent’s half is a huge step in the right direction (that direction being up, up and away from the Eastern conference pack), and the Union will definitely will hopefully should try to emulate Sunday’s performance against Everton on Wednesday.

Player ratings

Faryd Mondragon – 6

No shots on net from the Revs so Mondragon focused on screaming at the refs.

Gabe Farfan – 7

Very involved in the offense, Garfan needs to develop more tactical sense as the season moves forward. He definitely knows when to get up the pitch but let’s see if he can figure out when to stay at home.

Danny Califf – 7

I guess he gets a seven. I’m assuming he and Valdes were playing “I Spy” or something else more interesting that defending the Revolution.

Carlos Valdes – 8

He has come close to scoring a few times this season. Valdes notched his first and will probably spend the next few matches pushing too high up now that he has a taste of goal. Honestly, Valdes could do nothing but tickle opposing strikers for the rest of the year and still be in my top three for Player of the Season.

Sheanon Williams – 9

Dear Sheanon Williams, Congratulations on your first MLS goal! What a perfect way to celebrate not making the All-Star team! I know you deserved it but I didn’t pick you because I thought you needed a bit of motivation and boy was I right. Of course I am always right. Sean Franklin is amazing and I sleep in Red Bull sheets.  Also, good luck figuring out the playoff structure when I change it again next year, sucker! Your friend and commissioner, Donald “The Barber” Garber.

Justin Mapp – 6

A fantastic cross to set up goal number one could not mask Mapp’s low level of involvement in a match he should have dominated. Mapp must learn to trust his teammates and look to receive the ball in dangerous positions. He won’t have to do all that work with the ball if he lets the game come to him rather than trying to force himself on the match.

Brian Carroll – 7

A nice, relaxing evening for the man doing the dirty work. A few times this year I’ve had players on opposing teams tell me they have guys on their roster that do what BC does. They are wrong.

Kyle Nakazawa – 7

A very fine performance that was capped off by the great delivery for the second goal. But in games like this, Naka should have fifty or sixty complete passes and should be pulling the strings like a marionette master.

Keon Daniel – 8

This is the guy the Union need on the field if Justin Mapp remains in the starting lineup. Mapp’s defensive lapses are less noticeable with Keon working hard to get back. And at this point there is no denying that Daniel makes Le Toux and any outside back better players. His patient approach is a joy to watch.

Sebastien Le Toux – 6

Nothing above 6 til he scores. But the game is finally slowing down for Le Toux. He’s making smarter decisions and trusting his teammates to get him the ball back when he gives it up. This is how an out of form striker rediscovers his touch. Madrid  better watch out!

Carlos Ruiz – 8

The difference between early season Ruiz and the player we see now is as big as the gap between the Union and the Revs. Ruiz has finally given in and admitted that the defense is more effective when it starts from the strikers. He has been connecting with Le Toux and Mwanga with more regularity, and could yet be the difference-maker on offense that the Union desperately need.

Danny Mwanga – 7

A fine assist capped off a performance that showcased Mwanga’s maturity. Holding possession and running at the defense, Mwanga showed a good understanding of the situation he was entering and the type of play his team needed from him.

Michael Farfan – 6

Nothing spectacular from the second rounder. And that is disappointing because a player like him should get a chance to be spectacular in a game like this.

Stefani Miglioranzi – 6

His rating is his number! Get it? I really thought Migs was going to settle in as the utility center back on the roster when Okugo got his wind back. Nowak fools me again.

New England fans – 43

This rating is deceptive. I actually gave each individual a “1”.

SuperTroopers – A

I’ll loan it to you, Mr. Twellman.


  1. Agreed on Naka, who I’m not always the biggest fan of. It’s a shame that, after having a confidence building game, he probably won’t start for a while once Paunovic’s back. Go Nowak.

  2. Feilhaber meow – 0

  3. You always leave after 2/3? Hilarious. Also enjoyed the letter from Don Garber.

  4. Justin Mapp’s right foot deserves a 10. It only had one touch the whole game, and it led directly to a goal.

  5. I wish nobody from the Union made the “All-Star” team. It’s the dumbest thing in the history of sports. We’re the only league who does it and all it does is take away players from their teams to play Manchester United.. It’s so dumb. I would very much rather go to East v West than sum up the hundreds of players in the league in 23 players. Most of which don’t deserve it. It’s just dumb anymore. It was great for the first 4 seasons, now it’s just pathetic.

    Anyways. Paunovic is a much better option at attacking mid than Zawa right now. Much better vision, he’s proven that he can make insane through balls, and complete simple passing. If it even came down to Daniel and Mapp being out for some odd reason. Paunovic/Zawa and Carroll/Okugo would be a cool mix up.

    • YO JMan…not sure about the Serb….tough to criticize Naka and give props to the Serb in our best game-to-date when the Serb is not on the pitch…..Not too mention, conditioning plays a crucial role w/ that position and I really dont think the Serb is up to par on that front.

  6. PhillyHotspur says:

    A 3 0 victory on the road where the opposition doesn’t record a shot on net………….

    Simply drop a “10” for each Union name above and call it day…………..

    what a glorious night in Beantown…….And, it looks like Nowak has finally found the perfect formation w/ two legit wings in Mapp/Keon , Naka pulling the strings, Faran and Williams attacking the flanks , LeToux/Ruiz up front and supersub DannyBoy…….

    last but not least…….the MVPs to-date……Mondragon and the CB Wall in Valdes and Califf……..

    Keep it coming


    Yo Califf…….good to see you resort to the old dew….look much scarier now…..GS

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