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Player ratings & analysis: Union at Chicago

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Soccer being a team sport, player ratings have the inherent flaw of isolating an individual out of eleven interconnected pieces.

John Hackworth said as much after the match when he spoke of the Farfans struggling to get forward as a symptom of the team’s early issues with shape and possession.

The Union were slow out of the gate, and whether it was the makeshift lineup or the swarming Chicago defense, the game quickly came to resemble volleyball.

The Fire were pressing a striker and a midfielder onto the Union centerbacks and forcing them to play the ball wide or long. The Farfans, under pressure, were finding Miglioranzi and Carroll quickly, but these were not the men to start the offense going forward. Roger Torres, posted higher up the pitch, was rarely involved. Clearly, Chicago believed that Migs and BC would move the ball slowly and allow their defense to move across in coverage. Well played, Fire. Well played.

Strangely, the Union’s long ball of choice was a deep knock up the wing. With Paunovic posted high, this meant we all got to see the Serb knock the rust out of his transmission and hit fourth gear just in time to see the ball bounce out of bounds. That the Union could not find Pauno’s feet and isolate him on rookie Jalil Anibaba (playing out of position) is a symptom of the offense’s impotent form.

Paunovic himself looked confident on the ball, but kick and chase is clearly a game he enjoyed more in his younger days.

Defensively, the Union played a solid first half. This could be chalked up to a conservative formation, but a major factor was the containment of Marco Pappa.

Whether it was Davide Chiumiento for Vancouver or Nick LaBrocca for Chivas, the Union have had difficulty closing down middies who start wide and make their runs across the center. Pappa was largely anonymous in the first half, but his presence was felt in the latter forty-five.

Hackworth said after the match that the haphazard look of the midfield is unavoidable when you play a short passing, movement based system. What is left unsaid is that recovering to a strong defensive shape remains a priority for any team, regardless of offensive game-plan. Losing balls in the midfield makes achieving defensive shape much, much tougher. That is a lesson Brian Carroll will be pounding into Roger Torres’ head before Saturday.

After another disappointing result, it’s clear that the Union, for all of their talent, remain only slightly ahead of the MLS curve. The gap between the top and bottom of the league is small enough that picking up a point in Chicago can be spun to the positive, and the coaching staff should take that approach. The confidence and belief to play a full ninety every match has distinguished Philly from it’s rivals this year. And until someone steps up to fill the goalscoring boots of Carlos Ruiz, the Union will need to rely on their mental makeup to see them through tough matches against Houston and Columbus.

Player ratings

Faryd Mondragon – 7

Two big second half saves kept the team on level terms, and the big keeper had no shot at Pardo’s goal. The Union used Mondragon’s feet often on Wednesday and he handled the ball well.

Michael Farfan – 5

The reverence with which Marfan the midfielder is treated should be absent for Marfan the outside back. He is serviceable, but good players know how to draw him in and zip on past. It really is a shame to see a player who has performed at such a high level in midfield forced to deputize in the back line. He has so much to offer further up the pitch.

Carlos Valdes – 6
Valdes’ toughness and reading of the game were back to the levels we have come to expect. He helped Marfan without overcommitting and bodied up to Oduro and Nyarko. There is clear frustration in Valdes’ body language when he is forced to play long rather than into feet. The past two games, he has been frustrated often. On the Fire goal, Valdes was in good position to stop Oduro. Not his fault the loose ball fell where it did.

Danny Califf – 7
Another match in which Califf dealt well with speedy strikers. Too often he and Valdes have been forced to backpedal as a midfielder gets a free run at them, and this is dangerous territory for the Union as it risks pulling Califf out of the lanes he has played so brilliantly this season. Both centerbacks continue to look hesitant on bouncing balls. Mondragon and Califf should get a system sorted out so Danny doesn’t have to make tough choices with the likes of an Oduro hanging around his neck.

Gabriel Farfan – 5
This was the most locked in Gabe has been at left back. With the Union offense sputtering, the weapon that is the Final Third Farfans was all but neutralized. A willingness to throw himself into tackles in open field points to the “edge” Nowak speaks about in Garfan. Although the goal came up his side, it was a hesitation based on the belief that Justin Mapp would be tracking back that led Gabe to give Nyarko space. Then it was just too late.

Justin Mapp – 4
A bright start from Mapp—dribbling with speed, moving throughout the midfield, and playing simple—was offset by a passive second half that leaves a sour taste. Mapp should be the Marco Pappa of the Union, but whether it’s a lack of confidence or trouble staying involved, he has yet to hit the gear where he can exert a sustained influence on play.

Brian Carroll – 6
Carroll was strong defensively but seems to have lost his touch for the long ball. When he was rolling, BC’s distribution was allowing the Union to push forward by switching fields with attacking diagonal balls. Now everything is square or back. Carroll had one amazing covering run to break up a three on two late. He came from behind to intercept a Pappa pass across the box with a daring slide.

Stefani Miglioranzi – 5
While Migs didn’t stand out, he actually wasn’t so bad. Tempting to blame him for the goal? Yeah, but it’d be wrong. Tempting to blame him for taking Okugo’s minutes? Yeah, but again, not his fault. The Fire made very good adjustments to take their points of attack away from Migs and Carroll. When Michael Farfan pushed the opposition inside, Migs was there to help. When he let them go wide, trouble was a-brewin’ because Migs can’t cover ground like Carroll. Should he have been out there the full 90? Probably not. But he cut down on the terrible giveaways and that’s a step in the right direction.

Roger Torres – 4
Torres’ job was to ignite the offense and, quite simply, he didn’t do it. Unfortunately for Roger, the rating doesn’t tell you that he had limited options when he got the ball, but such is the life of an attacking midfielder on the U. Torres did try to make in-game adjustments like dropping deeper to receive and playing tight defense on Pardo to force early turnovers, but without the space he is afforded late in games, he still has trouble making an impact.

Sebastian Le Toux – 5
He seemed a bit off his normal pace, but overall Le Toux actually did well. Hackworth said they wanted him higher up the pitch and when he got there he was active and useful. When Le Toux was too deep, the midfield was an overcrowded mess.

Veljko Paunovic – 7
He was out of the game, then in it. Then out again. Pauno was far from the worst player on the pitch, but he was not very influential when posted high alone. Let’s leave all that aside, though, and remember a sweet, sweet strike for the goal.

Danny Mwanga – 3
Brought on to score, Mwanga was too hesitant in front of net and got pushed around. A far cry from his eager performances in the friendlies.

Kyle Nakazawa – 4
Barely saw the ball as an attacking middie.

Keon Daniel – n/a
Pushed hard to score but was not a factor. Got a good earful from Mondragon when he headed out for a corner.

Toyota Park – 8
It fits the landscape so well. The food was amazing, the staff were all friendly, and the supporters section was loud all game. A smaller section also featured an eight man band!

Sons of Ben who made the trip – 10
You guys were great. PSP photographer Nate Monahan spent a good amount of time chatting and came back with nothing but praise for the volume and attitude of the Union supporters. Shout out to MaryAnne and the crew!


  1. There is no way, no way Torres deserves the same score as Naka or Mapp or a lower score than Migs. No one played well but when Torres finally started getting the ball he was calmer and made more of it than anyone else I mentioned.
    This is also the second article you off handly mentioned Ruiz, as if he would have helped. In fact, games like these are were he woulda made things worse. Standing around, staring at the mess that was our midfield would have been the only thing Ruiz would have been doing.
    Also left unmentioned is the mind boggling tactical changes, the mysterious lineup changes, and the insulting choice of subs.
    And a 7 for Paunovic?

  2. I think this rating is pretty accurate…even migs. Still belive Torres was invisible, difference between Fire game and Rapids game for Torres…Rapids parked the bus. I would argue that Califf deserves a 6…his weakness has always been his lack of speed and the last two games really highlighted that. Also Paunavic was ineffective other than the goal, I’d go with a 6…Ruiz’s absence affected both teams last night…I’m sure the Fire still remember thae impact his golazo had on the last game (I know I’ll never forget watching that live) at PPL

  3. What rating would you give the coaching staff? All of the things that were “not Migserable’s fault” seem to fall on them. Also Valdes may have had a fine game defensively, but he has to do something with his chances in front of goal if they are going to target him on set pieces. 2 open headers he has been unable to finish the last 2 games. And was completely baffled when he was wide open with the ball at the corner of the 6 yard box at the end of the game.

    • Yeah, he’s scored a couple goals – hell, Califf has one as well – but you have to remember he’s a CB by trade. Maybe those headers should’ve been goals, but he’s not a striker by any means, so it should come as no surprised that he looked “completely baffled” with the ball at his feet. Even Mwanga – you know, a striker – looked pretty baffled with the ball at his feet, too.

    • Dude, stop w/ the derogatory nicknames of our own team’s players. Sure, getting on them for mistakes and poor play is fair game but they’re our players and our team, no need to change their name to fit a ‘cute’ saying you thought of.

    • PS – I agree completely with you comment, just the migs thing is out of line

      • fyi, mikey didn’t invent it. It came from another article on this site.
        Still, I don’t think migserable is any worse than saying migs played miserably

  4. LeToux’s free pass needs to be revoked. The lack of goal scoring on this team is ridiculous. Start jack and prefer up top at this point. Could they be any worse?

  5. Glenn Reese says:

    I gotta disagree with the goal not being Migz’s fault. The replays were unbearable to watch. He was leisurely walking along, ball watching, instead of marking the open man at the top of the box. By the time he decided to try to cover him, the guy already was pouncing on the open ball in the box.

    • Absolutely agree with you Glenn. TO be fair and for those of you that play, this does happen (stopping your covering run when you see something like that). It’s a mistake for sure but when you are that close to your box, you can’t give up on the player you’re covering ‘cos you think the ball is saved/scored. Unfortunate and something that’s easily fixed so I don’t condemn Migs for that.

      • If you watch the replay of the goal, you could place blame on a bunch of Union players…farfan got beat to easily, Califf wasn’t covering anybody, Valdes clears to the middle, Mondragon too slow to get up, Migs too slow to react and the other farfan fails to cover open net…its a team sport…Ultimately the U as a whole played like crap all game

      • Ball-watching is like jogging to first on a routine ground ball in baseball. Most of the time it doesn’t hurt you because they’ll get you out anyway. But once in a while they’ll drop the ball and a runner will be safe where a jogger will still be out.
        Ball-watchers might not hurt their team 95% of the time that they don’t keep track of their marks, but when they do they cost their team points. Migs and Valdes are both guilty of that on Chicago’s goal (although Valdes made an amazing recovery to stop the initial attempt from scoring).
        It is so incredibly easy to fix this, and yet it happens at every competitive level.
        We need to stop forgiving it.

  6. Was keeping Daniel on the bench until the last ten minutes of the game a decision or an oversight? (‘Wait, why are you still here?’)

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