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Player ratings and analysis: Union 1-1 Dynamo

After the match, John Hackworth said, “I would get worried if we weren’t creating those chances, but we are.”

For the Union, the chances have been there all season. The problem, of course, is finishing them.

More than poor shooting

And it is not just a matter of getting shots on net. The Dynamo midfield charges into the box like a herd of orange giants when the ball hits a wing; Michael Farfan is often staring into a barren eighteen as Jack McInerney weaves amongst leviathans.

The Union do not have a set method of creating opportunities. Tactically, they are set up to allow many players to pop up all over the field. This movement, when well-coordinated, should produce openings more suited to the team’s small stature than a crossing game.

But with a new lineup every night and very few players in front of Brian Carroll being anything close to consistent performers, the fans have often watched the team resort to long, direct tactics. It is disappointing not because we are a city of soccer purists who lift our nose at long balls, but instead our investment in this team suggests to us that there is a wealth of talent to be unlocked, and thus far it has only been seen sporadically.

Jack Attack

A wonderful example of this is Jack McInerney. The supremely talented striker has looked out of sorts all season. His runs have been poor, his shooting hesitant, and his energetic game hindered by overthinking. That all changed Saturday night as number 19 battled for position, demanded the ball, and saw the opposing goal as a thing to be attacked rather than cautiously approached.

It was a glorious sight. And the question was: Where has it been? Where is the Justin Mapp of early season performances (two goals this year? And both against Toronto??)? Where is the Keon Daniel who so impressed until he saw extended time on the pine following a fine headed goal (the Union’s only headed goal of the year)? Wherefore art thou, Amobi Okugo? Your ability to join the attack and spray the ball around seemed such a perfect fit for the Chicago match.

The only young player above the back line who has consistently excelled is Michael Farfan. And he keeps getting pushed into the back line, where he looks like a Farfan in headlights.

Who does this season belong to?

So with two wins in the last eleven games – and one of those a 3-2 comebacker at home against Chivas – and Carlos Ruiz hiding out from Philadelphia’s pitchfork-bearing fans and media, it might be time to either bring in the veterans necessary to make a long playoff run and hope their guidance helps the young core grow, or turn the team over to the studs.

The defense can’t win them all for us

In the first two months of the season, Philadelphia recorded four shutout wins. Since April: one. A 3-0 thrashing of New England that was not as close as the scoreline suggests.The defense remains tied for stingiest in the league, but it has lost the 2008-Brad-Lidge guarantee that allowed a subpar offense to fake adequacy.

One of the biggest issues for the Union defense has been stopping wingers who are comfortable on the ball. And I think we’ve all noticed that MLS is a league that seems a good fit for playmakers on the wings. Chiumiento, Shea, Brad Davis, Najar, Pontius, Jewsbury, LaBrocca, Daniel Hernandez. These are the types of players that trouble most teams and flat-out maul the Union.

For all Kyle Nakazawa’s recent struggles, is he an option at wing as defensive help? As a less mobile middie than Justin Mapp he could still release Sheanon Williams into the offense while sticking like glue to an opposing threat.

Post-Ruiz life

No doubt that Carlos Ruiz’s unique right-place-right-time skillset earned needed points, but if his best quality was bailing out a team that didn’t seem to fit together for the first 85 minutes of each match then good riddance.

The coaching staff says this is a team built for the long-term, and if that’s really true than the last thing it needs is a crutch. Even in a fluid system, an offense develops consistent points of strength. So far, the Union have none. Unless you count Danny Mwanga turning and shooting from 20 yards out.

Shout out to the fans

A final note of praise before the ratings: Though the team was less than stellar on Saturday, the fans earned their post-game clap from the players. On a night threatened by rain, PPL Park was louder than it has been in some time. The drums from River End boomed with extra oomph as the opening whistle blew, and the rest of the stadium responded in kind. Even after the tying goal, there was full-throated support for the team. Fans: That was a truly a performance worthy of your reputation as league’s best.

Player ratings

Faryd Mondragon – 6

It has been fairly useless for me to rate the Union number one this year. The team allows few shots, and even fewer good shots. Mondragon had little to do on Saturday, and he certainly can’t be blamed for the goal. When you recruit a 40-year old starter, you aren’t expecting him to reach open shots from 20 out that are heading for the corner.

Sheanon Williams – 5

Below par from Williams. And especially disappointing with Klinsmann in the crowd. Opposing teams are forcing the Union to play through their central defenders, correctly guessing that the link between defense and attack is much weaker through the center than up the wings. Sheanon had a great opportunity in the 88th but was caught between shooting and crossing.

Carlos Valdes – 8

He locked up the much larger Houston front line and competed with Brian Ching for every aerial ball. Valdes has been such a standout this season, and watching him beat Carlo Costly in a footrace was a great example of why he has excelled in MLS. After taking a beating from Ching and cheap shot artist Cam Weaver all night, Valdes looked like he relished the chance to chase a ball deep into the corner with fresh-legged Costly right on his heels. Valdes won the race, of course. He just seems to do that.

Danny Califf – 7

In the second half, the Dynamo were able to get their crosses into the box yet unable to put them on net. This is largely because Califf was such a presence inside his own area. At one point, Weaver popped Califf above the eye. Califf could barely see, but still tracked Weaver into the box, beat him to a cross, and man-handled Colin Clark inside the six. The ensuing “Bearfight” chant was well-deserved. The only blemish on Califf was his poor clearance that landed at Geoff Cameron’s feet and ended up in the back of the net. I’m not saying Migs shouldn’t have tackled Cameron, I’m just saying a soft clear to the middle of the park is the wrong move.

Gabriel Farfan – 7

Against larger opponents, Farfan held his own. And so well did he lock up Brad Davis that Houston switched their playmaker to the left side of the field. Playing behind Justin Mapp, Garfan has plenty of defensive responsibilities. Let’s hope he gets more chances to come forward as August rolls on.

Brian Carroll – 7

Another above-average match from Carroll. He was visibly frustrated by the spaces in the middle in the first half and that only got worse in the second. It is scary to think what the Union would be like without his steadiness in front of the back line this season.

Roger Torres – 4

Torres had a very quiet match. Not quiet enough to necessitate a halftime substitution, perhaps, but his lack of involvement was disappointing given how comfortable he has looked on the ball of late. It would not be surprising to see Torres relegated to a substitute role against Dallas.

Veljko Paunovic – 5

Drifting in and out of the match, Paunovic can be a frustrating character. When he finds the ball, he has a calming manner about his play that seems to inspire the offense. But when he is not involved – and he certainly joined Torres is drifting in and out of the game on Saturday – Pauno leans heavily on Brian Carroll to cover for his lack of speed and defensive instincts. Until Miglioranzi was introduced in the second half, Carroll was patrolling the center of the field solo and Houston knew it.

Justin Mapp – 3

All those wingers listed above? They are what Mapp should be. I cannot emphasize enough that if Mapp cannot live up to that billing he is a liability. We have seen him do it in fits and spurts. Now, with Ruiz gone and the O in neutral, he needs to do it every night.

Sebastien Le Toux – 5

Off the post. So frustrating.

Jack McInerney – 9

A goal, a goal called back, a bicycle kick just over the bar, a close call on another through ball in the first half. All in less than 70 minutes on the pitch. That’s how an offensive player gets involved and stays involved. It’s exactly the type of performance the Union haven’t gotten from their strikers this year. Mac didn’t want balls over the top. He wanted them to his feet. So he could draw fouls, take people on, and spring his fellow man. Brilliant stuff.

Danny Mwanga – 6

Mwanga’s first shot was reminiscent of his recent performances: Poor first touch, hesitant move, weak shot. After that he was driving at the defense and making trouble. His decision-making was questionable (when to pass, when to cross, when to keep dribbling), but if the referee understood that grabbing and tripping people is illegal, Mwanga would have a higher rating.

Michael Farfan – 8

Did exactly what he does every time he is played in midfield: Get the ball, involve the team, make smart crosses. Marfan looks so good as a midfielder. The Union should sign cover in the back if only to ensure that he never has to leave his natural position for the back line again.

Stefani Miglioranzi – 4

It was the wrong sub. The thinking here is clear: Bring Migs in to supplement the team’s height in the box. Hard to argue. But the bigger issue was breaking up Houston’s play as they entered the final third. The Dynamo were able to work the ball around and find open crossers. If this is cut out early, you don’t need to worry as much about height. Okugo the ballhawk should have come on.

The fans – 10

Amazing support all night. That was the loudest PPL has been in some time.

John Hackworth quotes

Frustration or disappointment are the two biggest words or feelings we have right now because we feel like we deserved three points in that game. And it is frustrating, it is disappointing. The game is so funny because the critical moments you never know when they’re coming from. Literally a throw in that is 100% ours and turns out to be given to them and they score off of that. Literally the action before that is Seba hitting the post and that ball was definitely going in until the last rotation. It’s a funny game sometimes and this was one of those cases. Very disappointing because we definitely left some points out there tonight.

Houston’s a good team. All these games are tight. I think what we did tonight was put ourselves in a position to get three points. Obviously Houston went to fight and come back and throw a lot of numbers forward and literally, I don’t have the stats in front of me right now, but I don’t think they had a shot on goal before that shot. And when you do that for as long as we did it, you think absolutely you deserve it.

Just trying to lock it down a little bit. We thought it was a little open and we knew they were going to the 3-5-2 and possibly were going to push another forward. So to bring Stefani on was just to make sure we had numbers in those spots. And really, we had Danny and Pauno and Seba on the field so it wasn’t like we didn’t have attackers out there as well. We thought we’d catch them on a couple breaks and we did. Unfortunate that we didn’t finish them.

I can’t talk about what the official saw or didn’t see. And I can’t even guess to be honest with you, cause it’s a mystery, OK? But from our end, you have a team, Houston, they’re very competitive. They have a tough mentality and they’re going to bring their best, they’re going to fight and scrap and claw the whole time and we have to make sure we do the same thing. For us, I thought we did that. And we didn’t give up anything, we won a lot of those little battles. But there are battles all the time. There was one play in the box where four of our guys just got mowed over. And I turned to the fourth and I said, ‘How is there not a foul in that little scrum right there? How does nobody see that?’ And it was funny because Dominic looked at me and he said, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ And, you know, it is what it is. I’ll try not to get on that track.

For us, I still go back to that we’re still creating a lot of chances. And as long as we’re creating chances, they’re gonna start falling for us. The players we have are capable of finding the back of the net. I would get worried if we weren’t creating those chances, but we are.


  1. Good post overall. But is asking if we should bring in veteran talent to win now a serious question? That is exactly what we DON’T need. Our team has no cohesion as it is, so is bringing in old (and probably slow and unfit for our style of play) players a serious option?

    It’s not. In fact from week 1 this coaching staff has tried too hard to play that free flowing game. Can we please find a starting 11 and settle on it? And to make it better, can we please include people who deserve to be there (Marfan/Torres/Daniel/Jack Mac) and actually allow them to grow together in a formation that suits our strengths?

    I’m getting sick and tired of this coaching staffs “throw everything we got at the wall and see what sticks … and when something does, peel it off and throw it again!!!” mindset.

  2. Fans get a 10? There were definitely a lot of boos raining down following the final whistle. I hate it when a tie feel like a loss…

    • Me thinks those boos were directed at the officials. Lots of chatter during the in my area (115) about how the officials seemed to lose control of the match. Afterward in the post-game autograph area, I heard more than a few people proclaiming that high school matches are officiated better.

      • I can tell you for sure those boos were directed at the officials. I was sitting smack in the middle of the River End and when the officials were walking towards the tunnel under us we made sure they knew they called a terrible game. A true supporter would never boo the players they support.

    • I was in 135. The boos were definitely towards the officials. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard boos towards our team for a loss, let alone a draw.

      • Sorry, but the section I was in and the section next to me boo’d the team. Son’s of Ben boo’d the official (who didn’t do that badly, since Mawanga looked like he was flopping).

        Frankly, they are professional athletes (although they don’t play like ones)and can take it. People pay good money to come and see a good game. They take their families there to be entertained. If they play well and loose that’s one thing. But if they play badly and win or tie well people expect football.

        Welcome to Philly. 🙂

  3. Boos were definitely for the officials. I’m in 103, close enough to SoB sections. Fans were great as usual and they seem louder than in the Colorado game.

  4. The fans definitely made the extra effort to lift the team. They’ll need it again against Dallas.

  5. Valdes with an 8? What about the goal he let in? Seemed to have overlooked that. And where was Brad Davis all night? Unnoticeable, due to the fact that Williams shut him down all night, but that seems to be overlooked too. Personally, I think Williams is the best right back in the league. We all saw what happened during the Chicago Fire game without him. A little harsh this week. Sebastian with a 5? Come on now, its more than half way through the season. He is unmotivated, slow, and how many shots can you have and miss all of them? He needs to sit on the bench for awhile.

    • PhillyHotspur says:

      One thing is obvious……The club needs a consistent starting 11 so we can have some more cohesion on the pitch. My recommendation would be:

      Williams Valdes cahill Farfan
      Keon Carroll Naka Mapp
      Letoux Danny (rotating w/ JackMack)

      The Serb seems to be too much of a liability in the MF……..

      And Mapp should get 45 minutes……….Yank him at HT if he isn’t being productive (like Saturday night)

      I used to hate on Fat Chooch, but man, he is clearly missed in these games where its one-sided and his clinical finishing is clearly missed.

    • Ed Farnsworth says:

      Le Toux “unmotivated” and “slow”? Hilarious.

      • rhinestone cowboy says:

        i was gonna say the same thing… yeah he’s not scoring but his hustle is unreal… he means alot to the team scoring or not

  6. I have issue with Carroll getting a 7. He is basically another defender that sits just above the defense – The problem is that we need a holding midfielder and someone that will join the attack. At no point in that games was Carroll looking for the ball when on attack.

  7. As much as i like him, Williams has been poor since his Allstar snub. He looks more tired and hungover every game- lunging and missing on defense, not linking up well to provide offensive outlets. Some of that is due to increased pressure from opposing teams, but he’s got to get his form back (and his desire to shoot on target). I was actually hoping he’d be subbed out vs Houston, then i realized we have no fullback cover.

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