Featured / Player ratings / Union

Player ratings and analysis: Red Bulls 1-0 Union

Photograph: Nicolae Stoian

Mama said there’d be days like this.

It was an embarrassing loss. One embarrassing loss. Of course the timing was terrible and everyone, players, coaches and fans, would have preferred a different result and performance, but in the end it was one game. Against a team that at its best, which it was on Thursday night, is one of the most dangerous in MLS.

There are plenty of negatives to discuss following Thursday night’s stinker, but before we do so, it’s important to press pause and remember where the Union sat on the table when they wrapped up their inaugural campaign. There has been too much gained, too many improvements made and too much development worked for to dampen the spirits of a team and fanbase who have completed their second season in existence with a points total increased by an incredible 17 points. That’s three extra wins to go with eight more ties. Now is no time to hit the panic button.

Zach still isn’t ready

Sure, its one of the main conclusions that can be easily drawn from Thursday’s match, but it must be said. In his post game conference, Peter Nowak attempted to smooth over his selection by reminding reporters that players like Danny Mwanga and Jack McInerney are only a few years Pfeffer’s senior. And while technically he is correct, those players have logged 2996 and 908 minutes respectively on MLS fields. They have proven their readiness during match time, a place where Pfeffer has yet to excel, rather than on the training pitch. In his previous two outings, one as a starter and another off the bench, Pfeffer has look less prodigal and more under-cooked with each opportunity.

And do not read this as a knock on the player. Having come through the youth ranks and standing a mere 5′-7″, it will take Pfeffer time not only to keep up with the pace of MLS, but to be physically mature enough to deal with the pounding inherent in such a rough and tumble league. While there is no doubting his ability to be an immense talent, throwing him in at the deep end, the way he was on Thursday, has a greater chance of damaging his confidence than improving him as a player.

The Union missed Pauno

With the ailing Serb out of the lineup, the Union’s small, quick approach to the game was easily neutralized by the bigger, stronger Red Bulls. Danny Califf came as far as the center circle to lay a crunching tackle a few times, but without an attacking player to win headers, throw his body around and generally mix it up, New York had little fear of the threat posed by the Union.

It is clear that Paunovic represents that physical presence for the Union, as did Keon Daniel during his far too short tenure with the Union. Especially entering the playoffs where defenses compress and the battle to gain supremacy in the midfield reaches new levels of intensity, having Paunovic’s services will be an important factor towards the Union’s progression towards the MLS Cup.

Player Ratings

Faryd Mondragon-5.5

Two huge breakaway saves denied Richards and Rodgers, but the Dragon nearly gave the game away when he spilled Richards tame effort into Rodgers path. If not for the Englishman’s poor finishing, it would have been 2–0. His distribution remains problematic; when he pounded the ball deep down field he was too often essentially returning it the Red Bulls to begin their next attack. While the Dragon does well to slow the match down on dead ball situations, he is too quick to get rid of it when he claims from a shot or cross.

Sheanon Williams-4

Williams looked slow and disinterested for much of the night as he bickered with Mondragon and failed to have his usually impact on the proceedings. He lost Ream when the New York defender rose for a free header in the box and allowed Lindpere to cut inside of him on the sequence where Mondragon spilled Richards shot. On the day, it was Roy Miller who looked the far more lively and aggressive fullback and kept Sheanon pinned back.

Carlos Valdes-5

With New York dominant in midfield, Valdes did what he could to keep the defense organized despite being under siege from New York’s immense pressure. He was caught flat-footed on the goal, with Richards ghosting in behind him to win a free header. Nearly put the Union two goals down early when he was dispossessed on one of his attacking jaunts. Valdes can consider himself fortunate that Mondragon denied Richards one-on-one.

Danny Califf-5

With the midfield overrun in front of him, Califf was left to play catch with Valdes as they knocked the ball back and forth dozens of times waiting for anyone to make themselves available higher up the field. Califf almost gifted New York a second goal in the 43rd minute when his slow-rolling backpass was nicked by the onrushing Rodgers. He had to show off his range on multiple occasions because Gabe Farfan was consistently under duress on the left.

Gabriel Farfan-3

He was eaten alive by Erik Gunnar Solli as he attacked Garfan’s wing at every opportunity. With inadequate defensive cover from the midfield, Garfan was left alone to cope with Solli and Dax McCarty. He was hard done on occasion when he attempted to break forward only for the midfield to cough up possession and put the backline under further pressure. Like every Union player on the evening, Garfan was guilty of a string of dangerous turnovers as the entire side struggled to connect their passes.

Brian Carroll-3.5

Unable to cope with Marquez or Tainio on the middle, Carroll struggled to have any influence on the match. His limitations with the ball at his feet caused Valdes and Califf to spurn his presence in favor of pumping long balls up the field. Carroll was guilty of far too many turnovers and could have gifted the Red Bulls a second goal on more than one occasion.

Amobi Okugo-4.5

Okugo was one of the few players who looked energetic and up for it in the first half as he worked hard to keep the ball and move it through the midfield. He did well to provide a link between the defense and midfield as he checked back to Califf and Valdes to provide options. He was guilty of poor communication with Garfan on the Red Bulls goal when he was slow to react to Solli’s run.

Justin Mapp-3.5

In a game where the Red Bulls walked out of the tunnel buzzing with energy and excitement, Mapp’s calm, methodical approach never stood a chance. He was forced into the center of the park to cover for Pfeffer, further limiting his ability to stretch his legs and go on his characteristic long runs. Ultimately, the match demanded a higher gear, one that Mapp could not find.

Zach Pfeffer-2

Young Pfeffer could not shake off the dear in headlights look through his entire 45 minute shift. He was shown immense faith by his manger, but he is nowhere near ready to be influential on a game of this magnitude. Pfeffer truly looked like a boy amongst men as Tainio, Marquez, Lindpere and McCarty all took turns bullying the Union youngster. It feels wrong to score the young man so low, as he never should have been on  the pitch in the first place.

Michael Farfan-4

A quiet day at the office for Marfan as he attempted to press higher up the field to give Le Toux any support he could offer, but with Mondragon and the backline pumping the ball upfield, Marfan was unable to get enough touches on the ball to make a difference.

Sebastien Le Toux-5

It was always going to be a tough matchup as Le Toux was left alone on an island to fight against both Tim Ream and Stephen Keel. He showed his usual hustle to chase down balls and make himself available, but as he was often the only Union player in the attacking half of the pitch, Le Toux toiled up front in vain.


Danny Mwanga-4.5

Upon his entry into the match, Mwanga immediately squared up and beat a defender on the dribble. It was a refreshing sight for Union fans who had seen the Red Bulls come off best in nearly every first half encounter. But while it was a bright start for the recovered Mwanga, he was unable to get himself on the ball enough to prove a consistent threat. He was able to put Mapp through on Rost with a well-weighted ball, only for the lefty to spurn the chance as he hesitated at the opportunity to shoot with his right foot.

Freddy Adu-2

Coming on for the ineffective Zach Pfeffer, Adu brought little more to the table. For all of his fancy stepovers, Adu rarely beat his man. On a team full of players who support each other, Adu’s frustrated arm-waving and petulant gesticulation is quickly getting old. His service from set pieces also left a lot to be desired, rarely beating the first defender.

Roger Torres-4

Torres came out of the gates firing with two audacious and ultimately ill-advised shots from distance, as he had players in better positions to be truly dangerous around him. It was not the top-shelf performance we have come to expect from Torres, who seemed to be pressing to impress seeing that he has inexplicably fallen down the depth chart.

Other ratings

Geiger Counter-0

That was some serious home cooking. It’s hard to find another way to describe it. While the standard of officiating is not worth going too deep into because ultimately it was the Union’s poor performance and not the official that decided this match, it was clear that both sides were being judged under differing sets of laws.

Union supporter’s singing the national anthem-10

Awesome. Chills down your back awesome.

Union enter the playoffs without the need of a Wild Card game-10

Go get ’em boys!


  1. The midfield played like shit …whf you expect from your dfense or your goalie. They work their asses of to clean up the midfield shit. Strikers had nothing all night. Game was played so slow I almost fell asleep in the stands.

  2. What the hell is going on with Keon?

  3. I agree the goal was scored not because Williams and Valdes lost their man but because someone else should have been coving Richards. It seemed as if both defenders were coving someone but could not cover two men. Where the hell was the midfield…. when you have your defenders trying to score that should say something about your midfield.

    • Kensington Josh says:

      Califf ran out to cover the man with the ball, leaving valdes and Williams covering three guys. Garfan was trying to double team, instead of mark the extra guy, but maybe it was just great offense from Pink Cows.

    • I don’t want to come off as a hater but I would love to see Mondragon take some blame for the goal too. That cross was floated 2 yards away from him. After seeing MacMath eat those types of balls for breakfast, I expected more from Mondragon.
      And while I agree that Pauno has a physical presence, I disagree a ton that we missed him. This game only hid the major problem from our last game – that Pauno s=being called a striker yet playing more in the midfield hurt out final third play as much as anything else.

      • Not sure how floated that cross was…what really concerned me about Mondragon was the relatively soft and easy shot from Richards that he dropped and presented to Rodgers on a platter…as Eli noted…that was truly unacceptable from our #1. But at least he isnt Seitz…allowing 4 goals in 1st 45 mins this weekend! Sietz has let in 7 goals in his last 180 mins.

      • Maybe not floated but Mondragon had more than enough time to boss his area … I watched it again and Mondragon had enough time to look at the ball, hesitate and then back up.
        I just feel like if this was MacMath in goal instead … it’d be a “rookie mistake” and we’d be putting the blame on him instead of Okugo/Garfan/Valdes.

      • I’m with you but Dragon had some big saves in the game. You give up some and you lose some with him but I say we ride the dragon in the playoffs.

  4. MikeRSoccer says:

    Maybe I’m subconsciously trying to defend Nowak, but I am not convinced that he was trying to win this game. The line up simply made no sense. The obvious and continually stated question is why start Zach, Amobi out of nowhere? (Maybe I am respecting Nowak too much, but I can’t believe someone with his success record could actually think that line up was a good idea.) Along with this many of the players seemed to be lacking focus and the typical work rate we have come to expect (Valdes, Marfan, Carroll, Williams). If they were actually trying to win this game then we have serious problems. People can complain about Mondragon, but it’s his first game back. On my part, Carroll is the biggest concern going into the playoffs. Yes, Valdes, Williams and the Farfan’s looked bad, but this team revolves around Carroll. When he lacks confidence and makes mistakes the entire team falls into that pattern. No matter how the rest of the team plays…if Carroll plays like that in the playoffs we lose.

  5. Biggest question for me is who starts Sunday afternoon. Will Pauno be ready to go? Does Torres get back in the XI? What about Mwanga? I think we see this lineup.
    Williams Califf Valdes Garfan
    Caroll Marfan
    Mapp Adu Torres
    Le Toux

    I’d personally like to see
    Williams Califf Valdes Garfan
    Caroll Okugo
    Marfan Torres
    Le Toux Mwanga.

    What do you guys think?

    • I actually think Carroll plays worse when there’s a second DM…
      Here’s what I’d like to see:
      Williams Valdes Califf Garfan
      Marfan Adu/Torres Mapp(KEON <3)
      Le Toux Pauno/Mwanga

      • I totally agree with “I actually think Carroll plays worse when there’s a second DM…”

        I prefer Torres and Mwanga off the bench when chasing games…dunno if I’d start either, I hope Paunovic is good to go, Adu blows, Mapp is left footed…In Nowak I trust!!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *