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Analysis & player ratings: Chivas USA 0-1 Union

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Philadelphia Union would have taken a victory any way they could get it on the road against a Chivas USA team that, despite their poor home form, has looked much improved in 2012. That’s a good thing considering that, although they recorded their second consecutive victory and first road win of the season, the Union were largely outplayed by their hosts and suffered two important ejections which could hurt them badly in the coming weeks.

High pressure? Anyone?

With Chivas USA eager to control the tempo of the game through quick controlled passing building from the back, the Union simply conceded too much territory. In fact, both Heath Pearce and Rauwshan McKenzie were allowed to stroll over the midfield stripe before they met any pressure from the Union. Whether this was from a decision from the sidelines or on the field, it was absolutely ineffective.

During the Union’s struggles down the stretch in 2011, the concern was that they were dropping too far off their opposition, allowing them too much time to create and expose the Union, no matter how many bodies they had behind the ball. On Saturday night, a sharper team would have made the Union pay for their lack of pressure. While Peter Nowak deserves credit for keeping faith with his starting XI, the change in mentality from the Columbus game to the game in LA raises questions.

Set piece marking

Let’s hope this is not a case of “Here we go again” for the Union. The loss of Danny Califf in the aerial game was a huge loss for the Union and Alejandro Moreno, the lone Chivas striker for much of the match, managed to find far too much space in the box against the Union defense. The addition of Juan Pablo Angel, who latched on to a number of chances that fortunately fell wide or short of the mark, further emphasized the Union’s aerial deficiencies. With Carlos Valdes as the only defender standing 6 feet tall, it’s understandable that the Union might struggle with set pieces. With Western Conference leaders San Jose coming to town on Saturday, the Union defense will need to make sure their assignments are sorted out.

The troubles up front

It was another 90 minutes with zero shots on goal for Lionard Pajoy, as the Union’s lone striker continues to struggle in his offensive duties. True, he did not receive the quality service he had during the Columbus game, but with his heavy touch and poor angles of running, Pajoy never looked to be manufacturing anything for himself or his teammates. Further worrying is that, despite being pinned back for most of the match, the Union still managed to stray offside six times.

With a reshuffle of the lineup mandatory due to suspensions of Keon Daniel and Gabriel Farfan, now is as good a time as any for Peter Nowak to give Pajoy a spell on the bench, allowing the youngsters, and probably new signing Kai Herdling, a chance to show what they can contribute.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 7.5

It’s been 332 minutes since MacMath last conceded, with the first year starter getting his GAA back down to 1.00. While he would be the first to credit his defense as well, MacMath again commanded his box with authority and rose well to comfortably clamp down on balls in the air that might have given him trouble in the opening weeks of 2012. Confidence is everything for a young goalkeeper and right now, MacMath has it in spades.

Ray Gaddis – 6

Gaddis had a few nervy moments against Ryan Smith, but on the whole did well in his second professional appearance. He showed an impressive touch on the ball at times, with the Union knocking it around smartly in their back line. Going forward, Gaddis will need to work hard on his defensive positioning since he will eventually come up against a player who can match him for pace. Regardless, his play has been a welcome surprise.

Sheanon Williams – 7

Less physically dominant than against Columbus, Williams still put in a massive effort in securing a clean sheet for the Union defense. He would have gotten the better of former teammate Moreno on more occasions if the referee hadn’t been so easily deceived by the Venezuelan’s histrionics, but Williams still did well to hold his tongue and get back into the play.

Carlos Valdes – 7.5

No player has been more consistent for the Union than Valdes over the past two years. Whether its man marking the opposition’s top striker, or scrambling across to cover for his fullback, Valdes simply gets the job done. Covering up any errors or bobbles by his teammates with his speed and smart positioning, the Union’s stand-in captain was again the guiding force in another strong defensive performance. Despite Chivas USA laying siege to the Union’s final third, Valdes helped to insure that of the 21 shots fired, only 5 made it through to MacMath.

Gabriel Farfan – 4.5

A terribly unnecessary two-footed lunge saw Farfan sent off in the end, and you could see it brewing with referee Guzman failing to appropriately penalize Miller Bolanos for a series of absurd dives and off-the-ball garbage. Still, the increasingly combative Garfan must know the circumstance and be smarter, especially with the Union already reduced to 10 men. His ejection means the likely return of Porfirio Lopez to the starting lineup against San Jose.

Brian Carroll – 4.5

Carroll gave Nick LaBrocca far too much time and space, with the Chivas USA No. 10 always looking dangerous. As one of the Union’s veteran voices on the pitch, Carroll needs to be far more assertive in pushing the team up the pitch to create defensive pressure. Carroll is at his best when he is challenging players, winning the ball with his strength and physicality, not retreating from the point of attack, trying to force players one direction or another. He was missing the bite he showed against Columbus, though he was done no favors by his attacking teammates who failed to string enough passes together to keep the pressure off him for long.

Keon Daniel – 4

Completely out of character from the generally calm and composed Daniel, his wild lunge put the Union on the back foot for the final 15 minutes of the match and could have cost them dearly. Whatever set him off, Daniel must know better than to react in that manner and he will not be happy with his enforced spell on the sideline. Daniel wasn’t having a bad game when he was sent off though. Like his midfield teammates, he did not see anywhere near enough of the ball.

Michael Farfan – 7

Another match, another moment of Marfan magic, who cut the Chivas USA defense to shreds with his jinking run before crossing for Adu’s goal. He was also responsible for the Union’s other shot on goal, a pile driver that had to be well looked after by Dan Kennedy. Farfan continues to impress as he grows into the role of midfield creator. Now that we know what he is capable of contributing, the next step in his development is to be a consistent 90 minute provider. It’s a lot to ask of a second year player, but that is what it takes to become an elite playmaker in MLS.

Gabriel Gomez – 5

Union fans will not have been delighted to see Gomez react so angrily to being substituted for a second match in a row, but considering he spent so much time trying to get himself forward rather than sitting in midfield and dictating the play, it was hardly surprising. He failed to get himself on the ball as often as in past matches, completing a paltry 18 passes in 71 minutes of work. With Chivas USA completely controlling play through the center of the pitch, Gomez is one player who must raise his hand as having a subpar performance, losing out on his man-to-man battle with Oswaldo Minda. At least he didn’t get another yellow card.

Freddy Adu – 5.5

It was good to see Adu get off the mark for 2012 when he opportunistically pounced on James Riley’s mistake, tucking home off the post with a neat backheel. Still, no game in which Adu is most often sighted tracking back on defense will go down as a great performance for the Union. With Bolanos getting the best of the Union’s left flank, legally or divingly, Adu’s influence was limited simply because he did not have enough touches to make a difference in the possession game. He must do a better job of acknowledging his team’s struggles and drop deeper to knock the ball around, helping his team to control the pace of the game.

Lionard Pajoy – 2

Watching Pajoy lose the ball and then retreat into his own half is beginning to get irksome. Constantly knocked off the ball, or simply taking a bad touch to lose it, Pajoy ended some of the Union’s most promising moves and failed to hold up the ball with the consistency required to allow his teammates to stream forward. It is hard to understand why the Union coaching staff continues to keep faith with a player who is averaging one shot on goal every three matches.


Amobi Okugo – 6

Over the last two matches, Nowak has turned to Okugo as his closer, with the youngster bringing speed and steel to the midfield when the Union need to see out a result. He again brought the goods in LA, joining Brian Carroll to clog up the center of the pitch and even used his fresh legs to get forward on occasion, stemming the tide of the Chivas USA pressure.

Chris Albright – 5

A big body to deal with crosses and clear his lines in the final 10 minutes, Albright did the business for the Union.

Jack McInerney – N/A

Not on for long enough to earn a rating, McInerney did display veteran headiness in the final moments of the game. Electing to dribble towards the corner to kill the clock rather than try his luck on goal, he was rewarded when Bolanos fouled him by the corner flag, ticking down the final moments of the match. Smart stuff from the youngster.

Geiger Counter

Juan Guzman – 5

While he was correct in awarding both red cards against the Union, Guzman clearly incensed the Union players and coaching staff by completely buying into Moreno’s diving tactics. Sheanon Williams will still be wondering what he did wrong when Moreno gripped him up, then tackled him and still won the free kick outside the Union box late in the match. Similarly, the fact that Miller Bolanos was allowed to remain on the pitch after being twice called for diving and a rash of off the ball incidents without seeing so much as a caution clearly had the Union seething.

Still, both red cards were completely unnecessary and the lack of discipline shown by the Union must not be chalked up to anything other than their own lack of focus. Yes, the red cards did not effect the final scoreline on the night, but they will result in the Union missing two key starters for multiple matches.

Further, Peter Nowak’s own reaction was totally out of bounds, plain and simple. Yes, Farfan’s challenge happened directly in front of the Union manager, but that still gives him no right to enter the pitch. No doubt the league will spend some time mulling over Nowak’s conduct before they issue their verdict, and the Union must swallow their pride and abide by whatever punishment comes their way. No matter the provocation by their hosts, it was their own behavior that was unprofessional and inappropriate on Saturday night.

Preferred lineup for newt week’s match against San Jose

Pajoy’s been ineffective and the Union will be missing both Keon Daniel and Gabriel Farfan. With the Western Conference leading Earthquakes coming to town, there’s no need to upset the apple cart with a new formation when direct substitutes can be made to maintain consistency.


MacMath; Williams, Califf, Valdes, Lopez; Carroll; Marfan, Gomez, Adu, Herdling; Mwanga.


  1. adu’s backheel was far from impressive.

  2. I’m glad you picked up on the Gomez thing, it kind of got lost in the shuffle. I was surprised at his reaction and it is a bit of a concern. I hope it is something he will put behind him. He didn’t have his best game, so fresh legs to continue the battle in the midfield was probably a good move.

    • I could have sworn I saw Gomez signaling the bench to come off a couple minutes before the substitution occurred. So maybe there was an injury involved.

  3. I agree with much of your ratings, but I think Brian Carroll had a much better game than you give him credit for. He cleared a lot of stuff out of harm’s way, as he always does. And the domination of the Chivas midfield was primarily due to the play of Smith and Cardozo, not LaBrocca.

    Also, while I would normally not make much of a team losing its cool for one game, there was also that incident in the preseason. I hope this team isn’t working its way toward an anger management problem.

    • DarthLos117 says:

      Good point…I’ll assume from here on out that opponents will try extra hard to instigate and encourage us to lose our cool…doesnt seem to be that difficult…

  4. Pajoy is the new Miglioranzi.

  5. Also, I am not that concerned about winning while being totally outplayed. You are never going to be the best team on the field every game you play and winning in spite of being the worse team is as important a trait of a great team as anything else.

  6. Eli, can you add in a Bob Rigby Counter for the next ratings? Purpose: counting how many times he pronounces a name incorrectly. Correct me if I’m wrong, but during the game, Rigby…
    1) Kept saying Moreño instead of Moreno
    2) Definitely said Jaime instead of Alejandro…how he confused Alejandro with one of the all-time leading MLS goal scorers is beyond me.
    3) Kept saying Ramon instead of RAYmon (Gaddis)

    I hate nitpicking the Union commentators, JP and especially Bob have some work to do in the pronunciation department.

    • I agree Alex. My friends and I were texting back and forth thru the match about how just awful Rigby is.

      • As bad as Rigby can be, I had to listen to the kiss-up himself Allen Hopkins because I had to watch on MLS Kick online. Hopkins offers nothing: no opinion, tactics, etc. How does he continue to get jobs?

        As for Rigby, I’m actually wanting Martino back. Rigby seems like a great guy, but he’s an awful color commentator. Hopefully he get’s better, but I doubt it. Oh, how I wish TT never left.

      • @Moo – I was watching the Chivas feed too. Christian Miles. Yikes.

      • Ha I was also texting a friend about how horrible the announcing was. It was awful maybe the boring parts of the game even more unbearable.

    • Or … you could just create a drinking game out of it. Drink every time he gets a name wrong. Then again, you might be dead of alcohol poisoning by game’s end. So … PSP does not endorse this. Really.

      • Or every time he says “WE” when referencing the team. My wife and I made a drinking game out of The Biggest Loser. Every time a contestant says “journey” you gotta drink. heh
        Rigby wasn’t even prepared when they did the graphical zone marking explanation. Ugh, that was awful. And same goes for the starting lineups. He just kinda rattles off a handful of names, while not highlighting anything in particular.

      • We do not endorse a Bob Rigby drinking game. We do not endorse a Bob Rigby drinking game. We do not …

        Ah, hell … this may have to be a PSP post at some point. Suggestions for rules welcome!

  7. Good ratings.

    I agree with James. Soccer is a fun sport in that a team can be overmatched and win, which is what we did. Anyone who is expecting us to knock it around for 90 minutes and win 3-0 may as well watch another team.

    We are a grinding, defensive side that is going to give the oppostion a run every game. The Union are clearly not out there to make friends with the opposition, and I love that.

    The truth is we do not have a game changer on offense, no DP to throw out there and talk about every week. We will at some point, but for now, our boys are gonna give us a fighting chance to win every match.

    …it will rarely if every be pretty though.

    I am proud of the boys for traveling out west, knowing the importance of this early season match and coming home with the 3.

    PS – Pajoy is horrible, and I think we need to keep Lopez off the field against SJ. I go:

    Gaddis, Califf, Valdez, Williams (LB)
    Kai, Marfan, Adu

    • Section 116 says:

      How about giving Okugo 90? Maybe a top 6 of


      I can’t stomach Williams at LB, I’m not convinced he’s ambipedic (yes, I had to look up that word), which means a couple of Porfierio Cringes TM.

      But with Gomez, Okugo and Carroll we should be able to clog the middle third enough to allow Lopez to stay home and keep him from being exposed with speed.

  8. santas grotto says:

    During the Columbus game I commented to someone that it won’t be long before Garfan gets himself in trouble. Unnecessary challenges/lunges that if he was better at positioning he wouldn’t put himself in those spots. His lack of understanding at the back is worrisome. I know people are down on Lopez but in the games he has played the rest of the team has not been very good and there were those confused lineups. Maybe I am crazy but I still think he might come good. When does Josue get a run out? Rigby also says Sheanon in a strange way that I can’t imitate in a post. 3 points on the road, clean sheet, in September you won’t care how it was achieved.

  9. The Black Hand says:

    Lot of praise for a back line who got exposed a bit, LUCKILY not on the scoreboard. Garfan could have been scored higher. He was strong at LB. Carroll deserves more credit. He was stretched all over the pitch and broke up more plays than anyone out there. For the first time, he outplayed Gomez. Gomez looked ineffective, many times leaving Carroll overwhelmed. I agree with Keon and Adu. Both looked decent, but not overly impressive. Marfan was a bit high. Incredible breakdown of the defender (on the goal), followed by a pass that should have been cleared. Adu’s goal was alright, but the decision to go backheel (rather than turn and line it up) was outstanding. Pajoy deserves his 2, only if you score one for wearing both boots and one for putting your jersey on correctly. MacMath was very good.
    Why would you ever have Lopez in your “preferred” lineup? I understand that he is the only true LB remaining, but the guy has been wretched for us. San Jose will expose him within the first five minutes. I would explore Williams at left, with Albright at CB (if Califf cant go). Williams has shown ability to adapt and his athleticism should allow him to adjust to the opposite side of the pitch. I would even consider Marfan over Lopez. We could shift Adu to the inside, or Herdling. Marfan has been there before. He has speed and intensity to cover the position.

  10. John Adams says:

    Disagree on Carroll. He broke up a ton of passes in the middle and calmly stopped Chivas play through the middle time after time. Good job crediting Valdes–he was great back there. Let’s hope Califf is back or that back line is going to be a mess next week.

  11. It is really nerve wrecking to watch the Union’s style of play but i have come to enjoy it somewhat. Our man to man marking in the box was atrocious at times during the game. I definitely enjoy the viciousness of Gfarfan, although his tackle was a bit reckless.
    I am not defending Nowak in anyway because he should not have come on the pitch, but what about all the Chivas players coming in pushing and yelling at Garfan?
    The tackle was a bit reckless but he wasnt the only one sliding into the tackle and with chivas scuba team diving all night I find it hard that James Riley was actually hurt because he got back on the pitch not too much after that.

    • The Black Hand says:

      I liked seeing our manager charge out onto the pitch to defend his player. I have to say, I’m warming to the guy…a little.

      • Look this isn’t Hockey (and I love Hockey)He wasn’t supposed to be there, and he didn’t make the situation better. Should have been cooling people down not making things worse.

      • The Black Hand says:

        He did show that he will back his team up. For a guy who had been labeled as not caring about his players, (only himself), this was good to see. Garfan was surrounded by opposing players and getting thrown to the ground. Nowak came in to back his player and chastise a ref for allowing a melee to unfold. Against Chivas, Nowak’s actions did not “help” our club, but a team just might unite around a manager who is willing to lay it on the line for them. It showed to the team, and to the supporters, that the players are more than just pawns in his game.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        I can agree with this at all. Poor role modeling and poor anger management. It is the beautiful game.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        should read CAN’T not can

      • The Black Hand says:

        It happens. Managers lose their composure. I would rather see our’s lose it coming to the aid of a player, rather than pulling on opposing coach’s ear (Jose Moreno in the Classic).

      • DarthLos117 says:

        Ridiculous argument all around. First off, in engaging the melee, Nowak is encouraging a culture of aggression and dirty tactics. Secondly, its G. Farfan’s teammates responsibility to get his back on the field, not the coaches…and lastly, most importantly, it showed me that the team is frustrated globally from the player to the coaching staff.

  12. Andy Muenz says:

    Guzman rating is much too high. The number of cards he didn’t give the Goats was ridiculous. In addition to the dive, there were a couple of blatent off the ball shoves that were let go, both after the Garfan red and after the Valdes yellow (watch the replay and you’ll see one of the other Union players get pushed for no reason).

    As far as next week goes, if Bearfight is back, why not put Gaddis and Sheanomenon at outside back?

  13. Rigby and Pajoy are the two weakest links in the organIzation.

    Lopez may be a little better then we think, but San Jose is not the team to open up the experiment with again. Let’s wait until a nice Montreal/Toronto match for that.

    We are going to need the best four back available to start that game. You cannot sit Gaddis, Williams or Valdez at this point. Gotta use Danny or Albright if Danny is still not ready.

    Mid’s and Pajoy – with Keon out I think the the other starters (Pajoy, Adu, Marfan, Gomez) will remain. For Keon I see Kai for sure. MAYBE we see Mwanga for Pajoy, but I doubt it.

    I think we will pack it in and go for another 1-0 or even 0-0, but that is no revelation.

    • The Black Hand says:

      I think we should start Rigby, up top, for the San Jose match.

      • Rafa Marques says:

        If Rigby starts up top, can I play CB?

        After all, Shea Slainas never did anything to annoy me, but I had to listen to Rigby’s Chivas broadcast.

      • Hey Marques, maybe you can go up to the booth and “sweep the leg” of Rigby….someone has to get him out of there, may as well be you

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