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Analysis & Player Ratings: Dynamo 3-1 Union

So, that’s about as bad as it gets.

With two weeks to scheme and prepare for Houston, the Union coaching staff somehow overlooked the likelihood that the Dynamo would come out like a team fighting for their playoff lives.

It is understandable that a team could get lost in the second or third match over a short period. It is a lot to ask of these players to put in 270 minutes over a seven or eight-day span. But to be completely overrun despite having two full weeks to focus on an opponent? That is unacceptable. While the players deserve plenty of blame for their lack of energy and abject performance, John Hackworth must shoulder plenty of the burden for his inability to instill an awareness among the players of the spirit and physicality in store for them from MLS’s most transparent team.

With Dominic Kinnear at the helm, Houston does a few things, and they do them well.

Whether it is their new look 4–3–3 or the 4–4–2 they showed against the Union (a minor shuffling of the same 11 players), the Dynamo will press high, foul hard, and look to win the ball through hard men Adam Moffat and Ricardo Clark. Will Bruin is the blunt instrument up top with Mac Kandji and Oscar Boniek Garcia both big, strong and willing to run at defenders from their respective flanks. Whether he is deployed centrally or on the left flank, Brad Davis provides the creativity, moving the ball with pace and delivering hooking, left-footed service with deadly accuracy. At the back, Boswell and Taylor look to hammer opposing strikers into the ground.

That is Houston. They play the same way every match. They are not hard to scheme against.

Give it to Jack

Five offsides seems like a lot for one match, but Jack McInerney saw the openings that his teammates did not. Houston’s high line made them extremely susceptible to the through ball on the deck or over the top, but Freddy Adu was simply too eager to keep the ball at his own feet rather than pick out his streaking teammate. McInerney’s angry gesticulation told the story. While he must learn to keep the cork in his bubbling annoyance and frustration, the passion he showed and effort he gave deserve praise.

Against New England, all five midfielders set about the task of feeding their lone striker. The delivery from Keon Daniel and Michael Farfan on either side of the pitch kept McInerney constantly working to fight his way into the position to score the Union’s opener. With Adu unable to pull the trigger, Cruz on his own little island, and Michael Farfan working to cover the rest of the midfield, the ball was never made available for McInerney, who nevertheless kept his feet moving, albeit in vain.

Move on, but do not forget

With a trip to table topping Sporting KC on Wednesday, the Union must move on.

But for Hackworth and his staff, there must be reward for the players who fought and a place on the bench—or in the stands—for those who did not.

The season is about winning the MLS Cup. That season is over.

All focus must be on creating an improved Philadelphia Union for 2013, and Hackworth has clearly endeavored to give minutes to players that are on the bubble. Some, like Keon Daniel against New England, have answered the bell (though he must still prove himself against quality opposition this final week). Others, namely the Union’s two most expensive players, Freddy Adu and Gabriel Gomez, have not. With two matches left to evaluate his players, make a statement to the league and prepare for what is undoubtedly another tumultuous offseason: neither of these players deserve to feature over the final 180 minutes of 2012. Their lack of effort and desire to help the Union become a better team is revealing, and for Hackworth to keep the team committed under his regime, he must hold all players to the same standard.

Chandler Hoffman has scored 5 goals in the last 3 reserve matches. Roger Torres has put in the work to make it back from a serious knee injury and shown well in reserve matches. Jimmy McLaughlin and Zach Pfeffer continue to improve with the reserves, lower division sides, and youth national teams. There was a point in 2012 where many saw playing these players as throwing away matches. Given the manner in which certain senior players seem to have given up this season, the opposite is now true.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 4

For the suddenly jittery MacMath, the chance to regroup in the offseason can’t come soon enough. Flapped badly at Davis’ cross and was let out of jail when Kandji ballooned his chance over the bar, before struggling with Boniek’s match-winner. Having gotten his entire palm to the ball, he needs to be able to push that shot around the post.

Ray Gaddis – 4.5

Did what he could to try and kickstart a stagnant offense, but the lack of outlets from Adu and Cruz limited his influence. Defensively, Gaddis was physically overmatched by the eager, in-form Kandji.

Amobi Okugo – 5.5

His typical, tidy self on the ball, Okugo could not do enough to make up for his struggling partner. Extremely active in his own box, it was an unusual reversal of trends, with the makeshift centerback having to cover for Valdes on numerous occasions.

Carlos Valdes – 2

Valdes’ display against Houston was poor enough to leave fans with concerns about his health. Not only was he badly exposed on three different occasions, (Kandji’s opener, Davis’ driving run before hitting the post, and the penalty conceded to Will Bruin) the Union skipper completed a pathetic 18 passes on the night in which he looked completely disinterested. Union supporters must hope this is a one-off, considering how heavily the side has relied on their central defense all year.

Sheanon Williams – 5.5

Wins extra credit for toughness as he essentially played his 64 minutes on one leg. Did extremely well to acknowledge Sarkodie’s defensive cushion, taking what was given as he hooked the ball into McInerney for the Union’s only goal. It is a sad state of affairs for Hackworth when a visibly injured Williams is still the Union’s best bet.

Michael Lahoud – 3

A shocking performance from the typically controlled Lahoud. Turned the ball over almost as easily as he was dispossessed. Completely unprepared for Houston’s high pressure and received little respite when he moved to left back to replace the injured Williams.

Brian Carroll – 2.5

Perhaps the doziest performance Carroll has turned in over the course of 2012, the Union’s most veteran player was overmatched in every facet of play. Never an offensive juggernaut, Carroll was below even his own meager par, completing 65 percent of a measly 29 passes. Defensively, Carroll was caught ball watching on multiple occasions, allowing Kandji, Davis and Boniek Garcia to ghost into the Union box unmarked.

Danny Cruz – 3

For all his hustle and bustle, Cruz’s lack of touch and reading of the game has become apparent. Not only was his touch made of granite, but he rarely made the run his teammates were expecting, whether it was Farfan, Gaddis or Adu trying to pick him out. Toughness is a laudable attribute in a soccer player, but Cruz did not look healthy for much of the match (in part do to some rough treatment during the contest). If he was not fit to play, he should never have been out there.

Freddy Adu – 2

Enough is enough. The Union cannot afford to keep running out Adu if he is not willing to give 100 percent effort to the cause. Never wanted the ball, despite playing in his preferred position in the center of midfield. It was no shock that once Houston revved up their physical game, Adu wanted no part of the affair, a fact strengthened by his paltry 18 passes attempted.

Michael Farfan – 6

Must be growing weary of seeing Adu and Gomez deployed in center midfield while he runs circles around them, playing both their position and his own. Did everything he could Saturday night to help his side, including, but not limited to, dropping into midfield to pick up the ball, running at defenders, spreading the ball, and looking to pick out through balls for McInerney and Cruz. Hackworth may be giving the others a chance to prove themselves before making personnel moves in the offseason, but it is clear that Farfan remains the Union’s best creative option. At this point in the season, it isn’t even a question.

Jack McInerney – 5.5

Took his goal extremely well as he slid into position quietly before cushioning a well-directed header past Tally Hall. Otherwise, McInerney’s performance seemed equal parts youthful exuberance and frustration. While more than half of his 5 offside calls were down to sluggish midfield distribution, McInerney must learn to either hold his runs or curl his lines in order to provide more time for the ball to be played.


Gabriel Gomez – 3

Slow, plodding and seemingly unaware that he was brought in to help inspire the Union to victory, Gomez’s continued selection is a mystery.

Antoine Hoppenot – 4

It was never going to be Hoppenot’s night with the Union midfield in such disarray. No amount of running up front can lead to goals when the ball simply isn’t getting forward.

Roger Torres – 5

It was bittersweet for Union fans to hear Arlo White speak so highly of Torres promise considering that the young Colombian has been completely buried under Hackworth. Unlike Gomez, Torres brought a spark to the match, aggressively driving play forward and looking to create.

Geiger Counter

Mark Geiger – 0

Bias, thy name is Geiger.

Geiger set about making sure Geiger was the focus of the match about Geiger. Rarely is a referee more visible than when Geiger takes center stage, and it is increasingly incomprehensible that he is regarded as one of MLS’s best.

He allowed Houston to physically pound the Union through tactics deemed unacceptable by every other official in the league—for example, his allowance of Bobby Boswell and Jermaine Taylor’s bulldozing through the back of any attacking player who had established position on a ball in the air.

In the end, Geiger wants to make the big call, and unfortunately for the Union, Valdes gave him the opportunity to dispense the kind of justice that would make sure that he was a post-game talking point. The fact that no other referee would have given that penalty does not excuse the Union captain for lunging in under the watchful eye of the spotlight-craving official.


Preferred Starting XI for Wednesday’s away match at Sporting KC


MacMath; Gaddis, Okugo, Valdes, Lahoud; McLaughlin, Carroll, M. Farfan, Daniel; Hoffman, McInerney


  1. James "4-3-3" Forever says:

    The continued selection of Lahoud is the worst part. He is what he is, and there is NO reason to continue to sit back with 2 DMids. Atleast with Adu you can look at the money issue as the reason he is still playing.
    But Lahoud? That disappoints me the most. This last month was a perfect chance to get the young guys a run out, and try some more adventure combinations without fear of losing. What do we do? Empty bucket with Mr. Mediocre.
    As for you preferred lineup, replace Lahoud with either Torres or Pfeffer. PLEASE. I’m not even sure HOW we go to playing two DMids so often, considering Carrol usually gets showered with praise for how well he can lock that position down.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      For the record. I have Lahoud at fullback in this lineup with the expectation that Sheanon and Garf will likely both be unavailable. Carroll holds by himself with Marfan at CAM.

    • You want Torres or Pfeffer to play right back? Because that’s where Lahoud is in the “preferred lineup” listed at the end of the article.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        listed Right to Left. Gaddis at RB. Lahoud at LB. dont know what you mean about Torres or Pfeffer.

      • note to self: refresh frequently…

        As for Torres or Pfeffer, it was in reply to James’ comment about playing either of those two in place of Lahoud. I just had right-to-left backwards. I blame it on my lefthandedness – I do everything backwards. 🙂

      • Ha! Timing is everything!

    • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

      Oh wow, didn’t even notice that. I just saw “Lahoud” in there and felt my blood pressure rise.

      • The Black Hand says:

        What Lahoud lacks in skill, (which is a lot), he makes up for (a little) with efforts. From what I have seen, we are a better club with Lahoud on the pitch. Thats not to say that we are a good club, with Lahoud out there. We lack quality in every position. It is hardly fair to single out Lahoud alone. We, might, have three players whose feet are not made of cinderblocks.

      • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

        He could be a very good sub if the midfield needed some calming down. But right now, we need to see what we have. Torres has a chance to be a great offensive threat. Let’s see what he can do BEFORE the games actually start to matter! Pfeffer has probably earned a run out – who knows, maybe he looks like he can offer us more than someone like Daniel.
        I just don’t know why Hackworth is playing like the results still matter.

      • I agree with the Lahoud statement, but I for 1 am looking forward to a Carroll/Okugo CDM partnership next year. (Assuming that guy we are paying close to DP cash next season starts. Gonzalez? No, Soumare!) The two CDM set up allows our fast and aggressive backs to push up to join the attack and are a big part of our defensive strength. The only way we don’t play 2 cdms next season is if Okugo is so good that Hackworth can play Le Toux and JacMac up top with Farfan Lucas and Farfan filling up the midfield. Wait, what? All joking aside, I’m optimistically giving it a 50/50. His contract is up, they need a big signing to boost support and he didn’t play well enough this season to merit Adu money (haha), but would still do well I’d bet.

  2. I really would not like to see Daniel on the pitch. I disagree with not starting Freddy since he is probably still here next year considering management has never said otherwise. But if you’re going with the unknowns and seeing what they can do, then Daniel cannot be on the pitch. He and Gomez are the slowest people on the team basically. I’d much rather put Marfan on the wing and let Roger take the CAM role and see what he can do with a start.

  3. Michael Farfan gets a 6. Wow, I would give him a 1. He brings nothing to the table, he is uncreative. Why does the media keep making him out to be better than he is. Marfan has had plenty of game time and continues to DO NOTHING. Watching him play is like taking Nyquil with a side of PBS. Enough already. We really should have used this time to give the kids some playing time but our idiot coach prefers to do the same thing and expecting a different result….. kinda like Andy Reid.

    • No, if Hackworth were like Andy Reid, the Union would win after the bye week.

    • You’re being a little over dramatic here about Marfan, he absolutely brings things to the table and is one of our more creative, aggressive players no doubt about it.

      That being said, on this site at least, he is VERY RARELY called out for not playing as well (ie Adu, Cruz, Gomez). Not that THOSE criticisms are incorrect at all necessarily, just that Marfan is rarely criticized, even though he has started and played full games, almost every game, and does not have too much to show for it results wise.

      BUT, Marfan is a large part of our future and we do need to put more around him.

    • While you do have a point about Marfan getting a pass every game – saying he brings nothing is going way too far the other way.

  4. Reading through the match report, I was struck by all the conversation regarding designated players. This got me to thinking about the Union’s next opponent, Sporting Kansas City.
    The table topping Sporks have ZERO DPs on their roster. Same goes for those darn Goonies in San Jose, who are shining up their newest piece of silverware. KC’s Robb Heineman recently talked about the reality of how difficult it is trying to attract a DP to Kansas City (wish I could find the exact quote). Sporting has opted to build their club through young, American talent. Sapong, Zusi, Besler, Bunbury, Myers and Sinovic make up the core of the SKC squad, with foreign players like Nielson, Collin, Espinosa and Kamara filling out a very talented squad.
    The Union have a squad loaded with young American players with boat loads of potential. The job of the front office is to augment the talent that is here with players that can help take this team to the next step, which is to again qualify for the MLS Cup Playoffs.
    The decisions to bring Gabe Gomez and Freddy Adu while parting with Seba LeToux, Danny Califf and Faryd Mondragon have set the club back. The three men that departed would run through a wall for this team, the same can’t be said for the high priced flops also known as Freddy Adu and Gabe Gomez. Whatever supposed talent these men possess is overshadowed by their continued lazy, gutless performances. The job of Hackworth, Vartughian and Sakiewicz is to resist going for the high risk, low reward route of adding a DP to complement our roster and instead uncover those hidden gems that will push every man on the roster to work harder.
    What all my mindless blathering has to do with the Houston match, who knows, but my rant is now over.

    • Getting rid of califf and mwanga were good ideas. Califf is too slow and mwanga needed a fresh place. Central defenders are fine. Getting rid of seba was idiotic. They have a chance to get him back. He has no future in new york.

    • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

      Great post on DPs and KC. Very good and I agree. THe idea of DP is flawed and does more to hurt or stagnant the league than help it.
      And KC DOES show us that youth can win – coupled with veterans.
      And if you want to look at it like that, it means we are only 2-3 good signing away from competing

      • DP’s aren’t something you need to win. You can pick up decent players that aren’t DPs, as SKC have shown. They do have that experience to help the young players that we don’t, and that may well be the only difference. The important thing is to always bring in players that will help the team.

        However, saying that DPs hurt the league more than help it is something i’d disagree with. While Beckham may not have played outstanding for his 4-5 years (or however long it’s been), he has helped the league grow. As has Henry, as will others hopefully. If only the bad DPs like Rafa Marquez can be ignored, DPs would be great.

      • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

        It’s not just those two. What about DC – with two DPs on the bench. Or the strikers in Portland/Vancouver where Jack has as many goals as they do?
        I probably went to far with saying they hurt the league – they don’t. But I do think too much focus is put on them. You are right about the goal is to bring in players that will help the team, period. It’s just that “Let’s get a DP!” becomes the main focus instead of that.
        And while the Beckhams may help – exactly who is the MLS targeting anyway with these big names? The average non-MLS watching American doesn’t like (or even respect) soccer regardless. Whereas the non-MLS watching soccer fan is too ingrained or sophisticated to become a MLS fan because some guy wants to retire here.

      • The Strikers at Portland/Vancouver haven’t had the playing time to get more goals than Jack, or haven’t been on a team that has been playing as well as the Union with Jack (in Portland’s case). I wouldn’t necessarily say they have struggled, although i don’t watch the games.

        Also – the big name DPs don’t just improve MLS opinion in the country. It improves the reputation all over the world too (or if MLS isn’t good quality hurts it). When foreigners are talking about coming to MLS – they will call their friend David, or Thierry and ask their opinion before moving. If they say it is good, then there’s more chance those big name foreigners will come over, and continue to enhance the league. MLS needs to continue to build it’s reputation both inside the US to get fans to go to games, as well as outside the US to get players to want to come here, and maybe eventually even not just to “retire” as has maybe started with guys like Keane and Cahill coming over, who would possibly still get a job in the EPL or Championship.

      • Jack has 8 G in 1450 M. Boyd has 7 in 1893. Miller has 2 in 750 (didn’t realize he played so little). (and if you really want to use stats, Jack G/90 = .5, Boyd = .33, Miller = .26)
        Anyway, I pretty much agree with you. Just pointing out the danger of the “We need a DP!” mindset. Those two teams aren’t paying their strikers millions to come up with excuses.

      • No one can guarantee success. Not Beckham or Henry. It takes a team. But for every failure you have a success. Whether its KC, LA or Seattle and look what Ferriera does for Dallas. They were stagnant for 13 games until he recovered from injury. The acquisition of an expensive player needs to be done carefully, and the Union needs to make sure, as best as possible, that he will fit in their system (if they have one).

  5. The Black Hand says:

    We need a real controlling midfielder, more height and presence up top and a goalkeeper. They are three areas that we HAVE to attend to, in order to have any real shot at competing. I don’t care if it comes from DP’s, RP’s, LP’s or any other P. As of now, with all of our youth, there is no real foundation to build upon. I fear that management may feel that the quality is already within our club.

  6. Trade or cut these players Adu, Gomez, Lopez and Bakary Soumare unhealthy aren’t worth the paycheck they’re receiving. Love the fact that Chris Albright is a part of the Union. But I also think that he should be looking at coaching aspect of the game now, mainly this guy has a lot of knowledge to pass on maybe with the Union. He could do it with either the Clubs Academy team or with the Reserve Squad. Over the postseason I would love for the Union to bring LeToux back his problem was with Peter not the Club. I yes I do think the Club can live without him but I still would like to have him back if there is a chance and at a decent cost for both club and him. Le Toux is not Henry and to be honest I don’t want an Henry or a Marquez the price they come with isn’t worth it and I’m not just talking $$$.
    The Union needed players like LeToux who ran his heart out every game in which he played for the UNION. Williams, Garfan, Marfan and McInerney all have shown the fans how much heart they have for this team. Yes there are times that Williams and Garfan fouls get the team in a spot. But they play hard and to win in almost every game I watched. Bring up the young players that are making their mark for the Reserves. Look at Sporting KC and San Jose’ two clubs with no DP look where they are at the Union need to be a team and work and play together not just one or two players that cost more than what they bring. Pay a decent salary to the players that have showed they are working and playing the hardest they can for this Club and ditch the one that are here for a paycheck only.

  7. Philly Cheese says:

    Hackworth can’t determine if the expensive DP striker for next year is good decision without giving Hoffman start to show ability with Jack Mac in true two finisher opportunity. When Hack keeps putting one forward up top and expects different results, he is missing real evaluation of scoring opportunities. I think 4-3-3 may be dead, but it often looks like 4-5-1. Cruz has not shown he can finish and shouldn’t be playing hurt, especially last two of year.

  8. James "4-3-3" Forever says:

    RE: All this Le Toux talk. Is he REALLY who we need? Is he really who you want?
    Not to step all over the guy, but he’s basically just a 28 year old French Danny Cruz who plays striker. (coincidentally, look at Cruz’s rating in this article).
    We’ve seen Le Toux’s terrible touch, we’ve seen him go cold for a whole half a season. Can we please aim higher? Worst of all he would be a automatic 90 minute guy (I don’t think he saw the bench his entire time here).
    I don’t want him at all. Please, let’s look to actually improve. For our future striker, I want a tall, smart, hard worker that actually has some soccer sense and technical ability. IE, let’s look somewhere in Europe.

    • Ha – i agree with that. LeToux isn’t the option. People look at him running non stop and think that’s great – he still needs to have ability, and LeToux has got progressively worse since his “amazing” 2010.

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