Player ratings

Analysis & player ratings: Union 1-1 Crew

The Union will certainly take the point on the road, but after giving away points for the second straight week in the final 20 minutes of a match, players and fans alike can be forgiven for giving in to feelings of frustration.

While Hackworth made three changes to the side that lost in New York last weekend, it was the Columbus manager, Robert Warzycha who did the most to get the best out of the Union.

A bottle of Dom Perignon and a Thank You note

On opening day of the 2013 season, Sporting Kansas City reminded MLS that there was a simple way to stop the Union: Sit your defense back deep, and cluster your players in the center of the pitch. Unable to maintain possession, Philadelphia would ultimately give up on their ball possession game, resorting to hopeful long balls or toothless one-on-one runs. Once the game was played entirely in front of their backline, Sporting had little trouble seeing off what little offensive creativity the Union could muster.

With all of that film available for only a small subscription fee, Warzycha might have taken the time to review some old tape on the Union. Based on his team’s showing from the past weekend, he did not. Getting the game plan completely backwards is especially confusing, considering that Columbus is ideally suited to stop the Union.

Each member of the Crew’s backline is 6-2 or taller. Irrespective of Conor Casey’s ability to throw his weight around, Columbus’ main defensive objective should always have been to keep Jack McInerney, and to a lesser extent Gabriel Farfan and Danny Cruz, in front of them. It was a simple task, yet it was one in which they failed spectacularly. Rather than sit back where they could rely on their impressive height and physical superiority, Columbus pressed high, challenging the much smaller Union players to a test of pace and agility, one that they would surely lose.

Keon confusion

Vacillating wildly between the appearance of an elite playmaker and an overmatched thug, Keon Daniel remains perhaps the biggest mystery for the Union outside of Roger Torres. Given the chance to work out of his preferred slot in the center of midfield, Daniel began the game with the confidence and composure of a player ready to take command of the attack. Yet for all the smart, early touches, Daniel soon found himself forgetting his role.

Over-dribbling when a simple pass would have been the right option and fouling rather than defending when dispossessed, Daniel’s Jekyll and Hyde showing again failed to offer further clarity on the trajectory of his developing game and to a larger extent, the future of the Union midfield for the current season.

Tactically as well, Daniel wore down with each passing minute in the second half, sitting deeper and deeper when his side attacked, until Brian Carroll could frequently be seen passing the Trinidadian when he pressed high into midfield. Were the Union operating out of a 4-2-3-1, Daniel’s performance would have fit the bill as Carroll’s partner, but given the current iteration of the Union’s four-man midfield, Daniel must be more. The top man in the midfield diamond must challenge the backline, while forcing the opposing midfield to keep constant tabs on him. With McInerney’s probing runs always available, that player must be on the their toes, driving play forward, offering a constant challenge for his opponent.

Keon Daniel is not lazy. He is not sluggish. He is not any of the sloth-like adjectives that are occasionally affixed to his name. Daniel’s 90 minutes of hustle, specifically on the defensive end against Federico Higuain, prove that point with ease. Yet, he is not what the Union need at the CAM slot in 2013. There is a place in starting XI for him — that much is clear after five games — but for the two-plus years Daniel has donned a navy kit for the Union, he has yet to prove that he can shoulder the burden of leading the Union attack from the center of the pitch.

A five man solution

With Federico Higuain chief among the Union’s pregame concerns, it seemed apparent that blanketing the Argentine was critical to slowing down Columbus. While Dominic Oduro was always going to offer more of a direct threat, Jeff Parke and Amobi Okugo exerted far more energy in the early going to leaning on Higuain, depriving him of space and time on the ball in and around the box. Needing the ball to make an impact, Higuain quickly abandoned his high positioning, retreating into the midfield to get his touches. That is where he encountered not only Carroll but also Daniel. With Carroll patrolling the center of the defensive midfield as usual, Daniel’s added presence served to annoy, harass and otherwise hassle Higuain to the point where his normal effect on the Crew attack was limited.

But again, it must be said that the fifth, and perhaps most important, man in this scheme was Warzycha, who deployed two woefully inadequate center midfield options. Between the defensive mind of Augustin Viana and obsolete thuggery of Danny O’Rourke, neither player offered sufficient creativity to move the ball forward with any consistency, placing an enormous burden on Eddie Gaven and Ben Speas out wide, while the Union battered Higuain in the middle.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 5

At some point, MacMath must make a big save to keep his team in a match, or even win. His confidence appears to be growing as he showed no hesitation charging off his line to take the ball off Dominic Oduro’s feet, yet when the important shot finally came, MacMath was found wanting. Guessing cross rather than holding his ground, MacMath fell away, rather than standing tall to protect his near post. Top keepers simply do not do that.

Sheanon Williams – 5

Kept a close eye on Ben Speas as well as Gaven when he tried his luck on the other flank. Stretched his legs a few times as he took flight up field, which will have been a welcome sight for Union fans concerned about his slow start in 2013. More will still be required before Williams is deemed back to his best, but Saturday’s showing was a step in the right direction.

Amobi Okugo – 4

Endured one of his worst nights since transitioning to centerback as he seemed a step off all afternoon. The usually sure-footed Okugo twice put his team under duress when he sliced attempted clearances back to the Crew. Normally a team leader when it comes to quick, smart passing, Okugo took to the punt far too quickly against Columbus, pounding balls up field unproductively in a very uncharacteristic fashion.

Jeff Parke – 5

On a day when the Union again conceded the battle for possession, Parke had precious few touches on the ball, yet managed to get about a great deal of defensive work, throwing his body around for the cause. Will have to raise his hand for the an ill-advised step up that allowed Oduro to blow past him in the build-up to the goal.

Ray Gaddis – 3

The conversion of Ray Gaddis remains a work in progress as the young fullback again failed to impress on Saturday, though he again faced an excellent opponent in Eddie Gaven. Having Gabe Farfan to provide cover certainly helped things, but Gaddis continues to struggle to balance his defensive duties with his attempts to get forward. With Farfan looking convincing both in possession and covering his defensive duties, Hackworth might have to take another look at the former incumbent left back, for the good of his team.

Danny Cruz – 3

Outside of his two barnstorming first half runs, the first to set up McInerney’s goal, the second teeing up Casey’s best chance, Cruz was a liability both offensively and defensively. While Cruz’s poor touch has been his most obvious deficiency over the first five games of 2013, his positioning may be worse, with the Union winger only getting on the ball enough to complete one pass every five and a half minutes against the Crew.

Brian Carroll – 5

Carroll was strangely at his offensive and possessional best, while playing one of his least effective defensive matches. Joining Daniel in the center of midfield, it would have been assumed prematch that Carroll would sit deep and Daniel would press forward, yet that is not how things played out with Daniel staying flat and sometimes sitting behind his captain. Moved the ball quickly and should have had an assist when he released McInerney late in the match. Seemed to lose defensive steam in the final half hour, falling off a handful of tackles and struggling to cope with Columbus’s building pressure.

Keon Daniel – 6

His most influential game in quite sometime, Daniel seems best suited to a deep seated playmaker role rather than the CAM position he filled on Saturday. Smart and quick with his decision-making in the middle third of the park, those wits consistently desert him in the final third. His energy and commitment to defense showed a side of Daniel’s game that had previously been missing.

Gabriel Farfan – 5

Solid if unsensational on his return from injury. Comfortable and precise on the ball, Farfan offered a sorely needed outlet option on the left flank, while diligently supporting Gaddis at the back. While he is not to blame for Oduro’s equalizer, he will be kicking himself for losing out in a 50-50 challenge in the build-up. That said, Farfan’s comfort and quality on the ball will make him hard not to select in the future, whether at left midfield or left fullback.

Conor Casey – 5

Looked to have turned back the years in the first half with a gritty, industrious performance that even included a little bit of flare. The only player not to actually touch the ball in the build up to the Union’s lone goal, Casey’s dummy through to Cruz was the moment that made the play. He will rue his miss minutes later, as he will undoubtedly understand the importance of grabbing an insurance goal and further forcing his opposition to chase the game. Casey ran out of gas quickly in the second half, but showed that once he rediscovers full match fitness he will be a force with which to be reckoned.

Jack McInerney – 6

His goal may have been one of the simpler efforts he’s ever converted in his career, but McInerney turned in a strong performance in the other elements that make up a striker’s game. Worked hard to make himself available in the midfield, spreading the ball well once he had received, especially on the through ball with which he sent Cruz off to the races before Casey’s eventual miss. With each passing match, McInerney shows more and more that he is developing into a forward that can put in a complete 90 minute shift. While the confidence to attempt a first time chip over Gruenebaum is laudable, the execution was cringe-worthy, though confidence is harder to instill than chipping technique.


Sebastien Le Toux – 5

Le Toux’s first ever appearance off the substitute’s bench for the Union could have ended in glory had he been able to bury Hoppenot’s cutback, but he was too slow in releasing his shot, allowing the defense to scramble back to block. Given Casey’s strong play and comfortable connection with McInerney, Le Toux might have to wait a while for his next start.

Michael Lahoud – 5

Largely unremarkable out on the right wing, Lahoud did factor prominently in the build-up to Hoppenot’s drive of the crossbar. When being used to kill off a game, Lahoud should be deployed centrally where he can play his game of disrupting defense and quick passing. As a wide player his responsibilities change to stretching the field and holding the ball, two things at which he does not excel.

Antoine Hoppenot – 7

Yet another excellent substitute performance proved that Hoppenot made the most off his offseason. Whether it was his blistering shot that took a highlight reel save from Gruenebaum to tip onto the post or the manner in which the ball stayed glued to his feet as he fought through challenges, Hoppenot seems intent to prove that he is more than a one-year wonder.

Geiger Counter

Matthew Foerster – 7

Outside of allowing Columbus to scream obscenities in his face without producing a caution, there was little to criticize about Foerster’s display. Waved off a questionable penalty shout from Gaven and an embarrassing dive from Arrieta. Would be nice to see a side other than the Union get sanctioned for taking a soft tumble in the box, especially when it was as blatant as Arrieta’s. All said though, Foerster called a good game, allowing play to keep moving while keeping himself out of the spotlight.

Moreno Monitor

Alejandro Moreno – 9

When first announced, Moreno was a good get for the Union. After Saturday’s performance he can officially be upgraded to great. An experienced combatant in both MLS and international competition, Moreno is a rapidly ascending talent in the field of American soccer broadcasting and adds much needed objectivity and insight into the Union’s broadcast. His sharp tactical assessments were spot on and, unlike his predecessor, he did not let any of his personal connections to the players on the pitch get in the way of offering criticism when it was due. Add in his not-so-subtle admission of guilt as a former serial diver, and he will have certainly endeared himself to the Union faithful with his candor. The only thing keeping him from a perfect score for the weekend is the fact that there is little likelihood of him breaking the trend of remaining the Union’s color analyst for only one season.

Preferred starting XI for Saturday’s match vs Toronto FC


MacMath; Williams, Okugo, Parke, G. Farfan; M. Farfan, Carroll, Torres, Daniel; Casey, McInerney



  1. Wow, that pic says it all. It’s a shame because MacMath actually played well up until that point.

    3 is a little harsh for Gaddis given that he defended Gaven very well and Columbus likes to come down that right side with Gaven & Williams.

    Hoppenot continues to impress every week. While he’s great off the bench, I can’t help, but wonder what it would be like if he started in Cruz’s spot.

  2. Maybe Keon could be deployed as a holding mid instead of Carrol. It would sacrifice defense but add a little to distribution and offense. Think Kyle Beckerman with less talent.

    Williams — Parke — Okugo — Gaddis

    • The Black Hand says:

      A much as I would love to see another body in the defensive center, Keon is far too erratic defensively. Now Kleberson (remember that guy) would be a different story. I wouldn’t mind a look at Daniel and Kleb in the middle. They could overlap. Would give us some skilled playmaking out of the middle. Kleberson would be able to step in offensively, when Keon falls too deep. Anyone know what the deal is with Kleberson, anyway? Still too cold?

  3. Couldn’t agree more about your comments on Danny Cruz. I was fortunate enough to be one of the few in attendance for the Union, it was unbearably painful to watch Cruz make a mess of the midfield. He’s a great athlete, and a good guy, but zero coordination with the ball. Keon Daniel was really the star of the game, and it was pleasant to hear the surrounding fans admiring Le Toux. Funniest moment was when a few of the Crew fans started making jokes about Jack Mac always being offsides, calling him blind and young, then him scoring a few minutes later. Overall good game to watch, really made me appreciate the SoB, and PPL Park!

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Yeah I am happy that Cruz was given a 3. Other than the sitter he gave Mac, it really was a terrible performance. I would really not like to see him in the starting 11 next week.

    • Seeing both Cruz and Pajoy struggle and yet continue to start, is comical. What a trade.
      At least Cruz doesn’t break our hearts by squandering chances. He’s essentially a non-factor from the start.

  4. I wouldn’t worry about Keon in central midfield, as the team just signed another guy who’ll likely be there very soon. I thought Keon Daniels and Brian Carroll were too close to one another too often. The player ratings, as usual, seem very accurate to me. Danny Cruz laid off a nice, soft pass on his assist, and was otherwise shit; I’d rather see Sebastien starting in his position. It looked to me like Columbus preferred to attack from their right flank, at least early, and generally were thwarted by the Union. Some credit must go to Gaddis and Garfan.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Every central midfielder, that has been deployed, has ended up playing too close to Carroll. Could it be that they have to drop back, in order to aid Carroll’s defense of the middle and help advance play? Nah…of course not!

  5. Daniel and Cruz are and have been a weak link — exacerbated by Carroll’s inability to help maintain possession. Here’s hoping some combination of Marfan, Le Toux, and Kleberson takes those spots. Daniel seems to have had more opportunities than anyone else to get it right. He hasn’t. Garfan also seems to hesitate far too much. But he deserves more time to grow into a midfield role.

    • I really have to disagree, while the article points out his inconsistency, if you watch the game he makes the most creative and intelligent passes in the midfield and is composed under pressure. I think he should have the left midfield locked up with Garfan overlapping out of defense. Get Kleberson/Torres in attacking midfield and let Marfan/LeToux/Hoppenot compete for that right wing spot.

      • The Black Hand says:

        This was not the first time that Keon was our best offensive player, on the pitch. Tough, tough crowd for Mr. Daniel.

      • He occupied a pretty important spot. Yet the productive plays came from Danny Cruz, of all people. This was actually one of his better games. But we’ve been waiting for Keon for a long time. Where I disagree with the article is that I don’t think he should have a starting spot. He can earn it back, but the midfield has been the weak link for too long.

  6. I agree with most of the analysis except for JacMac’s attempt at a lob. It was a horrible attempt and in my opinion it is a simple play, touch it around the keeper and put it in the net. A chip over the keeper, especially with the weaker foot is just too much of a low percentage attempt. I think someone else deserves a sub rather than Lahoud, one too many times subbed in where he does not make a huge impact.

    Macmath, simple, near post first, then cross not the other way around.

    Also I am quite disappointed with only 1 point out of that game, sure it was on the road but that should not really matter. The amount of chances the U had to finish the game off were incredibly high and they just could not do it…does that mean the Crew were horrible defensively or are the U starting to find the offensive rhythm?

  7. Kenso Josh says:

    I cussed Cruz out on that cross that he skyed early- but I think we should know that Hack likes these players, those who get in their hacks worth. Cruz, and to a lesser extent Lahoud, are physical, hard running players, in the lower half of technical ability for MLS.

    At the same time, everybody hammering for change, is forgetting that change was one thing that made us angry last year. Right now, the squad has been pretty similar through the year, with the same back five, and some variation at mid and forward, but mostly due to injury. He’s loyal to his guys, and we shouldn’t expect a lot of change. Next week, same line up.

    • You make a valid point about last season, but I think the change that made people upset was why things were being changed, and how they went about it. Taking Cruz out – which at this point would be an improvement, most likely – should be seen as a positive change to improve on field performance, not a personality-based attack or whatever other crap went on last year. Change to get 3 points is welcome, change because a player spoke at practice is not.

    • The Black Hand says:

      A bad manager being loyal to bad players is never good. Although, I don’t hate Michael Lahoud.

  8. Is it just me or has MacMath never been the same GK since his concussion?

    • i said this to my buddy last year. I think he needs some time with the sports psychologist. He seems better than last year but there are still times he appears to shrink from the ball instead of standing tall.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      No, he hasn’t. Good observation.

  9. This is really radical, and clearly Hackworth would NEVER do use this, but if everyone did their job and understood their role I could see this being effective:
    Williams – Parke – Okugo
    Carroll – Daniel
    Marfan – Kleberson – Garfan
    Jack – Casey

    With Kleberson being a box-to-box to midfielder, the middle of the pitch would be his to control. Carroll and Daniel would be responsible for filling in the space behind the Farfans, and Jack would swing over to cover space left in front of them if need be. Casey would act to hold the ball up, and Kleberson would be the distributor/creator/playmaker we so desperately need.
    This formation would limit Williams’ ability to go forward, but with Daniel and Carroll capable of filling in he could still go on the occasional run up the wing.

    Ultimately we would need to control the possession much more than we do now for this to work, but this allows, in my opinion, the Best 11 players we have on the field at the same time. No one would be in a position they’re not familiar with, and there would be enough bodies to cover where space would be without having to travel very far. Daniel could support Carroll as removed playmaker while at the same time opening up space for Kleberson.

    • Yes, if Hackworth wanted to play 3-5-2, he would have used Soumare with Parke & Okugo. But I thought 3-5-2 formations had outside midfielders that could fall back if needed? Your 3-5-2 is almost all middle with not enough wide players.

      • Good points. With an Okugo-Parke-Soumare back 3 you could move Williams to outside mid opposite Garfan and they could provide the cover needed. The only reason I didn’t include Soumare is because if you keep both him and Williams on the field you have to sacrifice an offensive player, most likely Marfan in this case, and I personally didn’t want to do that.

  10. Kleberson has to be a go this week, no? He’s not injured, he’s not nearly as fat as Casey, so he must be playing, amirite? I think he’ll take Keon Daniel’s place in the lineup we saw against Columbus. I’m hoping that Keon will be moved out to Cruz’s position.

  11. Eli, thanks for including Moreno in the ratings. As you point out, I think he’s been a huge improvement over Rigby and probably even a step above Twellman and DeMartino. I do have one question for you, though. Do you have a specific reason for not including Kleberson in next week’s starting 11?

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      I think the Union are at their best in a 4-4-2 right now. Brian Carroll is an automatic pick. Kleberson is not a CAM and it would be an enormous ask to expect him to change his game and lead the attack on his first runout of the Union. If he is included as the second CM alongside Carroll I do not believe the Union will have enough creativity and attacking prowess through the middle of the pitch and the forwards will again be starved of service.

      • What if he dropped Casey back into a removed forward role to help connect the CMs and Jack? Still a 4-2-2 but that provides a connection.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Jack is more likely to be the player to do that in my opinion, allowing Casey to stay locked in Mortal Kombat with Uncle Elbows. Jack has recently shown some proficiency at dropping into the midfield and turning his body to distribute. I’d still prefer an out and out CAM.

      • I agree on both points. I just really wanna see Kleberson out there to see what he can do, but the only person I’m willing to sacrifice at the moment would be Cruz, and Marfan could logically slot into that role. It seems the “depth” we have is a lot of players who play the same positions.

    • Not to be negative but do people actually think that Taylor Twellman is good? I mean he is brave to make conclusive statements, but is arrogance and treatment of Adrian is ridiculous. He is blatantly the less experienced broadcaster and arguably the less brilliant soccer mind and yet he ridicules his partner on the regular. I mute him in favor silence.

  12. scottymac says:

    I would knock the refs rating since he didnt give Sheanon a straight red on the tackle from behind. We got lucky there that an inexperienced ref didnt make that call.

  13. I would for just once like to see caution thrown to the wind and see a front five of Casey, mcinerney, marfan, kleberson, torres. Invisioning the US version of the Chelsea Midfield of hazard, mata, and oscar. with themarfan, kleberson, torres combo.

    • I would not be surprised to see those five players together at some point this season. Probably not at kickoff.

  14. Not much to rail against in this week’s player ratings, all seem pretty fair and accurate. Just please, for the love of God Hack, bench Danny Cruz. You didn’t give up much for him, and no one is going to be sad if he just fades away…

    • But without Cruz in he lineup we won’t have anyone to knock our own players to the ground during a scoring opportunity. Clearly that was a play that Hack had drawn up on the training pitch.

    • And if you like Cruz’s form, Coach Hack, he’s gone down with a head injury in four of the first five games. For his own safety, I think he needs to sit.

  15. I think a 3 for gaddis is a little low and a 5 for parke may be too high and i feel mack at a 6 is definitely too high. made one a 10 year old could have buried but did nothing worthy of top score for a starter. really was any starter for either team worthy of more than a 5. A game of sloppy play and missed chances. When will we see torres. no one is really creating for this team.

  16. Why would MacMath leave the goal area and then guess that a cross is coming? You left the area because you are expecting a shot. Even if there is a cross, you are in no position to save the shot off the cross because you left the area. So why fall towards the right, it does nothing. Terrible.

  17. I thought this was Cruz’s best game, but it was more a product of poor defense on Columbus’ part than actual skill from Cruz. I’d much rather see Marfan, Le Toux, or even Hoppenot in his place at RM.
    Casey was encouraging, and put in a good shift…but that miss…wow. This team isn’t good enough to squander easy chances. Unfortunately, it’s been happening way too often this year.
    Overall, good result, and encouraging play from the team. Still not good enough, but a win vs. Toronto could go a long way in terms of building momentum.

  18. What if Casey’s shot goes in? Or JacMac finishes his golden chance in 2nd half? If the U had gotten 3pts away in stadium they had never won would these ratings be higher?

    • The writers are human. I think the same performance would get different scores in a W vs. a D, vs. an L, but you can’t do the experiment with real matches.

    • The Black Hand says:

      The ratings seem to be rather fair. Average numbers for an average performing club.

  19. I do agree with all of the ideas you have offered for your post.
    They’re really convincing and will certainly work.

    Still, the posts are very short for beginners.
    May just you please extend them a little from next time?
    Thank you for the post.

Leave a Reply

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