Player ratings

Analysis & Player Ratings: Union 1-4 Galaxy

Photo: Earl Gardner

For 45 minutes on Wednesday, Philadelphia Union could have convinced the casual observer that it was they, not the Los Angeles Galaxy, who owned the past two MLS Cups. With Kleberson running the show out of the midfield and Jack McInerney and Sebastien Le Toux dutifully chasing down anything that moved in the attacking half, the Galaxy found themselves in a much tighter match than they would have anticipated. Going into the halftime break, Union supporters could be forgiven for feeling a wave of optimism course through the stands at PPL Park, believing that they might have enough to take a win off the Galaxy for the second year running.

Obviously, the dream scenario failed to materialize, as LA turned on the quality and drove the Union back toward their own goal, where they stayed for much of the final 45. With just over 30 minutes remaining, John Hackworth still had three substitutions in his pocket and with them the chance to give his team a lift.

A most curious substitution
Figure A - Midfield Triangle

Figure A – Midfield Triangle

Hackworth’s substitution surprised many when he removed the hard-working Le Toux for Conor Casey and brought in Antoine Hoppenot for Danny Cruz. Unlike matches past against the minnows of the Eastern Conference, where the Union’s biggest concern was finishing off their many chances in front of goal, the Galaxy posed a different problem. Well organized in midfield and challenging the Union defensively at every opportunity, finishing was hardly as important, considering that they had long since stopped creating chances. Keeping the ball, maximizing defensive pressure and regaining a foothold in a match where they were still on level terms on the scoreboard, should all have been paramount, in Hackworth’s approach.

The obvious choice seemed to be the introduction of Michael Farfan for the largely ineffective Keon Daniel. An additional ball handler would allow the home side to not only maintain possession but also speed up their play. Further, it would allow the Union to retain their shape and keep 9 men (at least) behind the ball.

Instead, the changes predictably altered the Union’s shape when Hoppenot took up his place next to Casey and McInerney up top. While Hackworth was loath to admit that the double sub had triggered a formation shift (beginning at 5:27), the central triangle that resulted (Figure A) showed a compressed organization of Daniel, Kleberson and Carroll in midfield. Couple that with Hoppenot’s attacking stance (Figure B) and the Union’s shift of players from defense to attack had given the Galaxy the numeric advantage they needed to take over the match.

Figure B - Hoppenot Heat Map

Fig. B – Hoppenot Heat Map

Can’t knock the hustle

While Conor Casey has been in impressive form this season, he was poorly suited as a substitute against LA. The pressure applied by Le Toux and McInerney cannot be understated. In the first half, the Union owned an advantage in possession which was down, in large part, to the tireless efforts of their strikers. The dynamic duo created constant discomfort for LA’s back line as well as Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas.

Once Le Toux was sacrificed, his energy was not replaced in the forward line, and the Galaxy grew increasingly confident that they could not only pass out of the back but also move around Daniel and the tiring Kleberson in the center of midfield.

This performance may prove instructive for John Hackworth because it could serve as a blueprint for combating MLS’ elite teams in the future, particularly on the road. Especially considering that Kleberson looks set to become the full-time, creative playmaker the Union have lacked for so long, having an extra defensive workhorse in the front 6 could help to keep the high pressure and aggression going in all segments of the pitch.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 5

After suffering the most embarrassing possible start, MacMath responded well, turning in a string of fine saves. If he doesn’t win Save of the Week, he got robbed the same way he robbed Landon Donovan. However, he must raise his hand for the poor throw that destabilized his team on the third goal.

Sheanon Williams – 6 

Perhaps his best game of 2013, Williams attacked consistently and won the territorial battle over Todd Dunivant for most of the match. Mike Magee’s name was barely mentioned through the 90 minutes, thanks to Williams strong defensive display. He continues to surprise defenses with his throw-ins.

Amobi Okugo – 6

His patient, sliding header brought him into a second place tie on the Union’s scoring chart. Powerful and composed at the back, Okugo took on all comers and looks to have shaken off a few recent middling performances.

Bakary Soumare – 4

Would have had a 6 or 7 if the match ended at halftime, but his heavy-legged display in the second half cost him dearly. After closing down defenders and showing strong positional awareness, fatigue looked to catch up with him, and he played a big part in LA’s second and third goals. Hard to get too down on the big man considering he was playing his second match in 4 days after an 8-month injury layoff.

Ray Gaddis – 3

The Galaxy picked out Gaddis to target from the opening whistle, and with Keon Daniel a swinging gate in midfield, the converted right back was overrun by Donovan and A.J. DeLaGarza. Playing on an island with no midfield help and a tiring Soumare in the second half, Gaddis’ flank became LA’s preferred hunting ground.

Danny Cruz – 3

Aside from a solid driving run and shot wide just before he departed, Cruz had very little impact on the match. With LA nimbly knocking the ball around and Kleberson providing a level of sophistication rarely seen in a Union midfield, Cruz’s direct running up the right flank rarely figured in the run of play.

Brian Carroll – 5

After a strong first half in which he looked rejuvenated, Carroll returned to old habits as the Union tired. Sitting literally yards in front of the back line, Carroll couldn’t make a play on any Galaxy players before they could release their pass.

Kleberson – 7

The Union’s newest member immediately turned questions of “Why isn’t he playing?” to “Why hasn’t he been playing this whole time?” With a combination of touch, vision and attacking intent rarely seen by a player in a Union shirt, Kleberson not only spread the ball with aplomb, he also found himself in the right place at the right time with astonishing frequency. Ran out of gas in the late minutes, which is far more understandable than the decision to leave him in for 90 minutes on debut.

Keon Daniel – 1

If Saturday’s performance was poor, Wednesday night’s showing was perhaps even more disappointing. Restored to the left flank, Daniel lacked the desire to either defend or attack and spent the evening standing just inside the midfield stripe while Gaddis was bombarded by LA attackers. Daniel’s enormous dip in form was typified when he failed to muster a shot after McInerney set the table for him less than 10 yards from goal.

Jack McInerney – 5

Ran tirelessly up front with Le Toux and made himself available at every opportunity. His willingness to defend and work in the midfield continues to impress, though he needs to cut out the arm-waving and glaring when things don’t fall his way. With Kleberson pulling the strings, McInerney figures to have a lot more chances in the weeks to come.

Sebastien Le Toux – 5

His offensive effectiveness may have been lacking, but the high pressure he provided was critical. It came as no surprise that once he was taken off, the Union sat deeper and allowed LA to bring the ball across the center stripe with ease.

Substitutes

Antoine Hoppenot – 3

In a match that needed sharp, quick passing and hard-nosed defending through the midfield, Hoppenot’s inclusion took the Union in the wrong direction. With less numbers in midfield the Union’s strike force was stranded and Hoppenot could make no impact on the match.

Conor Casey – 4

Gave what he could up front, but with LA comfortably in the ascendancy, his chances were few and far between.

Michael Farfan – N/A

Came on after Jimenez had put the match to bed.

Gonz-a-meter

Ismail Elfath – 5

Kept play flowing for the most part, but allowed himself to be taken in too easily by the Galaxy’s constant protestations, swarming and time wasting.

Preferred Lineup for Saturday’s Match vs. Chicago

4-4-2
MacMath; Williams, Okugo, Parke, Gaddis; Cruz, Kleberson, Carroll, M. Farfan; Casey, McInerney

Expected Lineup for Saturday’s Match vs. Chicago

4-4-2
MacMath; Williams, Okugo, Parke, Gaddis; Cruz, Kleberson, Carroll, Daniel; Casey, McInerney

62 Comments

  1. yous are being generous with keon

    • The Black Hand says:

      Keon SHOULD HAVE played himself out of the starting XI, with that performance. He played that match like he hated Ray Gaddis.

      • Jim Presti says:

        If Daniel starts tomorrow, after a month of regressing form, I would be shocked.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Jim, prepare yourself!

      • Jim Presti says:

        no amount of Old Crow will help

      • I’m not sure if there’s any situation where I’d want Keon on the pitch. Maybe with less than 10 minutes left and the Union either up or down by more than 5 goals. Unless he’s holding out to join his brother, Farfan (no need for the “Marfan” anymore (snif)) should get Keon’s spot (i.e., Eli’s “preferred” lineup.) I’d really do anything to get someone to replace Cruz, as well. I’m thinking allocation money and a first-round pick in the “SuperDraft.”

  2. A. Stanford says:

    “With Kleberson pulling the strings…”

    Do you actually think Kleberson will see the pitch in the next 3 matches?

    • He should. common sense dictates it.

      It will be very telling if they don’t.

      • A. Stanford says:

        My point was not that he shouldn’t play, but that history dictates (with both Nowak and Hackworth) there will be inexplicable lineup decisions that defy common sense.

    • JediLos117 says:

      Absolutely. Kleberson is what we have been missing. Excellent vision, touch…fitness will return and make everyone in the midfield look better.
      .
      Jack may end up benefiting most from Kleb rounding into form. Gonna be fun to watch.

    • Maybe not Saturday since he just played 90 minutes and was looking dead. But if he isn’t starting over Keon after that than they should just fire Hackworth the next game. We’ve in one game everything we needed to help create a stable Midfield. Keon can come on in the 70th minute as his sub or something.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I like Keon as as 70-75th’ sub for Kleberson. Or…what’s that guys name? Ron…Richard…Roger…nah…

      • Jim Presti says:

        His name was Roger Torres. His name was Roger Torres. His name was Roger Torres.

      • The Black Hand says:

        The first rule about Roger Torres is: you never talk about Roger Torres.

      • Jeebus — I completely forgot about Roger Torres. My brain has been Hacked.

  3. Kenso Josh says:

    I think you’re generous with Soumare, and Kleb. Fitness hurt their showing. On the field, they didn’t do as well as you say (regardless of the coaching decision). And I’m on the Kleb wagon (thanks for taking us to chances!) but a seven is what he deserved if he scored one of the three crosses he ran on to, of if one of his nice passes was turned into an assist.
    -Soumare stood off his man the whole match. The first half Keane consistently was able to turn. Soumare did the same in Chi. This rating and comment about his fitness are a defense of the oft referenced idea that Okugo push up to CDM, and Soumare play CB, which now we must admit was a dumb idea. Soumare doesn’t look a little slow. He looks like a practice CB.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Kleb added a much needed facet to our midfield. Touch let him down a couple of times, but we definitely looked better than without him.
      Soumare was strong, throughout the first half. He ran out of gas, which could be expected due to his lack of match minutes. Almost every CB in the MLS would give themselves a couple extra yards, against Robbie Keane. He is just that good.

      • yup

      • Great One says:

        Keane and Donovan are all time NATIONAL greats, Soumare was playing his second game in 5 days after not playing for 8 months, can the guy have a little slack? Keon, Cruz, and Carrol couldn’t hang themselves jumping off the grand canyon with all the slack they’ve been given.

    • JediLos117 says:

      +1 to Kenso.
      .
      Think Eli is a lil kind to Kleb…Carroll and Soumare faded and were docked points but Kleb was immune to same.
      .
      Your on point about Soumare. Dunno why anyone would think giving your opponent space would be a good idea.

      • You don’t play tight on a man you know is faster than you. If you do so, you are just going to get beat quicker and put your team in a worse spot.

        .

        By backing off a couple steps it gives you more time to square him up and react. Even if you get beat this extra second of containment will help your teammates react to what is about to happen. This is how you deal with speed and a slower defender in all sports.

      • JediLos117 says:

        I get that but at what point do you “step up?”
        .
        There is a fine line between backing off a couple steps (and stepping up) to contain and offering too much space.
        .
        What I saw against Chicago and LA was offering too much space and not enough contain…rewatch LA’s 2nd and 3rd, call it fatigue if your the excuse making type.

      • The Black Hand says:

        After LA’s second, it appeared that our entire back line, minus Carroll, was told to play attacking midfield.

  4. Can we get a John Hackworth rating? He is driving this team right into the ground. He trades away a player who can actually play the 3 positions which are the weakest on the field (not attacking trade, just stating a point), and continues to trot underperforming players out there while he subs out or benches players who are playing well and contributing. There is NO WAY Le Toux should’ve been taken off that field when he was last night, given that Daniel was awful, Cruz was struggling and Kleberson was making his debut start. Marfan shouldve been brought on for Cruz or Daniel and parked in the middle of the field, and if you still want more offense Casey can come on for the other and Le Toux can move to the wing. Very disappointed in Hackworth’s weekly and in-game decisions and I almost can’t fault the players entirely as they are not put in the best position to win.
    Preferred lineup:
    MacMath
    Williams – Okugo – Parke – Gaddis
    Carroll
    Marfan – Kleberson – Le Toux
    Casey – McInerney

    • Jim Presti says:

      The Garfan trade was an offer the Union really couldn’t refuse. He is a mediocre player at best.

      • The Right Lineup says:

        We said the same thing about the Harvey deal. And three years later our best LB is a very talented RB who can’t play on the left.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Very true! I like it…if we had different management.
        That deal was a nail in the coffin for this campaign, I’m afraid. He was the only left side reinforcement that we had. But, yes…he was an average MLS player.

      • Mediocre was the best we had on the left side. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have made the trade, just that losing Garfan is going to give us major problems on the left side of the field. Those problems were exposed in Game #1 without him.

      • Jim Presti says:

        I think there is a bigger loss in the MF without him. I guess the my main point was that Hack decided day 1 that Gaddis is our starting LB. That wasn’t changing with or without Garfan on the club roster. So shipping out a player who, though had a decent showing, was not going to get quality minutes for an extra first round draft pick [I’m betting it’ll be within the first 3] plus some cash wasn’t a difficult choice. Any other club would’ve done the same.

  5. Andy Muenz says:

    I think that by the end of the first half, LA was already starting to seize momentum. Even before the goal that was called back for offsides, I remember wondering whether we could hold onto the tie until the break.

    Here’s my lasting image of Keon for this game. Sometime around the 30-35 minute mark, Keon had the ball just past midfield with some time before being pressured. Jack was about 10-15 yards forward just dancing along the offsides mark waiting for Keon to send him on a run. Instead, Keon made some weak attempt to do who knows what and turned the ball over. I don’t think it was on the TV broadcast, but Jack ran over to Keon and just lit into him. It was also shortly after that when the momentum started to change.

    • Southside Johnny says:

      Probably bad behavior, but how many times has Daniels ignored/missed Jack in good spots this year? I was actually wanting to go out and help him make his point.

      • The Black Hand says:

        He is reluctant to advance play. Always playing the safe dump off, a la Brian Carroll. The fact that they are both on the pitch is killing our linkage to the attacking third.

  6. Southside Johnny says:

    The Casey sub was stupid and risky. End of game frenzy against their beastly backs with short war-up was asking for injury. Isn’t there some way to save Gaddis from becoming completely demoralized? Didn’t Williams play LB some last year?

  7. Gk: Konopka
    D: Williams, soumare, parke, anding
    M: Okugo
    M: Marfan(r), torres (l)
    M: Kleberson
    F: Jack, casey

    • Gk: Konopka
      D: Williams, soumare, parke, anding
      M: Okugo
      M: Gaddis(r), torres (l)
      M: Kleberson
      F: Jack, casey

      • A LM at LB? a RB at RM? A CAM at LM? Peter Nowak, is that you?

      • Southside Johnny says:

        I could go either wa, Me. Anding can’t be worse. Gaddis deserves the start over Farfan and looks solid on the right although Torres, Kleberson and Farfan could be dynamic. I think Konopka is much more reliable even with his short clearances at times. Never gonna happen tho.

      • frankswild says:

        I actually don’t mind this lineup one bit except I would not have Konopka over MacMath. I think MacMath is starting to hit his stride

      • frankswild says:

        Also Farfan over Gaddis

  8. I know it was mentioned and I recognize that he had moments. I also know he is young.

    All that being said, I was disappointed with Jack’s sulking. I agreed with him getting on Keon and I agreed with some of the frustration. But on 2 occasions he found himself offsides when we were on the attack because he was acting like a child.

    It will be a learning experience but it was disappointing nontheless. He is better then that, I am sure he knows it too. If he is to be the face of the Union, and in due time he will be, possibly by the end of this season, then that crap needs to stop.

    • The Black Hand says:

      He is still very immature, in a lot of ways. He needs to stay grounded and focus on not becoming complacent with his play.

    • Strikers are have to be ridiculously confident, and that commonly manifests as swagger. It’s necessary, but too much and it can be their undoing. But Jack doesn’t seem anywhere near “don’t you know who I am?” Nicklas Bendtner-land.

    • George H says:

      Meh, Jack’s a striker and that’s what the good ones do. They complain when the ball doesn’t get played how they want it to be. Keane does the same thing all of the time.

      Watch any good striker (aside from someone like McBride) and they will all give the impression that they’re prima donnas having a hissy fit. Teammates understand that and will put up with it because good strikers do the most difficult thing in the game…score goals.

    • Southside Johnny says:

      Actually, I’m pretty sure Jack wanted to slap the snot out of Keon even more than I did and, if so, I think he acted with fair degree of restraint. Most us are frustrated with the midfield and we don’t need them to give us a chance to do our jobs. The forwards have been putting up with this crap all season just as we have only our careers aren’t affected by their piss-poor play. But, I agree, he is better than that and he has been better than that this whole season and I’m sure he will be again.

  9. Sadly, you no longer really need to put the “M.” in front of Farfan in your preferred lineup…

  10. Great One says:

    Some of the players on the team are flourishing and growing, some are stagnating and getting worse. I don’t know if the options behind them are better or worse, but I do know right now these guys aren’t cutting it.
    .
    Cruz, Daniel, Carroll and Gaddis are the clear cut weak links on this team. We need to remove them (obviously maybe not all the same game) and see if other players do a better job.

    • At least in the last 2 games Cruz has been subbed out around the 60th minute. He is a one dimensional, one trick pony that teams have figured out. He will continue to prove a non factor and Hack will be forced to end the love affair. Daniel on the other hand is an engima. Hack’s biggest mistake is thinking his is one of the most skilled players on the team and will leave him in hell or high water. That love affair must end as well (and i’ve been a fan of Keon’s in the past but clearly he is struggling). With Carroll, you’ll have to cut his arm of to remove the captains band and get him out of the game.

    • Well now we don’t really have an option to remove Gaddis. He is our only option unless we want to throw Anding into the fire. Daniel should be out of the starting Lineup though.

  11. Much for too harsh on Gaddis here, and I still don’t understand why Williams gets a pass from the fans. His service from the run of play is very lacking.
    Gaddis did pretty well to shut down Donovan on the flank. Only time LD did well is when he pulled inside in front of Soumare.
    Soumare was the one targeted as the weak link…
    The problem is that Carroll is not a communicator and neither is Soumare. Okugo is too new to the position and obviously Hack doesn’t seem to really have a grasp on tactics on either side of the ball. How he let’s them come out playing that wide open in the second half is mind boggling.

  12. When is MacMath going to take some of the blame? For every one great save he makes, he makes 10 stupid decisions. I don’t even think he is an average goalie. He gets saved by his teammates most of the game. I think it is time for a change it net!!!!!!

    • Southside Johnny says:

      Agreed. He still plays like a rookie…a talented rookie not ready for prime time.

      • I don’t even see impressive talent. His movement isn’t the most athletic when he dives, so it’s not like Hamid or Johnson. Zach Steffen who’s 18 with the Juniors is already more talented than he is. He has raw talent. McMath has raw mediocrity.

  13. Opponents’ game plan is fairly simple…attack Gaddis. Without Mondragon or Valdez, there’s no leadership in the back.

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