Player ratings

Analysis & player ratings: Union 1-0 Fire

Photo: Paul Rudderow

If only Philadelphia Union could play Chicago every week.

Six points from two matches has given them a major boost as they seek cement themselves as a fixture in the Eastern Conference’s top half.

Do like Le Toux

For 60 minutes Wednesday, the Union gave the LA Galaxy all they could handle before folding in the final half hour. Then Sebastien Le Toux left the game, and the Union lost much of their energetic spark.

On Saturday, Le Toux was back in the starting lineup doing what he does best. While he will never be the most technically savvy forward on the pitch, Le Toux’s ceaseless movement and boundless energy leave opposing defenders exhausted, nervous, and prone to errors as they look to move the ball too quickly, lest they be charged down by the buzzing Union forward. Le Toux’s defensive contributions are a model for the Union to follow.

On Saturday night, his teammates did just that. The Union back 5 all did the extra work on the second go-around with Chicago to ensure their marks had little room to breathe. With Chicago lacking a consistent playmaker in midfield, the additional pressure neutralized Chris Rolfe and, thanks to Soumare’s aggressive, physical challenges on Patrick Nyarko, kept the Ghanaian from being the same player he was a week earlier.

Now that the Union possess a striker capable of stealing points and a midfield that may be rounding into some sort of form with Kleberson at the CAM, the most recent clean sheet held by the defense is good news. There will certainly be better competition coming down the road, and the Union need only look ahead to their weekend trip to Montreal to find it. But, regardless of what center back pairing takes the field against Montreal, the high pressing approach they showed against Chicago can be a sustainable solution.

With speed to burn from Williams and Gaddis on the wing, they can afford to step higher on the pitch, not only as attacking wing backs, but as defenders, jumping into the passing lanes and making early challenges before their opponent can turn and take off at full pace. And after watching Soumare fall off his mark inside his own box against LA, Union fans and coaches will have certainly applauded the big defender on Saturday when he arrived to put a body on Nyarko more than 40 yards from his own goal. All three of the Union’s center backs have the smarts and talent to win many of those challenges, but considering how far they occur from goal, committing a foul and sending a message is hardly a problem either as the Union continue to reestablish their defensive toughness and grit.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 5

Again showed his chops as a talented shot stopper, but MacMath’s weakness in the air continues to concern. He flapped at an early corner and often allows himself to be bowled over. Whether the referee blows the whistle is immaterial. MacMath must defend his goal and body with more aggression in the air.

Sheanon Williams – 6

Paired with Michael Farfan on the right flank, Williams was active and aggressive in a manner that Union fans have not seen enough of. Were it not for his silly foul on Sherjill MacDonald, he could have shared the highest plaudits with his fellow defenders. MacDonald entered the match with two goals and proceeded to throw elbows and try to draw a penalty. Were it not for a smart decision from Allen Chapman, Williams would have allowed him to achieve both in one play.

Amobi Okugo – 7

Quietly threw a blanket over Chris Rolfe and kept him from figuring in the match. After only a week playing alongside Soumare, the pair have built a chemistry that is hard to ignore. His improvement in the air, especially in the attack, makes him a player who must be man-marked at all times.

Baky Soumare – 7

Likely running on fumes from the start, Soumare played the dangerous game of pressing high on Patrick Nyarko and won big. His early, robust challenges knocked the Ghanaian off his stride, and while he remained the focal point of the Fire attack, Nyarko’s performance was lacking the venom it possessed last weekend in Chicago. Only one week removed from his shaky season debut, Soumare looked every bit the polished defender he was in Chicago.

Ray Gaddis – 7

Joined Soumare in playing a high line and made a habit of making a play on the ball before Dilly Duka or Nyarko could get their first touch. As the match came down the stretch, Gaddis only got stronger as he stepped higher, won more tackles and turned defense into attack quickly.

Michael Farfan – 5

Busy on the ball up and down the Union’s right flank, Farfan tucked inside enough to allow Williams plenty of chances to bomb forward. Looked at ease back on his preferred wing, but continued to lack the cutting edge to drive directly at goal or hit a crisp, final ball into the box. With Kleberson settling into the side and assuming the primary playmaking role as the Union build through midfield, Farfan must devote himself to getting in on the attack and either getting on the score sheet for himself or setting the table for others.

Kleberson – 5

Struggled to find his place in a match where Chicago threw two defensive midfielders at him. Remained sharp and quick on the ball, but was unable to replicate his incisive passing from midweek. Based on the past two matches, it is hard to imagine anyone wrestling the CAM spot away from him.

Brian Carroll – 7

Carroll was as dominant as he’s been in recent memory. The Union captain flourished as a lone defensive midfielder sitting behind Kleberson. He kept the ball on the deck and fed all the right people as he pushed forward and ate up all the ground the defensively minded Fire gave him.

Danny Cruz – 5

As with most of his typical performances, Cruz, now playing on the left flank, earns praise for his hard-nosed runs up field but loses points for his chronic lack of participation in midfield. McInerney, Le Toux, Farfan, Carroll and Kleberson completed 33, 31, 43, 35 and 31 passes, respectively. Cruz connected on 12. He was dispossessed 48 percent of the time he touched the ball. He simply must stop treating his every touch in midfield as a layoff before sprinting off goalwards. His tenacity remains unparalleled, as Wells Thompson found out, but the rest of his game needs improvement.

Jack McInerney – 7

After scoring a relatively simple goal in the 3rd minute, McInerney did everything else he could think of to help his team. He worked wide on both flanks to help the Union maintain possession, while threading the needle on a handful of dangerous through balls. He finished the match buzzing around center midfield ensuring that Chicago could not get a touch. Once he sorts out his shot from distance, McInerney could become even more lethal.

Sebastien Le Toux – 6

Another Chicago match, another inch-perfect assist from Sebastien Le Toux. As the first half ended, Le Toux nearly had a second from the opposite side as Okugo’s header flashed over the bar. Pairing his improved delivery with his much-discussed tireless work ethic, Le Toux should result in more minutes for the Union’s talismanic forward.

Substitutes

Keon Daniel – 3

Entering the game for the injured Cruz, Daniel failed to produce the robust performance the Union needed to help hold on to possession and see out the victory. He was ponderously slow on the ball and lacked sharpness with his passes.

Conor Casey – 6

Fully committed from the moment he stepped on the pitch, Casey charged around like he had been let off his leash. Eager to receive, distribute, and throw his body into tackles, he led by example in showing his teammates how to see out a win before flattening Nyarko for good measure.

Leo Fernandes – N/A 

Came on in stoppage to run around and see out the victory. With the Union roster perilously thin in midfield, Fernandes’ debut on Saturday could be the first of many appearances in 2013.

Gonz-a-Meter

Allen Chapman – 7

With his calm, composed demeanor, Chapman may begin to earn a reputation as the Anti-Geiger, Anti-Gonzalez or Anti-Salazar. For MLS fans, that can only be a good thing.

Preferred/Expected Starting XI for Saturday’s trip to Montreal

4-4-2

MacMath, Williams, Okugo, Parke, Gaddis; Farfan, Carroll, Kleberson, Cruz; Casey, McInerney

It’s the same. Imagine that! Assuming Cruz’s injury is not severe, the Union should make only one change, with Jeff Parke giving Soumare a much deserved weekend off.

 

39 Comments

  1. Now that Kleb and Soumare have showed how good they really are we can try the 4-3-3 again! That way both these players will be on the field.
    Williams – Soumare – Parke – Gaddis
    Kleberson – Carrol – Okugo
    Le Toux – Casey – Jack

  2. I know these ratings are largely arbitrary, but Baky gets an 8 from me because he really felt like the best player on the field for the Union on Saturday night.

    • I half expected Soumare to get Man of the Match on Saturday. He really seemed to take charge of the back-line, and it looks like his timing is back. And yet … I don’t know that I want him out there next week. Those sliding toe-pokes in the penalty area combined with Montreal’s, uh, ‘Italian’ style of play just give me a bad feeling.

    • JediLos117 says:

      +1 Soumare was excellent. Was everything I said he wasnt and I thought the chemistry with Okugo was phenomenal.
      .
      i kinda feel these ratings are a point too harsh with Soumare, Okugo, Le Toux and especially Jack…dude went above and beyond.

      • I’m all for giving players great ratings, but considering it was a 1-0 win over a bad team at home and one where we never found a second goal even with 10 men, let’s not start handing out six-figure bonuses to everyone.

  3. Hackworth made comments after the match that it’s not his job to listen to the fans and his job is to put the best players on the field.

    IF (and that’s a big if) Soumare, Parke, and Okugo ever find the pitch at the same time AS THE FANS HAVE BEEN SAYING, do you think it puts a bigger spotlight on his decisions with Torres?

    • By his standards then does he agree that he has failed most of the season to do his job. Managers shouldn’t listen to the fans but they shouldn’t have to. They should be smart enough to recognize who is the best XI and play them.

    • I always felt that as much as fans complained about coaches they knew, deep in their heart, that they couldn’t do the coaches job. But with Hackworth you knew quite get the sense, in putting together starting line-ups ar least, That you couldn’t do a better job.

  4. I agree with the ratings with two exceptions. I would rate keon lower as in my opinion he added nothing except a warm body to the field and I would give soumare an 8 as well. He looked a different player and showed his ability to control and area of space.
    I think brian carroll is benefiting greatly from klebberson and williams benefited greatly from not having to cover for cruz. I believe the fact that cruz and le toux stretched the left side of the field also helped gaddis greatly. Finally hack has a line-up that seemed to work all be it against chicago but one that inspired hope.
    this means we are back to the old one next game right just to prove we don’t know what we are talking about.

  5. WilkersonMcLaser says:

    Why does Le Toux get a 6 and make POW? 7 seems fair. Also, we’re getting spoiled with JackMac if he’s getting stuck at 7 with yet another game winning goal.

  6. This wasn’t the most exciting game I’ve seen at PPL Park, but the result and performance overall are very exciting. For the first time this season I feel confident that this team can get the positive results their performance deserves. If Le Toux continues to build on his good form and Kleberson finds his feet at the CAM position it looks like we can actually start to create offense for 90 minutes. The team’s inability to control the center of the field is still concerning, but it looks as if they are headed in the right direction. The next 7 games, 5 of which are against playoff-caliber teams will show what this team is really made of.

  7. Southside Johnny says:

    Nice job as usual. I won’t quibble on the ratings although I wouldn’t mind 8’s for Seba and Jack and I want to see Parke and Soumare together soon.

    • I dunno if you will see Parke and Saumare out there. Yes they will be a technically better back line. But they will be sloooooooow and I think that would make Hackworth a bit gun shy.

      • WilkersonMcLaser says:

        Agreed. Just as having two DCMs doesn’t necessarily make your defense better, two big defenders won’t necessarily be the optimal centerback pairing. I like Parke, but Soumare was better on Saturday than he’s been most of the season. Okugo’s been the most consistent CB we have.

      • I like okugo with either parke or soumare although I would say that soumare improved dramatically from last game to this. He and parke may not be fast but I think could hold their own if okugo goes on USMNT duty. I say we rotate soumare and parke paired with okugo at cb. This allows them to get game fitness and also keep them healthy which will be paramount to sustaining a good center over the season.
        This same kind of rotation with letoux and casey will help keep casey healthy and fit.

      • Wait this doesn’t mean I would personally try the pairing if it meant moving Okugo to the midfield.

        I’m for giving it a shot but it might be too much for John “runsfastworkshard” Hackworth

    • Don’t forget that Okugo has become a major weapon on corners (which designation, for this team, also includes advanced Sheannon Williams throw-ins). He’s scored two already this year, and has connected on several more that went just high or wide. For that reason alone he needs to be in the XI.

  8. Andy Muenz says:

    I would ding Casey a bit for taking a silly yellow that puts him one game away from suspension.

    Also, I seem to recall a chance that Farfan could have taken the ball to the corner in stoppage time but instead elected to play it in the middle where Johnson was able to get it and send it back downfield toward the wrong end.

  9. Great One says:

    I think Carroll deserves the weekend off instead of Soumare. I’ve been killing him this year (deservedly so), but he really played great Saturday. However idk if anyone else at the game noticed a few times late after he made a (great) play they had him up on the video board and he looked like he was about to pass out. He’s obviously in great shape, but he’s an older player. Also, if Okugo actually leaves for the gold cup then I’d rather have seen if Parke and Soumare can play together ahead of time.
    .
    Also, I thought Farfan (have to keep holding off from writing Marfan) played better than I’ve seen him play in a while. He has that great ability to keep the ball almost attached to him. But you’re right he just can’t seem to figure out that last “near goal” component.
    .
    Cruz… Come on, everyone loves hustle, but come on. ALL he does is run, that’s it. Give someone else a chance, I’d love to see Torres, but anyone. (Except Keon) (PS if only we still had a guy who was a LM)
    .
    Lastly, Daniel should not get above a 1. What did he do, at all? He was parked too close to Gaddis, and 4 of his 5 touches when he came in went to the other team. I’ve never liked him, but at least he’s been serviceable before. He offers nothing right now.
    .
    Jack… He’s the man, getting better every game. Lets go the U!

    • Steve l. says:

      I have to say, I think Cruz looked his best all season(maybe its just Stockholm syndrome). I wouldn’t play Okugo at mid next game, but I think the Toronto game would be a good game to try it, give Baky a rest this week, then Carroll a rest next were Okugo could play CDM against a weaker team. Your point about Garfan( I refuse) has been my point, we MAY have got a good deal for him but we need him and don’t have a good replacement at the moment, so it makes it a bad deal in my eyes.

  10. McMohansky says:

    My god, can we relax on the incessant Keon bashing? Dude was on the field for like 25′ and he did his job- hold down the fort. He’s simply not a technical nor creative player. I will accept he has looked ‘off’ a lot this year- but eveyone else on the team seems to get a pass when played out of position. He’s not a CAM, but has been asked to play it while Kleb adjusts and gets fit. Marfan’s play has been much more disappointing than Keon’s this year- based on their respective abilities. Keon also never gets credit for his corners (best on the team).

    I know its hard to keep killing the coach for moronic lineups and boring 1-0 victories (4-3 would be so much more fun, right?) Obviously Torres should be starting and obviously Garfan is the best left midfielder the Union ever had. So if we can’t bash Hack we have to keep bashing Keon.

    Seems like a bunch of you got tired of Ryan Howard hating on other sites and have come on here to make Keon your new whipping boy.

    • Great One says:

      Can’t we rip Hackworth AND Keon?

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Well said, re: Keon. He completed 16 of 20 passes and helped kill the game. He did what was asked. No, he hadn’t played well of late, but he was fine Saturday.

      • Jim Presti says:

        Keon had a defensive play rating of -2 but a possession rating of 6, fourth best out of the MF players [behind Carroll with 16, Kleberson 15, Farfan 9]. 6th overall.

      • So he was better than Cruz in the midfield and better than a few defenders and forwards overall. I personally am not bashing Keon and have been extremely critical given his potential, of Marfan but IMHO Keon has not been effective this year and has played neary every position in the midfield. He has even played deeper than Carroll a few times. Also I don’t know that Keon is better than le toux on corners or free kicks. How many assists on set plays does he have compared to the more limited minutes of le toux if we are using stats to rate players. Fact is I am not sure that Keon is a better sub than hoppenot or Torres in this situation.
        It’s not his fault he is playing so when I mention he was ineffective this is more a criticism of hack week in and out than Keon.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Keon’s only value, at the moment, is as a sub. I think that he is talented, but his lack of vision is inhibiting an already inhibited midfield. He takes too much time deciding what to do with the ball and almost always goes with the safe (completely benign) play, leaving our attack lacking. Cruz is a better option at LM.

      • Jim Presti says:

        As far as set pieces go, Le Toux has two [out of four] assits from dead balls. Keon has has zero [out of one]. That said in my opinion I think Daniel gives better service into the box, though Le Toux has improved remarkably. But a better indicator of service from dead balls would be how often the connect with a teammate. Another player can still put it wide or an opposing keeper can make a save. In both of those situations the service would not result in an assist, but it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t an excellent take. Unfortunately, I don’t have that tracked at the moment, but I could look through.

    • McMohansky says:

      Sarcasm there in the second paragraph btw!

  11. Jim Presti says:

    Williams’ play vastly improved with Faran out wide right. Swapping Cruz and Farfan maybe a simple but effective way to improve the MF.
    .
    Decent game, but the Union are really going to need solid play against better teams. Montreal will be a great benchmark.
    .
    My only negative thought after leaving PPL was that Le Toux looks almost hesitant or not confident in himself in the air. Anyone else noticing this or maybe it’just me? Seems like he doesn’t want to maintain his space against any defender.

    • Great One says:

      I did notice that, but I don’t remember him ever really being killer in the air. Love the guys attitude.

      • Jim Presti says:

        Agreed. He never was. What I was really getting at was that it seems like recently he’s be almost afraid. Like the lsat few games. He isn’t a short guy, so when Farfan, Hoppenot, and Cruz are more confident going up with bigger guys, you kind of wonder what’s his thinking. just thoughts. No complaints from me on Le Toux. This month he leads the Union in Off. Productivity.

      • Southside Johnny says:

        This could be understatement of the year. I like the guy and he has decent skills on both sides of the ball, but I can’t remember him ever winning a 50-50 in the air. Can you? I think he both cannot jump and is contact-shy in the air. But, hey, nobody is perfect.

  12. McMohansky says:

    Sarcasm there in the second paragraph btw!

  13. Ivor Driver says:

    Soumare was the man of the match. He completely negated Nyarko and MacDonald.

  14. The Black Hand says:

    Good job with the ratings, Eli.
    Back line looked solid.
    Midfield looked…better. (Carroll)
    LeToux’s play showed that we have a little bit of depth, to work with up top.
    It was nice to see us follow up a demoralizing loss with a much needed home victory.

  15. Jaap Stam says:

    Soumare looked great. DO NOT TRADE THAT DUDE!

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