Player ratings

Analysis & player ratings: DCU 3-1 Union

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Philadelphia Union’s 3-1 loss to D.C. United on Wednesday wasn’t as simple as the Union coming out flat and playing badly. There was a bit more to it.

Here’s what happens when D.C. United’s midfield gets healthy

Philadelphia’s poor play began with their stagnant midfield and eventually filtered down to their center backs and goalkeeper, whose key late mistakes led directly and immediately to United’s final two goals.

But as badly as D.C. United have played this season, this was a different D.C. team Wednesday night.

It starts with John Thorrington’s return from injury. D.C. has gone 2-1-2 in the five games (U.S. Open included) he has started this season and 1-9-1 without him. Slotted next to Perry Kitchen at the base of a 4-2-3-1, Thorrington and Kitchen clogged the middle and pressured the Union’s center midfielders out of the game in the first half.

Add to that forward Casey Townsend, who returned from loan with Richmond to play a solid two-way game. He added pressure up top and, combined with United’s midfielders, forced the Union defenders to pass the ball sooner than they would have liked, often opting for long balls when Keon Daniel failed to find the game.

Factor in left back Taylor Kemp, another Richmond loanee playing just his second United game Wednesday. His tight, aggressive marking took Sebastien Le Toux out of the game. He looks like a keeper.

Then there’s Daniel Woolard, who the scouting reports say is a good man marker but slow at left back. Apparently if you put him at center back, that subtracts the speed weakness. United have given up just one goal in their last two games, both of which he started.

Finally, there’s Dwayne De Rosario with the hat trick. He may have lost a step or two, but his finishing and instincts remain lethal.

Wednesday marked the first time all season that D.C. has started all five of Ben Olsen’s first choice midfielders: Chris Pontius, Nick DeLeon, Kitchen, Thorrington, and De Rosario as the CAM. Pontius left injured at halftime, but new signing Sainey Nyassi looked quick in his place. If United’s midfield can stay healthy and the back line maintains this form, they could be a decent team going forward, even without a top flight striker.

Keon Daniel sets the pace

Center attacking midfielders can set the pace for a team.

Union players and coaches talked about the team coming out flat, and you could argue much of that began with Keon Daniel. Kitchen and Thorrington simply took him out of the game. Daniel had to drop very deep to get the ball from his defenders to begin the attack. Eventually, he just stopped going to get it.

That left Union defenders trying to move the ball up field through Le Toux and Brian Carroll, neither of whom is a particularly good ball-handler in traffic. Kemp shut down Le Toux. Carroll found the ball, but he isn’t exactly a playmaker (although he did have one absolutely beautiful lofted long pass to Jack McInerney that McInerney one-time volleyed wide).

Out on the left, left back Ray Gaddis barely touched the ball when the Union pushed up. As a result, neither did left midfielder Michael Farfan. The same goes for the strikers.

This begins with United’s pressing and Daniel. Hackworth pulled him at halftime for a reason.

The CAM is supposed to be where an attack gets dangerous. But Daniel doesn’t attack. He slows the game down. Sometimes that’s a good thing, if you’re trying to kill a game off in the final minutes, but not when you want to create offense.

There’s no way that what Daniel put forward Wednesday can be better than even a bad Roger Torres performance. Torres is so far down the depth chart that he seems unlikely to get an extended run in a game situation under Hackworth again. That seems misguided, given his impressive preseason, what he has shown in the past that he can do, and how bad the Union midfield has been.

Hackworth is managing one of the league’s worst midfields. It lacks dynamism, vision and punch. There’s something to be said for consistency, particularly in the wake of Peter Nowak’s mad scientist lineups. But Nowak has been gone a year. And Daniel has had plenty of time to prove he is not a CAM. If Kleberson isn’t healthy or available, then Torres should get a shot. Sticking with this broken midfield any longer wastes the excellent striker corps, and that would simply be bad management from a man who isn’t a bad manager on the whole.

The bright side: Don Anding

Hackworth has gotten plenty of criticism over not acquiring a true left back during the off-season.

If Don Anding can actually defend, however, then all that criticism is wrong. And if he can’t, it might still be wrong.

Anding was that nasty Wednesday.

He entered the game at midfield in the 73rd minute after United coach Ben Olsen made the surprising decision to replace injured defender Ethan White with forward Lionard Pajoy. That put DeLeon, a midfielder, at right back. Hackworth saw the potential mismatch and inserted Anding.

DeLeon then proceeded to get absolutely owned.

Anding broke him down repeatedly on the wing. He showed a quick first step, speed toward the endline, and whip-like crosses into the center. He also assisted on the Union’s only goal.

Sure, you could say it was a mismatch because DeLeon isn’t a defender. But were you expecting that from a rookie in his first game with the Union? Neither was UNited. Left-footed Union players weren’t in the scouting report.

It’s not clear whether Anding will play left back or left midfield for the Union, as he’s played one role for Harrisburg and another for Philadelphia.

But Anding should be playing left somewhere, and it’s definitely not left out. Anding’s loan at Harrisburg should end immediately. He can play in MLS. And he should. Now.

Player ratings

Zac MacMath: 4

MacMath put Parke in a very bad position on the third goal when he sent a low driving pass that Parke didn’t perfectly control in the center of the park. It was a pass he never should have made while stationed so far from his own goal. Otherwise, he controlled his box fairly well, made the routine plays (and one very good sliding save on a breakaway), but failed to come up with most of the big saves the Union needed.

Sheanon Williams: 5

Decent game, but he could get never get forward in the attack with Kemp all over Le Toux.

Amobi Okugo: 4

Okugo’s one notable mistake turned out to be huge, as it led directly to United’s winning goal. Otherwise, an average performance.

Jeff Parke: 5

MacMath left him out to dry, but a better touch could have saved the situation. Otherwise, a fairly standard game, much like Okugo.

Ray Gaddis: 5

Gaddis showed some real one-on-one defensive chops against Nyassi in the second half. But he played little part in the attack.

Brian Carroll: 5

Carroll did as well as one could expect under the circumstances.

Sebastien Le Toux: 3

Played little part in the game and muffed a point blank chance off an Anding cross.

Keon Daniel: 2

See above. It’s almost unfair to Daniel to keep sending him out at CAM and expect different results. He’s not a bad player, but he often looks it in this role.

Michael Farfan: 3

Invisible in the first half. He marginally improved the Union’s attack after moving centrally after Daniel’s departure, but not by much.

Conor Casey: 4

Casey rarely saw the ball in the first half. In the second, he found space for some good chances, but each time, United’s defenders ran him down in time.

Jack McInerney: 6

You rarely saw him all game, and then he scored a goal. Typical.

Substitutes

Leo Fernandes: 4

Fernandes brought a little hop in his step — and his elbow. He injected some energy into the Union, but not enough.

Antoine Hoppenot: 4

Hoppenot also brought some energy, but he did little of consequence.

Don Anding: 8

See above. Excellent debut. If he can replicate it regularly, he could dramatically change the Union’s attack.

The Geiger Counter

Kevin Terry, Jr: 5

Around the 33rd minute, Casey Townsend literally took Amobi Okugo down to the ground with a shirt tug, a pull and a good bit more. Terry blew the play dead, led Townsend away like a small child, and very visibly scolded him.

Yeah, that’s what they have yellow cards for.

On the whole, Terry seemed all right though. When a United-Union game ends with 22 men on the field and no fights, the ref must have done something right.

Dan's suggested formation for the Union.

Dan’s suggested Union formation.

Suggested lineup vs. New York on June 23

4-1-3-2: Konopka, Williams, Okugo, Parke, Gaddis, Carroll, Le Toux, Farfan, Anding, Casey, McInerney

It’s time for Konopka to get a chance. It’s June. Nearly half the season is gone. MacMath is still making game-changing mistakes.

Le Toux can do everything Danny Cruz can do on the right side — and more.

Maybe Farfan can regain good form surrounded by decent attackers.

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