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.

29 Comments

  1. Albert Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If that’s true, then Hackworth could be considered to be insane.
    .
    Seems like Okugo and Parke had similar games, and both their mistakes lead to goals, so why different ratings? I’m just picking nits here.

    • Basically, Parke’s error wasn’t entirely his fault. As simple as that. You could rate Okugo a 5, and I wouldn’t argue with that. (Maybe my 4 is too hard on him.) He didn’t have a bad game. He had a bad moment.

    • I absolutely hate that quote. People use that quote for every coach in every sport. Is Hackworth insane for guiding a semi-talented team to a semi-successful record this season? Whoever said that we were looking for a different result? I noticed Keon looked pretty good against Columbus. Maybe Hackworth was expecting the same result as that game. What’s the message he sends if he keeps starting Keon when he plays poorly but then benches him after a good game?

      And why the hell do we have to listen to something just because someone smart said it about something unrelated to the subject? I’m sure there are a ton of things Einstein said that didn’t make any sense. He was an outstanding physicist, not a philosopher. He was probably talking about one of his science experiments, not soccer tactics.

      • Come back in a month and we’ll talk about how well Hacks persistence is paying off…

    • Whats really hilarious about using that quote when talking about Philly this season is that the exact problem we have is that we have been doing the same thing every game and we get different results all the time

  2. Great One says:

    This article is really an explanation of the season. Our midfield, and more specifically Keon Daniel (and a smaller part Marfan) are just horrendous, and they kill the strikers in the attack as well as hanging the defenders out to dry. However, a lot of this is on Hack for not trying anything different.

    • The Black Hand says:

      How is Farfan a smaller part? Keon has severely outplayed him. Farfan has regressed terribly from the mediocre player he was. Yes, he showed potential, at one point, but that potential has never even been remotely fulfilled. Any of the infinite excuses, made for Farfan, could be applied to Keon.

      • Southside Johnny says:

        Maybe not “severely outplayed him” except for parts of some games, but, I basically agree.

      • I would say Keon is more of an issue just because he has logged more minutes than Farfan.

      • Yeah, Farfan has been relatively poor and his access to playing time reflects that whereas the same cannot be said about Daniel

  3. Southside Johnny says:

    Good analysis and ratings although I thought Fernandez showed more than a 4. I am liking what I see from him more all the time. He seems over his initial tentativeness, more willing to challenge physically each time and seems a little quicker than I thought. Promising, I think, but maybe I’m just sick of watching the same old crap midfield play. To beat that dead horse some more, I was disappointed with Casey’s game, too, but I am inclined to forgive a lot forward and back when the midfield “sucks so much”. I take back any positive comments made in weak moments regarding Klingon. Zac needs the bench for sure. If we are granted that wish, I hope Konopka will wear the big boy pants that Zac isn’t ready for by filling the leadership void in the back.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      You know, Ed Farnsworth said the same thing. Fernandez could have been higher and I wouldn’t object. Sometimes, as an observer, you simply don’t see everyone as well as you would like because you’re following another part of the game. He was one of those guys.

    • I agree about Leo. He was clearly nervous his first time on the field, but once he got over that he’s really shown some skill. I was a bit worried that he was showing skill again OC that wouldn’t translate into MLS. But he looked OK Wednesday, at least to me. I’d like to see him get a bit more league action. He can’t be worse than Daniel or Cruz or Farfan at this point.

  4. The Black Hand says:

    Dan, I commend you for the efforts put forth to bring these ratings. It’s too bad that the club didn’t put in anywhere near the same effort on Wed.

    They were collectively awful. There is no excuse for being outplayed by DC, to the extent that they were. Nobody showed well.
    .
    Anding looked strong, but you have to take into account that he had fresh legs and was keying on a tired defender, who is not a defender. That said, he did show promise. The rest of the midfield are not worth commenting on.
    .
    The forwards were forced to try and collect long-ball after long-ball, rendering them ineffective. They were out of sync when they did have opportunity in the DC third. Frustration-a-plenty for the attackers.
    .
    The back line was hung out to dry…again. The mistakes, that they did make, were costly ones. DeRo is a very good player and will take you to task, almost every time.
    .
    MacMath…was in goal.
    .
    Now for John Hackworth. Hackworth’s selection was devoid of creation and responsibility. His use of the same group, over and over and over and over…is going to wear down players. Whats worse; is that, aside from our front 3 (LeToux is essentially the third), there appears to be no chemistry developing. How is this even possible, for a group that plays together so often???
    HACK’s tactical adjustments were unable to be seen by the naked eye, except for Anding’s assignment. Bringing Leo Fernandez in at the half and shifting Marfan to CAM was worthless. Hoppenot’s sub was routine and provided little change. Hop and Torres should have been in the XI, with Casey and Daniel as subs. It seems to me that Roger Torres is nothing more than a season ticket holder, with very good seats. His constant omission, coupled with terrible midfield play, is enough to deem Hack’s management as suspect.
    .
    I apologize for the rant…

    • John Ling says:

      “MacMath…was in goal.”
      .
      Part of the problem Wednesday was that MacMath wasn’t in goal for the third goal; he was out wandering around on the right flank…

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Don’t apologize. You’re good. 🙂

      You’re obviously right, re: Anding. Had he been going against a true right back and done all that, I might have rated him a 9.

      re: the Fernandez substitution, I’m not so down on it. It should have been either that move or Torres for Daniel. I think it should have been Torres.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Lets hope that Anding can become ‘that guy’ for us. I think you might be overvaluing a very small sample size.
        .
        The sub needed to happen, yes, but opting for Fernandez over Torres was the wrong move. We needed some creation out of the middle and Farfan’s poorly played stretch passes weren’t going to cut it. It was just one of the, seemingly infinite, mismanagements from Hackworth. The timing of the substitution was right but the rest of it was wrong.

  5. Jaap Stam says:

    Everybody gets healthy against our Union. Offensive drought? Come to PPL and we’ll get you back on track. Alarming how poorly we play against the bad teams like DC and Toronto- not to mention minor league squads. We play down to the level of our opponents every time. It’s embarrassing!
    .
    Don Anding was certainly a breath of fresh air! He’s got speed and can thread crosses effectively (tired opposition, or not) from the LEFT SIDE OF THE PITCH!!!!!!!! Does Hack really watch film? If so, we should see more of this kid.

    • Jaap Stam says:

      No, Coach Hack must NOT be watching game film because if he was there is no way he would keep running Keon Daniel out there every single game.
      .

      At least with ‘Teacher’s Pet’ Cruz you can see ‘some’ benefits. But with Neon Keon there is no way to justify his spot based on film, or stats. I’m guessing Coach Hack believes Keon Daniel is growing into the roll of CAM and is gaining valuable experience there. By next season he’ll truly be ready to effectively run our offense……um…..yikes!

      • The Black Hand says:

        Keon has had his moments but, I agree, he has not had the form to warrant so many minutes. The trouble is; If Kleberson’s injury persists, we have no one to man the attacking middle. Hackworth will never roll Torres out there. It will be Farfan and he will do what he does…nothing. Hey, we had that Columbus game and they can’t take that away from us.

  6. I am officially done with Macmath. I have never seen a goalie lose games more for his team. Macmath makes me think back to the good old days of seitz! And that’s a ridiculous thought! A good manager knows when to bench his “pet, star, project, whatever” when they’re not performing. (Fergie not starting Rooney against Real Madrid). It should be noted that letting your goalie lose games means your losing money! Maybe thats the only way to get through to management. It’s painfully obvious hackworth should be coaching a youth team.

    • The Black Hand says:

      The trouble with the MacMath situation is, we have no other real option. Konopka is very green. That’s not to say he isn’t a good keeper, just that his inexperience makes the decision to ride MacMath easier. A veteran should have been brought in as insurance. MadMath has gotten better but, in reality, he is still pretty bad. Not sure how he snuck into the All-Star ballot.

  7. John Ling says:

    Folks here will be happy to know Keon Daniel has been called up to the T&T national team for the Gold Cup. He leaves after the game against the Energy Drinks.

  8. Hackworth is probably having anxiety over “losing” Keon! On a side note Macmath > Tahiti goalkeeper!!!!!

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