Player ratings

Analysis & Player Ratings: Union 3-0 Red Bulls

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

Confident.

Aggressive.

Dominant.

While the 2013 Union have had moments when each of the above adjectives have been fitting, it was not until Sunday’s match against New York that they actually strung together an entire performance worthy of all three. From front to back, players not only responsibly handled their own play but also helped their teammates create space, identify mismatches and snuff out attacks against a Red Bulls side that wilted under the pressure before quitting entirely.

Midfield Triangle of Destruction

Conor Casey may have claimed the headlines, but against any team featuring Thierry Henry, securing a tight, organized defensive shape is priority No. 1. Between Brian Carroll, Amobi Okugo and Jeff Parke, that job was done neatly and forcefully. With both Juninho and Tim Cahill out of the lineup, Mike Petke was forced to slide Eric Alexander into the center of the park. Where Juninho succeeds in sitting deep to avoid pressure and Cahill barrels through would be defenders, Alexander found himself in no man’s land. Standing too close to Carroll to find space or the ball, the Union skipper neutralized any threat of Alexander turning his head up field to set the table for Henry or Peguy Luyindula.

But given the manner in which Okugo and Parke were holding a high line, it didn’t appear that it would have mattered if he had. Constantly pointing out open players for each other, their fullbacks and midfielders, the center back pairing implored the Union to play higher and higher. This not only frustrated the Red Bulls attack, but it also deprived Henry of that ever so dangerous moment when he turns and runs at goal from 35 to 40 yards out, save for the one moment when he skipped passed Carroll only to dive in the box.

One-sided attack

With each passing match, Sebastien Le Toux has raised his play at right midfield to the point where he has become an automatic selection. Coming into the season, concerns about how Hackworth would field McInerney, Le Toux and Casey together grew from the fact that, in order to score goals, all three players needed to play in an advanced attacking role. While that remains true, Le Toux has shown his versatility by leaving the goal-scoring duties to others in favor of becoming a full-time provider.

Though he will only be credited with one assist from Sunday’s match, Le Toux had a hand in all three goals. Never a player to dazzle with his intricate touch or precise passing combinations, the Frenchman is at his best with the ball in front of him, allowing for a minimal amount of touches before a shot or cross. Hackworth deserves credit for playing Le Toux on the right flank for the Union, finding him the space where he can be a non-stop attacking threat, while also showing off his unrelenting hustle on both sides of the ball.

On the opposite flank, Danny Cruz has endeavored to play in a similar manner, but unlike Le Toux, he still lacks the guile and vision to create separation and find his teammates in the area. When Michael Farfan entered the match against New York, he, like his teammates, identified Le Toux’s mismatch against perennial MLS punching bag Roy Miller and served him the ball at every opportunity.

Until an opponent can prove they have an answer to Le Toux’s wing-footed runs up the right touchline, there is no reason for the Union to change tactics.

The new, real “Philly Tough”

For the second straight league match, the Union took advantage of a lethargic opponent. Jumping on New York from the opening whistle, they were quick to close down the ball, stayed tight to their marks and proved eager to get forward once the ball was won. With the Union packing the box with more numbers than seen in prior seasons, it is not difficult to see why this offense is developing a cutting edge. Considering that both Casey and McInerney now earn the respect of a double team when they enter the opponent’s box, plenty of space remains for the midfield to get in on the scoring action.

If “Philly Tough” must be a term that front office and coaching staff use to describe the Union (regardless of how little sense it makes in a soccer context), let it be for performances like this one against New York and the prior 3-0 victory over Columbus. Performances where the Union dictate play, control the tempo, and force their agenda on an opponent not only delight the home crowd, but they are also a sustainable means of a creating a style of play and state of mind that will make MLS teams dread their trips to PPL Park. It should even make them nervous about welcoming the Union into their buildings.

Substitutes

Zac MacMath – 6

Considering he takes plenty of heat when his defense is poorly organized, MacMath deserves a healthy share of the praise when they have a lockdown performance like they did this weekend.

Sheanon Williams – 7

After being plagued by Jonny Steele in Harrison, Williams aggressive defending kept the Northern Irishman from making an impact at the attacking end in Chester. Williams got forward well in support of Le Toux, though it was his assist on Casey’s opener, swung in from the left flank, that made the highlight reel.

Amobi Okugo – 7

Careful not to let Henry get the best of him for a second time this year, Okugo’s positioning and reading of the game was as sharp as it has been this season. He used his physicality to muscle off Luyindula and retreated smartly to make vital interventions in front of his goal. At the other end, he continues to prove a dangerous set piece option, though neither of his headed chances found the target.

Jeff Parke – 7

Steady as ever, Parke worked well with Okugo to organize a defensive unit that swarmed would-be attackers. He switched off well on New York’s attacking duo to insure that there was never a man left free.

Ray Gaddis – 6

A point below his back line colleagues due to his continued inability to serve a consistent ball with his left foot. Whether it is crossing the ball into the box or passing it up the touchline, Gaddis’ quality on his left peg remains a glaring weakness in his game.

Sebastien Le Toux – 8

Tortured Roy Miller for 90 minutes as the Union ran their offense through the hybrid winger. Mixing dangerous high and low deliveries, Le Toux has become a true threat out wide and considering the general dearth of left back quality in MLS, the Union would be wise to continue to feed him the ball whenever he wants it.

Brian Carroll – 8

Bossed the midfield for 90 minutes, keeping any threat of a New York attack from forming. Showed vocal leadership as he directed traffic around him, completely overshadowing the play of Dax McCarty. Continues to look more comfortable with the ball at his feet as he was keen to play quickly with Daniel and Farfan buzzing around him.

Keon Daniel – 7

Had a hand in the majority of the Union’s forward movements, and was involved in both of the Union’s first two goals. First he showed the patience to serve Williams in on the opener, before firing the shot that Robles surprisingly spilled for Casey’s second. His vision and accuracy in the final third still have a ways to go if he is to become true attacking threat in the middle of the pitch as he was off the mark on a number of gilt-edged chances.

Danny Cruz – 5

Before Sam’s red card challenge cut Cruz’s night short, he had a fairly typical performance. Running directly at Barklage, Cruz managed to win two corners and have a shot on goal, though all were at the expense of locating open teammates in the box.

Conor Casey – 9

Jamison Olave picked the wrong day to get himself suspended, as Casey ate Holgersson and Pearce for lunch. The NYRB centerback pairing had absolutely no solution for the Union big man’s power in the air and quality on the deck. While his first goal was a classic, headed Casey Special, the second showcased the smarts and soft touch that Union fans have grown to appreciate this season.

Jack McInerney – 7

Could have had a hat trick were it not for the excellent work of Luis Robles, but McInerney did not get discouraged and continued to drive at the net. While Casey beat New York into submission, McInerney wore them out with tricky runs and smart work on the ball.

Substitutes

Michael Farfan – 7

Turned in his best performance of the year, coming on for the injured Cruz. Kept the defense on their toes as he alternated between sending Gaddis and McInerney through the middle, and launching well-struck cross-field balls to put Le Toux in space. While there were plenty of caveats given New York’s abject performance while down a man, Farfan will hopefully gain in confidence from this showing and look to replace Daniel awhen he heads off to international duty.

Antoine Hoppenot – 7

Started the play that resulted in his goal, sending Le Toux up the line, before making the 50 yard dash required to get on the end of his cut back into the box. With the goal gaping in front of him, Hoppenot was never going to miss.

Matt Kassel – N/A

Made his Union debut, if only briefly.
Geiger Counter

Baldomero Toledo – 7

Did well to wave off Henry’s penalty claim and was left with little choice on Sam’s red card considering how vehemently his AR was slapping his back pocket. Kept play moving, but did well to call enough fouls to keep New York’s frustration from boiling over into anything dangerous.

Preferred Lineup for Saturday’s matchup with FC Dallas

4-4-2

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

Dallas’ speed kills, but the Union can match it. The combative encounters between Farfan-Carroll and Jacobson-Michel will decide this game.

35 Comments

  1. So if Jack gets called away for USMNT duty. He and Daniel are out. The question is, do you keep Le Toux on the RM where he has been excelling, or put him up top with Casey? I have a feeling Hack will put him up top, bc Le Toux prefers that, and Hack sees Hoppenot as only a sub. I see him moving Le Toux up, starting Marfan, and then putting Kleberson back in or starting Fernandes.

  2. Is kleberson in the dog house again?

  3. I got nothing. I have no idea how this team is going to perform from week to week. And I don’t believe that there is some grand transfer strategy at play here. We still have great forwards, a patchwork midfield and no left back. But I cannot argue with the result. Sooooo until I have some definitive indication of where this is going I will just post random recipes until I figure out whats what.

    This one is for I don’t think Danny Cruz should be starting Apple Pie.

    Ingredients:

    Pastry for 2 crusts (recipe below)
    8 cups sliced, peeled assorted baking apples – about 3 lbs. (Granny Smith, Cortland, Jonathan)
    2 Tablespoons lemon juice
    3/4 cup white sugar
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    1/4 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    2 Tablespoons butter
    1 egg yolk
    1 Tablespoon milk

    Directions:

    1. In a large bowl, toss the sliced apples with lemon juice.

    2. Combine sugars, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg; add to apples and toss well to coat.

    3. Fill pastry lined 9 inch pie pan with apple mixture. Dot with butter.

    4. Place second crust on top of pie filling, cut slits in top of crust to vent. Seal the edges of the crust with a fork or by hand.

    5. In a small bowl, beat the egg yolk and milk. Brush mixture over top crust.

    6. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes.

    7. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake 40-45 minutes more or until crust is golden and filling is bubbly.

    Flaky Pastry Pie Crust Recipe

    Makes two 9-inch pie crusts

    Ingredients:

    2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup butter, chilled and diced
    1/2 cup ice water

    Directions:

    1. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.

    2. Cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

    3. Stir in the ice water, a Tablespoon at a time, until the crust mixture forms a ball.

    4. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

    5. Sprinkle flour onto rolling surface. Roll dough out, then divide in half. Roll each half to fit a 9-inch pie plate.

    6. Place crust in pie plate, pressing evenly into the bottom and sides.

    • Pro tip from america’s test kitchen: when making the crust use some kind of alcohol (such as vodka or perhaps whiskey) in place of the water. The lack of water will prevent the forming of gluten which results in a much flakier and less chewy crust

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Maybe a shorter recipe next time? 😉

  4. Overall a great time, watching and enjoying the performance. The few quibbles that I have with the ratings are actually reflective of HOW strong the performance was. I agree that everybody played well, but I would hope that the 7s and 8s would be saved for playing against a team that wasn’t hanging its head after going down a man; I think that there is significant chance for improvement and demonstration of how well the team can play in more challenging games. On an individual note, I enjoyed watching Marfan, but I think that he should be charged at least a point for getting carded so soon after entering the game. I am all for physical play, and there is something to be said for replacing skill deficits with contact. Still, Marfan needs to remember that his team is up a man, and he is replacing the player that was removed due to the foul that gave the Union the advantage. Being chippy just to be chippy helps nobody, and gets him one step closer to a suspension.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      Regarding the ratings, the Union can only play whoever is on the field opposite them. In that respect I am fine with you saying that a 7 against Portland or Montreal may mean more than a 7 against this Red Bulls side, but in calculating the ratings, I did not feel that the Union should be penalized for New York’s awfulness. Also, it was in large part the hosts aggressiveness that led to New York packing it in early.

      • I understand; you see that I didn’t argue against Casey’s 9. I thought that his game warranted the points, and can’t see how he wasn’t on the eleven of the week chosen by some of the national commentators.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I spent a good portion of the game worrying that Marfan was going to pick up a second yellow (and I think he came close). Then we could have been facing Dallas missing Marfan, Keon, Cruz, Lahoud, and Kleberson (depending on severity of their injuries). Although we’ve had issues with all of them this season, that would have removed a LOT of depth from the midfield.

      • Good point. I noted to my son that Marfan seemed to be looking for the second yellow, this time for dissent, when he was barking at the ref after a foul was called later in the game.

  5. There’s one rating missing – the fans and SOB’s get a 9 for that game. Have to give NY fans some props for showing up in numbers and noise. Thankfully, we finally had a sellout crowd and a packed River End that was up to the challenge. I brought a friend to the game (big sports fan, first soccer game ever) and he was blown away by the atmosphere. Instant convert. For my money, could be the most fun I’ve had at a Union game.
    .
    Is that the first ref rating above a 5? Didn’t think it was possible!

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Look it up. We should find out what our average rating is. We might be a bit tough on them. 😉

      • 4.3 – Surprised myself that there was another 7 – for Allen Chapman (highest rating) along with a couple of 1s (ouch!).

  6. Paul Costa says:

    I’m surprised you made no mention of the evidence of a possible McInerny attitude problem. Dude has been on fire, but I don’t think he’s earned the right to fire frustrated glares at teammates quite yet, and no matter who you are, I want the guys on my team giving 100% every second. For example, his lack of hustle after getting stoned on the 2d breakaway did not endear him to me; looking like he just gave up after the save had me positively pissed. For me, he’s gotta hustle and never stop.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      he’s a striker. part of that comes with the territory. the fact that he was everywhere that game, constantly providing a threat in behind, speaks to his hustle. and he has every right to fire angry glares at his midfield. carroll and particularly daniel missed his runs a handful of times when he was wide, stinking open.

      plus, daniel got the stink eye from gaddis and okugo. cant put it all on jack.

    • His attitude has been better this year than last, IMO. He’s growing up, but slowly. Kid’s only 20. Consider Balotelli, who’s improving on that front as well. Some of these guys play with big egos; in McInerny’s case it’s a giant chip on his shoulder. It will make him great one day, but yeah, he’s got to continue to learn how to harness it.

    • Southside Johnny says:

      Easy coach. “Giving 100% every second” effectively in this game means playing smart and catching a break when you can in the flow of the game. From where i sit, this guy leaves it all on the field every game. The moment you refer to didn’t look good, but I’m gonna cut a guy a break who does what does for this team and I can’t imagine how much pressure he was feeling coming into this game. Lets see, 20 years old playing the Red Bulls with his boyhood idol, Henry, at home in a packed house on ESPN with Klinsman and Co. watching for a possible call-up, league goal lead in his second full season, and you call him on getting pissed when he doesn’t score? WTF is a “possible attitude problem” anyway?

      • Philly Cheese says:

        Although I wouldn’t put Jack Mac at his level…..yet…..watch glares, mouthing off and stopping from Galaxy’s Keene to see “bad attitude” from a striker. Jack tracks back and can help,on defense which you seldom see from Keene, Henry or many other forwards.

    • …what? Did you just say Jack doesn’t hustle? Falls back on defense when needed. He closes down on defenders to force a pass. Chases down balls that everybody knows he has no business getting to. Goes into challenges for headers 100% every time. Jack puts everything on the field at all times.

      And it’s not so much an attitude problem. Every player has the rights to get frustrated at their teammates it’s not something that is “earned”. Scoring 40% of your teams goals in a season, half of those being game winners, probably WOULD earn you that right.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Jack’s game was off. He needs to get himself grounded a bit. It’s one thing for a striker to have confidence. It’s another thing to feel that you are superior to your teammates. Jack needs to study Conner Casey a bit. The big man has scored handfuls of goals, without letting his ego get in the way of progress.

      • Southside Johnny says:

        I’m pretty sure that you have no idea what he feels about his teammates and unless he expresses those feelings, it might be more reasonable to stick to observable behavior for critique rather than highly sketchy pschological inferences to support your theories about what he “needs”.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Forgot, not allowed speak poorly of Jack McInerney.
        My sketchy theories are based upon the body language and sneering looks displayed. It brought me back to a time when Jack said, ‘I can’t do it all myself…blah blah blah. Jack has been making his fair share of mistakes on the pitch. He should hardly be casting a disapproving eye upon teammates. It would be nice to see him just put his head down and play the game.

      • Yeah I thought Jmac was a bit petty after Hoppenot scored. He was the only one on the team not to go over and congratulate him. (The keeper doesn’t count)

  7. When you looked at his heat map and stats, Amobi had an excellent game. Very impressive in cleaning things up.

    • yeah i thought he was great. he’s struggled a bit this year so i thought it was a nice bounceback game for him.

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