Player ratings

Analysis & Player Ratings: Union 2-2 RSL

Of the last 5 goals conceded by Philadelphia Union, 4 have come while they have been up a man.

Two of those came against RSL on Wednesday night, after Lovel Palmer was sent off for an early shower following his tackle on Michael Farfan.

Whether at home or on the road in MLS, having a man advantage for more than 20 minutes should result in a victory, especially when the side holding the man advantage also holds the lead at the time of the referee’s decision.

But the Union showed an alarming disinterest in the ball on Wednesday night. Finishing with less than 37 percent possession despite their man advantage, they sat back and allowed RSL to find a way back into the match twice.

Offense may be the best form of defense, but at least settle for possession

When Danny Cruz was forced to depart, John Hackworth was faced with a critical decision. Having already made his seemingly requisite substitution to get Antoine Hoppenot on the pitch after Michael Farfan’s injury, he needed to bolster his midfield. Between injuries to Kleberson and Michael Lahoud and international duty for Keon Daniel, he was short on options and had to pick between Matt Kassel and Roger Torres. Kassel made the team as a utility player who could offer defensive cover despite growing up as a midfielder. Torres is an attacking central midfielder who loves to have the ball and spread it around quickly to his teammates.

Hackworth chose Kassel and the bunker down approach. The Union sat in their own half, desperately defending a one-goal lead rather than go for the decisive, comeback-squashing second goal. Against a team with the quality that RSL possesses, that was a dangerous game, as Javier Morales, Sebastien Velasquez and Olmes Garcia showed in wave after wave of attack.

Had Hackworth gone with Torres, the diminutive Colombian could have offered his manager the possession that he often speaks of but rarely delivers on. With Fernandes, Torres, Carroll and Le Toux in midfield, the Union would  have a far more balanced look about them. In his limited opportunities, Torres has proved to not only want the ball in the attacking half, he has willingly retreated to within 30 yards of his own goal to exchange passes with his defenders and begin the build forward. Where Torres has the potential to be a precision tool, Kassel is a blunt object, inserted to clog passing lanes and bang bodies. While neither of those things is inherently problematic, they both accept the concession of possession to an opponent.

Even the introduction of Don Anding in a straight swap at left midfield would have been a more positive decision. Anding’s blazing speed would have made Velasquez think twice about setting off on the attack with reckless abandon, and the Union rookie’s physical strength easily matches that of Kassel when it comes to winning midfield tussles.

It is time to part ways with Roger Torres

On the heels of this latest snub, and it hurts to write this, it is time for the Union to move Roger Torres. Torres is a young, supremely talented player with the vision and attacking skill set that many teams would love to have on their roster. Given how far out of favor he has apparently fallen, it is time for the Union to give other teams that opportunity. Players lose their manager’s confidence all the time. It is the nature of the game, as certain players are simply not suited for certain systems. RSL’s Joao Plata was deemed surplus to requirements for an abysmal Toronto side, yet has now found a home and thrived with a far superior program.

Considering a manger’s job is evaluated on the results of his personnel decisions, including in-game substitutions, it should go without saying that he should be allowed to surround himself with players in whom he has full confidence. If results go his way, he is a success; if not, at least he made his own bed.

Managing a team of someone else’s players puts a head coach in a compromising state of limbo. For Hackworth, the constant clamoring for Torres’ inclusion from the fan base cannot be anything other than a frustrating distraction. If Hackworth thought Torres was up to the task of competing for the Union, he would have given him a chance long ago. He has not, and it thus must be assumed that he does not see a place for him in this team.

That he has seen only 18 minutes of playing time despite the Union’s many poor midfield performances is further proof. While Gabe Farfan and Baky Soumare vocalized their displeasure and forced moves out of town, Torres has remained positive and humble. For that loyalty and commitment, the Union should do what is best for both the club and the player, rewarding Torres with the opportunity to play for a team that values him as an asset. Besides, his $125,000 in guaranteed compensation and international slot would be better spent on a player in whom Hackworth has enough confidence to not only put in the 18, but to also put on the field.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 4

Goalkeeping gaffes equal more than excellent saves. It’s an unfortunate fact of life in soccer. MacMath made two such gaffes that easily could have led to goals, punching at air in front of Nat Borchers early in the first half, before losing a foot race with Olmes Garcia in the second, leaving his goal completely unprotected. His aimless hoofs downfield did little to help his team maintain possession.

Sheanon Williams – 7

Eliminated Ned Grabavoy from the match and pinched in to make sure Plata avoided his flank. Showed quick thinking and a quality touch when he sent Casey up the touchline for the Union’s opener. Needs to continue to improve his defensing of crosses as when he allowed Findley to win inside position and nearly head home in the the first half.

Amobi Okugo – 6

Frustrated by the lack of ball position, Okugo was unable to catalyze the attack from the back in the manner he normally prefers. Defended well though, with the exception of going to ground too quickly on Plata, giving the pocket-sized attacker a shot on goal.

Jeff Parke – 7

Quiet and consistent has become Parke’s MO and he failed to disappoint against a foe he knows better than most of his teammates, Casey withstanding. The only knock on his play is the occasionally casual manner with which he plays the ball out of the back, turning over too frequently for a road team looking to steal a victory.

Ray Gaddis – 2

First and foremost, the handball, while immensely frustrating, is one of those things that just happens. Jostling for position in the box, bodies crash into each other and the natural reaction is to raise an arm to regain balance. That is what appeared to happen to Gaddis in the play that reulted in Real Slat Lake’s stoppage time penalty kick goal. The fact that the ball arrived just at that moment is just bad luck, plain and simple. The fact that Plata, Lovel Palmer and Khari Stephenson seemed to skip him with reckless abandon throughout the game is another matter entirely. While Cruz offered little defensive help, as the fullback, Gaddis needs to be more vocal, demanding such help, rather than resigning himself to his fate of 1-on-2 defending.

Sebastien Le Toux – 5

A 5 may seem low for a player who scored the opening goal, but considering how little effect Le Toux had after tapping in Casey’s pass, it actually may be generous. With a turnover rate of higher than 50 percent, Le Toux failed to beat a single player on the dribble or launch a single successful cross into the box. When handed perhaps the longest breakaway in recorded history, he came up very small, shooting directly into Josh Saunders when he could have killed off the match for his side.

Michael Farfan – 3

Appeared to lack the energy to attack and seemed content to spread the ball from a deep position. Much of that undoubtedly was down to Fernandes’ poor positioning, but Farfan has been in this league long enough to know that he must begin to take a leadership role, pushing the youngster forward to claim space for himself.

Brian Carroll – 4

Played a fairly typical, Brian Carroll-type match before being burned by the 20-year-old Luis Gil for RSL’s opener. If the Union can’t even count on their captain to play solid defense on set pieces suggests that no one is safe from the kind of brain cramps and passive play that have made the Union so susceptible to conceding from dead ball situations.

Danny Cruz – 3

Unable to beat defenders on the dribble and losing out to Palmer in too many footraces, Cruz’s offensive output was two shots from distance, both of which failed to trouble Saunders. Was alarmingly passive on defense, leaving Gaddis to stop the ball in midfield and then chase after the overlapping Palmer while he looked on from midfield.

Leo Fernandes – 3

Asked to play in a withdrawn striker role, Fernandes simply didn’t listen, playing in center midfield and only getting into the box for corners. Looked extremely nervous at moments, which is understandable given it was his first MLS start, but his lack of positional awareness created problems for his team. On the rare occasion when Le Toux or Casey broke into space in the final third, Fernandes never arrived in the box to offer support. Hopefully in the future, Hackworth will deploy him in midfield to allow for a realistic viewing of his abilities, because this first extended look did not give fans a lot to be excited about.

Conor Casey – 8

While it has seemed a tad unfair to load the burden of the Union’s fate on Jack McInerney’s young shoulders, it somehow seems entirely natural to rest that burden on Casey’ broader back. Against an old rival in RSL, Casey played with the confidence and aggression reminiscent of his play from Colorado’s MLS Cup winning season. Showed off his wheels and technical ability when he raced up the line and suckered Carlos Salcedo into a lunging tackle before teeing up Le Toux. Could have had even more of an impact had referee Elfath cautioned Salcedo for any one of his first three violent tackles. With the midfield continuing to sputter, Casey has added “offensive catalyst” to his CV, just below “finisher”.

Substitutes

Antoine Hoppenot – 5

Did well to pick Borchers pocket and set the table for Casey after a handful of clumsy touches had ended prior attacking moves.

Matt Kassel – 3

Entering for the injured Farfan, Kassel was little more than a seat filler.

Aaron Wheeler – N/A

Brought on to help hold the lead, Wheeler showed that he has no issue defending, barreling through RSL players to win a defensive header.

Geiger Counter

Ismail Elfath – 2

Failed to set the early tone, missing the chance to caution Chris Wingert’s violent tackle on Le Toux. Then failed to set the tone for the rest of the match, making arbitrary call after arbitrary call. It’s hard not to feel for the players when a referee is this maddeningly inconsistent.

Preferred Lineup for Saturday’s Match against Houston

4-2-3-1

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

19 Comments

  1. I don’t think Leo was asked to play as a withdrawn forward. It looked like they were playing a 4-1-4-1 on the road to try and steal a point. Instead, they wound up giving 2 away…..

  2. I agree with the point about Torres. If he isn’t going to play they might as well get something for him or at lease clear his salary off the books. His lack of playing time with the unproductive midfield crew Hack has trotted out week after week is mind boggling. After such a productive preseason one can only wonder what happened for him to fall so far down the depth chart.

    Apparently Hack only trusts the crew of 15 that he plays week after week. Even the new signings seem only to be coming in to warm the bench.

  3. We will never see Torres again.. Just another thing to fault Havkworth on.. No reason to not play him when we desperately needed possession to close out game. Look what Colorado did last night against NYRB. They dominated possession and grabbed another goal to seal the game.. Something we can’t do while up a man.

    Torres is just one of many of Hack’s shortcomings. A team failing to seal a victory, while up a man, two weeks in a row has to be blamed on the coaching. Or lack thereof.

  4. It’s July. It’s hot. Coach has to do a better job of rotating his squad. I thought Torres could have been effective had he been subbed into that match, with his team up a man. If we don’t see him playing this month, then of course it’s time to transfer him. $125,000 isn’t a huge salary, but in MLS it’s too much for a benchwarmer.

  5. I have been saying this about Torres for months. Deal him, let him get his shot, and let him succeed or fail by his on merits. I have no idea what Hack’s practice criteria are but seeing these say players put on meh performance after meh performance why wouldn’t you play Torres?

  6. Never have I been more confused as a sports fan. On one hand yeah, we are in 2nd, have a 20 year old tied for leading scorer, and the #1 and #2 assit men in the league. We ARE young and growing and thus overachieving, but man it feel good to be able to say that and look at us in 2nd place.
    On the other hand, Hackworth grates on me so much, makes so many wrong decisions, and makes so many choices I disagree with. Worse, these are not “oh well it can go either way” decisions. Playing Torres made so much sense BEFORE the past few games. But up a man, with all that extra space, and needing to keep possession? Torres is the first, second and third choice at that point. But not for Hackworth.
    So yeah.

    • NOT TO MENTION the choices in place of Torres are terrible. Hopponent lost the “super” in his “sub” months ago. The fact he is still our #1 off the bench shows the limits of Hackworths tactical ability.
      Leo has been nothing but meh. Not miserable, but certainly not impressive either.
      Kassel came on and proceded to be invisible.

      • Hoppenot still has his place. But not every game and not always at 65 minutes. We are so predictable.

      • Not sure this was the best time to pick on Hoppenot considering he had a hand in the second goal.
        .
        Though if Hackworth is going to put him in, it would probably make sense to have a midfielder capable of providing him with a quality pass on the counter attack.

      • Yeah, and Cruz sure looked fantastic during that two goal game he had huh. I don’t want to give players too much credit for a single good thing, we have half a season worth of sample size now.
        And that half of season says Hopponent has been figured out and dives way too much.

  7. “It is time to part ways with Roger Torres”
    .
    This is sad, but true. Leo Fernandes should not be starting games in this league, at least not now. He is clearly timid and not up to the task. Torres has looked comfortable in the past and actually has the skill to provide possession from the center of the pitch. That midfield group at the end of the game was abysmal.
    .
    I simply don’t get the Torres exclusion when you see the great success of young attacking players in this league. Camilo, Felipe, Plata, Fagundez…the list goes on. None of these players would receive a lot of praise for their defensive contributions, but their attacking qualities are truly special. In my opinion, Torres has the ability to be influential like these players.
    .
    A big reason Le Toux and Cruz were so bad is that they were being relied on for possession. That isn’t their game. A competent central midfielder would allow those two to do what they do best: stretch the midfield and keep the other team honest. Instead, they were trying to create from the flanks with little support from the center.
    .
    I just don’t get it. Torres fits the team’s supposed philosophy of the “youth movement”. It’s one thing if Fernandez and Kassel weren’t completely inefective, but they were.
    .
    Not giving Torres a chance is just another example how Hackworth is a subpar manager. He’s been lucky to have Mac and Casey to bail him out, but he’ll ultimately be to blame if this team doesn’t make the playoffs.

  8. Justin Weiss says:

    You’re 100% right, Torres needs to be sold, traded, loaned or whatever needs to happen. It’s sad watching his talents fester and go unused week after week. The fact that he’s so humble about it and you never hear him complain about not playing is depressing. He just puts his head down and works, waiting for his chance, which is apparently never going to happen.

    He is picked over Farfan who has been lackluster at best this year. Keon Daniel who just constantly turns the ball over, Danny Cruz who just runs as fast as he can into people like an idiot and is always limping because of it, and now Leo Fernandes who didn’t do anything this game. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be playing in my eyes. Then again, I’m not in the locker room or on the practice field either.

  9. Just wanted to agree with the Torres posts. I’ve been a big fan of his and feel that he has not been given the chance to flourish like some of the other less talented players on the team have been given that chance. He is the most skillful player we have and needs to be on the field. Keep your head up Torres. We see your talent even though the coach doesn’t. I think your gonna make an impact somewhere, I just wish it were here!

  10. When Torres gets sent away (unjustified and ridiculous) I’ll be waiting for the stories from the union front office about how difficult he was, how he was lax in training, etc. Curious how much they’ve learned of the art of deception from Nowak. Except for Letoux, hackworth can’t/won’t coach non-Americans. Yes I’m saying it.

  11. Southside Johnny says:

    Another nice job with analysis and ratings. Handball aside, Ray needs to do more than just speak up…he needs to raise hell with his teammates and coaches! How many friggin games early in the season did he have more traffic than I-95 on that flank? At some point you just stop taking the other player’s mark inside and do your own job. Back when Carroll was totally sucking (along with Daniel and Cruz), every team we played worked him over the same way. My issue with Ray is that doesn’t even seem to see it coming in time to send up the flare. Who doesn’t see the pattern there?

  12. Great One says:

    Well I had to wait until today to watch this game taped, and I almost wish I hadn’t. I was doging to rant about hackworth and Torres but you all did that for me. I’m not someone who likes to curse, especially when trying to give intelligent thoughts, but what the FUCK does Roger Torres have ot do to get on the field. I almost think the Front Office and Hackworth are wishing he slips up and says something stupid, or asks for a trade, so they can give some meaningless justification, just like they did with Garfan and Soumare. Imagine how much better position we’d be in right now if we still had those guys on tthe team. I didn’t get a chance to see any of the postgame comments, but was it the same BS from Hackworth with being happy about coming away from a road game against a quality team with 3 points?
    .
    Think about this. Garfan was traded, Lahoud us hurt, Keon is away on international duty, Le Toux is pushed up subbing for Jack, Cruz is obviously injured, Marfan was injured, AND Carroll has played almost every single minute as one of the oldest guys on the team…. And Roger Torres doesn’t see a SINGLE MINUTE of playing time. Someone needs to call Hackworth out, and not let him not answer the question. Tell us specifically what he is doing so amazingly bad in practice that he cant play.

  13. I’ve never seen so many sensical comments in a while in what is the volatile Internet. Break my heart, but Torres has to go. Just because someone is sitting at a bench, doesn’t mean they don’t age. Such waste of talent. The problem is that he might be a self fulfilling profecy for Hackworth. Hack will get in his head long enough to mess with his game. Look what happened to MFarfan; he used to be a creative force, and now he looks lost. Hackworth is a creative vacuum.

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