Player ratings

Analysis & Player Ratings: Union 0-1 Dynamo

Photo: Earl Gardner

On Saturday night, the Union wrapped up a busy, three-match week with a formation that included all four of the team’s available strikers.

Missing out on many of his first choice options in midfield, Hackworth issued what can only be construed as a vote of no confidence in his reserve midfielders, bringing in Antoine Hoppenot at left midfield and leaving Le Toux wide on the right while partnering Conor Casey with Aaron Wheeler up top. That Hoppenot has looked desperately out of place in the midfield was only the first issue with a starting XI that appeared, at face value, ill-suited to the task of grinding out a road result.

Unfortunately for the Union, practice mimicked theory. The redundancies of size in Casey and Wheeler and direct running in Hoppenot and Le Toux doubled down on the lack of creativity in Hackworth’s aggressive setup. The 4-2-4 look that has evolved during this week-long run of play has forced far too much responsibility on Brian Carroll, especially when pairing him with the overmatched Leo Fernandes.

Fernandes is not the CAM

While Fernandes may yet prove to be a quality MLS player, his first two starts have left a lot to be desired. He has been slow to make decisions on the ball and seen opposition from both RSL and Houston close down his passing lanes. The result has been, at best, slowed play and extra touches, and at worst, simple turnovers turning into quick counterattacks. Against Houston, Fernandes used the space he found as the match grew stretched to showboat rather than find the many available forward options, though his fancy footwork yielded little by way of production.

Though players like Keon Daniel and Michael Farfan have received criticism for failing to live up to expectations in the final third, both players have shown intensity and effort when defending the center of the pitch. Especially with wide midfielders who only had eyes for goal, Carroll needed a high-energy performance from his midfield partner. Fernandes was again found wanting as he was often caught walking back into his own half while Carroll frantically tried to patrol the midfield by his lonesome. While there are moments when the professional game is played at a pace beyond a rookie’s comfort level, putting in the extra work and effort to try and keep up demonstrate a player’s willingness to find his place. Watching Fernandes leave Ricardo Clark for a free run on goal for Houston’s matchwinner was damning evidence for a player who must show more hustle if he is to survive in MLS.

One basket, all the eggs

Once the Union conceded the inevitable opener, a potential fightback always seemed unlikely. Having left himself without a single striking option on the bench, Hackworth was forced to move backwards, filling in midfield pieces that might have helped him control the game from the opening whistle but were not enough to push the Union over the finish line. Had the move paid off and the Union gone on to steal a point or even a victory on the road, Hackworth would certainly have been lauded for his courage. As it stands, the Union now enter a critical match against Chivas USA on the back of three disappointing showings. The comprehensive defeats of Columbus and New York seem a long time ago.

Turning the page

How Hackworth chooses to line up the Union against Chivas USA will be met with even more intrigue than the announcement of the starting XI against Houston. With Kleberson, Farfan, Cruz and Lahoud all nearing full availability, the Union will go from scant options to many. Throw in the encouraging performances of debutante Don Anding and midfield playmaker Roger Torres, and the Union manager now have eight players, including Le Toux and Fernandes, vying for three midfield slots. While it’s unquestionably good to have many players competing for positions, it is through injuries and inconsistencies that all three slots are up for grabs halfway through the season.

Throw in the arrivals of goalkeeper Oka Nikolov and left back Fabio Alves and the return of Gabe Farfan to PPL Park, and Friday night should be a very intriguing match, well worth the price of admission.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 6

Despite the chaotic, scrambling defending occurring in front of him, MacMath made the timely interventions he needed to, especially in the air. There was nothing he could do on either of Clark’s back to back headers, as the Dynamo man was allowed to run free on both plays.

Sheanon Williams – 4

Did well to get forward to try and support the attack, but too often got caught up field and was left chasing the play back into his own half. It was Andrew Driver’s miserable touch in front of goal and not Williams’ defense that kept the winger off the score sheet.

Amobi Okugo – 7

Put in a tough spot by Williams’ roamings up field, Okugo was called upon to make more than a handful of last ditch interventions. Luckily for the Union, he made all of them. Had he not, the scoreline would have been far more lopsided.

Jeff Parke – 5

Showed far too much respect for Omar Cummings, making the Jamaican attacker look his best since returning from injury. Did no better with substitute Jason Johnson, who twice should have buried a simple chance in front of goal. Parke has lately looked more casual and sloppy playing balls out of the back, and the week off may do him good. Earned an extra point for his leadership when he was forced to accept a yellow card for defending his keeper, furiously berating referee Foerster for allowing a Dynamo player to flatten MacMath in the box without censure.

Ray Gaddis – 3

Most MLS defenders struggle with Boniek Garcia. Considering Gaddis had to also deal with the dangerous Warren Creavalle with Hoppenot as his supporting midfielder was a titanic ask for the converted left back. He was duly put to the sword, with Boniek Garcia racing past him as he pleased. Matters improved slightly when Le Toux switched wings in the second half, but only slightly.

Sebastien Le Toux – 4

With Fernandes and Carroll struggling to provide him with the ball, Le Toux seemed disinterested in helping his midfield mates win possession and gain a foothold in the match. When they did locate him, he had a few bright moments, though too many off his attacking forays ended with a clumsy, inaccurate touch. Le Toux’s midfield quality appears to have vanished as quickly as it materialized.

Leo Fernandes – 3

Playing at times both nervously and casually, Fernandes was altogether too slow against Houston. The Union needed a midfielder with a high motor to move the ball quickly and smartly. Fernandes was not that player. The enduring memory of his performance will be the rookie midfielder attempting step-overs and fancy flicks while his team was under siege around him.

Brian Carroll – 4

Another player who will be relieved to see a week off, Carroll looked to be running on fumes for much of the match. Some of that could easily have been exasperation, considering the lack of defensive tenacity showed by his midfield partners. Still, Boniek Garcia found a happy hunting ground in the 10-15 yards in front of the Union back line, which is traditionally smack in the middle of Carroll’s office.

Antoine Hoppenot – 4

Continues to work hard at midfield, despite being dramatically miscast for the position. Should have opened the scoring in the first half when he juked passed Jermaine Taylor, only to see his left foot fail him at the decisive moment. Showed hustle and desire throughout his first start of the season, but he remains a poor fit for the responsibilities of a midfielder.

Conor Casey – 7

For the second consecutive match, Casey looked the Union’s most creative distributor and most likely finisher. Now that he has regained match fitness, he has shown an admirable willingness to race into the corners, chase into the midfield, and bomb into the box. Continued to be a dominant force in the air, but just as easily could have unlocked the Houston defense with his feet.

Aaron Wheeler – 5

Was smart and positive on the ball when he tracked it down, joining Casey in torturing Eric Brunner and Bobby Boswell at the back. Surprised Boswell with an impressive burst of pace, almost resulting in the opening goal for the Union. His game too similarly mirrors Casey’s for the pair to continue starting together, but Wheeler has a part to play for the Union, either spelling his fellow big man from the opening whistle, or providing added offensive punch in the late stages of a match.

Substitutes

Don Anding – 6

His speed and movement nearly split open the match, and he announced his arrival to MLS with a handful of smart pacy runs. A natural left-footer, Anding seemed equally comfortable racing up the line as he did cutting into the box. That said, his final touch let him down on Saturday night. Though he catches a break given his lack of experience, he will have to show improved accuracy and focus in the final third if he is to win more minutes. Still, a promising debut.

Roger Torres – 6

Gave a flat, beaten Union side some life upon his introduction. Despite launching four, curling, seeking balls over the top, Torres finished with 9 complete passes from 10 attempts. His crisp passing and sharp movement added a sorely lacking dimension to the Union’s midfield, and this performance can only have fans clamoring for the tiny Colombian to see more minutes.

Matt Kassel – 5 

Could have been the Union’s hero in the final minute of regulation, but snatched at his volley, launching it over the bar. Kassel is no offensive substitute, but considering all four strikers started the match, Hackworth was out of options.

Geiger Counter

Matthew Foerster – 5

It is hard to find too much wrong with the referee when one team shows as little life as the Union did Saturday night. Union fans will rightly fault Foerster’s lack of protection for MacMath. While MacMath has failed to be assertive at times in the air, he does receive far less protection from referees than more established goalkeepers.

Preferred Starting XI for Friday’s match against Chivas USA

4-4-2

MacMath; Williams, Okugo, Parke, Alves; Farfan, Torres, Carroll, Anding; Le Toux, Casey

51 Comments

  1. I’m at a loss for Hackworth. He’s backed his way into a decent record, but truth be told, we haven’t beaten anyone. For his latest trick, he rolled out 4 forwards in a game where everyone was exhausted. I wonder why we had a sub 40% possession # or why we had no scoring options available on the bench when down 1 on the road. He’s obviously got a personal issue with Roger Torres. I’m biased towards Roger, but he’s the only player on this team with a feel for the run that has yet to be made. Everything Carroll, Daniel, Marfan, Letoux and Cruz try to create is in a straight line. At least Torres is willing to try new angles. The back four deserve a medal for staying strong, but this midfield is such a disaster.

    • So true. I don’t blame Hackworth for not turning us into world beaters, I blame him for looking like an amateur out there with these ridiculous line ups and playing players out of position.

  2. This was a weird lineup that didn’t help matters, and I was pretty shocked to see it, but I have a hunch that the final result would’ve been the same no matter who we trotted out.

    Not only we without McInerney, Daniel, Farfan, Cruz, Kleberson, and Lahoud, but 3 games in a week — the last 2 on the road in 90-degree heat — the guys who truly needed a rest were Casey and Carroll. And lo and behold, both of them looked completely gassed by minute 65 or so. I was very surprised that neither got subbed, and I do blame Hackworth for that.

    What could he have done differently? I think starting Wheeler and Hoppenot up top would’ve made more sense, with Le Toux and Fernandes on the flanks. That would’ve given Casey some rest, maybe allowing him to come on as a sub, and prevented the reduplication of target forwards that you get with Casey and Wheeler together. With Kleberson, Farfan, and Daniel all out (notwithstanding that the latter two don’t really belong in the position), there is no one equipped to play CAM except Torres, so it really speaks volumes that he did not start.

    Keep in mind that there may be stuff behind the scenes to which we are not privy. Is Roger looking soft in practice, or dogging it? Has Fernandes looked good in practice, thereby justifying the start over Anding?? We don’t know. Which is why I try to avoid saying, “Why not start [insert name of guy who‘s hardly seen the pitch this year]?”

    On the other hand, this was a really weird lineup, even given the circumstances, and I think Hackworth deserves some criticism.

    And yet, I think this game was a loss anyway, even with an optimal lineup.

  3. The numbers are too high but you made some very good points. Were I the coach, I’d reward Brian Carroll for his hard work with a fishing rod and give him an actual week off. I’d let Parke wear the captain’s armband on Friday.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Agree. I thought that Casey was the only player worthy of a >5 rating. The rest were collectively terrible.

    • That too! For the love of god, can we sub som of our players!!! Good god they’re only human.
      I dont care if you don’t like the alternatives, because the only other option is to watch Carrol, Casey, etc die on the field

    • Southside Johnny says:

      I usually don’t quibble about the numbers, but I’m thinking Zac 5, Sheanon 5, Casey 8, Parke 4, Anding 7 and Torres 7. Zac only made saves he should make and looked stupid a couple of times when any good finisher would have. Granted, Williams overplayed his offensive role, but he at least recovered well enough. C’mon, Casey was friggin heroic. Parke got beat in the air more times than in any other 3 games put together. Anding did better in his debut than anybody I can think of in years. Torres showed absolutely zero rust, a ton of poise, good creative decision making and wonderful touch after a lifetime on the bench. Just sayin…

      • With Wheeler up there, Casey took to also making runs that Mac would make, b/c somebody had to make them. You could see how beat he was.
        He is our offense and Hack is killing him.

        Some blame has to go to Carrol. He runs around like a headless chicken in the middle instead of organizing guys.

  4. The Black Hand says:

    Tough game to rate. The club was set up for failure, with Hackworth’s questionable (understatement) XI.
    Wheeler shows some promise, but pairing him with Casey was a bad move. They are too similar.
    Leo Fernandez is nowhere near starting quality. He continued Hack’s run of useless CAM’s.
    Roger Torres is, and has been, the man for the job…so we probably won’t be seeing him again. His inclusion would highlight Hackworth’s inability and that’s not allowed.
    I thought that Shaenon was terrible. He may have gotten upfield a bit, but his primary concern is his defensive post…which he abandoned on the regular.
    Carroll slipped back to old habits, of leaving his marks far too much space to operate.
    Both clubs contributed to making the match very tough to watch. It looked like a rec league, at times.

    • Great One says:

      I agree with most of what you said. This was really a hard match to watch. I can’t believe some of the guys we trotted out there.

    • Hey, finally someone else to rag on Williams!
      To be fair, he had a few very good games in a row. I just can’t stand his mindset towards his defensive responsibilities, especially with LeToux/Cruz/Hop in front of him.
      If I was Okugo, I would be screaming down his throat.
      Would really love to see the possibility of Gaddis playing on the right if only to create a sense of competition.

  5. keepercoach says:

    I don’t agree that zack had no chance on the goal…if you look at it he hesitated coming out on the ball and got caught…he should be at the end of that cross

    • Great One says:

      One of Zac’s biggest problems is his distribution. In a game where we couldn’t keep the ball in the midfield to save our lives, he continually just punted away and lost possession. This is a correctable problem, and show be fixed.

      • I don’t inderstand why we ever punt downfield. We never win the header at midfield. its as good as a turnover. Again I don’t understand why hack plays away from his strength. Build from the back possess the ball. I yell this the whole game. Don’t punt it and there it goes right to the other team sometimes even to their goalie. terrible management.

    • Great One says:

      One of Zac’s biggest problems is his distribution. In a game where we couldn’t keep the ball in the midfield to save our lives, he continually just punted away and lost possession. This is a correctable problem, and should be fixed.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Should be fixed, yes, but it has been a problem forever…and it’s not even improved. He passed it to Houston every time.

      • To be fair it is kind of the midfields job to get the ball. So there is some shared blame going on.

      • Great One says:

        The midfield have their issues as well, no doubt About it, but they don’t make Zac only look to punt away

      • I don’t inderstand why we ever punt downfield. We never win the header at midfield. its as good as a turnover. Again I don’t understand why hack plays away from his strength. Build from the back possess the ball. I yell this the whole game. Don’t punt it and there it goes right to the other team sometimes even to their goalie. terrible management.

      • Well you got Okugo back there might as well use him. But in all honesty he is punting the ball forward too. They try to bypass the midfield altogether.

    • Not a chance he gets to that ball before Clark does. It was a near post fast paced cross. No matter how quickly he picked it up Clark was always going to get the header first.

      • If he’s not going to get the ball on the cross, then come out and cut-down the angle and make yourself big on Clark’s header (see Peter Schmichael or even Tim Howard).
        He never makes a play on a shot unless it is a direct shot from distance.

        Sometimes, the team needs the GK to actually make a great play and carry them…God knows he’s lost a few results for them.

  6. Great One says:

    I really liked the starting 11, I think Le Toux has finally been seen to not having midfield skills. He and Cruz/Hoppenot create an especially bad group, and create such a massive responsibility for the defense and Carroll (though he looks old and slow again anyway).
    .
    I stand by the fact that Carroll and Casey especially need a break. I pretty much knew we were done when the goal was scored, and I spent the rest of the game praying I didn’t see Casey go down with some injury.
    .
    Chivas should be a win, especially at home. I give Carroll his break this game, give Alves a start and move Gaddis to RD, with Shaenon playing CB. If Hackworth doesn’t want to do that, then just let Carroll sit and start a different DM there.
    .
    Regardless, Torres needs to start, period.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Wheeler (with Casey) and Fernandez were poor selections, I thought. Wheeler and Casey play a very similar game and Casey simply ate all of Wheelers dinner, forcing Wheeler to drop in behind, where he showed less value.
      Fernandez got the CAM gig by not playing his assigned position vs RSL. He is not a viable 10..yet. The match was dying for Torres, as was proved when he finally came on. The 4-1-5 didn’t work…not even a little bit.

  7. 6 for Torres is way to low. If he didn’t get hurt, he may have led us to a point. 8 at least.

    HE NEEDS TO PLAY!!!

  8. The Chopper says:

    I have never been part of the Roger Torres chorus, but am left to wonder what the real deal is? If there was ever a game where the available options dictated that he should start, it was Houston.

    The Union does seem to have a pretty tight grip on the locker room. The real behind the scenes dirt rarely becomes public. Hackworth washed his hands of Freddy Adu late last season and essentially told the front office he did not want Freddy near his locker room ever again. In order to keep Freddy a somewhat marketable commodity, the true reasons behind all that never became public.

    The most salacious stuff from the Nowak regime stays under wraps too. I mention this because there has to be something beyond football tactics and formations that is keeping Torrres from seeing any light at all.

    • And I hate to bring it up but the Union do have a history of players asking to be traded,leaving under a cloud or just baffling moves ala Jordan Harvey.

      My wonder is because Torres is so upbeat and young that he is willing to keep trying where an older and probably more wise to the business Baky Soumare saw the writing on the wall and did what he thought was best for his career.

      But if this doesn’t get Roger some minutes hopefully it raised his value at the transfer window.

  9. The unbeaten streak came to an end because Danny Cruz did not start at LM. The soccer gods must smoke crack because when he starts on the left, we have not lost this year. I think morgan freeman should do an “Into the wormhole” episode about this phenomenon…….

  10. the only 2 in a 4-2-4 should be Torres & Kleberson – that might actually might be fun to watch!!!

  11. OneManWolfpack says:

    Win Friday night, at home against a Chivas team that is bad, with (most of) the regulars back and healthy, and we can move on from the patchwork (terrible) lineup that was in the Houston game. It was the 3rd game in 8 days, and 2nd without Mac. Unfortunately, given the way they tied both the Dallas and Salt Lake games, only getting 2 points out of 3 games is frustrating. They aren’t deep. They have a good starting XI but after that its a crap shoot. Just win Friday night and we’re back on track.

    • Our depth:
      We have 13 midfielders, 6 forwards, and 5 available backs. The Union website still lists Okugo as a Middie, and Fabinho just became available…technically, we have 1 centerback on the roster (Albright and Okugo do not count).

      Great teams have good depth on the back line. For some reason, this FO has not valued back line depth or competition at all.

  12. I have wondered for many years how a manager in soccer has such a great impact on a team. Its not like football where play after play comes in from the sidelines. the players are free to do as they please to an extent and only three subs can be made. I have watch sir alex be successful year after yaer and never really understood it.
    Now after one season really watching what hack does I get it. When a manager does his job and rotates players, devises strategy, props up confidence, instills team spirit and comraderie they seem to be doing nothing. Its all behind the scenes. When a manager fails and fails miserably at the management end its obvious. he makes bad lineups, devises poor strategy, kills confidence, rides his good players into the ground. This is what hack is doing. I can’t say how good he is at practice or being a nice guy but he is absolute Bollocks at management be it player or game management. He really needs to go. I have held off making up my mind but now I have and no matter how well we play we are always going to underachieve with his stewardship.

    • Along those lines:
      We haven’t had one starting CAM come and control the game. And Farfan reqressed from what he was last year before the all-star “break” when Hack basically took over.
      Our Defense is like 15/16th in league.
      Only our forwards (a la Casey and Mac) have shown well.
      These observations paired with our fairly good record lead me to believe that we have talented players, but no/limited direction.
      Coaching in soccer is huge, no matter what the level. At the pro level, everyone is watching film, putting in the work, and making adjustments. If you don’t have a coach who can do that well, it makes a difference.
      I’ve come to believe, even if Hack went out and bought Xavi or Iniesta, they too would struggle to show their creative ability, b/c Hack has no system or plan.

  13. Philly Cheese says:

    As others have stated, there must be “the rest of the story” unknown information on Torres that made Hackworth bypass him for start on Saturday. He is not a bulldog like Cruz, and defense is not his strength, but LeToux, Fernandes, Cruz, Farfan, and Hoppenot in midfield have not exactly shown defensive excellence either. I was surprised that after he came up limping, Torres was still able to make excellent passes. Hoffman said Torrres was better than any of other midfielders in finding the lanes or providing service in practices or Reserve games when he came back from injury last year. Decent touches to forwards might have been the difference on Saturday.

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