Player ratings

Analysis & Player Ratings: Union 3-1 Chivas USA

Photo: Earl Gardner

A win is a win, and the Philadelphia Union sure needed one.

By kickoff, it was clear the weather would be a dominant factor in the match. Once play had begun and the winds and rain grew heavier, the stage was set for a match that would be decided by work rate and desire far more than by skill and/or guile. Unfortunately, it took the Union 45 minutes to realize that fact. Too often they were caught trying to make the elaborate play, both with the ball at their feet and when picking out passing targets.

Grip it and rip it

Once they did get a handle on the conditions after the halftime break, the Union organized well, combining aggressive attacking play with conservative defense. Playing against a Chivas USA side whose recent string of quality performances had come from sitting back in a tight defensive shape, the Union were able to push the game forward, playing in the visitors half. On the rare occasion where Chivas managed to bring the ball forward, the Union back line held their ground. Sitting deep and keeping the play in front of them, they forced the visitors to try to break them down on the dribble, a near impossible task, especially for Eric Avila whose right flank was the most flooded in the second half.

As both sides saw early with Amobi Okugo’s unfortunate slip-up, significant mistakes were more likely to lead to chances than individual moments of brilliance. Referee Jorge Gonzalez could have given the Union a penalty with Mario de Luna flailing about on the deck when he tried to deal with Sebastien Le Toux’s pressure. Where Hoppenot’s ball from the right created the problem on that occasion, it was the debutante, Fabinho, who created the havoc minutes later that led to Michael Farfan’s match-winner.

The controversial back pass

When the usually sure-handed Dan Kennedy failed to hold the Brazilian’s low, skidding cross, Casey fancied his chances of latching onto the ball. So to did Edgar Mejia, who was retreating into the box to come to his keeper’s aid. With the two players sliding into the challenge, Casey arrived first, but Mejia’s trailing leg pulled the ball back to his goaltender. The ball deflected off Casey and popped off the ground, and Kennedy didn’t think twice as he gratefully pounced on the loose ball.

While Josue Soto and the rest of the gaggle who swarmed Jorge Gonzalez after he blew his whistle were well out of line, it was hard not to see their point. According to FIFA’s Law 12, which sanctions fouls and misconduct, “an indirect free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a goalkeeper, inside his own penalty area, commits any of the following four offences.” Kennedy’s adjudged infraction falls third on that list, representing an instance where the goalkeeper “touches the ball with his hands after it has been deliberately kicked to him by a team-mate.”

Throwing out the terrible conditions, which is difficult to do considering the nature of the saturated pitch, for Gonzalez to claim that Mejia’s touch to Kennedy was deliberate was simply wrong. Not only was Meija sliding into a 50/50 challenge, he also does not win the ball cleanly. The deflection taken off of Casey alone should negate any hint of intent for the referee.

But certain referees enjoy making the decisive call, with Gonzalez chief among them in MLS. For the Union, in a match as tightly contested as Friday night’s, a little good fortune won’t go unappreciated, as they have now benefited from a red card to their opponent for the fifth time in the last seven matches.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 6

Showed both courage and timing in racing out of his box to slide the ball away from the advancing Correa early in the second half. If MacMath fails to make that play, the Union are in a 2-0 hole, and dropped points are almost certain.

Sheanon Williams – 6

With Jorge Villafana struggling to find a foothold in the match, Williams had an easy enough time putting the clamps on him and getting forward to make sure Le Toux had the ball whenever he wanted it.

Amobi Okugo – 5

Did well to pick himself up after his slip cost the Union the opener. Stepped high into the middle of the field to launch the attack with probing balls, bypassing the midfield to pick out Casey and Fernandes up front.

Jeff Parke – 6

Another in a string of fairly unremarkable but solid showings for Parke. Though typically an infrequent offensive contributor, Parke made himself known to Chivas USA, first getting dragged down in the box before bouncing a header just over the bar from a set piece.

Ray Gaddis – 7

Played the field conditions well to keep Chivas USA danger man Eric Avila from being much of a threat. On the firmer, more playable side of the track, Gaddis was aggressive and physical, while on the softer, puddle-filled bridge side, he sat back daring Avila to try his luck at dribbling through the ponds. With his defensive job done, Gaddis looked to burst forward into the attack and started some promising moves for the Union.

Sebastien Le Toux – 7

Stat of the night: Sebastien Le Toux was credited with 9 key passes. 9. It is rare to see a player earn more than 3 or 4. Especially in the Union midfield.

Michael Farfan – 7

Whether it was the weather, the match-up with his brother, or a growing comfort in the center of the pitch, Farfan finally kicked off his 2013 campaign in earnest. Eager to attack on the dribble, he pushed play forward and brought his teammates into the attack. His match-winning smash into the roof of the net could go a long way toward igniting a rediscovery of the form that has been missing this year.

Brian Carroll – 7

It is hard to know any less about a goal you’ve scored than Carroll knew about the Union opener, but he’ll take it. That’s not what made his performance though. Rather, it was his organization and quality in the midst of the gale the Union fought through on Friday night. Numerically outnumbered with Farfan in central midfield, Carroll kept both his cool and the ball moving, allowing the Union to keep Chivas on their heels.

Danny Cruz – 5

In his most active match in some time, Cruz did what he does best, getting in behind defenses with his hard, bruising runs. Unfortunately, once he got behind, his touch and creativity let him down. Despite his all-out attacking approach, Cruz has neither a goal nor an assist in over two months.

Leo Fernandes – 5

Put himself in good spots throughout the match but lacked the pace and decision-making to turn that positive positioning into quality chances. Instead of a handful of assists, Fernandes’ night was summed up by the extra touch he took at almost every opportunity.

Conor Casey – 8

Walter Vilchez and Mario de Luna barely had time catch the license plate number on the semi that ran them over, let alone do anything to stop it.


Antoine Hoppenot – 5

Given 20 minutes to impact proceedings, the Union’s now-default 12th man brought his usual energy, but not much else, and he had little impact on the Union’s comeback.

Fabinho – 6

After using his first handful of touches to shake off the rust following a decent layoff from first team matches, Fabinho showed the danger of having a true left footed player on the pitch. Before assisting on Casey’s insurance goal, Fabinho played in the decisive ball that Kennedy failed to gather, resulting in the Union’s match-winner and Soto’s sending off.

Matt Kassel – N/A

Entered in the final moments to chew up time.

Geiger Counter

Jorge Gonzalez – 1

Enough is enough. At a certain point, MLS must realize that Gonzalez’s selfish, spotlight-stealing performances are a black mark on their brand. Not only is his decision-making highly suspect, but the aggressive, borderline violent manner in which he confronts players and coaches has absolutely no place in the game.

While Chivas USA was certainly in the wrong for the manner in which they mobbed him after his “intentional back pass” call, the referee’s demeanor is one that always serves to create animosity, rather than soothe it. And make no mistake, he blew the call. The Union will take it on this occasion, considering the calls went their way on Friday night, but too often Gonzalez’s performances decide matches. That is a terrible thing for MLS.

Preferred lineup for Saturday’s match vs. Portland Timbers


MacMath; Williams, Okugo, Parke, Gaddis; Le Toux, Carroll, Farfan, Fabinho; Casey, Hoppenot

For all of Portland’s success this year, their centerbacks have been a glaring weakness. Hoppenot’s ability to create havoc would be further accentuated with Fabinho whipping in service from the flank.


  1. Gaddis had a good game for once but i’d like to see Fabinho get the start a left back and get Torres on the pitch. Gaddis has had way to many mental mistakes this season, he needs to be pressured for playing time.

    • You can’t sit Ray after that great performance and and we really don’t know whether Fabinho can defend or not yet.

      Eli – Spot on about Gonzalez, the guy is unbelievable. Thankfully, he only sent off Hackworth and none of our players.

    • If I thought for one second that Hackworth would play Torres, then I’d say to put Fabinho at left back. However, I’d be cool with Fabinho playing in front of Gaddis on the left wing. I think Gaddis’ weaknesses this season have been due to the fact that when he presses high and gets beat, the LM is never there to cover for him and Carroll or Parke had to vacate the center to make up for it. Having a vet who is a natural defender move up into the midfield might be a good thing for both Gaddis and the team overall. Ray can let loose and burn people down the sideline knowing that Fabinho has the skill and awareness to cover for him. We might actually be dangerous on both sidelines for once. I think it’s at least worth a look.

  2. Fabinho needs to start in place of Cruz on the left.

    • The U are undefeated when Cruz starts on the left…..

      • Yea and that forces all our goals to come from the opposite side. Put Cruz on the bench.

      • I’m no Cruz fan, I’m just relaying the facts, but what difference does it make from which side the goals come from as long as they come?

      • At some point teams will adjust to that and then suddenly we have no option to use the strongest side of our team which is just the opposite of where Cruz is.

      • streak is at like 6 0r 7 games now….. plenty of time to adjust 😉

  3. Can’t blame MacMath for coming off his line after Okugo slipped. The guy had a clear path to goal, so MacMath had to get large. Sure, you’re now exposed if he passes it (which did happen) but hindsight is 20/20.
    Agree with Cruz assessment. He’s got a great workrate…just no touch. Settles it when he should one-time it, and attempts a one-time volley when he has more than enough time to take two touches. At the end of the day, imo, he’s still starting because he’s a headache to account for defensively. Can’t wait for him to have a breakout game sooner or later.
    Adding on to the Carroll comment, pretty sure he said that he was actually trying to duck out of the way. But hey, a goal’s a goal!
    Any Union fan that thinks it was an actual kickback is a blind sheep. Support your team but have respect for the actual Laws of the game. We got away with one there, and I FULLY expect Gonzalez to do a make-up call later on in the season if we see him again.
    Help needed…”Key Pass?” Unsuccessfully tried finding a real definition of this online. Is this a purely subjective distinction made my whoever’s recording play-by-play up top? Can we also call Meija’s passback a key pass as well?

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      It is an Opta stat that they define as:
      Key Pass – The final pass or pass-cum-shot leading to the recipient of the ball having an attempt at goal without scoring.

    • ebradlee10 says:

      Tweeted on Sat AM:

      @OptaJack: 10 – @SebastienLeToux created 10 chances tonight against @cdchivasusa, the most a player has created in one matcha all season. Generator.

  4. If it deflects off of Casey then it was a bad call. I don’t think it did though. The use of the word deliberate is used to mean whether the ball was intentionally kicked or accidentally deflected and in this situation it was deliberately kicked. I posted this on the other page about this game

  5. “Grip it and rip it” sounds like the worst BJ of all time

  6. Andy Muenz says:

    I remember noticing Carroll getting all over the place shortly after his goal (before it was announced as his) and saying to myself, tonight’s the night Captain Carroll won’t let us out of here with less than 3 points.

    I can’t remember if it was Hoppenot or Marfan who made the pass from the wing to Seba that should have led to a PK (but instead led to Hackworth getting to dry off early). If it was Hoppenot, he deserves credit for that.

    Not that I’m suggesting he start, but does the preferred line up take into account that Daniel will likely be out of the Gold Cup after tonight?

    Speaking of the preferred lineup, doesn’t the REAL preferred lineup involve Jack sneaking out of Baltimore and driving about 90 miles to Chester…?

  7. Chad Gambone says:

    I think you misinterpreted the Law. For an illegal back pass, two things have to occur:

    1) The ball must be intentionally kicked with the foot or shin of a defending player. Deflections, headers, chests, etc don’t count.

    2) The ball must be handled by the goalkeeper.

    Deflecting off Casey doesn’t matter iirc. If Meija meant to hit the ball with his foot, and the keeper handled it, the Law says it is an indirect free kick.

    I think it is dumb rule anyway, but I believe Mr. Gonzalez got this call correct by the books, though I wish officials would just ignore it altogether.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      I agree that the ball must be kicked and then handled, but not all instances where that occurs are infractions. The key word in the law is “deliberate”. It is the third and most complicated factor of this law. Deflections ABSOLUTELY matter. As do the specifics of a given situation. It is not a black and white matter the way you describe.

      • The “deliberate” describes whether or not he was trying to kick the ball. Do you think he kicked it by accident?

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        No it does not. It applies to the player’s intent when kicking it. That is why the rule is commonly referred to as the “intentional back pass” rule. The intent of the player must be to pass the ball to the goalkeeper. The origin was to keep teams from time wasting by playing the ball to the keeper and having him pick it up. If a player does not intend the pass, i.e. a shanked clearance or a deflection that directs the ball to the goalkeeper, it is not intentional and it is not an infraction. Deliberate refers to where the player intended the ball to go, not whether he intended to kick it in the first place.

      • I think that they should try to amend the rule to make that the case, but that doesn’t seem to be the USSF’s position on it.
        I know I keep posting this but I haven’t heard anyone explain how this doesn’t mean that the call on Friday was correct. What am I not seeing?

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        That is extremely interesting, Frank. Thanks for sharing. It is certainly not the interpretation that I and the many people with whom I discussed the have come to accept. Having said that, I still contend that having entered into a sliding challenge, the ball popped up as part of the engagement with Casey. For me, that EASILY constitutes a ball that was deflected or accidentally misdirected.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Reading that paper again and re-watching the highlight. Since Mejia plays the ball with his trailing leg, it is also very difficult to say if it was A. played by the foot (required). It could easily come off his shin or B. even a deliberate kick considering that Casey got the first touch, lending further credence to the fact that it was deflected and/or accidentally misdirected back to the goalkeeper. Mejia had the ball played off of him. This is interesting stuff.

  8. Limited sample size, but Fabinho seems like a huge threat to take Cruz’s starting spot on the left.

  9. I also love the innocence you guys display when creating your lineups. You guys actually take into account the opponent, their strengths and weaknesses vs. our strengths and weaknesses. Then you create a lineup that gives us the best chance to win based on those facts.
    When has Hackworth ever done that? What has he ever created a lineup based on tactical considerations, and not just the same 11 every single game?

  10. Again, why does Hack not have them prepared to play ugly from the start of that game? He plays ugly when the weather is great and tries to play pretty when it’s nasty.
    This would have been a perfect game to start Casey and Wheeler, not at Houston.

    Eli: I think you give too much credit to Parke and too little to Okugo, and even too much to Sheanon. Sheanon should have cleared, not dropped it to Okugo.
    Parke’s spacing has been poor lately and he gets bailed out by the other backs, very often Okugo.

    • He did not play Wheeler since he wanted to ‘test’ him as Central Defender against the Chelsea U21 team yesterday.

    • To be honest the Union play pretty damn ugly all of the time. Hack probably thought no extra coaching was needed.

  11. Paul Costa says:

    Observation I am thrilled not to have read or thought myself over the last few games: “The Union really missed Jack on this one.”

    Observation I’m most looking forward to reading: “Jack’s return has supplemented and built on a Union side that improved in his absence.”

  12. Love the analysis as always. Just one bone to pick; I actually thought Leo was the best player on the field the first half and more than held his own the second. A huge improvement from his first two showings. 6 for me easily.

    • Granted, I was at the game, so my vision may have been affected by the waterfall I was peering through.

  13. Great One says:

    I really hope we can sustain solid play when we’re not playing a rec league team in a water bowl. But there were definitely some great performances. I hope Fabinho gets a chance to play and isn’t banished to the hispanic zone that Torres is in.

  14. We watched the reply last night; my daugther wanted to see herself on TV. Unfortunately, the rain prevented us from actually seeing any detail. We knew where she was, but details were washed away by the away.
    First point: dear Comcast: you do a fine job overall broadcasting. But maybe you could, you know, do something so your camera lens doesn’t get so wet it can’t be used?
    I thought Brian Carroll had a great game.
    My daughter found it eye opening how much players talk to each other. She found Brian Carroll and Zac Macmath to be the two loudest, but said she also heard other players talking – both helping each other out and smack talking. I’ve been telling her for a while that she needs to communicate on the field / court, whether it’s soccer or basketball or whatever sport she picks up next. It was good for her to hear the chatter.
    She was also annoyed at the Chivas players who were warming up in front of her. They kept splashing through the mud puddles and getting her even more wet.
    I thought Le Toux, Casey, and Farfan played well. Fabinho did a nice job once he came in.
    Fernandes looks lost to me over this three game stretch where he’s been starting. Friday night I didn’t mind at all having Hoppenot come on for Leo; the move made sense, unlike some of Hackworth’s typical first subs moves.
    I thought the missed handball / elbow was a bad call, but I’m also not sure the referee was in position to see it. The assistant referee also would’ve likely had his view blocked.
    I’ve seen several replays of the back pass, and I still think it’s a lame call. I also think Chivas is lucky to have only had one yellow card given in the sequence that came right after that.
    Ugly wins count the same in the standings, so I’ll take it.

  15. The paper used in making these Jiffy bags are recyclable and environment friendly..

  16. Perfect answer! That really gets to the heart of it!

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