Player ratings

Player ratings and analysis: Union 1-2 Chicago

Photo: Paul Rudderow

With Ray Gaddis going down late in the first half, the Fabinho sub was a must. But there are some big questions surrounding the subs of Leo Fernandes and Antoine Hoppenot.

Michael Farfan was by no means outstanding for the Union on Saturday, but the inconsistent midfielder seemed to be finding his groove in the match when he was taken off. Just prior to his substitution he had won a corner with some crafty footwork inside the Chicago box and drawn a yellow card and free kick in a good position with a run down the right wing.

It was always going to be tough for the Union’s offensive central midfielder against Chicago with the formidable Jeff Larentowicz patrolling the area. But we’ve yet to see Leo Fernandes impose himself on a match this season, and Saturday was no exception. Even worse for the young midfielder, he was shouldered off the ball in a bad position within two minutes of coming on by Patrick Nyarko, a player more known for his pace than his physicality. The turnover led straight to Chicago’s game winning goal.

Bringing on Antoine Hoppenot in the 82nd minute was even more of a head-scratcher. With a one goal lead on the road, Chicago was content to pack it in and park the bus. The Union midfield had been unable to break down Chicago all game, and it was unlikely that they would now be able to in the last 10 minutes.

So, if you’re forced into hoofing the ball into the box, wouldn’t you want to bring on another player with aerial presence instead of the shortest player on your team? Aaron Wheeler has shown well in his limited minutes this season, and the 6-4 forward would certainly have been a bigger target in the Chicago penalty area in the dying minutes on Saturday.

Struggling to make an impact on the game, Hoppenot  attempted to draw a PK in the final minute of the match. While there was a touch of contact from the Chicago defender, the young forward was always looking for the foul and went down too easily. You have to think most refs in MLS have seen the book on Hoppenot by now.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 6

Some readers commented on the match report saying that MacMath could have made himself bigger on Magee’s goal. Perhaps, but I refuse to hang him out to dry for letting in a good shot from one of the league’s premier goal scorers who was also left unmarked 12 yards from goal. MacMath had no chance on the opening goal either as Nyarko was also unmarked. MacMath did make a good save to keep his team in the game late when Okugo slipped and Nyarko got in behind again.

Sheanon Williams – 4

Probably one of the lowest player ratings I’ve ever given for a player who has scored a goal. But honestly, he didn’t know a lot about it, though he did put himself in a good area. His service, particularly in the first half, was very disappointing.

Jeff Parke – 4

Pulled out of position too easily on Chicago’s first goal. The calm and collected play of early in the season have been replaced by inconsistency and subpar performances.

Amobi Okugo – 4

A frustrating match for Okugo. Had two great opportunities to score: Forced a great save from Johnson from a header and should have tested him more late on when the ball fell to him. Was one of about six Union players out of position on the first Chicago goal.

Ray Gaddis – 4

Forced off at halftime, the young defender will be disappointed that Chicago’s opening goal came from his side. But in his defense, he was forced to cover centrally because the rest of the Union defense was already out of position.

Brian Carroll – 3

For everyone who said they wanted to see Bakary Soumare start early in the season with Amobi Okugo pushed into defensive midfielder role, Saturday’s Chicago game was your final argument. While Carroll struggled to cut off the passing lanes to Mike Magee and Chris Rolfe or contribute even a quality forward pass most of the match, Soumare bossed his penalty area and got his team out of PPL Park with 3 points.

Michael Farfan – 5

One step forward, one step back for Farfan. After a solid showing in Vancouver, he was overrun in the midfield, particularly in the first half, against Chicago. Seemed to finally be coming into the game when he was subbed out for Fernandes.

Sebastien LeToux – 5

His service was fairly spot on, leading to yet another assist on Sheanon Williams’ goal. During the succession of four straight corner kicks, it seemed that each kick was better than the next. He had a good opportunity to tally himself after being played in by Fabinho, but Johnson was able to save from 6 yards.

Danny Cruz – 6

With the Union coming out so flat in the first half, Cruz was one of the few players who at least seemed interested. His left-footed strike was well saved by Sean Johnson. He was again guilty of giving little support defensively when Nyarko got free on the opening goal.

Conor Casey – 6

Difficult match for the target man. With little support from the midfield, particularly in the first half, the big man was forced to try and flick every long ball on to McInerney, usually the only player within 10 yards of him. His touch failed him a few times inside the Chicago area.

Jack McInerney – 5

The young forward seems to be fighting himself as his goal drought continues. He had an opportunity for a good shot in the first half but instead slipped on the ball. He also had a great opportunity late in the match, but his shot was blocked at the near post. He was routinely forced into the midfield to find touches.


Fabinho – 6

Did well after coming in at halftime, getting forward from the left back position more than we’ve seen from Ray Gaddis this season. Played a few really good balls in behind the Chicago back line for Le Toux to run onto.

Leo Fernandes – 2

See above. Dispossessed far too easily for the game-winning goal. Failed to provide any spark off the bench when the Union were desperate for one.

Antoine Hoppenot – 2

See above. With the team looking for a tying goal, the diminutive forward’s best idea was to go down easily inside the Chicago box. A disappointing step back after a good showing and a game-winning goal in Vancouver last weekend.

Geiger Counter

David Gantar – 8

Not too much in terms of controversy from Gantar, who kept a good handle on the match from the start. You hardly noticed him all night, which is one of the highest compliments you can pay a referee.

Preferred Starting XI for Saturday’s match against DC

MacMath, Williams, Okugo, Parke, Fabinho, Carroll, Kleberson, Le Toux, Cruz, Casey, McInerney

If it was possible to write this line up without Carroll involved, I would. I guess we’ll see what Gilberto brings when his paperwork goes through.


  1. Pretty mind-boggling stuff from Hackworth. I think most people would have liked to see Kleberson and Wheeler in there. If Kleberson isn’t fully fit, then he shouldn’t be on the bench. I believe Hackworth isn’t going to play him much after the comments on how it’s going to be “difficult” to keep Kleberson past this season. Same old BS from managment.
    Fernandes is not good enough to play on this team or even in this league, at least not now. He should be in Harrisburg. I’m not sure how Hackworth can justify benching a guy like Torres, while continuing to play a guy who is clearly in over his head. At the moment Fernandes is a liability.
    Subbing in Wheeler made too much sense, especially with all of the free kicks and crosses that were happening. I like Hoppenot, but he should not be an automatic sub.
    On the bright side, I thought Cruz had a pretty good game. When he simplifies his game, he can be an effective wide player.

  2. Union fans are stuck in the perfect storm of below average players and below average coaching/tactics. The Union offense is one long ball into the box after another. When was the last time you saw a forward running onto a ball put through? Jack Mack’s lack of goals is a straight attribute to this. He’s not an aerial forward, yet that’s all he gets. Carroll/Cruz are brutal in every fashion. There isn’t enough hustle in Cruz to make up for the lack of skill and touch. I appreciate the hard shot, but it was directly at the keeper.

    LEO FERNANDES FOR MICHAEL FARFAN!!! There is no possible way that Leo Fernandes should be ahead of Torres or Kleberson. He looked like a deer in headlights out there and his first touch of the ball was a giveaway for the game winner. 4-2-4 w/ lackluster play in the center midfield is asking for trouble.


  3. I rate the coaching in this game a 1. Everyone was out of position not covering runs and hack just stood/sat there watching.
    I agree mostly with the grades here except I think cruz didn’t play that well just everyone else was so awful he looked the better for it. He did play better this game than most of his previous efforts.


  5. As I said on the match report page, I couldn’t pick out anything wrong with Cruz’s performance on Saturday until I went home and saw the replay of the first goal. Keep an eye out at the bottom left corner for Cruz walking back from the midfield line while Chicago is pressing our defense. For a guy who is all about effort, where the hell was the effort there? It’s bad enough that Gaddis has Nyarko to deal with throughout the game, but where the hell is Cruz when Gaddis has to tuck in and cover his CBs? He’s nowhere to be found. I wanted so badly to give Cruz credit for a good game, but I just can’t justify it with his lack of defense. If he was out of position and too late getting back, I’d be fine with it. He just didn’t even try.

  6. Ok, I’m usually a Hack supporter, but I’m very confused. Other than the gaff by Leo, I actually thought he was not much worse than Farfan.
    The major coaching issue for me was the discord between putting in Hoppenot, then playing 100% long balls. Either the players weren’t following instructions, or Hack has some explaining to do. Makes no sense.
    Dare I say, we could’ve benefited from Keon. Larentowicz tore us apart the entire game.
    I actually place a big part of the blame for both goals on Amobi. He got sucked over to the middle and was ball watching/marking space on both occasions. He and Parke need better communication.
    We need to beat DC or else we are in serious playoff trouble.

    • Have to disagree with you on Okugo during Magee’s goal. Okugo goes with Amarikwa who is making a direct run off of Parke’s right shoulder. Parke doesn’t see it because it’s on his blindside and he’s forcing Nyarko to his right foot which is also where Fabinho is to potentially help. Williams is too far up the pitch to track Magee’s run and is trying to recover.

      It’s a total jailbreak and you can’t blame Okugo because he goes with a direct runner. Also, he likely thinks that he has some help on his back side, but in situations like that, a defender is playing fireman and is reacting to what’s in front of him.

      Aside from Leo, it’s hard to blame anyone in that situation as it’s purely a numbers game and the Union didn’t have enough guys back.

      • It was not a numbers game. It was 3v3. Parke did nothing. Fabinho started to press the ball as a result and Okugo had to track the runner behind Parke.
        Either Parke need to press Nyarko and let Fabinho pick up the runner, or he picks up the runner and Fabinho presses Nyarko towards Okugo and Magee. Either one works. Not slowly moving backwards as Parke did and continues to do.

      • D – Fabinho couldn’t pick up the runner as he’s not goal side. In fact, the only thing that he could have done was try to close down Nyarko and he was frozen (check the replay)

        I agree that Parke could have pressed Nyarko, but it’s easier said than done when dealing with a quick, pacey player coming at you with speed. Also, Padke couldn’t pick up the runner because he didn’t even see him and again, because Fabinho wasn’t in a position to stop Nyarko from going in directly on goal.

        My point was that it was not Okugo’s fault as he was not “ball watching/marking space”. He was tracking a direct runner on goal. And as much as you want to say it was 3v3, it really wasn’t as Chicago had three players inside the posts (Magee, Nyarko and Amarikwa). and the Union only had two in the same position behind the ball (Parke and Okugo). Williams and Carroll were still trying to catch up to the play and Fabinho’s positioning didn’t allow him to do much here.

  7. The substitution of Farfan lost us that game, Marfan wasn’t at his best but he was at least a physical scrapping entity in the midfield and was starting to pull some strings. Leo has just done nothing positive this whole year that I can remember….really don’t get the coaching decision…(s)

  8. I’m one of those who commented elsewhere that Zac went down too easily on Magee’s goal. So just to follow up on that and what’s here: I completely agree with what’s written here, and pretty much said that in my comments. Magee was all alone with time and space, so even if MacMath stays up and makes himself bigger, he likely puts it in anyway. But that said, it is *harder* for Magee if the goalie is making himself as big as possible, rather than making himself as small as possible by going down.
    Otherwise… I think Casey is just a point too high; I’d put him at a 5 for the game. His touch failed him a lot in this game, more than usual. There were times he was played into space in the midfield, and lost the ball. If he controls some of those better, he has a chance to play in McInerney or find Le Toux or Cruz or Williams or Fabinho out wide.
    I was impressed with Fabinho. A lot of the comments after the friendly were about his poor defending. And seeing him play defense for the first time, I do agree with the idea that he’s not a very good defender. But he did a lot of things right, and his defending wasn’t so poor that I’d dread seeing him on the field more.
    Agree about the ref, too. It’s good to see a game be handled well. MLS and US Soccer should take note.
    Finally, I thought Mike Farfan played well. Not great, but well. A five seems reasonable. He did well to check back and give the defense an outlet. The biggest problem is that his options were often pass to Carroll, pass backwards, or boot the ball forward. Le Toux and Cruz need to give Farfan options; once that happens, the long ball opens up again because defenses have to defend more than just the long ball. So given how he’s played the past couple games, I’d like to see Farfan continue in the box-to-box role.

    • Farfan’s game was mediocre to crap. I see him ignoring options trying to be too cute with the ball and then trying to force plays that aren’t there leading to turnovers. Not good enough for a one time All Star.

      • Southside Johnny says:

        Totally agree. With such a useless midfield, it’s hard to fairly assess forwards or backs since so much of what they screw up affects the rest of the field. Attackers run through or past them. Connecting more than two passes and moving the ball forward under control are beyond their abilities and through balls are rarer than good coaching decisions. Chaos is not a strategy, Hack.

      • Part of it has to be on the forwards/wingers to move intelligently without the ball. Casey does a reasonably good job of this. Was disappointed by McInerney and even Le Toux. Cruz is a like a bubble hockey player — moves in one dimension. Three guys lining up along Chicago’s backline and standing or jogging while the ball is essentially on the other side of the field is not going to cut it. From that angle/position, it’s basically three guys making the same run (and they’re not flooding the side, either). But yeah, the sluggish decisionmaking and timidity of the midfielders and even fullbacks is maddening. There’s just not purposeful movement up the pitch.

      • Recall, though, that being outmanned in the midfielder is an issue you create when you choose to use two forwards and three of your four midfielders are Carroll, Le Toux, and Cruz. Not a whole lot of playmaking ability there. Farfan is on an island. Obviously, we’ve seen that Hack’s club isn’t much better deploying the fifth midfielder. So, I’m not sure what the solution is, but I think you do need someone else who can handle the ball/keep possession. Don’t think Daniel has succeeded in that role. Not sure that player is on the roster. I can only think of Torres, and something is “off” there.

      • Farfan wants no part of being the player who controls the midfielder (#10, #8, or even a good #6). He thinks he knocking it around on the playground. And I’m tired of his cheap hacks and always trying to “fight” people.
        There are only 3 people on the team who actually look like they want play like a #10 or even a #8: Fernandes, Torress, Kleberson (for about 45 mins). Leo is not as bad as everyone makes out. He controls the tempo much more the Farfan. But alas, he should only be seeing very limited time or be in Harrisburg. Torres is the only player on the squad. I’ve always thought him too small and weak, but I would still play him.

  9. I recommended once before to rate Hackworth as well …; I give him a ‘-1’. A zero for losing this game and the -1 for letting Soumare leave.

    • Hackworth needs to be rated and people need to stop tip toeing around him for fear of no access. Hackworth is not fooling anyone anymore. He is not a pro coach and he is stuck in the Bob Bradley scared to lose approach to coaching. We need a pro coach who has played at the pro level. Unfortunately we have an ownership and management who don’t want to compete for titles and ( as I’ve said before) is content to wallow in a cesspool of mediocrity! Build it and they will come is only going to last for so long. Time to put up or sell the team to someone who cares about the fans and this sports market!

      • Would be nice to have an ownership willing to spend, but short of that, how about a young coach and technical staff who are innovative and want to play an attractive style? You can be “Philly tough” without aimlessly charging around and trying to score exclusively on headers in traffic. There are teams in MLS that do much more than the Union with similar resources.

      • DCD i agree with you completely, i don’t believe that the problem is a lack of spending. I would even go so far as to say we probably almost have all of the players already on our roster that we would need to play a more effective game

      • LCB: I don’t even think that Hack and Bob Bradley should be in the same sentence (I’m not a BB fan). But at least Bradley actually knows how to coach, his style. And it is effective. I would appreciate that here.
        Hack just doesn’t know ANY tactics. Team Defense or Offensive movements. This is why our D is in the lower half in GAA and we offense only scores on set pieces, long balls, and fluke plays.
        DCD: Just give me a coach who can understand tactics. It’s probably asking waaaay too much to have a coach who can teach the modern game.

  10. Deleting comments, I see? PSP, you’re coming along nicely in the age of limiting internet speech. The force is strong with this one.

  11. murphthesurf says:

    When do we get our Former Captain back from being out
    “On Loan” ?

    Le Toux was a 7 or 8 this week, imho.

    Jack Mac was more like a 2.

    Needs to go back up front, he is not a play maker.

    Hoppenot Was Fouled.

    Seems like Hack is a chip off the Nowak…
    Kiss my butt in practice, and you get to play…


    • Completely agree with your rating of Jack Mac and Le Toux. I feel like Jack is getting a pass because of his past play this season, but honestly, he has been playing miserably lately.I’d bump McMath up a point to a 7 as well, I can’t knock him down for being absolutely hung out to dry twice, plus made two saves to keep us on life support.

  12. Mike – You mentioned this late save that MacMath had on Nyarko. Don’t you mean the one on Amarikwa where he tries to chip him and MacMath catches it with his left hand?

    • Mike Servedio says:

      Yes! Thank you! It happened fast and my notes had Nyarko with a ? next to it and I didn’t get a chance to look up the video. I’ll make that change.

  13. We should thank Toronto for stealing 3 points from NE! I would make one change to your starting lineup: Farfan for Cruz. I know he tends to move to the middle when playing on the left, but I think Farfan and Fabinho would do well on left side.

    • Yes. With Fabinho and Williams, we should be playing a Diamond mid or 4-3-3…but no reason to make tactical reccomendations. The style and lineup will be the same.

  14. In 10 minutes, Hoppenot did pretty well. And there was contact on the last play…

  15. Good think we shipped Adu out and handed the keys over to Farfan. No wait, to Keon. No wait, to Kleberson. Or is it Cruz?
    I do not like Adu, but I can’t help thinking how much better he and the U would be with him serving it up to Casey, Mac when he’s in form and Le Toux.
    It’s not like Cruz defends!
    Oh well. They better beat DC next week. Only game we’re going to this year.

  16. Uh yea… that was a game. With ummm… Soccer and stuff happening.
    you know.
    a ball.
    and some dudes, in blue.
    and there were the red guys.
    and they scored.
    then the blue guys scored.
    and everyone was like FUCK YEA.
    then the red guys scored.
    and people were like 🙁
    Then the game stopped and red were like woo hoo…
    and it was by the river and I think someone bought a T-shirt or something.
    The End.

  17. I agree with the people recommending that Hack starts getting a grade too. The “honeymoon” effect is wearing off and Hack’s got a long way to go to be a good professional coach.

    Like was stated, I thought Farfan was finally getting into a grove and starting to play like his old self. The Fernandes sub was mind boggling. He needs some solid minutes in the lower tiers and maybe he’ll unlock his potential.

    Le Toux was easily our best player, I’m glad he’s back to his assist form. Now if only he could find a way to score goals.

    Carroll…I don’t know if he’s just getting old or what, but he’s been inconsistent and last night was a ghost of his former self.

    Valdes…please come back.

    • I’ve posted this before, but …

      We considered adding Hackworth to the ratings. We decided against it and stuck with players. It’s easier to evaluate what you see on the field than what you don’t hear being communicated between coach and players. When we want to write about coach’s decisions, we do, as Mike did regarding the Fernandes substitution. With ratings, we stick to the players.

      And the Geiger Counter. Because it’s awesome.

  18. I agree Wheeler should have been the final sub, but from my seats in Section 119 (endline, under the club) I could see Hoppenot come over and put his jersey on around the 78th minute, then proceeded to stand there next to the bench for about 4 minutes until Hackworth told him to go to midfield. This is not the first time that’s happened. Why did he not send Hoppenot on right away? If the players on the field couldn’t do anything for 80 minutes, what does he expect Hoppenot to do in 7? At least give him those 4 or 5 extra minutes to find the game and frustrate the defense. In short, not only did Hackworth make the wrong sub for the situation, he also messed up the timing of the sub, therefore squandering precious minutes. He also had no problem taking Farfan off, who as mentioned was starting to round into form.

  19. Gaddis was the key to their attack. Chicago focused on attacking at Gaddis through the air and he got dominated on. Way too high of a ranking for someone who had to get subbed off.

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