Player ratings

Player ratings & analysis: Crew 2-1 Union

Photo: Brien Vincent, courtesy of Columbus Crew

Good teams take positives from losses. Luckily for the Philadelphia Union, it will not be very difficult to find the bright side after their first loss of 2014. The rebuilt Union central midfield again went toe to toe with a very talented opposition, two players that nobody expected to have big roles this year stood out with confident showings, and regulars that caused worries in 2013 showed signs of growth.

So take a deep breath and step back: Philly just went into Columbus and took a very good team down to the wire. And after three games, the only open play goal the Union have given up was a once-in-a-career blast. Not too shabby.

A bit of context

Maurice Edu. Vincent Nogueira. Cristian Maidana. The midfield was targeted and retooled in the offseason. Through two games, there had been very little to complain about. Arguments about replacing Brian Carroll with an attacking midfielder are no longer about fixing a broken midfield but about what will make a good squad that much better.

So to say that the Columbus Crew midfield bested their counterparts on Saturday is not to say that the Union were poor. Instead, it is to acknowledge that Philly can measure themselves against good competition now, instead of the migraine-inducing null tactics that characterized 2013.

And Columbus was good competition. Even before Federico Higuain found the game, he was poking and feeling for holes more aggressively than Portland’s Diego Valeri ever did. Meanwhile, Tony Tchani — the Jon Obi Mikel of MLS — and Wil Trapp held their positions and brought the Crew’s wide players into the game with increasing regularity.

It’s a Trapp
Wil Trapp: Tackles, interceptions, clearances, recoveries.

Wil Trapp: Tackles, interceptions, clearances, recoveries.

Trapp, in particular, should be singled out for praise. The 21-year-old, who is the Crew’s vice captain, calmed his team after the Union found space to break vertically through Nogueira and Edu in the early going. By staying at home and forcing Nogueira to receive the ball deep on the wings, Trapp exposed Philly’s lack of ideas going forward. As Higuain grew in prominence, Edu stayed further back and the link between Jack McInerney and the midfield was effectively broken.

Additionally, Trapp won four of five tackles, had four interceptions, three clearances, and 13 ball recoveries. A map of his defensive activity mirrors his passing chart in showing that he was heavily involved on the right side, attacking Fabinho — who had little midfield help — and exerting high pressure to keep Nogueira from spreading the field.

Higuain’s quest

The Columbus playmaker epitomizes the modern attacking midfielder in that he will go anywhere to find the space and time he needs to create. But early on, the Union midfield was effective in keeping the Argentine from running the offense. Higuain responded by dropping behind Trapp and Tchani and seducing the now markerless Philly midfield high so the wingers could step inside to the space in front of Okugo and Wheeler.

Higuain, Trapp and Tchani passing before first goal (Left - Minutes 0-10; Right - Minutes 11-23)

Higuain, Trapp and Tchani passing before first goal (Left – Minutes 0-10; Right – Minutes 11-23)

Though this strategy was only somewhat effective, Higuain sprung to life when he resumed a higher role after the 10th minute. With the Columbus wingers rarely tracked by their Union counterparts, Edu and Carroll were occupied with Hector Jimenez and Bernardo Anor coming inside. This gave Higuain the space he needed and he announced himself with a fabulous aerial ball to Arrieta that took Okugo out of the play and required a Zac MacMath intervention. In the figure on the right, you can see that Higuain had one offensive first half pass (incomplete) before minute 11.

Wilting on the wings

Though the Columbus central midfield trio was better, the Union’s was still good. It was the wing play that let Philly down.

Cristian Maidana had what could charitably called an off day. After struggling to get involved on the left, he moved to the right wing, where he was barely involved. Five touches in the final third after the 19th minute — one failed take-on and four completed passes — point to an ostensible outlet player that offered no such thing. That the Union were much better when Leo Fernandes arrived in more of a traditional second striker role is no coincidence.

Sebastien Le Toux, meanwhile, was at his most enigmatic. There was the wonderful high pressure to create a glorious chance for Nogueira in the 40th minute. Then there was the ridiculous ball chasing in the 58th minute that left Le Toux and McInerney attacking the same fullback and granted Columbus acres of space down the wing that almost led to a goal.

There was the high work rate to recover when he was out of position. There was the extremely high positioning that inevitably requires so many recovering runs.

Few can argue that Sebastien Le Toux brings value. But the question that has kept the Frenchman off the field at his other MLS stops is: Where is the sweet spot? Does a player that runs relentlessly but has little positional discipline benefit the team in a 70-90-minute performance? Or does the team benefit more from a player that holds shape and finds a reliable spot to offer an outlet? This is the same question Houston could not answer when they unloaded Danny Cruz. That both Le Toux and Cruz are on the Union roster suggests John Hackworth thinks he can find the sweet spot for both players. So far, results are decidedly mixed.

On to the upsides
Wheeler vs Columbus

Wheeler vs Columbus

But we did start by talking about positives. Aside from another strong showing from the midfield three, the Union’s most notable performances came from two players who probably sell very few jerseys at the pro shop. Aaron Wheeler had as close as it gets to a perfect game for a big striker converted into a defender. Put it this way: DC United’s back line will be watching Aaron Wheeler video this week.

When he had time, Wheeler looked for Okugo. When he was pressured, Wheeler looked long. He did not mess around and he did not make mistakes. Will anyone call him svelte, silky, or stylish? Will they mistake him for Alessandro Nesta? No. But that’s fine. As long as he is on the field, the opposition is going to attack Wheeler and expect him to crumble. Though Columbus attacked him both in the air and on the ground, Wheeler stood tall. Three blocks, six (!) interceptions, and five clearances for the big man. Well done, well done indeed.

Another member of the back line to shine was Ray Gaddis. Any way you look at it, Columbus was more successful up the Union’s left side compared to the right. While the Crew are going to lean that way most games (see their previous win at DC), Gaddis’ resurgent offensive game was also a contributing factor. While he still makes more poor passes than a top back, Gaddis completed 36 passes, 20 of which went to Edu and Nogueira. In other words, he ain’t just dropping it off to Okugo anymore.

Columbus passing vs Union (L) and DC United (R)

Columbus passing vs Union (L) and DC United (R)

You might be thinking, “Yeah, Gaddis was pretty good. But Columbus likes going up the right. There was always going to be less pressure on Ray.” Here’s a fun comparison of the Crew’s passing and crossing against DC United and the same stats against the Union. Note the gap on the left.

Open questions

After three games, the Union have found answers to a lot of the issues that plagued them a year ago. The midfield is much improved, the back line appears solid even when riddled with injuries, and Zac MacMath is playing with a tenacity rarely seen in 2013.

But there are plenty of lingering questions. First, Jack McInerney has been criticized for performances that see him drift in and out of games. There may be some merit in this. But not much. The Union were curiously, infuriatingly direct against Columbus. Particularly in the first 10 minutes, counterattacks involved a good run through midfield followed by a through ball to McInerney, who was often the only other player involved in the attack. Mac is fast, but he’s not Jermaine Defoe. He makes up for a lack of elite speed with intelligent runs that pull defenders away. On Saturday, McInerney made those runs and left huge gaps behind the Columbus midfield. Gaps that nobody filled.

If anything is missing from McInerney’s game, it’s a bit of confidence in front of goal. He is not hitting the ball cleanly or attacking 50-50 balls with the intensity that puts defenders on their heels and makes them think twice about stepping up to challenge him. These are minor, correctable issues. He’s still the No. 1 striker on the roster.

Another question is how the Union should deal with teams like Columbus that are comfortable attacking with width. Maidana and Le Toux rarely tracked runs from the outside backs, and the Crew were able to hold possession by overloading the wide areas and creating space for Higuain.

Philly never fully answered the Crew’s tactics. Can they adjust in the future against teams like Kansas City?

Player ratings

Zac MacMath – 6

Rarely challenged, MacMath came up big early and only fluffed at one aerial challenge. Otherwise, he commanded the box and the revamped back line well. He’ll get criticism for letting in Anor’s second. But no MLS goalie makes that save with any regularity. So… not going to hold that one over on Zac.

Ray Gaddis – 8

Aside from shutting down the left side of the Columbus offense, Gaddis put in the fine cross that was deflected out to Le Toux, leading to Leo Fernandes’ goal. He put in another fine cross in the 76th minute that Nogueira put over. Another strong, strong showing from a player that was covered in question marks coming into the season.

Amobi Okugo – 8

All over Arrieta from the first whistle, Okugo can only hope his parents can’t lip read what he told the ref after a couple of foul calls. Playing with a partner carrying 30 minutes of defensive experience, Okugo was the main man in back and did very well considering that the Union played deeper than normal to accommodate Wheeler. Of his 37 completed passes, 18 came in the last 30 minutes as Okugo pushed the Union forward and constantly pushed Gaddis to join the offense. So far, the brief lapses in concentration that nagged at him in 2013 have been absent this season.

Aaron Wheeler – 7

What more did you want from the guy?

Fabinho – 7 

With little midfield protection and a first-timer next to him, Fabinho held his own. Columbus was always going to attack up his side, and the Brazilian’s penchants for diving in and getting too far upfield had fans holding their breath all match. Fortunately, he recognized that Maidana and Le Toux were wandering and held his ground well. Five tackles won, none lost, and three interceptions? Not too shabby.

Brian Carroll – 6

This is another one of those, “What do you want from me?” games for Carroll. He was tasked with bracketing Higuain and he largely kept the Argentinian at bay. He protected the back four with aplomb, recording 7 tackles won, none lost, and five interceptions. All three of his clearances were from deep inside the box and only one clearance went out for a corner. The truth is, Carroll is exactly what you want when you play on the road. Deal with it.

Maurice Edu – 5

Hardly a poor performance from Edu, but he was outplayed by Wil Trapp in a similar role. When he should have been heavily involved late in the match, he was a bit player, not quite fully committing to the breaks. If the Union would have gotten a similar performance out of Keon Daniel or Michael Farfan last season, we would be praising it. But Mo Edu is not those players. He can be much, much better.

Vincent Nogueira – 7

Another player who was good, but not at potential. Nogueira continued to drift wide to create and was heavily involved in the final third. But whether it was a lack of communication, a lack of tactical understanding, or something else, Nogueira’s movement left a huge hole behind Jack McInerney that nobody filled. If he is going to continue to come wide to get involved, the Union will have to figure out how to fill that space in the middle. Is it Edu stepping forward? Maidana coming inside?

Sebastien Le Toux – 4

I’m a wanderer, yeah I’m a wanderer. I roam around, around, around, around, around.

Cristian Maidana – 4

Maidana should be an impact player. He was not an impact player.

Jack McInerney – 6

The movement was good, and Mac was inches away more than once (particularly on Fernandes’ late cross). This was the first game McInerney appeared truly isolated for extended periods of the match, and with Maidana and Le Toux drifting, the young striker was unsure where to go. How will he respond after two games without a goal?


Leo Fernandes – 8

Well, that was wonderful. After he shone as a starter, Fernandes did the same as a sub. This was a fantastic move by Hackworth, as Fernandes immediately filled the space behind McInerney, coming deeper than Le Toux or Maidana, who were constantly caught playing against the Crew back four. Instant impact, and making a case to start against Montreal.

Antoine Hoppenot – 5

Hardly his fault, but Hoppenot was the wrong sub. With Le Toux pushing high, the Union already had someone running at the back line. They were already starting to rely on crosses when Hoppenot came in, and Columbus was already dropping deep, meaning there was little room to run in behind. Though he did create a brilliant individual moment with a late run and half-cross, Hoppenot was a confusing addition with Conor Casey on the bench.

Danny Cruz – n/a

Yup, he played. Not long, and didn’t do much.


  1. Wow, these are great. How much did we win by?

    • not every loss is going to be a total disaster. players can play a good game and still lose

      • No kidding, just don’t think they played a good game. Had an ok opening 10-15 minutes, fell asleep for the remainder of the first half and woke up at the 60′ mark when Leo came in.

        My initial thought is that maybe only Nogueira looked “good”. I don’t think Wheeler looked good and thought Carroll did a good job most of the match papering over the positioning.

      • Yeah. There’s no talk of all of Edu’s and BC’s turnovers. Nogueria played well, but missed his chances.
        I’ll give MacMath a pass when his feet leave the ground when he dives. Didn’t happen here. Hasn’t happened yet.
        Pretty much, all ratings are too high.
        It was our worse game this year, but still better than our best last year.

  2. Allowing one shot on target from open play, and that one shot from 35 out, usually means you played pretty well on the whole.

    • The Black Hand says:

      You mean…a goal from 35 out. Two shots on target=two goals. Yet, he gets a ‘better than average’ rating. 35 yds out and the keeper didn’t even react. No defending that. He did have a nice challenge on Arrieta earlier, after Higuain’s masterful over-the-top- pass (which Brian Carroll shied away from). Still, a 6 is a stretch.

      • I think he was referring to the team playing well in general only allowing one shot, not Macmath. Huge stretch to give him a 6. 4-5 is more deserved.

  3. Thanks for defending Carroll and MacMath. Totally agree with your numbers there.

    I don’t agree about Jack. He had one pass that he received past the back line a few yards from goal. He should have lashed a first time shot or with his first touch brought it toward the goal, instead he lets it run until the shooting angle is ridiculous and looks up for a pass. That there wasn’t a pass available is the team’s fault. He’s a forward and should have shot that. I also agree that this game needed Conor Casey. We were getting the ball in the box, and the bull would have guided a second home.

    You are generous with Maidana and Le Toux- it was the Frenchman’s marking that let Anor through for an easy header, and Maidana had about five passes that he hit with such little vigor that he would have faced criticism in my son’s two to three year old Soccer Shots practice.

  4. Different View says:

    Guess I saw the game differently..

    Zac was a deer in headlights on the corner (Yes, Seba blew his coverage) and Maidana didn’t even look like he cared about clearing it – but how is a goalie not following the ball? I don’t get it. And the 2nd goal – I can’t even waste an effort on that one. Totally unacceptable.

    Hoppenot – Agree. A horrible sub at the time. We needed some muscle – and Casey rode the pine. (See next comment)

    Jack – he needs to sit a game. 3 games in and i’m tired of his facial frustrations. Casey will come into the game and throw around and try. He’ll complain about getting fouled – but not much more. JM is far too young to be carrying this team as the lone striker.

    Carroll – Yep. Nailed it. He’s boring. He passes back constantly. He’ll never change.

    Overall it was a very disappointing loss. The team controlled 80% of the game – and, just like past years – blew it on momentary lapses. They would’ve been in first.

    Yeah, i’m sure this sounds harsh after 3 games – but we should be analyzing every game the same.

    • Agree about JM. He will never be THEE consistent offensive guy able to carry a team. He doesn’t have the change up in his game. He can’t create his own space because he can’t maneuver with enough skill on the ball to do so. He’s a poacher and will run hot and cold. Teams have caught onto him so he needs help. Enter Casey. If we are going to sub then it should be Le Toux and Fernandez(he can play up front) coming in for McKinerney and Casey or visa versa. Fernandez can ball better then McKinerney. Maidana will bounce back because he has game. Cruz and Hoppenot should only be subbed in if they can take advantage of certain defenses. They don’t need to play every game and neither does Carroll.

      • I don’t get why people think sitting Mac for Casey will cause goals in this system…If we’re playing with one forward, either the CAM or wide mids/fwds have to fill the space behind and score.
        Jack created space. Nog missed a lot. Leo scored.
        Jack had his chances and didn’t finish. So, I’m ok w/ a change. But I don’t expect a different result w/out addressing the space underneath the CF.

      • It’s an option. The Union need to be able to change things up. The subs are so predictable. Jack is just continuing to play and find himself in the same situations as last year. He does NOT have the ball skill to go 1v1 as an option. Poachers, poach. If He’s going to be the only one up top then he’d better vastly improve with the ball at his feet.

      • Formation should be changed up as well. 4-4-2 so maybe Jack has Connor as his target man? I understand the desire for a 4-3-3, but this team is better built for 2 up top (we aint Ajax)

    • Final possesion was 52-48% in favor if the Crew. We definitely didn’t control the game. In fact the Crew dominated possesion in the first half.
      Both teams gave away a lot of chances. The Crew gave away more. We didn’t finish and we gifted them two goals.

      • With the Union it’s the same scenario week after week the struggle to score. With all of the changes in the off season, why are we having the same tired conversations. The main reason could be the coach.

  5. The Black Hand says:

    Huge numbers, in this one. I’m not sure that anyone showed better than a 5, maybe 6.

  6. Sorry Adam but Zach’s feet were cemented to the ground on that long shot. He absolutely has to save that every single time. It isn’t like the ball was into the upper 90 or anything. Inexcusable.

    There are major issues with Jack’s game. He does not have the skill to take a defender 1v1 which is leading him to let the ball run long into odd shooting angles that he then just shoots directly at the keeper. He has been regressing and becoming the definition of a sad poacher except he isn’t really poaching right now.

    Connor for Jack Saturday and leo for Le Toux or Carroll.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I can’t agree with Conor starting next week unless Hack is convinced he’s in game shape. I’d hate to see him gassed out there after 30 minutes and then the Union are in a really bad position strikerwise and have to make an early sub. Would much rather see Casey come in at 60 minutes, regardless of the situation, just to help him get in game shape for 30 minutes.

      • Yea good point. Didn’t really think about Conor maybe having fitness issues still.

      • If Hack wasn’t the coach, I’d say “Yes. Casey off the bench.”
        But we all know it’s Hop, then Cruz..those two get automatic subs. If leo doesn’t start, Casey doesn’t play.

  7. Sometimes in soccer the other team gets less than half the shots you do, half as many on goal, and the ball hits the laces of a middling player just right, and you lose.

    I was happy with the effort. The result was tough and undeserved. I’m happy that I like this team and what they can do, that a loss feels like frustration because it was unfortunate, and not the frustration of last year: This is the frustrating team I root for. It got the loss it deserved.

  8. Andy Muenz says:

    First we have to start off with a -1 rating to Adam for not giving us the preferred starting lineup for next week’s game 🙂

    Although it didn’t help this week, one thing I like about Wheeler on defense is that in games like Saturday’s where the Union need a late goal, Wheeler can move to forward. This allows the Union to save a sub while focusing on offense. Plus, if they get a goal, they can go right back to 4 defenders.

    Maybe at some point they can consider a starting lineup with Wheeler and Berry as center backs and Okugo as CDM.

  9. No Geiger Counter?

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Good point. I would probably give the ref a 7. Should have given Arrieta a card for kicking the ball away and maybe given a couple of players a talking to after the early fouls, but other than that, I think he got most of the calls (and non calls) right.

      • Higuain got away with a couple very cardable offenses imo. I remember one particular egregious one where he kicked Wheeler square in the shin and didnt come close to playing the ball

    • Man, you guys really watch for this stuff! We’ll take Adam out behind The 700 and smack him around a little.

  10. Thank you for highlighting the work done by Carroll. It feels like on every article, commenters are out to crucify him regardless of his work. I can’t comment on every play in the game, but three of the plays in the highlight video stood out to me:
    1) the shot on goal by Nougeira in the 13th minute. The play started with Carroll closing down a Crew player, forcing him into a pass that Wheeler intercepted, which Carroll gathered, passed the ball forward and immediately supported the attack with an off-the-ball run to try and stretch the defense. I hope everyone saying “Did Carroll even make a forward pass?” watches that clip.
    2) the 19th minute save by MacMath on a fantastic pass looped over the top by a Columbus midfielder. Carroll immediately stepped up to him and took away his easiest passing options. If teams end up getting past us through spectacular plays because everything else is well defended, then he’s done his job.
    3) The second Columbus goal. Where the hell was the rest of the midfield? Carroll immediately jumped into the left side of the field where 5 Crew players were trying to break through. He caused a turnover, which eventually found it’s way to Maidana, who immediately gave it away leading to the goal. Did anyone else watch Edu on the play? When Carroll got pulled to one side, he should have dropped back to cover the area in front of Amobi. Instead, we see him lightly jogging back with a defensive urgency and effort that would make Danny Cruz proud. How does that fly with people saying that we should bench Carroll and let Edu worry about midfield defense (which isn’t what we’re paying him a truckload of money to do anyway)?

    I understand that people want to see an exciting style of play, and that playing Fernandes as an attacking midfielder is exciting to watch. However, out of all of the midfielders & attackers that started on Saturday, Carroll is the absolute last person that needs a wake-up call. Our finishing has been less than stellar. Maidana had a howler on the corner kick goal that was far worse than Carroll’s unlucky deflection in Portland. I truly believe that many of the comments about Carroll are less about his playing and more about people just needing to hate on something. People are saying “He’s old, he’s terrible, he’s finished.” Every time I read those remarks, it sounds like they’re coming from people that would rather see us play a 0-7-3 formation because they just want to see goals. Carroll has a thankless job. He may not be the answer to our team’s lack of scoring, but he’s certainly not the problem.

    • Well said. Carroll is not our best or most exciting player but everything you said here is true

    • Just throwing it out there…Without Carroll on the field = 3pts….With Carroll = 1 point. Also he cost us 2 pts in one of the games he has played in.

      Having to go out of your way to find and commend him for 1 forward pass should be proof enough to you that there is a problem with him being out there.

      • You’re absolutely right. Screw my job. I should extend my lunch break a few hours so I can go sign up for MLS Live and replay the entire game at work instead of using the little time I have to check the highlights and type something up.

      • And we didn’t beat New England because Carroll didn’t play. We beat New England because New England sucked. Even then, we beat them by one goal in a game where MacMath absolutely stole a goal from them.

      • We beat NE without Carroll so not sure how else to say that we won a game without him and looked good doing it. I also know for a fact he has cost us a game. The dude shouldn’t be out there since we now have the personnel to play without him.

      • Well, we beat New England without Sheanon Williams and Conor Casey, so I guess we also would have lost if they were healthy, right? Maidana cost us a goal in Columbus, and that was a one goal game. We should give up on him, too. Those are the only logical explanations, aren’t they?

      • Uhhh no. I didn’t say we beat NE with our best lineup. Just stating that we won the game without the player most people feel is holding us back in quite a few different ways and we looked pretty good in doing so. Therefore, Carroll being on the field has been a negative for us. Also, yes if after a couple seasons of Maidana regressing in the MLS I would give up on him.

      • Or for those of us who are fans of The West Wing, “Post hoc, ergo propter hoc.”

      • The Black Hand says:

        SCREW JOBS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • Just throwing THIS out there … without Roger Torres on the field, we lost 1 game, tied 1 game, and won 1 game.
        So, yeah …

    • Bravo. I am a huge proponent of goals and attacking football, but I still believe Carroll is the most underrated player on this team. There are a LOT of important plays that Carroll makes that don’t show up on the stat sheet.

    • Well said.

  11. I’ll give that moaning chick a 7

    • I don’t. The Union finally removes the blackout on the MLS live games, and now I can’t watch the replay of this one because of some dumb fan’s prank.

  12. I think it’s time Hack starts getting a rating too. This is his team, his players, his game plan.I think it is time he starts getting rated just like the players.

      • I think it’s just a necessary evil that we’ll have to deal with. I’m guessing that adding a manager rating would unnecessarily step on people’s toes when it comes to professional relationships between PSP and the team. It’s easier just to say something about the subs & tactics under each player’s rating. Besides, we have the whole comments section to criticize Hackworth.

      • I guessed as much. But I think it is not fair to the players who are getting judged poorly for doing what they are told by the technical staff.

    • +1 although I think Dan commented on this last year when people requested it. There was a legit reason why they don’t add it here, I just can’t remember.

  13. I actually thought the Union played the Crew at least even for this match. And frankly, Columbus looks like a mighty good team this year. So I think the high ratings for the back line are completely deserved.

    I agree that leaving Jack as the line striker is not going to work if someone doesn’t fill those holes. Not sure why the wingers aren’t doing that. But our formation for this game was essentially a 4-5-1 (or, if you want to get more detailed, more like a 4-2-3-1).

    I think we need 2 up top to open up defenses, as you say. And you know, a target guy with excellent feet who can both allow Jack to run off him and mix up smart passes with our new midfielders would be just the thing. Casey needs to start with Jack next match. Put Maidana and Le Toux on the wings, Noguiera as CAM, Edu as CDM, and sit BC — not because I hate BC, but because we need some firepower and this is the way to get it.

    • Southside Johnny says:


    • Yes! But minus LeToux. He’s the biggest issue in this squad right now (or Maidana, but he got the big $).
      Edu and Nog are more than capable inside.

      • You know, 3 matches into the season, the U have 3 goals, and Le Toux scored one of them and assisted on a second. Hard to see how he’s the major problem here. Who else is producing?? Fernandes — but both his goal and his assist were achieved with Le Toux.

        I agree that Maidana hasn’t played the last 2 matches the way he played the first one, but in addition to getting big $$, the dude is clearly very talented. So I’d really want to give him much more of a chance.

  14. “He’ll get criticism for letting in Anor’s second. But no MLS goalie makes that save with any regularity.”
    Can somebody explain this to my novice mind? Why should we expect that shot to go in regularly? If it should go in regularly, why don’t we see more mids and forwards shooting from 30-40 yards out?
    Maybe there’s something stupid I just don’t understand. But to my mind, a goal like that is the equivalent of a hockey goalie letting in a shot from the red line. Yeah, it happens; but it shouldn’t.

    • My take, and I’m 100% sure there will be a ton of disagreement about this, is that a) It’s really hard to find that much space through the middle against professional teams, b) It’s really, really hard to hit a ball into the outside fifths of the goal from that far out, and c) If you get nowhere close to goal shooting from there, you can be darn sure your teammates will let you know they were open when you tried a 35 yard shot on a wing and a prayer.

      • Thanks. Those are pretty solid reasons why you don’t see that shot more often. But what about that shot is so hard for the goalie to stop? Again, I’m a novice, but I would expect that sort of distance provides enough time for the goalie to move to his right and cover the shot.

      • Bodies in the way make it hard to pick up. It’s kind of unexpected. And, even if the ball isn’t ‘knuckling’, it can still move like a Wiffleball.

    • see below for my 2 cents

  15. I tend to agree. It’s by no means an easy shot to save (well struck, knuckling ball, slightly unsighted by Okugo), but Zac’s feet often look a little slow moving laterally. Reminds me of another goal he let in last year from even farther out on the right side (can’t remember the game…anyone?).

    • @Spugger – yeah, I won’t disagree with your analysis there. I guess I just think that while it may have been a save-able shot, I’m not sure how many MLS goalies I’d replace MacMath with and be confident they’d save it. But I’m no goalie super-expert, and I definitely can’t disagree with your points re: his lateral movement.

    • Rowe! That’s who I was trying to remember. Thanks to kingkowboys below.

  16. Seriously considering getting a new #11 jersey with “Wanderer” on the back.

    Great stuff, Adam.

  17. A 6 for JackM is too much. As the key striker he has to finish and get us on the board. It is a ‘failed’ performance if he does not, especially as you say, now for 2 games in a row. I think he thinks too much about not getting European offers. Let him first produce (as Defoe is doing in Toronto) and then wonder if there are no offers.

  18. MAcMAth needs to think Columbus for not having a better angle of the 2nd goal. There is no telling how much curve that shot did (or didn’t …) have.

  19. kingkowboys says:

    Agree with the ratings. I might even go to 9 for Leo. He was more than a spark, he was inches from BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE! If Jack finishes his cross.

    MacMath and the 35 yarder was a similar to the shot by Rowe last year (I think it was the game we got crushed). He hit a wonder shot like that and beat MacMath. That’s two times in recent memory which makes me think it’s less of a fluke.

    • . . . and this one against DC last year

      • kingkowboys says:

        I forgot about that one. If any of our opponents are paying attention they are giving the green light for certain players to attempt these shots on MacMath. He hasn’t even been close to stopping any of them.

        I’m concerned this is the talent aspect of a goal keeper. Stopping shots is about reflexes and explosiveness to get to balls. It’s not as easily learned or coached into someone.

    • Southside Johnny says:


    • I wonder if MacMath needs his vision checked. He’s fixed a bunch of aspects to his game, but it seems like his depth perception still needs work.

  20. Jack has been a conundrum this year. His overall play has been some of the best I’ve seen from him, but he just hasn’t quite found that finishing touch this year. I guess I’m more hopeful this way, as opposed to if he was playing badly in all other aspects. This game highlighted more than ever that we need some kind of personnel or tactic change. Jack had one of two looks Saturday (except for the 2 times he DEFINITELY should have shot). Either he made a run and received a good pass only to find noone helping, or turned around to see Le Toux running in a bunch of directions around him. Maybe we chalk this up as an out of place bad game for both Le Toux and Maidana at the same time… or maybe a change needs to at least be tried. Which leads me to my next point.
    Carroll is definitely a lightning rod, and the guy doesn’t deserve it. He works hard, never says anything bad, is a team player, and never really plays BADLY. That said, sometimes things need to be changed up, as should be the case with 90% of the roster. I don’t disagree with Carroll playing road games like this against good midfields. But if that’s what we go with, you don’t put Edu next to him too. Carroll’s sole purpose is clearing the back in front of the Def. (we can all argue how well he does it). But if he’s in, Edu needs to be up with Nogueira, especially in a game where the wings played poorly.
    I’d like to at a minimum see Leo and/or Casey start this week. and maybe slide into a 4-4-2. I admit I haven’t tracked Montreal so I’m not sure how this works up against what they offer. But I do know 3 goals in 3 games is not cutting it. We’re not a far way off from being excellent, but something needs to change. This is where Hackworth will be judged this year. The good managers know where and when to make adjustments and aren’t afraid to do so.

    • Jack needs to go the full 90 minutes.Last 2 weeks when he got pulled he seemed to e on the verge finally of producing. Considering how many times Jack bailed out Hackworth in the final minutes of games last year it seems ridiculous that Hack always finds it necessary to sub out jack for substandard parts.

      • I know! My god. It’s been only three games and I’m already tired of worthless bums like Hopponet and Cruz.

      • They have their place on the team. And I have no problem with 1 of the 2 getting subbed on. Teams know they are coming and what they do. their effect is diminished.

      • I agree that jack needs to play 90 minutes. Last season he often pulled out last minute goals. His style of play allows him to play the whole game without getting gassed and seems just as effective throughout

      • Southside Johnny says:


      • I totally agree. Jack Mac is a 90 minute investment, and he gets better and better as the game goes on. Subbing him off for Hoppenot made the team worse 2 weeks in a row.

      • Yes. I was extremely aggravated when Hackworth subbed Jack out. It seemed he was just finding the rhythm of the game. And he scores so many goals on the road.

  21. I agree that it is great to see Gaddis’s passing numbers up this year, but you have to give some of that credit to Nogueira and Edu for moving off the ball into space and giving him an outlet. Nonexistent last year.

  22. Southside Johnny says:

    Nice job, Adam. I can be as negadelphian as anybody, and I sure as hell hate losing, but when I reflect on a game like this one, some things occur to me. Like when did we ever play good, attractive, attacking soccer against a very good team on the road before? How many games did I watch the past two seasons that didn’t want to brutally horsewhip the coach and at least one of our players? When have we last played three consecutive matches that made me truly proud to be a Union fan? The bottom line for me is that I see nothing but promise for this team. I keep feeing like this will be a pretty special season and a one goal loss on the road to a good team doesn’t change that. On the other hand, I think losing when you have a good team sucks even worse than when you don’t.

  23. old soccer coach says:

    Thanks to Adam Cann for the degree of insight he provides.
    While the P in Philadelphia is definitely not symbolic of patience, we have to continue to have some. Vincent Nogueira looks so much better than Maurice Edu in the consistency of his effort zero to ninety because he is in mid-season condition, having come straight from playing ninety after ninety after ninety in the French first division. Maurice Edu has just played three consecutive ninety’s for the first time since he left Rangers, and it shows.
    The question I wish Adam Cann had addressed more directly is why Maidana played so poorly. Was Columbus doing something to impede him, or did he just have a terrible day?
    I am glad Hackworth did not risk Casey. 32, a calf injury, a cold day. He’s pretty important; how much of McInerney’s enigmatic hot streak last season occurred with Casey on the field? Among many other possible points, Union corner kicks are much more potent with him on the field than without, also their corner kick defense.

  24. If Carroll is in CM with Edu and Nog to clog up the midfield, then why in the world was Anor wide open in the center of the park 30 yards from goal? My point isn’t to bash Carroll–the entire midfield got caught out of position when we lost possession in our own half, and Anor exploited the gap between our midfield and defense. My point is, if these types of goals are going to take place anyway, then what purpose is Carroll serving as D-mid #2 (or #3, depending on how you look at it)?
    This team is really good, and with some more time to gel, it might become great. I hope Hackworth gets some new substitution habits because Cruz and Hoppenot aren’t working.

    • It’s a good thing you’re point isn’t to bash Carroll, because he’s not the one you should be bashing for that goal. Carroll wasn’t caught out of position on the goal; Edu was. Go back and watch the video. Carroll was responsible for the left half of the field, and he actually forced a Columbus turnover right before Maidana gave it back and Edu didn’t cover his area on the right. He just left a big open space in front of Okugo. Carroll was the only one that did his job on that play.

      • Wow! Wow. It wasn’t BC or Edu. It was Maidana and MacMath. Like 99% Maidana.

      • I’m not saying it wasn’t Maidana. He clearly gave it away. I was addressing the assertion that if there’s that much space to take a shot on goal even with two defensive midfielders in the game, then Carroll should be taken off, which was ridiculous because Carroll was the one actually doing his job on the play. The guy forced a Crew turnover on the play, and yet people are saying he was the one out of position.

      • The whole midfield was out of position on that play, including Carroll, who stayed too far left after making a nice play. There shouldn’t be such a gap between the midfield and defense, either, and that’s likely on the defense for not pushing up to fill the space. There’s a lot of blame to go around positionally.
        If the 2 D-mid setup can’t prevent goals from the center of the park, what’s the point of putting out that formation? Overall, who’s better, Carroll or Edu? If we’re going to switch to 1 D-mid, which one are you going to leave on the field, and which one would you take off? I think even Carroll would vote himself off the field.

      • Because it wasn’t the formation that failed. It was the execution. If they were playing a 2-DM formation (which the opening lineup graphic said we were) then they’re supposed to cover each other’s area when one of them gets pulled wide to defend. There were 5 Crew players concentrated on the Union’s left flank. Carroll had no choice but to come over. He made a good defensive stop. Edu should have stayed home in the space in front of Okugo. Carroll couldn’t have made it over there if he was in a full sprint even before Maidana’s giveaway.

        As far as whether or not we should be using Edu as a DM, I think we’re paying him an awful lot of money to just sit back. Either he should be up next to Nougeira in a 4-1-4-1, or he needs to execute better in a 4-2-3-1.

        And no, I don’t think Carroll would bench himself after doing everything that was expected of him. I think he would fight for his place on the field, just like every athlete in the world would do. This isn’t the Mighty Ducks 2, Carroll isn’t Charlie Conway, and Edu has yet to show us a knuckle-puck.

      • Edu moved left to provide cover for Carroll, which is what he should have done, although he went too high up the field. Carroll moved himself farther left than he should have been by stepping to the LEFT when he passed the ball (even though Fabinho was providing the same support just behind him). If Carroll was goalside of his man (the one he had just stolen the ball from), then it gives Okugo a chance to step up more aggressively because we still have numbers back if he gets beat. It’s an overall positional error, and it’s going to happen sometimes as the midfield continues to gel.
        As for Carroll, I’m with the Black Hand below. He’s a good player, but we have better options now.

  25. On The Right Track says:

    I think the ratings are too high. They lost. Sorry, McMath can NOT let in that goal. Absolutely terrible. We did not ‘deserve’ a point in that game. We simply didn’t get the job done. Hoopenot and Cruz should’ve stayed on the bench. I’m not a big fan of Jack Mac but he should have stayed on for the full 90. If Carroll is in the game Edu should be on the attack. Otherwise it seems like a waste.

    Let’s rebound and kick Montreal’s butts this weekend! DOOP! Go union!!!!

    • The Black Hand says:

      Carroll almost forces the other central midfielder to hang back, with his lack of two-way play. I hate to always come off as a ‘Carroll Basher’ (OK, maybe I don’t) but he has zero versatility. I think that the other midfielders (aside from LeToux) are lightyears ahead of Carroll and that he takes away more than he contributes. When Carroll is in the XI, the Union seem to play such a limited game. Without him, the midfield looks to be more creative and I feel like that is what we need to take the next step, as a club. Brian Carroll, at this point in his career, is a good situational option but the club has moved beyond Carroll’s abilities…In my opinion.

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