Player ratings

Analysis and player ratings: Red Bulls 2-1 Union

Photo: Paul Rudderow

So, big picture question.

What was the plan?

Watching the Union flounder and struggle yet again at Red Bull Arena, some glaring oddities were visible for all to see. For example, what was Maurice Edu’s job in that match?

Not what should it have been, but what was he told. Edu has played the powerful, defensive foil to a more creative midfielder for years, with great effect. However on Wednesday night, he never committed to being the dominant ball-winner he can be. More concerning was that he didn’t really get forward effectively either. More often than not, Edu could be found sitting just a bit too high for defense and a bit too deep to attack. When the Union had possession in the final third, he took little part, yet when New York broke, he was somehow too often out of position and was forced to call on his athleticism to get him back into the play.

Rotation situation

One possible cause for the lack of understanding on the part of the Union players was the endless, confusing player rotation. Cristian Maidana proved highly influential settling into the center of the pitch from his left wing perch. But soon after he began to look dangerous operating behind Andrew Wenger the Union entered into a choreographed shift. Maidana ended up on the right, Le Toux went alone up top (where he spent far too much time), Wenger cycled out to the left and Fernandes took his turn in the center of the park.

Organic it was not.

Nor was it terribly effective and neither Edu nor Nogueira seemed comfortable making heads nor tails of their attacking configuration for much of the match.

Further exacerbating the lack of team chemistry was the Union’s sudden urge to turn their game North. Despite owning a tactical one-man overload in the center of midfield, the Union used their possession only to drive forward. Le Toux and Fernandes in particular were the most guilty of dropping off a simple pass before turning tail and sprinting up field, leaving an isolated teammate with few options.

Lack of support

This lack of patience left too many players without the outlets they needed to make smart, simple passes. And once the ball was turned over, the Red Bulls were off to the races. With direct runs from Fernandes, Le Toux and Wenger trapping them up field, space on the counter attack was plentiful and Edu, along with Aaron Wheeler and Amobi Okugo, were left trying to slow play as they waited for their teammates to recover.

What Brian Carroll may lack in distribution, he makes up for in being a solid anchor at the base of the Union attack. And while it is unclear whether Edu was asked to fill that role, or if the Union coaching staff deemed that position surplus to requirements in this match, that anchoring presence was certainly missed.

Ball, man, ball, man, ball, man

firstgoalNYPHIWhen did the Union turn into one giant Omar Gonzalez?

Seriously. It is becoming hard to watch as time and again the entire team takes turns shirking their defensive responsibilities in favor of being a spectator to a nice play from their opponent.

With Le Toux leaving his mark and allowing Roy Miller to run unchecked into the box, the Union defense needed to react quickly. When Okugo slid out to cover Miller, Wheeler and Fabinho (see top right) both were in line with their marks in Thierry Henry and Bradley Wright-Phillips, respectively. Yet, with both defenders focused on Miller’s progress and not their runners, when Miller was ready to play the ball, he had two wide open targets (see bottom right). With his eyes on the ball, Wheeler overran the play without noticing Henry had held up his run, while Fabinho simply slowed to a stop, allowing Wright-Phillips into an arguably more dangerous position than Henry, should Miller have chosen a simple square pass across the face of goal.

Between New York’s opener, as well as their winner (ball-watching by Fabinho again), and the goals that cost the Union dearly against Portland and RSL, it is clear that the problem is far more complicated than simple mistakes, made in the moment by an unfocused player.

Whether mistakes are coming from youth, inexperience, lack of chemistry or even lack of fitness, it has become clear that they will not stop naturally. How the coaching staff choose to address this growing area of concern will likely be one of the critical factors in the trajectory of the Union over the course of games before the World Cup break.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 5

Outside of twice plucking the ball out of the back of his net, MacMath didn’t have a lot to do. With both Henry and Sam left so shockingly open, he had no real chance of making a play on either New York goal.

Ray Gaddis – 5

Pushed the game up the right flank, limiting Eric Alexander’s influence throughout. It would be hard to blame Gaddis for New York’s late dominance up his flank as the lack of defensive cover out of the wingers too often left him to defend 1 v 2.

Amobi Okugo – 4

As de facto captain of the Union back line, Okugo has taken on a lot of responsibility in seeking out the opposition’s best players. Recently, however, he has shown a tendency to back off and allow too much space to these attackers. While it may be an effort to slow play down to allow his teammates to recover, Di Vaio’s curling equalizer and the space he conceded to Bradley Wright-Phillips are clear signs that Okugo needs to close down space faster.

Aaron Wheeler – 3

Continued to do the simple things well and struggle mightily with the rest of the game. Stepping up is the simple part, rising to head a long ball clear, or breaking up a pass. That was where Wheeler excelled. Yet when the play got close to him, the converted forward struggled with both his positioning and his awareness. If he is to continue in defense, he must better understand his assignments, locate the correct runners and improve with the ball at his feet.

Fabinho – 2

The only positive for Fabinho was that after conceding an extremely foolish early yellow card, New York failed to run at him with the consistency that would almost certainly have seen him sent off. It was no matter though, as the left back still missed far too many tackles, had little impact with the ball at feet, and became the most recent Union player to forget all defensive responsibilities so that he could have a good ball watch.

Maurice Edu – 3

Wearing the captain’s armband for the first time, Edu looked uncertain of his responsibilities and struggled to link play together while seeing to his defensive responsibilities.

Vincent Nogueira – 6

If it was good and it was Union, Nogueira was somehow involved. Covered the usual large swath of land, yet even he grew frustrated with the lack of options and poor running in front of him.

Leo Fernandes – 3

Physically intimidated by the Red Bulls, Fernandes appeared to shrink from the fight. Offered very little of the supportive, link up play that has been the hallmark of his early season success.

Sebastien Le Toux – 2.5

We don’t typically give half points in these ratings, but considering how poorly Le Toux struck his penalty, it seemed unjust to grant him an entire point’s bump for Luis Robles’ inability to fall on the ball. Outside of the goal, Le Toux was a peripheral figure in the match, running wildly all over the attacking half and shirking his defensive responsibilities, most glaringly when he failed to follow the Roy Miller run that led to Henry’s opener.

Andrew Wenger – 4

Battled gamely with Olave and Sekagya but simply lacked the physical qualities to make an impact as he was pushed off the ball far too easily. On the rare occasions when he got looks at goal, his touch let him down disappointingly.

Chaco Maidana – 6

Opened brightly and confidently as he found space centrally and along the left flank before fading when he was made to move over to the right. Maidana’s showing had the distinct feel of past performances from Michael Farfan. Full of promise, clever touches and attractive technique, but biting off just a bit too much with his passing and attempted through balls.


Conor Casey – 4

Unable to create anything against Sekagya and Olave, Casey was fortunate that Nogueira followed up and won the penalty after he dallied too long on the ball, nearly wasting his only chance of the match.

Michael Lahoud – 5

Clearly brought on to push Edu and Nogueira higher up the pitch, Lahoud showed his typically high motor, but was guilty of going for too much and committing a few wasteful turnovers.

Antoine Hoppenot – N/A

Geiger Counter

Ricardo Salazar – 5

It was a typically erratic performance from Salazar, who varies wildly from calling nothing for stretches of a match before watching it turn ugly and then having to call everything in an effort to calm escalating tensions. Got a one point bump for show flexibility in pulling back the card he planned to give to Gaddis after talking to his assistant and admitting that Gaddis had indeed been shoved into the RBNY player.

Preferred Starting XI for Saturday’s match vs Houston Dynamo


MacMath; Williams, Okugo, Berry, Gaddis; Carroll, Edu, Nogueira; Wenger, Casey, Maidana


  1. This team is so depressing.

  2. Philly Cheese says:

    Ratings are fair…although disappointing. Lahoud poor long balls at bad times, and number of giveaways rated a 3 or 4. Le Toux regularly runs into others space…somewhat like Keon used to do. L2 needs to “rest and watch” on Saturday. We will have a good test of bounce back capability on Saturday. Even though Carroll out of game didn’t produce the second win, not sure that is the fix that is needed, but perhaps that provides Edu ability to go forward.

  3. Ideally this is the team I would “evolve” to over the course of the season, using who we have now.

    Williams – Berry – CB – Gaddis
    Edu – Okugo – Noggy
    Pfeffer – Wenger – Maidana

    Clear upgrades would be, in order, CB – LB – S – RW.

    Once again, we have a midfield problem and it sure seems like Okugo is our answer. We need someone to sit in front of the defense, but we also need that person to contribute to offense as well. Carrol simply can’t anymore. Edu is too much of a Box to Box mid. But Okugo. Okugo can do that.

    I still want a real LB but Gaddis may be our best bet for now. Once we get that LB, there is no shame in him being a great FB backup. Having him on the bench also strengthens it as he can be a great sub for many situations.

    I would type more but it’s too depressing to think about.

  4. Completely agree with the proposed starting lineup. Until the D stabilizes a bit, and with Williams and Berry getting back up to speed, BC’s role seems very necessary right now.

  5. Worth point out (unless I’m mistaken) is that Fabinho is already on 4 yellow cards for the year.

  6. Glad you pointed out that we didn’t have a first line of defense against the counter-attack. You seem to be asserting that the coaching chose to play 4-2-3-1, rather than a 4-1-4-1, and that therefore Edu’s role was unclear. Edu does have a record of success at CDM, but maybe all the talk about adding goals to his game, and not instruction, caused this.

  7. Depressing analysis but too true. Besides any other points that have already been made, it really just completely boggles my mind that we keep making these damned switches in the midfield. If I saw Wenger on the left trying to cross to Leo running away from Olave, I was going to shoot myself. No more tricks, put the guys in their best spots and let them play.
    Carroll might have to be played Saturday after the mess last night, but in general I think my preferred lineup would be. 4-4-2
    Williams, Okugo, Berry, Gaddis
    Fernandes, Edu, Nogueira, Maidana
    Casey, Wenger
    On a side note, is there any chance Blake plays on Saturday? I’m not advocating it, just wondering.

    • Hackworth said (last week I think) that we should see Blake “sooner than later”. The 3rd game of 3 games in 8 days would be a natural spot to try it. Would he do it when the team now desperately needs a win though?

  8. I think Blake has to get a start. First goal nothing Zach could do at all. No one is stopping that. However, the 2nd goal wasn’t exactly a rocket header into the upper 90. Zach was slow reacting made literally no attempt to leave his feet to make a save and in fact put both his hands up thinking he was going to run into the post even though he was nowhere near. The kid also has no game awareness at all and at times like yesterday with the backline out of sync he should be losing his mind screaming at them to get some order back there.

    • Former Season Ticket Holder says:

      That’s one of the things that concerns me the most no Players on the field seem to be getting upset about sub par play. Yelling screaming demanding accountability etc etc etc….maybe this goes on in the locker room but someone needs to step up and take the bull by the horns and lead this squad.

      • Southside Johnny says:

        Au contraire, mon frere, JackMac expresses his displeasure…oops…oh, yeah… he got traded…but he caught hell for it every time.

      • There is a difference between showing your displeasure through arm gestures and tantrums. A goalie stepping up and taking charge of his back line vocally is what you call a good leader. Zach doesn’t have that and never will.

      • Former Season Ticket Holder says:

        well said

    • Switching goalies doesn’t resolve any of the team’s major issues, and in fact creates another one.

      • JediLos117 says:

        And it’s completely unnecessary…MacMath is playing great.
        Anybody insinuating that he could have saved the second is delusional.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Thank you! He had to go post to post, that’s a 24′ slide, to save a strong, free header that was just inside the post. Lots of blame to go around on the goal, but MacMath does not deserve any of it on this one.

      • It’s getting to the point where MacMath has to make got to make the save of the week every week to get any respect.

      • I knew we’d have someone saying that he could have saved that goal. Predictably delusional.

      • Your delusional if you think that equates to effort.

      • At no point did I insinuate he should have stopped it. My issue is that he made no attempt to go after the ball. He looked scared to put it all on the line in an attempt to save it. He also didn’t have to go post to post since he started in the middle of the net. Watch it again.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Sorry. He still had to go side to side and the header was a good one just inside the post. Goalkeepers watch balls go in all the time when they’re beaten. Don’t see the need to hate on an in-form Zac. That goal was not his fault. No one wants to see him jump in the air just for the sake of perceived effort. It was always going to be a goal. Blame the D, not MacMath.

      • Ummmmm what? No one wants to see effort if you aren’t guaranteed to succeed? Did you really just say that that is alright?

      • I would like to see him try and fail to save it. This would show he actually has some awareness which he does not. I literally just watched the goal again on my DVR and the dude put his hands up thinking he was about to run into the post. Either that, or he was watching thinking it was going wide having no field awareness. Watch it again please. His body is squared to the post watching it go in. That is wayyyy worse than a keeper being caught flat footed and watching a ball go in with no potential to stop it.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Just watched it again and he did go post to post. Won’t let you pin this on MacMath. Won’t do it. He was beaten by a good header. It happens. Get over it.

      • Eli my man. Just because you are at one post and end at another doesn’t really mean you go post to post. He started at one went to the center SET HIS FEET then reacted like snail on the header and got scared of the post. You don’t see that then you are ignoring it and nothing I can do to help you.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        You dislike MacMath and his game. You’ve made yourself abundantly clear on the subject.

      • Better than Rigby says:

        In that situation the keeper’s job is to be ready and moving into position in case it is shanked, off the crossbar, etc. futile sprawling puts you out of position in those (rare, except when it is us) mishits.

      • I think you did everything you could in this string.

      • Granted I don’t follow other sides quite as religiously as the union and I realize that quality teams have a distinct dominant keeper, but it does seem to behoove the team to at least take a look at their highest draft pick in game action Regardless of how Macmath is playing. If we are developing him it helps, and if we are trying to dangle him or Zack it helps.

      • We’ll see Blake in Open Cup matches. Not any sooner, I suspect.

  9. buzzkill_ed says:

    Have to agree with your XI. Le Toux has had a rough stretch. I love the guy, but no more free pass. Earn your spot. On top of that Maidana has proven to be much more effective with set pieces and crosses.

  10. I was most upset that after the red card we were unable to keep the ball. Our players were amateurs out there in how often the Red Bulls ‘stole’ the ball from us. Was depressing to see and as I have said so often the coach is to blame. Last year he had no plan B and it is the same story this year.

    He probably also had no plan A…

    • Guido, did you say plan? I agree. This is travel coaching trying your best to figure it out as you go. I need to believe the man at the helm has a plan and I am completely unsure he does or is able to figure it out.

  11. Edu needs to be DM. He can do it but that needs to be his responsibility and it needs to be made clear to him that is it, otherwise put Carroll back in at that position or as many have argued, put Okugo into natural position.
    I think edu linked play nicely and switched fields and was giving instruction and direction as needed then he disappeared in second half.
    Every facet of play on this team is wrong at this point and it needs to get right. The manager has to be held accountable for what is happening and someone needs to light a fire within the players themselves.
    Truthfully, I think Noguiera should be made #10. Play a diamond 4-4-2. To me that formation solves a great many of the problems, at least offensively. Wenger and Casey to start, ‘super sub’ or young master Zack P. as 75 minute sub if offense is what you need or Carroll as 4-5-1 if defense is what you need.
    As far as defense. How can you expect a striker. Winger. Defensive midfielder to make a coherent defense. What the manager has asked of his back 4 borders on criminal.

  12. -Hack’s tactics of getting Sheanon/Gaddis up the field has been figured out. Opposing teams are refusing them the outside.

    -Letoux doesn’t have the acceleration to play in small spaces.

    -Carroll while an abomination to watch, does allow Edu and Nog to get higher up the field.

    -I’ve yet to see Casey or Hopp make any contribution

    -Where’s Pfeffer? Am I crazy in thinking he’s the perfect type of CAM this team is missing to link the MF and Fwd’s?

    -Saturday will be a job defining game for Hack. If he comes out with anything less than 3 points, he’s done.

  13. Why don’t we try for our back line –
    Williams – Okugo – White – Gaddis/Fabinho

    • How bad must Ethan White look in training? I know it’s assumed he’s Okugo’s back-up, but Hack’s obviously still trying to find a back line that works. If he can’t get a sniff now….

      • yea Mikex it is definitely concerning.

      • You never know, he could be horrible or Hack could just be determined to make this Wheeler thing work. No way of telling.

      • I think Hack just wants one tall CB if he can manage it.
        Okugo: 6’0″
        Berry: 6’2″
        White: 6’0″
        Wheeler: 6’4″
        My guess is that, for whatever reason, he doesn’t think a pairing of 6-foot-tall guys will work. White is clearly Okugo’s backup, and Wheeler is Berry’s.
        In my opinion, of course.

  14. Also, I think we should try starting Hoppenot so we can really put pressure on the opposing defense

    • Because he does so much when he’s in there?

      • Well D putting a player in at the 75 or 80 min mark doesn’t really allow you enough time to create anything especially when you are a forward. Hack needs to sub earlier and he needs to allow Hopponot to grow. Can’t really judge a player who gets put in as a forward for only 10 min. a game and in fact he does a lot when he attacks the opposing defense. His ball control and dribbling is fantastic and is so dangerous against defenses but we haven’t seen enough of it because he never starts and he’s never allowed to get comfortable on the field.

      • And to Hoppenot’s credit, that dribbling skill he has wasn’t there his first year. He worked hard and improved it.
        Hoppenot shouldn’t be used every game. He should be the guy who comes somewhere between half and 60, and the team morphs from their 4-3-3 into a 4-4-2 when he enters the game. You would make this move whenever you think switching out of the 4-3-3 is tactically the right decision. You’d leave your center-forward (whether Wenger or Casey) in, so Hoppenot can work off him.

  15. Peter Andrews says:

    I think some of the ratings are a little harsh — in the first half, in particular, I thought Edu did a great job in the middle of the park.

    However, I think you’ve correctly identified the issue which is that the offensive players totally lack chemistry. We have Nogueira, who is the best player who’s ever put on a Union kit, and Maidana, but they can’t link up with anyone else because Le Toux and Fernandes aren’t on the same page at all.

    One unappreciated problem with the McInerney training is that it basically erases all of the preseason work done getting the team on the same page. Four games in, Hackworth suddenly swaps the focal point of the attack? You could see the understanding that has developed between Edu/Nogs/Chaco — but Wenger is still adjusting and it shows.

    The extent to which this team is missing Williams cannot be overstated, either. If nothing else, Williams is an effective component of the attack, something you can’t really say for Gaddis and Fabinho.

    • Williams isn’t the best defender either, he loses his mark and gets beat just like everyone else in the back. Our defense is struggling and it needs to be fixed immediately. I wonder what Hack works on in training for defensive play. I wish I knew

  16. The Chopper says:

    While I think this Saturday comes to fast for a full tactical shift, I think the move to some form of 4-4-2 will happen soon. The current roster just does not have the players to play it effectively. A 4-4-2 will get the best players the team currently has on the field at the same time.

    I see the merits of the 4-5-1 that Hackworth prefers, but right now, the pieces aren’t there. Going forward there me occasions to experiment with it with players like Pfeffer and Ribiero, but right now, the pieces just don’t fit.

  17. That was a tough one to watch. I had high hopes after missing the RSL game this weekend. They were dashed about 35 minutes in.

    I think honestly what we’re seeing here is a team that overperformed in their first few matches and still has yet to find their feet. I’ll probably write more about this next week in the Fans’ View.

  18. Great analysis as always. The comments are also very astute. If you take a vacation Eli, you have cover. However, am I the only one going crazy over the ridiculous decision to blood a converted forward into a CB against the likes of Thierry Henry? That is straight up mental. As you point out, the nuances of that position are predictably lost on the guy. Surely White understands those things better. Let Wheeler play at Harrisburg or in the reserves in order to learn the position. This is becoming costly.

    • Obviously, Hackworth doesn’t understand the nuances of the CB position.

    • I agree gzolo. For being an attacking minded player I give Wheeler credit but to play CB well you have to know the position in and out. I feel the defensive problems are far worse then just Wheeler, they have no organization in the back on counter attacks it seems they all run around like a chicken with its head cut off. Hack needs to realize this and fix it asap!

    • The Black Hand says:

      Both of our CB’s struggled mightily. Henry’s withdrawn play confused our central defense and opened them up like a book. Someone should have told John Hackworth that this is how Henry has been playing for two decades and that he should probably have a plan to defend.

  19. Pretty sure MacMath has some scandalous pics on the PSP staff…not playing bad, but the dude can do no wrong apparently.

    Wenger is a good player with good skill and size and I like him, but I don’t see the cutthroat, cocky attitude. That’s what a forward needs. So I miss Jack already, only because he had a killers mentality and nobody else on this team does. He wasn’t playing great, but at least he had fire.

    I feel like Edu is underestimating his competition. He seems to be able to dominate when he wants.

    How does Hack have a bench with only 2 attacking options? Also he needs to send Hop down and give the young’ns some time. They can’t be anymore of a non-factor than Hop.

    Line-up above is perfect. Probably our best options. Though Casey hasn’t impressed. In a 4-2-3-1 I put Leo in for LeToux. Fits the passing style more. But I like the 4-2-2 with Nog on the “right”. Just play tight and let Williams over lap with Casey and Wenger up top.

    • Zac can do no wrong? Seriously? They give him a 5 – in other words, saying he was “average” – and you view that as the site bowing down before him? Really?

  20. The Black Hand says:

    Yikes. Might be the lowest ratings that I have seen and what’s worse is; I can’t disagree with you. We stunk. Aimless possession, lackadaisical play and plenty of ball watching.
    This club looked misdirected…at every spot on the pitch.
    Noguiera, once again, was the only player that showed up to play. Unfortunately, he couldn’t get much going because his teammates left their effort on the bus.
    Noguiera and Gaddis are the only Union players to merit a rating of 5+.
    MacMath could have made a better effort on Goal#2.
    I’m losing faith in the manager…AGAIN.

  21. Good stuff, just think Lahoud should’ve been a 2-3. He was really bad. He gift wrapped 4 passes. Agree on everything else. And people, Macmath is playing the best I’ve seen him. Top 5 keeper in this league. Blake would get destroyed out there because right now the defensive line stinks. That’s the one point you can’t argue with the coaches. He’s for the long haul.

  22. Southside Johnny says:

    Another season and another Union witch hunt is well under way on PSP. JackMac was the first to publicly burn this year, but like Salem of old, evil somehow persists and must be rooted out. Is it Carroll or McMath or Fabinho or LeToux or…? Look, as fans we all have players we love and even hate and that’s fine and they all are open to criticism, but blaming individual players for a team’s failures over multiple matches is beyond stupid. However, the leadership is always fine with a witch hunt because it distracts folk from the core problem which is always ultimately leadership. That’s why organizations replace CEOs, GMs and coaches when problems persist. As I see it, the only person on this team who has stunk up the place with any regularity is John Hackworth.

  23. I don’t see how you can give Le Toux a 2.5 and Wenger a 4…that pass from Maidana in the 13th minute was a goal on a silver platter. Inexcusable to miss.

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