Player ratings

Player ratings & analysis: Union 0-0 Houston

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Yes, Philadelphia Union remain a work in progress, and they have shown signs that they are capable of being an elite MLS club.

But at some point, that work needs to translate into wins. Nearly one-fourth of the way through the season, that has happened just once. Once again, the Union failed to capitalize upon an opposition red card in a second half they largely controlled.

So let’s take a look at some of what stood out from Saturday’s scoreless draw with the Houston Dynamo.

Questioning the substitution patterns

Union manager John Hackworth used just two of his allotted three substitutions Saturday. You could defend that by saying the team was playing well in the second half, and a change may have hurt that.

On the other hand, Houston hadn’t gotten off a single shot in the second half with 11 men. It’s unlikely that they would have done better with 10 after Kofi Sarkodie was ejected.

So would the Union have been better served by replacing defensive midfielder Brian Carroll with an attacker like Antoine Hoppenot? Hoppenot could have slotted in at left winger, Leo Fernandes could have moved more centrally, and Maurice Edu and Vincent Nogueira could have held central midfield with fewer Houston attackers to worry about.

Considering how Houston sat back and simply absorbed pressure, 20-20 hindsight would indicate that yes, that was probably a better way to go, even considering Hoppenot’s ineffectiveness of late.

But that wasn’t only the notable substitution choice by Hackworth. The two substitutions he made seemed preordained before the game.

One paid off. Sebastien Le Toux was very active and effective upon replacing Conor Casey, who slogged through perhaps his most forgettable game as a Union player. Absolutely right call.

The other seemed more dubious. Cristian Maidana was playing very well and not looking particularly fatigued when Hackworth pulled him in the 55th minute for Leo Fernandes. It was the same point at which Hackworth replaced Maidana in two of his last three starts. Fernandes went on to play a fairly steady but unimpressive game most notable for his continued diving.

Cross after cross after cross vs. David Horst’s monster game

The Union completed just 2 of 35 crosses on the day, with one successful cross coming off a corner kick and the other immediately after a corner. In other words, the Union didn’t connect on a single cross unless most of their team was inside the penalty area. That inefficiency is remarkable.

Equally amazing is that the Union sent in 18 of those crosses after their best aerial threat at forward, Conor Casey, had left the match 63 minutes in.

At what point do you accept that crosses aren’t working and try something new?

Pennsylvania native David Horst had a monster aerial game clearing those crosses. Whether the Union’s crosses were accurate or not, no Union attacker was beating him in the box.

The Union needed more creative ideas than this.

Maidana tries stuff

It’s becoming very clear why Hackworth made each of his big three offseason signings, but the one most gradually coming to fruition is Maidana.

On Saturday, Maidana’s creativity was on display. He combined well with Nogueira down the right side, freed himself for crosses with just the scantest of space, and generally just tried stuff, to paraphrase Bruce Arena. He is the creative attacking presence the Union need on the field, and his teammates could learn a bit from his movement off the ball.

When he left the game after 55 minutes, despite not looking particularly fatigued, it took that element out of the game. It’s not that Leo Fernandes was particularly bad. He just played a fairly ordinary game.

Maidana needs to show Hackworth his fitness is good enough for him to go 70-plus minutes. The pace of MLS is faster than the Latin American leagues Maidana has played in the last few years, so maybe it’s just a matter of time before his stamina gets to where it needs to be. Benny Feilhaber had similar issues last year with Kansas City before peaking at exactly the right time, and now Feilhaber looks like one of the league’s best. Maidana has to match that.

Meet the Philadelphia Diving Team

Congratulations, Leo Fernandes. You are continuing a sad tradition begun in 2011 when Freddy Adu joined the Union. You are a diver. And it hurts your team, because the refs already know it.

Fernandes isn’t the first, mind you. First there was Adu, who was shameless with his flops. Then there was Antoine Hoppenot, who thankfully seems to have has not mended his diving ways.* And don’t forget about former Union man Gabriel Farfan, who would brutalize an opponent on a rough tackle one minute and then take a dive a few minutes later.

The Union’s reputation for diving looks so bad that, in a recent game, the fieldside audio caught what appeared to be a referee yelling at Sheanon Williams to get up and stop flopping. That was good, because Williams was flopping.

The Union went 41 matches without winning a penalty before they finally won one last week on a handball in the box. But the streak continues for games without a penalty on a foul.

Philadelphia does not — and will not — get these calls because of their reputation for diving.

So is it time to fire John Hackworth?

No. Stop asking. Seriously. You’re smarter than this. (Most of you, at least.)

Hackworth has put together arguably the most talented Union team ever after a ridiculously impressive off-season, and some of you want to fire him after just eight games with that unit? Please.

Yes, their record should be better but isn’t due to all those late goals they surrendered. But this team has shown signs of becoming a very good team if given time, with the best possession play ever seen from this team.

No, they’re not there yet. But overall, the Union’s level of play is pretty much what you should expect from a team with so many new pieces and a back line that has yet to play a single game with four fully fit first choice starters. (No, Austin Berry and Sheanon Williams were not — and probably still are not — fully fit when they started together a week ago.) The attack is still gelling. The defense has to get fit.

Come back and see me in September.

Player ratings

Zac MacMath: 5

MacMath got lucky on two plays: Will Bruin’s strike that hit the goalpost, and David Horst’s header toward goal that was blocked by his own man, Ricardo Clark. Otherwise, MacMath was where he needed to be. Some say it’s better to be lucky than good. MacMath had a bit of both.

Sheanon Williams: 5

Did you know it was possible to go 0 for 12 on crosses? Neither did I. At some point, if those crosses aren’t connecting, you have to try something new. That said, Williams got those opportunities because he put himself in position with good runs, and it was his 92nd minute cross that nearly led to a game-winner. Two of his throw-ins nearly led to goals, and he played a solid defensive game.

Amobi Okugo: 8

Okugo put in his usual good defensive shift and nearly scored twice. As usual, his distribution was stellar.

Aaron Wheeler: 5

Wheeler’s passing out of the back remains awfully suspect, and the giveaways are mounting up.  While he remains a dominant figure in the air and has justified Hackworth’s center back experiment, he doesn’t look better than Austin Berry did before his injury. He may already be a good backup center back,* but he is not yet ready to start for a playoff team.

Ray Gaddis: 6

Gaddis played his usual good one-on-one defense, and he was steady with the ball. However, he still offers so little going forward at left back due to his weak left foot that most Union attacks come down the right, the predictability of which makes them easier to defend. (43% down the right, 32% down the left.)

Brian Carroll: 6

Carroll completed 58 of 62 passes and had 20 defensive takeaways. No, he didn’t offer much going forward and flubbed an ugly 76th minute volley. But he also made plays like in the 96th minute, when he saw a Houston counterattack long before his teammates and positioned himself well to shut it down before it became a danger.

Maurice Edu: 5

Edu looked good at times, maintaining his composure and seldom giving the ball away. But there were also times when he could have asserted himself more and instead disappeared.

Vincent Nogueira: 8

Nogueira completed 96% of his passes. Yes, you read that right. Just two incomplete passes in 55, one of which was a cross. His crossfield switches were again pinpoint, and he combined well with Maidana in attack. He lost possession just five times all game.  This isn’t a guy making easy passes back to the center backs. This is the playmaker. Right now, he is head and shoulders above everyone on his team.

Cristian Maidana: 6

Maidana looked dangerous throughout his 55 minutes, particularly when he combined with Nogueira. The problem was that he came out after 55, just when a goal seemed to be on the way for the Union. Philadelphia needs more minutes from him.

Andrew Wenger: 5

There were times when Wenger looked really good, like on that pass that should have been an assist to Casey. Then there were times when he blasted should-be game-winners well over the cross bar. That late sequence summarized his game: Good hold-up play, nice pass on the give-and-go, hustle to put himself in position for a winner, and then blast it high.

Conor Casey: 2

Casey had just 23 touches in 63 minutes. Those numbers fit Jack McInerney more than Casey, except Mac would have been making runs behind the defense. One of the big man’s worst performances in a Union jersey.


Leo Fernandes: 3

Fernandes was fairly invisible after his entry and proved a marked drop-off from Maidana. He gets docked a point for his shameless dive shortly upon entering the game.

Sebastien Le Toux: 8

Le Toux jacked up the defensive pressure upon his entry and made things difficult for Houston’s back line in possession. He also combined well in the attack and nearly created the winner. If he didn’t play on a team known for diving, he might have gotten that late penalty call.

Antoine Hoppenot: ?

Oh wait, there was no third substitute? Never mind then!

(Ratings guide: 0: Worst game ever. 1: Almost worst game ever. 2-3: Bad game. 4: A bit below average. 5: Average. 6: Above average. 7: Good. 8: Very good. 9: Great. 10: Hat trick hero.)

Geiger Counter

Armando Villareal: 5

Yes, Villareal made the right call to book Sarkodie for time wasting. He held the ball for well over 30 seconds.

But you could see by Villareal’s delay that he likely forgot that Sarkodie was on a yellow card until a few Union players reminded him. That’s laughably sad.

Preferred lineup against Montreal

MacMath, Williams, Okugo, Berry, Gaddis, Carroll, Edu, Nogueira, Maidana, Le Toux, Wenger

You could swap Fernandes for Carroll for a more attacking lineup, but until the back line gets fully fit, Carroll probably needs to shield them like he did Saturday.


  1. The Flyers won yesterday!

  2. Alright so you refuse to agree to fire Hackworth then at least agree he needs to be demoted. It’s great we have a sick lineup on paper but if they are completely mismanaged before, during and after each game then what is the point? Give Hack credit for the player acquisitions but he ruins all that goodwill with his match day decisions. #DemoteHack

    Seriously though, not using 3 subs in the 3rd game in 8 days should be enough for them to make a move at manager. Has to happen before it is too late.

    • I’m not gonna defend Hackworth here – I don’t think he should be fired but I’m not happy with his management thus far – but only so much can be blamed on him. The substitutions, game management and tactics are on him, but he is not on the field when they give up late goals. There is only so much he can say to them, and in situations like Portland and Chicago where they come on restarts, a leader on the field needs to take charge and make sure everyone is set. Both RSL goals were made by awful defending/ball watching. Hackworth needs to make changes for sure, but the players need to be held accountable for their mistakes as well.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Maybe instead of demoting him, the Union could promote him to GM since he seems to have a talent for finding and signing players. It’s more the in game management skills we’ve been questioning.

    • Wish Moreno could replace Hackworth as coach. Hackworth has 0 soccer IQ. Were those boos I heard during the post game wrap up? If so they were well deserved.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        This was the Achilles heel I think we all worried about: what if Hack can’t actually manage?! He is quickly proving he can’t. This season is starting a downward trend that could really cause things to get ugly.
        I’m not saying Hack should be fired, but if this continues it has to be the next logical step. And it should be done sooner than later. End of May… tops.

    • Some of the best teams in the world often don’t use all three subs. There is no hard and fast rule that you need to. Leaving Carroll on allowed for Mo to push forward which is when we looked the most dangerous. Hop has not shown consistent enough finishing in my mind to warrant coming on when we were already creating good chances.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        a) The Union aren’t one of the best teams in the world.
        b) It was the Union’s 3rd game in 8 days.
        c) The Union were up a man and should have been pushing forward because the gain from a win is significantly more than the cost of a loss.
        Probably the best sub would have been to bring Berry in for Sheanon (who was tiring) and push Wheeler forward in a 3-3-4.

      • agree with a&b – just not sure adding Berry to the mix would have been best

      • I agree I think Hoppenot for Williams or Gaddis would’ve been more favorable. In that case Okugo AND Wheeler could’ve both pushed up leaving Carroll and Gaddis back to defend. Houston didn’t have a shot in the 2nd half, there was no reason to think they were gonna get one with constant pressure.

  3. Because I was at the game, I didn’t hear the broadcast, but a friend told me that Heather Mitts was on air saying she could hear Hack yelling at Maidana for not staying on the left. That was shortly before Maidana got pulled.

    Anyone know if there’s any truth to this? If Maidana was ignoring instructions, that would explain the early exit, as well as being a pretty ominous sign for the future.

    • Interesting. Did anyone actually catch this on the broadcast?

      • Not me. I was watching via MLSlive, which aired the Houston broadcast team.

      • A friend watching at home texted me the same thing. If that’s the case, that affects my view of Hackworth as I was under the impression he was telling the wingers to swap positions regularly. That works fine on the National team when you have 2 right-footed players (Dempsey/Donovan). But when you have Le Toux and Maidana it doesn’t make sense for them to be swapping so much since neither is sending in a good cross with their weak foot, and it pulls both inside towards their strong foot.

      • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

        But,,,, Inverted wingers get a nice look on goal when the square up to shoot and a good look to square the ball to the center of the pitch. Swapping wingers is effective because it gives the oppositions defense multiple looks from the same unit.

        It doesn’t make sense for us to cross at all anyway since Casey is playing about 3x slower then everyone else on the field and Wegner has been pretty blah in the air so far in his very brief Union career. lol

      • Good point. I am not opposed to them playing on the opposite wings so they can push inside and shoot on goal, as clearly the crossing isn’t working. The problem with the Union’s situation is that when they switch they both come inside to look for that shot on their strong foot and we lose the width. So instead of confusing the defense with a different look it just compresses an already tight midfield. If the crosses were more effective the switching would work, as Maidana could cross from the left and then cut in to shoot on the right. So it doesn’t matter to me which side Hackworth plays them on, I would just rather see them stay there until something improves.

    • On a slightly tangential note, Heather Mitts is a way better broadcast analyst than Peter Pappas. I assume Pappas’ contract is for the whole season, and he isn’t the worst we’ve ever had (Bob Rigby pretty much has that title sewn up for life), but I hope she gets the main color commentator job next year.

      • I agree, I wish they would use her more. I think she has grown into the role well.

      • I am thinking maybe we could use her at Right Back.

      • Pappas has long bouts of boring analysis interrupted by frequent comments about how hard it is to be a GK. I really miss Moreno.

      • kingkowboys says:

        +1 I really liked Moreno. I thought he had good input and was light hearted and entertaining. I liked his enthusiasm.

      • Pappas is starting to grow on me. He has a deadpan delivery which would never make it on a national network, and his cred as an analyst may be questionable (a former indoor soccer GK? really?) but once I got past that, I’ve been thinking his analysis isn’t too bad.

        Having said that, I do think it is a position the Union can upgrade, and I would love to see Heather Mitts take over the main analyst job. She can deliver good analysis, has strong opinions and she has the cred which comes from being a long time US National Team veteran which Pappas lacks.

    • I was also at the game so didn’t see the broadcast, but in the first half Maidana and Wenger switched sides every 10 minutes or so. Didn’t seem to be in the run of play and appeared to be a silly Hacktic. Hope someone asks Hack about that in his presser this week.

  4. I would just like to say that this was one of the worst refereeing performances I have witnessed. From inconsistent calls for both sides to calling for advantage when it wasn’t to the advantage of the team to not calling it when it clearly appeared to be. Not realizing a guy had a yellow already. disrupting the flow of the game. Missing penalties and handballs. I am not saying it was definitively one sided just that it was annoying and frustrating to watch.

  5. I usually agree with the ratings, but these seem more than a little generous. We were simply outplayed in the first half (just look at the stats). Even though we recovered a bit in the second, we still offered very little going forward (other than wild crosses). The one positive is that we (finally) didn’t have a jaw-droppingly bad defensive let down, but I’m not positive that isn’t more due to a weak Houston side.
    I can’t see rating anyone other than Noqueira above a 5. Just my opinion (and prob frustration) though…

    • There seems to be 2 scripts for a Union game
      1. Get completely dominated.
      2. Control the game but have no idea what to do in the final third.
      Last game we saw both.

    • I’d agree, but frankly that’s the joy of this site, arguing over the ratings,etc.

      Though these have me wondering what I don’t see in Wheeler’s game:” has justified Hackworth’s center back experiment” & “He may already be a great backup center back”.
      To my eye, he brings “Wreck It Ralph’s” footwork to every challenge. He’s not talented, just huge and runs over the smallish forwards. His footwork isn’t suspect, it’s awful. Unpressured, he’ll clear it into row “T”. There was one play where he got so turned around and beaten like a mule at midfield, forward sprinting by him like the first kid onto the lawn for the easter egg hunt. Luckily Okugo covered and cleared.

      • Eh, great = good. Better word choice. I’ll edit.

        Otherwise, you missed the part about him being a beast in the air. Maybe that MLS Team of the Week honor he got. (A bit more than he deserved, but still notable.) He’s a good athlete. He’s just not an experienced center back yet.

      • he is good in the air and pretty bad at everything else. everything else. can’t track runs. struggles to pass the ball. always clears directly to an opponent. gets lost all the time. being tall and strong in the air is just one of many, many skills required of a centerback. I really don’t see how you can claim that with experience he’ll be great.

      • Probably says a lot about MLS that a converted forward can become a good defender.

      • Clamor some more for Berry. Really. Do it. He has been directly responsible for as many goals against this year as anyone else on the team. Including both in a 2 -2 draw. No one wants to applaud his recovery speed when he gets beat. They just want to point out that he gets beat. Give Wheeler a chance.

      • Wheeler has played pretty well. Has his good and bad points; so does Berry. But with Wheeler, we can’t play out of the back. So with him and Gaddis on the left, we end up playing down the right even more. Also, he and Fabinho on the field are a red card or PK liability. But he does have good recovery speed and physicality, which is needed considering we bad at defending set pieces. I still prefer Berry at this point.

      • Berry had one bad game but he also was a good starting centerback for two seasons

    • Sure, they might be too generous. That’s always possible. My average rating for this game was a 5.5, so … for a draw, you figure it should be a 5, right? Le Toux could have been a 7, Wheeler could have been a 4, Gaddis could have been a 5, but really, what would you change? You think Okugo only deserved a 5? If Okugo’s header toward goal bounces lower or Casey doesn’t botch that finish, everyone feels a lot differently about this game.

      • A draw at home with no shots on goal after getting dominated for the entire first half? An average of a 5 would have been extremely generous. #rosecoloredglasses

      • The no shots on goal thing is a big disappointment, but a 0-0 draw also means at least a few players defended very well (most notably Okugo and Gaddis, who earned their ratings). Nogueira could probably play barefoot and earn an 8 – he looks great week after week. And I thought LeToux really made a difference after coming on. Very active on defense, and he did a lot of things offensively that he has been knocked for not doing well in the past, checking into space to receive and distribute short passes.

      • This is why he should be a sub. His best attribute is energy, so putting him on in the 60th minute is best.

      • Gotta disagree with Nogs – he was gasses. two or three times pressing down the right wing he’d make a safe dish to Williams (passing stats) but then made the an unspectacular run into space of movement for the give and go causing turn overs. They may be on Williams in the stat sheet but it was Nogs’s failure to run (and Hack’s to pull him) that was the real cause.

    • I thought Williams was brutal in the first half. His score could be a 2 or 3.

  6. You defense of John Hackworth wasn’t really a defense of the man as a coach but just giving us reasons for him to be General Manager. His coaching still sucks.

    • Welcome to professional soccer, where these two positions are generally one and the same. Obviously he has something to prove on the coaching side, but eight games into the first season in which he’s really had the players he wants is not enough time.

      • well then you can also bring up the fact that despite our few good signings we are pretty much stuck with a bench full of stiffs and jobbers. Where are the defensive specialists. Where are the creative players? When our
        starting line up is tired our just run its course who injects new life or fresh insight? All we have is Lahouds as a Carroll replacement or or a seeing infinite variation of Cruz/Hoppenot/Letoux/Wenger an A’ight player who works hard and has no touch. Not to mention we have 3 million defensive minded midfielders.
        I have been having strong doubts about this lineup.
        On paper very talented. But not very well constructed and one that doesn’t leave you very many options after you plan A fails. And seeing our plan A is crosses into the box to a single forward you don’t need to be a genius coach to figure out how to defens against that.

      • Depth is a league wide problem, to be fair.

      • But at least last year we had the likes of Torres, Marfan and Kleberson on the bench to go along with your Hoppenots and Cruzes and what have you. We had players you could reasonably debate starting or at least spot starting. Does anyone on our bench deserve to start? Would they add something new? Or are all of them more or less the same player in the same mode who do more or less the same thing.

      • Also still no real Left Back and despite picking up 2 CB’s in the off season we are starting Aaron fucking Wheeler in the back.

      • BRAVO!

      • Starting XI got better, bench got worse. Usually when a team replaces their starters, their starters go to the bench, therefore creating more quality depth. Cruz is out injured & Daniel is gone, that’s 2 starters from last season. Marfan, Kleberson, quality subs and starters, are both gone. Despite all the signings Hoppenot remains the #1 (sometimes only) striker available on the bench if Casey and Wenger start. That’s pathetic.

      • I agree with Sieve. I don’t think he should be fired yet, that’s a little extreme. But, your assessment of him does seem a tad bit over optimistic. “see me in September”. The problem with that thought process is that if you are wrong, and things stay the same, the season is over already. I think it is more than fair to at least discuss the proposition that he isn’t the right man for this team.

      • See, this excuse that “this is his first season with his players” is crap. It would be one thing if they weren’t ALL the same complaints as last year, but they have the same issues.
        Coaching is coaching and tactics are tactics. I’ve coached very poor teams and very very talented teams. The key themes and style stay the same. You can tell when it’s a factor of execution as opposed to lack of tactics. And it’s not to say that he doesn’t think that he has a style. But either his tactics for both boxes are crap, or he can’t teach the tactics from Monday-Friday.

        Nonetheless, I wanted him gone after last season. You probably can’t do it until the season is hanging by a thread (mid-july). That’s just the way it has to work in Pro sports.

      • I do like his idea of high-press. He likens it to the Barca, now Liverpool model. But there is a lack of understanding & movement into the passing lanes as team ( part due to new players, but mostly coaching). Thus, we see a lot break-outs and find ourselves outnumbered.
        Plus, he can’t just say/teach high-pressure defense. He needs to have a direct plan of attack once the ball is won.

    • Agreed.

    • Dan, you lost me when you wrote ‘see me in September’. Hack may be good getting players but as we saw last year and now he is terrible in getting the most out of players and he is a terrible tactician (as this game proved once again). He is an amateur who should coach a side like Reading or Harrisburg but not a MLS side.

  7. Sheanon really seems to be struggling to get his touch back. It’ll come, can’t be gone forever, but man, it’s been an ugly few games. At least he has those BOOMs for us.
    Casey looks physically spent, a long career having caught up. He’s really lumbering out there when running without the ball, at least in my memory more so than last year. Not sure what the answer is up top, but he was able to accomplish amazingly little on Saturday.
    Really liked what I saw from Ray Gaddis. Nogueira had a great game, but sometimes his receivers seem baffled what to do when he plays a ball to their feet. I’m hoping this is one of those things that will come with time, getting used to his ability to do what none of their previous teammates has ever done.

    • I remember a moment watching the Red Bulls game when both Thierry Henry and Conor Casey were both laboring and thinking to myself, “Damn that is depressing.”

    • Agreed, being at the game especially, Casey just looked dead legged. It was depressing, as we could use him now more than ever.

      • “Leg’s ain’t working. Arm’s ain’t workin. But they say go on and fight the champ.”

    • yeah, as good as casey was last year it doesn’t seem like he can play more than 20 minutes at a time, if that

    • What always drives me nuts about Gaddis on the left is when the ball gets switched to him and he seems to be in a ton of space, he always turns his entire body to receive the pass rather than facing forward and collecting the pass with his left foot. It always seems to break/slow down an attack and it’s just because he’s not comfortable with his left foot to take the ball in stride.

      Regarding Noguiera and players being surprised at getting the ball at their feet, VN likes to play the ball immediately back to the person who just passed it to him and get a rhythm going. I think that other players are just not used to that style of play and once they pass the ball, they don’t expect to get it back immediately when there is no pressure on the other player. Most US players are direct and not taught that type of possession play.

      As the season goes on, I expect that most players will get used to that.

      • Well said. American players. Sophistication. I have too great of expectation regarding sophistication yet it is the ingredient missing. Watch the level of sophistication in play at the U10 level at Clairefontaine or Barcelona and it is easy to see how far away we are.

      • Thanks. Totally agree.

        Unfortunately, I grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s when the typical British style was taught here in the US and it’s difficult to get out of that direct/vertical mode once you’ve been taught to play that way. You just don’t have the same level of comfort with the ball at your feet. Plus, you don’t move into space to help keep possession, you just want to get the ball forward.

      • That’s exactly what I mean, yeah. And, when it works for those first few passes, it’s gorgeous. I agree or at least hope it will likely just be something that takes time, during which VN will be the proverbial player who brings up the level of all around him.

  8. If I’m an opposing manager for the Union, my top priority for the game is to take Nogueira out of the game. Get physical, push him off the ball, and if necessary take a hard foul. The Union are unable to take over a game while up a man, so teams can come in to PPL Park and be aggressive. And without Nogueira on the field the offense will come to a grinding halt. Way to easy to game plan for this team. Other than some spurts from Maidana there is no one else out there right now that shows any offensive creativity.

    • truth be told any team can combine and link play a little bit but to truly have a plan to have an insight into the dynamics of how to play the game let alone have creativity to open spaces or set up the other team………- you’re assessment is dead on.

  9. Dan, you keep saying that the Union are a work in progress (today’s article and the link provided from 4/16).

    Besides the new mids, what progress do you see? I see regression in some of the players. Williams (granted, not 100% fit) looks awful. Okugo is running all over to cover Wheeler, to the point he’s afraid to close down attackers. Seba has had flashes and other times looks like he’s in the French Witness Protection Program.

    And John Hackworth is not progressing. He did bring in better midfielders, weakened the back line, and hasn’t figured out how to either get the right forwards or position the ones we have to be successful.

    I hope you’re right though and they progress with road wins in MTL, SEA and the two games next month in LA. I wouldn’t bet on it though.

    • thank you for recognizing that it is his CB partners’ shortcomings that make Amobi Okugo look bad these days. Thank you.

  10. In frustration I said to my wife that I wanted to give up on the U, that the current mediocrity seems so frustrating because it seems like they are potentially pretty good. She said she was glad.
    But I haven’t really given up on do agree with Dan that in September we’ll be happy. Casey is in the decline that ends with retirement- I know he’s not fit yet, but that was so much less than we’ve come to expect in terms of hold up play, finishing, and footwork.
    I’m with the defense of Hackworth, but Wheelz gets a four, and that was coach’s one mistake on this game, except for the Maidana sub.

    • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

      See, I don’t see the mediocrity as current, I see it as consistent. I love soccer, still play, coach 2 teams, run clinics for the u8’s in town but my time and money is valuable. I gave up my season tickets because I have no confidence whatsoever in this management group. They signed 3 really good players this offseason. They decided to spend some money. However, they are still outcoached every single game.

      IN the NY game on WED they had exactly 2 offensive subs available, 2! In both Wed and Saturdays game they leave Wheeler deep to cover counters instead of being in the othr teams box when the U rely solely on the cross once teams get compact?

      I could go on and on, but it is the little details that show Hack is out of his element. The fact that he said “we wouldn’t” know who to sub” referring to the last 10 minutes of the Houston game….. R U SERIOUS? A good coach at this level plans for all of the possibilities…. up 1, down 1, tied, tied and a man up, tied and a man down, etc.,etc.,etc.

      He makes no adjustments tacticly througout the game, none!!!! He was supposed to be great at developing youth. All he has managed to do with the youth is ship them out (Mac, both Garfans) or switch their positions (Okugo, Gaddis, Wheeler).

      The whole thing is one big dissapoinmtent.

      • ‘plans for all the possibilities. One big disappointment.’
        As TheBlackHand said last week and I am paraphrasing, ‘After 5 years, it is troubling that this is where we are.’ How is it possible to be so far off target?
        Dan, I appreciate your optimism but I just don’t see it by September unless the formation is abandoned or a set 4 man defense is settled on.
        I see 6 upcoming games against quality MLS teams and minimal points burying us deep by summer.
        I hope I am wrong. I believe in the game just having trouble believing in this product or the application of these pieces.

      • Hey man, maybe I’m wrong too. Time will tell, right?

        For me, it’s not so much optimism as much as it is my reading of the situation. This is how rebuilds work in North American sports, where you don’t have to worry about relegation battles but you do often have salary caps, drafts, waivers, etc.:

        1) First you clear out the dead weight.

        2) You build a young foundation.

        3) You bring in some key veterans.

        4) The talent level improves.

        5) The chemistry begins to develop.

        6) Then you start winning lots of games.

        The Union are on step 5. We’ll have to wait and see whether Hackworth’s tactical acumen is enough to get them to step 6. His critics don’t think so. Maybe they’re right — let’s be honest, he has something to prove — but I’m just waiting to see.

  11. The major problem is Hack is not a professional coach. ie. he can’t take players who grew up with different styles of play (rough and tumble american, technical argentina, flowing france, scrappy hanger ons, etc) and get them on the same page. A USMNT youth coach typically has players who have played in similiar system and together to an extent for years. There its about improving technique and discipline here its about taking some players and developing them but mostly its about getting a player to incorporate into a system. This is why we have more talent then ever before but aren’t better. the gameplan is lets go get em boys. I will sit and watch. good luck.
    Should we fire him. probably not yet. do we need someone who the players respect and who understands how to coach at the highest level absolutely. An assistant head coach who manages practice and most game time decisions with Hack as a general manager who works closely with but doesn’t muddle with the AC gameplan. I know its only 8 games but something isn’t right and I believe that now lies at the feet of the staff more than the players right now. Just my opinion.

  12. I’m usually not a Carroll defender, but he had an excellent game Saturday. He did his role almost perfectly. He stepped in when need be and always protected the back 4. Massive upgrade from his play last week. He was probably a big reason for the clean sheet staying in tact.
    That said, I am struggling to find ways with the current personnel and setup to change and score more goals. One thing that has to be said is that we essentially play 5 defenders with Carroll in the lineup. This is basically at the expense of playing a second striker. So it almost doesn’t matter how well is he playing his role, it isn’t helping us score more. The alternative would be to sit Edu, but I just don’t see that.
    For whatever reason Le Toux refuses to stay outside and put crosses in (which we all saw how much that’s helping anyway), and this game played centrally and looked effective again. Go back to the 4-4-2, let Le Toux play off of Wenger or Casey, and leave the middle to Edu and Nogueira. I think this would immediately pay dividends on the offensive end.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      It really seems like a true 4-4-2 would be the way to go, but that would mean Hack would have to abandon his baby, the 4-3-3. A good manager or leader of any kind is willing to admit something isn’t working. I just don’t know if Hack has that in him.

    • The answer to this question is that Edu needs to push forward into the attack more. He should have the work rate to be a true box-to-box midfielder, but either by design, or lack of fitness, he is reluctant to do this.

  13. As for the substitutions, I’m OK with it because leaving Carroll on allowed Mo to push up into the attack. His few late runs into the box were very dangerous. We look the biggest threat when he is allowed to push forward.
    The crosses seemed to come primarily from Williams who again looked off to me. His fitness seems a big question for me as he looks sluggish on D and more inclined to make poor crosses than getting forward, taking players on or overlapping on the flanks. I have a hard time giving him anything above a 4 because so much of the attack died at his feet. This is two games in a row – he’s better than this.
    Gotta go with a 9 for Nogueira. If he had just a couple of guys making consistently good off-the-ball runs, we’d be killing teams right now. This guy is from another planet.
    Flopping is so NOT Philly tough. This needs to change and it starts with Hackworth.

  14. Took the kids to the game on Sat. Stressed to my 9 year old that his uncle (my brother) that coaches at the highschool level would likely have benched many of the players for giving the ball away so frequently. STOP GIVING THE BALL AWAY….Whomever was playing left midfield, that kept hitting the long floating ball to the right wing, NEWSFLASH….thats supposed to be a driven ball, not a long floater giving the defense time to wander over and play an oncomming ball. Sheanon Williams was gassed at the 75th minute mark and is lucky that we did not give up the goal late. Should have come out when Omar Cummings was put in. But before you (Sheanon) get gassed, stop playing the ball down long the sideline. Please play it to a midfielder to develop the play. You were 3 for 8 connecting to the long pass, which means you gave possession away around 60% of the time. And when you change the play with the sweeper to the opposite side…the driven ball opens up the field and play. We are making it too easy on the other team..Stop it. I will support my team no matter what the record, but the fundamental mistakes are taking its toll.

  15. One other point I haven’t seen mentioned. I thought Wenger did some impressive defensive work. Routinely tracked back into our 18 to help break up plays. Tactically, probably something needs to be fixed, but for the individual player, it is a real positive attribute.

    • I agree and am overall fairly impressed with wengers work ethic. Problem is he was playing like a third CB at times he was so deep especially the first 25 minutes of the first half. As you mention that isn’t necessarily what the coaches hsould be looking for him to do.

  16. Overall, I agree with your ratings. It was another hard game to watch from the River End. A few random observations:

    1) Brian Carrol may have completed an insane number of his passes, but when 60% of them (I’m guessing, may be exaggerating) are towards his own goal…who cares? This team has an unfortunate penchant for heading towards the wrong goal. I know there is an aspect of resetting the field so a play can develop, but they do it too often.

    2) The ref had no control over the game. Your rating is too high.

    3) The team needs a leader on the field. Someone to push his teammates, someone to instill an urgency to shoot the ball, to encourage a modicum of selfish “I want to put the ball on goal” attitude. I’m looking at Mo for this, as he could be the single piece to put this team into the next level.

  17. james Lockerbie says:

    Would one of you guys please find and link a youtube video on this page. The video I would like posted is of a german team. The fans behind the net all held up a shoot it sign every last one of them held up the sign. The Team finally scored a goal! they hadn’t scored in a very long time. I think that should be our next tifo banner hang it from the river end and display it as the team approaches the final third! better yet how about putting bull eyes up behind the goal at the four corners of the net.

  18. “So would the Union have been better served by replacing defensive midfielder Brian Carroll with an attacker like Antoine Hoppenot?”
    As others have said, I think swapping out Williams would’ve been a good move at that point. He’s clearly not fit and was laboring, especially late. Who goes in? Somebody up-stream suggested putting in Berry and sliding Wheeler up. Dan’s Hoppenot move also works here, as long as you’re comfortable with Wheeler as (effectively) your only CB since Okugo would be sliding outside (You’d still have Carroll in this scenario to help cover him, so it’s not *too* bad.). You could also put in Fabinho as a mid-fielder, like he played in quite a few of his games shortly after arriving last year.
    And if you don’t want to pull Williams even though he’s gassed – maybe you want to keep the threat of his throw-ins in the game – you could also have subbed out Fernandes. I know it’s not normal to sub out a sub, but he really was that bad.
    Unfortunately, there weren’t a whole lot of options on the bench, to be honest. You had a CB, a fullback, a defensive mid (who can play fullback in a pinch), and a forward whose skill set is “run really fast and annoy the other team.” (Alright, I actually think Hoppenot brings a little more than that.) That’s a bad bench. You don’t need all three of those options; two is enough. Berry would be my odd-man out – Lahoud and Fabinho can (at least nominally) give you cover at more than one position, where players who are on the field – Edu, Williams, Carroll in a dire emergency – can give you coverage at CB during a match.
    bottom line, though: I’m not sure how in a 3rd-game-in-eight-days scenario, up a man with 10 minutes left, you have a coach opt to *not* make his 3rd substitution…
    “The Union completed just 2 of 35 crosses on the day,…”
    This drove me crazy. I’m not sure how that’s the tactic, especially late in the game.
    “So is it time to fire John Hackworth?”
    I agree that right now the answer is no. The world cup break is a good time for a change, if the decision is made that in-season switch needs to occur. That gives a coach three works to work with the players, implement any system changes, etc. So if it’s going to happen, that’s the spot to do it.
    But I’ve said Hack needs to get a year with his players, and despite being pretty damn frustrated right now with the results, I’m willing to stick with that previous assessment.
    “Player ratings”
    For whatever it’s worth here, I think Williams, Wheeler, and Edu were all a point too high. But that may just be splitting hairs overall.
    Casey seems to me to be shot. But… Wouldn’t he have been a great option off the bench after the red card? that’s got to be his role going forward, I think.
    I’d love to see them play some 4-4-2 with Wenger and Le Toux up top. I salivate thinking what Le Toux could do making runs at the defense – like his first two years here – with Nog and Maidana feeding him the ball. Williams, Okugo, Berry, Gaddis; Nog, Edu, Carroll, Maidana; Wenger, Le Toux. Or take out Carroll and put in Fernandes (or Bone or Fred or…) if that’s your preference. But for now I’ll assume BC starts more than he sits.
    Bottom line? The absolutely need to win Saturday in Montreal. A tie won’t cut it.

    • Not a bad idea to put Seba back up top with improved midfield service. At this point, he is as proven a finisher as anyone else on the team. Maybe wait to do it at home where he seems to thrive, but I’d be with you on that call.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I would weather the storm with Casey, before looking to LeToux. As unfit as he has appeared, he manages to get himself in the right spot. Casey will get better with conditioning. LeToux would be a nice sub option, because of his hustle. His touch is getting worse and he wanders far too much, to warrant the start.
        If Casey can’t get fit, I think that Leo Fernandes should get a good look. Wenger could play the hold-up with Leo running off of him.

  19. Is anyone else getting scared of the possibility that maidana is our new Kleberson? Never gets a full 90, always on a short leash, etc. How could he be in such bad shape, not game fit for a full 90 after spending the ENTiRE preseason with the team? Was he excluded from running? Help me understand, because at 55 minutes that’s a ridiculous sub to me.

  20. Moyes gone after less than a year. Hackworth has had almost 2. I don’t buy that he gets to finish this year bc it’s first year with “his” guys. Part of being a good coach is coaching the players you have.

  21. Old soccer coach says:

    Step back a minute and look at the forest instead of dissecting the bark on individual trees.

    For the first four seasons the Union’s strategy was to defend like berserkers, be in insanely good shape, run the other team into the ground, and beat them with counter attacking goals that depended on surprise and extreme amounts of space.

    They are trying to change that strategy this season. They seem to have the midfield for it. They are still searching for the strikers and for both creativity and quality in the attacking third. They are trying to become a possession attacking team, a highly ambitious objective, difficult to achieve and once achieved difficult to maintain.

    The defending third will settle itself, it always has. It took Parke and Okugo some time to work out how they meshed last season, but they did.

    The issue is the attacking third, both defensively and offensively. Defensively they are playing high pressure. The original lineups played it well because everyone had the speed and endurance to manage it. But high pressure, like a convoy of ships at sea or trucks on the interstate is only as fast as it’s slowest individual.

    Offensively possession attacking often confronts a bunkered counterattacking response. What concerns me is the Union’s inability to break down a bunker.
    As gaining a man advantage guarantees playing against a bunker, an opponent’s red card has been actually detrimental to our play. We do best in wide open, end to end play with huge amounts of space, still.

    I watched the you tube videos of Harrisburg’s two games last night. They seem to making the same strategic transition and having the same trouble scoring goals. Incidentally HCI has eight players who were with the Union in preseason, and all eight have gotten into both games as far as weak commentating and poor lighting allowed me to tell.

    Only the very best clubs in the world try to play possession attack. It is a high reward but high risk strategy. I would feel better about the Union attempting it if I thought Carlos Valdes were likely to return after the World Cup. But I give them credit for “going for it.”

    They certainly are more fun to watch.

    • Southside Johnny says:

      Nice analysis, coach. I agree and I know I need to get over the trade, but Jack was a guy who could open up a bunker and wheel and deal in a scrum. A “target” striker is too easy mark up. It is more entertaining to play this way and I hated when we played bunkerball-counter, but you have to consider personnel in strategy. We don’t have all the pieces for this puzzle.

      • The Black Hand says:

        You are underestimating how easy it was to remove Jack from the game. Back lines knew his run was coming and often played him offside. He offered no target, in the box. This all said, he will probably light us up for the brace, this weekend.
        As for effective play, Wenger is just as good as Jack was…so far.

    • Well said.

    • Love the optimism! I’m with you. Another piece that is missing might be fitness. To play that style you have to press high and win the ball back immediately if it is lost. That takes a toll and may be a contributing factor to our late game letdowns.

  22. James Lockerbie says:

    Jack should have been aware of the backlines position yet at the sametime his teamates
    needed the confidence to make the pass earlier to keep him on and give him the opportunity to get behind the defense before they can adjust their play.
    it’s pointless now because he’s gone. 🙁

  23. Dan Walsh says:

    Correction: Antoine Hoppenot is still a diver.

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