Player ratings

Player ratings & analysis: Impact 1-0 Union

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

The song remains the same. The Union were a better team, but they made costly errors and failed to score on one of the worst defensive teams in MLS. Even after beating the Union, Montreal retains the worst plus/minus in the league.

The loss itself is disheartening. But after a toothless display in Houston, the fact that a changed lineup went out and put out a very similar effort makes this Union performance the hardest to accept so far this year. Along with Eli, who laid out a few ideas to change the team’s fortunes, many assumed Philly would spend last week focusing on how to get the ball from the back to the attacking third with more consistency and speed.

Any adjustments did not show up in the final product on Saturday. Certainly, Philly had more chances than they did against Houston. Andrew Wenger was often isolated, but he still received 23 passes and looked more like a player with touch and skill than his previous “high workrate” (said pejoratively) performances would suggest. But how the Union planned to get the ball to Wenger in prime scoring positions remains a mystery as, once again, the promise of possession became the problem of passivity.

Mixing up the midfield

Brian Carroll, Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira. In terms of passing, positioning, ball control, and energy this midfield matches up well with any in MLS. But there is another dimension to the game that has been absent from Philadelphia’s oeuvre this season: attacking speed.

The teams atop MLS take one of two approaches to offense: Build around an ubertalented creator or counterattack with speed. A team like Real Salt Lake can even do both by shuttling energetic midfielders back and forth up the pitch for ninety minutes.

Right now, Philly does neither. They don’t counterattack with speed and they don’t have a creative hub sitting high up the pitch to produce chances out of thin air. Go ahead, queue up Vincent Nogueira’s perfect pass to Andrew Wenger. It is already becoming a play that symbolizes grasping at straws more than hope for the future.

The space is the place

Nogueira’s talent is undeniable. But in order to build an offense around a creative player that spends so much of his time on the wings (almost half his passes originate outside the middle third of the field), the Union need to fill that central space more effectively.

Whatever you may think of Brian Carroll as a player (and he was quite good on Saturday), it is hard to argue with the basic logic behind the Union’s three-midfield set. Carroll sweeps up the midfield, allowing Edu to stride forward and join attacks, while Nogueira can scamper about giving an extra option to players on the wings. Edu should arrive in space that Nogueira abandons, making him difficult to track, and the Union should be able to create overloads in wide areas that facilitate off the ball runs and through balls between the fullbacks and central defenders. It’s all a very good plan, theoretically.

Edu vs MTL (L) and NY (R)

Edu vs MTL (L) and NY (R)

But here’s the problem: While that is the best theoretical explanation for the Union’s tactical setup, the team has shown few signs of adhering to this system. Check out Mo Edu’s passing chart against Montreal. Is this the type of contribution you expect from the late arriving midfielder on a team that dominates possession? One could argue that this chart resembles an expected Brian Carroll performance more than one from Edu. In fact, if you peruse Edu’s performance against New York, when he was tasked with a more traditional holding midfield role, it looks eerily similar to this week’s game.

Edu up the middle

Edu’s overly deep positioning is only one conundrum that the Philadelphia midfield produce and/or highlighted against Montreal. The second, and related, issue is the oddly set way that the midfield three interact. Specifically, two players as talented as Edu and Nogueira should be able to flow seamlessly between sitting in the center when their partner leaves and darting wide to support the wings. This is the kind of luxury that a successful offseason spending spree should buy a team. Yet Edu remains largely anchored in the center of the park while Nogueira roams ceaselessly.

No support for Nogueira.

No support for Nogueira.

In terms of primary roles, these tactics seem ideal. But in reality, the Union cycle the ball so often from sideline to sideline that Nogueira will get caught on one side with the ball on the other, and nobody will slide over to support the play except the center back. Conversely, the ball will come to Nogueira out wide and nobody will take the Frenchman’s role checking in. On the left, Danny Cruz has already taken off on an upfield sprint while an enormous gap between the Montreal midfield and defense goes unfilled.

No support: Part Ed-eux

No support: Part Ed-eux.

To be clear, Mo Edu is hardly the only culprit behind the Union’s poor offensive spacing. On the right, you can see Edu bringing the ball forward with few options available. Though Ray Gaddis is already upfield on the left, Fabinho is also heading forward. Meanwhile, the acres of space on the right are apparently covered in invisible hot lava.

Blame game?

Placing blame is always a difficult dance. The coaching staff should have a plan and be able to communicate their ideas to the players. But at some point, the players themselves need to take responsibility for figuring out how to find new ways forward.

To be more direct, there is just absolutely no way the Union coaching staff is telling wingers to sprint upfield when their midfielder is ten yards deep in his own half and looking for a pass. That needs to stop.

It is, however, much easier to put speed of play issues squarely on the coaching staff. MLS is an athletic league, and if you play slow, teams will run you down ninety minutes a game. The Union are averaging 51 more passes per game than their opponent, and they have been out-passed only three times this year. But ball control means nothing without a plan behind it; passing around and probing a defense are two completely different mindsets. Only one has been apparent this season.

Big changes?

I said it last week and I’ll build the argument again even if I’m the only one behind it: Amobi Okugo to midfield. He is a walking, trash-talking, ball mover and he does it at pace. If Philly is going to persist with Aaron Wheeler in back, putting Brian Carroll next to him is hardly going to make the back line play any deeper than it already is. Or add Austin Berry to the mix again. And a reminder, this is just my opinion. But when I do a cost-benefit analysis, Okugo in midfield comes out ahead of Okugo in defense every time.

Additionally, it may be time to see some youth on the wings. Pedro Ribeiro is a mountain of a man with good technical skills. Leaving him in Harrisburg to play center back is hardly the way to go when the big boys are struggling to produce. Cristhian Hernandez should also get a good, long look in practices. It was easy for John Hackworth to throw untested youths into the team when he was taking over for Peter Nowak; it has been much harder when the lineup he’s adjusting is one he scribbled himself.

Looking ahead

Here is what Seattle knows before Philly ever lands on the west coast: The Union attack up the right side 40% of the time (behind only DC’s 42%) and take 25% of shots from the right side (behind, again, only DC’s 28%). Also, the Union give up 88% of the shots they concede from the middle or right, meaning teams are attacking the left side of the Union defense.

Thus far, teams have responded to these numbers by playing conservative, counterattacking systems against Philly. The Montreal goal was actually an anomaly in that the Impact were pressuring high up the pitch to earn a turnover. Then again, the Union were misplacing so many passes in the first half hour on Saturday that even low pressure was earning Impact defenders a nice little boost to the Interceptions statistic.


Union offense is right-sided

The conservative systems the Union have faced recently have sought to nudge Philly down the left flank, using more pressure on Okugo and less on Aaron Wheeler in an attempt to make the less technical player start the attack. Teams pair this conservatism in pressure with deep lines to neutralize Philly’s speed on the wings. This was an adjustment many teams made after getting torched by Le Toux, Cruz, and McInerney during the first three months of the 2013 season, and the Union have yet to find a good way to attack since their preferred route was discovered.

To turn things around, it is absolutely, completely, and utterly necessary that Philly comes out next weekend with a well-drilled plan of attack. Speed of play comes from knowing where you should be and where everyone else around you should be. This can no longer be an on-the-go journey of discovery. When Nogueira is wide with the ball, where should the midfield be? Where should the winger go? What run should Andrew Wenger be making? These questions have been too difficult to answer this year. There is certainly something to be said for the element of surprise in attack. But in soccer, that surprise comes from individual creativity that blossoms only when the team as a whole is working as one. It sounds counterintuitive, but predictability sows the seeds of a creative attack in soccer.

Player ratings

Zac MacMath – 4

A laser shot on a rainy day is hard to put on the goalie. Still, the Union stopper knew the conditions and should have planned to push Bernier’s blast wide rather than attempt to reel it in. Otherwise, it was a solid game for MacMath, who came out well to challenge his former teammate when McInerney broke in on the left.

Sheanon Williams – 5

It’s tempting to knock Williams down a point for making the bad pass that led to Montreal’s goal. But considering the absurdist comedy that was the Union’s early attempts at passing, picking on Sheanon seems cruel and unusual. It could just have easily been Okugo or Gaddis considering how much the first fifteen minutes looked like amateur hour for the Union’s normally reliable back line. Williams put together a strong offensive match by the time Conor Casey came on to replace him in the 81st minute, but his crossing continued to be below standard.

Amobi Okugo – 6

This won’t go down as Okugo’s best game in blue and gold, but it was very far from his worst. Considering he is at best average size for a center back, Okugo’s ability to get on the end of corner kicks remains impressive, and if he ever stops holding down the circle button and blasting his headers every which way but on net, he will add another dimension to his impressive game. After a rough start (3/8 passing to begin), Okugo settled down and drove play forward more than the midfield in the latter stages of the match.

Aaron Wheeler – 6

Wheeler made as many passes in the second half as he makes across a full ninety in most games. And for the most part, his passing was improved from past games. Five interceptions and eleven recoveries speak to Montreal’s desire to play on the counter and catch Wheeler out. They didn’t, and two quality MLS strikers were shut out. Now, here is where people are going to point to the goal and say, “But Wheeler turned off, and that let Felipe in to score!” We are going to have to agree to disagree on the significance of this, much like we had to do when people blamed MacMath for Bernard Anor’s 35 yard goal in Columbus. Yes, it would be great if Wheeler had kept going full-steam after the shot. But do most MLS defenders do that? Does the average defender do that? Does the above average defender always do that? Start watching how players react after a shot from distance and I think — no, I know — you’ll see most of them turn, pause, and watch the ball in flight. It’s natural. It happens to everyone. The players that never get caught doing that are truly, truly special, and few and far between.

Ray Gaddis – 7

The Union are one of the more right-sided teams in MLS. Part of the reason is that Ray Gaddis remains a mediocre offensive player on the left. But the point I want to make is that whichever side of the pitch Gaddis is on, teams struggle to attack that flank. Aaron Wheeler could hardly ask for a better partner, as Gaddis once again shut down the Montreal attack up the right. It is no coincidence that 58% of the Impact’s play went down the side that was not under Gaddis’ watchful eye.

Brian Carroll – 7

And it could have been higher. On a day when he was hardly needed in his traditional role, Brian Carroll did very well moving the ball and supporting play. Three key passes for the Union captain? Not too shabby. The Union needed Carroll to push the ball to the left since Nogueira was drifting right and drawing the defense. Just because the Union failed to build much is no reason to blame Carroll. He completed 46 of 51 passes, many of them rangier than his typical fare. Additionally, Carroll strafed left to help contain Justin Mapp, and he did it very well. Solid.

Maurice Edu – 4

Look, that was a fine game… for a holding midfielder. But the Union already had one of those playing behind Edu. Against a Montreal team that kept pushing three midfielders high and leaving two deep, there was a lot of space for Edu to step forward. He did not. Was he told to hold back? Did he just read the game that way? I don’t know. But for the Union to succeed this season, Maurice Edu has to be one of the best players on the pitch each week.

Vincent Nogueira – 5

I mean… he was pressing. Three shots blocked? That’s what pressing looks like. The energy and the ball movement were there, but Nogueira has realized that he has to be the one to look for a cutting pass now. And that knowledge is making him play slower as he tries to make magic out of, well, not magic.

Fabinho – 4

So this is a tough one. John Hackworth said the team relied too much on crosses… then he started the crossiest of crossers in midfield. And Fabinho only got off two crosses. I feel like there’s a lot going on in the logic of those statements, so I’m just going to put them out there and let them wander on their own. There was plenty of work put in by the Brazilian, however he found Andrew Wenger and Danny Cruz only four times total. A typically anonymous performance from a Union winger.

Danny Cruz – 6

Danny Cruz was pretty good. He was by far the most involved Union midfielder in the final third and he generally tracked back with energy and, dare I say it, positional acumen. The wide open game surely helped, but Cruz was smart in running at defenders and generally chose to hold up play and look for Nogueira if he vertical attack wasn’t there. More than once he fell prey to the seduction of the sprint-as-fast-as-you-can-toward-goal monster when the Union picked up the ball deep, but the overall performance was definitely a net positive and should be commended as such.

Andrew Wenger – 5

That was the best I’ve seen Wenger play. He was strong, his touch was excellent, and, of course, he showed good workrate. I would like to request that the Union release video of Wenger shooting in practice, because I’m becoming convinced he is trying to perfect some sort of evolved scuffed supershot. Either that or he is just very consistent at scuffing shots.

Antoine Hoppenot – 5

Being a sub is a thankless job. You might only get one shot at goal and you’re expected to put it on net.

Cristian Maidana – 5

Maidana didn’t have the best day passing, but he was on the field to take some chances and try to get people in behind the Montreal defense. He tried.

Conor Casey – n/a

Geiger Counter

Baldomero Toledo – 3

Hassoun Camara was called for five fouls, three of them worth of a yellow card. He was not called for many other fouls, maybe because Baldomero Toledo empathizes with clumsy players? The calculations that go into when Toledo pulls out a card should be the subject of an episode of Cosmos. Maybe Neil DeGrasse Tyson can point us to the multiverse in which Toledo’s system of handing out cautions makes sense.


  1. “I said it last week and I’ll build the argument again even if I’m the only one behind it: Amobi Okugo to midfield.”

    Oh, Adam.

    I think they only one who ISN’T behind it at this point is Hackworth.

  2. If the on field play is dominant game after game, then that eliminates the players as the problem and only leaves one option as the cause…the manager.

    • We weren’t that dominant

      • 61% possession, 17 – 7 on shots, 9 – 1 on corners. We weren’t that dominant?

      • Every time a losing team points to possession as an indicator of good play I reach for my revolver.
        Possession is a fools stat. Teams especially bad teams with with a potent offense like Montreal. Teams don’t care how much we knoc the ball around in the middle. especially teams that are gonna wait for your inevitable cross and then counter attack.
        Possession means nothing.

      • That’s why I provided you with shots and corners. So what is dominating a match to you? You win? That’s foolish.

      • Look Montreal were bad really bad. So dominating them shouldn’t be a talking point. But no shots so what? We had 1 or 2 real chances and executed none of them. We had corners we also irrelevant as an over matched Montreal would kick the ball out of bounds and other than Wheelers dangerous header nothing would amount to anything.
        If anything Montreal were more dangerous than us in the counter attack than we ever were in possesion because they have dangerous players in the attack. All of our domination is of a futile impotent and self defeating variety that has amounted to exactly nothing over the last 3 weeks.

      • To quote you: “All of our domination…has amounted to exactly nothing over the last 3 weeks.”
        Yes, thank you. That’s my point. We are dominating teams and not winning. That points to a manager problem.

      • i think he meant “domination” i can’t say the union ever really looked likely to beat montreal and i’d probably put looking likely to beat a team as a prerequisite for calling something domination.

      • What he said

        I mean Nick T.

  3. This goes on Hackworth, as the games get worse and the team declines each week. A big problem is that Cruz, Letoux and Hoppenot all seem to just want to turn and run and that’s it. It doesn’t work here. At east Cruz stayed in his line positionally so he ended up having a decent game. I will NEVER understand Fabinho on the left over Maidana. We need that creativity, and he is the only player besides Nogeuira who has it. I really don’t care how many passes he misses if he makes 2 incredible ones that end in a chance on net.
    I have to think Hackworth has edu staying back, there’s no other explanation. We’ve seen him go forward and he does quite well. Why would he sit home if he wasn’t told to? It’s not like this guy is some scrub.
    In the end, the only things I can come up with to fix this will never happen bc Hackworth won’t change.

  4. james lockerbie says:

    I have to agree with you on edu. He is the key, everyone is mad that there’s two defensive midfielders on the field. However bc is the defensive midfielder, edu is responsible for taking the offensive side of the ball pushing forward to take the shot from distense or be in the middle to receive the cross.

    Yet the cross comes in and nobody is there! I recall one of edu`s concerns was to be used as an offensive player yet he seems to have the mindset or personality of a defensive midfielder. Seems to me coach and edu Need to have a chat

    • ebradlee10 says:

      Can’t help but wonder what Jurgen is thinking when he watches these games. They certainly don’t help Mo’s chances of getting to Brazil. And that sucks.

      • I really wonder what Jurgen thinks of the Union. I wonder if PSP could ever swing an interview.

  5. You forgot Pfeffer on your list of young players that should get a shot. He played well with the U-20 national team. If any of the young guns deserved a chance on the wing it would be him.

    • @Braden – You’re right, his name should be appearing in the gameday 18 at the very least.

      • kid needs to play. We have a million jillion midfielders he’ll never see the line up. Maybe we need to trade him maybe we need to trade other midfielders. I don’t know.

    • What else does he have to do to earn a spot? His first start came against Columbus in September when the Union were in a tight playoff battle. Why not now, when the team CLEARLY needs a playmaker? I mean, it literally can’t get worse then 2 straight shutouts.

  6. Guys, the fix is simple…Fire Hackworth.

    Edu should never be asked to go forward. Never in his career has he been asked to move forward. The only reason he is being asked to do that here is because Hack is an idiot of loves Carroll. Edu is the better verison of Carroll!

    The fix right now for this is to bench Carroll and move Amobi to Mid where he belongs and put Austin Berry back in. Boom done. I just don’t get how Hackworth either doesn’t see this or if he does refuses to acknowledge it.

    Also get rid of this 4-3-3. It simple does not work.

    • I do think Edu is capable of getting forward and being more of a box-to-box guy. Whether it’s Carroll (who, in my opinion does a nice job at DM more often than not) or Okugo alongside of him, he will need to be the more offensively oriented midfielder. He’s got good size and a heavy shot – seems like the perfect player for late runs into the box. And I completely agree with getting Berry back into the mix as soon as possible.

      • No, he isn’t the player to be going forward box to box. He has never been that player! This is my issue with Hackworth because it just pushes another player out of their best position and their comfort zone. The reason you see him sitting back and not making those late runs at times is because it isn’t his nature to do so. Hackworth needs to realize this.

      • Sorry, Jason. Edu is a box to box player. No better example of that was when he was with Rangers. He didn’t sit deep, he got forward into the box. When you look at his skill set, it would be silly to play him in any other role than that. He’s big, strong, can cover alot of ground, pass and tackle (just like Okugo).

        The reason that Edu has worked so well with Bradley in the past is because Edu knew to stay at home when Bradley went forward and vice versa.

      • Or he plays Carrolls spot, where he is a world class player and Amobi is moved up and goes box to box.

        96 career appearances with Rangers and 9 goals and from what I can find a couple were off corners so they don’t do much to support a box to box offensive threat. Sit Carroll and have Edu back. It will work.

      • Totally agree Jason

      • james lockerbie says:

        That’s the big issue right there is it edu demanding to play forward yet while on the field he naturally sits back? Or is it misguided instructions from his manager pushing him to go forward. Answer that question and we’re half way to turning this team in the right direction the other half we need a finisher

      • If edu could go forward and play attacking mid he would’ve by now. Clearly he’s not.

      • Box to box and attacking mid are two different roles.

      • World’s full of box to box players. It is the new catch phrase- isn’t it these days?
        A true attacking mid? Now they are the piece de resistance. Like fine Italian coffee, hard to find in America and England.

      • no totti no party

    • james lockerbie says:

      Edu asked to be put up top problem is as the saying goes be careful of what you ask for

  7. Old soccer coach says:

    Adam, I enjoy reading your ideas. In reference to your criticism of Edu, were you to coach the Union defense to shut down one of the three most dangerous forwards in the league, how would you do it? There are playing two DCMs, probably to protect Wheeler, wouldn’t you think?

    Ribeiro seemed to pull a hamstring in the 68th minute against Sacramento Saturday night. Further, the commentators of the Orange County game Thursday said he was in the back line because the expected center back had a “fractured ankle”. As I try to guess why he seems off the first team’s short-term radar, recovery from injury in preseason, the fairness of giving every opportunity to more established veterans, and the threat of the New York FC/Orlando City expansion draft after season all come to mind.

    Do you see Wenger as a viable striker long-term, or as Le Toux’s replacement on the right flank?

    Your observation about Ray Gaddis’s effectiveness as a destroyer is right on the money. Last year did not Jeff Parke regularly rescue Fabinho? This year Fabinho has to stand alone and cannot do it as well as he needs. Gaddis has to play left back for his defensive effect. When they let Garfan pursue his dream of central midfield with Chivas, they lost the capacity to create from the left back position.

    Someplace early in the preseason, some one reported that John Hackworth had been given two million to acquire players. They spend approximately one million on Maidana, Edu and Nogueira in salary; we have no way to determine what transfer fees were involved. Might there be work going forward on getting a striker after the World Cup in the summer window, or alternatively bringing back Valdes?

    • @OSC – Against many teams, I’d argue that’s not a flawed setup at all. But Montreal’s roster and lineup dictate a pretty reliable 4-2-4 set, with Bernier and Warner sitting much deeper than even the Union’s two holding players. The duo made only five combined defensive plays in the Union half, and three of those were in the first 15 minutes when the Union were passing to anyone with a pulse, regardless of allegiance.

      I guess I’d say that once a team starts to establish the level of possession the Union had, they should be able to release a holding player, especially one with an engine like Edu’s.

      On Wenger – I’m curious to find out how the fanbase is receiving him. I’m still waiting for evidence that he can create his own shot or connect play in tight spaces. Right now I see “out of position midfielder” every time I watch him play. But MLS teams seem high on him, so I should probably give him time before I judge.

      • Yeah, I’m worried that Wenger doesn’t have the teeth of a striker. I’m also worried that he’s a Hack style, character guy, run hard for ninety. I love character but a team needs strikers that score.

  8. Nice analysis as always. I am one who has been big on shouting for Edu to get forward. Against a team like Montreal, we could have easily come out on the front foot. We have looked our most dangerous when Edu supports Nogueira in the attack. I would like to know if him staying home is a tactical decision from Hack, or Edu just not getting forward (probably because that is the way he has always played).
    I definitely would rate Sheannon a 4, and it wasn’t just for the giveaway.
    Danny Cruz made a great case for replacing Hop in the sub role.
    Nogueira is a 5 only if you compare him to his own standards – compared to the rest of the team, I think he had a 7.
    As for Amobi moving to DMID- there are a few reason why I don’t see it as the perfect fix. 1) He’s the best CB we have. 2) To run a 4-3-3, you have to have CBs that can cover a lot of ground. Wheeler cannot, so you can’t replace Amobi with Berry who also cannot cover ground quickly. 3) Still have problem of Amobi and Edu occupying similar roles – we need a true box-to-box guy in this 4-3-3.
    I wish people would stop saying fire Hack. Tell me who you replace him with. I agree with the previous statement of let’s decide at the end of the year.

    • Stop shouting for Edu to go forward. Anyone who says this is wrong. It just isn’t what Edu does or even should do. Edu is a better version of Carroll and Amobi is the best version of Edu going foward. It really is a simple fix in the back.

      Also, when you haven’t scored from the run of play in 300 plus minutes its time to stop using the same formation. Especially when that formation sucks for the team we have.

      Which brings us to Hack. Fire him. 300 plus minutes without a goal and we use the same formation over and over? A loser is a loser so cut ties with him now. To say he needs time to figure this out is absurd. The guy had all preseason and now 9 games to get use to the players we have and he continues to make mistake after mistake. They gotta win now because there is no chance our best players come back with Hack still around.

      • Jason, I like the way you think! I think people here don’t realize European players will put in a transfer and leave if they don’t like the system. Fire Hack to keep Nog!

      • Ha yea good point on the European guys. I was thinking more of Okugo bolting but you are right, the European guys will bail immediately.

      • james lockerbie says:

        I am not advocating for edu to go forward. I am just reminding everyone the story told to us was that edu wanted a more offensive role on this team. I would have to agree with your assessment of edu. From here on out edu would better serve this team and his chances to go to Brazil playing defensive midfielder.

    • Erudite statement. So often it is overlooked how important quickness and speed and coordination is for the CB position- and specifically for the position in a 4-3-3. Big lumbering and slow is not befitting the position.

  9. Rumor has it every time someone says Fire Hackworth the Kensignton Soccer Club gets 5 dollars.
    Fire Hackworth.

  10. I love the last paragraph. This team is so easy to defend because they do the same thing – they’re predictable. The problem is they’re predictable in the sense that they do the same thing over and over again – the definition of insanity – despite poor results. When you watch great teams you often know exactly what they’re going to do, and it works more often than not because their plan is predictable, not their execution. With the Union it’s the opposite – their passes, movement and spacing is predictable, and I’m often not even sure what their plan is. I’ll blame Hackworth for the lack of tactical adjustments, but some blame has to be on the players for not finding new ways to create chances.

    • Ok who created chances. Maidana was benched for the first half, Nogueira is doing everything he can. Who else is there? Cruz brought energy, but still not a lot of creativity. Hoppenot is only good for trying to draw fouls(diving) these days. Letoux? Fernandes has been cold after a good start and it seems like teams are now accounting for him. Edu? Carrol? Fabhino? This team is so oddly constructed and there just isn’t a lot of creativity there.

      • I’m not sure if you’re agreeing with me or countering my statement, but I agree with you. As you said Nog is all over the field, but part of that is the fact that he’s looking for someone to pass to and putting himself in position to get the ball. No one else does that. There are times where it looks like no one knows where they should be or what they should be doing.

      • I am agreeing. My post kind runs counter that Hackworth has created a better team. They have paid for 3 better players and they are an improvement. But the over all team construction has been a step back after last year. You were asking for creativity and I was agreeing with you, but pointing out it isn’t really there.

      • Then yea I completely agree. That’s what I was attempting to say. There is none, and Hackworth can only do so much in that regard, the players are on the field and eventually someone has to step up and “create.” Otherwise, they need to be replaced. That’s where we are now. Step 3 is replace the manager, which goes along with Ben’s comment.

      • “…it looks like no one knows where they should be or what they should be doing,” because the coach sucks and is totally lost.

  11. The bottom line is that most of the team doesn’t move on and off the ball and into space. It’s absurd that Nogueira has to gesture to players to come to the ball, to move or to find space. They have been extremely flat footed in recent games. It has to change. If they play with that kind of tempo then the Seattle match will be extremely ugly. Also, the 4-3-3 is obviously the worst system you can have for this team, Vincent needs to be in the middle of pitch with Edu. I’m not sure what the line up was for this past game against Montreal but I think they should play a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-2-1. I’d also like to see Fernandez in the picture.

    • Oh and finding a new coach would be nice as well. Isn’t David Moyes out of a job right now? They should get his ass over here asap, definitely easier said than done……

  12. I think some of the ratings are a tad too high. I’d give Williams a 4, Okugo and Wheeler a 5 (and maybe a 4 for Wheeler; I’m really not impressed watching him at CB). I think a case could be made to move Fabinho up to a 5. I’d also listen to arguments about reducing Gaddis and Hoppenot by 1, and increasing Cruz by 1 (Damn, can’t believe I said that), but I think the scores they have are good enough.
    As a counter to everybody saying move Okugo to midfield, I give you an alternate idea. Move Maidana to midfield, and give him the freedom to roam like he wants. Let Maidana and Nogueira work together in the midfield for a few games and see what sort of chemistry develops between the two. Maidana seems to be one of the few players consistently on the same page with Nogueira; so build on it. Let Edu play the holding role; it’s clearly his comfort zone. I agree Brian Carroll hasn’t been nearly as bad as his critics say, but Edu is still an improvement.
    Williams, Okugo, Berry, Gaddis; Edu; Maidana, Nogueira; Cruz, Wenger, Le Toux.
    I want Le Toux and Williams back together on the right for a few games, to see if they can re-discover what they had last year. We know Cruz will stay wide on the left; we know Nog likes to drift right; and we have Williams running the right flank. So if Le Toux wants to take an occasional stroll inside, this formation can cover that (really, it could just as eaily be a 4-4-2).
    If Le Toux continues to be a problem, take your pick from the kids: Hernandez, Fernandes, Pfeiffer, or Ribeiro. I’d be OK with any or all of them waiting in the wings to take his spot. And I have an unabashed man-crush on Le Toux. (Same goes for Cruz’s spot on the left, too – if one of the kids earns it, give it to him!)
    Also, please. Somebody, anybody, tell Wenger to STOP making quick throw ins from deep on the right sideline. He’s done it at least once each of the last two games. Against Houston, it happened after Williams started jogging in for the throw after having waved Wheeler and Okugo forward, putting everybody out of position. Wenger’s gotta know that the Union treat those deep right side throws almost like a corner kick and just leave the ball there.

    • Linking Maidana with Nogueira and Edu Isn’t a bad idea at all and could actually work.

      • agree with john and andy that the defensive ratings are too high. also an average rating of 5 after losing to one of the worst teams in the league thus far seems on the high side as well.

      • I guess I’d argue that the mean isn’t a good way to look at player ratings. It’s quite possible I rated some of the defenders too high, but do you really want me to knock points off a guy because the team loses on a midfield turnover that results in a shot that the goalie drops at the feet of an attacker? They’re individual ratings, so I didn’t do that.

        Montreal had 3 shots inside the 18 in a home game, and one was the rebound. That’s playing with two double-digit scorers in the side. So what’s the argument that the defense didn’t play well? They weren’t the ones at fault on offense.

        So I see your point, and I’m not saying you’re wrong. But I am saying I still think I have good reasons for those ratings.

      • You’re smart. Remind me not to argue with you.

      • You’re right that for the goal there’s plenty of slices of blame pie to spread around – it wasn’t just Williams’ bad turnover or Wheeler ball-watching or Okugo sliding but not pressuring or MacMath leaving a juicy a rebound. So a little piece of that can go to each of them.
        Did Montreal have 3 shots inside the 18 because the U defense was stout, or did they have 3 shots inside the 18 because they also played poorly?
        For Williams, it’s a few things. His crosses were off the mark. His throw-ins seemed to be coming up short. He had the bad turnover. I’ll admit to not completely understanding all the stats yet, but looking at his Opta numbers* he sure seems to have lost possession a lot, between unsuccessful passes and “tackled and possession lost” numbers. And that backs up the impression I had while watching him – he just didn’t seem in rhythm, didn’t seem like himself. And therefore why I think he was a 4 and not a 5. In my opinion, he had a below-average game for what he’s capable of producing.
        And the same goes for the other defenders, too. They just didn’t seem up to “snuff.” (And, as I said, I’m not at all impressed with Wheeler at CB, so in that case it could certainly be confirmation bias.) I’m not saying they deserved 1s and 2s. Just a hair lower, in my opinion.
        * That actually would be something I’d be interested in reading about, if somebody wanted to write it – what some of the Opta stats really mean, and possible ways to interpret and use the numbers. I love numbers, probably from having baseball as my first sports love.

      • this

      • Good points. I’ll stick with what I said in Wheeler’s rating on the ball-watching thing. And the numbers bear Okugo out on sliding over but letting a guy have a shot at full speed – it’s a low probability shot, and MacMath had no trouble blocking it.

        I’m arguing they had 3 shots inside the 18 because the defense was stout. To support this, I’d add that MTL had 4 shots outside the 18, and those are very low % shots (comparatively) any way you spin it. A team with Mapp, DiVaio, and McInerney is going to get a couple reasonable chances to score in a home game. Gaddis did very well on Mapp, Okugo pushed play late… I guess I don’t buy the “spread it around” argument when everyone is scrambling off a very poor turnover.

        Williams: I can definitely see your points there. The Tack/PossLost stat includes bad passes in it, so it can be deceptive. But he was far from his best, I won’t argue that. If I were revising ratings, I’d probably start with Sheanon.

        I’ve never argued that Wheeler should be the starting CB, but he had his best passing game and he had 5 interceptions and a brilliant breakaway saving tackle. He also got on the end of a corner. He’s never going to have Okugo’s feet, but I’m not sure what more could be asked of him in that game. He only blasted the ball upfield 5 times, and two were accurate.

      • “Gaddis did very well on Mapp, … ”
        Yes, he did. You’ll note that Gaddis is the one defender whose score I didn’t think was a touch too high. 😉 Ray, very quietly, played a hell of a defensive game. Again.
        One of the reasons I love looking at the rating article is it gives me a chance to confirm what I think I’m seeing. (And much like the previews, inevitably I learn something, which is always a plus.) This week’s ratings may be the furthest “off” from what I remember of the game. And maybe that’s just frustration boiling over. Or a subtle nuance I’m not seeing. Or, just as likely, it’s just a disagreement over something that’s mostly subjective.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I’ll come out and say: Raymon Gaddis isone of the better ‘pound-for-pound’ defenders in the MLS.

      • +1

    • I like the Maidana in the midfield role. It is worth a shot.

  13. Andy Muenz says:

    I think the defensive ratings are a bit high, especially for Okugo and Wheeler. Both looked to be standing around while Felipe went after the rebound. On a day like Saturday, defenders can’t just assume that the keeper will make a clean save. They should be ready to clear out a rebound.
    Likewise, when Perkins gave up a couple of rebounds, the Union’s offense was standing around watching the Impact defenders either clear the ball or protect it so Perkins could grab it.
    It’s 9 games in and I see a team that is putting in about 75% effort and that’s the most discouraging thing of all.

    • The sad part is I feel like every game I think about what went wrong and it’s like I am coaching U8, 9 and 10s. Don’t ball watch, keep moving, exert pressure, look at where you are gonna pass so you know you have a lane and the guy whos supposed to recieve it is still there, respect your teammates enough to give it 100% the whole game etc.
      I know these are fundamental issues but shouldn’t many of these sort themselves out with age, experience and COACHING.

  14. The Chopper says:

    If you recall when Edu signed, it was made pretty clear that the Union assured his representatives that he would not be employed as a CDM. Edu himself was gushing over playing with Brian Carrol because he knew Carroll would be fulfilling that role. So the onus is now on Edu to assert himself further up the field and to this point with a few exceptions he really has not. He wants that position, but has yet to show he can deliver from there. Not only that, he can actually occasionally finish a chance, so he needs to be further up.

    The last two games show a big team improvement in the second half. So maybe they are getting some positive coaching at half time. Cruz looked good and more importantly looked like someone who was following the gameplan. Far more so than we have seen from Seba out there .

    I wonder if Fabhino starting was the coaching staff sending a message to Maidana, play where we tell you or sit . Let’s see what happens with him in the next start.

    Bottom line, we can move players all over the field, but this team has created more than enough chances to have won at least 4 matches to this point. You don’t finish. You don’t win regardless of the formation.

    • I thought it was the opposite. We assured his reps that he would be a CDM only because that is his only shot at making the World Cup roster. Wouldn’t he be the one sitting behind Bradley for the most part on the US squad?

    • Maurice Edu has been a tremendous disappointment by my expectation. I am unsure if it is his failings or managements failings. When I heard we had signed him I really felt our defense and defense to offense linking ability had been solidified.
      Good solid player for MLS. Good Solid player for team on the rise. It’s just not happening right now. And then I see him against Montreal not imploring his teammates or leading but walking around slump shouldered and defeated throughout the game. When in reality he isn’t doing shit.
      So wrong. I’ve never been a big fan of Edu or Jumaine Jones, for that matter, but I did expect that in this league Edu would be able to assert his ‘european pedigree’.
      Edu in my mind is the picture on the poster saying, “what me worry?”

    • If I remember correctly, the main concern was making sure the Union resisted the urge to ever use him as a CB (which he had played in the past). I’m not sure if they specified how exactly he’d be used in midfield, just that he’d be in midfield. I do recall Edu saying that he could be a box-to-box guy and get involved in the offense though. I don’t think it’s beyond his capability to do so for his club team, even if that’s not his role when playing for the USMNT.

  15. Your “Edu up the Middle” Analysis is spot on and thank you for putting to words the frustration I’ve been seeing.
    Huge swaths of space when the ball is on sidelines that is not being filled by presenting Union players. When you watch excellently choreographed football, particularly with the 4-3-3 there is almost an overload to the strong side of the field, this gives the ball carrier choices in how to proceed with the build up.
    So So often, our midfielder will receive ball on flank and there is literally nobody within 30m because like you write, the space exited by one player is not being filled by another, all the while the wingback is flying up the field looking for the dreaded long ball. Worse still, I tend to see Edu calling for the ball 30m away and not really even being open which is one reason, the two DM idea is failing. To date I see nothing displaying Edu as an offensive threat- save headers in the box.

  16. OneManWolfpack says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This is our biggest fear realized. Hackworth can not manage. We have a nice, shiny new manual sports car in the driveway and our manager can’t drive a stick. He’s gotta go.
    “The definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result.” – Albert Einstein

  17. Cruz looked good in that game because that was the right place for his style — an old, slow defense in the rain. But please, Coach Hackworth, don’t take that one good game as reason to Sharpie Cruz’s name into the lineup every week. Especially not next week — Seattle’s backs will eat him for lunch.

    • Hackworth doesn’t make a game plan based on the other team! He doesn’t even do it based on his own players. He just KNOWS it will all work out!!!!!

  18. MacMath

    Get your best players on the field and in a position to succeed. I have always been a huge fan of Shaenon, but he needs to pick it up. Right now, Gaddis/Fab is a better Def Wing combo that Wiliams/Gaddis. Ray is a rock, and we need to make sure we maximize him.

    And I agree with you, Adam, let’s see the youth on the field. The vets aren’t getting it done, let’s bring in the young guys to challenge them and see if we can find a finisher.

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