Player ratings

Player ratings and analysis: Union 1-2 Sounders

Photo: Courtesy of Shayna Gosney/Prost Amerika


Since claiming all three points against New England back on March 15, the Union have claimed just 4 of the last 24 points on offer. And while few would have expected them to break their winless streak in Seattle, the lackadaisical performance turned in by the Sounders gifted the Union not only the lead, but their best chance at a victory in quite some time.

In the end though, mistakes at the back and poor communication yet again doomed John Hackworth’s men, and they squandered yet another sterling performance from Zac MacMath.

But while the Union fly back east with no more points than when they departed, the Union boss may have hit on a tactical organization that he can use to his advantage in the coming weeks.

4-3-1-2. It works…

While it never threatened to match RSL’s offensive efficiency through the midfield, the Union’s first effort at a four-man diamond finally put the Union’s most skilled players in the right places to positively affect the match.

On defense, the Union collapsed into a compact midfield shape, with all three of their holding midfielders dropping in to track the unpredictable runs of Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle. Some may say it was an overly defensive tactic to essentially field 7 defensive players in front of MacMath. But when the Union won the ball, the midfield diamond gave far more clarity to the positions into which each player should attack.

Maurice Edu took the left, Vincent Nogueira manned the right and each knew that Chaco Maidana would be working to make himself available in the attacking half of the field as the Union pushed forward. With Seattle’s high offensive and defensive alignment, space was not terribly hard to come by when the Union broke the first wave of pressure. And whether it was Edu or Vincent Nogueira delivering the ball to Maidana, the other did well to push up the field to provide a third option in addition to the two strikers. Compared to past weeks in which Nogueira was left trying to pick out one of three forwards pressed to the opposition back line with a long ball, this was a very positive development.

Maidana finds a home

Maidana’s play was vastly improved over past performances, and he appeared to revel in the extra space afforded to him by the tactical formation. Slipping into the space behind Oswaldo Alonso, his return of 45 completed passes (83.3% completion percentage) and 4 key passes shows a player becoming more efficient because he is collecting the ball in better spots on the field and has the support he needs to make simple passes rather than force the difficult ones.

The experiment was certainly successful enough to earn a reprise against DC United, but Maidana must prepare for a tougher test, at least in his area of the field. Seattle’s run and gun attack is certainly not the norm in MLS, and while Alonso and Gonzalo Pineda are no slouches in the center of the park, they look to push themselves much higher up the pitch than the average center midfield duo. If the Union stick with Maidana in the same position, the Argentine can look forward to three weeks of players whose main objective will be to mark him out of the game, whether its Perry Kitchen, Ori Rosell, or Andy Dorman. Much the way Kleberson impressed in an end-to-end match against LA Galaxy in 2013 (a game that also resulted in a loss), Maidana must prove to be equally effective when space is hard to come by and when teams default to hard tackling and defensive organization rather than stylish attacking play.

4-3-1-2 works… to a point. Stop splitting the centerbacks

While there were plenty of positives about the Union’s revamped midfield, one continued area of concern remained the team’s clear edict from the coaching staff to spread the centerbacks wide once possession is won. Amobi Okugo has been one of the bright spots of the Union possession game ever since he finally got on the field under John Hackworth. His ability to hold the ball and pick out a pass has proved beneficial to the Union’s ability to start patient build-up play from the back.

It is hard not to look at the Union’s recent trend of sloppiness bringing the ball from deep, and not find a corollary with Okugo’s dip in number of touches. By spreading the centerbacks and making Brian Carroll the primary recipient of outlet passes from MacMath, the Union are choosing to put themselves under pressure. It is hard to argue that having Okugo move the ball upfield to Edu or Nogueira is a far better option than having Carroll track back to within 25 yard of his goal to make a first, simple outlet pass. Carroll has many skills, but turning his body upfield and launching the attack isn’t one of them, nor should it be.

Dropping Carroll in between the centerbacks once the ball has been moved into the opposing half is an entirely different animal. When patient, possession leads to both strikers, three midfielders and both fullbacks all being committed to the attack, leaving Carroll at home to help break up any counterattacking moves makes sense. However, sending the fullbacks into Seattle territory while leaving Okugo, Carroll and Aaron Wheeler to fend for themselves as they look for passing options will only lead to trouble, which it did on Saturday when the Sounders pounced on any Union player who moved too slowly in looking for a passing option to become available.

Maintain defensive shape
Wheeler losing defensive shape

Figure 1 – Wheeler losing defensive shape

Carroll’s insertion into the defensive line also appears to have a negative effect on the relationship of center backs. The spacing and understanding between two center backs may be a more important relationship than that of any other two players have on a soccer pitch. With Okugo on the right flank and Wheeler spread all the way left, they rarely have the opportunity to exchange even the simplest of passes between one another. And since both are spreading wide before the ball crosses the midfield stripe, both are automatically compromised if the Union concede possession within their own half.

Further, wherever Wheeler finds himself on the center back learning curve, he is too eager to make tackles and close down play, often resulting in him engaging an attacker too far wide and upfield rather than containing play, allowing his teammates to recover and offer support. Lamar Neagle’s early drive is one of a number of examples of Wheeler’s eagerness resulting in the rest of his backline being forced to scramble to cover for him.

For example, when Djimi Traore picked off Sebastien Le Toux’s entry pass, Seattle looked to move the ball quickly up field. While Ray Gaddis was unable to win the ball back in the attacking half, the Union had plenty of cover behind the ball. However, when Brad Evans picked up the ball on the Union’s left touchline 10 yards from the center stripe, it was Wheeler who was the first to engage him. A quick look at Figure 1 shows not only how far Wheeler had strayed from his ideal position, but also that Edu was already on the scene to close down Evans. Seeing how far Wheeler had to come to make the challenge, Evans had an easy time putting the ball beyond him as Carroll and Nogueira sprinted desperately toward their own goal. With only Okugo and Sheanon Williams left to face the entirety of Seattle’s fire power, it is no wonder that Neagle found the time and space he needed before rasping his shot off the crossbar.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 9

Turned in a Man of the Match performance, despite giving up two goals that he was helpless to stop. Made his third penalty stop in a row and displayed the three P’s that were often lacking from his game in 2013: Poise, Positioning and Punching. Given the conditions, playing surface, and location, it is hard to imagine a better goalkeeping performance than the one MacMath turned in.

Sheanon Williams – 4

Continues to look rusty as he tries to get his feet under him after a preseason injury pushed back the start of his campaign. With the Union’s defensive shape consistently compromised, Williams was too often put in the tough spot of having to decide between sliding inside to maintain his spacing with Okugo, or staying wide to keep an eye on Neagle. Certainly not an enviable task.

Amobi Okugo – 5

With Wheeler’s tendencies to be dragged into the midfield and out wide, Okugo has moved into more of a sweeper position of late, and he is simply trying to do too much. Add the decrease in the number of his touches that stems from the tactical choice to spread him wide right, and Okugo is suddenly a player who is playing against his strengths. Where Austin Berry defers to his partner and would be the stay-at-home centerback, thus allowing Okugo to prowl up into midfield to make plays, Okugo now is the one holding down the fort at the back before being bypassed in the build-up. The latest Union player to owe MacMath a nice dinner for bailing him out with a PK save, Okugo also must join Edu and Wheeler in shouldering some of the blame for failing to deal with Chad Marshall on Seattle’s winner.

Aaron Wheeler – 3

As mentioned above, Wheeler was found out time and again, whether he was abandoning his defensive shape or recklessly conceding possession. Provided Seattle with many of their brightest attacking opportunities in turning the ball over with 40% of his touches (a stat which does not include the times when he chose to hoof a clearance back to Seattle, rather than attempt to control or find a teammate), including being dispossessed 3 times within 30 yards of his own goal. While he used his long stride to make 2 important interventions in his own box, unlike playing striker, center backs need to hang their hats on 90 minutes of discipline, not individual moments of brilliance. He set the table for Seattle’s opener when he twice failed to make headed clearances and also must raise his hand for failing to either track Marshall’s run or give his teammates a shout on Seattle’s second. Austin Berry should return to the starting XI against DC United.

Ray Gaddis – 6

Put Brad Evans in his pocket until the US international was moved to left back, at which point he went to work on Marco Pappa. Defended very well individually, but loses a point because too often the space Seattle exploited was behind one of Gaddis’ upfield runs.

Vincent Nogueira – 7

With a smaller territory over which to rule, Nogueira proved a dominant force, as he skillfully moved the ball up and down the right flank, bringing in teammates, and launching attacks. Evans became the latest MLSer to learn of Nogueira’s ability to shift his weight from foot to foot in the blink of an eye, as the Frenchman left Evans tackling air.

Brian Carroll – 6

With Nogueira and Edu’s roles more clearly defined, Carroll was able to get back to doing what he does best, breaking up plays and playing the simple pass to start the build. Seattle’s fancy dancing moves played right into the captain’s hands as he waited patiently for Dempsey and Martin to finish their theatrics, before nipping in to break up play.

Maurice Edu – 5

Looked more comfortable when given his own space in which to operate, but Edu’s showing was too much about muscle and not enough about guile and skill. While he clearly relished the battle with Dempsey, Edu was far too quick to concede fouls, and once the ball was won, lacked the cutting edge going forward, which led to a number of Union moves stalling out.

Chaco Maidana – 7

See above. Given the freedom to move and create, Maidana proved a constant threat, whether on the counter or in controlled build-up play. Considering the dropoff in the team’s performance once he was removed, Maidana needs to be considered a 90-minute player and allowed to work all the way to the final whistle.

Sebastien Le Toux – 4

Considering how hard Wenger worked to make space for him, Le Toux made comparably little of those openings. His touch remains far too inconsistent in the final third and he rarely looks a threat to score. Striker may be his preferred position, but his lack of polish in the final third hurt his team. His energetic ball-chasing does look much better in the less organized center of the pitch than it does on the wing, where defending roles are more specifically defined.

Andrew Wenger – 5

Got himself into good places but continues to lack the savvy that would have seen him lay the ball off to teammates in better positions or beat his defender to free up his own shot. Still looks hurried and nervous on the ball. Considering the positions into which his teammates put him, one shot on goal is not good enough.


Leo Fernandes – N/A

Had little to no impact.

Conor Casey – N/A

Had little to no impact.

Antoine Hoppenot – N/A

Had little to no impact, though he had one memorable moment. Unfortunately, that moment was a late, clumsy dive that served no purpose other than to highlight Hoppenot’s growing reputation as a diver.

Geiger Counter

Silviu Petrescu – 2

He’s not a good referee. In all of the basic skills by which a referee is evaluated, like consistency, or simply upholding the laws of the game, Petrescu leaves players, coaches, and fans wanting. He also seems to get star struck awfully easily. A disappointing performance to be certain.

Preferred starting XI for Saturday’s match vs DC United


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


  1. Why even rate the players at this point? Its like going to a bank in the middle of a robbery, then complaining that the teller took over an hour to finally let you cash a check.

    The problem is pretty obvious. And you refuse to give him a rating every week. Considering that they are basically 11 dudes running around aimlessly, they don’t do that bad to be completely honest. “This” isn’t really on them, IMO. You’re getting on Ray’s case because nobody thought to coach the rest of them what to do when Ray pushes up? Pfft.

    And poor Aaron Wheeler. I can’t blame the square peg when someone tries to ram it into a round hole. Over and over. And over.

  2. John Ling says:

    I’m going to take a moment and pat myself on the back, since I was one of the early voices saying to put Maidana at the 10 and let him roam. (Most likely, it’s a case of a stopped clock being right, but I’ll take what I can get.)
    I absolutely agree that Maidana needs to play through any fitness issues. The June break isn’t that far away. Let him play himself back into shape and use the break to heal the nicks and dings and come back ready for July and onward.
    Assuming this formation stays, I’d like to let Le Toux and Wenger get a few games together before swapping somebody else into Le Toux’s role. With forward being Le Toux’s best, and preferred, position I’m willing to give that pairing a few games to see if some chemistry can develop. But as big as my man-crush is on Le Toux, his time is running out. My gut says give him through the Chivas game; that’s five more matches, in a tight time frame. If there’s nothing clicking by the second game in LA, it’s time for changes – possibly in that game, definitely after.
    My first reaction for Macmath getting a 9 was, “What? Are you crazy?” and then I thought about it and really couldn’t come up with a tangible reason why he should even get an 8; all I got is, “… but he gave up two goals!” And the unspoken part of that is, “because his defensive line has no cohesiveness, no chemistry, and no actual center backs.
    Clint Dempsey got away with murder that game. He deserved a card long before the 91st minute. And I think there could be a case for that card deserving to be straight red instead of yellow.
    I hope the league suspends Hoppenot for his ridiculous flop. I hate diving to begin with, but recognize it has a tactical use here and there. What he does, though, is simply unacceptable. He directly hurts his team with his antics because now *nobody* on the team gets a call.
    And lastly a question, that I mean in all seriousness as I continue to learn. Did Seattle really deserve a PK from that play? I thought the general rule of thumb is playing the ball vs the ball playing you? And it’s hard to argue that a player leaning on his elbow while on the ground is playing the ball, isn’t it? Teach me, oh wise ones!

    • Watching it again, the main thing I see working against Okugo is that he throws his elbow out late, which makes it look more like he was trying to draw contact with the ball rather than leaving his arm in a “natural” position. He doesn’t argue too much either, which also makes me think he knew what he was doing.

      • John Ling says:

        Yeah, definitely agree about the lack of arguing. That’s always a good sign that the player agrees with the call. I understand, too, that (in theory at least) MLS players are held to a higher standard for that sort of thing than my kids’ U13 teams.

    • -Many of us wanted Maidana in the 10 role, but I’ll give it to you.
      -LeToux has always disappeared too long as a starter. He seems to have a good impact off the bench, so I like him as the “Hoppenot sub.”
      – You can thank Klinsman for Dempsey getting away with murder.
      -Okugo tried to Lex-Luger the ball on the PK. So, yes, it was a good call.

    • John, definitely agree with you on Maidana. He needs to go 90 unless he’s got a broken leg or we’re somehow up by 2 or more goals past the 70′ mark. I’m fine with Zac’s 9 rating. He looked great, and that’s a first class save on the PK.

      I’m mostly okay with your suggestion about LeToux staying with Wenger for a while. In theory, LeToux should be able to run off of Wenger. That being said, I think the best bet is to split the non-Wenger 90 minutes of forward time between LeToux and Fernandes. 60/30ish split based on form, schedule demands, etc.

      The Hoppenot sub really hasn’t resulted in much for the last season and a half now. And Casey seems best suited to grab 10-20 minutes late in the match only so far.

      • John Ling says:

        Yeah, I had no problems on the 9 after thinking about it. Just my first reaction was to flinch – how does a losing goalie get a 9? Then I actually remember the game, and I’m more than OK with it.

    • You and me both John Ling. Tactical geniuses we are. Coach. Diamond. 4-4-2.

      • John Ling says:

        Dear Philadelphia Union: I can’t speak for Joel, but I’m available. Call me.

  3. I enjoyed the article and agree with many of its points, and I also really like the Preferred XI against DC. I think Leo Fernandes could play the second striker role with Wenger in a much more productive manner than Le Toux. I think Leo would utilize the space Wenger makes, and I think his ball control and movement could better serve our midfielders joining the attack late. I would have said Casey should be the second man up top at the start of the season, but the man looks like he is on his last legs, no? Which makes his decisions to pull wide and deep to get on the ball even more confusing to me. I understand wanting touches, but why not press high and be the target player up front that I think the Union are looking for him to be at the end of the game when they are pressing? I have seen him cross the ball more times than he has been crossed to. But then the rest of the bench options are not looking all that spectacular either. Aside from Fernandes, I don’t know who to trust to make a difference off the bench. Hoppenot has certainly lost his luster. Is Pfeffer ready yet? Maybe we should bring Riberio back into the 18…

  4. Old soccer coach says:

    Enjoyed the analysis. Thanks for the distinction between the center backs spread when we have possession in the attacking half, and when we do not have such possession. Appreciated your observations about Wheeler because they suggested not only the errors but also the corrections. I agree that he forces Okugo to be the stay at home center back instead of Valdes or Parke as earlier in Okugo’s backfield career. Do you have any idea whether Berry is injured still as Hackworth indirectly suggested some weeks ago, and if so anything as to the nature of the injury? The warning about future teams focusing more on shutting Maidana down as the attacking vertex of the midfield diamond is reinforced by them having seen his effectiveness on video now. While not challenging your criticisms of Edu as a left flank midfielder, I thought he was nonetheless an improvement over this season’s previous left mids. My fear of the diamond recalls a game against Houston several years ago when Geoff Cameron was unstoppable as a middle channel center halfback, because of his skill and athleticism, and because a midfield diamond left space for him to operate unopposed. The diamond had an element of surprise to it as well as fitting well with Seattle’s patterns of play, points for which Hackworth should be credited. Would that Maidana could last a full ninety.

    • Philly Cheese says:

      If Berry is not at 100% , then don’t put him in 18. Not sure he would be thrilled to go to,Harrisburg for a “rehab” game or two, but a couple of stellar 90 minute shifts in Harrisburg to replace their injured CB. Perhaps that get him out of Hack’s dog house…..if,that is his status.

  5. Hey, maybe Hack does read these (or listen to the podcast), since he finally put Chaco, Nog, and Edu in the positions we’ve been clamoring for.

    Berry HAS to start on Saturday. Should have started this past Saturday on a turf field against a smaller forward set. Wheeler forces Carroll to drop into midfield. Hack has to ride or die with his offseason moves…cuz he’s close to death.

    Williams is killing us offensively. His service is now key, with the MF needing to be narrow and Ray/Fabinho offering no offense from the left.

    New subs please! Give me Hernandez, Pfeffer, Ribiero. Somebody different. Even LeToux off the bench!

    Perfect line-up for Saturday, Eli.

  6. This game hurts because it comes on the “end” of a string of very tough results to swallow. Seattle is better (coaching, talent, support, etc) than us in all ways. I don’t mind the loss.
    What I think the team needs to address is why? Its not just money either. otherwise LA and new york would be far more dominant.
    I agree that zach is finally living up to the potential. I think IMO that much of sheanon and okugos problem is they are trying to make it happen. They thirst for something that feels like progress so they push hoping to make the mind blowing cross or big transition take away and end with nothing. Maybe I am reading too much into it but at what point do the players get at each others throats.
    We need some new life and new energy I just don’t know where its gonna come from.

  7. Andy Muenz says:

    Not sure why Maidana came out when he did. At the time I thought Wenger looked more gassed than he did and bringing in Fernandes for Wenger probably would have led to more offense.

    • Wenger or LeToux. Both were fairly non-existent.
      Pretty sure Hack suscribes to the Andy Reid school of Game Planning: the subs and times were set February.

  8. If I can’t get a coaches rating on these things can I get an announcers rating on away games?
    Peter Papas was brutal, almost verging on Bob Rigbyian in how he called the game. Aside from whining about calls all game he provided no insight whatsoever. I was almost ready to turn on the MLS stream to get away from his announcing.
    God.. get Heather Mitts to do color commentary.

    • But without Pappas, I never would have heard the term “drackle!”
      …He’s still waayyy better than Rigby.

    • +1 on Heather Mitts. I hope she gets the job next year. She is a far better analyst than Pappas. Remains to be seen whether she could keep that up for a whole broadcast, but I bet she could. And the symbolism of having a female analyst in the men’s sports world would be a bonus.

      • +2 would love to see Mitts get a shot at the color job next year. Would like to hear what she would have to say about our back 4.

    • Sounds like it’s a good thing I had Seattle’s announcers on my stream.
      While were on the subject of announcers, did anyone else watch the Everton vs Man City match? I usually love listening to Arlo White, but his commentary was ridiculously offensive and insulting to anyone that was watching the game for Everton. He spent the whole game talking about how all Everton fans wanted their team to lose just to spite Liverpool’s title chances. Did anyone legitimately think they wanted their own team to lose? Did he read a few online wannabe fanboy comments and think, “Hey, let’s fit a story to this game and not care about whether or not it’s true”? He mentioned how he asked a fan in the stadium if he wouldn’t mind seeing them lose and that the fan walked away without answering. The guy probably walked away because some fan just asked him about something completely irrelevant to the team he was about to cheer for. Then in 2nd half extra time, just for good measure, he says “Surely no one can question Everton’s integrity today.” The only person that questioned it was him.
      Ok, that’s all I have for my “You know what really grinds my gears!” segment today.

      • To me the story was clearly the need to win for Everton as Champions League qualification leaned heavily on that game. That loss to City really hurt their chances. Arsenal likely the 4th seed now.

      • Yes, they’re officially out of it after losing this weekend, but they really lost Champions League with recent losses to Crystal Palace and Southampton. Still, that’s not the story the announcers and the network wanted you to care about. Liverpool vs Man City was all they wanted you to care about. They didn’t think for a second that there might actually be Everton fans (or even impartial fans) watching the broadcast. I found their professionalism severely lacking.

  9. soccerdad1150 says:

    FYI — you are a brilliant soccer analyst. I never even go to anymore. I just wait for yours. Thanks.

  10. The Black Hand says:

    Fair ratings, Eli.
    Defense. As long as this CB pairing exists, we will have terrible CB’s. Amobi’s form, as many have mentioned, is effected by his partner’s shortcomings. Though, I must mention; Amobi Okugo is not a CB…not a little bit. He can play it because he is a VERY good player and VERY good players can make do anywhere on the pitch…BUT he would be MUCH more valuable in a certain “other” spot. Get Berry on the pitch with another CB (White) and let them find their chemistry. (It couldn’t be much worse…could it?)
    Gaddis played hard and shut it down, on the left. (I would give him his point back!) Williams looks bad…almost Fabinho bad. It has to be post-injury related…I hope.
    The Diamond Midfield. Looked promising. (Put Okugo at the DM and it looks REALLY promising). Edu stayed a bit too defensive, for my liking, but I think that this midfield structure is the best we have seen. Maidana seemed comfy, at the 10. I’m looking forward to a little more Noguiera/Maidana interaction.
    LeToux is better up top than he is anywhere else. The trouble is; LeToux was not very good. He got some touches in the area, which we have been dying for, but his touch/creativity is almost non-existant. We, unfortunately, don’t really have many options for striker #2. Casey looks like the years have finally caught up to him, which is unfortunate because he was damn good for this club, last year.
    Wenger is doing a decent job, with what he has to work with.
    We need to focus more on smart diagonal passing, from Nog/Chaco/Edu, and less on hopeless crosses!
    Oh yeah, Zac. He was fantastic. He is proving his critics (me) wrong!!!
    Trade Blake and Wheeler (whose versatility adds to his value)??

    • The Black Hand says:

      One more thing…I would give LeToux another look up top (hoping). Leo would be next in line.

  11. philsoc8 says:

    I didn’t think Hoppenot’s diving reputation could grown any further.

    I agree with all the ratings, though you might be a little generous with Wenger. He’s working his butt off but shows little ability to finish or combine with others.

    I’m getting worried about Williams. I used to be afraid that he wasn’t impoving, but now I’m concerned that he’s regressing.

    • “He’s working his butt off but shows little ability to finish or combine with others.”
      Translate that into Latin and you may have the next Union motto.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      A few weeks ago, it seemed like Hoppenot might be rehabbing his rep as a diver. Yeah, not exactly.

      • Philly Cheese says:

        And it doesn’t help that he runs his,mouth at officials after his dives. A Yellow card would have been in order and then a second yellow when he goes ballistic and runs his mouth. That would be one way to sit him out for a game!

      • We french men are a fiery group even when we think we’re right for doing the wrong things.

  12. “one continued area of concern remained the team’s clear edict from the coaching staff to spread the centerbacks wide once possession is won”. This * 10. Every time I see this I have flashbacks to the wide-nine defense.

    • I agree completely, and always thought of the “wide nine” as the I-95 defense, leaving a highway through the middle. I see the thought of spreading the CBs wide, but the personnel here can’t maintain control well enough to execute the theory.

  13. neck label says:

    petrescu was named ref of the year 2 years ago……agree with you on chaco. DC is gonna try to ruff him up a little and will likely take him off his game. which is exactly why fernades cant start. leo will get knocked around easily and disappear from the game too. casey however likes that stuff. if this is a must win, make it a must win and forget trying to make a formation work and smash home the dam ball. we can complain about ugly soccer after the much needed 3pts.

  14. No, no, no! Don’t stop splitting the center-backs! That’s how possession is played. Change your personnel if they are failing at their role. Playing the ball through the defensive mid if he can turn is option #1. That’s the best play. The attack is on after that. If Brian Carrol can’t do his job let Okugo or even Edu do it. They are younger, better, more evolved versions of Brian Carrol.

    You know a guy from MLS called on my cell-phone last week to see if he could lure me back to PPL to see some Union games since I haven’t been there in a while. I told him I’m too frustrated with the player choices to even consider it. I told him I’m an international star addict. Amobi Okugo is an international caliber player with star potential as a defensive mid. He’s playing center-back presumably waiting for BC to retire to then fill the void at DM. Then in the off-season we trade for international star Maurice Edu who is better than BC but essentially the same player as BC and Okugo.

    Now week in and week out we see our only remaining internationals of star potential(now that McInerny is gone) playing out of position so we can watch Brian Carrol f’up possession soccer.

    I don’t care about winning so much as I want to see evolved soccer by the best players. Philly is the greatest sports town in the world and soccer is the greatest sport in the world. What’s the problem?

    I said all of the above to the MLS guy on the phone. First he said Michael Bradley and Toronto FC are coming soon to PPL, so he knew his product. Then he said it sounds like I have an issue with the Front Office.

    Well yeah I do. I’d rather spend my money on a vacation or something else, rather than going to see live in person at PPL some of the best soccer players in the world come through, get frustrated and leave because they are not being utilized properly.

    You know Okugo is going soon if he doesn’t get into the mid-field soon. It’s his bread and butter…

    Don’t change the whole possession concept of playing out of the back by splitting the center backs because Brian Carrol can’t (won’t) turn! It’s not like Philly doesn’t have two other excellent options.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      My point is more that Okugo and Wheeler should be able to play catch and Carroll should be able to receive the first pass simultaneously.
      They appear to be drilled that Carroll drops exactly between and they spread 40-50 yards apart. That is the part with which I have the problem.
      Ideally Carroll (or Edu or Nogueira for that matter) should be getting an outlet pass and starting the play, but when he’s dropping to within 20 yards of his own goal, the strategy is not working.

      • Eli, With all due respect it sounds like you have a problem with playing out the back as per possession soccer.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Not sure how you’re getting that from anything I said. Don’t have to read that right now, but I saw the first action is, “Swinging the ball side to side, through back four and using the D-mid”

        Which is exactly what I’m saying. Goalkeeper to Dm to rest of midfield is not the only way to build from the back. The CBs need to be able to have touches to switch the field and bring in other players as well. In fact, I was lobbying for more touches and building from the back using Okugo, the team’s best distributor from deep.

      • The Black Hand says:

        It’s tough to get the CB’s the touches, when their central outlet is going to halt progression. It seems that the club cuts to the chase, and goes right to the flanks. When the CB’s to get the ball, they are usually very short on time and space.

      • Amen. When option #1 is unavailable. Having the central outlet unable to turn with or without the ball when uncovered. Clogs the whole system. Imagine Okugo in that role. Who here thinks he’d being unable to turn and face forward? I’m licking my chops to see that day. He is such a great passer. He could out-Beckerman Beckerman…

      • The Black Hand says:

        We seem to be “Carroll’d”, for worse or worse. Knowing that as the case, we need to develop another way to get Amobi the ball. Easy answer=Amobi at DM for Carroll (I am all for this). Realistic answer (Carroll’s here as long as Hack is)=???

      • Catch is mostly played through DM (#4).

        CBs are spreading as far as they should.

        BC is dropping to where he should be as per possession soccer. Maybe a little deep if he’s between CBs I’ll concede to you.

        Here if you got 5 minutes to spare. Special attention to “Buildup” which is in the first 2 minutes of the video:

      • Dan C (formerly of 103) says:

        We don’t have the personnel on the field to play a proper 4-3-3. This is another instance of Hack putting square pegs into round holes. Do you really believe that BC or Wheeler have the touch and vision to build from the back? Is it wise to put an oft-footed player at LB if you want to build from the back (Gaddis had been outstanding defensively, so no knock on him). So yes, the CBs will flatten and widen, but when Wheeler gets the ball his distibution is awful.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Doesn’t necessarily need to be a 4-3-3. It does need a competent CB and DM. Wheeler and Carroll are not those.

      • Can be 4-3-1-2 and still be called possession. Regardless of our wishes I think Hack is playing
        possession (not well mind you). I think we have the personnel just not used properly. Left footed left backs are nice but not essential. Gaddis is a problem for possession on either side due to limited foot skills. Fabihno is answer. Williams is a disaster for possession especially with that long throw (anti-possession).

      • Not sure you’ve watched Fabinho…

      • There it is! BC HAS to drop in-between, because Wheeler cannot play out of the back.
        Pretty sure we all know the answer there.

  15. What about having ryan giggs and his coaching team come for a 6 week “consultation” on player development after they are displaced at Man U and see if we can get some new ideas.
    As I write this I am wondering how desperate I am becoming.

  16. George H says:

    “…center backs need to hang their hats on 90 minutes of discipline, not individual moments of brilliance.”

    Couldn’t have said it any better.

    To take it a little further, if your centerback plays well for 85-90 min and makes a couple of mistakes, he’s not a good centerback (i.e. – Titus Bramble).

  17. Hackworth–please read this Philisoccerpage reports. Please ay attention to the comments especially ones from The Black Hand.

    Eli–rather than wait after the match to offer these suggestions, can you please call Hackworth before each match to offer him advise on tactics and how to use players.

    This team will be good when they start respecting Amobi Okugo’s skills and abilities as a holding mid and a leader.

    There is reason CLAUDIA REYNA (NYFC)selected him as his holding mid and captain in the first U23 national team Olympic training camp in Duisburg-Germany. Okugo played holding mid for youth clubs, country and college and and has captained all these teams including vice-captain as freshman in UCLA. Hackworth loves Okugo but he should allow the kid to perfect his skills in the area he has competitive advantage (DM not CB) and not use Okugo to address budget issues. Remember Bakky Soumare?

    • Future World Class Defensive Midfielder. OUr only hope is he gets called up soon and stands out and The Union realize the folly. Course by then he may be playing second division Bundesliga soon to be bought by Leverkusen. Oh Amobi. It was great while you were here….
      …watching you struggle to learn a new position with a turnstile next to you each season, while we tried to play a 4-3-3 with Brian Carroll as our chief linker of play from back to mid. There is a tragic country song in there somewhere. We could call it Oh Amobi.
      I am sorely disappointed that after 5 seasons we still suck so much.

  18. I posted this on another article but I’ll post it here too:
    I was at the City Islanders game this weekend and watched the centerback pairing of Ethan White and Marquez. I say with about 90% certainty that our CB depth chart SHOULD look like this:
    Marquez (close, but just less than Wheeler)
    White was pretty bad. He had the ball taken off of his feet multiple times and his distribution was awful.

  19. No comments on Williams’s lazy backpass to MacMath and then shoulder charge into the Seattle player gifting the Sounders a dangerous free kick right outside the box?!? That was an insanely boneheaded and lazy play. I haven’t seen a play like that since Danny Califf was clothes-lining people for the U. If we had any left back at all I’d be screaming for Gaddis to start at RB and Williams to sit. Pre-season injury aside, he’s had plenty of time to get himself into playing shape. And how does this not even get mentioned in the write-up? -1 for Williams in the player rankings and -1 for Eli for not addressing this (otherwise great article, love your write-ups).

    • Philly Cheese says:

      There is something wrong with Williams. Can’t afford to have him rehab his way back into,shape being ineffective for next month in starting 11. Question is….Who fills in at LB if Gaddis moved to RB for a couple of games?

    • If Hack would have addressed/drafted a proper LB last year, we could have traded SW for max value. I always thought Sheanon was overrated, because he never wanted to be disciplined enough to play right back.
      Ray is disciplined, but doesn’t have the talent.

  20. The Chopper says:

    Carroll has shown well the last two matches. But if the team is playing a Diamond 4 midfield, than with the current personnel it makes sense to play Edu on the bottom of the Diamond. He has that ability to bust up passing lanes and thwart attacks, but is a far more dynamic player to transistion the team from defense to,offense after possession is taken. With Edu in the back you can then add Fernandez, Pfeffer, Cruz or Fabhino to the midfield along w Edu, Chaoo and Nog. It makes for a more offensively capable team that needs every bit of offense it can get.

    • The diamond absolutely needs Edu as CDM. I see this. You see this. We all see this. Why doesn’t he?
      I lobbied for Nogs at CAM but if we agree Maidana belongs there I am fine with that.
      If we gave Edu, Nogs, Maidana and flavor du jour/of the week depending on tactics, 6 games to PLAY together; deployed Sebastien as a striker again with Wenger, I guess, Antoine Flo-p-enot on occasion and Casey when a burly striker is called for, there is no doubt this team would start scoring which would then at least earn some points as the defense side got figured out.
      Doesn’t it seem strange that every aspect of this team is in flux? It screams lack of rudder. Here is me SCREAMING! lack of rudder. Least he went to the 4-4-2.

      • Def. not a Hack fan and not a supporter of BC starting, but Edu had his chance to play BC off the field and didn’t. And frankly, Edu has been overratted by the national pundits.
        He was also to blame on Martins goal. He watched Wheeler step out and stood still as Martins ran right past.

        And regardless, we don’t have a threat up top-so your guarantee of goals is empty. Wenger is soooo American. Has some skill, good strength, but nothing exceptional (speed, shot, Berbatov-esque skill). A forward needs something exceptional.

      • Think if Edu had sole DM responsibility he would adjust. I’m not at all a Maurice Edu fan, but he’s on the team and likely should be good enough to patrol the DM and run the show.
        As for guarantee, maybe your right, I’m not at all a fan of Andrew Wenger either, but I’ve written many times that I think the 2 strikers would learn to make some decent runs for Nog or Maidana final pass. they don’t score at all currently, so even 1 gol a game is major upgrade.

  21. Murphthesurf says:

    I think you should give Seba a game or two to remember how to play striker. ..He needs to work on the first touch/ trapping the ball….He could return to previous form…
    Peace- Paix~

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