Player ratings

Player ratings & analysis: Union 2-1 Sporting Kansas City

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

A Wednesday night loss might have be the final nail in John Hackworth’s coaching coffin.

But the under-fire Union manager got the effort of a lifetime from his makeshift squad, defeating MLS champions Sporting Kansas City on the road, on short-turnaround, and without the services of three (!) unavailable defensive midfielders.

With Maurice Edu suffering from concussion symptoms, Brian Carroll injured, and Michael Lahoud still on international duty, it was center back Amobi Okugo who got the opportunity to play in the holding role, the position he played before his 2012 back line conversion. Okugo wore the captain’s armband and sat in front of a defense that included CB pairing Sheanon Williams and Austin Berry, with Ray Gaddis at right back and Fabinho on the left.

The formation played like a 4-2-3-1, with Danny Cruz on the right, Cristian Maidana on the left, and Leo Fernandes in the attacking midfield hole behind center forward Andrew Wenger.

While it certainly wasn’t pretty at times, it was a gritty and gutsy performance that secured three critical points.

Like déjà vu all over again

This game was essentially the same exact game as the 1-0 victory in Kansas City last season.

The formula:

  1. Score a scrappy goal (or two).
  2. Defend like hell.

With Kansas City playing its traditional “high-press” 4-3-3 system, and the Union content to “bunker in and counter,” as manager Peter Vermes told Kansas City’s broadcast team, the possession was 66% to 34% in favor of the home side. Philadelphia committed 20 fouls to KC’s 6 and took more cards, but they limited Sporting to three corner kicks and still managed to put more shots on goal (7 to 6).

Sporting obviously missed the bulldog-like efforts of center forward Dom Dwyer, with Vermes giving his No. 1 striker a rest and handing a start to Claudio Bieler. Only after Dwyer came in as a sub did the KC attack look more potent. Vermes also handed a first MLS start to 19-year-old right back Igor Juliao and started Sal Zizzo at right forward.

Still, the Union did well against Kansas City’s stars, limiting Graham Zusi to 64% passing accuracy and just 30% in crosses (3/10). Bieler finished the night with just one shot on target, and Benny Feilhaber and Uri Rosell were not as influential as they have been in previous games.

Even Sporting CEO Robb Heineman got on the broadcast, asking Cal Williams and Diego Gutierrez, “When’s the last time you’ve seen us play this negative?”

Evolving as underdogs

Philadelphia’s identity in recent years has been that of the underdog. They play well on the road, and they play well when their backs are against the wall.

You saw this in 2013, when the team performed well in Colorado, Chicago, and Salt Lake City. The club compiled its best road record in franchise history but played timidly at PPL Park, losing five games at home.

To a certain extent, it has continued in 2014, with good performances in Portland and Kansas City but clunkers at home to D.C. United, Montreal, and Houston.

So why does this team have to feel pressure to perform? Can they play better at PPL Park? How do they take the next step?

Last year’s team was a scrappy squad that scored greasy goals via crossing and poaching. This 2014 team has talent and quality at many positions, but they have to grow out of the underdog role and learn how to win. You see a team like Real Salt Lake that has continuity, cohesion, and maturity. They are confident, and they know how to play both at home and on the road. They assert themselves and buy into the system. The Union need to make that jump, because you can’t ride scrappy counterattacking and desperate defending to the playoffs.

You saw a sense of urgency in Kansas City, and you wonder where that urgency has been in the past month. It shouldn’t take a nine-game winless streak and boos from the River End to build motivation. If the effort and determination was there from the beginning, you wouldn’t have to dig yourself out of a 1-5-5 record.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 7

Point blank save in the 33rd minute kept the Union in the game. Point blank save in the 46th minute kept the Union in the game. Solid in the final 10 minutes, when things started to get salty. Probably could have been more demonstrative, but it was another mature performance overall.

Ray Gaddis – 8

Hands down, the best defender in MLS when it comes to both recovery and 1-v-1 situations. This time, he clamped down on Zusi, blocking shots and winning individual battles in the corner and along the endline. Still raw going forward, as was evidenced by the sequence where he nicely cut inside Seth Sinovic, but decided not to try a left-footed shot and instead fluffed a pass to an offside Andrew Wenger. Still, his ability to close space and shackle attacking players is invaluable.

Sheanon Williams – 6

After missing Saturday’s game versus D.C., Williams deputized at center back and had one of his better performances of the season. He made smart, conservative decisions, and looked more comfortable without the responsibility of getting forward. You wonder where his fitness level was after suffering the preseason injury and missing the start of the campaign.

Austin Berry – 6

Read the game well, as you would expect from a center back with several years of MLS experience. It also helps that he has Gaddis on his side of the field to compensate for just a slight lack of pace. With Williams at center back, it was important for Berry to be physical on the backline, and he accomplished that fairly well. He might share some of the blame for getting sucked in on the Sporting goal and failing to stay with Dwyer, but Okugo, Nogueira, and Williams are also at fault, and it was honestly a very well-worked goal. It was difficult to defend, and the finish was superb.

Fabinho – 5

Fabinho is always going to look like an inferior defender when Gaddis is playing on the opposite side of the field. In this game, he was tasked with defending Zizzo and Juliao on Kansas City’s right flank. Though he spaced the field well, a lot of Union attacks down the left flank didn’t amount to much in the first half. That improved slightly in the second half. He was targeted a couple of times, with Zizzo firing from close range and MacMath making that key save to bail everyone out. He’s obviously not the strongest defender out there, but he did enough to limit a very good KC attack.

Vincent Nogueira – 7

In a game with a lot of end-to-end action and physical play, Nogueira didn’t look out of place at all. Despite a few flat-footed moments in the early stages, he grew into the game and did his share of the defensive work next to Okugo, covering ground and denying space and time to Benny Feilhaber and Paulo Nagamura. His 19th minute lob for Danny Cruz was well-worked after using his lateral ability to skirt two challenges and dart into space. Despite his smaller frame and playmaking ability, Nogueira is certainly no less of an athlete. He looks to be in incredible shape and has played all but one minute of this season.

Cristian Maidana – 8

Probably Maidana’s best game in a Union jersey. Got the game-winning goal, helped to create the first goal, and played the full 90 minutes. His first half was a little bit underwhelming, as it looked like he lacked the foot speed to play in an athletic, up-tempo game, and you wondered if Hack might pull him at halftime. Several attacks down the left hand side fizzled out, as it didn’t look like he had much chemistry with Fabinho pushing forward and Andrew Wenger asking for service up top. Still, his touches were good, and he showed enough class in the short passing game to offset his lack of pace. He was in the right place at the right time for his goal and calmly finished with his weaker foot. His family was probably eating dinner when he bagged the game winner around 10:15 p.m. EST.

Amobi Okugo – 8

What a sight to behold, watching Okugo (with the captain’s armband) in the central midfield with Vincent Nogueira. He showed incredible mobility on the night, getting forward, dropping back, blocking shots, and influencing play in a variety of ways. Amobi was born to play the position, he’s capable of playing the position, and he wants to play the position. He could have been a tad more conservative in the first half to protect a makeshift CB pairing, but he settled in nicely in the second half.

Danny Cruz – 7

If Cruz is a one-dimensional player, then he sure brought the dimension that the Union starting XI was clearly lacking. His goal was a product of pure determination and hustle, a play where he simply wanted it more. That work rate, coupled with his ability to run right at defenders, made the Union attack more potent on the night. In other instances, his decision-making in the final third was lacking, with a couple of opportunities to pass and play in teammates that fell apart. Otherwise, he fought through a first half knock and put in an excellent shift.

Leo Fernandes – 4

Had a great opportunity to play in what was essentially an attacking midfield role and didn’t do much with it. Fernandes was not the aggressive and assertive player we saw in earlier games this season. There was a fluffed shot in the 7th minute, and he lumped in a 30th minute cross despite being played into wide open space in the right channel by Cruz. There was also the 60th minute shot that was blasted right over the bar after a perfect setup onto his strong foot. Leo’s best movement of the night was the chest trap and loopy pass that opened up Maidana for the shot that turned into Cruz’s put-back goal.

Andrew Wenger – 6

Worked his tail off and was rewarded for it in the second half. Physically, he matched up with Aurelien Collin, beasting the defender off the ball in the 58th minute and only failing to get the goal after breaking free into the box. He probably didn’t know much about the assist on the game-winner, but he scrapped in the penalty area against three defenders to keep the play alive and make something out of nothing. He will be an incredibly effective player if he can develop his offensive game and learn how to finish.


Sebastien Le Toux – N/A

Probably should have been brought on earlier to relieve Fernandes and bolster the midfield and defense.

Corben Bone – N/A

Red-carded after less than a minute. The challenge was poor, late, and not his first foul, and that’s probably why he was sent off.

Aaron Wheeler – N/A

Brought in after the Bone red card to help close out the game.

Geiger Counter

Ricardo Salazar – 6

Did fine until the final few minutes. To be fair, there was certainly some desperate defending going around, with bad tackles and high tensions all over the pitch. Kansas City wasn’t happy with the alleged time wasting, but Salazar didn’t make any calls that were truly controversial.

Preferred starting XI vs New England Revolution

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

After a performance like that, and just two days to recover, I’m not sure how many guys will have their legs back for this next game. Fabinho is suspended, which creates a huge problem on the backline. You’ll probably see Gaddis at left back, and if Carroll is healthy enough to play, he’ll push Okugo back to CB. Otherwise, Okugo has to stay in the midfield, and you risk trying a Wheeler/Berry CB combo, unless you want to give Ethan White a shot. John Hackworth will have some very difficult decisions to make against a New England team that just crushed Seattle 5-0.


  1. It’s nice to get reminders of how good Okugo can be at DMid.

  2. Dude they gotta have Amobi playing CDM. They have actual CB on the bench who can play so no reason to move Amobi back there. If Hack is gonna go down he might as well do it playing people in their best positions.

  3. DarthLos117 says:

    Too harsh towards MacMath.
    Deserves a 9

    • philpill says:

      + 1. Without those two terrific stops, everyone’s grades go down (except Gaddis & Okugo) – oh, & no points.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        I don’t know how MacMath wasn’t a 10 last night? What did he do wrong?

  4. what numbers: 7, 8, 8 ,7, 6.
    After nearly 2 months – excellent team win.

  5. I think Gaddis is going to be our trade bait for a new striker since Williams is versatile enough to play CB.

    • The Black Hand says:

      I would keep Ray and trade Shaenon.

      • I would trade neither unless you want Fabinho playing LB the entire year, and no fullback depth at all. Not worth it.

      • The Black Hand says:

        With the way MacMath has been playing, I would be tempted to trade Blake + CASH.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        Absolutely, Blake is really just reputation right now.
        See what he’s worth.

      • That’s exactly why neither will go anywhere. Absolute lack of depth at the fullback position.
        Our single biggest asset right now is MacMath. His value will never be higher, but I don’t know if management will allow themselves to deal him. But with Blake, we have cover (theoretically) at the position.

      • John Ling says:

        Don’t you remember last year? Le Toux can play right back. 😉

      • Dead on assessment again. TBH you are on fire today– provided that is if we were forced to choose.

    • Seth Finck says:

      I think Ray is nearing untouchable status after the strides he’s made coming into and throughout this season. He shut Zusi DOWN last night and that is one of the toughest assignments in MLS. I wouldn’t trade either of them at this juncture.

      • Hezekiah Ezekiel Schmitz says:

        Imagine if Ray developed his attacking game a tad. Legit USMNT first teamer potential.

        If he only had a left foot.

        You have to keep Ray. He is young, cheap, a great raw talent with potential to be an MLS all star with some refinement. Plus, he’s a fantastic ambassador for the team.

      • The Black Hand says:

        He is putting in an all-star performance so far this year.

      • kingkowboys says:

        I’ve seen a couple times that he is trying to develop his left foot. I hope he continues this and improves his attacking. He could be a rock at RB for us and the USMNT.

      • McMohansky says:

        Please, please, please everyone settle down on the Gaddis love. Last year it was Williams as the next USMNT RB, now its Gaddis. Give me a break.
        He is an average player. A good 1v1 defender who doesn’t see the field or read the attack well with absolutely no offensive game. None. He’s a black hole going forward. All offensive possession dies with the ball at his feet.
        That said, I prefer him to Williams at RB because Williams is just awful this year. He was better this time at CB, which isn’t a surprise. His speed and agility is limited since the injury. Despite not being an option on the preseason vote on this site who the CB pairings should be, many of us thought Williams and Okugo gave us the best chance to win games. Berry again was exposed for bad decision and bad positioning on the goal, although others should share some blame (mostly Williams).

      • The Black Hand says:

        Crazy harsh on Gaddis. He has been playing out of his head. Offensively, he needs work but he has made things happen.

    • ebradlee10 says:

      Jurgen tuned in to check on Zusi and got a dose of Ray Gaddis. Could we just refer to him as ‘shut down defender’ Ray Gaddis please?

      I’d like to see him on Moutinho/Reus.

    • There is no way you can trade Gaddis. His defending is off the charts, and while he may not send in many worthwhile crosses from the left side he’s still the best option we have at LB. It wouldn’t surprise me if they traded him given the history, but he, along with Okugo, are hopefully here for a long time playing Best XI soccer.

    • kingkowboys says:

      There should be no trade bait. An in league trade will not get the skill set Hack desires. We need to wait be patient and grind it out till July for a free international transfer. That will provide much better quality than an in league trade.

  6. I also wonder about Cruz grabbing at his right hamstring; if that was for show to help waste time, or if he actually is ailing. Would be tough to turn around and play Saturday.

  7. The Realist Brian says:

    Well, well, well…. Okugo has still got it in midfield, and dare I say, that IS his best position. He is way more effective up there than on the backline. Way to kick some ass Amobi! Keep doing your thing.
    Leo is good and has improved. His technique is strong. But playing off of Wenger as the AM is not where his game is suited. He is just too slow, and that allows defenses to step up on him. We need someone that has jets up top to run off of Wenger.
    Wheeler playing his natural position, and holy shit, he brings the ball down like Dennis Bergkamp and maintains position. Keep him there, Hackworth, and your job may be safe.
    I think Fabinho doesn’t get credit for his ability to cut out passes. He intercepts a lot of passes to his mark by stepping up. He also hustles to get back into position to, so I think he does pretty well on the left. He is also an attacking wingback that holds possession and passes in the attacking third. Not a bad quality to have.
    Gaddis is better on the right, hands down. His lack of a left foot kills him and will dog him from moving into the truly elite outside backs in the league.
    Wenger needs a “Big Head” nickname. His head is gigantic. Now if he can start finishing a few. He uses his body very well, and he is thinking of setting up his teammates. I like his game.
    Sheanon is better at Centerback.

    • That play by Wheeler was lovely and not easy. I was a might surprised.

    • -Yes. Sheanon at CB. Because he mentally plays more disciplined.
      -Fabinho IS good at reading passes into the mid/wide FWD… but he doesn’t really keep possession well. In fact, Ray has more skill than he does. Fabinho will only touch the ball with the inside of his left foot. And his service is crap.

  8. hobosocks says:

    I think you’re way too harsh on Fabinho. He’s not good all the time, but this had to be his best game in a Union jersey.
    Also disagree on Maidana. He came up big for us for sure, but to get a rating that high you can’t turn over the ball repeatedly for an entire half, no matter how good the next half is. That said, I THINK this is the first game he actually stayed put on the left and he was definitely the better for it.
    I’ve always liked Cruz as the right wing in a 4-3-3. He played that position right after Hack started coaching, but they we moved away from the formation. I think its the only position where his positives are able to outweigh his limitations.
    Agree on Wenger, but I like him a lot for some reason. If only he could finish, because man can he sure hold up the ball.

    • Seth Finck says:

      Glad you mentioned this about Maidana. I thought he played a much-improved second half. But he was lost and entirely ineffective on the wing for the entire first 45. He looked slow and disinterested. Very happy to see him turn it around and make some serious dents.

      Wenger earned a ton of my respect last night. I didn’t see his first game with the U but had not been impressed at all. It looked like he needed a physical matchup to show his strength. He did a fantastic job matching up with probably the best CB pairing in the league. Now, please find a shot.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        I think Kevin’s assessment was charitable when discussing Fabinho. Zizzo’s two point blank chances came down to Fabinho losing him. And for all the stepping up that he does well, he often loses the ball a touch or two later, leaving the Union in a worse position than when he started his run. He failed to retain possession 41% of the time the ball came to him.
        So a 5 is pretty reasonable, if a tad high for this particular showing.

      • +1. Unfortunately our backs propensity to dribble up field, then lose the ball and be 40M out of position is still troublesome.

  9. joe hamada says:

    for the 4-4-2 next week, that is if Edu is still having those concussion symptoms right?
    or would he just go straight to usmnt?

  10. I’ve made up my mind on Hackworth: If the players want him there, then I want him there. Maybe he can get some tactics training in the offseason?

    • hobosocks says:

      Yeah, I still feel like he’s probably not the right guy, but I understand where you’re coming from. But there’s something to be said that the players went out of their way to show that he still has the locker room.

      It reminds me of when DC fired Onalfo and the players pretty strongly showed their support for him. Still can’t really say whether that was a good move long-term or not.

    • I second.

    • I only watched the highlights, but one key player I did not see involved in that group hug after the Cruz goal was Nogs. Maybe it was a coincidence, but from his body language on the field in previous games I have watched, it seems like he is often frustrated with his teammates but is being a professional and trying to make the best out of the situation.

    • TO me, the players wanting him there is a BIGGER sign he should be out.
      It tells me they are too comfortable and not challenged!
      In fact, it angers me. The coach is doing a bad job, and they support him. OK.. but it took 10 games to actually show that support on the field?? Where was this dedication 2-3 games ago?

      So last night showed me again why Hack shouldn’t be the coach (but he won, so he gets an understandable extension).
      Hack wants to play this elaborate Spanish possession-style, but he values “bulldog” players. There is a HUGE disconnect in his own theory of style vs. his player targets.
      Though I highly dislike it, Hack needs to play that style. It’s all he can successfully coach. BUT I’m sure Mo, Nog, and Maidana don’t and won’t play the bunker style..

  11. The Black Hand says:

    That’s a pray-for-a-draw-at-home XI, if I’ve ever seen one.

  12. The Chopper says:

    Unfortunately, I think the lineup for Saturday will have to be very makeshift. Between injuries, fatigue, Lahoud and Edu being away and Fabhino’s suspension it will be interesting to see what pieces Hackworth has to work with and how he chooses to employ them.

    Might be time to give Pfeffer a start, we might even see a few minutes from Fred.

  13. A bunch of disconnected thoughts on this game:

    1. I agree with hobosocks that Maidana’s rating is too high given that he did little bit turn the ball over in the first half. His second half performance was superb, however, including on defense.

    2. I don’t think 2014 Danny Cruz is one whit different or better than 2013 Danny Cruz — he just fits the current system better as a wing forward where he can use speed to push defenses and not have much defensive responsibility of his own.

    3. Gaddis was just superb going toe-to-toe with one of America’s top players. I gave him the barest nod for Man of The Match over Zac, who was also stellar.

    4. The Hackworth Hug made a big impression on me. If the major problem with the team were tactical, the players would know it (even if they didn’t know how to fix it). The fact that they are that much behind the guy effectively means that they are taking responsibility for not executing his tactics properly. It also means that they would be very demoralized by his firing. I am now strongly inclined to at least give him this season to right the ship.

    5. I wasn’t quite as impressed with Amobi at CDM as everyone else seems to have been. However, the defense looked really well organized from the very opening whistle. So the chemistry with the “back 5” was excellent.

    6. I was quite also impressed with the chemistry that Maidana and Fabinho developed in the second half. That could be valuable, because if Okugo continues at CDM, we might need Sheanon at CB, which means we’d need Fabinho at LB.

    7. Wenger’s hold-up play was impressive in the second half. He deserves a ton of credit for Maidana’s goal (just as Maidana deserves a ton of credit for Cruz’ goal).

    • I think Maidana is worthy of an 8. He assisted on the opening goal and scored the game winner. The way our offense has been the past few weeks, short of assaulting a ball boy during the half time break, there’s nothing he could do to not be worthy of an 8 (to me) for factoring in two goals from open play.

    • I am curious what you failed to be impressed with regarding the CDM.

      He was in complete control. Complete control. Once he settled in, I reiterate, complete control. He was a moving search and destroy mission, He provided multiple through balls from Pirlo distance, offered positive solutions to his teammates with the ball almost every time- organized play with verbal cues, offered support and instruction to his teammates as the captain.
      I am curious.

      • The Chopper says:

        Okugo played quite well. I do think that for some here who have been clamoring for him to play this position and get Carroll off the field, there might be a tendency to embellish what they saw a bit

        He did try to assert himself offensively and that led to some turnovers. These were also passes that Carroll would never attempt. When he was out of position, his speed allowed him to recover.

        But while I was of the opinion he should stay at center back since he is strong there and we have Carroll and Edu, I have changed my mind. He,brings a pace to the CDM that no one else does and that pairs well with Noguiera. We need that pace, I am fine with Williams in the middle w Berry.

      • I did not always see a clear influence on the game from him. However, I would grant that the CDM may be the most subtle position on the field to judge. I certainly did not find major faults with his play, and I was impressed with how well-organized the defense looked. Whether credit for that goes to him (as captain), MacMath (as vocal keeper), or Gaddis (as MOTM) is certainly arguable.

    • Wenger’s hold-up play was decent, not great. His WORK RATE was impressive. But his movement off the ball is terrible. That, paired with Leo’s complete absence, meant there was never an outlet from midfield or organized offensive threat.
      I still prefer Jack.

  14. I’d probably go up a notch on McMath (two huge saves early on), but feel like everything else is spot on. Fabinho does have a knack for anticipating and breaking up passes, which he did several times last night. I just think he’s equally as likely to give the ball up in possession after making those interceptions. Too many turnovers to rate higher than a 5 last night.

    • And on the other hand, he kept stepping up to break up passes again and again in the second half. And he combined very well with Maidana on the wing in the second half too. A performance with a bunch of good stuff + a bunch of poor stuff = 5.

  15. Eric Finn says:

    Although Maidana was involved in, and key to, both goals he looked really slow for most of this game. There were at least 3-4 times when the U midfield was playing great one-touch passes to spring Chaco and he simply wasn’t up to the task. Maybe it was because Leo was asking too much of him by putting the ball out of his range but a lot looked like he just gave up and didn’t even try to reach the last pass. I’d lower Chaco and raise Leo a point as I don’t think I fault Leo as much in those situations.

    • scottymac says:

      I think that’s because Maidana is, in fact, really slow.

    • and because Leo’s passes were not good. Chaco may not be fast but he can keep the ball and get by people.

    • Maidana has some pace. But it’s not a powerful acceleration.

      More important, most of the one-time passes broke down with Leo or Wenger. And Leo played terrible! Other than being an obstacle on defense, he never once created his own space under, or beyond, Wenger.
      We should play Ribiero or Pfeffer in that role on Saturday. Ribiero fits the physical style more though.

    • Soccerson says:

      Neither Maidana nor Leo the fastest of players. They both look incredibly slow on certain plays when they are chasing bad passes. Maidana with the ball at his feet though can make things happen. Leo on the other hand was invisible in this game and blew up a shot in front of goal that very frustrating to watch.

  16. Kevin Kinkead says:

    This was my first time doing player ratings for PSP, so I obviously have a different set of criteria than Eli, or Adam, etc

    I think I rated Maidana higher because of his involvement in the goals (game-winner + setup on the first), and I rated Fabinho lower for his liability on the Zizzo efforts.

    I’d give a guy a 9 or 10 if they bagged a couple of goals on the offensive end. Maybe Ray I could have given a 9 as well, but defenders are harder to rate because of statistical differences.

  17. Okugo has to stay in the midfield! Please give the kid a chance to excel! I’m fine keeping Williams in the center as he is not playing great as a right back at this point. Gaddis holds down one of the outside slots and figure out who might be able to play left back or right back.

    In my opinion, the goal was all Berry’s fault. He looked winded and couldn’t cover Dwyer as he walked by him and set up shop to get the pass back and crush the ball into the net.

    • Sometimes though you just get beat and that play by Dwyer is testimony to why he has been en fuego. Lovely strike.

      • scottymac says:

        Agreed, while Berry is trailing the play, I’m fine giving up wonder strikes from 25 yards vs our usual lose a man in the box 6 yarders.

  18. MikeRSoccer says:

    The benefit of having Amobi Okugo at the CDM position cannot be overstated. It provides a calm, but forceful presence to the midfield. His distribution, roughing of the opponents midfielders and attackers, and work rate allow for other players to play to their best ability. It relieves pressure on the back line, which allows them to support the full backs. It frees up Noguiera (and hopefully Edu wants he returns) to do what ever they want because Okugo has the defensive side covered. When Edu returns I believe one of the most intriguing options available to the Union would be to flip the midfield diamond so it is a 1-2 rather than a 2-1. Pushing Nogueira and Edu into a more attacking central midfield role should hopefully create more connections with Wenger and the wingers and also free up space by occasionally pulling a CB out into the midfield.

    Ideally, this team needs only the addition of a striker and, I’m dreaming here, the return of Carlos Valdes from loan. Imagine a 4-3-3 with a 1-2 diamond midfield. Macmath
    Williams – Berry – Valdes – Gaddis
    Noguiera – Okugo – Edu
    Cruz – Striker – Maidana

    That set up wins an MLS cup ladies and gentlemen.

    • I had wondered about Valdes. Could be weird with him back, but definitely an upgrade if we can get Amobi in the middle. Also, can we afford to have him on the books again?

    • Totally agree with this. The versatility of that midfield 3 frees up the front 3 from D responsibilities, while Nogs and Edu can receive the ball from Okugo and make a push forward. Valdes + legit Striker? Can we make it happen?

    • Amobi’s quick, clever, forward distribution, though not always 100% successful, serves to put the entire opposing defense on their back foot the entire game. Contrast that with Carroll’s slow, predictable, sideways or backwards distribution which puts the entire opposing defense on their front foot. That is Okugo’s value as CDM, “breathing room”. We saw it Wednesday and it was beautiful. Our offense early on seemed surprised by all the time and space before settling in.

      • The Black Hand says:

        On top of that, he held his position (didn’t drift like Carroll). This allowed for the club to hold their shape, making them tougher to navigate through. Amobi MUST play in the defensive midfield. Wheeler can slot in at CB, pushing Williams out to the LEFT (Ray has been MUCH better at RB!) Okugo will provide cover in the middle, making up for any downgrade that Wheeler might bring to CB.

  19. I hope we stay with the 4-2-3-1. I think that formation gets the best use out of the talent on this roster. And part of the midfield “2” has to HAS TO be Okugo.

  20. Phil Naegely says:

    Only a 7 for MacMath, really?

  21. Andy Muenz says:

    I know Hackworth doesn’t get rated here but I think he made a crucial mistake in waiting so long to bring on the subs. While Dwyer’s goal was well taken, I think tired Union legs didn’t help. And I’m worried they will be tired come Saturday. Is there a reason why the game is going to be Saturday rather than Sunday? You’d think they would try to give the Union an extra day’s rest.
    I think Salazar’s rating was significantly too high. There were a least a couple of calls he made to give KC free kicks in dangerous territory after little or no contact (especially the one where Gaddis “fouled” Zusi even though there was no contact).
    Did it look to anyone else like Wenger was offsides on the winning goal?

    • Yes, I watched the 2nd goal a couple times and I am pretty sure he was offsides. I’ll take it though!

    • I think Hack was crossing his fingers that they would pull it out without subs. This was the first time in a while his lineup was “working.”

    • Dan Walsh says:

      I thought so too at first, so I rewatched it a few times. I realized I just wasn’t sure. It was really close, closer than it seemed at first. He may have timed his movement perfectly, or he may have been just barely offside. So I think the no call was OK.

    • I watched the replay one frame at a time using my DVR. Wenger was not in an offside position.

    • The Chopper says:

      I think for protecting a lead, his bench was barren. They desperately needed 3 points and all he really had to bolster the midfield defensively was Bone. And we all saw how that worked out.

      He did potentially shoot himself for Saturday, but he was playing it like an elimination game and for that I can’t blame him.

      • Speaking of Bone: he never makes the 18 again right? We have Lahoud and if he’s out bring up one of the kids.

    • Um- unlikely those subs would have gone in at CB or outside B- which were, if my memory serves correctly, the legs in question.

  22. Regarding our legitimate “CB deficit, ” I may have misremembered that the Superdraft trade was Parke for White. While granting some differences, we’ve seen more of Parke (last home match) than White this year (cue: “irony”).
    Isn’t that a big problem and why did we put ourselves in such a hole when we didn’t need Blake but we brought in talent elsewhere to win now?

    • Phil – the SuperDraft trade was a swap of 1st round picks, plus allocation money. The Parke deal happened in advance of the draft and brought us White and the allocation order spot needed to ensure we had first dibs on Edu.

      • Thanks for straightening me out. Still we are down a top CB due to the “swap.” If FO wasn’t sure White would replace Parke, the draft moves make even less sense, as Ben succinctly says below. Have we been given an explanation for this that I missed?

    • You probably also remember that there were 2 stud CB’s in the draft, either of whom we could have taken at 2nd. Instead, we traded up to draft a goalie at #1 who never plays. How awesome would this team be if we had another quality center back? Then Amobi could play DM, Wheeler could be a backup forward and CB combined on the bench, and we wouldn’t have spent the last 2 months experimenting with our defense.

      • Dan Walsh says:

        Each of those CBs is riding pine this season. They’ve played a combined 13 minutes so far.

        Most “experts” thought it was a weak draft. It’s looking that way so far to a degree, but we’ll see in the long term.

        But then, the “experts” seem to have underestimated Patrick Mullins. All the guy did was win the Hermann Trophy twice and score tons of goals, but nobody gave him any respect. How does that guy slip to the 12th pick? Now look what he’s doing up in New England. Every team that passed on him in the draft should be smacking themselves.

  23. DarthLos117 says:

    Too much Okugo defensive fluffing and not enough Nog defensive fluff around here.
    Nog AND Okugo Dmids is what happened not a solo Okugo Dmid mission.

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