Player ratings

Player ratings & analysis: Chivas USA 0-3 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Earl Gardner

No matter how bad your team gets, you can always count on Chivas USA to be worse.

If there’s a big takeaway from Philadelphia Union’s 3-0 road win over Chivas, that’s it.

Of course, that would make for an awfully short column, so here are a few more thoughts on Saturday’s game.

John Hackworth plays the Peter Nowak lineup game

Predicting John Hackworth’s lineups has suddenly become an awful lot like predicting Peter Nowak’s lineups. There tends to be at least one starter in the lineup that comes out of left field.

Prior to this season, Hackworth’s lineups were predictable, because he didn’t have many options to throw on the field.

Since Austin Berry got hurt in March, Hackworth has often deployed at least one starter who nobody predicts. Against the Galaxy, it was Antoine Hoppenot, who went from a recent lack of productivity directly into the staring lineup. Against Chivas, it was Fred, who had not played a minute all year. The player(s) in question might be solid enough when in form, but the selections come as surprises.

How many of you thought Fred would start? If you somehow picked him in the weekly pool — wait, that pool ended two years ago? — then you’re everyone’s buddy next year for the March Madness pool, Powerball lottery, trip to Atlantic City and prognostications on the stock market.

Hackworth likes to take advantage of opposition matchups to find mismatches. That’s what often drives the decisions, like Hoppenot’s surprise start against two slow, clunky center backs. Sometimes he’s right to do that. Sometimes he’s not. At times, it just ends up with him outthinking himself when he could put his best 11 on the field and simply let them play. Nowak was infamous for this, making himself bigger than the team in the process. Likewise, Hackworth’s tinkering certainly raised questions as the losses piled up and the back line shuffled and shuffled some more.

But Fred? Well, that’s a different story.

Let’s talk about Fred as a starter

How many of you completely lost your junk when you saw Fred in the starting lineup? Did you throw the remote control against the wall? Turn off the game? Send text messages to your friends about how you and a buddy could coach the Union better, simply by virtue of being able to pick a good starting lineup?

Did you think Zach Pfeffer had merited a start after playing well as a sub in two straight games?

Or did you just laugh, shake your head, and say, “What next?”

Well, we saw what next. Fred played a good game.

Fred didn’t get a ton of touches for a guy playing the No. 10 role. Only Danny Cruz had fewer (47) than Fred’s 69 touches among the five starting midfielders, and that’s no surprise: Cruz always has the least.

But Fred made the most of those touches, completing over 80% of his passes, putting a dangerous header on goal, and generally showing plenty of composure in a central role. He offered a steady, heady hand when one was needed.

Back during his first stint with the Union in 2010, Nowak usually deployed Fred as one of two advanced midfielders in a generally messy 4-2-2-2. Fred always looked out of position there, inclined to move centrally instead of offering the width that was needed from that role.

On Saturday, Hackworth played Fred exactly where he should: In a central attacking midfield role. And Fred answered the bell.

Now let’s see if he can do it against a real professional team when the Union play Vancouver this Saturday.

What is going on at center back? 

So Austin Berry and Aaron Wheeler were good enough to start at center back, but now neither one can make the 18 ahead of Ethan White?

At what point will we see a consistent back four?

Sheanon Williams is a decent backup option, and his quickness may have made him a more attractive option to Hackworth against a small poacher like Torres. But he is no center back. Big strikers dominate him aerially and physically, and we saw against Los Angeles the missteps he can make when pulled too far out of his comfort zone against top competition.

Berry hasn’t been good since he got hurt early in the year, but he hasn’t been that bad either. Giving him several runs in a row might make him look something like the player who generally impressed people the last two years in Chicago. He is the only player on the roster not named Okugo who has proved himself as a steady, starting center back in this league.

It makes you wonder if the Union might try to bring Carlos Valdes back after the World Cup. They can, you know.

Chivas USA is bad — real bad

Let’s not blow this game out of proportion. Yes, it’s a good win that the Union really needed.

But Chivas is a really bad team, even worse without both their starting center backs. Their strategy at home basically consisted of putting every man behind the ball, fouling constantly and hoping for a counterattack.

Even then, the Union netted two of their goals in controversial enough fashion that Chivas fans could make the argument that the refs were rooting for the Union, and you would actually have to consider for a moment whether that might be true. (The argument fails, for reasons I’ll lay out below, but you actually have to think about it.)

It’s no wonder that just 5,231 people showed up to watch the game. The CD Los Angeles rebranding can’t come soon enough.

Sometimes, you get the breaks

The Union got all the breaks Saturday from the refs. And in a game where Chivas played cynical and ugly soccer, the Union deserved them.

The six-second call: Some will question referee Allen Chapman calling Chivas goalkeeper Dan Kennedy for the six-second violation that led to the Union’s first goal. But not only is that the rule, but Chapman similar call in their preseason game against the New York Red Bulls. The league office has made clear this season that this is a rule they want to emphasize this year to speed up games and cut out unnecessary delays.

Martin Rivero’s handball: Was Rivero’s handball on the ensuing indirect kick intentional? Maybe, maybe not. Did Rivero know it was possible when he leaped in the air to block the shot? Well, judging by his subsequent impression of a gunshot victim, yeah, he probably did.

Wenger’s offside obstruction: Andrew Wenger was clearly offside when he dummied Cristian Maidana’s shot that subsequently hit the net. The question is whether he legitimately obstructed Dan Kennedy and prevented the Chivas goalkeeper from making the save. If you watch the replay, you can make the case that Kennedy appeared late on his diving save, whether Wenger was there or not. I would have waved off the goal, but maybe I’d have been wrong.

Oswaldo Minda’s red card: The official box score describes the cause of the booking as a “fight.” There was no fight. Rather, there was the same type of dirty play that Minda offered all game. Taken by itself, it was a yellow at best. But Minda should have gotten an earlier yellow for persistent infringement. Minda deserved an ejection for his full day’s work, but Chapman skipped a step in the process. If he had given Minda an earlier yellow, Minda may have stopped fouling much earlier.

Player ratings

Zac MacMath: 7

MacMath faced just one shot on target, but he came off his line well and put himself in solid positions. His perfectly placed punt to Danny Cruz in the 69th minute set up a point blank shot on goal for Cruz. Goalkeepers don’t record many key passes.

Ray Gaddis: 6

Gaddis played his usual lockdown defense and was tidy with his passing. He didn’t force anything, and it helped the Union keep possession more than their random crossing of past games has.

Amobi Okugo: 6

Okugo didn’t have to do much, but when he did, he was in the right position. A more typical game for the reliable center back.

Sheanon Williams: 5

Williams was fine. Solid enough. But let’s not pretend he’s a center back. He got caught a bit out of position a few times, but he never got hurt for it because Chivas showed up packing blanks instead of bullets.

Fabinho: 5

Fabinho was fine too. Just fine. He made the highlight reel for a great give-and-go with Maidana, only to see his shot curl wide, and he made the reel again for some awfully clumsy defending that led to his yellow card. He runs in a straight line really well; it’s just those lateral movements that cause him trouble. (It’s like someone created a FIFA 14 player with 78 speed and 63 agility.)

Maurice Edu: 7

Edu lost possession a few times with occasional lackadaisical play but made up for it with passes like the one that opened up Maidana for his assist on Casey’s second goal. He played a solid defensive game, and Brian Carroll’s presence was never missed. Also, round up his rating for smartly giving Casey the PK.

Vincent Nogueira: 9

Nogueira completed 91% of his 90 passes, and it’s not like they were all easy. There was the beautiful chip to Maidana to set up the latter’s goal and his typical, pinpoint long balls. It’s easy to take a guy for granted when he plays a near-perfect game every week. The one warning sign is that he looks bored, tired or disengaged a bit more of late. Then again, wouldn’t you under the circumstances?

The Union's actual average positional location vs. Chivas USA, according to's use of Opta stats.

The Union’s actual average positional location vs. Chivas USA, according to

Fred: 6

See above. Composed, steady game. An advanced central presence that, along with the bumping back by one slot of Nogueira and Edu in the midfield, really improved the Union’s offensive spacing and pacing against a condensed Chivas defense.

Danny Cruz: 4

Cruz had a couple of nice attacking plays, but as usual, he spent most of the game disengaged from his teammates, off on an island deep down the right flank. Click here, scroll down to “Positional Report,” click “Player Positions,” and you’ll see why. (Or, simply look at the reproduced image at right.)

Cristian Maidana: 7

Maidana followed his ordinary first half with a far more impressive second half. He was accurate on his crosses, particularly his perfect assist to Casey. When he’s on his game and paired with Nogueira, the Union can unlock opposition defenses.

Conor Casey: 7

Confidence matters for strikers. Maybe his thunderous second goal is an anomaly in his slow fade into obscurity. Or maybe it’s the beginning of what we saw last year: A torrid June-August stretch that followed a preseason injury and a slow regaining of form. If the latter, remember the PK and its confidence boost.


Andrew Wenger: 4

Little impact on the game outside his controversial dummy on Maidana’s goal.

Zach Pfeffer: 6

A third straight good showing off the bench for Pfeffer. He looks like a completely different player from the overwhelmed teen thrown into the mix far too early under Nowak. He has shown quick decision-making, tidiness with the ball, and an instinct to move in a controlled fashion toward goal. Pfeffer has earned a start.

(Guide to ratings. 1-3: varied degrees of bad. 4: a bit below average. 5: average. 6: above average. 7: good. 8: very good. 9: great. 10: hat trick hero.)

The Geiger Counter

Allen Chapman: 5

See above. People may knock Chapman for some of his calls, but he was handed the task of calling a game that Chivas entered with no plans of doing anything beyond parking the bus, fouling Union players, and hoping for a counterattack goal. He actually handled those parts of the game fairly well. The one clear spot to dock him is for not giving Minda an earlier yellow before going to the straight red. The Wenger offside is a toss-up, and Chapman’s grade would suffer more if I wasn’t giving him the benefit of the doubt on this as noted above.

Preferred lineup for the Union’s next game against Vancouver

MacMath, Williams, Okugo, Berry, Gaddis, Edu, Nogueira, Fred, Maidana, Pfeffer,* Casey

(* – presuming Sebastien Le Toux is still injured)


  1. If someone has ever had a less inspiring 3-0 win it deserves to in a museum somewhere.

    • i know. we should have won. we should have won handily. we did. but it feels so empty.

      i’m going into Saturday with the resigned, low expectations.
      these far, far from home wins and ties don’t make a home route feel any better.

      looks to be a good day for soccer and we might get some fun songs from the river end. see you there.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    One thing someone complained about in the game report which I thought I’d comment on here was Chapman calling a foul throw on Ray Gaddis.
    Personally, I thought it was the right thing to do. There are too many times when players run to the spot where the ball went out, fake a throw, run about 10 yards up the field, fake another throw, run another 10 yards, and then finally throw. It’s time for the league to crack down on that.
    Chapman was warning the players every throw in and Ray didn’t listen. It would have been one thing without the warnings but given that they were clearly there, the foul throw was the correct call.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Good point! I forgot about that when writing, but that reinforced the view toward giving Chapman a little more benefit of the doubt than I might usually, and that he was trying to call the game strictly by the rules, not by customs. The big calls went the Union’s way, but not all the calls.

  3. I give an Edu three or four not being able to pass a five yardr push pass about five times.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      He definitely had some noticeably bad passes, and they stood out to me too.
      But when I checked the numbers, I saw his pass completion rate for the day was over 85%. It struck me as one of those cases where the negative stood out more than the positive.

  4. The Black Hand says:

    Pretty harsh on Danny Cruz. His finishing was poor, but he did a lot of things right. He created as many chances as his counterparts.
    Fabinho, as well

  5. I think Gaddis deserved a bit less. He got worked by Barberra a bit and agree with KenZolo that Edu (and a few others) seemed very careless with the ball at times, even with time and space.

    Andy Muenz is also right on about the throw-ins. I didn’t have a big problem with Chapman because he was pretty vocal and consistent. The Wenger, dummy play was probably the biggest issue.

  6. You were far too kind to the ref, IMO. The handball appeared to be both unintentional and within the frame of his body. And Wenger clearly interfered with Kennedy. Kennedy can’t dive if there’s a player where he needs to get to. There’s really no argument to be made that Wenger didn’t interfere or obstruct or whatever standard it needs to be. The Union basically won 1-0 and looked ugly doing it. These numbers are far too high for a team that continues to struggle to sustain quality for more than 30 seconds at a time.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Chapman was the Union’s MOTM.

    • Atomic spartan says:

      Warned about 6 seconds before the game? That sets up a “gotcha” foul. It is much better form to additionally warn during the game before calling the foul. Playing “gotcha” only leads to more whining and cynicism, and Chivas did not need any help playing uglyball.

    • The 6 second call always seems a bit harsh to me without an in-game warning first. Hard to make a case for stalling in the first half of a game that was 0-0 at the time. That being said, with the broadcast cutting away to replay, I have no idea how egregious it was or wasn’t. While admittedly not studying it on replay, based on the couple of views I had, the handball seemed legit. The defender jumped, turned and seemed to have his arm extended out from his body. I would argue it wasn’t in it’s “natural” position. On the Maidana goal, I thought Wenger was involved enough in the play that offsides would’ve been the right call, though it’s a tricky play, as I don’t think Kennedy was getting to that ball no matter what.

      • if you watch the instant replay thing on the mls website, they counted out the amount of time kennedy had the ball and it was 13 seconds

      • Thanks. So 13 seconds plus a pre-game warning makes that a pretty reasonable call.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        I still don’t agree with the call. The ref shouldn’t be looking to make calls, he should be refereeing in a way that allows play to continue. Thus, rather than mischievously counting in his head so he could have his “gotcha” moment, why not just yell, “HEY, GET ON WITH IT” ?

      • In it for the Doop says:

        Or the players can play to the rules. iMO the rules of the game like the 6 second rule is around so the game continues to flow, the only reason it’s a problem here is because of all the past refs that let it go

  7. Dan Walsh says:

    Post edited to add the image that I couldn’t save directly from, re: average field position of Union players.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Noguiera seemed to slide out to the right, when in possession of the ball. Could be a reason for Cruz playing so advanced…maybe.

  8. Is/was Maidana’s goal any different that Chris Rolfe’s against the Union back on May 10th, where TWO DCU players were standing right next to MacMath?

    • this was the first thing i thought of saturday night

    • The Black Hand says:

      I thought that the DC goal was iffy, as well. Watching again, they really didn’t interfere with MacMath.
      Maidana’s goal went through Wenger’s legs, making it impossible for Kennedy to have a shot at.

      • @TBH … I guess MacMath could’ve complained for interference if he’d actually made an attempt to stop THAT shot. 😉

      • The Black Hand says:

        He was visualizing the stop!
        Hackworth must have stressed the practice of visualizing matchplay. Unfortunately, he didn’t advise the club that it is an exercise practiced BEFORE a match.

    • It was closer to the one Chicago scored against NJPC that same day, when Magee faked at the ball from an offside position. That one counted too. It’s apparently a PRO directive that really reduces the idea of ‘actively’ affecting a play. If Kennedy had run into Wenger while trying to make the save, he probably would have gotten the offsides call.

    • Jason Kolodziejski says:

      I agree 100%, I thought that was offside against DC in that game. Same should apply here.

  9. dan, i am guessing you were not the one running the philly soccer page twitter account during the game. whoever that was had a very different take on chapman’s performance haha

  10. The Black Hand says:


  11. Smackey the Frog says:

    At this point, I don’t care how morbid the season has been so far. This one was fun to watch.

    • Not sure about ‘fun’. But it was good, for those of us who were worried that the Union had quit on Hackworth, to see what ‘quit’ really looks like.

    • I’m with Smackey on this one. I was away for the weekend, and thrilled to come back to a DVR holding a 3-0 Union win. I don’t care who it was against. A win against Chivas beats a thumping at LA Galaxy, or home against NE. There were some things to like about this match.

      • -nickt.- says:

        i have more fun watching other teams rec league games than i had there. between the 2 shitty teams and a shitty ref i didn’t think it had much going for it.

  12. kingkowboys says:

    YES!!! No one probably noticed but there is a point in this article that I truly believe is how to make this team better…Carlos Valdes.
    I don’t believe a striker will do anything for this season or next without improving the back line. Valdes is on loan in South America in order to make and play in the world cup. After that is over he has had his wish granted (congrats Carlos BTW). I am all for paying the cancellation fee and bringing him back. We are not going to bring in a top level striker if the team has no prospects of sniffing the post season (we probably don’t already), and if we bring in a striker that doesn’t get at least a brace a game it’s all for not. Valdes needs to come back. Our prospects of winning increase more with a solid CB than they do of a brand new race horse up top.

    • You think he wants to come back to play under Hackworth? For a team that may have virtually no shot at playoffs as of the WC break?
      I’m pretty sure that every GOOD veteran who knows/played for Hack, want no part of his garbage. I truly feel this is why Parke wanted out.
      And we’d be just as bad, CUZ THE COACH CAN’T COACH.

  13. What happened to the Opta chalkboard on MLS’ site? Is there anywhere to get access to the passes, tackles, etc?

    • Dan Walsh says:

      It’s still there. It looks prettier but functions worse, which is why I had to crosscheck numbers with WhoScored (and that never works well due to discrepancies between the two). Look at the box score on the MLS site. You’ll find it at the bottom. The heat map feature appears to be gone though.

  14. OneManWolfpack says:

    Having 50 different lineups is a sign that the manager is throwing $hit at the wall and hoping something sticks.
    It is going to piss me off beyond belief when Noguiera RUNS from this team after the season is over. This guy has to stay.
    If, and it’s a big IF, Valdes comes back he will certainly make a difference. I hope he would come back with a good attitude, with his demands having been met. Time will tell I suppose.
    Edu need to start playing like we were led to believe he can. He looks like the player that had lost his form (and job) at Stoke. Maybe I’m a little to harsh, and I think some of his failure can be attributed to Hack playing him out of position, but he needs to find a way to be better.

    • The Valdes thing is fun to think about – his theoretical first game back would probably draw the biggest ovation of any Union player in our 5 years of existence.

      • Bigger than the ovation Hackworth got for his first game as manager?

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        That was pretty big

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        There would be one ovation that would be larger, although the appearance would not be to play, sadly, . . . Faryd Mondragon. While I support John Hackworth as coach, unlike many, if Mondy ever wanted a shot at coaching, I’d love to see us give him one. His leadership skills as captain were quite strong.

      • The Black Hand says:

        What is it that Hackworth does that inspires your trust? I’m not trying to be a dick. I just really don’t see it.

  15. Regarding Valdes:
    “It makes you wonder if the Union might try to bring Carlos Valdes back after the World Cup. They can, you know.”
    If he doesn’t make the 23-man squad, couldn’t the Union call him back prior to the World Cup? The break would give him and Berry/Okugo a good deal of time to get (re)acquainted.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      For what it’s worth, Carlos played in about 50% of Columbia’s qualifiers, so it would surprise me if he were not in the 23.

      • he made the squad

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        He was consistently starting for San Lorenzo in their Copa Libertadores matches, but not so much in the league matches after they were no longer in the running for the title.

  16. Paul Costa says:

    Here’s what’s on my wish list: new ownership. Five years on and we’re nowhere. Why can’t we be someone’s Five Year Plan?

  17. Aren’t your ratings a little low for the defense after a shutout during which the other side got off only 6 shots, 4 of which were blocked?? I mean yeah, our opponents looked pathetic, but it’s not like that invalidates a good result. And it’s not like they had so many chances, or that Zac had to bail out the back line. I think all of them deserve another point or two.

    And Chapman deserves a point or two less. The double-screwing of Chivas that led to the first call was sad, but the non-call on Wenger was even worse. I do give him credit for enforcing throw-in placement, though, as mentioned earlier in this thread.

    • The Black Hand says:

      That clean short had more to do with Chivas’ impotent striking, than it did our defensive prowess. In truth, our defense didn’t look stellar. Williams looked shaky at the CB. Okugo looked sound. Gaddis got stuck high…often. Fabinho, actually, put in a strong effort.
      Edu did a nice job shielding, but I felt that his vision and passing were lacking.
      All in all, Chivas gave our defenders a pretty relaxing 90′.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      5 is average. 6 is above average. The back line played an above average game on the whole. That’s a good thing. None of them played a bad game. Edu was good in front of them. They just weren’t required to play great. Chivas brought nothing to the house.

  18. OneManWolfpack says:

    So if we asked fans of other teams, would they say we look like Chivas when we aren’t playing against them? Anyone…

  19. Dan, I like your starting lineup for Vancouver. If Letoux starts I would start Pfeffer over Fred.

    • The Black Hand says:

      I would go with Pfeffer over LeToux. Keep Fred. He added a nice piece to the puzzle.
      I would swap Edu and Okugo. Amobi looked more threatening, with his long passing. Edu really hasn’t shown me much. He is taller than Okugo and I think that he could actually play CB well.
      Up top, I think that it is too soon to give up on Wenger.

      • Pfeffer over Fred, but put Chaco inside. Pfeffer needs to play on the wide to free him up over 60 mins or so.
        I pick Wenger b/c Casey keeps it too tight (see the pic above). Even though I don’t think Wenger is dynamic enough.
        Really: I just don’t need to see Carroll, Fred, LeToux, Casey. Give me youth.

        And Edu probably would have made the WC if he played CB. His game is more suited to it. On paper, he’s the perfect CB.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Could still put Chaco in the middle and have Fred and Pfeffer on the on the outside. I’d rather take an extra look at Fred, than roll with LeToux. Seba’s touch is poor and he roams too much. Plus, all three could interchange at the 10, giving us the ability to throw different looks at our opponents.
        Fred (Fabinho overlapping) and Pfeffer (composed possession) could compliment Maidana, as well as Wenger.
        I’m all for a look at Edu, at CB. He’d be legit.

      • Dan Walsh says:

        I’m not giving up on Wenger. But Casey just scored two goals. He hit his sweet spot last year around this time. When you need wins as badly as the Union do, you don’t mess around. The guy who scores the goals starts.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I can’t argue with that. Give Casey a run-out and see if his form kicks up, with the added confidence.
        That said, I didn’t really care for Casey’s match. Aside from the header (which was vintage Conor Casey), he had a rather ineffective match.

  20. I could be wrong and usually am, but when I watched the replay it looked like Kennedy didn’t even see Wenger until the ball had already gone in. I don’t think Kennedy reaches that ball either way. Since Wenger didn’t play the ball and Kennedy didn’t see him, I thought it was a good goal.

    I thought the red card was appropriate on watching the replay. The Chivas player missed the ball with his first kick and lunged at the player with his second. It looked desperate and reckless to me.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      I’m not accusing you of being a homer, but in my eyes, that offsides could not have been more clear. Kennedy definitely knows Wenger is there and rather than jump out of the way of the ball, Wenger dummies it through his legs. That is absolutely making a play on the ball. A dummy in midfield that sends a runner away is a great play on the ball, so too was this. He was in Kennedy’s way, Kennedy saw him and if Kennedy extends his body he makes the save. Wenger effected the play with both his presence and his body. Clear as day for me.

  21. Citizen Vogel says:

    This is a tiny point, but, why is Williams now dominated in the air? I swear for the first 2-3 seasons he out jumped EVERYONE on 50-50 balls…

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