Player ratings

Analysis and Player Ratings: Union 2-1 Cosmos

Photo: Paul Rudderow

A win’s a win, right?

Right?

Enjoy it and move on, because if the Union replicate anything close to that performance this weekend at Gillette Stadium against New England Revolution when they resume league play, they will get steamrolled.

Is there anything in the bucket? No there is not.

After their first full week of practice under Jim Curtin, the small crowd that made their way to PPL Park got to see a bit of what the interim-manager had planned. It was not impressive.

With Maurice Edu continuing in defense, Amobi Okugo partnered with Brian Carroll in the center of the park. While there is nothing inherently wrong with that pairing, both Danny Cruz and Cristian Maidana appeared to be on specific instructions not to abandon their respective wings. With Sebastien Le Toux looking to play on the back shoulder, and Andrew Wenger also trying to dart in behind, a vast territory opened up between the midfield and the forwards. Both defensively and in the attack, the center midfield pairing was generally a minimum of 20 yards behind two strikers who are not known for checking into the midfield to help create for their teammates.

And while it was glaring how little was created going forward, what was more striking was the ease with which the Cosmos brought the ball through the heart of the pitch. Once the first pass was completed out of the back, the Cosmos’ midfielders were able to carry the ball forward, picking up a head of steam long before they encountered their first defender.

Know why you’re crossing

Fabinho put in the best cross of his career with the Union. Picking out Wenger’s run to the center of the goal, Fabinho’s curling delivery found him in stride, though Wenger’s technique eluded him at the final moment and the chance was squandered.

That was one instance in a 120 minute match.

The rest of the Union’s many crosses were aimless blasts, meant for no one in particular, which is exactly who they found. If Curtin wants to persist with the 4-4-2 — and if this performance is any indication, he should not — the wide players for the Union must improve their crossing accuracy. From Fabinho to Ray Gaddis, from Cruz to Maidana, and everyone else who would consider firing a ball into the box. With two strikers on the pitch, there are two dedicated targets to aim for and there were plenty of groans from the PPL Park faithful as balls flew over Le Toux and Wenger in the direction of Cruz who was standing 15 yards wide of the back post.

Return to the 4-2-3-1 for league play

At this point, the Union know all too well what New England Revolution can do with time and space. Two of their next three matches are against Jay Heaps’ squad, and the Dallas team they face in the middle is teeming with pace and finishing ability.

With Curtin’s desire to maintain a consistent back four, there is no reason to move Edu back to the midfield. Instead, he should look for Vincent Nogueira to continue developing the partnership with Okugo that began to form in the Union’s victory over Sporting Kansas City. With Okugo sitting deep, and Nogueira splitting time between a compact defensive shape and pushing the ball between the lines, Maidana becomes the ideal third member of the trio to drift around, finding space wherever it presents itself and helping to set the table for an attacking threesome of Conor Casey, Le Toux and Cruz.

Maidana’s lack of pace continues to hinder his progress when, as was the case against the Cosmos, he is cast as an out and out wide player. Allowing him to play in front of Okugo and Nogueira would allow him the freedom to dictate play and move into open pockets behind the Revolution midfield. Additionally, Nogueira and Okugo are the best suited tandem to both win the ball, and maintain possession. And as with all great attacks, regardless of sport or league, the less the opposition have the ball, the less damage they can do. Possessing the ball, even if only to control the tempo of the match, will frustrate the Revs and gives the Union their best chance for a positive result on the road.

Player Ratings

Andre Blake – 4

Nervy throughout, Blake struggled with his handling at a times and appeared to second-guess himself on flighted balls into the area. Came very close dropping a simple shot into his own net not long after misjudging a long free kick. Both went behind for Cosmos free kicks. When he chose to come for a ball, Blake showed aggression and athleticism, but on more than one occasion, he was caught rooted to the line and the Union nearly paid for it.

Ray Gaddis – 5

Even the Union’s most consistent defender looked slightly out of sorts. Struggled with the quality of Danny Szetela and was guilty of a few atypically poor challenges.

Maurice Edu – 4

Spent much of the 120 minutes jawing back and forth with Alessandro Noselli and Mads Stokkelien, the latter of which he barged through the back of and was fortunate not to concede a late penalty.

Sheanon Williams – 5

Solid if unspectacular, Williams got caught up in the argy-bargy as well, helping the match escalate to it’s explosive finish.

Fabinho – 3

Put in the beautiful cross that Wenger failed to finish, as mentioned above. Otherwise, he was very poor defensively, conceding far too many free kicks in dangerous positions. Lived on a knife edge after picking up a yellow card, as he continued to crash through Cosmos attackers with reckless abandon.

Danny Cruz – 4

With no one on the pitch in a position to push balls forward for him to chase, Cruz was unable to help the Union cause and was largely a frustrated, isolated figure on the right flank.

Brian Carroll – 3

Struggled from the opening minute to keep up with the pace of the game, with Szetela and Hagop Chirishian skipping past him far too easily, especially on the Cosmos’ goal. Earned himself an early booking and continued to foul straight up to the final whistle. A different referee would have certainly issued Carroll his walking papers. He was no better going forward, though that was a trait he shared with a number of his teammates.

Amobi Okugo – 5

Forced to hold back in the first half, with Carroll having more of a license to get forward, Okugo wore a mask of frustration through much of the match. Still looked to add the vertical, incisive passing that was lacking from others and nearly released Cruz and Wenger on separate occasions.

Cristian Maidana – 6

Needed to come into the middle of the field to find the game, but did what he could as he toiled tight to the touch line, as if tethered to it. As the match grew stretched, Maidana began to find more space and always looked the most likely to create an opportunity for his team.

Andrew Wenger – 4

Missed a handful of excellent chances, two of them point blank, when he found space following mistakes from the Cosmos defense. Even his assist to Le Toux probably should have been claimed by the keeper. Wenger lacked the work rate of a top forward, taking too many plays off and allowing the Cosmos defenders easy wins in the air, and time to distribute from the back.

Sebastien Le Toux – 6

Struggled to get himself involved, but scored a workman’s goal. Never giving up on the play, Le Toux powered into the box to poke home the Union’s immediate reply to the Cosmos goal. Continues to have ice water in his veins from the penalty spot.

Leo Fernandes – 3

Has lost all the magic with which he began the season. While he was more aggressive in playing passes forward, it was often hard to tell to whom they were intended. Lacked cohesion with everyone around him.

Antoine Hoppenot – 3

Asked to lead the line by his lonesome in the late portion of regulation and extra time, Hoppenot was simply miscast for the role. Running in straight lines for the long balls that were played forward didn’t help, and he ended up using his small frame to back down defenders and try to hold up play. A very curious substitution.

Michael Lahoud – N/A

Warmed up for an hour. Came on. Dove almost immediately into a fight. Then took a shower.

Geiger Counter

Ismail Elfath – 1

It’s a very, very bad day at the office when the dozen or so calls missed by the referee were not the worst part of his performance. Elfath went about his job with an absolute unacceptable level of indecision and meekness. While both teams were guilty of being chippy and chirpy, they did so because each side was playing with a different set of rules. No two tackles elicited the same call, regardless of their similarity, and while both teams deserve their fair share of blame for the match ending melee, Elfath must claim the lion’s share for losing of control of the match before he blew for halftime.

If this were the World Cup, he would be sent home. In MLS, he will be front and center again this weekend.

Preferred Starting XI for Saturday’s return to action against NE Revolution

4-2-3-1

MacMath; Gaddis, Williams, Edu, Fabinho; Okugo, Nogueira; Cruz, Maidana, Le Toux; Casey

17 Comments

  1. Can someone tell me what Wenger does better at soccer than Jack Mac?

  2. Misses easy, point blank opportunities. He’s an all-star at that.

  3. i almost think 3 is too high for fabinho. i am so done with that guy. he manages to be both incompetent and a constant liability. i am at the point where i can’t see any good reason to put him into a game.

    • I agree. He was OK last year when the offensive plan was, “Fire balls at Casey’s bald noggin.” Only OK. He doesn’t cut it this year, though.
      .
      Who do you replace him with? If your answer is to move Williams to the left (that would be my answer) who plays CB? I’m assuming Berry is still injured. Does that give Ethan White his first start? Or is Ethan White the new Juan Diego Gonzalez?

      • i would replace him with anyone on our roster. carrol, lahoud, white, williams, gaddis… wheeler? i don’t know, sign derschang? play cruz at left back? just someone else who is relatively competent as a player that isnt a liability regardless of where they would prefer to play

  4. Regarding the proposed lineup: Are there any potential issues with Casey playing on the turf field in Foxboro? If so, as much as it hurts, should he sit?

  5. At least we got the US.

    • But for how much longer?

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Who cares? Enjoy the ride. They just accomplished something pretty amazing. Savor it.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        +1000
        .
        I really feel like the Union could be better, but with Hack (I mean Curtain – sorry tough to tell the difference) running this team, we are really just going to have to suck up the rest of this season, and hope for a miracle. The lineups and play in the US Open Cup showed me that Curtain is just as qualified as Hack… and that is to say, not at all.

  6. If you watch the replay of the Cosmos PK shout it is very clear that the contact (if in fact there was any) occurred outside of the box, and Stokelien takes another half step before acting as if he was shot.

    I think you are a little harsh on Hopp. He was excellent at keeping possession and killing off the match at the end. To not mention that in the rating is really a disservice to him. That said, I don’t think he is an MLS level player. Maybe 5 years ago he’d have been a good MLS player, but the level of talent and skill in the league has risen and continues to rise at a rapid pace.

  7. Philly fans admire a hard work ethic and toughness but we also like to be entertained. The garbage that we were force fed under the Hackworth regime(some remnants remain)is not Philly tough. The misconception that we are blue collar only and don’t want star quality talent and skill is plain BS. We like star quality with solid work ethic, don’t get it twisted Union FO. We’ve had major stars competing at the top levels in every sport. We don’t like waste and ridiculous contracts or used up superstars(Flyers) or being sold a line by an organization run like a 2nd class outpost. The Union need to bring in quality management and DP talent mixed with quality SKILLED MLS players. I like Curtin and hope that he is successful as a coach I just don’t think he should be given the reigns of this team. I do however think it was right to give him a shot as interim, maybe he’ll suprise us. But, the ultimate goal should be bringing in a manager/coach with solid soccer and coaching pedigree. If Sakeiwicz drops the ball on this he needs to do the honorable thing and step aside. He should move into another capacity since he’s part owner and the ownership group should find a competent replacement. Talent wise there is no way or excuse for the Union not to bring in a Villa,Henry,Keen,or Cahill to this top sports and media market. If they intend to keep Edu,Noguiera, Maidana and a GREAT fan base, this ownership needs to prove it NOW! If it requires bringing in a stronger ownership partner or partnering with an organization from another top flight league(hopefully both) like NYCFC and Manchester City then so be it.

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