Player ratings

Analysis & player ratings: Union 3-3 Rapids

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

So, as it turns out, that’s what dropping points looks like.

From the moment when Michael Lahoud karate-kicked Jared Watts square in the face to the final whistle, the Union were panicked, confused, and ultimately, exposed.

Substitution confusion

After Dillon Powers’ 76th minute penalty kick reduced the Union’s lead to one goal, Philadelphia needed to make a change. With Colorado back to within a goal and Philadelphia up a man, Jim Curtin needed to reshape his team in a manner that would allow them to see out the final 10 minutes, plus stoppage time. With Andrew Wenger representing the first sub, Curtin had four full-time attackers on the pitch, including Sebastien Le Toux, Conor Casey and Cristian Maidana.

With the Union in need of a player who could help kill the clock and keep the match from becoming a one-way, full time shooting gallery for the Rapids, Vincent Nogueira was the natural choice. Slotting him alongside Amobi Okugo would give the Union not only a pair of eager ballwinners, but also a duo whose distribution could help the hosts maintain possession and stem Colorado’s attacking tide.

Instead though, Curtin went with Brian Carroll, a purely defensive option. Rather than try to compete and hold the ball, the Union chose to sit deep — too deep — and absorb all of Colorado’s pressure. Considering three-quarters of the Union backline were playing either out of position (Williams), in their first minutes all year (White), or just struggling (Fabinho), the decision to close down shop and accept whatever the Rapids threw at them was a strange choice and ultimately one that cost them two points.

Serna's opener

Serna’s opener (click to play)

Time to rest Fabinho

While it is true that Sheanon Williams has been asked to play out of position, Ethan White was asked to come up big in his first appearance for the Union, and Austin Berry’s continued health problems have kept him from finding any form, the largest issue in the Union defense does not come at the centerback position. Ever since Jordan Harvey was jettisoned back in the Nowak era, the Union have struggled to replace his defensive quality at left back.

Fabinho has been billed as a two-way defender, but his qualities have failed to pan out at either end of the pitch. Dillon Serna was only the latest winger to fly past him with ease on the dribble, and the Brazilian remains far too likely to concede fouls in dangerous areas and collect cards (6 yellows in 15 matches). His inability to track runners and support his teammates continues to leave the Union vulnerable on the left flank and, while the world is full of wingers masquerading as fullbacks, a meager one assist in 15 starts hardly justifies his continued inclusion.

With Maurice Edu returning from suspension and White proving that he can get the job done, Williams has earned the chance to slide back out to fullback, replacing Fabinho opposite Ray Gaddis, whose play has made him the incumbent at right back. While the Union will lose a player who loves to run up the flank, they will gain defensive solidity and better decision making, a long-term benefit for a team that has conceded the second most goals in MLS.

Maidana emerging

When he landed a 31st minute corner kick on Williams head, Maidana picked up his 6th assist in his last 5 games. Not too shabby for a player who looked out of sorts while being flip-flopped from wing to wing for the first portion of the season. Unlike his predecessor, Curtin has identified Maidana as his central playmaker and by deploying him front of two primarily defensive midfielders, has given him the freedom to dictate play and find space all over the pitch.

While he favors his left foot, the Argentine is content working from any part of the field, and with two direct runners in Danny Cruz and Le Toux out wide, he feasts on the space they leave behind. With suspensions to Okugo and Lahoud looming for Philadelphia when they face off with New York Red Bulls on Wednesday, Union fans may finally get to see the combination of Maidana and Nogueira, with each playing in their natural positions. Nogueira’s industry and quality on the ball can only improve the attacking situation for Maidana, as he will have to do even less work near the midfield stripe and can instead focus his efforts higher up the pitch. This opportunity to advance higher will likely bring him within range to slide in dangerous through balls in addition to the well-measured crosses that have become a staple of his best showings.

Player Ratings

Zac MacMath – 5

Couldn’t have done much better on any of the three goals, as he was left high and dry by his defense.

Ray Gaddis – 7

If the cross he played in for Conor Casey’s opener becomes a bigger and more consistent part of his game, Gaddis will continue his ascent as one of most promising young fullbacks in MLS.

Ethan White – 6

Earning his first MLS minutes for the Union, White played with poise and composure and very little rust. Had no fault in any of Colorado’s three goals.

Sheanon Williams – 5

Will be kicking himself for hthe ill-fated lunge late in the match that allowed Deshorn Brown to equalize. While he continues to appear uncomfortable at centerback, Williams gave his full effort throughout Saturday’s match. Chipped in offensively with a powerful header from a deep run off of a perfectly placed Maidana corner kick.

Fabinho – 3

Turned far too easily by Dillon Serna on the Rapids opener, Fabinho’s defensive positioning continues to be suspect at best. When Williams was caught lunging on the Rapids’ third, Fabinho never pinched in to help his centerback, instead turning to mark empty space on the left side of defense.

Amobi Okugo – 5

Struggled to find chemistry with Michael Lahoud in the first half before cranking up his activity level after the break. Did very well to harass Watts into a turnover and drive to the endline, creating the Union’s third goal. As the captain of the Union, Okugo must do a better job of containing his emotions: No matter what was said between he and Stoica, Okugo allowed a poor referee to make a call out of anger, and now the Union will be without his services against New York on Wednesday.

Michael Lahoud – 3

Too casual throughout the match, Lahoud lost position, setting the table for the Rapids to race away in the build up to their first. Sitting on a yellow card, his decision to attempt a wild, blind-side, head-high clearance in his own box was an enormous mental mistake that hurt his team.

Danny Cruz – 5

Lucky to walk away from Shane O’Neill’s shocking tackle with his leg still attached, Cruz played angry for the rest of the night. Nearly slammed home the Union’s second from close range, only for Clint Irwin to push the ball behind for the corner that Williams’ would bury. While his high pressure is often helpful in hassling defenders, his defensive chasing often leaves him and his wing exposed.

Cristhian Maidana – 7

Grows in confidence and stature with each passing match. As mentioned above, the freedom he is afforded at the top of the central midfield triangle has allowed Maidana to become a danger to opponents at a moment’s notice anywhere in the attacking half.

Sebastien Le Toux – 4

Did a whole lot of running, though very little product came of his efforts. Rarely involved offensively, Le Toux’s movement was erratic and ineffective.

Conor Casey – 6

Continued his late tear as he looted, plundered and told off referees like the Conor Casey from back in his Rapids days. Took his volley well when he crashed onto Gaddis’ low cross. Faded badly down the stretch and had little impact in the box, with his tally standing as the only bit of business he did from within 25 yards of goal all night.


Andrew Wenger  – 6

Did well to poke home Okugo’s cut back following a smart late run. Remains unsure defensively and made the least of two other very good chances in the box. The goal will certainly help his confidence, but Wenger must still improve his level considerably to be a consistent contributor.

Brian Carroll – 3

Came into the match with a one-goal lead and took up an impossibly deep position, making it clear that the Union planned to bunker down to see out the match. Unfortunately, Carroll failed to track runners or help his team maintain possession, with the center of the pitch becoming a Rapids-only zone.

Aaron Wheeler – 4

Asked to hold up the ball and kill the clock high up the pitch, Wheeler looked clumsy and out of touch with his teammates and rarely caused any delay for the Rapids’ defenders as they quickly brought the ball back up the pitch at the Union.

Not a red?

Not a red? (Click to play)

Geiger Counter

Sorin Stoica – 3

Completely blew the O’Neill call, as he should have sent the defender off without a second’s hesitation. As for the Lahoud call, while a red was harsh, a yellow card — which would have been Lahoud’s second — and a penalty kick was likely correct. Stoica certainly failed to cover himself in glory, but the manner by which the Union confronted him, both during the match and after the game, was out of bounds and has become a worryingly growing trend for this team.

Preferred Starting XI for Wednesday’s match vs. New York Red Bulls


MacMath; Gaddis, White, Edu, Williams; Carroll, Nogueira; Cruz, Maidana, Le Toux; Casey


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