Player ratings

Stock Rising, Stock Falling: Union 0-1 Crystal Palace

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Facing off against a Crystal Palace starting XI that could easily be unchanged when the Premier League side opens their season against Arsenal, Philadelphia Union struggled to cope with the pace, power, and overall direct play that was thrown at them. Looking less like a team that is still three weeks from their opener, and more like one that has already raced out of the gates, it was all Jim Curtin’s men could do to resist the aggressive, persistent threat delivered by Tony Pulis’ men.

With the Union manager holding a handful of his starters in reserve for the second forty-five, as well as giving Conor Casey and injured Cristian Maidana the night off, chemistry and flowing soccer were unlikely to be the hallmarks of the Union performance. And with Yannick Bolassie blowing past Ray Gaddis in the opening seconds of the match, that was indeed the case, with the hosts chasing the game from the opening kick.

When it was all said and done, the 1-0 scoreline was slightly flattering to the hosts, with Andre Blake’s heroics required to keep the scoreline respectable. With so many new combinations of players deployed, the individual showings proved more instructive in evaluating the Union than did the total product assembled by the team.

With that in mind, we look at the three players who did the most to help their cause on Friday night, along with the three who struggled to hold down their respective positions against the stern test offered by Crystal Palace.

Stock Rising

Andre Blake

In addition to showing off his elite-level athleticism, his impressive double save a shining example, Blake was also quick off his line at every opportunity. While that eagerness served him well often enough, it also led him to misjudge an early cross (he was fortunate to be bailed out by a Marouane Chamakh foul) and leave his line too quickly on Ethan White’s own goal. At this point, there is no doubting his physical attributes and shot-stopping ability, and once he improves his reading of balls in the air (he also had two minor handling gaffes against the Cosmos), Blake will be ready to push Zac MacMath for a starting spot.

Danny Cruz

The only Union field player to square off against the Palace starters that displayed both hard work, and anything resembling his best, Cruz gave Joel Ward plenty to think about down the Union’s left flank. Showed an eagerness not only to bomb up the flank, but also to display a new-found patience in the midfield, exchanging passes with Vincent Nogueira or Maurice Edu before beelining back up field. Added a wrinkle to his game by racing to the endline before landing a left-footed cross on Andrew Wenger’s head at the back post.

Pedro Ribeiro

Question Jim Curtin’s decision to play Ribeiro at the back all you want (in fact, you should) but there was no questioning Ribeiro’s poise and confidence, despite making his Union debut out of position. With his eyes up the field at all times, Ribeiro showed off a broad passing range, handling and moving the ball with ease. And when the time came to make a challenge, he rose to it, getting stuck in early and often. All good signs for when he is deployed as a member of the Union attack in the hopefully not too distant future.

Stock Falling

Fabinho

Losing his starting spot was far too long in coming, as Fabinho has proved to be a liability at both ends of the pitch. Against Crystal Palace, he was left for dead by both Bolassie, who twice nutmegged him, and Jason Puncheon. But what may concern his coach even more was his inability to do the most basic work of tracking runners off the ball.

Once the visitors withdrew their dangerous wide men, there was more space to attack, but Fabinho again failed to make the most of it, bombing forward unmarked only to fizz unreachable crosses over the heads of his frustrated teammates. At this point in the year, with only one assist to show for 1276 minutes of league play, only injury, or suspension to Ray Gaddis or Sheanon Williams, should see him return to the lineup.

Ray Gaddis

Typically the fastest man on any MLS pitch, Gaddis was forced to cope with both Bolassie and Puncheon, neither of whom he looked capable of beating in a foot race. And with pace taken out of the equation, Gaddis was found wanting, especially when it came to defensive positioning, the timing of his challenges, and his ability to read and track runners. Bolassie, in particular, turned him inside out before accelerating away with alarming frequency. Fortunately for Gaddis, he won’t be seeing athletes the likes of either Palace winger terribly frequently in MLS, but it reiterates that he remains very much a work in progress, with plenty of polishing left to do before he can lay claim to a spot as an elite fullback. Rather than try to forget this performance, he will do well to study it closely, learning from his mistakes and benefiting in the long run.

Fred

Against the size and strength of Palace’s central midfielders, Mile Jedinak and Joe Ledley, Fred looked worryingly like the nickname “Grandpa” that has been lovingly bestowed on him by his Union teammates. At this juncture in his career, Fred still has something to offer the Union, as he showed against New York, but Curtin and his staff must be judicious about his use, perhaps saving him for more wide-open matches where his vision and passing can be an asset, rather than those where powerful, ball-hawking center midfielders can punish him in the center of the park, taking him out of a match.

16 Comments

  1. Stock Rising:

    Le Toux – seemed like every good attack by the Union in the 2nd half came through Le Toux. Probably should have done better on his breakaway which ended up inches from Hoppenot’s foot.

    Wenger – should some decent skill in the first half and was active making his runs. Didn’t seem physically out of place against the Palace defenders.

    Bone – admittedly had very low expectations here, and I found he wasn’t horrible. Controlled the ball nicely in some tight spaces and connected passes with his more advanced attackers.

    Stock Falling:

    Hoppenot – with each game seems more and more a one-trick pony. Got the ball, put his head down and tried to take on the whole Palace defense one-on-whatever. Also if he finishes his far post run and literally just sticks out his foot he ties up the game from Le Toux’s breakaway shot / pass.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      Le Toux got himself in great spots, but his passing just wasn’t on the mark, as it so typically is not. He needs to be on the end of moves finishing them off, that is where he looks constantly dangerous and where he can continue to help the Union going forward.
      .
      Wenger made a few positive runs forward, especially getting on the end of Cruz’s cross, but he took no part in the possession game, offering no support for his teammates. Also, Curtin called him out in the press conference for leaving Gaddis completely isolated, which is not a new concern. His unwillingness to track back defensively really hurts his chances of becoming an effective wide player.
      .
      As for Hoppenot, he didn’t look good, but calling him out for missing the final touch on Le Toux’s shot/pass is unfair. Check our pictures piece or the highlights, Le Toux smashed it at the back post and even though Hoppenot was arriving, it was hit with so much mustard that he didn’t have a chance to get on the end of it.

      • Eli – Have you noticed that you are the only person defending Hoppenot and criticizing Le Toux for that particular play?

        I’m not sure what you’re seeing in the video and the photos, but it appears to me that if Le Toux took anything off that pass/shot it never would have come close to Hoppenot. There were 3 CP players in position to intercept.

        As I see it, Le Toux got the ball where it needed to be. For whatever reason, Hoppenot didn’t get a foot on it. Can’t blame Le Toux for that.

      • It’s clear to me that LeToux’s intention in that play was to score the goal not pass the ball for any rushing player to finish. Le2 is known for taking shots on goal when he should be passing the ball and that is whether he has the angle or not. But then again why even worry since his passess hardly gets to a team mate anyway.

      • To me it seemed that Hoppenot pulled up on his run at the last second for whatever reason and if he had not done so it would have been the easiest of tap-ins.

      • He was afraid of the post! Eli is the only one defending him!

  2. Love this format. Hope it becomes a regular feature.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      We try to include them with the friendlies. It’s a little more enjoyable than reading “He played alright in 45 minutes of scatter-brained soccer” over and over.
      .
      Also, thank you!

  3. The Chopper says:

    With the addition of Brian Brown , Antoine Hoppenot’s stock hasn’t fallen, it has crashed. He may soon be an unlisted commodity no longer on the big board available with the penny stocks.

    From super sub to 5th or 7th on the forward depth chart (depends on whether you include Cruz and LeToux). Bottom line, unless there are multiple injuries and cards, he doesn’t see the 18 for the rest of the real season and is out of the league next year.

    • Timothy H says:

      Its kinda sad to see the fall of Hoppenot…last 2 years he truly was a supersub that could change the game….now he is banished to Harrisburg.

      I’ll always remember he drew the foul that led to the Kleberson FK goal vs Toronto. And him chipping SKCs GK.

      • How long ago was that? He hasn’t had a good effect since he first came into the league.
        And then there was tape on him.
        He scored 3 goals in ’12. 2 goals last year… that’s not exactly “game-changing.”

  4. Ray was on our side the whole first half. He was clearing giving about 60% effort, until he and puncheon got in a little off the ball scuffle. Then he maybe played at 75%. Performance wasn’t based on his inability to match pace, like most of the Union players in the first, he looked like he didn’t want to get hurt.

    • I was on the 18 for Ray’s first 1/2 and I don’t think he was playing ‘not to get hurt’ – more like he was trying not make a mistake due to their size and speed. He was outmatched and undersized compared to the mid-field monsters they had and that ultimately put him out of position far too often. I’m thankful we don’t face guys like that every week but they sure were fun to watch.

      • Don. Right on. Ray looked a foot shorter than most of their midfielders. Is Ray going to be an elite fullback. Not in the EPL but he is really good for the MLS. I am fine with that….make this a regular feature.

  5. Not Grumpy says:

    I’m really pleasantly surprised that the FO is (apparently) making bold splashy moves without knowing who next years manager will be. I guess ANY manager would like having a Starting WC goalie AND a #1 lottery selected, wunderkind ‘stud’ goalie in the wings. Not at all a bad start. And perhaps Sak IS working the expansion draft adeptly. Sak knows exactly who he’s not bringing back next year and I think he’s cooking up something tasty for us. Yes, I am drinking the cool aid. Why the hell not? Going after Rais is a ballsy play!!! I kinda like that we are active and not standing pat.

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