Stock Rising/Stock Falling: Analysis of Union 1-3 Armada

Photo: Courtesy of Jacksonville Armada

Jim Curtin won’t have liked what he saw from his experimental Philadelphia Union side’s first preseason match. And little, to none, of his concern will have anything to do with the scoreline.

In fielding 3o players and making wholesale changes on roughly the half hour and hour mark, Curtin would not have expected a flowing, cohesive match from a group of players who lack both match fitness and, in many cases, even the most basic familiarity with each other.

What he would have expected was a far more focused, energetic display from a side who looked surprisingly overawed by the very modest occasion.

Thus, in lieu of analyzing a match replete in errors and untidy play, we will instead look at the performances of players who both helped and potentially hurt their chances to make the roster, lay claim to more playing time, or rise into leadership roles, in 2015.

Stock Rising

Sheanon Williams — Showed an ability to balance tough, physical defense with actual soccer acumen. Shut down his flank, while steaming forward to set up the Union’s loan tally with a picked pocket and a perfect through ball to Andrew Wenger.

Andre Blake — Had an early bobble coming off his line, but recovered and made two phenomenally acrobatic saves to keep the halftime scoreline from being even more lopsided.

Andrew Wenger — Took his goal well and looked the Union’s most dangerous player as he floated around the box, leaving the target winger position into which he grew in 2014. Early confidence for Wenger can only mean good things for the Union attack.

Vincent Nogueira — Because Vincent Nogueira.

Zach Pfeffer — Everything he tried didn’t come off, put he added energy and a change of pace that was sorely lacking in the first half hour.

Jimmy McLaughlin — He barely got a touch of the ball, but when he did, he showed what he can bring. Slicing past two defenders in the corner, McLaughlin set up one of the best Union chances of the first half.

Fred — The Union’s liveliest player in the second half by a fair margin. While that is good to see the veteran player-coach looking to lead by example, the fact that he stood out won’t make Union fans very happy.

Stock Falling

Brian Carroll — Endured a nightmare 30 minutes to begin the preseason. Struggled to keep up with Jacksonville’s pace, running aimlessly and failing to organize the midfield. With the ball in his position, he fared barely better. Missed an absolute sitter before being hauled off with most of the rest of the starting crew.

Pape Gassama — It was unlikely that you knew his name before the match and, based on his showing against the Armada, it is equally unlikely that it is worth committing to memory.

Ethan White — Clutched, grabbed, and committed too many fouls. Won’t be looking forward to seeing the highlight of Alhassane Keita turning him inside out on the Armada’s second. His eagerness to play the body, instead of the ball, will have Union fans concerned.

CJ Sapong — Unlike White, Sapong was too lacking in physicality, and was too easily brushed aside by the Armada and not just in the attacking third. Failed to compete in his own box, conceding body position and costing his team the opener.

Maurice Edu — In 2014, when chaos reigned, Edu usually blotted out any danger with a cooler head than his teammates. On Saturday night, he took part in the disarray. Now signed as a permanent player, Curtin and the Union will be looking to Edu to lead even more than he did last season.

Raymond Lee — Was welcomed to professional soccer by the heels of Alhassane Keita, as he struggled desperately to keep a handle on the Armada’s tricky attacker. Lee will likely have more chances to earn a spot in upcoming matches, but he will now realize how much he still has to learn to compete at the next level.

Aaron Wheeler — Made the least of three very good opportunities. If the Union sign a striker, Wheeler may be the odd man out.

Aaron Simmons — Marked his first professional appearance with a poorly conceded penalty. Not a good start for a guy fighting to make the roster.

Petros Kanakoudis — Poorly positioned throughout his half hour, Kanakoudis chose to punt out of the back, rather than keep the ball on the deck. An inauspicious debut.


  1. Trying to stick with the positives, I thought Sheanon Williams was by far the best Union player on the pitch. The dangerous chances for Jacksonville were coming down the other side of the pitch and his assist on the goal was very well placed.
    Considering one of the issues coming out of the gate last year was Williams injury issues and fitness, hopefully he has the potential to return to 2013 form when he was one of the league leaders in assists.

    • The Black Hand says:

      It’s nice to see Sheanon showing well…now let’s trade him ASAP, for a position of need.

      • I hear sugarman saying we need more allocation money.

      • Black Hand – wouldn’t that just create another position of need unless that magical left footed LB is found? I think the team is in good shape with Williams and Gaddis. Attention should be squarely placed on finding a striker, then possibly one more CDM/CB to knock White/Marquez/Carroll/Lahoud down the depth chart a bit.

      • But… we have Fabinho to play LB.
        OK, I couldn’t keep a straight face long enough to even finish typing that sentence…

  2. I thought Sapong looked ok; if he knew his teammates tendencies better I think he would have at least gotten an assist. I remember him keeping some plays alive for an extra pass or two and just needed to be a little sharper or better at anticipating his teammates moves

  3. Training exercise for us and a debut for them. I wasn’t overly pleased with what I saw but I’m not worried either. They came out hungry and wanting to impress. The Union clearly found their feet at some points but I think we can definitely take solace in the fact there’s 20+ days left of preseason. Always disappointing to lose but I’d expect nothing more from the U in preseason.

  4. Spot on analysis,Eli. It wasn’t the final score that bothered me, rather it was the inability of any of the new players in camp to show me something that would make me say Player X is an upgrade over Player Y who was in that position last year.

    The lack of chemistry is understandable, but delaying any additions to the roster also means that the players that are signed will lack the time to gel with their teammates. March will become an extended pre season and probably lead to dropped points.

  5. old soccer coach says:

    your comment about Kanakoudis interests me. In the first shift there was a full blown aortic hemorrhage down our left defensive channel, in part because of their speed on that flank. In the middle shift, his shift, the bleeding virtually stopped. there are alternative possible reasons, and I welcome the observations of better eyes than mine, cutting out the passing lane by the back and suppressing the service by the midfield among them. I suspect there was poor suppression by the unknown high school kid and Carroll and improvement with Nogueira and Pfeffer, but I cannot say I saw that directly. I think he may have deliberately set up his lineup to put pressure on Lee [you guys have chided Wenger for not getting back last season, the high schooler was lost, and Ethan White is not the wise old head to keep an eye out behind a rookie to say nothing of being on the left not the right] and they lined up either deliberately or serendipitously to exploit it. I was worried that Kanakoudis gotten flattened way too easily the first time he was defending around the box, but after that the hemorrhage stopped. Keita’s personality seemed way too aggressive for him to have stopped trying to get behind us.

  6. I’m gonna defend Carroll here. On that sitter, he was expecting Mesut Ozil to be standing at that exact spot where he “passed” it to.

  7. I thought Quinn played a decent game and would include him in the “stock rising” group. And Fabinho would definitely make my “stock falling” list. It was one aimless cross after another once he got in the game.

  8. “because Vincent Nogueira.” priceless!

  9. Nogueira didn’t even play. The announcers were very impressed though with “Vincent No-goy-a” . . . Or so they kept saying.

  10. saw the highlights on Youtube briefly……………….who was our CB who got completely twisted on the first goal? He got schooled…………was that Edu? Just curious? Did not watch the match………..the ANC final between Ivory Coast/Ghana seemed a little more appetizing……great match!

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      It was Sapong who got beaten in the box on the short corner for the Armada’s first. Then it was White who got twisted around on the second and Simmons who conceded the PK for the third.

      • thanks Eli!

      • did Sapong leave his jock strap in the box……or did he man up and put it back on before the tap? Knowing that it was CJ and not a back makes me feel a little better……….thanks again Eli.

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