Player ratings

Analysis and Player Ratings: Union 3-3 RSL

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

This is a reminder, not to players or coaches, but to the MLS refereeing core. It’s a long season. There will be plenty of opportunities to weave mind-bogglingly stupid decisions into your performances throughout 2015. Pace yourself. Because if you can’t, we here at Philly Soccer Page will start getting emails with reports of Silviu Petrescu and David Gantar running the lines for Allen Chapman at local U-11 tournaments.

The decision-making by multiple referees to begin the new season has been so bad that MLS has been left with less a black eye and more with the type of bruise that appeared when the goalkeeper at my high school dove face first into his far post. It wasn’t pretty then, nor is it now.

Aristigueta's passing chart @ RSL

Aristigueta passing chart at RSL

Aristeguieta, the real deal

And it truly is a shame that Allen Chapman picked Saturday night to climb to the very top of the dumb decision medal stand, because the person on the pitch who should be the talking point following one heck of an entertaining, attacking match, is Fernando Aristeguieta. Not only did the young Venezuelan striker bag two opportunistic, hard-working goals, but he also continued to prove the great breadth of skills he brings to the Union attack.

Goals, and chances in the box aside, Aristeguieta provides the type of complete forward play that simply has not been seen with the Union. Ever. A physical presence with his back to goal, Aristeguieta can not only occupy one or both center backs, but he is also positive in possession. A look at his passing chart shows a player trying to maintain possession and distribute to his teammates. It was a scrappy game, indeed, one in which the Union struggled mightily to string passes together and maintain consistent pressure. But, what little service Aristeguieta received, he used to the fullest, driving forward relentlessly and looking to create a spark.

Not only does his play make it abundantly clear that in this league he can lead the line on his own, but it also becomes apparent that his teammates need to begin expecting a more coherent level of attacking play, and adjust their play accordingly.

Wenger and Le Toux's Passing and Shooting Chart vs. RSL

Wenger and Le Toux passing and shooting charts at RSL

Andrew? Sebastien? You guys ok?

With Aristeguieta attracting and occupying a lot of defensive attention in the middle of the pitch, Andrew Wenger and Sebastien Le Toux should thrive in the extra space created out wide, right?

Somehow wrong.

In theory, all of Aristeguieta’s effort would lead both of the Union wingers to run riot over a defense that was struggling to contain a solitary striker. That hasn’t yet happened for the Union and their wingers’ style of running might prove a clue. Boiling down attackers’ running styles off the ball reveals roughly three categories. There are those who want the ball played to their feet, there are those who love chasing balls into open space, and there are those who make darting runs at a defense, challenging defensive organization and the offside line.

Wenger falls into the first category, Le Toux the second. Through 180 minutes, Aristeguieta has been the only player in Union colors to try his luck at category No. 3. And that is a big problem for Jim Curtin and his staff. When was Wenger the best in 2014? On the quick counter where any one of the Union’s three midfielders took the ball from the defense and released Wenger onto one of his signature runs from just inside the attacking half. And Le Toux? Early in his Union career, Le Toux thrived on dropping into midfield, convincing a defender to follow just a bit too high up the pitch and then racing beyond to chase down a long ball looped over top.

With the long ball currently being deployed by the Union, Wenger and Le Toux have to adapt. Saturday’s match against RSL made it clear that it may be a longer process than Union fans would have hoped. It may seem unfair to criticize the Union on a day when they scored three goals, yet outside of Aristeguieta’s second, confident finish, all three goals were entirely down to the tenacity of Aristeguieta and Chaco Maidana, and the absolutely calamitous defending of Real Salt Lake. Two hopeful crosses and a (possibly illegal) throw-in over a shockingly sleepy defense usually won’t yield one goal, let alone three.

While Aristeguieta and Maidana deserve plaudits for making the most of those situations, they toiled largely unaided by the Union’s duo of “target” wingers. Between the wide pair, their solitary foray into the box came early in the match when Le Toux fluffed Wenger’s clever cutback pass high over Nick Rimando’s goal. That was also Wenger’s only pass completion, or attempt, from within 20 yards of goal. In total, he completed just 8 passes at 57 percent rate over 79 minutes of play, as he was played completely off the park by RSL’s defensive pressure. For both Wenger and Le Toux, once the ball bypassed the segment of the field in which they prefer to begin their attacking moves, neither player sought to chase the play and make the runs that were begging to made into the box. They were stuck taking 30-yard jogs just into and out of the attacking half, but rarely deeper. That has to change, and quickly.

Gaddis and Williams passing charts vs. RSL

Gaddis and Williams passing charts at RSL

Don’t blame it on the fullbacks

An initial response to Wenger and Le Toux’s struggle to augment the Union attack or play in general might be to suggest that, on the road at a tough place like Rio Tinto, that the Union would play a more conservative defensive game. However, that idea simply doesn’t pass the eye test, with the wide open match resulting in plenty of opportunities at both ends of the field, and space to be found all over.

Nor does it hold up after a brief look at the play of Sheanon Williams and Ray Gaddis on their respective flanks. Gaddis, primarily considered a stay at home, shutdown defender, completed more than half of his passes, and as many (8) as Wenger entirely, in the attacking half of the pitch. So too did Williams press forward not only to challenge RSL on the overlap, but also to help maintain possession and move the ball through midfield. After being tasked with defending massive amounts of terrain in Curtin’s experimental 4-2-4, the Union’s fullbacks have now had the responsibilities of wide midfield play thrust onto their plate, while the players who are their partners on either flank frustratingly struggled up field.

Player Ratings

Rais Mbolhi – 5

While Mbolhi cannot be faulted for any of RSL’s goals, he looked anything but the confident goalkeeper Union fans saw in the preseason. Whether it was struggling to control rebounds on shots hit into his body, flapping at the occasional cross, or a string of miscommunications with his backline, Mbolhi will have to clean up his game before Friday’s showdown with Dallas.

Sheanon Williams – 5

Earns an extra point for being largely abandoned defensively and still managing to get up to a lot of defensive work. Won’t be happy to look back at his unwise foul into the back of Alvaro Saborio to set up RSL’s opener. Desperately seeking out the chemistry he enjoyed with Le Toux going forward in past campaigns.

Ethan White – 4

Held his ground, barely. In what is becoming a fairly typical performance for the Union center back, White struggled with the ball at his feet, hacked too many simple clearances up field, seemed fortunate to get away with some unnecessarily heavy challenges on RSL’s attackers, and eventually received a yellow card for his consistently robust behavior. His partnership with Steven Vitoria has yet to inspire much confidence.

Steven Vitoria – 4

Resorted too frequently to sticking out a large boot at the last moment, with his reading of the play and communication with his teammates very much under scrutiny by the RSL attack. Second half misunderstandings and spats with Mbolhi will do little to convince fans that Vitoria has what it takes to lead the the Union defensive line. After Saborio bested him on multiple occasions, yet somehow failed to convert on his chances, an in-form Dallas attack will offer his best examination yet.

Ray Gaddis – 4

In an unusual twist of fortunes, it was Wenger, and not Gaddis, who proved the limiting factor on the Union’s left flank. Like Williams above, Gaddis also grabs an extra point for too often facing the RSL attack solo. While he was definitely trying to flick Morales’ free kick over the bar, Gaddis’ will be kicking himself for not standing up more stoutly (though it would have hurt like crazy to take that shot full on in the head). Uncharacteristically aggressive in the tackle, he was too often penalized for chopping down RSL attackers and conceded the dangerous free kick that led to RSL’s second.

Maurice Edu – 5

While he did well to clog up certain passing lanes in the center of the park, Edu was also guilty of going quiet for long stretches. Whether it was an inability to break up play, or get on the ball himself, Edu simply wasn’t the outlet the Union needed, either as a safety valve out of the back or in the retention of possession. It is hard to lay blame at Edu’s feet for RSL’s eventual equalizer, considering it was never a penalty.

Vincent Nogueira – 7

Looked much more like his 2014 self than he did against Colorado, which will come as an enormous relief to Union fans. Returned to his preferred deep-lying role, Nogueira covered a massive swath of turf defensively, while engaging in the type of metronomic passing that helps relieve pressure and push his team forward.

Sebastien Le Toux – 3

As mentioned above, Le Toux continues to struggle out of the gates in 2015. What may be even more alarming than his inability to run off of Aristeguieta is the veteran attacker’s problems with his touch on the ball. Whether it has been badly mishitting clear cut chances against Colorado or RSL, or fumbling to maintain possession and complete simple passes in midfield, Le Toux has simply been poor through 180 minutes this season.

Cristian Maidana – 7

With four more key passes and direct involvement in all three Union goals, Maidana continues to prove the danger he causes. That is not to say that Jim Curtin won’t lose sleep over some of the clumsy turnovers Chaco handed back to RSL. Considering the threat he poses, and the fact that no one else on the roster can come close to replicating that level of danger, Curtin will likely have to learn to deal with the cavalier style of the Argentine’s play.

Andrew Wenger – 3

A non-factor at both ends of the field, Wenger’s 79th minute substitution put a merciful end to a match he will do well to quickly put behind him. Uninvolved in possession and only 1 for 3 on the dribble, Wenger still appears to carry only one club in his bag when it comes to attacking. Once RSL gave Tony Beltran extra defensive support, the Union winger had no reply.

Fernando Aristeguieta – 8

Has any player become a fan favorite faster than Aristigueta? With the constitution of an ox, a soft touch on the ball, and confidence in front of goal, Aristigueta has all of the tools to be a double digit goal scorer in MLS. May need to lay off the refs a little, even if he is right and they are indeed terrible.

Geiger Counter OH THE CHAPMANITY!

Allen Chapman – 1

When a ref makes the kind of call Allen Chapman made on Saturday night, it doesn’t really matter what he did for the other 89 minutes. Luke Mullholland didn’t dive. He slid in to challenge the ball and looked every bit as shocked as the Union players when Chapman pointed to the spot. The ref was looking to make a call. He’s not supposed to do that.

Preferred Lineup for Friday’s match at PPL Park vs. FC Dallas

4-2-3-1

Mbolhi; Williams, White, Vitoria, Gaddis; Edu, Nogueira; Le Toux, Maidana, Wenger; Aristigueta

If Sapong was healthy, he’d be worth swapping in on the right flank for Le Toux, who already looks in real need of a week off. With Danny Cruz still working his way back to full health, the Union are very thin out wide.

63 Comments

  1. for your preferred lineup on friday- how would you feel about mclaughlin over le toux?

    • I was thinking the same thing, actually. That may be a spot to give Jimmy a go and see what he can do.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      I would love to see Jimmy get a chance, but given that he hasn’t made the bench in the first two, I just don’t see it as realistic. Would love to see him in the 18 against Dallas though.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Agreed. I think that Jimmy should get a look out wide…or he should at least be in the 18, as you mentioned. I would even consider giving him a start (Can he show worse than Seba has?).

      • Yep. Give Seba a chance, but have Jimmy in your back pocket for a halftime sub if he can’t step up his game.

    • Why not Pfeffer?

      • The Black Hand says:

        Pfeffer is better suited for the middle. He tends to get lost, on the flanks.

      • pragmatist says:

        Pfeffer and Jimmy are much different players. Jimmy brings the pace needed for the wings, Zach is a more natural fit in the middle.

      • True. I guess that I would say why not Maidana on the wing and Pfeffer in the middle. I think that he is more “game-ready” than Jimmy. Maidana is more of a center guy, but he’s made some great plays out wide.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Chaco doesn’t have the motor needed to play the wing.

      • Valid point. And with Williams and Gaddis having to cover defensively more often, we need more pace on the wings.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Big time

  2. The Black Hand says:

    Accurate ratings. The only exceptions would be Noguiera and Edu. I would shade each a point, for leading a highly disorganized and ineffective midfield.
    .
    The back line was terrible and Williams was no different.
    .
    LeToux has been terrible this year. Awful touch…
    .
    I can’t give an analysis if Wenger’s play, due to the fact that I can’t recall seeing him.
    .
    Two matches in the books and this club is looking rough. Hopefully, we catch form before we sacrifice too many points.

    • Beginning to think Sheanon is a 5 player- to expect more is not part of the deal apparently. He underwhelmed me. I already told you guys Ethan is likely to be my poster child for ineptitude this season. Vitoria and Rais arguing could be a good thing as they sort out the necessary communication and leadership and expectations- them arguing doesn’t concern me. Yet. Ethan White? He concerns me.
      .
      Agree about Edu and Noguiera. Something is off. It is all helper skelter. Part of the problem seems to be when the mid cycle the ball the the OB the next thing that happens is kick ball. Hard to find continuity when that happens.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I’m with you, regarding Williams. He is average. The trouble is; he is cemented at RB. This means that Gaddis (better RB, than Sheanon) stays at LB…where he is average. This would be alright if it wasn’t for the fact that our CB’s are below average. The back line looks like shit!
        .
        So far, Nogs and Edu aren’t working together. Edu holds up play too much. A certain someone would have been better suited for the #6…nah, that’s just crazy…

      • Well, someone can say exactly what you did in Sheanon’s defense. He’s had to cover for the backline a heck of a lot this year.

      • The Black Hand says:

        He and Gaddis have been stretched by poor CB play.

      • Crazy idea. Bench White. Slide Edu back to CB, which like it or not is his best position with this team. And then . . . wait hold on . . . start Pfeffer next to Noguiera. Lets see what happens when our three best passers form a triangle in the middle of the field.

      • That’s crazy talk, SoB!

      • SOB – I think this is a great idea.

  3. While he didn’t have a great game, I think giving Wenger the same grade as LeToux is a little harsh. LeToux was atrocious. Unfortunately for him, but fortunately for the Union, that could be a good thing.

    In 2012, when LeToux went to Vancouver, I wasn’t upset. The Union looked to be on the upswing and I remember thinking that LeToux can be a great player on a poor team, or a mediocre to poor player on a good team.

    Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think that this Union team can turn out to be a pretty good team. 4 lost points notwithstanding, They’re not throwing away games.

    • Cannot agree more about Seba. He’s always looked the best on our worst teams. Always running hard chasing down desperation clearances. He’s never had a good touch, or quality passing. I’m all for giving Jimmy a shot. Even Sapong when he gets healthy.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    I realize that Adam did last week’s ratings and Eli this week’s, but I want to follow up on a comment I made last week. Last week the Union played a 0-0 draw (albeit with the missed PK calls) at home against one of the worst teams in the league. This week they had a 3-3 draw in one of the toughest places to play and for the second straight trip to SLC should have had a win but for a questionable decision by the ref (2 extra minutes of stoppage time in 2013 leading to a PK). And yet the ratings here average more than a full point lower than last week. I think quality of opponent is something that should be taken into account in these ratings.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      Andy, that’s a fair comment, but I feel that we do take that into account. Adam and I talk frequently about what goes into our ratings. For me the major reason my numbers were low despite the draw in a historically tough place to play, is that this is not Jason Kreis’ RSL. This is a team struggling to find identity under a new coach, in a new formation. RSL was downright awful on Saturday, and that was not down to the Union’s level of play. For me, the Union struggled in attack (all three goals were basically luck, though Aristigueta’s second was well taken) and they created little else, save Le Toux’s moonshot in the first half. In midfield they were disorganized and Garcia, Saborio and Jaime got in behind the defense with ease. It was down to those three guys being in bad form that they didn’t score, not the Union defense. Add in Mbolhi and Vitoria yelling at each other while the ball nearly fell between them a handful of times and you have some low scores to hand out. That is my explanation. And it is only (very weird) games in. I do assure you that Adam and I communicate frequently re: these ratings and I think that will bear itself out over the rest of 2015.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I was shocked to see how poor RSL was on Saturday…Kreis or no Kreis. The match looked like a Benny Hill skit.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Fair enough, Eli. And I think these ratings are more appropriate than last week’s which I thought were on the high side.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        The issue with Week 1 is that the Union can only play the team in front of them. In my opinion, while the game was chaotic and ugly, they were still the dominant force from wire to wire. I find games like that exceedingly hard to rate, because the Union were by far the superior team with the defense never being challenged, yet they failed to score. With that much possession and time on the ball, players deserve decent marks. So do you then severely downgrade a player like Sebastien Le Toux for missing a boat load of chances? Or do you downgrade everybody since nobody scored? It’s a tough balance to meet.

    • I only caught the first half. But the ratings seem somewhat accurate. The Union didn’t look good in that half. They looked sloppy,and the centerbacks were a mess.
      The game was looking entertaining but it wasn’t pretty.

  5. So… has Ethan White regressed? Or were we just so desperate for anybody other than Aaron Wheeler to play CB last year? I don’t remember White being a world-beater last year, but I also don’t remember him looking this bad…

    • I was never a fan. But he had better cover last year in Edu and and half power Carlos Valdes.

    • I thought he was better this week than last. Still, Gaddis and Williams are having to cover the box WAY too much.

      • The Black Hand says:

        I don’t know. The way that ball was pinging about our box, RSL could have put up 6 goals…fairly easily. Our CB’s are both lacking command of their area and the distribution out of the back is very poor.

  6. Lucky Striker says:

    You may not feel the need to fault the fullbacks offensively but they-like the keeper and the CB’s got run aground by RSL while attempting to defend.

    Should have been blown out in the first half hour.

    Wenger had a real sneaky shot parried away by Rimando early, otherwise was useless.

    Seba’s night best summarized by his open 11 yd. shank.

  7. I hate to be that guy but I was down on Wenger from the beginning. And even Le Toux.

    Fans always wanted to love them for some reason, but strip away the handful of times they look good, and you have untechnical wingers with poor touch, vision and tactical sense.

    We will struggle on the wings all year.

    • The Black Hand says:

      I disagree, regarding Wenger. Yes, he was poor but a lot of that had to do with those supplying the service. It was very disorganized, in the middle, and not much was done to get Wenger more involved.
      .
      As for LeToux…I got nothing. I’m ready for LeNew…

    • Wenger had a drastic arc of improvement last year. He has his flaws but he looked to become a solid contributor. And Letoux always was what he was streaky, inconsistent but a hard worker. But these days it seems his motor is letting him down.

    • Wenger got Rimando’d on a great early chance and should of had a great assist. he needs to prove that he can be consistent but he will have a few magical moments every game. I hate to agree, butif Le Toux doesn’t improve quickly we have to explore other options. Did anyone else think that he was totally on side when he got flagged in the 2nd half in one v. one on Rimando?

  8. OneManWolfpack says:

    How the hell does Chapman not get negative numbers?! Just curious… and yeah I’m still pissed.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      The scale is 1-10, Wolfpack. Just because I changed the name of the rating (disappointed no one commented on that), does not mean I am willing to sully the integrity of the 1-10 scale! Besides it is week 2. We haven’t even seen Hilario Grajeda or Jorge Gonzalez yet. What wonders they have in store for us, we may only guess. They might be worse though. It is entirely (and terrifyingly) possible.

      • Has anyone in the history of soccer made such a momentous climb in less time than Mark Geiger? A few years ago he gets the Geiger Counter named after him. He then goes on to get some prestigious assignments, culminating in some World Cup experiences where he more than held his own. Then a debate about renaming the Geiger Counter last season because he had become too good of a referee. Now? Is there anyone here who’s not hoping we’re fortunate enough to get him for our next game?

      • He still sucks. 😉

      • Probably true, but sadly, I’d love to see his name next to PHI vs. DAL this weekend.

      • You remember the Geiger Show game?

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Yeah Yeah Yeah… he still deserves the first (I think) negative rating!! -10 I SAY!!! 🙂

      • James Lockerbie says:

        Laughing out loud as the family looks on with puzzled looks on their faces.

      • maybe adjust the scale to 0-10, then give him a zero for a game devoid of any explanation.

      • Eli, I finally had time to read this, and “Oh the Chapmanity” made me giggle. Thought I’d alleviate your disappointment, since no one else mentioned it 😉

  9. I think the ratings are fair, except for Edu and Nogueira. Maybe we were watching two different guys in the middle of the park. I saw Edu challenging people, taking the ball, cutting off RSL’s passing lanes over and over again, in both the first and second halves. He harassed Javier Morales mercilessly — Javi didn’t really contribute much other than his stellar free kick, and Edu deserves the lion’s share of credit for that. I would give him a 7. Nogueira, on the other hand, barely resembles the guy we saw last year. If you’re harping on the Union midfield for letting RSL run wild over the center of the park, doesn’t the (other) Frenchman deserve some of the blame?? I would give him a 5 at best.

  10. BTW, to all the anti-Le Toux-vians: every year he has spells of being really cold. Then he gets hot again. Like most forwards (and he is, of course, really a forward). He’ll make a major contribution to the offense. I just wish he’d find his touch on corner kicks — they’ve been as bad as the rest of his play this year.

  11. I’m beginning to wonder what the coaches saw in Ethan White or, even more scary, what they didn’t see in Austin Berry. I think he makes Vitoria look worse and his senseless boots down the pitch ruin any kind of flow on the counterattack. Is it possible the FO has something up their sleeves for the summer transfer window?

    Unrelated, it was nice to see Catic net 4 goals the other day. I think he could potentially be making an impact on the big club sooner than later.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Time to start Marquez… YES PLEASE

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        If he’s ready, I would not do it against Dallas as Dallas has a real buner in Castillo. Burners are why White is playing. He can’t run Castillo down from behind, but he’ll get left in the dust less quickly.
        .
        General observation: two years ago when Jeff Parke paired with Okugo, it took a few games before they gelled. This defense has looked shaky but has not given up a goal from the run of play.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      While I too loved seeing Catic do well, remember that it was a college side, out of season, with the lynchpin of its defense now in MLS. I’d hope he is left alone down there for at least half the season, maybe all of it.

  12. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Final thought. CJ Sapong has suffered a bone fracture. All of us who have broken them remember being told six to eight weeks for a fracture to heal. Sapong will become an option only several weeks down the road. He’ll need a rehab assignment with Harrisburg probably once he’s cleared to play.

  13. The Chopper says:

    I wish CJ a speedy recovery. At the same time, it forces the technical staff to find a way to build a midfield that works that includes Maidana. Definitely a silver lining. Now let’s see what other options we have to sit Seba.

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