Player ratings

Analysis & player ratings: Union 1-5 Galaxy

Photo: Courtesy of LA Galaxy

Philadelphia Union officially wrapped up the first half of the 2015 MLS season by capitulating to Los Angeles Galaxy in spectacular fashion, especially after looking by far the brighter side for the opening 20 minutes.

Once the Galaxy solved the Union defense, they continued to do so with ease, pouring in 5 goals as they ran riot directly through the middle of the park. And while there were plenty of underwhelming performances to go around, three centrally located players who have been so essential to any success the Union have had of late — Maurice Edu, Brian Carroll and Chaco Maidana — all turned away from their own games, leading to perhaps each of their least productive showings this season.

The Maurice Edu Show

Edu’s involvement through 72 minutes

One of the most glaring reasons for LA’s 5 star goalscoring exploits came down to the most bizarre performance ever turned in by the Union’s captain, Maurice Edu. Take a look at Edu’s activity over the first 72 minutes of the match (image at right) before Ethan White came on to make his decision to play in the midfield marginally more coach-sanctioned.

Not a bad day for a roaming center midfielder, right?

But for a center back, that is wildly overambitious.

Between the ill-advised forward runs, the failure to recover shape and position after a turnover, and the decision to overrule actual attacking players — just to blast a free kick into the wall — Edu performed like he was only interested in playing his own game. LA scored 5 goals during the time in which Edu was off galavanting around the field, searching for glory and putting his defensive partners under consistent pressure.

That is not to mention the impracticality of the Union’s captain playing with the ball at his feet. Philadelphia Union, as constructed, are all about getting attackers into isolated battles, where they can beat a single player to make a play. Whether it is Sapong winning an aerial battle, Wenger winning a footrace, or Maidana sniffing out a yard of space to lay in a deadly, final ball, the Union cannot thrive with one player standing on it. So while there were times when Edu beat one or even two defenders in a burst up field, the time spent on fancy footwork allowed a disciplined, veteran Galaxy team to reconstruct their defensive shape, ensuring that once Edu’s dribbling options were exhausted, he would have few outlets available to keep the play alive.

This was exactly the case on LA’s third goal when, seeing Edu advance up the center of the park, the Galaxy midfield sat deep, allowing the Union defender the time and space to dribble directly into traffic. With both fullbacks steaming up their respective flanks to support their captain, Richie Marquez turned out to be the only man back when Edu inevitably turned the ball over in traffic, and LA was off to the races.

Busted screen door
Carroll watching the ball and leaving Zardes to run behind

Carroll watching the ball and leaving Zardes to run behind.

Still, there was no need for that third goal to happen, and in any of the Union’s recent matches, it may not have. However, after playing an inspired month of disciplined, veteran soccer, Brian Carroll returned to earth with a thud against the Galaxy. In past matches, the 33-year-old Carroll showed his smarts by staying tight to the back line, clogging up passing lanes and making life harder for opposing attackers. Against the Galaxy, however, he was back to the chasing overpursuit that saw him slide down the depth chart in recent seasons.

On all three of the Galaxy’s first goals, Carroll was guilty of drifting too high, leaving ample space for LA to exploit behind him. The images of the foot race he lost to Gyasi Zardes while ball-watching are just one example of a player who, for little discernible reason, eschewed the tactics that had brought him so much recent success in favor of trying to do more than what he is capable of, only to get burned in the end.

Carroll caught chasing Juninho on LA's opener

Carroll caught chasing Juninho on LA’s opener

Neither Juninho nor Mika Vayrynen is overly eager to push play into the final third of the pitch by themselves. Yet, with LA going backwards in the 23rd minute, Carroll pursued Juninho deep into the attacking half of the field. Two simple passes later, Ishizaki found himself playing over the top of the Union defense from exactly the position on the pitch that Carroll should’ve never abandoned.

In the 34th minute, after losing a 50-50 ball to Baggio Husidic, Carroll again chased up field, this time after Vayrynen (see below left). Without so much as taking a step, Husidic is suddenly in acres of space, and Vayrynen’s simple pass between Carroll and Pfeffer releases the LA left midfielder, who in turn slides in Zardes up the wing (after Gaddis also got caught ball-watching up field).

Carroll caught cheating on LA's second

Carroll caught cheating on LA’s second.

Pointing at these three instances is not in any effort to single Carroll out specifically. Instead, it is to underscore how a team that was so recently finding success, especially in the middle of the pitch, can suddenly look so lost by failing to maintain even a modicum of consistency. Jim Curtin will be tearing his hair out watching film of his team making simple mental errors like Carroll’s when so recently they had begun to look as if they were growing as a cohesive unit.

Whether the game plan changed in California, or the Union simply failed to execute, Curtin must go back to the drawing board before Wednesday’s bout with Seattle. LA is a known commodity, with Bruce Arena’s side relying heavily on the clever distribution of Stefan Ishizaki and continuous movement of both Zardes and Robbie Keane to carve open a defense. Yet Carroll chose to play outside of his comfort zone, hunting high up field, allowing the Galaxy to consistently put their most dangerous attackers into exactly the spaces Jim Curtin would have hoped and expected his team would have never had let them find.

Missed midfield connections
Maidana's passing chart through 65 minutes

Maidana’s passing chart through 65 minutes.

Defensive miscues aside, when the Union did manage to get on the ball, which they did increasingly infrequently after Husidic’s opener, they struggled to create consistent attack. The usually reliable duo of Chaco Maidana and Vincent Nogueira looked off the pace.

When the going had been easy in the opening 20 minutes, Maidana was popping up in spaces between the midfield and defenders to keep the Galaxy guessing as to his whereabouts.

However, once the Galaxy found themselves up a goal and on the front foot, Maidana faded from sight, preferring the safer hunting grounds on the flanks to the chaotic center of the park. That won’t cut it for a Union team that relies heavily on the Argentine playmaker dragging bodies all over the field to make space for his teammates. Once Maidana began to stay wide (see passing chart at right), the Galaxy no longer had to treat him as a threat in the center of midfield, and he simply got lost behind a sea of white-shirted bodies in the pitch.

With Maidana out wide, suddenly Nogueira lost the player to whom he looks for most when building an attack, which only made matters worse. The further Maidana drifted, the further that gap grew, until their connection was severed completely and Nogueira was left alone to fend for himself in the center of midfield with both Juninho and Vayrynen snapping at his heels.

Player ratings

Brian Sylvestre – 3

It has been hard to find too much fault in Sylvestre’s game, but considering he was forced to pluck the ball out of his net 5 times, he was never likely for a high score. Continues to struggle with his distribution, putting pressure on his teammates with easy turnovers of possession.

Ray Gaddis – 2

Gaddis’ return to the right back berth in MLS play was fraught with problems, as he not only coughed up too many dangerous turnovers trying to pass out of the back but also found his defensive positioning exposed, especially by Zardes, who seemed to target the space behind the fullback. He eventually gave up the fight and retreated to within the confines of his 18-yard box, leaving Zach Pfeffer to try and deal with both Rogers and Husidic racing down his flank. He tried his best to get forward to support the attack, though only one such effort came before the Galaxy had put all 5 goals in the net.

Maurice Edu – 1

As mentioned above, Edu’s solo show put his team in unfortunate defensive positions far too frequently. After missing an early sitter, he seemed angrily intent on somehow making up for the glaring miss, only to make things worse. Defensively, he was easily beaten by Zardes, who only had to pull off of his shoulder to find enough space to receive service, and then square up his shoulders and attack the Union at full speed.

Richie Marquez – 3

Starting only his sixth MLS match, Marquez spent 90 minutes putting out fires at the back while Edu was off having Carlos Valdes walkabout flashbacks. Between that and Carroll’s midfield wanderings, Marquez gets an extra point, if only out of sympathy.

Sheanon Williams – 2

It was only by luck, and Arena’s game plan, that Williams was not directly involved in conceding any of the Galaxy’s goals. Like Gaddis on the other flank, his distribution left a lot to be desired and often led to the Galaxy attack coming right back down his throat. After a good spell at right back, Williams looked clunky and out of place on the left and did very little to help his team on either side of the ball.

Vincent Nogueira – 4

It was an uncharacteristically sloppy night from the Union’s most typically most consistent player. With Maidana wandering along the touchline getting chalk on his boots, and Carroll leaving his defensive shape to chase into the attacking midfield, Nogueira found himself without his regular passing options. And with Wenger anonymous and Pfeffer struggling under the pressure of Rogers, the diminutive Frenchmen really had no place to go with the ball for large chunks of the 90.

Brian Carroll – 2

As mentioned above, Carroll fell back to old habits, which led to LA feasting on the space left behind the recently reliable midfielder. With Lahoud still sidelined through injury, Carroll will likely have another chance on Wednesday to prove that this was a minor aberration and not a regression back to old form.

Zach Pfeffer – 3

Learned a thing or two from Rogers, who was quicker, smarter, and more physical than the young Union attacker. Playing in his first match on the right flank, Pfeffer got off to a flying start when he forced a smart, early save out of Jaime Penedo, but once LA got themselves on the front foot, he faded badly. With Gaddis tucking very narrow and LA targeting his flank, Pfeffer struggled with his defensive workload and the result was a lot of chasing.

Chaco Maidana – 3

Still as cool a customer on the ball as you’ll find in MLS, Maidana had little interest in the physicality of LA’s central midfield. Disappointingly for Union fans, the Argentine allowed himself to be played out of the match, as he too readily accepted the space the Galaxy allowed him out on the wing. Further frustrating was the fact that it was not until after LA’s 5th goal that Maidana finally began to look for his own shot, one of which clipped Jaime Penedo’s crossbar late in the match.

Andrew Wenger – 2

With Stefan Ishizaki frequently cutting into the center of the park as the Galaxy’s main playmaking force, there was little time for the Swede to play defense. Even so, isolated 1-v-1 on Dan Gargan, Wenger still rarely featured in this match, and not even an assist after falling behind by three goals can do much to put a shine on another abject performance from the winger.

C.J. Sapong – 4

Took his goal beautifully, with both the turn and the shot of the highest quality. However, Sapong still left a lot to be desired up top. Typically interested in leaping highest to flick balls forward, he provided below average hold-up play and continued to struggle with his defensive work rate and discipline, allowing the Galaxy to easily outlet out of the back, as he charged aggressively around the field, seeking only the ball, in lieu of returning to an organized defensive shape.


Fred – N/A

With the match already decided, there was little reason to call on the Union’s player/coach, especially when he puts in the kind of tackles that should have seen him sent off, despite being on the pitch for less than a half an hour.

Fabinho – N/A

Brought on for Wenger after the match was out of reach, Fabinho made little impact on a match that had slowed to walking pace.

Ethan White – N/A

Lucky not to concede a penalty for clearly dragging down Keane after the Irish international shook him out of his shorts.

Geiger Counter

Kevin Stott – 6

Picks up a decent rating, considering he showed some mercy on the Union. As the match wore on and the result was no longer in doubt, Stott let a few things go that could have easily led to a larger scoreline, specifically White’s takedown on Keane.

Preferred Starting XI for Wednesday’s match vs. Seattle Sounders


Sylvestre; Williams, Edu, Marquez, Fabinho; Carroll, Pfeffer, Nogueira, Maidana; Sapong, Aristeguieta


  1. That wasn’t good.

  2. Way too many players gave up. Completely gave up. What else is there really to say? Also, I can’t STAND the shots of Curtin on the sideline. DO SOMETHING!!!!

  3. Edu was the classic case of playing in front of his home town friends and family trying to get a goal. Not very becoming behavior of a Captian.
    In my best Jim Mora voice, “Playoffs! You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game! Another game.”

    • The Sack Sak bag is coming to 139 on Wednesday. Our bench had no options and I still blame the front office. If they don’t like my protest then the police can drag me out in wristbands.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    Nogueira rated too high. He had multiple uncharacteristically poor touches and passes even before the game was out of reach. Marquez should probably be even higher. He was left out to dry a number of times and did the best that could be expected of him.

  5. The Black Hand says:

    Dead on!!!

  6. I am a Maurice Edu fan. However, this game he sucked. I think he is getting sick of not being able to have a team around him to showcase his skill. He was home in Cali and over did it badly! If he had some star quality or even quality MLS players with skill on the ball he could be the dominating game changer he failed at being in LA. Also on a grossly underwhelming team with no depth, there are way too many posers and freaking prima donnas. I think Fabinho should start in place of Wenger on the left, with Sapong and Aristeguieta when he’s ready, and move Williams to RB and Gaddis to LB. However the search for a real LB must yet again be a priority along with a GM. But there’s still Sugarman and Sakiewicz. This organization is a joke!

    Sell this franchise to a competent and financially competitive ownership!


    • The Black Hand says:

      One of the worst CAPTAIN’S showings that I have seen. Mo Edu is not as good as HE thinks he is and needs to think about how he can make the other 10 players better (be a captain). As of now…giant waste of money!!!

      • No he’s not as bad as YOU think he is and in fact is much better and worth every dime wit this lousy support group!!!

      • The Black Hand says:

        LCB, there are few that are as bad as I think they are. That said, Edu has not made this club better. Richie Marquez has been the better of the CB pairing and Brian Effing Carroll has been better at the #6. He seems to be best suited for the 8, but we don’t need that right now. He has value at CB (when he decides to play CB), but not $650K+…no way. He needs to make the “lousy support group” better…not push them out of shape with ill-timed, poorly-executed carries. Mo Edu needs to realize that time has passed, since the days with the Rangers, and he needs to adjust.

      • We will always disagree about this because your opinion is stuck on the Rangers. Beckam couln’t make this team better and you know it. Anyone else making Edu salary has a team built around his skill set. There are 2 maybe 3 players on this team that have even basic skill with the ball at their feet. Edu has done nothing but adjust.

      • TBH we will never agree about this because your opinion is stuck on the Rangers. Beckam couldn’t make this team better and you know it. Anyone else making Edu salary has a team built around his skill set. There are 2 maybe 3 players on this team that have even basic skill with the ball at their feet. Edu has done nothing but adjust. Marguez while during a good job hasn’t set the world on fire either and he is an actual CB.

      • The Black Hand says:

        We must agree to disagree, my friend.

      • Dr. Union says:

        LCB got to disagree with you as well give me the $650K+ that Edu makes and I can give you 3 guys this team could use more and would add more quality to the team overall. First off he is no captain by any means and that was handed him way to easily. Yes does he not have a great supporting cast no, but you could argue that he does nothing to improve the overall quality of this so called team.

      • ScottyMac says:

        He makes way more than $650k. At was just the HALF of his contract the Union paid. Stoke picked up the other half last year.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Think about that for a minute. Has he delivered the quality that could compare to what 3-4 (4-5) other solid players could bring? That’s what could be pursued, with that Edu money. It’s not that I dislike Edu…I just don’t see him putting in performances that justify the sacrifice.

      • Can’t agree more about Edu. Makes bad runs. Will make the bad pass. Gets caught out of position and doesn’t hustle back. Horrible man marking on free kicks/corners. There are reasons Mo doesn’t make the national team any more. These are some of them.

  7. Is MLS applying any pressure on U ownership to at least hire basic infrastructure…sporting director??? Assistant coaches???? Obviously only a few guys on this team have viable futures in this league so the U need to hire someone to make these decisions. Albright was on this roster not so long ago and now (with Sak and Jim???) he controls the fate of this putrid mess!

    • It is getting (has been) ridiculous. It’s like have the Bad News Bears of MLS here with a couple volunteer dads running the whole show. It’s clearly not a professionally run organization. This whole season is shot because of ownership’s cheapness.

  8. Williams on the right and Gaddis/Fabinho (Fabinho for now until Gaddis knocks the rust off) seems so obvious. Williams and Fabinho had a good run of games in the outside back spots. Gaddis isn’t terribly dangerous offensively from either side, so put him at LB and let him lock down defenders. Williams adds to the attack from the RB slot, which is particulary important when we’re suffering through weaker wing play most games. Can we make the most of what we do have at least?

    • Except for the fact that Curtin made the wholly unnecessary declaration of Gaddis as the definite right back going forward (questioned by Eli on this site at the time if I remember right). Does he flip-flop on that after only a few weeks? Might raise some eyebrows in the locker room.

  9. Any thoughts on the tactical pushing forward of Carroll and Edu part of a failed strategy from Curtin? I’m wondering if he changed his strategy a bit specifically for LA. Agree we don’t have the needed playmakers, and the team quit but that happens in a blowout. I think the overall lack of comments here on psp after this game speaks to the frustration of the fanbase…

  10. I think this one might be on Curtin. To have every player doing the wrong thing is fairly inconceivable, even for the Union. The only way it makes any sort of sense is that if part of a coaches plan.

  11. Andy Muenz says:

    In the suggested lineup, how about using Gaddis at RB and Williams at LB with Fabhino in the midfield?

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      For me, that midfield is a diamond with Pfeffer and Nogueira shuttling behind Chaco. Like a Kreis midfield, it would be a narrow diamond. The only way to make that work is with aggressive, attacking fullback play. In my opinion, Fabinho doesn’t make sense as a wide midfielder in anything but a 4-2-3-1 and based on recent form, he and Williams give the Union the best chance of getting offensive contributions from the fullback spots.

  12. My favored lineup for Wednesday:


    With Ayuk, Ribiero, Williams, Sylvestri, McLaughlin, LeToux on the bench.

    Oh well… WSSM. I emailed my season ticket guy yesterday to tell him I’m done until and unless Union hire a real & qualified Sporting Director.

  13. At least the Cliff of Union Despair will be happy. Couple of weeks ago it had cleared out, this game drove everyone right back to the edge.

  14. Nobody should have more than a 2.

  15. I slept on it….and….it is as awful as I thought. An absolute disgrace to play that poorly.

  16. I watched Edu attacking in the 2nd half and assumed it was part of an overall plan from Curtin to push bodies forward and try to score. That seemed like a reasonable risk, since they weren’t coming back from 2-0 by playing the same way they had been. In that case Edu was following orders and is rated too low. If Edu kept attacking on his own, out of ego or otherwise, then his rating is right, especially for the captain.

    Note that Curtin didn’t take Edu out, which suggests Mo wasn’t going rogue

    • The Black Hand says:

      Possible…that means that it is so much worse!

    • Dr. Union says:

      Or as I expect Curtin has no balls to bench his captain when he is not doing his job properly.
      I mean come on Wenger still starts and all Curtin says is “oh well we need him to be good for this team to be good.”
      How bout this Curtin, just say Wenger is no good bench him as he deserves and have some strength in being a manager.
      No way you ever see Curtin bench Edu even if he deserved it. Haven’t seen a CB play as poorly as Edu in awhile. This game he may have even been worse then White was in some of the early games this year. So out of position most of the game and no organization.

      • Curtain can’t bench the whole team. He can barely put a team together to play. His job is to win games and try and save this season. So why is he going to bench some one he feels will give him his best chance to when he has no other choices.

    • I don’t know why Curtain would do something so different from the past few weeks. They had done so well playing as shaped cohesive unit. I don’t think he said “We must BEATLA. I’ll let Mo run wild”. I think he allows Mo a lot of freedom (probably deserved since Mo plays out of his preferred position). Since Mo was playing in front of his home crowd, maybe he did feel like he had to put on a show. This was all on Mo.

  17. It doesn’t matter. To rate players who midway through a season look like they hardly ever play together, to have a defender so out of position as to make positions meaningless, it doesn’t matter. Losing by 3 and your subs are defenders, it doesn’t matter. Road games are losses.

  18. i watched this one from Fado. if you’ve never been on a Saturday night after 11, i’d say it’s the BEST place to watch a match of this… caliber.

    the drinks couldn’t come fast enough and there was enough distraction by midnight’s 5th goal to help assuage my malaise

  19. Fat Uncle Phil from Urkel says:

    Eli was too generous to everyone.

  20. James Lockerbie says:

    A picture is worth a thousand words. Your whole summery could have been summed up with that one photo from the goal and Edu highlighted at the center line

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