Player ratings

Player ratings & (brief) analysis: Revolution 1-1 Union

Photo: Kari Heistad, courtesy of Prost Amerika

Is anybody reading this? Or did everyone skip down to the ratings to see if Blake reached double digits?

You will be forgiven for jumping ahead since there is relatively little to glean from Saturday’s match compared to most. The Union played very deep. New England attacked up the wings.

Andre Blake was incredible.

This analysis will be short since the impression here at PSP is that people would rather read about Wednesday’s match.

Quick takeaways

Philly rotated almost everybody, and the goal was clearly to defend in deep banks of four with Cristian Maidana facilitating the counterattack and Fernando Aristeguieta knocking down long balls. In the first half, only one of those two strategies came into play.

Union CBs passing - first half.

Union CBs passing – first half.

Strange backline

Fabinho was the only regular starter in the back line, and alongside Ethan White, Steven Vitoria and Andrew Wenger (!) he struggled to move the ball on the turf. In the first half, Union defenders only successfully moved the ball from the defensive half into the offensive half six times.

Wenger in defense

The player who was expected to be a centerpiece of Philly’s 2015 offense started at right back. Microcosm for the season?

Although Wenger was slow to react at times and tended to play a step behind the offsides line his teammates set, it was encouraging to see him play more like a defender than a converted winger. He was safe with his forward runs (though, to be fair, the Union were rarely going forward) and he was safe in his defending.

Union CBs passing - 2nd half

Union CBs passing – 2nd half

Despite his poor form this season, Wenger offers utility in the back for a team without any depth behind the starters.

Blake distribution

Much has been made on these pages of John McCarthy’s distribution problems. So how did Andre Blake do?

Um, not well. Blake kept the ball in the center of the pitch and Philly was able to recover some of the loose balls that came off his long kicks. But for the most part, when the Union goalie punted the ball, it went to the other team.

Implications for Wednesday

Philly sat really deep. Even though they are unlikely to be favored against Sporting Kansas City, it is difficult to imagine Jim Curtin using such extreme defensive tactics again in the final. The Union were unable to close down Scott Caldwell and Jermaine Jones because they played too far back to get regular pressure on the Revs deeper midfield players. Against Kansas City, the Union need to find a way to put pressure on Benny Feilhaber and Paulo Nagamura. Shutting the central players down makes it more difficult for Sporting to move the ball to their wingers and isolate the fullbacks.

Blake struggled to connect with teammates.

Blake struggled to connect with teammates.

Player ratings

Andre Blake – 9

Even on the penalty that got past him, Blake dove the right way. He was locked in from the outset and showed the confidence to dominate his box.

Fabinho – 5

A languid performance from the Brazilian as he granted Rowe time and space but kept the winger from getting in behind.

Ethan White – 5

White did a fine job keeping Charlie Davies out of dangerous areas, and he came alive in the last ten minutes of the match, accumulating three clearances and a successful tackle inside the area. Additionally, White’s positioning was superior to what he showed earlier in the year, and that was key with a defensive debutant in back.

Union fullbacks were under quick pressure at all times in the first half and made little headway up the flanks.

Union fullbacks were under quick pressure at all times in the first half and made little headway up the flanks.

Steven Vitoria – 5

A Vitoria and White combo was always going to have issues moving the ball, and New England exacerbated those problems by marking Maidana out of the match and allowing Creavalle to be the main outlet out of the back. Creavalle struggled, and so did the back line.

Andrew Wenger – 5

Wenger is no stranger to playing in the back, though it has been a while since the No. 1 overall pick spent time in defense (outside of that recent friendly in Lancaster against Harrisburg). The first half was a bit of a mess, with the Revs pressure forcing Wenger to use his first option up the sideline over and over again. Furthermore, Philly rarely had enough of the ball to allow Wenger to overlap, which should be one of his main attributes in back.

Brian Carroll – 6

Carroll did the dirty work helping on the right flank where Ayuk and Wenger needed help keeping pressure on Chris Tierney and Diego Fagundez. In the second half, with the more-reliable Michael Lahoud in tow, Carroll shifted to the left channel and tried to smother Kelyn Rowe. The key to Philly’s strategy was to shut down the center of the pitch. And though it was on a knife’s edge for the first half hour, Carroll was instrumental in making that plan work.

Warren Creavalle – 4

Who keeps putting this fullback in midfield? Perhaps the energetic chasing is useful for killing games, but it is destructive to the Union’s shape when they are trying to bunker. Creavalle is a willing worker, but he is too focused on the ball in midfield, leaving gaps for the dangerous Lee Nguyen.

Eric Ayuk – 4

Isolated for most of the evening, Ayuk did manage to connect passes out of the defensive half in the second frame. Up until then, he was largely marginalized by Tierney’s pushes forward and New England’s possession advantage.

Zach Pfeffer – 3

Invisible. Pfeffer made zero forward passes in the offensive half in the first period, then made two out of five forward in the second half.

Fernando Aristeguieta – 7

Got the goal his effort, if not his technique, deserved. The big Venezuelan has a knack for getting the ball into the net, but he needs to do a better job holding it up for teammates. Too often Aristeguieta was dispossessed trying to hold the ball and look for runs.


Michael Lahoud – 7

A calming presence in the middle, it is clear that Lahoud and Carroll make things extremely difficult for the opposition whenever the Union are sitting deep.

Sebastien Le Toux – 5

In on the breakaway and snubbed his shot at Shuttlesworth.

Vincent Nogueira – 6

A 12 minute cameo to try and hold the ball more as the match wound down, Nogueira mostly chased the Revs deep lying players and helped seal the tie.

Geiger counter – 6

Alan Kelly had very little to do. He made the right call on a clear penalty and resisted New England’s other efforts to skim three points by going down easy.


  1. Agree with most. Le Toux had 2 brilliant cut backs. If we had a midfielder like Lampard (who runs into the penalty box at the right time and scored a nice goal like that over the weekend) then we could have won this game!
    Loved how they tried to take Wenger on time and time again (thinking he was the weak spot) but he resisted well and did great except for a corner he gave up when he tripped over his own feet, and for one bad pass.

  2. Andre Blake gets an 11 because as Nigel Tuffnel says . . . “it’s one louder”

  3. Zach Pfeffer might be the worst player in league history in aerial duels. I think Spike Lee may have written his movie with him in mind.

  4. negative comments on blake’s distribution seem harsh. if the union are bunkering, there wouldn’t be anyone up front to connect with. assume normal distribution of teammates, even by accident his completion percentage would improve and his attempts at completion would increase.

  5. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Yes, I am interested in Wednesday, but I would have liked a little more explanation of the declarative statements on Wenger as a defender. Why? Because an issue for the off-season will be whether he should return. He makes starter money; he has been replaced at left mid by the investment in Barnetta; and I think I remember that he may be at the end of his contract either now or soon.
    What you said was quite helpful, including tHe observation about Ethan White’s positioning, I would have liked the extra phrases of explanation that normally clarify your conclusions. You see things I miss, generally speaking, and I freely confess to greed for good information.

  6. Too high a score for Fabhino. Needs to be docked significantly for the dumb foul on the PK. Probably too high for the whole back line. The reason Blake was so good was that the rest of the defense was giving too many wide open looks.

    • agreed, he should be docked at least a point. it was a bone-headed and silly foul though possibly not as bad as his recent handball where he for some reason raised his hand up to punch the ball

  7. “This analysis will be short since the impression here at PSP is that people would rather read about Wednesday’s match.”
    You know your demographic very well. Yes, a few more details would have been nice, but we’re all clicking back looking for more USOC nuggets!
    That said, I am very much looking forward to the post-season review of Wenger at defense. The way he played Saturday makes me think he’s better than Fabinho, and potentially better than Gaddis, given time. Not to mention that he’s tall enough to make up for the aerial weaknesses of the other 2.
    But this is a discussion for a later date…

    • I think the interesting thing about Wenger is that he could, presumably, play either side in the back. Maybe not worth starter money, but a guy on your bench who can backup both fullback spots, both wing spots, and forward is part of building a smart roster when working on a limited budget such as MLS’s salary cap.
      That’s not even considering that he could be better than either (or both!) of Gaddis or Fabinho.

      • Everything you said is correct. And maybe he is worth starter money. That is the type of decision that will be need to be made this offseason. A guy who can play either outside back spot, with overlapping offensive skills, and can play on the wings in a pinch.
        He’s like the Union’s version of Greg Gross. (Did I just admit too much about my age?)

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        You haven’t admitted to nearly as much as some of the rest of us! I admit to Jim Bunning, Chris Short and Gene Mauch for the Phillies and Vada Pinson, Frank Robinson Roy MacMillan and Gordy Coleman for the Reds.


    Blake isn’t a surprise, but White is. Not that he wasn’t good, but TOTW good?

  9. Regarding our goalkeepers’ (notice the apostrophe placing) poor distribution…I have an idea…it is new and not happening anywhere else in the footballing world… spread the CB’s wide…drop Noguiera into the middle deep, push the outside backs up the field a bit and holy shit…. play the ball out of the back.
    With set tactical training…I’ve heard of this somewhere before…. it can be learned. Yup. I’m certain with some sophistication. Play the ball out of the back.
    You want to know what is So Union?
    Playing great defense…winning the ball and then punting it up the field or hoofing a 6 yard kick over the midline over and over and over – giving it right back to the other team.
    Let’s really look at this club overall goaltender distribution for what it is….the absence of PHILOSOPHY commensurate with the actual state of the game around the world…a 1996 American soccer hallmark —- yes it is and we get to see played out every week with this professional club.

    • You need to have players out of the back who can actually handle the distribution and make the right decision re: advancing the ball. First touch, ball control, passing accuracy are also all a huge part of this. Other than Mo, who do you trust out of the back to do this consistently, correctly? And until the recent acquisition of Barnetta, the outside midfielders didn’t exactly inspire first touch confidence either with LeToux, Wenger, Ayuk, and Pfeffer. I think the U plays long-ball out of the back more out of necessity than anything else.
      That said, if we can get our hands on Bedoya this off-season, there’s no excuse for not moving to a 3-5-2 posession-based formation next year instead of the 4-2-3-1 counterattacking style.

      • Agreed VDS. I like Marquez. Edu. I like Wenger as an OB, been arguing for that for a while. I do not trust Ray in this style of play…but hey one thing at a time and I believe he would suffice. I like the midfield of Noguiera and Barnetta and (?) Maidana maybe. So what do we need then? A striker unlike Sapong to keep the back four of the other team honest because he can get behind.
        This is a strong and fairly technical group. This is a bloodline capable of a possession style.
        The greater question in my mind VDS is not the horses but the acumen of the jockey. Does the jockey have the intellect to instill this mind state and playing philosophy in the team. Maybe he does but I am highly doubtful. Either way…to be booting the ball up field over and over and feeding possession then blaming the goalkeepers for poor distribution, is…
        Which brings us all the way back to the start of a circumnavigated circle and the lack of a GM to institute said philosophy. Coaches come and go. Philosophy stays. I could care less if Jim Curtin is the manager of this team in three years.

      • Osager, never mentioned the 3-5-2 before for next year.
        Pachyderm. You are correct. We need a forward who isn’t a target guy to make it work. Needs to be a speed guy who can make runs all day long. And if we get Bedoya, that’s all we need, other than depth. I’d be fine with Ray as the right back and Richie as the left back, as long as Mo stays in the middle. Here’s how it would look:
        RB – Gaddis (Wenger or like)
        CB – Mo
        LB – Marquez (Fabihno or like)
        CDM – Lahoud (Carroll or like)
        CDM – Nogs (Pfeffer)
        RM – Bedoya (Ayuk)
        LM – Barnetta (Fabihno or like)
        CM – Chaco (Barnetta)
        Target F – CJ (Nando or like)
        Roving F – TBD
        Now this stated, I’m sure some of the guys like Carroll, Fabihno, Wenger, and even Nando won’t be back. At his number, Vitoria definitely won’t be back. So, assume like replacements for them.
        As for the coach…I think you have to give Jim the chance to affect this change, especially if he wins the USOC tomorrow night. Gotta give him the whole year if he brings us our first trophy. That said, a real Technical Director is needed and a front-man for the team is also needed. Sak is just such a negative presence that he brings down the entire fan base every time he makes an appearance or opens his mouth.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Have you matched salary data to player names, summed the data, and compared it to the salary cap? I have not; it is the next logical step to test the feasibility of your plan. As we are under it only with allocation money, I’m not clear where we would find the money to add Bedoya.
        As I watch Louis Van Gaal play three center backs with Man U, I notice that his outside flank maids drop back into the defensive line when they defend. I don’t follow Bedoya much, I am learning Barnetta. The later might be able to play that outside flank mid role. I have no idea of the former.
        Instinctively I don’t like Ray Gaddis as one of the three center backs, size and ball skills. You might do better with that being Wenger. And you’d have to remove body parts from Edu every time he made a forward run. Marquez I would trust.
        I have think more about the midfield before I can comment on the central triangle. The people would be Lahoud, Nogueira and Maidana.
        Sapong as your roving forward has the speed to threaten the space behind the opposing backs. Aristeguieta is a holding striker.

      • VDS stop trying to make “3-5-2” happen! It’s not going to happen!
        [at least not in Philadelphia]

  10. Maidana? Anyone? Anyone?

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