Player ratings

Player ratings & analysis: Union 3-0 New England Revolution

Photo: Paul Rudderow

It is tempting to look at the scoreline and think Philadelphia Union dominated New England Revolution on Sunday. That was not the case.

Instead, it is more accurate to say that Philadelphia Union executed their gameplan far better than the visitors. That, and avoiding pesky red cards, was enough to lift Jim Curtin’s men to six points, their first winning streak of the season (over two months before the Union’s first winning streak in 2015…bonus points if you remember who they beat).

Though the Union did not dominate, they deserve plenty of praise. Executing a gameplan as it is drawn up is a foundational step to finding the identity Philly has been lacking for the better part of all non-2011 seasons. Unsurprisingly, building a roster and a style of play from the same vision has allowed the Union to show an intelligence and confidence that is quickly turning skeptics into believers. But as Jim Curtin said after the match, there is still a lot of work to do.

To put the Union’s recent performances into perspective, imagine (as best you can) that you have no MLS allegiance, but, let’s say, oodles of MLS knowledge. Given the choice between Dallas’ roster and Philly’s roster, which one do you choose? Columbus or Philly? New England or Philly?

Even if the Union’s projected starting midfield was healthy, it is hard to picture a scenario in which the club’s roster is objectively judged to be better than that of their 2016 opponents. When Jim Curtin says everybody has to have a good game for his side to win, what he is saying is that, individually, the Union are not as strong as many of their competitors. But Curtin is also laying out the essential truth of soccer, something that could soon be known as the Leicester Law: Organization and purpose can go blow for blow with talent any day.

Know your opponent

New England is full of technicians. Everybody outside of Teal Bunbury is capable of making the extravagant pass, of playing the perfect long ball, or combining in tight triangles. The Union have chased the Revs in circles in the past, unable to close down the creators quickly enough to prevent New England from controlling long stretches of a match.

Sunday was different. Roland Alberg stayed close to Warren Creavalle and Brian Carroll, making it difficult for New England to calmly recycle play. Ilsinho wonderfully tracked Chris Tierney up and down the line, allowing Keegan Rosenberry to focus on staying tight to Ken Tribbett, who, in turn, was able to step up and close the space that Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez desperately wanted to occupy. CJ Sapong worked to close down the central defenders, forcing New England to bring midfielders deep to get out of the back.

In short, the Union funneled the Revs into the center then, impressively, smothered them.

To be fair, New England walked right into the trap. Jay Heaps elected to play Teal Bunbury and his boots of brick alone up top, with Kelyn Rowe and Diego Fagundez moving inside to overload the center and the fullbacks attempting to provide width. This is not a terrible plan on the surface, particularly given the Union’s penchant for leaving their defensive midfielders to hold down the fort while the attacking midfielder stays high to counter. But there were two big problems for the Revs.

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First, Ilsinho’s defensive work was largely stellar. Without Bunbury on a wing, Chris Tierney was New England’s best vertical option. The fullback pushed extremely high when Fagundez went central, but Ilsinho’s chasing meant that Keegan Rosenberry could hold a tight defensive line. Contrast this with how isolated the Union often left Ray Gaddis last season. Gaddis had an up-and-down year, but he experienced those ups and downs on his own, charging out to meet wingers and fullbacks who had far too much time to play balls behind him.

Second, the Revs were unprepared for the speed with which Philly’s back line stepped forward. This allowed the Union midfield to minimize gaps in the center and put more pressure on Scott Caldwell and Gershon Koffie to play quickly. Both players adjusted to the pressure, but were unable to pass through it, meaning the Revs were stuck passing the ball in a deep arc without threatening to penetrate the final third. Bunbury’s vertical threat could have helped open the field, but he was stuck up front wondering if he was getting slower or if Richie Marquez was actually that fast (hint: it’s the latter).

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Overall, the big takeaway is that Philly’s defensive effort stifled a team that is usually very good at navigating tight areas. But the biggest praise should be reserved for the Union’s full field defense, which caught New England completely off guard and directly led to the opening goal. The clip above highlights just how coordinated Philly was defensively, with pressure forcing New England backwards, then Pontius reading and reacting to play to make sure the ball couldn’t be switched. It’s a risky move by Pontius, but it’s the right one. And, most importantly, his decision-making is instantaneous (also note how the Union use Rosenberry to hold possession after winning the ball back).

First goal

CJ Sapong’s first goal of the season was not a pretty finish, but it was a deserved goal borne from smart movement and quick play. Walking through the entire move that led to the goal reveals the many small changes that driven the Union’s improved play this season.

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First, Chris Pontius chases a good early ball into the corner, then pressures Bobby Shuttleworth. The key to the entire sequence, though, is Roland Alberg’s complementary pressure that forces Je-Vaughn Watson to take the ball up the line. Watson skips by Alberg, but now he’s on the move, being chased, and needs to play a simple pass. He picks out Teal Bunbury checking in, but Richie Marquez is all over the striker and creates a loose ball. Notably, New England’s midfield is static with Watson on the move. Scott Caldwell doesn’t check from the center, meaning Bunbury is the only real option for Watson. Ilsinho has charged across the pitch to help compress space, so when Bunbury loses the ball, Philly has multiple bodies there to recover it.

When the Union have the ball, they quickly counter, and CJ Sapong circles behind Jose Goncalves so he can dart around without being tracked. When the cross comes in from Fabinho, Sapong sweeps in front of Goncalves and uses a bit of the defender’s leg to sneak the ball past Shuttleworth.

This sequence is so fun to watch because long-time Union fans have seen this happen to their team so many times over the past few seasons. Philly’s pressure point has been their passing out of the back, and teams have consistently targeted Ray Gaddis and Fabinho, locking them on the wing while the Union midfield remained too far away to help. Turnovers and aimless long balls were the most common results. Finally, it was Philly applying the defensive pressure.

Second goal

If the first goal highlights the Union’s more intelligent defensive pressure, the second goal shows how off the ball movement — even a few steps — can make all the difference. In the past, Philly has been so static offensively that kids are more likely to know the Vincent Nogueira ‘where are the options!?’ shrug than any player’s goal celebration.

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The second goal came off of a transition from a New England corner kick. Rosenberry receives the ball on the right and lofts a glorious lob into the Revs box to meet Sapong’s smart run into space. Goncalves pushes Sapong off the ball, but that’s where things get interesting. Despite the fact that Sapong made the initial run alone, Philly quickly has two additional players in the box. As a result, Goncalves cannot pass the ball out of the back and settles for a lame clearance that Warren Creavalle recovers.

The ball is worked back to Brian Carroll, and Keegan Rosenberry is pushing high and wide as an option while Fabinho does the same on the near side. Creavalle remains high, but once the ball is back on his side of the field, Creavalle takes a few steps toward the touchline, creating the space for Fabinho to play the ball down the line. Those few steps made all the difference.

Before moving on, Alberg’s movement on this play also deserves mention. Alberg was in the box when the ball was cleared, but once it moves back to Carroll, he — albeit slowly — checks in, pulling both central defenders. If Alberg walks back, the New England defense may not be in such disarray when Creavalle gets to the endline. They end up having to run back facing their own goal, which is something every defender hates to do.

Other highlights

A particularly loud shout out goes to Ilsinho, who was constantly tuned in to Chris Tierney’s movement throughout the match. Not only did this defensive work keep Tierney from serving balls into the box, it protected Keegan Rosenberry from getting caught between Tierney and Fagundez. Thus far, the biggest criticism one can make of Rosenberry is that he can struggle in one-on-one situations.

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And yeah, of course. He’s playing against a different caliber of player, and the Union need to make sure he can adjust to the speed and creativity of MLS attackers. Ilsinho coming back allowed Rosenberry to hold his spacing with Ken Tribbett instead of sprinting wide to stop crosses. Below, you can see that if Rosenberry had stepped to Tierney, Fagundez would have been able to move into a good position in the box and isolate Tribbett. Instead, the Union’s back four remained close, and Tierney settled for a blocked cross.

Rosenberry also deserves special mention because he has provided an incredibly welcome set of new ideas for the Union offense. In the past, Vincent Nogueira checked in extremely closely to the Union defenders because, frankly, they are not elite passers. Rosenberry? Oh, he can pass.

This has allowed Philly to hold possession even without Nogueira on the pitch. Even if Brian Carroll or Warren Creavalle are slow to provide options, Rosenberry can get himself out of tight situations and find good options. An additional bonus to the rookie’s skill set is that it forces the opposition to treat him as a creative force and pressure him. This takes the pressure off of Tribbett and Marquez, and the result is fewer aimless long balls.

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Still some issues

Though there was plenty to like on Sunday, there are plenty of underlying issues that the Union need to address going forward. First, despite the strong defensive effort and the subtle beauty of Sapong’s goals, the Union developed very few chances from their pressure. In fact, Sapong’s strikes were the only Union (non-penalty) shots on goal until Pontius popped Shuttleworth in the face in the 52nd minute. Even more worrying, the Union’s only other shot — on goal or not — before the 64th minute was a blocked effort that Alberg unleashed from somewhere in New Jersey.

Union shots prior to Je-Vaughn Watson's red card.

Union shots prior to Je-Vaughn Watson’s red card.

In other words, the Union converted the only two chances they created in the first 50 minutes of the match despite playing almost fifteen minutes with an extra man.

Furthermore, Sapong’s goals were his first two shots on frame all season. For those keeping track at home, that gives Sapong a 100% conversion rate for his shots on frame. That’s about as sustainable as a coal-driven plastics factory.

Sapong is playing at a high level right now. But even with contributions from the wings, Philly needs to find ways to create more shots for their striker. All of Sapong’s defensive work will be for naught if his only route to goal is off Jose Goncalves calves.

A final issue to note is that teams will be studying Philly’s defensive pressure, and there have been consistent soft spots that could be exploited in the future. Defenders that can carry the ball into midfield cause problems for the Union, though only Dallas has successfully turned those problems into goals. Maynor Figueroa’s crossfield balls opened up the field for Dallas, and Jose Goncalves caused issues when he strode across the halfline on Sunday. New England’s best offensive looks came from moving the ball to Goncalves, letting him collapse the defense, then finding Je-Vaughn Watson in space on the right. Philly’s quick pressure made this a rarity, but as teams learn to look for that option, adjustments will be needed.

The second issue is similar to the first. Philly’s pressure requires them to compress space on the ball-side of the pitch. This can leave gaps on the opposite side, but teams will struggle to find that space if the Union’s pressure keeps heads down.

But the Union are vulnerable when holding midfielders can read the pressure and play behind it. For example, in the 26th minute, Koffie collects the ball near the halfway stripe and only has eyes for Tierney. But Alberg is caught upfield and Carroll is following Rowe’s run, leaving a cutback lane to Lee Nguyen wide open. That lane will often be there when Philly puts high pressure on the holding midfield, and Alberg needs to finish the play by dropping deep. Notably, Alberg was often very aware of his defensive duties for much of the match, so this is not intended to call him out more generally.

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Finally, one of New England’s better chances of the first half came when Philly turned off after a foul in midfield. Players put their heads down and walked back, leaving Fabinho stranded between his position and Lee Nguyen, who played the ball into space behind him and almost turned the subsequent pass into a big chance. Those moments are reminiscent of past Union teams and need to be drilled out over the coming months.

Player ratings

Andre Blake – 8

Think about Philly’s goalkeeping situation at this time last season. Now don’t think about it ever again because: Andre Blake.

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Keegan Rosenberry – 8

It will be extremely interesting to see how teams adjust to Rosenberry. Since the Dallas debacle, the rookie fullback has become an incredibly effective safety valve that takes pressure off the defense and links play in a way that simply is not possible without him on the pitch. It is not a coincidence that Tribbett and Marquez are playing fewer long passes these days. When trouble comes calling, it is safe to play Rosenberry, even when he’s pressured.

Ken Tribbett – 7

No nonsense performance from the rookie defender. Giving Rosenberry protection by asking Ilsinho to drop deep has helped Philly’s back line develop better structure, and Tribbett has flourished in a system that makes his decision-making simple. That isn’t to say he isn’t capable of more, but Philly fans have seen plenty of central defenders wither under MLS pressure, so giving Tribbett time to adjust by keeping things from getting too complex has been great to see.

Marquez and Tribbett first half passing

Marquez and Tribbett first half passing

Richie Marquez – 7

Tribbett’s consistency has given Marquez license to be aggressive tracking strikers into midfield and cheating toward Fabinho. The Brazilian fullback likes to get upfield, and the Union need to make sure they are prepared for teams to look for the space behind when Fabi is caught high. Marquez is learning to read the game and cover that space when he sees opponents have time to look up. But when they don’t, he stays tight to the striker. It’s smart, it’s fun to watch, and it gives Philly the harder edge they need.

Fabinho – 7

Not his greatest assist, but Fabinho will take it after such a rough start to the season. When his aggression doesn’t get him into trouble, it is very effective, as the interceptions continue to pile up. Look for opposing coaches to learn from Jay Heaps’ mistake and put more vertical options on Fabinho’s side in the future. It just doesn’t make any sense to match up against the Brazilian with players who can’t get in behind. It’s so clearly his major weakness.

Brian Carroll – 6

BC is at his best when you rarely notice him. With Creavalle all-action, Carroll held the middle far better than in past weeks, letting play come to him instead of trying to do what his legs can no longer do: Close space quickly in open field.

Warren Creavalle – 8

I mean, come on. Can you ask for more from a guy who came into the season somewhere between sixth and seventh on the central midfield depth chart? Creavalle was largely mistake-free on Sunday, showing why Dom Kinnear once thought he was Houston’s solution in midfield. When Creavalle keeps things simple defensively instead of following the ball, he’s such an incredible nuisance. Additionally, his athleticism has been a huge boost to the Union’s defensive pressure in the opponents’ half. If he keeps his spot in the first eleven (and can Jim Curtin really pick Nogueira over Creavalle right now?), it will be interesting to see if Creavalle can continue to get into good attacking positions below the opponent’s box. Few Union midfielders have dared to go so deep in recent seasons.

Roland Alberg – 7

Well this really could not have worked out better for Jim Curtin. Alberg was a defensive pest with a hard edge, and he was a willing runner behind the play, giving Philly an option at the top of the box that they failed to exploit. Curtin talked about getting Alberg on the ball more in the future, but the biggest key is getting the ball on Alberg’s feet around the box so he can unleash that shot.

Ilsinho – 8

In my opinion, Ilsinho was the key to Philly’s victory. New England wanted to pull people out of the middle by playing outside-in through Tierney, and Ilsinho’s defense made that much more difficult. Additionally, it took pressure off the rookie right side of defense while giving the Union a player who drifted centrally to open space in the right channel for Sapong. Ilsinho has shown off his foot skills and his powerful drive in the past, but this was a performance that put the team first. Great to watch.

Chris Pontius – 6

Workmanlike applies here. Pontius did all the little stuff, including a driving run to the back post that almost netted him goal number three on the season. Additionally, Pontius is reading the game better defensively, stepping across the formation to pressure when he thinks he can keep play from switching to his side but dropping back when the press isn’t on. It’s the type of nuanced pressure that Sebastien Le Toux and Andrew Wenger struggled to grasp last year on the wings (though they were hardly the only ones who struggled defensively in 2015).

CJ Sapong – 10

You want more shots out of your striker. But if he scores two goals… you can save the complaints for another day. Sapong spent much of the first two matches of the season wrestling with big central defenders. On Sunday, he mixed in some hard checks and some intelligent runs across the formation. After three games, Sapong has four interceptions. Last year, he had nine in 18 appearances, the most of any full-time striker in MLS. Philly’s defense starts with him, which is why Jim Curtin pointedly said he wants Sapong to continue working on that side of his game going forward.

Substitutes

Sebastien Le Toux – 7

Le Toux’s defense is so much better when the Union have the lead. Seba wants so badly to score when behind, that he continuously creeps upfield, eventually caught out or stuck so high that he has no space to run by defenders. Entering later in the match, Le Toux has found that his energy can’t be match by opponents, and he has created and scored a goal in consecutive matches.

Leo Fernandes – 7

Two shots on goal and an assist in 13 minutes? That’ll do.

Fabian Herbers – 6

Herbers came on in the 90th minute and tore it up. Two shots — one on frame — and a constant threat meant that the Revs were never able to create a late push. Look at this 90th minute run to create space for Le Toux through the middle. Not only does Herbers pull Goncalves wide, but then he stays aware and nearly opens his MLS account.

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Geiger Counter – 6

Two penalties and a red card? That’s a lot of work in one match. Nima Saghafi made confident calls throughout, and even if the second penalty was debatable, the first and the red card were not. Quick, decisive work from the man in the middle.

102 Comments

  1. This game proved that being solid but unspectacular will get you pretty far in the MLS.
    .
    There were times where Carroll was the defender furthest back on the field. I swore he was playing Sweeper at points.
    .
    Fabhino had a bad game. If New England had actually attacked him up his channel he would have fouled out of the game. But they went after Rosenberry and he was more than up to the task.
    .
    Barnetta better get back fast because there was no final ball to unlock the defense. I was missing Maidana by the 15th minute.
    .
    The second penalty was not debatable. I was in 138 I was looking right at it dude bumrushed and pretty much tackled Sapong in the box. Clear penalty. First penalty was on the other side can’t say about that one.
    .
    Blake needs to kiss them goalposts.
    .
    Letoux was very meh but he scored a goal so all is forgiven.
    .
    This is the only game where I simultaniously thought the Union were unspectacular and should have scored 7 goals. Weird.

    • first penalty was a foul in the box. harsh? perhaps, but better defenders don’t allow committing the foul as their only option.

      on the goalposts, since i was at the other end, i didn’t appreciate the double bounce.

      agreed on that 7 too.

    • Yeah it looked like the strategy was when the fullbacks pushed up to drive the attack up the flanks, Carroll was supposed to drop back into the middle for that sweeper position and let the center backs spread a little bit, to make sure the backline was covered across the field until the fullbacks got back into position. I saw him do that several times throughout the game.

  2. Others seem to have noticed this too, but Carroll was doing exactly what Curtin said they would do during preseason. Drop a midfielder in between the center backs when defending. He was really far back at times.
    .
    So looking forward to Chicago, assuming Nogueira is healthy and you want to drop Carroll, is that a role Creavalle can handle? He looked really good when given more freedom. Or do you leave Nogueira on the bench?
    .
    I’m hoping Nogueira and Creavalle can be out there together, but if not Carroll did the job. Carroll with the ball at his feet looked a little lost.

    • Really interesting to see what happens in the midfield once we get Barnetta and Nogs back. Great problem to have as we have a bunch of guys playing pretty well early. I think that Creavalle can without a doubt handle the #6 role as he really seems to be a similar player to Edu to me and Edu at the #6 was the plan going into the year. I would be interested in keeps Creavalle at the #8 and try Nogs at the #6 though for a more attacking look.
      .
      The thing I like the most about our 3 new midfielders (Ilsinho, Alberg, and Pontius) is that even though they are good on o, they all seem willing to do the dirty work and we know Barnetta and Nogs will do the dirty work too.

    • Zizouisgod says:

      I honestly think that it will be Noguiera and Creavalle with Nogs dropping into that deeper role. He doesn’t fit that defensive midfielder role, but can be that deep lying playmaker while Creavalle goes box-to-box and looks to apply pressure further up the field.

    • Why not drop Nogs in the hole to pass out the back leave Crevalle in the middle he can drop after the ball gets pushed up field.

      • Great question. Why not? How much fun would it be watching Noguiera with time to spread the ball around? Let’s hope.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      In the impending Chicago game, checking the injury report will be important. David Accam did not play in their most recent outing last Friday. The absence noticeably affected their offensive threat level.

  3. 700 chopper says:

    We won 3-0 it should have been 5-0 and probably 6-0 so It was wonderful to watch but at the same time a little nerve wracking but hey almost top of the table ain’t too shabby

  4. I thought it was DC, then columbus. The Zach Pfeffer goal then 3-0, with a hideous clark error, Williams and sapong had 2 of the other goals? For the first win streak of last year that it

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      DC & NYRB?? Only reason I have any idea is I think I read it recently.

      • Yeah, I think you got it there. We went to red Bull arena and won for the first time ever. More incredible that it took that long last year, or that we did it in 3 games this year?

  5. Great stuff Adam. Totally agree about Herbers. Loved that play, watching him drift away and create space and then be able to pickup the pass and take a shot. Love it. One of those things I love in this game is seeing intelligent movement like that. Or a defense splitting pass…the best. I always think of Fuchs pass to Vardy on his record breaking goal…just sickeningly beautiful. Gah, I need some games midweek…need more…must watch…
    What? No, I don’t have a problem. I’m fine, I…pssh addiction? Don’t make me laugh. Haha. Ha.

    • Jim Presti says:

      Herbers’ movement is nothing like we’ve seen from Union strikers in the pass. He will be a refreshing option and hopefully a key piece moving forward.

    • If you watched the Europa League group-stage games, then you have a problem. Otherwise, you’re fine.

    • Can we be done with the silly DP striker conversation now? Never thought the money was there anyway and the 2 players we have playing up there have been quite good over these first 3 games. CJ was the only guy who I thought was any good week one, and everyone seems to be highlighting how well herbers has played (albeit in very limited time). Let’s at least let some more of the season play out now before we talk any more about this. Like, maybe revisit when the summer window opens.

      • pragmatist says:

        I think this is exactly why Earnie wasn’t in a hurry to spend the money. They felt they might have the guys on the roster already.
        .
        I’d rather not spend the money, as opposed to spending the money on the wrong guy. *cough*Lampard*cough*Gerrard*cough*

      • Yes, we can be done … tomorrow. 😉

  6. Zizouisgod says:

    Adam – Your breakdown of the Union’s tactics was masterful. Absolutely fantastic! Thanks for taking the time to do this with the GIF clips, I really appreciate it.

  7. Andy Muenz says:

    The only call I think the ref got clearly wrong led to one of the most exciting plays in the game. When I rewatched the game, the foul that led to Nguyen hitting both posts looked like a no contact slip by Nguyen that shouldn’t have been a foul.
    .
    Other than that, it was definitely a good start for Mr. Saghafi.

  8. ebradlee10 says:

    Love the videos along with the analysis. Great work, Adam. Thank you.

    • Just Rob f/k/a Rob127 says:

      Agreed. Let’s make this a staple of the player ratings and analysis.

      • I’m getting more efficient at making the clips. As long as I have time, I’ll include them! (so in other words… likely to be fewer clips after midweek games).

      • i remember the days when i didn’t lose 30 mins on the ratings and analysis. 🙂
        it’s only gotten better.

  9. Might have been a little generous to CJ. I would have given CJ a 9 due to his stats. I don’t remember ever saying WOW! that was awesome in regards to his play. I’m looking for a brace like Felipe’s last week for the Red Bulls to give a 10. Very good game from him though.

    Fabi is a 6 in my books. Yes made an assist, but got burnt bad again and had to take a yellow. Saw he made SBI best eleven again! You know me, unload him for some value if you get a chance and find a better defender to replace.

    I remember thinking during the game that the Rev’s one center back looked very top heavy and slow. His build looked like a guy you would find in a rec league. I was hoping someone would get into a foot race with him on a through ball or something to exploit him. Never came. But got me thinking…..who is fast enough up top or on the wings for us that could win a foot race? Only guy I can think of is Le2. Seems like it’s a week spot for us if true.

    Even though Crevalle had a good game, you got to start your more talented player in Nogs every day of the week until he shows you he is out of form.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Your NE CB describes Andrew Farrell, I would guess.
      .
      No, we do not have a genuine “burner” on the first team; he’s currently playing right center back for the Steel.

    • Jim Presti says:

      Sounds like Farrell, who at one point was an incredibly athletic RB.

    • Felipe wouldn’t get a 10 for that game, even though both goals were excellent; he was trash until that first shot went in.

    • So I think CJ would have gotten a 9 for his offense, but dude had a bunch of recoveries and two interceptions in the last 20 minutes of the game. That’s a huge contribution from a striker when you’re trying to close things out. That’s what pushed him over the top for me.

    • I love that y’all are debating 9 vs. 10 for a guy, instead of 3 vs. 4 like so many of the prior years.

  10. Old Soccer Coach says:

    To reinforce the solidity of the second PK call, check the photo gallery of the game at philly.com/sports. The photographer’s first name is Clem, I am certain, Murray, I am not? He has two shots of the PK’s foul. The evidence rises to the standard of “clear and convincing.” Sieve! Is absolutely spot on on the the point.

    • I thought tackling with the hands wasn’t allowed in this kind of football. Just because most refs let that sort of thing go, despite the fact it is an actual foul, doesn’t mean it was a soft call. This was part of the reason after the game, I said the new ref called the game “honestly”.

      • pragmatist says:

        I’m with you on that interpretation and I’d be ok if that continued. But players are taught that a certain level of physicality will be overlooked. It’s kinda rough when that’s a foul for one ref, but not for most others.
        .
        Again, I think it was a foul, too. But it’s frustrating from a player’s perspective to lack consistency.

      • My problem with this idea is there already IS inconsistency between MLS ref’s. Before watching the new ref, I couldn’t tell what was and wasn’t a foul. But this gentleman called the game in the spirit of the rules. If I were a player, I’d much rather know the game will be called by the book with one ref vs. not having a clue what the others may call one game to the next.

      • pragmatist says:

        I hear ya. But it’s like Traveling in the NBA. I know it’s illegal. You know it’s illegal. The players know it’s illegal. But we’re all still in shock when it’s actually enforced.
        .
        Or, a different way of looking at it, what is the strike zone? I know it’s from the knees to the chest. But each umpire seems to have a different zone they call.
        .
        No matter the sport, it’s hard to accept very penal outcomes to common occurrences when you aren’t sure how they will be called.

      • I can see your point, but I’m on the other side of it I guess. I’d rather rules be called by the book than a ref’s/ump’s/official’s discretion. Where you might be in shock when traveling gets called, I’m like it’s about damn time. When games/matches aren’t called by the book, that’s the failing and lack of quality of the official IMO.

      • pragmatist says:

        I would rather it all gets called, too. In a perfect world, that would be fantastic. But when it’s not called a majority of the time, you get used to that standard.
        .
        We’re in agreement on the philosophy. I just think the reality is frustratingly different.

      • Prag, when the day comes that we actually disagree on something, I will be floored.

  11. Roger That says:

    Interesting choices to make when Barnetta, Nogs and Edu are healthy again. Nice to have no questions about the backline. But just as nice is no longer fearing the game will go into the toilet as the subs begin to make their appearance … not accustomed to this phenomenon, depth.

    • Edu starts every game when healthy, no choice there. Depends what you’re looking for in the 6-8 mold. Nogs can dish no doubt, but he’s a major defensive liability. Lot of people above talking about Nogs at the 6, but that’s a really young and unsteady back 5. Tough call at 6 and 8 going forward…Edu and Creavelle maybe if Warren continues to perform? Plus, LA Galaxy are stacked at LB with Rogers, Cole, Van Damme…any of those players would be a massive upgrade to Fabihno.
      *
      7-10-11 is the real question. Basically, we’re going to have a pool of 4 quality, interchangeable starters (Barnetta, Alberg, Ilsihno, Pontius) and 2 quality subs (LeToux and Leo). Should work out though because of rest and injury concerns.

      • Only way Nogs at the 6 works is if we play either Gaddis or Anderson as an OB and tell them to stay back more. Just not enough cover otherwise.

      • Nogs played at the 6 when he was with Sochaux. I’m sure he could fill in without a problem, and be more of a deep playmaker in the Pirlo mold.

      • Yep. Thing is if Nog is at the 6 and dropping between the centerbacks then you need someone like Creavalle or Edu who can play as a slightly advanced destroyer and cover a ton of ground. Carroll does not have the legs to do it anymore and Alberg or Barnetta are would be too offensive minded.

      • It’s not like LA has the other 2 riding the bench behind Cole as the LB. They switched Rogers to RB, and Van Damme was signed to replace Omar Gonzalez. I’d serch elsewhere.

  12. Adam, your analysis continues to impress. I learn something every week.

  13. Old Soccer Coach says:

    In traditional Japan, a respected teacher receives the honorific “sensei” after his name from his students.
    .
    Thank you, Cann-sensei.

    • Looking at Pilla and Leno during pre and halftime shows just makes me angry. I want to know who’s idea it was to have neophytes trying to explain footy to the masses. Adam Cann, I will trumpet your cause till the ones in charge come to their senses. The Union’s coverage of their team is a joke (J.P. excluded).

  14. Another thought I had if Barnetta and Nogs are healthy do you put them both in the defensive role. Alberg provides some interesting things up top with spacing and defensive work rate in the middle of the pitch and seems to work well with Ilsinho and Pontius interchanging.
    .

    If healthy I think you could go with:
    CJ
    Pontius Alberg Ilsinho
    Nogs Barnetta ( I think these 5 should be in the middle of the pitch as much as possible together.) They are the most skilled players on the team and clearly need to be getting starters minutes. Even when Edu came back I might relegate him to the bench unless he can beat someone out for a spot. He first would have to beat out Carroll and Crevalle for the bench spot though.
    Fabi, Marquez, Tribbet, Rosenberry
    Blake

    You can then bring in Le Toux for either wing, Crevalle to either CDM spot sliding up Barnetta and removing Alberg, Carroll can also come in if game needs to be killed off. Or more attacking threats you keep Herbers on the bench and push CJ to the wing.

    • It’s a great question. We do have flexibility with a lot of these midfielders. Will be very interesting to see how we can make them fit as the year goes on. It is nice to be able to roll out lineups with different skill-sets based on the opponents style or conditions though.
      .
      I am a little afraid of our defense if we trot out Nogs and Barnetta in the DCM spots, especially since our intention is to play the #6 as a CB on the attack. I would think playing them both there would require us to play a 3-5-2/3-6-1 for extra cover (which is not something I would be opposed to, just not sure our backline could handle that right now as it takes a lot of coordination to work).

      • Jim Presti says:

        A backline with Edu may be able to handle it. Both Edu and Marquez are athletic and skilled enough to track down opponents on the counter

      • I don’t think Edu is going back to CB. and that is a good thing. His skill set belongs in the Midfield

      • pragmatist says:

        More than that, there is no need to stall the development of the 2 young and successful CB’s we already have playing.

      • Jim Presti says:

        3-5-2 with a CB pairing of Marquez, Edu, Tribett

    • I share A’s worry about the defensive midfield.
      .
      I think one of Edu, Creavalle, or Carroll need to always be on the field.
      .
      ………..CJ………..
      Alberg…Barnetta…Ilsinho
      ……Noggy…..Edu…….
      Fabi…Marq…Tribs…Rosenberry
      ……….Blake…………..
      Bench: Herbers, Le Toux, Pontius, Creavalle, Anderson, Gaddis, Matt Jones

      • If they want to really try and control possession then maybe they could role out with Nogs in the 6 but the CBs would really need to stay focused. Nogs has always liked to stay deep and Edu has always pushed up, but the fact that we had Carroll dropping as a sweeper last game makes me think that positional responsibilities are really being drilled into the teams head. This may mean that Nogs and Edu may locate themselves different than we have become accustomed, time will tell though. They have an o shape and a d shape and each spot needs to be covered as quick as possible.
        .
        Not going to find out for awhile because of Edu’s injury but it is going to be hard for Curtin to take Creavalle out of the 8 spot right now.

      • Agreed.
        .
        The thing that Creavalle brings to the team is the ground he can cover to break up plays (much like Edu can). But I would trust Noggy’s passing out of the back more then say Carroll’s if the plan is to drop a midfielder between the centerbacks.

  15. Lots of interesting stuff about the future of the midfield! If there are topics/moments people want to see discussed in the post-match pieces, feel free to tweet me at @PSPadam so I can make sure I’m not missing things!

    • pragmatist says:

      I think that at the end of the day, the big question will be, “Are we spending too much money on our subs?” That could be Nogs, Barnetta, Edu, Alberg, Ilsinho, or Pontius. All high-priced players. Could the money for one of them be better spent somewhere else?
      .
      That’s the uncomfortable conversation that needs to take place when they all get healthy, and before the summer transfer window. Well, before next year’s winter window, anyway.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        An alternative way to look at what you describe might be summarized as “useful depth,” emphasis on “useful.”

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Follow-up thought: the distribution of money by positions on the field is probably pretty unusual for the 2016 spring Union. Fabinho is the highest paid starter and the only one likely over $100k. Blake is next at $85k plus his 2016 incremental raise, Rosenberry is not a GA but was signed in advance, so he may be slightly higher than $60k, Marquez is $60k plus his 2016 incremental raise, and Tribett is almost certainly $60k as he is too old to get the $50k package. The two most expensive defenders without doubt are the unknown but presumably higher salaries of Jones at GK and Anderson at CB.
        .
        That’s under $500K for five starters.

      • Blake is as still a GA too so he doesn’t count against the cap.
        .
        And Gaddis I believe makes a decent amount of money. But like you said, the starters aren’t making much.

      • pragmatist says:

        I’m fine if the club butts up against the cap, if they are getting the most out of the roster, and the players are happy in the system.
        .
        My only concern is about guys who start becoming discontent because they aren’t getting the minutes they feel they deserve. I like Curtin, but a mutiny might be outside of his comfort level.
        .
        Again…maybe these guys sit around singing Cumbaya on a Saturday night when half of them don’t see the field. That’s great. But they are pros, and they want to play. It’s always a hot-button issue, at almost all clubs in all sports.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Way too early to be certain about the role BSFC will play in addressing that concern, way too early.
        .
        Fact: Restrepo started for BSFC v. Georgetown Sunday AM. Interpretations of the fact are myriad.
        .
        Fact: the bottom eight of the Union’s 26 on any given day could, repeat could, get minutes with BSFC if the necessary loan agreement includes a recall provision. We have no data yet that suggests whether that which under the rules could happen will in fact do so. The next datum in that puzzle will be the roster that BSFC carries when they have to comply with USL roster rules.

      • pragmatist says:

        Can you see any of our high-priced midfielders playing in BSFC for any reason other than recovery from injury?
        .
        Again, we’ll know more when salaries are released, and at the moment this is a good problem to have. But there is a potential day of reckoning on the horizon.

      • we look to have healthy options in the depth chart at most positions. it’s a wonderfully foreign concept for this team.

      • pragmatist says:

        I agree completely. And honestly, I’m ok with keeping all of them. Question is, are all 7 of them ok with it? Because that’s 7 guys for 5 spots. And that doesn’t mention Creavalle, Leo, or LeToux.

      • Well at this point still like Le Toux as a sub and is professional enough to handle it. Crevalle depends on the injury depth. Leo is where I find the odd man out as I don’t think he really cuts it. He isn’t bad as a 4 or 5 option on a wing or a 6 or 7th option at the 10 but does this put you on the 18 week after week. I’m not so sure about that.
        .
        I’ve always been pushing for them to drop Edu’s contract along with him so if there was one odd man out I feel it is him especially now with the injury. If the team is flowing without him what value is there in keeping him as your only DP even if he is not needed.

      • pragmatist says:

        Yeah, I’m trying not to discard Edu. I have a feeling he has the ability to add a huge dynamic to this team when he comes back. His strength and athleticism would be a fantastic addition to the high press this team wants to play.
        .
        We’ll have a better idea in May when the salaries are released.
        .
        Hey, maybe they are all fine splitting minutes. That would help us immensely, particularly if we are better than expected and make the playoffs. Fresh, healthy legs are always better.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        The prices for our midfielders are completely another story, of course! Creavalle was cut and resigned, so we have only an unknown modification to his old salary, Fernandes is probably the 2016 incremental raise above $60k, and They picked up Le Toux’s option, so he is north of $275k. Revisit the salary data late in May, assuming the Players Association publishes on past schedules.

      • If the team continues to stay near the top of the table, problematic discontent will be hard to find.
        .
        But if a bad slide takes place, JC will have the important opportunity to demonstrate the depth of his competency as a player manager at this stage of his coaching career.
        .
        Though it is not an easy tension to manage, it’s an inevitable part of the journey toward becoming an “experienced” coach/manager.

  16. Adam.
    .
    Your work is peerless.
    .
    Sincerely,
    .
    a Fanboy.

      • I’m reminded of the Boston bar scene when Casey Affleck says, ‘my boy’s wicked smart.’
        .
        Adam is one of the few people I won’t go toe to toe with… don’t want to wind up holding my pony tail in a beer stein with a tail between the legs saying, ‘No. There’s no problem here.’

      • But see, that’s the thing. If you do challenge Adam on something, he explains himself in a way in which he doesn’t demean your opinion. He doesn’t make you feel small. He grabs a second chair. Asks you to sit down. And calmly goes about drawing you into a conversation (which at least two people are needed). He doesn’t preach. Though his teachings are like commandments that people actually want to follow.

      • It’s more about wanting you to not be reluctant of getting your butt handed to you, in a nice way, with a smile and a hand shake. Then sharing a nice hand-crafted micro brew over wings or a bushel of crabs. ONE of the many wonderful things about Adam (and the PSP staff) is he invites the conversation. Damn special. IMHO.

      • Quite a compliment…
        .
        May we all intentionally seek to take such an approach in all interactions with people… both virtually and in real life well beyond this site.

      • In fairness, PSP commenters make it easy because they want to discuss, not argue. The way people respond to my ratings is pretty fantastic. The disagreements aren’t just bald statements like, “WRONG, SHOULDA BEEN A 4!” They’re thoughtful and often well-justified. I think the closest I’ve been to arguing on this site was a discussion about whether not being able to be truly objective meant everything was relative. Which is just an absurd and amazing thing to end up talking about in a soccer blog’s comment section.

      • Neutrino.
        .
        I’m afraid of not leaving a mark
        — of moral relativism
        the gravity of choice
        and consequence
        .
        ——– of passing through
        so many things
        without ever
        touching
        .
        anything
        within them
        .
        they may never know
        .
        I was here.
        .
        .
        Relativism. An interesting idea.

      • +1!

      • Such a classic scene.

      • El P: The comments above from you and Adam Cann had no reply options, so I’m replying here regarding your Neutrino comment and the prose that followed.
        .
        Lucent.
        .
        The older I get, the less concerned I am about leaving a mark in the sense of accomplishing what many think is success. The seen.
        .
        Far from attaining the standard, I hope to leave a mark in a more unseen way… not unlike dark matter. You know it’s been there by the effect of its presence.
        .
        Wait, this is a soccer blog. It must be past my bedtime.

  17. Superlative analysis, Adam, as usual. Calling out Ilsinho for his defensive work is particularly insightful. Now, when you say that “Organization and purpose can go blow for blow with talent any day”… we have to credit Jim Curtin for that, do we not?

    I was particularly impressed with Creavalle, who did yeoman’s work handling some fine Revolution players. I certainly think he has to get the nod to pair with Nogueira when the Frenchman is back on the pitch; but pairing with him will be very, very different than pairing with Carroll, and Creavalle will have to adjust his game accordingly (and substantially).

    • Speaking of Ilsinho… Unfortunately, I was unable to watch the game. I heard that Ilsinho had some great moves (i.e. elastico). Alas, I can’t find those types of highlights anywhere.
      .
      If anyone finds a clip or a GIF, I’d be grateful for the link! (For now, I’ll just imagine that it may have been something like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gNl0oEdgRg)
      .
      P.S. I really wish Comcast Sportsnet coverage would provide more than a bare minimum mention with short clips of goals. Even one short clip of a post-game interview would be nice. Or maybe

      • I counted three elasticos. three. Ilsinho plays with swagger… people can say whatever they want about him.
        .
        in a stateside game devoid of individual creativity, save the highlight reel that is Sebastien Giovinco… our right midfielder plays with swagger. And that’s enough for me.

      • He without a doubt has dribbling skills and the swagger to use them. This is something sorely missing in MLS and American soccer in general. I am excited to see how he’s playing in a month as he gets into shape and gets used to the league and his teammates.

      • Easy to forget that he is actually a few months younger than Barnetta. Both I think have at least 2-3 high level seasons left in them.
        .
        Alberg at only 25 is exciting too.

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    roster, the XI and the bench. I don’t think that finances should be the dominant factor in those decisions.

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