Player ratings

Player ratings & analysis: Orlando City 2-2 Philadelphia Union

Photo: courtesy of Philadelphia Union

Note: Due to the compressed nature of Philadelphia Union’s current three-game stretch before the Copa America Centenario break, this will be an abbreviated, gif-heavy ratings post.

The Union got points from some ugly matches when Vincent Nogueira was hurt earlier this season. Then they got a bit classier when he returned. With the Frenchman on the shelf again, it’s back to ugly. But as Jim Curtin said after the match when he was “giving credit” to just about every person, place, and thing in Orlando on Wednesday: It’s all about getting those points. And the Union keep doing it.

The Union were comprehensively outplayed in the first half. They were slow to close down the ball, slow to transition (knowing you’re playing at altitude 1,550 miles away again in only two days can have that effect), and extremely impatient going forward. Below, Sebastien Le Toux forces a cross into the box when the Union are outnumbered instead of waiting for Rosenberry’s late run. Overlooking that run once or twice is fine, but at this point it’s pretty clear: Rosenberry is always going to be making that late run. Look for it.

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This is simply not a team that can succeed if they lose the midfield battle and, to be frank, they lost it on Wednesday for 45 minutes. Below, you can see how easily Orlando City picked through Philly’s defense when pressure on the ball was slow to arrive.

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Additionally, Orlando gave future opponents a blueprint for attacking the Union by spreading out the midfield and moving forward one zone at a time, pulling Philly’s midfield forward then slotting the ball behind it to Kaka.

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That said, Brian Carroll and Warren Creavalle did an excellent job protecting the back four and the defense acquitted itself fairly well. Philly ended up playing a relatively strong road game but did very little going forward. How come?

Barnetta is so close to making the Union a great attacking team

After the match, Jim Curtin talked about Tranquillo Barnetta being a “modern day No. 10” that needed to see a lot of the ball. This is odd because that is more of the classic No. 10. The modern 10 should be far more efficient, feeling out spaces and making the most of the opportunities he gets in what is often a very crowded middle third. Barnetta is modern in that he puts forth a huge defensive effort each time out, but he’s not so much a modern No. 10 as he is a winger in his on-the-ball decision-making.

Barnetta is at his best when he comes deep and then rolls off midfielders into space in front of the opposition defense. From these positions, he advances the ball quickly and either looks for a wide option or flares an aerial ball through the box. There is, it should be emphasized, nothing wrong with this approach. But for a player who carries the ball into good positions so often, Barnetta is very willing to then put the ball into less dangerous positions. This is a bit like coming to Philly for the first time, going to Pat’s or Geno’s, and asking for a turkey melt. That’s still a good sandwich, but there was a better option.

The important variable for Barnetta is how close he gets to the box before spraying the ball wide. The Swiss man makes such excellent runs that he often finds enough space to drive right up to the edge of the box. At this point, playing the ball wide is less effective because there is less space to whip in a cross behind the retreating defense; they’ve already retreated.

If Barnetta turns, sees the defense retreating, and plays the ball wide, then he can join the rush into the box and the cross can come in behind a chaotically backpedalling defensive line. Alternatively, Barnetta can draw a defender and look to slot C.J. Sapong in behind the defense. Last, he could slap a shot on frame and the team can look for rebounds. All three options are more likely to result in high percentage shooting chances than a cross coming in when defenders already have established positions on the six-yard box.

On Wednesday, Sebastien Le Toux got into a classic Barnetta position and picked out a wonderful pass to Sapong after drawing defensive attentions to himself. Only Joe Bendik’s quick thinking kept the Union’s striker off the scoresheet.

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Movement and patience

It can be hard to pick apart whether a team is impatient or just tired and lacking movement. So let’s just say there looked to be a bit of both on Wednesday.

One persistent issue Philly runs up against without Nogueira on the pitch is the inability to twist a midfield out of shape. Those little passes Nogueira connects with almost everybody force a defensive shape to collapse toward the ball, and that is when gaps open up and a good pass or two can set you on your way to goal. Sans Nogueira, Philly settles for long balls far more often, and this costs possession and control of the center. Below, you can see Pontius make a checking run, pull up short, get covered up, and remain still. Meanwhile, Brian Carroll doesn’t roll off his defender and get close to Richie Marquez to offer a short option. Marquez could have found Pontius quickly, but he missed him (which is both on Marquez and on Pontius for not getting in closer).

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Set pieces continue to pay off

Both of the Union’s goals came off of set pieces. Free kicks and corners are great equalizers in matches when a team can’t control the back and forth flow very well. Why? Because their outcomes are essentially random. So enjoy Philly’s fine run of set piece form right now because they, like everyone else, will regress to the mean before too long.

That said, it sure was fun to watch this impressive variation on the typical Union free kick on Wednesday.

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Exploding the Geiger Counter

Someone mentioned in a recently ratings post comments section that the Geiger Counter should operate like a real Geiger Counter. Great point, and I’m working on it.

But let’s just say that no matter how it works this week, it’s going to be very, very low. Because Sorin Stoica and his crew were like a sexy teen in a cheap horror flick: They made a lot of predictably bad decisions that let things spiral out of control to a horrific extent.

Let’s start with the thing Stoica got right. Blake fouled Kaka in the box. It was a penalty. Good call.

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Well done, Mr. Referee. But can you go two for two?

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Ooh, swing and a miss. Just one follow up question, and I’ll let Jim Curtin handle it.

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Alright, now how do we handle a striker charging into an exposed goalie who gets his hands on the ball?

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Huh. Ok…

Well how about a blatant push in the back?

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Right. Um, that was a blatant push in the back. If somebody did that to me in line at the movies, I’d be like, “Hey man, why’d you blatantly push me in the back?” If the response was, “So I could send a cross in to Cyle Larin,” I’d probably be pissed (unless I came to the movies with Andre Blake, in which case I know he would protect the goal… wait, how is that a goal??).

All right, let’s finish up with a countdown of Orlando City players that should be suspended. First up: Servando Carrasco. His crime? How about slicing the legs out from under CJ Sapong long, long, long, long after the ball is gone.

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You’ll have to do pretty well to beat that, Cristian Higuita. Luckily, you have a lot of practice. Let’s mix it up, though. How about something to the face region?

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That’s going to be tough to beat. David Mateos, you’ve already gotten away with a two-footed lunge in the box. What else you got?

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Ooh, a karate kick outside of the box! A huge surprise finish! And that’s good enough for the win!

Player ratings

Andre Blake – 5

A five because apparently he wasn’t fouled on the first goal… apparently. The foul on Kaka was a poor decision, but the save was huge.

Keegan Rosenberry – 5

Strong defense but not enough going forward from the rookie. How do you grade him for getting fouled by Kaka in the buildup to the second goal?

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Joshua Yaro – 7

Very strong until the shoulder injury.

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Richie Marquez – 6

A solid showing, but slow to move the ball around the back. Marquez is simplifying his game, though, and that’s a good thing.

Fabinho – 4

The Union needed more out of Fabi going forward, and they need him to stop sending low clearances into the center of midfield.

Brian Carroll – 5

Not a bad performance, but didn’t manage to control the center of the pitch with his usual vigor. He was a liability going forward because he could not both protect the back and get into good positions to work the ball up the pitch. I mean, he’s pretty old for a midfielder, and he’s running a lot. Hard to blame him.

Warren Creavalle – 5

Not one of Creavalle’s strongest showings at of the year. He had the same great defensive numbers he’s been accumulating all year, but he loses a point for his struggles passing the ball. When Philly plays with Carroll and Creavalle together, it’s the latter who has to get forward and be effective. He spent the first half passing backward and the second half passing wayward.

Tranquillo Barnetta – 7

A slow start was paired with a strong finish as the playmaker became more influential over time. Scored one and set up the second.

Sebastien Le Toux – 6

Great defensive work from Le Toux but he needs to use Rosenberry more in the buildups. Le Toux seems to grow in confidence as Pontius’ energy wanes.

Chris Pontius – 5

A wonderful header to set up Barnetta’s goal, but Pontius failed to assert himself on Kevin Alston, who is not very good.

CJ Sapong – 4

Sapong was absolutely beat up in this match and saw multiple strange calls go against him. He kept fighting but looked slightly off pace and didn’t get into positions to collect the ball with his feet.


Ken Tribbett – 8

Just like Rosenberry’s first career goal: Charge the net and the ball will find you. Strong, tough play coming off the bench.

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Fabian Herbers – 6

Had two chances to influence the match. One was a blistering shot that he did well to put on frame. The second was a great run toward goal that he inexplicably cut back when he should have shot. That goal is coming.

Leo Fernandes – n/a


Geiger counter – 1

See above. That was one of those performances that lead coaches to create new and better euphemisms to describe a referee.


  1. I feel like Rosenberry will get even better with a better winger in front of him.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Interesting that the guy tied for the second highest ranking was the one who came off in the first half when the Union were clearly outplayed. Not saying it’s wrong, just interesting…

  3. Wow I did not see that Carrasco foul live. That was…unbelievable. Completely malicious. I used to kind of like Orlando, but after this game…more than one player, Kaka included, playing so dirty and with real malice. It’s little scary actually. I’m still amazed at the Orlando fans who legitimately thought the Union didn’t deserve a point and Mateos didn’t deserve a red. What game were they watching?

    • Kaka’s behavior surprised me. Back in Philly in April he was the guy checking on Andre Blake when he was down (despite the fact Tribbett ran into him, Kaka had nothing to do with it). He did the same with Rosenberry later. He’s typically a sportsman, thought quite obviously not tonight.
      As for the rest of the goon squad, Mateos should have been off 3 times. Once for persistent infringement that should have resulted in 2 seperate yellows involving slide tackles, once for that two footed lunge in the box, and that 3rd time where he went all chuck norris on Herbers’ leg. The fact that Carrasco and Higuita survived the match is almost as appalling.
      But, after getting punched in the face twice this match, I’d like to give the inaugural “Iron Face” award to Seba for taking it like a champ and playing through the abuse.

    • Yea I was thinking the same thing. How soon would those types of punishments be dished out. Higuita probably won’t be, but Carrasco has to be suspended

  4. I did not recall seeing that Carrasco foul. It is unbelievable. But you didn’t play the Kaka yellow card, which was utterly malicious, to the face, and probably should have been a red. Orlando is a bunch of punks who have earned my utter contempt.

  5. Lucky Striker says:

    I thought Creavalle kept them in the game all night. Man of the Match for me.

  6. Blake did a running leap into the challenge. no foul.

  7. VAMOS O CITY says:

    HA! What a bunch of crapola! I’m sure Sapong couldnt have possibly been shoving people around? Philly players would never do such a thing.

    Are you people children?

    It’s a contact sport, anamosity builds, all teams are guilty of this. I’ve seen this kind of stuff done to Orlando players a 100 times. Grow the f up you chicknshts!

    Ha again.!

    • Jeremy Lane says:

      Is this the first time another team’s fan has come on PSP to bicker? I’m impressed. Not with the content or spelling, but with the commitment. Must be pretty mad they failed to win.

      • Yeah most don’t have the gall to show, so credit where it’s due I guess.

      • pragmatist says:

        The message boards on were particularly venomous.
        I’m starting to think they are a very frustrated fan base, and the volcano just happened to explode after this game.

      • I assume that’s how the boards are after every game. Both team’s fan bases go read the same thing, then take pot shots at each other and completely ignore the content of the game. Everybody gets mad, nobody wins and chaos ensues.
        I imagine you’re right though. They have the talent but for the most part this year it doesn’t seem like it’s been totally put together. Heath may have lost some control too. I’d be frustrated.

      • Dan Walsh says:

        Most definitely not!

      • No, most def. not. But most opponent supporters pick up on the professional-level content and comments and answer, you know, like a grown-up. Perhaps that’s hard to do through the haze of purple drank.

    • Didn’t you know sir CJ Sapong is the only striker in MLS getting battered. I love this… and so right… the prism of conformational bias and building a narrative is legendary today. As if Union are the only team affected by poor MLS officiating… “we were robbed”…. blah blah blah.
      An Entire Day’s content for finger pointing at the referee… and Kaka and the other goons… The Philadelphia Choir Boys. That’s our new name… course we did win the most valuable sportsmanship award last season…. so this is what you all get for giving me shit about arguing over poor play from the actual players last week… you know- stuff that actually matters.
      I love that you have done this VAMOS. Please- join us again soon.

      • well i guess not punching people in the face or kicking out their legs well after the balls gone counts as being choir boys. You are trying to hard to be contrarian here el p.

    • This post fits the stereotype of your entire organization. Thank you for that.

    • Please make sure to come back again, your analysis is clearly worth reading.

  8. Geiger counter: Chernobyl

  9. scottymac says:

    Kaka to Rosenberry seemed less “blatant foul in the back” and more “welcome to the league rook”. Even JP (who hits Steve Coates levels for homerism sometimes) said it was a 50/50 and Pappas,again not the most impartial, agreed. Blake ran into Fabi as he dove.

    However, the 2 footed Jackie Robinson 42 slide into Creavalle’s ankles is a foul in the box all day long.

    It’s not healthy to develop this MLS is out to get us silliness. The reality is we play in a league where the refs have a “development opportunity for improvement”. We can cherry pick the few calls against us but we get our share to go our way too. Let’s maybe play better soccer and win that way.

    • +1, especially for the last paragraph. Bad calls even out in the long run; if they go your way, you don’t think they’re bad calls, so you don’t remember them.
      Having said that, even as an objective observer, Stoica screwed the pooch on this game. The shenanigans started immediately (for both sides), and he was inconsistent on what the players were getting away with. That, plus the first hot-weather game, made the situation escalate and he lost control. If this were Salt Lake vs. Montreal (two teams I couldn’t care less about), I would have said this ref sucked.

    • pragmatist says:

      I’m with you all around on that. Our guttural reaction is to start with the “woe is me” approach, but the truth is this was simply another example of poor officiating. We’ve been on both side of it.
      The goal as fans, no matter whom you support, should be for officiating consistency. If a call is made on one end, make it on the other.
      As for the Rosenberry shove, yeah it was “technically” a foul, but I would be annoyed if a ref called that in a CYO game. Let them play. Some of the others were larger complaints, and I still don’t think the ball crossed the line, but that one was fine.
      The biggest issue on a single-game level is that the game gets away from the ref. That leads to the leaping studs-up tackle at the end of the game. When the ref loses control, players get injured. That is where the true dangers lie.

  10. I half watched the game while grilling/eating and missed the majority of OC’s indecencies. Proud of the boys for getting a point though they were deserving of so much more.

  11. I did not see that kick by Carrasco until now. Ridiculous!

    • And right in front of the AR, who put up his flag immediately. If that AR suggested a red and Stoica overruled him, he needs to step away for a bit.

  12. I agree it’s pointless to complain about the refs, they’re awful in MLS. You just hope the league catches some of the more malicious things after the game.
    Can we continue to count on goals from our defenders? I think not. CJ has done yeomans work this year but he’s not quite finishing, or we aren’t quite Getting it to him to finish. I’d love Ilsinho back Saturday.
    Curtin needs to take a shot here Bc it was a perfect time to see Alberg behind Barnetta with Crevalle or Carroll. Short turn around and another game Saturday, awful play from the lineup Friday night, why not give it a shot? Also, he continues to mess up subs. He had a few games earlier where the subs were quicker and better but he has regressed to the mean. Injuries are when you need the coach to make correct decisions and out guys in spots to improve the team, I feel like he turtles up.

    • It is not pointless to complain about the refs when they miss dangerous red cards. The no call on running into Blake and the Kaka “push” do not bother me much. The super dangerous calls that got yellows or no call have no place in the game. Those are not judgement calls. That ref should be sent down because he had no control of the game and is lucky no players got injured.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      If you are managing a one game winner take all season, you might see Nogueira and Ilsinho tomorrow night. But you have either 22 or 23 games left to play and all but two of them will come after a fourteen day break. I would not even dress nogueira and Ilsinho for Colorado or Columbus, with the expectation that both will not only be healed fully but also strengthened for the remainder of the season.
      In regards to Roland Alberg, many of us are asking the question, “Why isn’t he playing?” Especially if he does not play, or gets only a cameo, in Denver, we should rework our syntax, perhaps, using the same words but in a different sequence. “He is not playing. Why?” The former assumes he should be; the latter does not.
      Please help my memory, here. Was there not a longish period of time when Fabinho first arrived, before he became exclusively a left back, that he sat the bench? If so, I think I remember thinking that he had been given a list of key improvements that were needed in his game and that he was probably having to demonstrate consistency in those improvements over a substantial period of time in practice before he was trusted to play for points again. It was one of Jim Curtin’s better individual coaching jobs, sun rocket t-shirts now being collector’s items rather than a mass market fad.
      It perhaps something similarly underway with Alberg?

      • Who knows, Alberg is right now the back up 10 and that is it. The staff does not trust him defensively to be the starting 8. They do not view him as a winger (not sure why). Barnetta is a better player than him so he sits. I do feel like we could be better with him at 10 and Barnetta on wing, but honestly Alberg hasn’t impressed me at all when he’s played. I am willing to grant the adjustment period.

  13. NJUnionFan says:

    It looks to me like Kaka steps on Andre Blake’s leg while he’s sliding and then Kaka looses his footing as Blake’s leg continues to move forward. Not sure if that’s still a foul or not, but it does not appear that Andre swept away the leg.

    • pragmatist says:

      He didn’t sweep the leg, but it was a clumsy defensive play by Blake. I don’t fault the ref for that call. Blake made a mistake by being indecisive. It cost him…until he played the role of Superman again.

  14. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Would there be any value in having a retired referee, if a willing one could be found, discuss why somethings get called and other things do not? I get as frustrated as the next fan and I recognize in my more rational moments that I can be unfair and unreasonable. I feel a need to somehow improve my ability to assess a referee’s decision-making in a more careful objective manner. [so that when I want to rip the sob’s tongue out I will be confident I am right! :-), :-)!]

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