Player ratings

Analysis & player ratings: Columbus Crew 1-2 Philadelphia Union

An opening half hour that was every bit as bad as your local summer league gave way to an interesting, though plodding, tactical battle on Wednesday night. The Union won because Columbus let relief loosen their focus, and Philly channeled their coach and worked hard for the full ninety.

Philadelphia Union — after collecting 37 points during the entirety of the 2015 season — now sit on 37 points with eight games to play. They are tied for third in the Eastern Conference and nine points above the red line.

But, man, did it take an ugly stick to do it

Don’t let those positive numbers deceive you: This was not the beautiful game at its most stunning. Both teams looked lethargic as they bounced wild passes off each others’ legs during the first 30 minutes of the match. The Union’s tight lines kept Columbus from too many opportunities, but their own clumsiness — which manifested in bad decisions, bad touches, and bad runs — consistently held them back.

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Unfortunately, this has to be a fairly short ratings piece (because I’m tiiiiiired), but let’s look at some of the more interesting parts of the match.

Rosenberry front and center all night

This was a big, weird night for Keegan Rosenberry. He scored the winning goal, so it was a good night. But he was also outfoxed by Justin Meram over and over. Below, Rosenberry follows Meram into the center and bets on a turn wide. Meram is excellent in the central third, though, and he feels the pressure and rolls to the middle. The final shot is bad, but the movement points to a potential soft spot in the Union’s defense.

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All night, Rosenberry tried to stay tight to Meram and keep the winger from turning to face up. It worked at times…

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…but it also backfired more than once.

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In the above clip, you see Yaro do an excellent job covering for Rosenberry, then back off and give far too much space for the cross. There is an element to Yaro’s game that is instinctive and puts him in good positions, but there is also an element of overthinking that leads him into half-measures like the defending above.

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Above, you see what Yaro is capable of when he starts in a good position and simply lets the play develop. After Rosenberry is once again beaten, Yaro forces a pass then quickly turns to cover. It’s not a perfect play, but it’s a play that few central defenders other than Yaro can make.

Returning to Rosenberry, it’s curious to wonder about Jim Curtin’s gameplan for his fullbacks. Last weekend, Columbus scored when Andrew Farrell tried stepping to Hector Jimenez but was too slow, and Jimenez bypassed him with a long pass to Meram cutting out of the center toward the line. One reaction to that play is: Fullbacks need to be careful stepping so high against Columbus! Another reaction is: Hey, if we press Jimenez, he only has one place to go. Let’s do it and chase him with our ridiculousfast guy.

Jim Curtin had the latter reaction, and it generally paid off. When Rosenberry stepped to Jimenez, Yaro was able to follow and cover Meram.

Make no mistake, it was very risky to let Rosenberry chase as much as he did. Stepping to the fullback was aggressive, and chasing Justin Meram into the center was nearly suicidal. Curtin asked a lot of his rookie, and, perhaps most difficult of all, he asked for a short memory. Rosenberry delivered, as his goal required confidence after a long 70+ minutes of chasing.

Yaro, though

Joshua Yaro continues to look… like he has potential. There is so much indecisiveness to Yaro’s game, even now, that it’s a testament to the coaching staff’s belief in him that he’s even in the defensive rotation.

Watching Yaro is both thrilling and an exercise in emotional restraint. There are these moments, when he smartly pulls off his man to disrupt Higuain’s shot:

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And then there are these moments, when he needlessly swings a leg in extra time and puts the referee in a tough spot:

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I can’t justify that. If it were called a penalty, I would throw my hands up and say, “Yeah, I mean, I don’t like it… but I see it.”

That said…

What in the world was Allan Chapman up to on the call that led to Columbus’ goal. Let’s pull up an armchair and watch Corey Ashe foul Tranquillo Barnetta twice, which somehow unlocks the Daily Double that gives Columbus a free kick.

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Additionally, the goal itself is quite questionable.

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It looks like Fabinho might touch the ball toward the goal, but it also looks doubtful that the entire ball ever clearly crosses the goal line.

This raises the obvious question… why doesn’t soccer have goal line technology again? Can you imagine a bunch of scientists sitting around going, “Yeah, I mean we invented the microscope years ago, but we probably shouldn’t start using it for a while still. Let’s just keep guessing for another half-decade or so, or maybe only use the microscope in specific, arbitrary situations.” Those video replay trials can’t be completed soon enough.

Focused midfield

There is still a bit of wandering in Warren Creavalle’s game, but the Union were generally far more attentive to the distance between their defense and midfield Wednesday night than they were on Saturday. This helped Creavalle immensely, and, particularly after the Union went ahead, he finally started to look comfortable next to Alejandro Bedoya.

Bedoya himself struggled to find the game early on, but when he started to see the cracks in the passive Crew midfield, he took advantage.

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Additionally, he was stellar defensively, including during this sequence when he dropped into the back line to cover when Marquez stepped wide.

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Overall, it was a disorganized match that the Union were able to win because they trusted their system and organized behind the ball when they lost it. Fabian Herbers’ addition to the attacking band of three was a useful one because it put pressure on Columbus’ fullbacks to track the Union’s wingers into the box.

Philly will need the same approach on Saturday, but with a real threat in between KC’s back line. Is it time for Charlie Davies to get a start?

Player ratings

Andre Blake – 5

A couple stellar stops, but Blake’s control of his box comes under fire when he waffles on coming off his line. Columbus tested Blake often, and almost found a few chances from it.

Keegan Rosenberry – 6

Not his best defensive effort, but a game-winning goal wins, you know, games.

Joshua Yaro – 5

A varied performance, but it showcased the oodles of talent that can be unlocked if Yaro keeps his defense smart, simple, and fundamental.

Richie Marquez – 5

Again, a solid but unspectacular performance. The Union back line wasn’t tested nearly as often up the right, but Harrison Afful did manage to pull Fabinho and Marquez apart a few times.

Fabinho – 5

Hope that head is alright.

Warren Creavalle – 6

A good final half hour after again looking like a man in search of a home for the first half. Creavalle is such an asset when he is where he should be, but he isn’t there enough.

Alejandro Bedoya – 6

He’s not at his best yet, but Bedoya’s responsibility means the Union can get away with a lot more mistakes than they used to.

Tranquillo Barnetta – 7

Still a bit loose with the ball, but good running all game, and that game-winning assist was superb.

Chris Pontius – 6

A great run to set up the first goal, and a stellar defensive effort.

Fabian Herbers – 7

Switched off a few times defensively, but was usually back in position in time. He gave the midfield a lot of balance, and got into the box with a needed regularity.

CJ Sapong – 4

Active in the open field, but Sapong’s instincts in the box continue to look like those of a striker short on confidence. On Herbers’ goal, he could have pulled defenders inside, but instead he held up his run and nearly closed off the lane to Herbers.


Roland Alberg – 6

A wonderful run and pass to set up the winner, and an improved energy level from Saturday.

Charlie Davies – 6

Hard work, and nearly a goal after winning the ball far up the pitch. Like that he went five-hole.

Geiger counter – 2

See above. Chapman had a good first half when nobody touched anybody. But he was all over the place in the latter frame.


  1. Anyone have a gif or highlight from like the 82nd minute where Rosenberry stood up a Crew players juke attempt in the box?

    • I want to see who Jim Curtin was “engaged in discussion” with immediately after the Crew goal, and while the build-up was happening for the response goal. I know a bit of lip reading, and think that there was a leak through on the sideline mikes, and he was less than welcoming to the other opinion.

  2. Do we see Herbers start on the right again Saturday?

    • Sounded like Ilsinho was very iffy for Saturday according to the broadcast last night so I’m guessing Herbers might get another 60 minute shift with Alberg subbing in. I’m finding it harder and harder for JC to justify leaving CJ out there for 90 minutes but Davies isn’t ready to go more than 10-15 minutes at this point and I don’t know if Herbers can go 90. A quick turnaround vs a rested SKC team will be a very tall order. Need to get something from the match with Blake & Bedoya gone for the game at Chicago next weekend.

      • I was also surprised Bedoya has stayed on for 90 two games in a row, considering his fitness, especially a midweek game with an opponent like SKC on the docket Saturday

      • SKC had a game tuesday in the CCL against Vancouver, so not totally rested. Plus they get to do the travelling. Should be a pretty level playing field in terms of rest.

      • SKC played their bench vs Vancouver. The starters did not play.

      • Ilsinho was not listed on the official injury report so I’m not sure it is that serious.

    • Probably not a bad idea to give Ilshino more recovery time since the Union will need him the following week when Bedoya is likely gone.

  3. Really have no clue what Chapman was thinking all game. I mean he ultimately didn’t ruin it, so he get’s something of a reprieve, but the fact that the Columbus discipline summary is EMPTY says something. I was confident Duka could have been booked when he blatantly and intentionally held back Creavalle from starting a counter attack with numbers. Then the slide tackle on Fabi and I felt confident it would happen this time. Finally, the dive in the box, and still nothing doing. Just mind boggling compared to the soft reds and yellows flying around earlier in the year.

    • Second game in a row where I thought that the ref was watching a game playing only in his head for a portion of the time. I have come to expect it of Mark Geiger, but the virus seems to be spreading.

    • Pretty sure Chapman left his cards in his other shirt. But he didn’t call the hand ball on Herbers’s goal, so I guess it balanced out.

  4. Neat and tidy win. They let the Crew hang around to long though. I said it before CJ Sapong is the best that we have right now. He does yeoman work. But he lacks quick feet , agility,seperation speed and coordination. He’s still effective but sometimes his physical challenges can bog down the offense. He doesn’t have the separation speed to adequately get on the end of some of those balls lobbed to him. I like CJ and he can be an important to wear down defenses. He’s best at holdup an entangling opposing center backs. But agile fast CB’s can make CJ disappear like Toronto. Davies may be the one to offset that tactic if he can get more time in. I would love to see Sapong and Davies up top together. I wonder sometimes if Curtin and staff can actually come up with different scenarios to counter the opposition. They ground it out with Columbus but when you look at who is above them in the standings how will they seriously challenge those teams?

    • I like CJ a lot too and he works his butt off and was effective killing the game off out on the wing. But I agree, he lakes the finishing and the acceleration. His top end speed and strength are great, but he’s just not quick enough to get the little opening he needs to finish.

      • I’d be curious how it would play out if they switched roles: have Davies or Herbers start, and then have CJ come in for the last 15-20 minutes to kill off the game. His speed and strength could take advantage of a tired defense.
        Just a thought…

      • Yeah, you can look at it 2 ways. CJ beats them down most of the game but is still fit enough to shift out to the wing and help close out a game and then the others run by them. Or bring him in later and let him beat on them when they are already tired. I think the fact that he can go 90 and not wear down by the end every game is a main reason he keeps starting.

      • Pragmatist says:

        I agree, but at some point, he should get a rest so that he doesn’t start to wear down. Now is when he needs to remain fresh.

  5. We’re starting to see a pattern: we beat the teams we are supposed to beat, but we have trouble against the better teams. That puts us between 3-5 in the standings.
    We’ll take the sloppy road games that get 3 points if it keeps us in the 3-5 slot.

    • Yeah, especially sloppy mid-weak road win. The effort defensively was really good. Alberg looks like he is buying in. It clearly isn’t his first thought, but a few times he looked around, realized a lot of Union players were upfield, and busted his butt to get back. If he can add that constant effort to his game he could really turn into a great player for us.

    • better than trouble with everybody, or perhaps even worse, trouble with the teams we should beat and competitive against the good teams. ordem y progresso.

    • Given where we were last year at this time, I’m more than OK with that. The situation is vastly improved and is on an upwards trend. We’re also still out 1 of our top 2 players for the entire season and have a less than adequate #6.

  6. I dunno, Adam. I thought both Rosenberry and Yaro had nice games. I agree that Meram turned Rosenberry several times, but Rosenberry also had a number of very nice defensive plays (along with the beautiful goal, of course). I think he looked really tired, especially by the end of this one. I wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea to start Gaddis against KC just to give him a rest. Curtin will never do it, though.

  7. How ready is Davies really? Anyone have any idea? Saw a comment of 10-15 minutes above, but if that is really all he is capable of, would be surprised that he is on the bench or playing. If he can give us a full 45 or 60 min, I agree with Adam that it might be time to start him. CJ just isn’t producing.
    If they want CJ to play full game, start CJ at wing and move him up top when they pull Davies for Herbers or Alberg.

  8. .
    I appreciate the author’s opening to this article… as I am a hardened guy with certain expectations I realize but found it interesting that many posters last night thought the first half was of good quality. I appreciate your honesty, Adam… cause it wasn’t.
    I actually extended my troubles half way through the second half as well but maybe I am being a bit rough around the edges. Quite simply way to many errant passes. Way to many poor first touches. Way to many hospital balls that put the receiver into an awkward position- ahem Alejandro. Back passes going out of bounds. Total slop really and totally unacceptable.
    I also understand the yeoman’s work CJ offers the team… but quite simply… he’s not good enough on the ball, he’s not good enough at the other things that make a striker a striker. His game bores the hell out of me TBH.
    RE: Foul on Barnetta that leads to Columbus goal…. I would have liked to see The Calm play a square ball to blake as the space and time is there (assuming Andre is providing outlet which he should)… as that immediately offloads the pressure.

    • Jim Presti says:

      People were saying the first half was well played…?

    • Blake was exactly where he needed to be on that play…in the goal. There was a Columbus striker lurking about 6-8 yards from the endline at the 18 yard box. No way you play a square ball there, as the risk-reward prop of a pass like that is clearly negative. The defender should shield and hope for the foul (which Barnetta should have gotten), or you turn it outside and blast it up the sideline with the hopes of it staying in bounds or ricocheting out of bounds off the defender for a U throw in.

  9. Philthy-Dee says:

    This team lacks offensive coaching. Jim’s message has always been defense, because that is what he knows. Our offense if based purely on individual talent. That is the next piece they need, an assistant coach who can direct the offense.

    I see plenty of talent, but looks like Klinsmann’s philosophy, “Run at the goal and shoot. Go go go go!”

    CJ needs to work on his shot. I will consider him a forward when he shoots inside the box and makes it on goal. Unacceptable in the second half to miss far left in the box.

    • While I do agree that our offense should be better, we are tied for the league lead in goals. I do think a lot of that is set pieces (although lots of successful teams scoring is based on set pieces). For as much as I love what CJ brings to the team, I have to admit that if he were more of a goal scorer, we’d probably have about 7 more goals. Which is honestly kinda insane.

      • Correct, you only get goal-scoring set piece opportunities by effectively putting yourself in a position to do so.

    • I disagree with this. The U play a high-press 4-3-3 and are incredibly aggressive with their fullbacks. There’s all kinds of combination passing and a conscious effort to work the ball into situations where there’s a 3v2 or 4v3 advantage. Yes, there’s an element of counterattacking too, but that’s a necessary piece to almost any offensive attack strategy in the world…even Barcelona’s.

  10. “There is so much indecisiveness to Yaro’s game, even now, that it’s a testament to the coaching staff’s belief in him that he’s even in the defensive rotation.”

    Also a testament to the newer found belief that Tribbett’s lack of pace outweighs his athletic tallness gift. So…more Yaro.

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