Player ratings

Player ratings: D.C. United 2-1 Union

Photo: Mikey Reeves

D.C. United were not a dominant side Saturday evening. The home squad lost all urgency after their second goal. Focused on defending for the entire second half, they invited Philadelphia to attack.

Despite this, the Union never looked like they would take a point. Ben Olsen’s men took all three with the final score being 2-1.

For the majority of the game, Philadelphia looked broken. Each player looked isolated from his partners. The invisible strings that connect a team were absent for too long in RFK Stadium. By the time those strings became tangible, it was too late.

Philadelphia played as a collection of individuals. What could be better than to evaluate them as such?

Player Ratings

Andre Blake — 4

The Jamaican keeper has been the Union’s best player. In fact, he was PSP’s player of the game in these ratings the previous two weeks. This week, Blake cost the Union. His dreadful pass was compounded by Fabinho and led to D.C.’s first goal of the season. He isn’t going to be held accountable for the converted penalty kick, but his rating would be lower if he didn’t display exceptional command of his box once again.

Keegan Rosenberry — 3

The right back isn’t enjoying a successful second season. Once again on Saturday, Rosenberry looked more concerned with providing cover than with pushing up the flanks. Jim Curtin should be held accountable for this, but the Harrisburg native was woeful when attacking. His crosses either found the first defender or no one at all.

Oguchi Onyewu — 5

Onyewu wasn’t the problem. His strength was effective when he found himself in isolation. His passing, however, was wasteful out of the back. Despite a decent defensive display, Onyewu’s long passes didn’t find their marks throughout the game.

Richie Marquez — 4

Uncharacteristically, the center back only played one half of soccer. Despite this, he made his mark on the match. His handball in the box led to United’s second and decisive goal.

Fabinho — 5

Maybe a 5 is too high. His decision to try and keep Blake’s errant pass in play was comically bad. If you can manage to overlook this, however, you will notice Fabinho was one of the more effective members of the traveling side. In the first half, he looked to be the only Union player with any offensive urgency. A heavy touch did kill a promising attack in the 33rd minute. He was serviceable in his own end, neutralizing Lloyd Sam’s speed.

Haris Medunjanin — 4

Medunjanin’s turnover which led to Marquez’s handball was bad — really bad. Luciano Acosta surprised him with pressure, and it cost the Union. Outside of that, United didn’t attack a ton. It saved the Bosnian from having to play a stout defensive game and gave him plenty of time on the ball. Unfortunately, his incisive passing is still more of a rumor than an actuality.

Derrick Jones — 4

The youngster didn’t have a lot to do. He was noticeably roaming, but United didn’t test him. Down two goals, Jones didn’t offer much going forward (not that this is his responsibility). His passes tend to be more horizontal in nature.

Alejandro Bedoya — 4

There is a disconnect between Bedoya and his holding midfielders. In the first half, he was slightly less than invisible. By playing as the second highest player up the pitch, Bedoya negates his own defensive work rate. The role of a No. 10 is to create, and he failed to create on Saturday. His performance markedly improved in the second half. Why? He spent more time on the right wing as Ilsinho drifted inside more frequently.

Ilsinho — 3

It’s a little harsh, but the Brazilian played a selfish game. The positive is he looked to take on the offensive burden when his teammates were MIA. While the shot attempt from 50 yards out could have been heroic, it looks bad when combined with multiple lost 1-on-3 take-ons. Also, that dive…

Chris Pontius — 3

Of the players on the pitch for 90 minutes, no player made less of an impact. The left back had more of an effect on the attack than did this winger. Pontius has been undervalued for his performances earlier in the season. On Saturday, however, he was a ghost.

Jay Simpson — 2

If Pontius made the least impact in 90 minutes, Simpson made the least impact overall. It was tempting to pass the blame to those who are meant to link up with the striker. That was the plan. After C.J. Sapong came into the game, it was clear who deserved the lion’s share of the criticism. Sapong willed himself into the action and took the rest of his team with him. Simpson looked like an extra. The Brit needed to force himself upon the game. Instead, he was waiting for it to come to him. It never did.


Jack Elliott — 5

Coming on at halftime to replace an injured Marquez, Elliott never had much to do in his professional debut. He made the challenges he needed to make, but his biggest role came at the end of the game. He was the one hoofing long balls into the box as time ticked toward the final whistle.

C.J. Sapong — 8

Boy, it’s tough to tell if Sapong looked that good because he was that good, or because of what was presented on the field for the previous 58 minutes. Either way, the striker scored his third goal in the last three games. More importantly, he elevated the game of his teammates. There was an edge to his game. Maybe he was fueled by Curtin’s decision to start Simpson. If a player is going to earn a place in the starting 11, it is through performances like this.

Fabian Herbers — 6

It was another solid performance for the young German. He offered pointed crosses from the right wing. There was a sharpness to his game. While Ilsinho should get another chance, it will be interesting to see if Herbers did enough to earn the start against Portland.

Geiger Counter

Ricardo Salazar — 6

Salazar made the correct call to award the penalty for Marquez’s handball. While there is credit in deferring to the assistant referee, he should be in a position to make that call himself. Other than that, it was a straightforward match without too many hard fouls. Officials deserve praise any time they discipline a player for simulation. It was not a good look for Ilsinho.

Player of the Game

Bill Hamid

Despite Sapong’s efforts, D.C. United earned the victory because of Hamid’s. The veteran goalkeeper made seven saves and was the best defense for a team primarily interested in defending. His first-half save on Medunjanin showed his athleticism. His stop on Sapong late in the game secured the three points when the Union thought they had earned an equalizer.


  1. While I agree that Keeg’s crossing left a lot to be desired, he did have a shot on his left that forced a good saved from Hamid.

  2. I agree with pretty much all of this but I’d knock Salazar down to a 4 for failing to send off Sarvas for that stamp on D. Jones. That’s a clear red and it happened right in front of him…Union certainly weren’t good, but that could have changed the game

    • The Union played so bad I forgot about the stamp. it was absurd. I can only hope it gets looked at and Sarvas gets suspended.

  3. I think Ilshino should be a little higher. It could be said he was selfish but at least he was trying to make something happen. I can’t even be mad at that dive because he was the only person at times trying to break through.

    • I was watching him do everything that I had tried to coach out of my players for twenty years- I hope that you are confident enough on the ball to beat one player off of the dribble. With luck, you will beat #2. You will NEVER beat the third unless you are able to get them screening each other. Ilsinho does this much too often. I agree that there was nothing else going on out there, but bad soccer doesn’t fill that void.

  4. what in the world was Blake doing with that kick?

  5. Pontius needs to sit for Herbers or Fafa next game. And Sapong should probably start too. No more playing out of funks. Sapong was possessed when he came on. He earned the next start. Pontius was bad as well he earned the bench for a game. We have good enough depth this year that no player should feel they are written in pen in the starting 11 (except maybe Blake).

    • Exactly- this is the silver lining right now. Sapong comes on like that because he doesn’t want the bench (or something), and coach can do that with all his players this year.

      • The #1 thing I am juding Curtin on this year is if he is capable of coaching out of funks or if he pulls the same BS he did at the end of last year.

        As bad as we have looked so far … it’s still super early. Now it the time for the coach to coach and do something to turn this around.

        If Curtin can’t do that and we continue down this road I want him gone by the all star break.

      • As probably Curtin’s #1 fan on this site, I completely agree.

  6. I thought Keegan really stepped up his game in the second half — I’d give him a 5. Otherwise I largely agree with these.

    Your assessment of Simpson is spot-on; I was saying, “Well, maybe we aren’t seeing him because he isn’t getting service…” And then Sapong game on, and within 10 seconds he was all over the ball, and I was like, “No, that was Simpson’s fault.”

    Both Pontius and Bedoya have been amazingly disappointing thus far this season. How can two such talented guys be so… aimless on the pitch??

    • Pontius is always aimless. Yes, goals, blah blah. But he has ALWAYS been a “invisible for 85 minutes, pops up and scores in a goal in the other 5” type of player.

      And honestly I think we need better.

      • Isn’t this why Carlos Ruiz gets so much love from this site…non existent for 89 mins, then poof a goal. I still don’t get it.

    • Sapong wanted it when he came on. No one else had that fire or desire. Thye are all professionals. Thye should always want it that bad. Honestly he willed things to happen. The whole team should be doing that basically every game.

  7. I’d notch Jones up a point or two if for no other reason than I think he offered more than Medujanin and Bedoya on the night. I’ll be eager to see if the Union release another video session to find out why the team could not get the ball out if its deep midfield. Yeah, Simpson didn’t touch the ball. CJ had to practically play as a #8 to get possession, he was so deep. Nicest thing to come from the match was to see CJ with the ball at his feet, juking a defender for a shot that was ultimately saved. Was nice to see him demonstrating a skill I didn’t think he had. Perhaps Curtin really did run him into the ground last season.

  8. pragmatist says:

    We can bash the Union all day long (and people have). It is deserved, especially for the first half. But take a moment, like Nick did, and realize that without some heroics from Hamid in the second half, we’d be having a much different discussion today.
    I’m not excusing anything. That first half was atrocious. But Hamid came up huge on at least 3 saves in the second half. I caught him starting at his defenders after one save with the look of “What in the hell!??!”
    I’d be curious how the conversation would be different if we won ugly by sneaking 2 of those in.

    • The bounces have not gone our way so far this year and we haven’t helped ourselves either. That’s why I’m not freaking out too much yet. Honestly with some better luck we could be sitting with 8 points right now. Of course you make your own luck and we haven’t.

    • Conversation would be also different if we did’t have Blake last season. Could have, should have, would have. All excuses. We are who we are. 8 years of BS. If this was in any other league Curtin would be gone long time ago. You can’t fire players. It’s time. Sugarman out, Curtin out.

      • pragmatist says:

        “We can bash the Union all day long…”
        “I’m not excusing anything. ”
        “That first half was atrocious.”
        We agree. I’m simply saying that if we are sitting on 5 points right now and on the cusp of the playoffs, people are lining up to burn down Talen.
        It ALWAYS takes at least (at least) 6 weeks to have a true idea about your team. If we still look directionless and flailing at the end of April, go ahead and fire up the torches and sharpen the pitchforks.
        I agree about Blake. But you could also say that without Tim Howard the USMNT would have lost about 15-0 to Belgium in the most exciting WC game in generations for our team.
        One player can make a difference. Last year it was Blake.

      • In general I think we agree .I judge the team by the record and the way they play. Especially in MLS there is fine line between the best team and the worst team. We are always below the red line. It’s the pattern. Repeat offender cheating girlfriend must go. Good talk.

      • You sure can fire players. You can’t fire owners (though I wish we could). Sorry.

      • @A
        You right. Sugardaddy will put just enough money to stay above the water. And next year we will be in square one again. Just fire someone, do something.

      • Haha, fair enough.

    • Good teams (with good coaching?) find a way to win. Bad teams (bad coaching) find ways to lose.
      I know I’m the one handing out the burning torches, and I can understand the wait and see attitude because I’ve pushed for it in the past. I just don’t see any examples of this team actually playing together. As stated above, they look like 11 individuals not a team.

      • pragmatist says:

        I have defended Curtin. But as I’ve said, in my mind, he has until the end of April to turn things around. At that point, if things have not improved, Earnie needs to start shopping for a manager. As soon as he finds a replacement, fire and hire.
        The greatest difference we can hope for will be in the managerial position. And if the next manager is just another ex-MLS player or coach, that won’t be good enough. For all of Earnie’s acquisitions, none will be more important than his next manager.
        (And yeah, I realize I’m already talking as if Curtin will be fired. Barring a 6-game winning streak, I think it’s going to be hard to turn this ocean liner around.)

      • I agree with everything but the waiting. I also have defended Curtin (for most of a season). I’m just tired of the excuses. I don’t want to hear about injuries, cause a good coach finds a way to work around them. And I don’t necessarily mean wins, but at least bunker and defend for a tie. I don’t want to hear about giving time for the new guys to gel. There was more turnover last year than this one, and they gelled faster. Most likely because Barnetta could make anyone better. At some point the excuses need to stop and accountability must be had. Sooner would benefit the team more than later.

  9. el Pachyderm says:

    If competition is pushing CJ Sapong I’m all for it Competition is what the game is yes?…. so then….the corollary — as I mentioned in last weeks Curtin press conference…. who is pushing Keegan Rosenberry to raise his game or is he happy and comfortable being less than excellent and Is the 24 yr old Dutchman pushing Fabinho who is poor week in week out?

    • Both outside backs looked pretty weak for Steel from what I saw. I know it’s tough to get a gauge on that team because they don’t practice together much (which is a different issue but I think a big one).
      Honestly our depth is much better this year than last, but still stinks if you look at it from a competition for a starting spot perspective. We mostly just have decent backup plans or young players as opposed to 2 players literally fighting for a spot.

  10. Just a note, I believe Salazar made the handball call and looked to the assistant ref for help to determine if it was in or out of the box. I don’t think the AR made the handball call. They ultimately got it right, so whatever they did worked.
    CJ Sapong looked good because DCU is a bad team and when he is tremendously physically talented. We’ve seen time and again that CJ struggles to fill a team role, but when everything has broken down and you just need a guy who is bigger and stronger and faster than most people around him, he fits the ticket.
    I think it’s almost unfair to rate the individual players. They are given no chance to succeed. I asked these after their last game and I ask it again: What is their offensive strategy? What is their attacking formation? What is their strategy to play out of the back?
    From what I can tell, the Union basically play a jumbo empty bucket – the striker and attacking mids are pushed way high and the D-mids and back line are way back. I think, in theory, the outside backs are supposed to push up and connect, but opposing teams have done a good job pressuring Fabinho and Rosenberry, and they have wilted under the pressure. With no outlet, the back 6 are just hitting aimless balls amongst each other until they hoof it downfield. Nobody can look good in a system like that.
    It’s time to make a tactical change. Opposing teams have figured out the formation and how to attack it. 4 points in 12 games point to that.

    • Section 114 (Formerly) says:

      That was my take on it too, and the AR is the person who was best positioned to tell if it was just over, or just behind, the line. And I’m not 100% sure they got that part of the call right.
      But that’s not why the Union lost.
      All in all I think Salazar had a great game given how bad the play was — stuff could have easily gotten ugly.

      • I think D.J. would say it got ugly. I think he’d also say he’s lucky not to have a broken leg. Actually he probably wouldn’t say anything, but I’ll say it for him anyway.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Good observation, re: empty bucket. That’s exactly what’s happening.

  11. I cannot disagree with any of the ratings, which is scary. That was one hideous game. They were unimaginative on the attack. What was worse, this was the first time that I was thinking “Wow, the Union are controlling time of possession comfortably.” Then, I finally realized that the control was because the defenders couldn’t find a midfielder that either wanted to do anything with the ball or had an idea for how to translate possession into an attack. Shades of a few years ago when the Union couldn’t pay a player to actually shoot the ball.

    • We were stuck in the midfield all night, except for a few flurries and two really great saves by Hamid. No one up top could get open, and as much as I’m happy for CJ, if we are relying on him to carry us through the year… sorry, we are in trouble.

      The key everyone is missing is that Simpson cannot play alone up top. When he scored all those goals in England, we was working in a 4-4-2. THAT will never happen with Curtin… but the minute it does, the score board will start ringing.

      By April 30th… Curtains for Curtin.

  12. This has been and continues to be a top down problem. Jim Curtain is a nice guy but as Leo Durocher said: “Nice guys finish last” And the Union are doing just that. A good coach can motivate a team no matter the talent. We have good talent but it has not been motivated into a team performance. Jim Curtain was a back and has a defensive mind set. You do not win games by just protecting your net. We need creative thinking and impactful substitutions. We saw much better chemistry on the field at the beginning of last season. Curtain hasn’t shown any ability to create team chemistry, when it is there fans believe in the team win or loose. We need a COACH!

    • Its the coach. PERIOD. YES, YES, YES, “nice guys finish last”. Exactly. And as usual Saturday in DCU, standing around with hands in pockets, yelling at the 4th official as his teams played like individuals. NOT a style of coaching, just inexperience that we should NOT have to put up with as loyal season ticket holders for all 8 seasons.

      April brings showers and 3 home games in a row against difficult opponents, two in Conference, 1 against a younger expansion team (POR) who already has won the MLS Cup.

      Curtains 4 Curtin… no later than April 30th? YES, YES, YES… But with who? Another low priced, inexperienced coach who will take 2 years to show us he was a terrible choice for an MLS team too?

      Remember, Chicago is experiencing the same thing… and that coach was our 2nd choice to replace Hackworth. THINK ABOUT THAT. ENOUGH OF THAT… AUGUST 27TH, 2016. The last win.

      April 30th.

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