Player ratings

Player ratings: Union 3-0 Red Bulls

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

This didn’t seem like the game to end the Union’s winless streak.

Philadelphia was playing a quality side that rested key players ahead of the match.

When the starting lineup was announced, was there confidence in a back line featuring Fabinho, Oguchi Onyewu, Jack Elliott, and Raymon Gaddis? Who would expect them to keep a second consecutive clean sheet against Bradley Wright-Phillips and Sacha Kljestan?

The Union controlled the early portions of the game, but the Red Bulls gained the advantage after halftime. When Luis Robles made an incredible  save in the 71st minute, it looked like Philadelphia missed their best chance to end their winless ways.

Then it happened.

C.J. Sapong pounced on a huge mistake by Aaron Long, and the Union got a lucky bounce. Andre Blake made a fantastic save on Wright-Phillips. Sapong scored again … and again. It was the third hat trick in franchise history and his 5th, 6th, and 7th goal of the season.

Some players carried the Union, but some struggled. It wasn’t all pretty, but one thing is true.

Philadelphia has won.

Player Ratings

Andre Blake – 9

Sure, Sapong was spectacular. Blake, however, was instrumental in Philadelphia picking up their first three points of the season. As the Red Bulls looked to play crosses early, it was the Jamaican who controlled the box. All four of his saves were stellar, but it was his reflexive save on Bradley Wright-Phillips that stood out. It preserved the lead and catalyzed the Union’s second goal.

Raymon Gaddis – 4

Jim Curtin’s decision to start Gaddis for the third consecutive match was not rewarded. The right back was more involved in the attack than a week ago but was ineffectual in the final third. Defensively, a shaky performance got the job done. Gaddis picked up a knock in the second half, eventually forcing him from the match.

Jack Elliott – 5

The rookie’s distribution from the back is exceptional, especially contrasted with Oguchi Onyewu’s often aimless long balls. His defensive ability, however, shows there is plenty upon which to improve. He failed to clear a dangerous cross in the 69′ and his positioning was an issue. Too often, New York was able to exploit the space around the promising center back. His smart tactical foul in the 66th minute corrected one of his mistakes.

Oguchi Onyewu –  6

On Throwback Night, Jim Curtin turned to his veteran center back to fill in for an ill Richie Marquez. While he didn’t turn back the clock, Onyewu relied on experience. He played a high line to challenge the attack rather than let it come to him. It allowed him to use his strength and smarts while minimizing his lack of pace.

Fabinho – 7

The Brazilian had played his best game of the year last week in Los Angeles. He was even better Saturday evening. When Onyewu’s pace was threatened, it was Fabinho who ably covered. He was equal to every 1-v-1 New York threw his way. With the Red Bulls primarily attacking down the right, it limited Fabinho’s ability to contribute offensively.

Haris Medunjanin – 6

Medunjanin didn’t leave his typical mark on the game. He came close with a sneaky free kick in the 10th minute. The distribution was as precise as always but resulted in only one key pass. While the Bosnian was not a defensive dynamo, he made no significant errors to cost the Union.

Alejandro Bedoya – 8

Whether he’s sliding to block dangerous shots or completing mazy dribbles in the final third, the midfielder leaves it all on the field. Bedoya put in a captain’s performance against the Red Bulls. He shielded the defense and Medunjanin. After Derrick Jones’ introduction, Bedoya took a more advanced role. He connected the team and was an integral component of the winning side.

Roland Alberg –  4

After an ineffectual performance last week, Curtin once again turned to Alberg to be his No. 10. There was a clear focus to get the Dutchman more involved. The opening 20 minutes saw Alberg participate in the build-up and link the attack. He had the Union’s best chance of the first half, forcing a save from Robles in the 7th minute. Unfortunately, Alberg once again became a bystander as the game progressed. It might have been due to an injury suffered in the first half, but it was a familiar performance nevertheless.

Chris Pontius – 6

Pontius was anonymous in the first half, as the Union once again suffered on the wings. The second half saw a marked uptick in the winger’s play. In the 71th minute, there was lovely interchange between Pontius and Sapong, culminating with Pontius’s perfect cross finding Sapong’s head. Robles had to make a remarkable save. His biggest contribution came on the Union’s  second goal. Pontius centered Fabian Herber’s cross into the path of Sapong who buried it. Those knock-downs are currently patent pending.

Fafa Picault – 3

Fafa Picault has pace. The Union looked to weaponize it with long balls. On multiple occasions, Medunjanin placed perfect passes for Picault. Despite his physical gift, the winger’s technical ability let him down. Too often, his first touch was poor. Too often, his crosses found the first defender. Picault will need to do better to keep his place in the starting eleven.

C.J. Sapong – 9

It looked like another game where Philadelphia’s striker was disconnected from the rest of the team. The first half presented few opportunities for Sapong. The second half was a different story. Sapong came deeper to collect the ball, forcing himself into the game. After a tremendous save from Robles, the forward got a deserved goal chasing down Aaron Long’s gaffe. A fortuitous deflection saw the shot find the back of the net. His second came from good positioning, as he deposited Pontius’s knock down from a few feet out. The hat trick was completed with a wonderful penalty kick. Sapong fooled the keeper and calmly sent the ball the other way.


Keegan Rosenberry (63′ for Gaddis) – 5

The sophomore returned to the field after his benching. It was his third game in a row starting on the bench. Rosenberry showed why Curtin felt it was necessary. He allowed Daniel Royer to connect to a dangerous cross in the 69th minute. It went just wide and should have been a goal. Despite this, it was clear Rosenberry offers more for the Union than Gaddis. He is a much more dynamic player and the future at right back.

Derrick Jones (63′ for Alberg) – 7

There should be no question who the Union’s best three midfielders are. It’s Jones, not Alberg, who works best with Medunjanin and Bedoya. His introduction sparked the Union. His defensive mettle is clear, but he shows flashes of offensive promise as well. Look back to his movement in the 73th minute for evidence.

Fabian Herbers (78′ for Picault) – 7

Fifteen minutes was just enough time for the winger to make an impact. It was his pinpoint cross in the 81′ which created the Union’s second goal.

Geiger Counter

Silviu Petrescu – 7

He made the right foul calls throughout the game. There was no hesitancy to point to the spot when Damien Perrinelle let his arm drift from his body.

Player of the game

C.J. Sapong

Blake was great. Sapong was a little better. When the goals go in, you get the credit. The forward was every bit deserving of the three goals he scored. With seven goals, Sapong is now tied for the league lead in that category.

Quick Aside
This has been a difficult stretch. For those who keep tuning in or showing up, I applaud you. As Silviu Petrescu blew the final whistle, it was nice to exhale and smile.


  1. Jones next to Medunjanin. Bedoya on the wing. Ilsinho in the middle. Alberg off the pitch. I’m not sure how well Ilsinho will do in the 10 spot, but I’m almost positive he’ll do better at it than Alberg. Getting Jones on the pitch and Alberg off makes us a better squad, and this is how you do it.

    • I agree 100% Jones needs to start. I disagree 100% Bedoya to the wing. Bedoya is playing like a DP finally at the 8, his motor is fantastic and he impacts both sides of the field at the 8.

      I would do something like this. Alberg played wing in the Netherlands, right? So:

      Pontius – Sapong – Alberg
      Jones – Medun – Bedoya

      Alberg will be inclined to pinch in, so he can fill the spaces and (hypothetically) link the attack as a 10 or second striker. We all know Bedoya likes to drift right, so he can fill the void left by Alberg.

      • I can see the argument for leaving Bedoya where he is, given how well he is playing now. But I think the problem is that Medunjanin is not going to function as a #10. It is not his skillset whatsoever. So if you want Bedoya, Jones, and Medunjanin on the pitch at the same time, the guy who can move out of the rear of the midfield and still thrive is Bedoya. After all, he does it for the national team. (This is a healthy debate to have.)

        Also, even if we did want to try your idea of Haris at the 10-spot, there is no reason to put Alberg on the wing. Put Ilsinho there, or Picault, or Herbers. They will all be better suited to the wing than Alberg.

      • Sorry, I didn’t mean Medun at the 10. I meant playing a 4-3-3. So we have two mostly-8s shielding a non-defensive 6.

      • Basically how we ended the game.

      • i like it very much

      • I love the Jones/Bedoya pairing where it is two 8s as opposed to the 10/8 combo earlier in the year.

    • If Bedoya and Sapong can play the way they did once Jones came in than Bedoya can play the 10. Granted the only other time he’s looked like that was the start of the Toronto game, but it’s clear than Jones needs to be out there.
      Still need more from the wings though although a little life is starting to show.
      D looks better with Gooch out there I think because he organizes things. Really missing that defensive vet presence in those back central 4 players (GK, CBs, #6).

      • If Bedoya could play the 10, a lot of our team’s problems would be solved. It really, really did not work at all. You think it might work given a second chance? I am just trying to get our best XI out there, and we agree that our best XI right now includes young Jones.

      • Well yeah, it’s gotta be more of a 4-3-3 hybrid. It will need Sapong checking back more and also Rosenberry and the wings to play better than they did at the beginning of the season.

    • Adam Schorr says:

      Jones next to Bedoya. Ilsinho and Herbers on the wings. Sapong and Pontius up top. Cross to two guys who win lots of balls in the air. It’s not pretty, but the Union have been at their best when Pontius and Sapong are allowed to win high balls in the box. It’s maybe the one advantage we have in attack. Let’s push it for all it’s worth.

      • With all due respect to your well-reasoned article of a few days ago, I think sidelining Medunjanin would be a significant mistake. His value on corners and dead balls alone is enormous.

  2. pragmatist says:

    Elliott needs a little recognition for his clearance on one of Blake’s acrobatic saves. He came in and flicked the ball away with the outside of his foot. It wasn’t pretty and didn’t erase the danger, but he was in the position to clear it a bit, and the opportunity vanished for RB after that. He’s getting better every week, and I’m more and more intrigued to see a CB pairing of Elliott and Yaro.
    As a Spurs fan, there is one player that has left us that I miss more than any other (until this year’s team came together) – Luka Modric. He didn’t score, and he didn’t even have that many assists, but his role on the team was pivotal. He plays the same role for Madrid. It’s the hard worker who connects the team, letting everyone else do their jobs better. This is Bedoya on this team. When at his best, he is a better version of Nogueira.
    I’m not trying to gold-plate this too much. There is still a lack of talent around him for large stretches of time. But when the right pieces are playing well, this team is much better than their record.
    Not Cup-winners or anything…but better than 1-4-4.

    • Yup. The team is really missing that dynamic attacking player. We have a bunch of decent players but need that 1 guy to open everything up. We really miss Barnetta.

      • I’ve been saying it all along, not having Barnetta (or an actual replacement) has been killing this team.

  3. You know we had our best soccer when we had a clear cut 6 and 8 out there if we found ourselves an honest to goodness #10 we might be able to do something.

  4. Bedoya, Jones and Medunjanin need to be on the pitch.

  5. necklabel says:

    Cheers Nick. it feels good.

  6. el Pachyderm says:

    …..yes, but can you do it again?

  7. Old Soccer Coach says:

    The most interesting development was C. j. Sapong, but it was not the hat trick.
    It was he playing NOT as a classic old English 9. He was ranging back to collect as noted and was beginning to create when he had the ball.
    The change makes him less predictable and less easy to defend therefore.
    Derrick Jones also showed a flash or two of offensive creativity as Nick rightly mentions. For himself to stay on the field that has to continue and improve. Otherwise, Medunjanin will be double-teamed and shut down.
    In the first half Fafa Picault was more effective than just a 3 to my way of thinking because of his defensive energy. That diminished after halftime.
    And Blake is my man of the match, because he held the clean sheet for 5/6 ths of the game before Sapong broke the ice.
    Enjoyable stuff, Nick, thank you.

    • It seems to me we have a bunch of really nice bench player wingers but no starters, except maybe Pontius. It would be great to be able to bring Ilsinho, Herbers, and Fafa off the bench depending on the situation. I guess we can rotate them based on opponent or ride a hot streak for now.

    • I have to think Jones was 1- anxious/nervous in his first few games but 2- told his responsibility was to defend first.
      I think deploring he and Bedoya together as 8s gives Jones more freedom to be creative and make mistakes because they’ll be higher up the field.

  8. pragmatist says:

    I’m thinking as I write this that it’s a bad idea…but we don’t have many good ones to choose from, so here goes…
    What about Simpson on the wing? We have seen speed but less-than-ideal skill from Picault. Pontius has a particular skill set but disappears for large stretches. Herbers is good, but not great. Ilsinho is occasionally hurt and hasn’t been fully effective this year, anyway.
    Simpson isn’t a hold-up player. He apparently likes to run off other players. I have no idea about this speed (it’s not like Pontius is challenging Usain Bolt anytime soon), but if we could give him the freedom to play on the wing and have a psuedo-2-striker set, it could open up some new looks.
    Just a thought to try to help get another goal-scorer on the field. Otherwise, we’re going to see a repeat of last year with CJ, considering he gets mauled for 90 minutes every week.

    • Simpson strikes me as a finisher, not a creator or a guy who can move with the ball. Wingers need to be able to drive up the pitch with the ball at their feet and run to pull defenses out of shape. I don’t see Simpson as that kind of player at all. I think a Simpson and Sapong central forward tandem would cause nightmares for defenses, but I don’t see that happening given what we know of how much Curtin is married to the solo striker system. Given how poor our winger production has been so far, I’d go with a 4-4-2, but I’m just some guy at a keyboard.

      • pragmatist says:

        I think that 4-4-2 is the right answer, too, but…yeah…we’ve all been down that dead end path before…

      • Agreed. Too married to the formation to change unless required by injury or late-game scoreline.
        Ideally I think they could optimize personnel with a 3-5-2:
        Yaro, Elliot and Marquez as a back 3. Haris, Jones Bedoya central midfielders, Keegan and Pontius running the wings and Sapong Simpson providing nightmares up top.
        But its not going to happen.

    • I asked Kinkaid on twitter about this, but isn’t it odd that Earnie mentions Jay behind CJ as a formation option?

      I would be interested in seeing Jay as a 10 with Bedoya out wide.

      Unrelated, was at YSC last Friday night, as my daughter had Union Juniors. When we arrived, the academy was scrimmaging. Earnie was out there with the kids. He was the most talkative guy on the pitch. Giving them feedback, but also just out there having fun.

  9. May be a bit off subject but does anyone else thing jack Elliot looks like a taller, younger Brian carroll. I made this assessment around the 50th minute this past week. maybe its the hollow eyes who knows.
    Best I have seen the boys play in a long time. perfect not even close but I didn’t want to look away very often and that’s enjoyable.

    • CPfeif13 says:

      Elliot seems to be a better distributor already but worse with his positioning. That said, I can see a little bit of what you are getting at.
      On the subject of Elliot, I, like a lot of people it sounds like, have been impressed with his performances so far as just a rookie. But one of the biggest things he needs to work on quickly (in my opinion of course) is his strength. Strikers in the mold of Larin, Kei Kamara, Adi, Altidore, etc are going to give him a lot of trouble unless he can hold his own better like Marquez.

      • HopkinsMD says:

        Fair critique. Easier said than done with the body type, but expect that his intentional work over time will make a difference. Even so, he has done well to-date.

  10. Gaddis earned 3 corners and a free kick, plus delivered a ball to the head of a player in the box. And comically broke a dude’s ankles. I wouldn’t call that weak in the final third, but whatever.

  11. Little typo with Jones’ movement in the “73th” minute. You suggested we look back… How? Is it in the highlights. I wish I could watch full replays.

  12. Who cares what the Curtin calls the formation. He can call it a 4-2-3-1 until he is blue in the face. A three man midfield of Haris, Bedoya, and Jones should play like a 4-3-3. Also it matters little who you consider the 6, the 8 or the 10 because with those three it is pretty fluid. As was stated earlier, we will never get the most out of Haris’ talent without both Jones and Bedoya there to protect him.

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