Player ratings

Player ratings: Philadelphia Union 2-0 Houston Dynamo

Photo: Earl Gardner

Jim Curtin is getting it all right.

A few weeks ago, it wasn’t clear the head coach would last the season. His team was mired in the longest winless streak in franchise history. Now, the Union have won three straight games and are unbeaten in five.

Curtin stuck with a formation many saw as ill-suited for the team’s personnel. He benched the MLS Rookie of the Year finalist and found stability on the back line. He let Chris Pontius play through early season struggles and inserted Fafa Picault into the starting 11, revitalizing the team’s wing play. Curtin moved Bedoya to the No. 8 and experimented with the No. 10, solidifying his midfield.

Against Houston on Wednesday night, Curtin forewent squad rotation and trotted out the same starting lineup that thrashed D.C. United 4-0 in the previous match. He was rewarded with a 2-0 victory through a dominant first half and stout defending in the latter stages of the game.

Jim Curtin has his players playing as a solid team. Naturally, let’s break them down as individuals.

Player Ratings

Andre Blake – 8

The goalkeeper didn’t have to make any of his acrobatic stops against the Dynamo, but was spectacular nevertheless. He controlled his area, securing four crosses. When former Union man Andrew Wenger found himself alone behind the defense, Blake did not hesitate to bravely challenge and snuff out the best chance the visitors had all night.

Raymon Gaddis – 4

With only two completed passes in Houston’s half, Gaddis wasn’t a frequent participant in the attack. He did, however, come close to scoring the first goal of his career. He was competent defensively but was lucky not to cost his teammates. A reckless challenge in the second half should have earned him a second yellow card, which would have left the Union down a man with over 30 minutes still to play.

Jack Elliott – 7

The fourth round rookie is playing well above expectations and is a big reason why Philadelphia has collected four consecutive clean sheets. His distribution is his calling card, but it tends to overshadow the work he is doing defensively. Outside of a few shaky moments, including a whiff that led to a Dynamo chance, Elliott once again shined.

Oguchi Onyewu – 8

Does it seem like the veteran will ever lose an aerial challenge in the box? He used his strength to kill attacks as per usual, but he combined it with intelligent play. When Vicente Sanchez came storming into the box in the 85th minute, it was Onyewu’s quick foot that ended the threat.

Fabinho – 6

The Brazilian came back to the stratosphere after riding his sun rocket to interstellar play these past few games. It was still a solid performance, defined by successful 1v1 defending and blocked crosses, but inaccurate passing put the Union in a few bad positions.

Haris Medunjanin – 7

The Union knew they were signing an excellent distributor. It’s a pleasant surprise that his defensive ability is no longer the chink in the Union’s midfield. His first touch, whether it was trapping a missile or sending a laser to a teammate, left Houston’s midfield as spectators unable to control the center of the pitch.

Alejandro Bedoya – 7

Bedoya’s impact on the game was evident by Houston’s first substitution. When a team takes off their No. 10 in the 56th minute, it’s clear Bedoya had the player in his pocket. Even more impressive is when it’s a player the caliber of Alex, who entered with six assists on the season.

Ilsinho –  9

Curtin has found his No. 10. Ilsinho had arguably his best game as a Union player. He was lethal on the counter all night, highlighted by his run in the 24th minute. While it culminated in a well-struck shot off the post, the Brazilian was rewarded with a goal a little later. He linked the team and was everything a team needs from its attacking midfielder. Keep scrolling for a little more on Ilsinho’s play…

Chris Pontius – 8

Pontius’ first impact on the game came in the third minute. With a wide open Fafa Picault in the box, Pontius sent a cross over the winger’s head. This turned out to be a footnote. He redeemed himself with a perfect ball in the 17th minute, which Picault headed home for the opening goal. A centering pass to Ilsinho earned his second assist of the night and his sixth of the season. A tireless defensive effort helped Gaddis contain the right side of the field.

Fafa Picault – 7

We all knew Picault had pace. Who knew the 5-8 winger was so talented in the air? For the second game in a row, Picault unleashed a clinical header in the box. This time it found the back of the net as he rose above two defenders. There was both positive and negative to his play in the 54th minute. He flew past his marker to collect a perfect ball from Ilsinho but failed to put the shot on frame 1v1 with the keeper.

C.J. Sapong – 7

Sapong continues to do all the hard work up top for the Union. His hold-up play was once again tremendous. Shielding defenders, Sapong’s strength on the ball gave him time to pick out his teammates and generate offense. It’s a good thing MLS keeps secondary assists, because the striker deserved something for his play Wednesday night.


Keegan Rosenberry (61′ for Gaddis) – 4

Coming in for Gaddis, who was teetering on a yellow, Rosenberry helped preserve the victory. He did, however, let his positioning become a bit of an issue. He looked to be caught in two minds at times.

Warren Creavalle (67′ for Ilsinho) – 6

Creavalle’s job was to help see out the game. It was a serviceable performance, filling the role of Derrick Jones.

Fabian Herbers (76′ for Picault) – N/A

With the Union focused on defending, there wasn’t much for Herbers to do upon his introduction.

Geiger Counter

Jorge Gonzalez – 3

The referees biggest mistake went in the Union’s favor. Gaddis should have been sent off with a second yellow. Gonzalez then missed an elbow in the box to Herbers, which would have been a penalty, and gave Rosenberry a yellow for failing to find an open teammate on a throw-in. Inconsistent calls became increasingly prevalent as the game progressed.

Player of the game


It’s easy to focus on what Ilsinho did offensively. He played a great ball to spring Picault, scored a goal, and almost finished what would have been a tremendous individual effort. Drifting to the right, through passes or movement, Ilsinho was consistently threatening to unlock Houston’s back line. What stood out, however, was his defensive work. Ilsinho harassed the Dynamo’s midfield, balancing both pressing and patience. He had nothing left to give after his 67 minutes on the field.


  1. The Truth says:

    Fabi had one of his best games. Even with the short rest he neutralized all offenses down his side. Unfair, even at a 6. Gaddis’ was much better than a 4, even taking his cautions into account. Ilsinho shouldn’t be 9 b/c he’s still too selfish for my liking.

    • The first yellow card to Gaddis was also a horrendous decision.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Resolute comment.
      …people arguing Ray played bad and that’s not the case at all. Castro is a handful. He did better containing him than Rosenberry……. without question.
      As for Fabinho, he has been good and I give props as his game irritates me frequently.

      • Eh, Ray wiffed a bunch of times too and Rosenberry was in after we went into a defensive shell. I think they played defensively about the same.

    • Nick Fishman says:

      When I evaluate the full backs, it’s tough to rate a player above a “7” without making an offensive impact, especially when the Union controlled the opening 45′.

      Both Gaddis and Fabinho played well defensively, but I can’t say they played at an elite level. I may be harsh on Gaddis, but I think his challenge was that bad.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        As you point out, though, Gaddis did make an offensive impact as the trailer on the play where Ilsinho hit the post. And that was shortly after he was in obvious pain (I believe from taking a ball in a painful spot).
        On that same play, I would actually downgrade Ilsinho slightly. His shot that hit the post was through two defenders. He had an option which he didn’t take to lay the ball off to a wide open CJ Sapong who would have been 1v1 on the keeper.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        I evaluated that play in real time…so I may be off but it seemed to me neither of Ilsinho’s outside choices were far enough afield to lay the ball off and provide a better angle than the one he had with an entire net and two defenders blocking the goalie’s view. I had no problem with that shot.
        It was well taken and if three inches more to the inside we would all be thinking damn that was killer.

      • Sapong got up there enough, but I still have no problem with the shot, especially since he tagged it on frame and on a break the rebounds can be just as deadly. Ray should have done better with it but he stopped running when Ilsinho shot and was no longer in a great position.

  2. pragmatist says:

    I have not seen a better effort, maybe ever from this team, than I did in the first half. They were flying all over the place, and smothering Houston. And it was everyone. Truly impressive.
    It almost feels like they hit rock bottom, and they all have finally found their pride (and developed some chemistry along the way, with Curtin making the right lineup moves). Whatever it is, this is some damn impressive play. Hopefully, Jim doesn’t run them into the ground. Again.

    • Agreed they have looked worlds apart from early this season. Curtin, and the players deserve all the credit. But please let Jimmy rotate the squad. Please Jim? Please JIM! He could easily have made 6-7 subs last night. The only player from the mids and forward, that didn’t look gassed, was Haris. The rest were done by 60 mins. One more time for luck…Jim, please, for the love of the soccer gods, rotate the damn squad.

      • He mentioned in the press conference that they felt the hard game in terms of endurance was Saturday not the midweek one. Hopefully that was a clue to what they are going to do. They need to rest at minimum 3 players this game, probably should be closer to 6 though.

  3. My man of the match, personally, was Bedoya, who tirelessly did all the defensive work in the middle last night, as Medunjanin did not quite repeat his utterly dominant performance of the weekend.

    I think all the ratings here are too high by about +1 (or, in Ilsinho’s case, +2). The Union did not look terribly strong in the second half; they just looked better than Houston. Mind you, all of this can be put down to 2 teams playing the latter half of a mid-week game on short rest in high heat and humidity, so I don’t really fault anyone, but it was not exactly fantastic soccer.

    I certainly don’t think Gaddis deserves better than a 5. He really did get lucky not to be shown the door. And the yellow he did get was totally needless. I also agree that Keegan did not look great.

    I think a 6 for Fabinho is fair. His passing was off. I also don’t blame him for this, as I think he is getting tired. I wish we could rest him on Saturday.

    • Nick Fishman says:

      I can agree to split the difference and say Ilsinho was closer to an 8. Either way, it’s nice to the No. 10 perform as well as the Brazilian did.

  4. Jack Elliot should be given credit for keeping Cubo Torres off the scoring sheet. He was shadowing him all game.
    Although that may just have been Cubo choosing to stay on Jack Elliot’s side of the field.
    But then again if I had to choose between no goals on Elliot’s side or no goals and pain on Gooch’s side I would have made the same choice.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Jack Elliot is a revelation.
      77th pick in the draft.
      daft touch.
      excellent communicator with OO.
      better than Richie……… but IMO that’s not hard.

      • I like Richie, but the D has been better (especially on set pieces) since Gooch replaced him.

    • pragmatist says:

      I was really excited for the Marquez/Yaro pairing this year. Now, aside from the issue of squad rotation, I’m really, really content with the Elliot/Gooch pairing.
      This is a crazy league.

  5. When the other team has a strong #10 Bedoya has taken them completely out of the game. He’s even been able to contribute offensively. He’s really earning his pay recently and probably hasn’t gotten the credit he deserves, although I suppose that’s been true his whole career.

    • pragmatist says:

      That’s true of the position he plays. It’s not a glamorous job he has out there, but it is massively important. Unfortunately, in our SportsCenter culture, his fantastic play doesn’t create highlights – it prevents them.
      He’s been fantastic.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Agreed…I was ruthless on him for a lack of leadership and now find it was me…not him.
        The beginning of season had him out of sorts positionally which likely accounted for the mark against…..but as the 8 he’s in total control and dead to rights the leader on this team.
        At one point he went from the right side of field and tracked a runner into opposite corner, dispossessed him, outlined lowered his head and trotted back to ‘position’— total menace out there… I screamed from the seats… standing ovation from me for that one simple play.
        and all shit you don’t see on TV—- but can see in real time.
        Kudos to Alejandro Bedoya. I am pleased to be so wrong.

      • HopkinsMD says:

        And El P, kudos to you for calling it like you see it and the honesty to note a reversal.

  6. It was nice to watch good soccer. As a fan it was like watching last years team when they played like a top notch team. I still feel Blake can be a lot better. An 8 was kid of high. Many of the stops were ones that should be stopped by a pro goalie. The players attempted a lot of creativity and it was nice to see. The defense played smart and for 90 mins. Having CJ and the other mids that play forward go 6 to 6 was very Real Madrid . Even Mr Ronaldo runs the field so to see CJ run the field I felt really inspired everyone to go every where. Number 5 is our version of Pique or Ramos. He may not have the skill but he knows how to make forwards feel they need to check their lanes before making a blind pass. I don’t enjoy the way our national team has ever played. Great athletes who hustled a lot but if they could play like the Union did last night I think our youth would have different soccer players to admire and emulate.

  7. Adam Schorr says:

    Fafa had a fantastic game. Obviously his opening header was good, but he also did a fantastic job on the second goal of bodying up a defender that would have been able to get in the way of Ilsinho’s shot. Somebody pointed out that the Union are 3-0-1 with 9 goals for and 0 against with him starting, and he has certainly been a big part of it. I don’t know whether it’s coaching or just his playstyle, but he has not hesitated to jump in as a striker trying to make things happen, and if you look at those 9 goals, you will often see him front and center. Basically, every time Sapong drops back to win a ball, Fafa runs up to play striker, and his combination of speed and willingness to fight for position has been causing opposing defenses major problems. He’ll figure out how to finish those breakaways with more experience.

    • He’s even been solid on D. He’s a big reason why things have turned around. His speed in always in the back of the FB/CB head and his aggressiveness is opening things up for Sapong too.

    • Haris a number of times was putting balls up there for Fafa to run on to. He is more of a forward then a midfielder and it shows.

  8. I was there.
    To me, this looked like a different Union team than was on display at the beginning of the year. They are starting to click, and while there were some miscues (I saw a few “I wanted you to run this way” moments in the first half) on the whole, the team is playing better as a unit. They look like they are having fun, too.
    I gave Ilsinho a lot of crap last year…saying he was the fattest person I’ve ever seen play professional soccer (this was pre-#rolypolygoalie) but this year he is slimmer, faster, deadlier.
    I can’t wait for Saturday. FEED ME MORE!

  9. HopkinsMD says:

    Is it just me, or has Jim become more vocal/directive toward his players during the game? Taking it as a good thing, to be clear.

    • Noticed this as well, he was especially demonstrative last night. Good to see.

    • Zizouisgod says:

      Good point. It’s good that he is more communicative and animated on the sideline. He has always trended towards displaying very little emotion in the past, I hope that this change is permanent.

    • CPfeif13 says:

      It applies to coaches as well. Earnie backed him during a tough time and he saw the team out of it.

  10. Andy Muenz says:

    I know we don’t rate the coaches here, but kudos to Curtin for one specific play. He caught the ball when it went out of bounds and before Rosenberry could get over there to take the throw, Gonzalez was already motioning for the Union to hurry up. Curtin deserves credit for pulling the ball back behind his head as if to throw it in himself. Good technique for a center back 🙂

  11. John Ling says:

    I’ve given MLS – and indirectly the Union – a lot of shit over the years for 7pm mid-week games. So… THANK YOU for starting this one at 7:30.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Good call… I actually think you helped TBH.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Thank you, John. While I prefer 7 (since I live about 15 minutes away), I mentioned to my wife as we were walking in that someone on PSP would comment positively on the starting time. Glad my prediction was correct.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Would have been nice to know in advance about the change. Wouldn’t have been as frantic to get there, as John Ling implies.

  12. All players positioning, substitutions, and the timing of the subs shows they’re now falling into there best suited/well played positions… I had been loosing all confidence in the coach and now that he has kicked his Andy Reid-isms to the curb and made some changes that has produced tremendous results, its pure joy to see this team play up to their potential. Well done coach, attaboys all around JC especially. In ES we trust!

  13. Andy Muenz says:

    Someone pointed out that only 2 players started in the same position last night as they did in the home opener.

    • Wow, you are right. Harris and Fabi, and Blake of course – but I assume they meant field players.

      Simpson started up top over CJ. Fafa sat. Pontius on the other side. Bedoya at 10. Fabian started instead of Ilsinho (I think). Rosenberry and Richie instead of Jack and Ray, and Gooch was at RCB.

      And only some related to injury.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        It has been systematic, reasoned, piece by piece experimentation.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Actually, Harris was at the 8 that game and the 6 last night so it was just Fabi and Blake.

  14. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Also note that the team is old and experienced. Elliott is 21. Who else was under 26, and how many are 30 or older?

    • Fafa and Blake are both 26, and the subs of Herbers and Rosenberry both 23. But yeah we are an older team right now and that’s not changing any time soon. Hopefully the youth does start getting mixed in though. Thankfully we have Bethlehem now so we don’t have promising players rotting on the bench.

  15. scottymac says:

    So the biggest adjustment, Curtin is getting out of his own way. Bedoya isn’t a 10, he’s played very well at the 8. Ilsinho isn’t a right winger and has enough skill and touch to be a 10. Position your player where they can be the most effective.
    Also, I know the “hockey assist” doesn’t get much soccerball street cred, but the move Il$inho put at the top of the box and no look pass to Pontius that led to Fafa’s goal was brilliant. Look, he’s not the fleetest of foot, but he’s the deftest of foot. The only time he didn’t run last night was when he walked off to be subbed.
    Second also, WTF isn’t #BlakeBlank a trending hashtag? All he’s been doing before an ever changing back four is hang donuts on the scoreboard.
    3rd also, I think Sugarman has already been to more matches this season than the previous 7 seasons combined. I hope he’s not counting the cost of fueling the chopper in his investment totals.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Agreed 100%. I’ve argued before I think MLS should begin counting the pass before the pass as an assist too….

      • It’s a useful stat and I’d like it counted, but (and this applies to regular assists too) not all of them are created equal. Ilsinho’s clearly was one.
        I also want to give Ilsinho credit because he came into camp last year straight up fat. He clearly worked this off-season to stay in shape and it shows. Now he’s never going to be like Le Toux running full speed all game but he’s committed to the team and philosophy which is great to see.

  16. Bobby8385 says:

    4 for Gaddis is harsh

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