Player ratings / Union

Player ratings: Philadelphia Union at Real Salt Lake

All good things come to an end.

For a month, the Boys in Blue were busy reinvigorating a fan base they had begun to leave for dead, and they were doing it by scoring bunches of goals while keeping clean sheets. That unexpected six game unbeaten streak is now over, scattered like dust in the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. Perhaps Union fans had a false sense of hope ahead of the weekend’s fixture, given the team’s recent form and where Real Salt Lake sat in the standings. Like Doris Day once sang, “Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps…”

A quick reminder about how PSP does player ratings: 5 is an average score and points are added or subtracted from there. So a performance of 6 is a fine score, and a 4 leaves something to be desired but isn’t horrible.

Player ratings

Andre Blake — 4

Andre Blake is an excellent shot-stopper, and Union fans are routinely reminded of this in league and team highlights. In this match, he caught some very strong shots and did well when he needed to parry. The goal against had little to do with him, and was coming in the flow of the match anyway. His baseline of quality, however, does not guarantee a good match or a good rating.

There is a glaring problem in Blake’s game, unfortunately succinctly put by Philly Soccer Page commenter el Pachyderm: Andre Blake is “an event horizon in possession.” His passing completion percentage of 48% in this match illustrates what every team in MLS already knows: If you can force the Union back to their keeper, then more than half the time the ball will be yours. It kept the team from effectively building out of the back, and it can’t continue if the team expect to be among the league’s elite.

Fabinho — 4

Fabinho is becoming a more and more difficult player to give an unbiased rating to. His statistical lines are all but Union canon at this point: offensive contributions by way of crosses and the occasional wandering dribble, and passable if still irregular defensive ones that keep any positional substitutes on the bench. Fabinho didn’t have a great match. Though chances came from all over the field for RSL in this match, the deciding goal came with him waiting for the referee to bail out his poor reactions. That’s a big ask in this league, unfortunately, and one that contributed to he and his teammates losing the match.

Oguchi Onyewu — 5

Onyewu was his usual self, steady with the ball and frankly not all that involved. Generally speaking, that’s a good thing for a defender. On the goal, Onyewu stepped up, anticipating the passing sequence before it happened, only to be two steps behind when his outside backs failed to make the same read. As Josh Yaro continues to get fit, Coach Curtin will have some tough decisions to make in defense, even as this back four continues to improve.

Jack Elliott — 6

The post is a goal keeper’s best friend, and Jack Elliott found out that in Sandy, Utah, there is no greater bromance than the one between Nick Rimando and his cross bar. Elliott’s header was one of the first half chances the Union had to grab a hold of this match, and just like the others, it was for naught. However, his calm passing and assertive positioning as the game went on (all but functioning as a defensive midfielder in the waning minutes as Union players pushed forward), in addition to his savvy professional fouls to stop counterattacks, should continue to impress the locals.

Raymon Gaddis — 3

Jim Curtin put Raymon Gaddis into the lineup several weeks ago to close to positional gaps between the right back and the middle of this defense. This tweak worked, and the Union defense improved immensely. Unfortunately, and despite some noticeable improvements on both sides of the ball, Gaddis is still a known quantity in the league and one that was exploited in this match. Whether it was Joao Plata running circles around him, or the right back making long forays into the offensive third only to freeze on the ball like a deer in headlights and cough up a turnover, the Union need more from his position than he offers.

Haris Medunjanin — 7

Every bit of Union offense in this match flowed through Haris Medunjanin. His passing was jaw-dropping, his dead ball service led to several near-miss chances, and his late free kick forced a difficult save from Nick Rimando that should have resulted in more from the rebound. His score would be higher except that he had several uncharacteristic turnovers in the midfield, both from his distribution and having his pocket picked, that weren’t fatal but could have been.

Alejandro Bedoya — 5

The Union captain looked gassed in this match, and not just in the final minutes. Though he won more aerials than anyone on the team and finished with nearly the most touches, few were memorable or dangerous. Bedoya continues to be an enigma for most Union fans who see his passion and work rate but can’t always quantify his contributions. In this match, that narrative persisted.

Chris Pontius — 4

Pontius was among the Union players who had a chance to get the Union on the board in the first half, but his 28th and 39th minute curlers missed wide. Around those moments and a trademark knocked-down header, though, Pontius disappeared. Not only did Pontius see little of the ball, but his 57.1% completion percentage, even when factoring in taking chances on the offensive end, simply isn’t good enough. The Union looked disjointed in the midfield in part because they couldn’t find their wingers as an outlet, and when turnovers happened, the group were caught collectively upfield.

Ilsinho — 5

Perhaps a lower score should be in order for the talented but enigmatic Brazilian, but Ilsinho gets a five for still being the best option this team has for a number ten. His first half two on one breakaway with Alejandro Bedoya was as tantalizing as it was infuriating, given Ilsinho’s choice to play an audacious and early, outside of the foot pass to the streaking captain before RSL game-saver, Stephen “Sunny” Sunday, had committed. It was wasteful, maddening, and not good enough, and given how few chances came from the Brazilian’s gifted feet, representative of the team’s outcomes on the day.

Fafà Picault — 5

Picault continues to find his place in the Union starting XI because of his breakneck speed, forcing defenses to sag and track in order to accommodate his timely runs. In the 17th minute, Haris Medunjanin found Picault in just this situation, and though the diminutive winger settled the ball like Willie Mays against the Indians and managed a chip-and-head double shot, both were impressively saved. Similar to his wing mate, Chris Pontius, though, when Picault isn’t found behind the defense, he’s largely not found in front of it either. As a result, he was the first player subbed out.

C.J. Sapong — 6

C.J. Sapong is either the most fouled man in American soccer or a wizard most familiar with the dark arts who can conjure out of thin air what appear to be fouls but are not… or both. His heat maps continue to blanket the field, his passing continues to be stellar (an unmatched 90% in this match), and his defensive contributions continue to be under appreciated (he won the most tackles on the team against RSL). Sapong managed just one shot in this match and was kept off the score sheet, despite his efforts.


Jay Simpson (for Picault, 60′) — 4

Given the Union’s need to press for an equalizer and the altitude and non-stop sprinting starting to accumulate for Piacult, moving Sapong out to the wing and bringing in striker Jay Simpson seemed to be a sensical maneuver. Thirty minutes and only eight touches later, no equalizer was found. Simpson was introduced in January as a player who, “if he gets a good supply of crosses and quality through balls he will score.” In this match, he was supplied with neither.

Roland Alberg (for Pontius, 70′) — 2

KYW Philly Soccer Show Co-host, Philly Soccer Page contributor, and outdoor photographer extraordinaire, Mike Servedio, tweeted it best when he said, ten or so minutes into Alberg’s shift:

Though it was a fleeting one, he had, Mike. At the whistle, Alberg finished with only four touches, none of them to another Union player or at the RSL goal.

Marcus Epps (for Ilsinho, 82′) — 5

Epps earned an average rating for doing exactly what most players making their professional debut in a match gone awry do: try and play within himself and not quite look ready for primetime. The South Florida product has speed and some quick and fancy feet, and for those two things in combination, his results were tantalizing. Those who watch Bethlehem Steel matches or who live and die by the “Play the kids!” mantra are looking forward to his growth and continued contributions for both squads.

Geiger Counter

Fotis Bazakos — 5

There isn’t much to say about Bazakos that doesn’t include some standard MLS hand-wringing, specifically that he failed to issue an early card when fouls began to accumulate for Tony Beltran, then dished them out unevenly after that. Otherwise, Bazakos did a decent job.

Player Of The Game

Haris Medunjanin

It’s a strange feeling for Union fans to have to worry about international call ups, but the Bosnian and Herzegovina national will be getting on a plane to represent his country in their World Cup qualifier against Greece soon, the first such trip for the midfielder since he put on a Union shirt. Given his contributions to the team this season, and specifically in this match (see above), the Union will have a gaping hole to fill against New York City FC next weekend while he’s gone.



  1. OK, so arguing about player ratings is one of the time-honored traditions of soccer, but… seriously, man, I don’t think we were watching the same game here.

    First of all, a 4 for Blake?!? Are you serious?!? Yes, his distribution is terrible. No, you cannot dock him 3 points for that. If we don’t have one of MLS’ best shot-stoppers between the posts for that match, we lose at least 2-0, probably 3-0. He gets a 7, and Man of the Match.

    Second of all, one of the Union’s biggest problems in this match is that they consistently lost the midfield battle. RSL ran rampant through the center; in the first half especially the Union managed to re-create the “soft middle” of their first 7 matches. Yet you gave Bedoya a 5, Ilsinho a 5, and Medunjanin a 7. So whom are you blaming for that? Sorry, but all of their ratings need to be 1-2 points lower. I’d give Bedoya a 4, Medunjanin a 5 for his lack of defensive contribution (though I agree that he did have a few amazing long passes as usual), and Ilsinho a 3 at the most. Maybe a 2. I wanted him subbed out in the 58th minute. And I’ve been his biggest booster. (Though seeing Alberg’s performance off the bench made me remember why.)

    Also, I’m not sure what Simpson did to earn a 4. Does “be less invisible than Alberg” earn you a 4?

    • I have trouble with accurately rating Blake, I’ll be honest. Two of the saves he made were truly great, but there are probably 10 keepers in MLS who make them, too. I went into the rating thinking that “that’s a save that a starting keeper ought to make,” and then I built from there.

      Overall, I only think the team had a few really subpar performances, and I mentioned them. For everyone else, it looked like a typical away match where defense comes first before possession, and if you miss your few chances, you’re probably going to lose.

      • Phil in Wilmington says:

        As a former (and very mediocre) goalkeeper, I remember the mantra “great GKs stop the shot before it’s taken.” When a GK is making spectacular saves, it’s fun to watch as a fan, but as a student of the position it begs the question “why did he have to make that save to begin with?” Blake is a great shot stopper and is growing into his command of the 18, but his organization of his defense and his distribution to start possession have not developed at a similar rate. In the modern game, the keeper starts the attack and plays a role in circulating possession. Not everyone needs to be Neuer or Rimando in terms of ball skills, but his long balls need to go to blue shirts 8 out of 10 times every match at this level. How well AB develops those qualities will determine whether he is a world class keeper or a very good domestic/ CONCACAF league keeper.

  2. I might give Blake a 5, but the distribution thing is becoming an issue that can’t be ignored.
    When I used to watch pointy-ball, it was killer to have your team snag a momentum killing turnover, and then have your QB turn it right back over with a stupid interception two plays later.
    It’s becoming the same with Blake. He’s got to start finding his guys with his feet to gain some field position and take some pressure off the back line and himself. It’s getting McCarthy-esque (ridiculous).

  3. Old Socer Coach says:

    Bedoya was gassed.
    Often the absence of something is what it takes to prove how important it is.

    • Curtin needs to rotate or else we are going to have games like this once or twice a month.

      Yes, this one was rough because of no Jones – but honestly even if we DID have Jones, do you really think Curtin would have rotated Jones in for Bedoya?

  4. Joel Pterosaur says:

    I don’t have a huge problem with Blake sending it long under pressure, don’t need a Klinnsman type goof. What I have issue with is time after time, under no pressure and his CB’s split wide and under zero pressure, he waves everyone forward and boots it long. Even if you have the most accurate long passing (he doesn’t obviously) that’s a 50/50 ball at best. Why does he keep doing it?

  5. Adam Schorr says:

    I said it in the post-game and I’ll say it here: Simpson is awful. He’s just bad. He has no redeeming qualities. I don’t know why he continues to get played. He doesn’t do anything without the ball, he doesn’t do anything to get the ball, he doesn’t do anything with the ball, and he is neither strong enough nor fast enough to bother any CB in the league. At this point, just give Charlie Davies a chance, he literally can’t be worse.

  6. Bobby8385 says:

    Blake too low. The entire back 4 too high.

  7. Has moving Sapong to the wing ever worked? Not to my memory, I do not think it ever produced a goal. Take him out and give him a break or risk running him into the ground like last year.

    We are supposed to have depth – use it!

  8. I agree the 4 for Blake is too low, but I had a bigger issue with a 7 for Haris. Easily his worst game in a month. A four at best. I’ve suggested Sapong on the wing but they are dead set against it.

  9. One of the big problems why the other team is getting the ball so often after Blake kicks it upfield is that Sapong never ever wins a head ball. He barely jumps and therefore the defender always wins the head balls. This is also an issue when crosses come in. We had several on Saturday which Sapong should have connected on had he been a better header of the ball.
    We had several chances in the first half and played some exciting soccer but the 2nd half was dour. Another Curtin fiasco: he has to get the team better prepared during half time!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *