Player ratings

Player ratings: Philadelphia Union 1-0 D.C. United

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union needed this win.

Entering Saturday’s match in last place in the Eastern Conference, Philadelphia took all three points against D.C. United. It was a deserved result where the Union controlled large portions of the match. The 1-0 scoreline belied an engaging match between the two rivals.

Jim Curtin made two changes to a side that had lost its last three matches in league play. Captain Alejandro Bedoya returned from injury and international duty, taking the place of a suspended Derrick Jones. Fabinho’s erratic play at left back saw Curtin turn to Giliano Wijnaldum, who made his second start in MLS.

Philadelphia played quality soccer, showing flashes of the team that set a club-record four game winning streak. Lapses in judgement, however, gave life to mediocre D.C. United who lacked the creativity to consistently threaten the Union.

It’s this inconsistency in play which is the biggest reason the Union sit adrift near the bottom of the table.

Player Ratings

Andre Blake – 7

It’s easy to forgive Blake for punting the ball out of play when he rescues three points for the Union. The Jamaican guessed the right way on Lamar Neagle’s penalty kick in the 7oth minute and had the poise to push the rebound out of play. Blake once again denied Neagle in stoppage time, making an acrobatic reactionary save on the winger’s free header.

Raymon Gaddis – 7

This was the right back’s best game of the season. Gaddis did well to defend well in 1v1 situations and recognized when to help his teammates pressure the ball. He was equally impressive going forward. Perfectly weighted through balls down the flank to Sapong and Bedoya sparked multiple Union attacks. One, while shielding a defender, led to the winning goal. His only moment of trouble came after United left back Taylor Kemp fully committed to attacking. A miscommunication with Bedoya left Kemp with acres of space at the edge of the box.

Jack Elliott – 5

It was an up-and-down affair for the Brit. Isolated against José Guillermo Ortiz, Elliott shut down the threat in the 16th minute. He also lost track of Deshorn Brown in a dangerous area later in the match. A bad turnover in the 62nd minute was balanced by a brilliant ball to Bedoya in the 77th minute.

Oguchi Onyewu – 7

It’s expected the veteran center back will display strength and smarts along the back line. He showed both against D.C., making strong challenges and reading threats before they could present danger. What couldn’t be expected, however, was his Ilsinho imitation. On three occasions, the lumbering defender used his dribbling skills to release pressure. The last such occasion saw Onyewu make a rare foray into the box, completing his run after laying the ball off to Fafà Picault.

Giliano Wijnaldum – 5

The Dutch left back was an improvement over Fabinho’s recent play. He was active going forward, highlighted by a nice cross to Picault in the 43rd minute. He was calm on the ball and accurate in distribution. Defensively, he snuffed out attempts down his flank, but was beaten by Brown once. United exploited the channel between Wijnaldum and Onyewu, but that should improve with familiarity. The biggest knock on the 24-year-old was the occasional lapses in concentration that could have cost the Union. Ian Harkes found himself unmarked on a first half corner. Also, it was Wijnaldum who left Neagle free to unleash the header in stoppage time.

Alejandro Bedoya – 8

Is there any question who is Philadelphia’s talisman? The captain seemed to be involved in every offensive threat while also silencing D.C.’s dangerous No. 10, Luciano Acosta. While his assist on Picault’s goal will make the highlights, he had two more near-perfect crosses the Union couldn’t finish.

Haris Medunjanin – 7

It’s a shame the Bosnian makes it look so easy distributing from midfield. It’s expected Medunjanin will probe a defense, shifting play while operating as the fulcrum of the attack. Don’t take it for granted. Medunjanin added 11 defensive actions on Saturday, but he earned a bonus point for a level of sportsmanship rarely seen at any level of competition.

Ilsinho – 5

It’s difficult to evaluate the Brazilian. He had a good game, playing a few clever through balls behind United’s back line. If they were turned in for goals, Ilsinho would have been showered with praise. In the 43rd minute, he raced back and cancelled a D.C. attack along the sideline. Despite this, the Union are not playing through Ilsinho. He is a makeshift No. 10 who can’t quite grab hold of the game and make it his own.

Chris Pontius – 3

There isn’t much to say about the winger’s play. Sure, he tracked back defensively, but a bad giveaway in the 41st minute could have been costly. Pontius and Picault switched sides on multiple occasions. On the left and right, Pontius was equally ineffective.

Fafà Picault – 8

How about that for a finish! The goal was a lovely bit of skill, turning Bedoya’s cross into the back of the net with his instep. He almost had another in the 42nd minute, but couldn’t quite get his body in the proper position. Picault’s defensive work was equally impressive. The winger raced back to help as United expected to exploit the space down the Union’s left. Picault’s speed contributed to more than the attack.

C.J. Sapong – 5

The forward’s first shot didn’t come until the 73rd minute. Yes, he has a tireless work rate and is asked to collect the ball with his back to the net upfield. He is also asked to provide goals. Sapong hasn’t scored during open play in seven consecutive matches. The Union need to figure out how to get their leading goal scorer the ball in dangerous areas.


Jay Simpson (64′ for Pontius) – 6

With his introduction, Simpson played centrally while Sapong manned the right wing. In 26 minutes of action, the English forward managed three shots, two of which challenged goalkeeper Bill Hamid. Simpson looked goal-hungry, especially when he chose to shoot on a counter in the 87th minute with better options to his left and right. All said, Curtin should recognize his team is most dangerous with Simpson and Sapong on the field together.

Roland Alberg (70′ for Ilsinho) – 4

It was interesting to see Curtin choose an offensive substitute while protecting a one-goal lead. Alberg failed to impact the game, as the Union saw out the victory.

Marcus Epps (84′ for Picault) – N/A

Epps was brought in to replace Picault for the final minutes of the game. Curtin asked him to use his speed to pressure United as they looked to build.

Geiger counter

Sorin Stoica – 5

There were three big moments for the referee. The first came in the 12th minute. Bedoya played a through ball to Sapong, who went down in the box. While the Union forward went down easily, Kofi Opare made no attempt on the ball. It should have been a penalty. The second was Onyewu’s handball. With his arm drifting from his body, it’s tough to argue Stoica’s call.

The last was the rescinded red card on Acosta. There are two ways to look at it. Either Stoica was rash in issuing the card in the first place, or he should be praised for walking it back. Acosta has a reputation, and it looked like there might have been a kick. Stoica handled the situation well.

Player of the game

Alejandro Bedoya

The Union are a different team with their captain on the field. Picault has become a much needed secondary scorer, and Blake saved the game, but Bedoya was Philadelphia’s best player on Saturday. His partnership with Medunjanin continues to improve and impress. Bedoya’s instincts are what stand out. On the Union’s goal, the U.S. international made his run before Gaddis had collected the ball. He recognizes space so well, able to attack or defend those open areas of play.


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    I actually think Stoica should get a higher grade as I thought he got the call correct on no penalty when Sapong went down. I also thought he got most of the regular calls correct as well.
    I think people are overlooking a major part of Haris’ sportsmanship. Yes, it could have cost the Union this game, but he has potentially bought himself a bunch of calls. Going forward, when he goes down, the refs will be more likely to believe it was an actual foul rather than someone going down easily. So it may easily bring the Union additional free kicks over the course of his time here.

    • Agreed, CJ “works hard”, but mostly at drawing fouls. It gets frustrating and tiresome to watch his post-up move to gain a free kick at midfield that turns into a pass back.

    • If he’s not giving a penalty to Sapong for getting run over from behind he shouldn’t have given a penalty for the weak handball.

  2. Should we have Dax’d Pontius this past offseason? I think so. His value was at its peak.

    • If by “Dax’d” you mean trade away a player who helps his new team climb towards the top of the standings, no.

      • The only thing Pontius is helping us climb towards right now is more playing time for Epps.

    • I wouldn’t have been heart broken if they had traded Pontius. Though I think some of this year’s woes can be put on Curtin for not sitting him. He hasn’t looked the same since the National team call-up. Has he lost a step or is he just tired, I can’t say. He just hasn’t looked right since camp.

      • John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

        Rosenberry would also have seemed to suffered from that call up as well.

      • He looked ok during the winning, although it was assists and not goals. I agree he’s just been off. I’d like to see him sit next game for either Sapong or Epps. Thankfully Fafa is playing well or our wings would be terrible (like the beginning of the year).

  3. MikeRSoccer says:

    A very generous rating to Gaddis IMO. While he did have a secondary assist on the goal, his lack of attacking prowess continues to make our offensive abilities up the right side rather one dimensional. He is also not providing the lock-down defense one would hope for given his lack of attacking ability.
    Should get get a 4? No.
    Should he get the same rating as Blake? Also no.
    I’m splitting hairs here, but I just don’t think we can seriously give Blake and Gaddis the same rating for this game. The former singlehandedly saved two (if not 3) points.

    • I agree. To me, the play where he passed to Bedoya was 80% Bedoya making an amazing run and 20% Gaddis seeing it and making the pass.

      A couple of decent long passes isn’t going to turn me into a Gaddis lover, especially when his possession game is still so limited.

    • Nick Fishman says:

      I wouldn’t say, “his lack of attacking prowess continues to make our offensive abilities up the right side rather one dimensional,” since the most threatening opportunities came from the right.

      With Kemp playing so high upfield, it would have been defensively irresponsible to make aggressive runs down the flank. Instead, he took advantage of the space and played incisive balls into the vacated area.

      I’ve personally preferred Rosenberry’s potential to Gaddis, but on Saturday, the latter played a great game.

  4. Just Rob f/k/a Rob127 says:

    I feel like Blake gets the same treatment MJ and LeBron get in basketball. Even though they deserved it, you can’t give them the MVP every year. The reason the U came away with 3 points is simple…Blake. Bedoya had a nice game, which happens far too infrequently for my taste. Picault’s goal was an awesome display of skill. All that aside, I think Blake is the Man of the Match. I feel like he so frequently is the reason this team is still in the match, let alone wins, that we have become desensitized to his goal stopping abilities and don’t want to keep naming him Man of the Match. Maybe the redundancy of it is less sexy but I think he deserved it on Saturday.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      We will be re-sensitized to Blake’s value shortly during the Gold Cup.

    • This is how it feels to have a legit great player on your team. Imagine when we can say the same thing about a Striker or CAM!

    • Agreed. Bedoya is a linchpin for this team, and I’m not taking anything away from him. And maybe part of it is that Bedoya plays the unsexiest position on the pitch. But holy crap… Blake is a walking (diving, sprawling, leaping) highlight reel. He’s Man of the Match easily.

  5. Why isn’t there much more talk about Fafa? Forget the goal (ok, humor me for a minute and try). Fafa showed real speed for the entire 90 minutes. Offensively. Defensively. Mile for mile, has anyone covered more ground? Maybe Bedoya? For the money, Fafa seems to be the hardest working player out there right now. Also, he is showing some impressive ball handling skills and shear joy of playing. If he doesn’t start from this point forward, I’m buying a ticket on #closethecurtin train.

    • No one wants to harp on ES signings that turn out very well, apparently.

      • ES low rent buys have been hits, his middle tier buys not as much. But in average his hit rate is not bad.

        I’m optimistic. But I’m a glass half-full guy, so happy to wait for the future.

    • Fafa definitely deserves credit, wonderful goal. So does Stewart for signing him. Fafa has also worked really hard at getting better defensively. But I also think his speed is way overrated. Birnbaum kept up with him stride for stride so yeah, not very speedy. I don’t mean to take away from his contributions this year. I’m just tired of hearing how fast he is, when CB’s can keep up with him.

  6. I used to say that Alberg was so ill-suited to being a #10 that it would make just as much sense to put Onyewu there instead. Now I’m gonna start saying that more seriously.

  7. I’ll nitpick on ratings for what it’s worth. But what does a guy have to do to get a 10? For me, Blake’s performance was about as good as you can get from a goalie. He was positioned well all game and literally won the game for the Union. Not many keepers IN THE WORLD can make some of the saves he does. Give him a 9 if you want him to keep working, but a 7 is too low IMHO.
    Fafa — Gary said it best above – he’s just playing with joy right now. CJ and Simpson could learn something from him – confidence. Expect that every time you get the ball, you’re going to do something with it. My favorite player to watch.
    Simpson – I don’t see any drop-off from what CJ gives you. I would still like to see him up top with CJ out wide from the start. He got some good chances in this game, and while he hasn’t been finishing a lot yet, remember he’s only getting short stints. Go look at his YouTube highlights if you need a reminder – this guy has the toolchest to finish. It will come if he is played.

    How fun does this lineup look?

    • Simpson does nothing for me. No excitement what-so-ever. Neither does having Sapong out on the wing. It takes away his good qualities and exacerbates his bad ones. Maybe having a quality #10 changes Simpsons results and makes him a better player, but I’d say that would go for C.J. too. So no, not really tempted by that lineup.

    • Nick Fishman says:

      For what it’s worth, a ten for me would be something like Tim Howard’s performance against Belgium. Even if you are flawless, you need the “opportunity” to make a ridiculous amount of saves.

      Blake really only made one spectacular save. In the same way I can’t fault a keeper for allowing a PK, I’m reluctant to give too much credit for guessing the right way.

      All said he might deserves an “8”, but completing better than 30% of your passes wouldn’t hurt.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Blake has to learn to distribute the ball in such a way that the team keeps possession in order to get a 9 or 10 in my book. I wasn’t counting, but I’d be surprised if fewer than 80% of his possessions resulted in either 50/50 balls at midfield or throw-ins for DC.

    • I like putting Sapong out wide as well. Give Pontius a rest.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Hat trick. Blake’s big New England game. Something like that.

    • scottymac says:

      Sapong on the wing is a mistake. Sapong paired with Simpson in a 4-4-2 would be interesting, as all that hold up play CJ is lauded for would be to lay it off to someone who plays facing goal. Sapong on the wing though is asking him to dribble and pass, not in his toolkit right now (or ever probably at 27). SKC played him on the wing a bit and he wasn’t good. He doesn’t cross, he’s not overly fast, his touch is suspect. Remember, they took a low end flyer on Simpson as an upgrade. I don’t think Earnie believes in him either.

  8. Blake was clearly the “Man of the Match” on Saturday. Without his shot-stopping heroics, the Union would likely be looking at another “L” on their record today. His grade should be at least as high, if not higher, than that of any other Union player.

  9. OneManWolfpack says:

    Blake gets a 9. For me it would’ve been a 10, but sometimes he still distributes like amateur. Dude is a total beast. I also thought Elliott and GW were both very good and maybe deserved an extra point.

  10. Bobby8385 says:

    I actually thought Gaddis’ best game of the season was last week in the loss against Red Bulls. He would have had a legit gorgeous assist if Pontius wasn’t in the middle of a Andrew Wenger style drought. I have no idea WTF voodoo magic is in play, but after 5 years he’s starting to actually contribute a little bit in the attack.

Leave a Reply

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