Player ratings

Stock rising, stock falling: New York Red Bulls 1 (5)-1 (3) Philadelphia Union

Photo: Earl Gardner

Last night’s U.S. Open Cup clash between the Union and the Red Bulls was a roller coaster of a match.

And that’s putting it mildly.

New York were the superior team for large portions of the game, controlling possession while Philadelphia struggled to do anything well. The Union looked out of sorts. They were egregious at the back, and the attack was disconnected and disjointed. On multiple occasions Jay Simpson, C.J. Sapong, and Roland Alberg could be found occupying the same space.

That’s what you get when you ask three central attackers/forwards to share the field.

Then, in the 86th minute, the match turned on its head. Alberg’s goal-scoring ability flashed blindingly. The Dutchman’s clinical finish leveled the score.

From that moment on, Philadelphia roared forward, generating twelve shots after Alberg’s tally. New York were nothing more than bystanders.

Unfortunately for the Union, none of those shots found the back of the net, and the Red Bulls won in penalties.

In such a helter-skelter match, evaluating the individuals can be tough– but we always love a challenge.


Jack Elliott

This is the easy one. Jack Elliott was the Union’s best player throughout the entirety of the game. In the first half, as his teammates struggled, Elliott was there standing firm in front of goal. As the Red Bulls poked and prodded the Union deep in their own half, the fourth-round rookie ensured Philadelphia would not be overwhelmed.

He was there to clear every dangerous pass and challenge every Red Bull attacker. With center back being the deepest position in the organization, Elliott has risen to the top. It’s going to be him and Oguchi Onyewu for the foreseeable future.

Marcus Epps

Marcus Epps didn’t enter the match until the 61st minute, but the rookie from the University of South Florida made an impact. Epps is more than speed and athleticism. He has a natural composure on the ball. He knows when to challenge a defender, flashing past and using skill to create space. Epps also knows when to ease forward, playing the smart pass rather than the audacious one.

There was a spark with him on the field, and the Union attack became vibrant with his introduction. With the Union eliminated from the U.S. Open Cup, Epps now has to fight for a place on the pitch. Only regular season games remain. Chris Pontius is struggling and fixtures will come fast. After this performance, Jim Curtin knows he has a dangerous alternative.

Joshua Yaro

It might be unusual to say Josua Yaro is “rising” after last night. He was dreadful in the first half. A poorly thought overhead clearance in the second minute gifted the Red Bulls the ball at the edge of the box. An even greater gift came in 42nd minute. Yaro’s bad pass to Keegan Rosenberry directly led to the opening goal. It’s the kind of mistake you can’t make in your own half.

The second half was a different story. Yaro’s abundant potential shown through. He started connecting with his distribution, springing multiple attacks with well placed balls. In the 58th minute, he found himself 1v1 with the dangerous Bradley Wright-Phillips on a breakaway. Yaro could have committed a tactical foul. Instead, he stayed with him step-for-step and picked the perfect moment to knock the ball away from the forward. Inconsistent playing time is difficult for anyone. Yaro is Curtin’s third option at the back, but his future is bright.


Keegan Rosenberry

The second-year right back had a similar night to Yaro. He was abysmal in the first but stabilized as the game progressed. Unlike with Yaro, this had more to do with the Red Bulls easing off. Rosenberry could not contain Kemar Lawrence. Jesse Marsch deployed his left back as a wing back in a 3-4-2-1 formation. Rosenberry was caught in two minds, never sure when to challenge or ease off.

Notably, he made multiple unforced errors. A poor touch saw Lawrence race by him with acres of space. His decision to try and keep Yaro’s poor pass in play was reminiscent of Fabinho’s mistake against D.C. United. These mistakes from a full back can be forgiven if its at the expense of offense. Unfortunately, his distribution in the attacking third continues to be suspect. Consistent time in Bethlehem looks like the best way for Rosenberry to find his game.

Derrick Jones

Derrick Jones is the likely candidate to replace Alejandro Bedoya while the latter is on international duty. His partnership with Haris Medunjanin, though, is suspect. The two midfielders aren’t on the same page. It’s an issue exacerbated by the Union’s lack of a true No. 10. Alberg and Ilsinho tend to play higher up the field. It leave acres of space in the center. Unlike Bedoya, Jones doesn’t yet have a great grasp of when to roam forward and when to hang back.

It leaves the team susceptible to counters, especially when Jones’ passing accuracy is an issue. On the Red Bulls’ goal, he was too late tracking back. Jones has loads of potential, but is still raw. Going forward, Warren Creavalle may be better suited to replace Bedoya. While less dynamic, Creavalle would be a more defensively responsible option to help shield the defense. It would allow Medunjanin to drift in the center of the field.


  1. No Fabinho in falling? Where was he on the goal?

    • it was not his guy. Jones should have back-tracked.

    • Fabinho is level. He’s a mixed bag and his defense is worsened when there are other defensive problems. He’s not ever going to be a guy who bails out a defense (except when he’s playing at a goal post on a free kick).

      I honestly don’t understand what everyone else sees in yaro. Speed, sure. But he was dreadful all game, not just the first half.

    • I don’t get the blame for Fabinho or Jones on the Red Bull’s goal. I think it’s a bit harsh.
      The Union were in possession and Yaro and Rosenberry combined to give the ball away carelessly and in a terrible position. I think it’s tough to blame either Fabinho or Jones for not recovering quickly enough when those two players were likely in advanced positions assuming the Union would keep the ball. The blame for me is fairly squarely on Yaro and Rosenberry.

      • I agree, but that’s Jones’ man not Fabinho’s. So if we are saying someone should have been covering him it’s gotta be Jones.

  2. Good summary. Agree with all. Wish Epps had scored from 10′ out instead of kicking a relative easy ball over the goal.

  3. CJ falling. Always seems to be going to the wrong spot in the box. Should’ve went back post on Simpson’s cross for a tap in and didn’t cut to the middle of the box in extra time. Those are 2 goals he would’ve had. His finishing is pretty bad too right now. He’s in his annual scoring funk again and needs to be sat down these next 2 matches and come back in after the gold cup break.

    • (actually we may be talking about the same paly in ET!)

      In ET, when Picault did fantastic work to dribble past two defenders, there was a 2 v 1 with CJ having ACRES upon ACRES of space in the box. CJ could have read a book back there and still had time to read and react to what Picault did.

      The result? Picault dribbles in, centers to CJ – and CJ doesnt even get a foot onto it.


      That was incomprehensible to me.

      CJ just isn’t good enough in the box. All he can do is clean up.

      • Sadly that wasn’t the play I was referencing but add that to the list of failures inside the 18.

  4. I think Najem looks pretty good. I’d like to see more of him. Fafa was great if not for the horrible finish.

    CJ is starting to do the exact same thing he did end of last year. AS Jason said above, he starts being just behind where he should be. The dude clearly needs a break.

  5. All of that hard work for nothing. All the Union need is a proven DP striker and a quality play making #10 and they won’t continually be the 2nd rate out post in MLS! For some inexplicable secret reason Elias Aquilar wasn’t a good fit! They should go with Najem who will hopefully make the #10 position his. Stewart and Curtin are feckless. The fans deserve better!

    • And we will never know why Elias wasn’t a good fit. And it could be any number of very good reasons he was not a good fit. Attitude issues, fitness issues, hates Philadelphia, homesick, not as good as his highlights indicate, doesn’t want to tackle and win a ball back, the Gallo Pinto in PA sucks, or he is a square peg that won’t fit in a #10 hole any better than Ilsinho. Sometimes that happens. I would like to see a true #10 as much as the next guy, but I guess I would rather wait for the right guy than to pull the trigger on a guy that coach and GM don’t rate. And unless you follow the CR leagues closely and was there for all of Elias’s trial, you are making a big assumption that he would be an improvement in the position.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        He may want more money than the Union are willing to pay.
        There was a Greek guy a few preseasons ago, and he wanted a lot more money than was on offer.

    • I think that maybe Elias wasn’t a fit because he is not DP quality. And if he was not a sufficient improvement on Ilson/Najem, why drop $500K for marginal gain?
      I would flip your 2nd sentence and say that, “All the Union need is a proven DP #10 and a high-quality (not DP) striker” and they will be at least 50% better.

  6. I would say that Epps looked pretty good until he got the ball in the final third. Then he froze, Gaddis-style. Maybe he’ll become a difference maker but I’m skeptical.

    On the other hand, Najem has some real skills. Thought he did really well as he picked up the pace of the game.

    Rosenberry can not play a disciplined, defensive style. He seems to only be comfortable when the team is pressing.

    • Nick Fishman says:

      FWIW, Najem was a fringe “stock rising.” He played well, but I think he missed a few opportunities in the attack and completed just 5/11 passes in the New York half.

  7. scottymac says:

    Elliot was very good.
    This may have been Curtins worst game as a manager, and that’s saying something.

    • How so exactly?

      • scottymac says:

        His lineup
        His subs and their timing
        There was 30 yards of space between the midfield and forwards all night.
        Whatever he’s done to Rosenbergers confidence cause he looked like a poor mans Gabriel Farfan all night.
        I tell you what, let’s make it a shorter discussion, tell me what Jim does well.
        I’ll wait.

      • I do not think this was Curtin’s worst game as a manager.
        He switched the lineup around (like many people have been asking for).
        CJ on the right with Simpson up top. That was an experiment people have been asking for.
        Before the game if you would have said Fabi/Elliott/Yaro/Kegs was going to be your starting backline, that wouldn’t have been horrible. Yes, they played pretty bad, but I don’t think you would have predicted it would be that bad.
        Haris and Jones looked to be off, but earlier in the year they showed some promise playing together. This was still the right move.
        Epps coming in at 60′ for Simpson was the right sub and more than 15 minutes earlier than Red Bulls first real sub (besides an injury sub 1st half).
        Maybe Najem comes on 10 minutes earlier. Player wise, it’s still the right sub.
        Pontius could have been earlier. Don’t know why he was holding out on that one.
        As these games go on, the team struggles to keep their shape. Pretty much all year, Curtin and assistants have to yell out to the field for either the defense, midfield, or both to push up. He’s telling the guys what he wants, but I think half of them don’t have the endurance to do it.
        Look, don’t get me wrong. He’s not the best coach in the league. But to say this game was his disaster, I just don’t agree with.

      • scottymac says:

        No one is asking for Sapong on the wing. He wasn’t ever successful at SKC there and when Curtin shunts him out there he becomes invisible.
        Yes, he definitely could have brought on Najem and Pontius much earlier. Sapong was gassed and it was apparent to the dozens of people in the stadium. He had Pontius ready. Sapong subbed out would have been better at the 75′.

      • I thought the lineup was totally fine. We literally had no options in the midfield other than what he played with Bedoya and Creavalle out. He gave Gooch, Pontius, Gaddis, and Ilsinho break, which everyone has been calling for. I saw nothing wrong with his subs based on how the bench had to be with players missing and open cup rules.
        Our roster forces space between the midfield and forwards when Jones is in because he’s so conservative and Alberg doesn’t track back. Honestly it’s on Earnie that there is n 10 on this team and that’s a shame.
        We gave up very few good looks all game even when NY was playing better and then we dominated most of the second half and all of overtime. I find it hard to blame the coach when we take that many shots and can only put 1 in.

      • Also, Rosenberry is a mess right now but he’s the only one (other than maybe Pontius). Hard to blame the coach for 1 player not taking the next step (after taking the league by surprise last year) and he wasn’t even great the second half of last year. Missing preseason with the National Team is not good for the club. It’s a reason I hate having players go to that camp.

      • There were multiple posts in May that discussed playing Sapong on the wing. I agree with bringing in Pontius earlier would have been better. That still doesn’t make it a disaster.

  8. OneManWolfpack says:

    Epps is damn good. Kudos to the FO for that pick. Elliott is another solid pick and should play next to Yaro for the rest of the year. I think KR needs Yaro and a few games to gel. If he is really the player he was last year, he has to be put back in the lineup. Najem looked like he can play too… very smooth I thought. Just play the kids from here on out. Please.

    • Epps, Najem, Fafa starting across the midfield? Young and inexperienced – but could be damn fun to watch!

  9. Andy Muenz says:

    McCarthy stock is rising for me. He had better ball distribution than Blake, mixing short and long and not kicking the long ones over the touch line. He had no real chance on the goal with Klejstan wide open at point blank range. He was somewhat unlucky on the PK’s not to get a save given that he guessed right on 3 of 5 (and even if he had saved one, the Union still probably would have lost when they had no one experienced to take the 6th round kick).
    While Blake is still number 1, I don’t feel as worried with McCarthy going against SKC next week.

  10. I can’t help but think Rosenberry playing every minute of every game last season has led to his struggling this year. He goes from a college season to almost 3,000 minutes at a much higher level of play and athleticism. I point to Curtin for not giving Gaddis – who is clearly capable – a chance to play last year and giving Keegan a break.
    I agree that Fabinho should be on the falling side.
    I agree that Elliott is likely the partner with Onyewu for the foreseeable future but I disagree that he should be. I think Marquez should be the first choice right now, when he’s healthy, as he is the more experienced and mature player. I think that in 2 or 3 years it’s a Yaro-Elliott partnership, but right now I think Marquez should be the guy next to Onyewu.

    • Why would you think Marquez is better than Elliot. Our defense, especially set pieces, has improved dramatically since Marquez has been removed from the line-up. And that doesn’t even mention the insane difference is passing abilities between Marquez and Elliot. Marquez is now and should be 4th on the depth chart.

      • I agree. I like Marquez, but reality is clear. The defense got a lot better once he left.

        I think he is a solid MLS CB but nothing more. He clearly wasn’t making anyone else around him better and when the defense as a whole was underperforming, he could do nothing to help it.

    • how would rosenberry playing so much last year have anything to do with him falling off this year? i don’t see how there could be any causal relationship there. i think if anything the experience would help him avoid a drop off. it looks to me like you’re trying to make it curtin’s fault that rosenberry is experiencing a phenomenon so common that it already has a well known name

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Sophomore slump is an excuse- period- that has become ‘something’ to rationalize only in this country.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        I thought the comment about high-press defense somewhere above was perceptive and worthy of further analysis.
        We do not yet know whether we can high press teams with Elliott in the back line. We can from a run-of-play perspective with Marquez and Yaro, defensively.
        But I agree with the criticism above of Marquez against set pieces.
        We also do not know whether we can High-press with Medunjanin. I am a bit skeptical.

  11. soccerdad says:

    how aboiut all the poor decisions from fafa? and those shots….

  12. Old Soccer Coach says:

    In considering Derrick Jones, we need to remember that the 2016 season was his first as a number 8.
    In his last two matches I have seen more attempts at longer attacking passes than were on display during preseason and his earlier games. Who ever described him as raw there is on the money.

  13. scottymac says:

    It’s hilarious we’re arguing about who played well for a team that looked like they just met for the better part of the match.

    • Playing like they just met, is something I’ve thought for a while. As in, there’s that split second they seem to hesitate when they receive the ball, “where’s my teammates? Okay, then I’ll do this.” The only time that they’ve ever looked organized is when Mondragon was here. Nowak was “something” but at least the players seemed to have a plan during games. Was it Mondragon or Nowak that did it, I don’t know.
      I read an article about Arena a couple weeks ago, where the athletes commented that every player had a role every game, and that role was rehearsed and understood by them and their teammates.
      I don’t get the impression that the Union does that sort of thing. Be it game planning, positional roles, let alone tactical changes during a game.

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