Player ratings

Player ratings: Philadelphia Union 3-1 FC Dallas

Photo: Daniel Studio

Where the heck did that come from? On Sons of Ben Appreciation Night, Philadelphia Union put together their strongest team performance of the season and the best half of soccer fans have seen in years. Spurred by Ilsinho’s best performance in a Union shirt, Philadelphia took the game to perennial contender Dallas in the first half, resulting in one of the prettiest team goals in Union history (you should watch it on repeat). While the second half couldn’t live up to the first, the Union did enough to keep the lead rather comfortable and deliver a memorable first-ever win for the Union over Dallas.

Player ratings

John McCarthy— 8

McCarthy made a number of clutch saves to keep the Union’s lead and was fearless off his line, putting his body in harm’s way often. His decision-making has improved incredibly over the past few seasons, while his shot-stopping certainly remains intact. While Andre Blake should be healthy enough to start next game, McCarthy appears to have proven himself as a solid MLS-quality keeper. Should have been rewarded with a clean sheet.

Ray Gaddis — 4

The fullbacks were clearly the weak spots on the field. Ray Gaddis was beat behind by Dallas’ quick and tricky wingers on a number of occasions and was bailed out by Elliott and McCarthy. In stoppage time, Barrios again found space behind him and ended the Union’s chances for a clean sheet.

Jack Elliott — 8

Amazingly, Elliott impresses more and more every game. His stat line of three tackles, three interceptions, four clearances, and three blocked shots only tells part of the story. Truly, he was a baby-faced Colossus on the backline, snuffing out attacks, making goal-saving tackles and blocks, and frustrating Dallas for 90 minutes – his pinpoint passing out of the back is just gravy on top of his defensive prowess.

Oguchi Onyewu — 7

Gooch’s partnership with Elliott continues to thrive. Onyewu is the perfect imposing and physical yang to Elliott’s long-legged yin. Gooch’s mobility continues to surprise and his presence in the box on set-pieces is crucial.

Giliano Wijnaldum — 4

Wijnaldum’s propensity to give defenders too much space and drift out of position continues to open up the right wing for the opposition. His decision-making on the ball remains finicky, and he often forces passes when he pushes up the field, leading to myriad turnovers while he is far out of position.

Haris Medunjanin — 8

Another brilliant performance from Medunjanin. His work rate, positioning, and passing were finally matched by his midfield counterparts to great aplomb and showcased his true worth to this team. That rollover move is straight-up silly and put Dallas defenders on the turf twice. Lovely combination and assist on the opening goal.

Alejandro Bedoya — 7

Bedoya was the perfect pivot off Medunjanin and Ilsinho. He relieved pressure, steadied possession, and made long galloping runs to pull defenders and open up space for his teammates. Even more impressive was his tenacious tracking-back after turnovers that rescued Gaddis and Wijnaldum, and, potentially, two points.

Ilsinho — 9

A simply class performance from the Brazilian, Ilsinho was everything fans and coach Jim Curtin want to see in a No. 10. Incisive passing, attacking vigor, and a real asset in possession, Ilsinho bossed the first half, even putting in some strong defensive work. His combination play with Medunjanin and C.J. Sapong served up two brilliant goals, and he was rewarded with a goal for himself off a deliciously served-up volley. While he faded in the second half, Saturday’s performance was a savory – and perhaps cruel – indication of how well Ilsinho can play.

Chris Pontius — 6

Great defensive pressure in his 60+ minutes and certainly looked to get on the ball more than we typically see. Should have opened his goal account late in the first half on a 1v1, but he hit the ball straight at Chris Seitz. He is past-due.

Fafa Picault — 7

Fafa does so much for the Union’s attack simply by stretching the defense and opening up the middle of the field for the Union. On the ball, he took defenders on and kept them honest as he both drove to the end line to serve in crosses and cut back on his right foot to test the goalkeeper. Picault was all over the field for 90 minutes, pulling defenders out of position and opening up passing lanes for his teammates.

C.J. Sapong — 8

Yes, he got the brace, but Sapong did a lot that didn’t show up on the scoresheet. Sapong’s hold-up play continues to be the fulcrum of the Union’s offense and his wild improvement passing this season kickstarted most of the Union’s dangerous attacks. His intelligent runs earned him two goals off terrific buildup, the latter started by Sapong himself to put Ilsinho in on goal before the rebound was directed the striker’s way.


Marcus Epps (64′ for Chris Pontius) – 6

Epps brought in fresh legs and kept the Dallas fullbacks from pressing higher as the game wore on and the visitors pushed for a goal. His touch still needs improving.

Roland Alberg (86′ for Ilsinho) – N/A

Wasn’t on the ball much as Dallas pushed for consolation goals.

Geiger Counter

Ricardo Salazar — 6

Fair and steadily in control of the match, Salazar let the players play, but kept the reckless challenges in check for a  physical, but fluid match. Did well handling his first go with VAR.

VAR – 7

It hath arrived. This game will go down in history as the first time a goal was disallowed by VAR in league play. Maxi Urruti’s 79th minute goal clearly came after a foul by Cristian Colman. The review took about an extra two minutes but ultimately delivered the correct call. You’d like to see it move a little faster as it becomes more common in games.

Player of the Game


Ilsinho’s creativity finally impacted the scoreline as his dribbling and passing put teammates – and himself – on goal and showcased just how important a true No. 10 performance is to the 4-2-3-1 formation. Hopefully, this performance is not an outlier, but the start of real output from the position.


  1. I’m conflicted about the fullbacks. I think both of them are appropriately rated here, made some really good plays, but were generally infuriating during several others. Both need a rest, if just for the sake of getting a rest.

    • I am more ok with Wijnaldum than Gaddis. Gaddis has no reason to still be playing. His ceiling is stories below Rosenberry’s.

      Wijnaldum could use a rest too, but his MO is that of a young, cheap player we brought here to grow. So these are the kind of things we need to let him work through and grow with the other young defenders with. The last thing we need to do is banish him to the Doghouse like we did Rosenberry.

    • Wijnaldum lost possession so many times, and often high up the field – it’s starting to feel like a real liability. Fabinho offers much more going forward, and hasn’t been as much of defensive liability in the last year or so. We all love Ray, but he (and to be fair Keegan as well) are often getting burned on that pass through the channel to the winger running in behind. That might need a tactical adjustment from Curtin. Bedoya deserves a lot of credit. Dallas tried very early to mark Medujnanin out of the game and cut him off as an outlet. Ale responded by making himself available and freed up Medujnanin to move upfield. Very impressive game.

  2. Glad to see ilsinho getting some love for defensive work too. I commented out loud a few times when he tracked back hard near where I was seated to make a couple of aggressive challenges. He was definitely dialed in that night. I’m feeling a bit less apathetic today. Nice performance all around.

  3. While the players play the game and deserve the kudos for the great game they played, I couldn’t help notice how full, rowdy and loud the SOB section was this game. They were well appreciated by the rest of the fans on SOB appreciation night and do a great job towards making Talen a fortress. (see our home and away records)
    If $2 beers starting an hour and a half before game time on the Union Ale House deck helps to encourage that SOB attendance and performance, the Union should make that investment for every home game.

    • The river end was far from full.

      • Advertise $2 beers with an SoB membership card and attendance might improve.
        Seriously, those who think and speak “business,” what would be the problem with using beer as a loss leader from opening the stadium until the 23rd minute?
        I know beer sales are the reason why Univerisyt of Louisville basketball is the only not-football program in the top 50 NCAA revenue generating sports programs, but $2 beer night would put butts in seats.

      • If I could get a beer for $2, I’d consider getting an SoB membership, to be honest.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Agreed, Osager. The River End looked the same as it did all of this season. Fuller towards the middle and much more sparse as you fan out to the corners. I didn’t notice a difference.

      • I guess we will have to agree to disagree on SOB attendance. Yes it has been fuller before but not in last month or so – at least IMO. I’m there for about every home game.
        The $2 beer point is still valid though.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    One thing I haven’t seen commented on with respect to VAR was the slowdown during the first half. One of the Union players (Sapong?) went down in the box but Salazar let play continue. Dallas took the ball downfield and earned a corner. Before they could take it, Salazar held them up while he was listening in his ear. I’m assuming he was talking to the booth where they were reviewing whether it should have been a penalty. That was probably a bigger disruption to the flow of the game than the play that was actually overturned.

  5. pragmatist says:

    I feel like Ilsinho had been building to a game like this during his run at the #10 spot. But for whatever reason, Curtin stopped playing him there. I know there were injuries, or whatever, but there is zero reason why Alberg should start at that spot if Ilsinho is healthy. His strengths are exactly what a #10 requires. (Granted, he doesn’t use them correctly all the time, but he has them at his disposal.)
    This team feels odd, because when one guy is out of position, then entire house of cards falls down. When you put guys in their natural spots, things go well.
    CJ top
    Ilsinho at the 10
    Fafa left
    CP/Epps right
    Ale/Haris 6/8
    Defense is what it is
    It’s not difficult. Just keep them healthy and put them in their best spots. This is what makes Bruce Arean successful. Not because he’s some amazing tactician, but he knows how to play to the strengths of his team. Follow that lead and we will fine.

    • Looked to me like Ilson Jr. had something to prove after he was benched in favor of Alberg last game or two. Hopefully he keeps that fire.

  6. Usually there are one or two ratings I disagree with in these posts, but I can’t quibble with any of these this time around.

  7. The Rosenberry thing is not about soccer; it is about personalities. If Curtin can’t get over what is stuck in his craw, he should trade the kid and get a player he will put on the pitch. Wasting a roster spot and a solid player over pique is purely stupid.

    • John P O'Donnell Jr. says:

      Maybe he’s trying to make him a better player and not treat him like a spoiled child. This team already gave up on Jack Mac & Amobi Okugo instead of giving them some tough love. It’s the managers job to push him and Roseberry has to respond.

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