Player ratings

Player ratings: Atlanta United at Philadelphia Union

Photo by Paul Rudderow

The Philadelphia Union played like world-beaters against current MLS expansion darlings, Atlanta United, for the better part of an hour on Saturday night. It was an uneven performance in truth but one that still had the team ahead 2-1 after the break. When defender Josh Yaro decided to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the best album in the Coldplay catalog, “A Rush of Blood to the Head,” with a literal interpretation of the album’s title in soccer-playing-red-card form, the tide began to turn. Atlanta threw numbers forward for more than 30 minutes, finally finding their equalizer in unlikely fashion, early in stoppage time. It was dejá vu all over again for Union fans.

Some will laugh, and some just sit and cry / but you just sit down there and wonder why

-Coldplay, A Rush of Blood to the Head

Player ratings

Andre Blake — 3

The Jamaican made one trademark save in this match, sliding to snuff out a quick Atlanta restart. Otherwise, he was caught flailing several times and out of position several more. The equalizing goal was the combination of a bad read on the ball and a weak clearance that summed up the Union’s match: good intentions, poor execution. There’s no good reason for Blake to play in any match until September given his injury, and his subsequent insecurity in the box is showing.

Keegan Rosenberry –7

After a series of tough outings for fellow right back Ray Gaddis, it seemed as though Rosenberry’s time to start was nigh. Still, seeing his name in the XI had to be a surprise to most Union fans given his own run of form in 2017 and his season-long exile to the bench. All The Barber did was turn in a truly vintage (circa 2016) performance, playing with poise and confidence, finding passing angles that don’t exist on linear surfaces, and generally doing what he did to deserve his place last season. It’s his job to lose again, and Union fans should hope that he doesn’t.

#FreeKeegan, indeed.

Josh Yaro — 2

For most of this match, Yaro was working on a solid four or five rating. The first goal was scored because he switched off on a quick corner, a recurring problem for him. However, he was solid otherwise, tracking runners well, actually winning some aerial duels, and recovering with poise several times in dangerous spots. When Josef Martinez slipped into the channel and found himself a step in front of Yaro, the center back pulled the United attacker down from behind and earned a deserved early shower. He also cost his side a victory for the second time in three matches.

Author’s note: Josh Yaro has been through a lot in the last eighteen months, including injuries to both shoulders and the death of his mother. Here’s hoping his run of form in 2017 is a blip on the proverbial radar in a years long run of good form for this club.

Jack Elliott — 6

Jack Elliott put in a fairly quiet shift, which is noteworthy because he was once again the best central defender on the field and earned himself an assist. The lasting image of this match will be him hurling his enormous English frame toward a drifting, 91st minute header that was destined for the back of the net. Instead, it should be his astonishing recoveries to deny goal scorers and his calm on the ball in every corner of the pitch, time and again.

Giliano Wijnaldum — 6

The Dutchman had himself one of his best shifts in either Union or Bethlehem blue. His scores all season have been limited by his propensity to get caught in possession or out of position. In this match, he limited both of these weaknesses. Even on the game-tying goal, Winjaldum could be found tirelessly chasing his mark into the box to try to prevent the inevitable equalizer, hands on hips in disbelief when that goal was indeed found.

Haris Medunjanin — 4

Haris Medunjanin’s match was uneven. On one hand, he was a steady outlet in possession for both of his fullbacks and combined well in the midfield to move the ball wide and forward. On the other, he had several bad turnovers in the first half and was smoked as a defender more than a few times in the second half. He’s the class of the side, but this wasn’t his best match.

Alejandro Bedoya — 6

Captain America finally opened his 2017 account in style with a 23rd minute bicycle kick that found side netting. Beyond that, though, his defensive work rate was immense and he seemed to get faster as the match wore on. His score would be one or two notches higher had it not been his man, Tyrone Mears, who flew into the box and lofted the game-tying header into the Union’s net. 90 minutes of work nullified because of another late-game lapse.

Fafa Picault — 4

The internet is full of memes devoted to how much better a player is “When Bae comes to watch you play.” Considering Chad “Ocho Cinco” Johnson made the trip to Chester for the first time to watch his childhood friend, Fafa put in a mostly anonymous shift, seeming to be more intimidated by what Atlanta United right back Anton Walkes might do to defend him than what he might do to beat him. “Slow feet don’t eat” indeed, but in order for Fafa to be effective, the mantra ought to be “He who dares wins.”

Chris Pontius — 5

If you were watching at home with the sound on, you know that J.P. Dellacamera and Tommy Smith thought Chris Pontius put in a world class shift on Saturday. From here, it seemed as though Pontius did what he’s known to do: work hard, be in decent spots, press the ball well, and grow into the match. After 75 minutes and another score sheet without his name on it, it’s getting harder and harder to see Pontius back in blue in 2018.

Roland Alberg — 8

Roland Alberg is one of the few players in Union history with enough wherewithal to make the diagonal run he made, chest that lobbed ball cleanly and with control, and slide it past Brad Guzan with such placement. Alberg was also responsible for the corner kick that found and perfectly skimmed off of Jack Elliott’s head and onto Alejandro Bedoya’s foot for the second goal. Finally, Alberg completed his trifecta of accolades on Saturday night with some good, old fashioned running. This kind of effort, these kinds of goals and passes… this is what he was brought here to do.

C.J. Sapong — 4

Repeat after me: C.J. Sapong is the most fouled man in MLS… C.J. Sapong is the most fouled man in MLS… C.J. Sapong is the most fouled man in MLS… C.J. Sapong is a powerful wizard and a master of the Dark Arts… C.J. Sapong is the most fouled man in MLS….


Richie Marquez (54th minute for Alberg) — 4

Freshly tattooed and more thoroughly hirsute than in his last appearance (one that seems like eons ago), the former Union regular did little to impact the score sheet. He could be found, however, chasing his mark 30 yards into the midfield and having to retreat to his position when the team’s pressure was broken. When defending in one’s own half, midfield is not a great place for a center back to be, particularly a man down.

Ilsinho (75th minute for Pontius) — N/A

You can dance if you want to, you can leave your friends behind. But when you’re a man down,… well, there isn’t much to dance about.

Warren Creavalle (85th minute for Picault) — N/A

I’m sure Warren Creavalle would make a good bus driver. He did his best to help the Union park theirs on Saturday, though did little to influence the match.

Geiger Counter

Drew Fisher — 4

Drew Fisher’s decision to give Josh Yaro a straight red card is a difficult one to argue. He was decisive, and it was the right call. Much of the night, however, Fisher was caught being fooled by diving and influenced by whining, things that become tiresome to watch.

Player of the game

Roland Alberg

Pick your metaphor: Night and day, hot and cold, Jekyll and Hyde. Whichever you fancy, you’ve found your Roland Alberg professional summary. Both in large and small samples sizes, Alberg seems to come and go. He dips in and out of matches, often wandering aimlessly to and fro around the pitch (though not as quickly as many fans would like). His season has been one of ups and downs, but the ebb and flow of his metaphorical tide was certainly in on Saturday. It’s neither here not there anymore, but if a contract with a player is a real quid pro quo, then the Union deserve this kind of outing every night. Instead, here’s been on-again, off-again and that’s enough to make fans feel like they’ve been pulled in both directions.

One could go either way on this, but it’s “Two Thumbs Up” for Alberg in this match.


  1. I think you are giving too much praise for Alberg. Yes, it was a brilliant run and finish on the first goal. However, he also seemed invisible for much of the game. He also had a free kick where it looked like he was aiming for the scoreboard above the stadium club.
    I would also drop Bedoya another point for picking up the yellow which will see him get a week’s rest after the trip to Honduras.
    While I agree with Yaro’s assessment, I think it is a bit too much to say that he singlehandedly cost the Union the win. After all, even if he had marked his man correctly and been able to stay behind him, there’s no telling how the Union might have blown the lead 11v11.

    • Agreed on Alberg. He had an 8 until he scored, than a 2-3 afterwards.
      Fisher was so bad he had me missing Geiger. Among other glaring mistakes, twice he stopped play for an ATL “injury”, once when we had the ball and clear advantage, and no player was removed from the field.

      • 1) Alberg was playing his favorite role as the Wandering Dutchman after his goal; I guess that he concluded that he had done his share already. No defense, and failed to fill the gap behind Sapong on at least two occasions. 2) The refereee took advantage from the Union on two separate occasions, including the “injury” forty yards to the other side of the field and a mystery foul directly in front of me in section 109. 3) Yaro seems to be overthinking at times, and his red was absolutely warranted, but it was his indecision on when to drop that led to the gap he tried to cure with the pull back.

  2. I thought Alberg played well, but 8 might be a tad too high. I’d go with a 7 – which means it’s not much to quibble about.
    I do agree with Andy about dropping Bedoya a point. His goal was fantastic, for sure, but between picking up a yellow and his man scoring the game-tying goal, I can’t quite go with a 6.
    Speaking of the yellow, I also think you gave Drew Fisher a much-too-high score. At best, I think he’s a 3; I’d be happy with a 2, frankly. I think the red to Yaro was close to the only thing he got right on the evening.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I meant to comment on Fisher too. There’s something to be said when the Union contest two drop balls after Atlanta “injury” stoppages. There were multiple occasions where he called advantage when there wasn’t one and blew the whistle when the Union had the advantage.

      • And at least once, the trainer for Atlanta was on the field for an “injury” but the player wasn’t forced to leave.
        Not to mention the number of times an Atlanta player plowed into a Union player then fell down, and the call went against the Union.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        That was after CJ’s yellow card. New FIFA rules as of 2016 says that if a player is injured by a yellow card foul he does not have to leave the field even if he receives treatment.

      • Ah! Thanks. So I’ll let Fisher off the hook on that one. He still made me pine for Mark Geiger, though.

  3. The season is over. Let’s hope Yaro learns from this, Keegan responds well in back to back games, Elliot continues to dominate, and Fafa learns some new moves. It’s time to decide who’ll help the team going forward.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      The team should continue to push for ways to make Elliot look good so he wins ROY.

    • The season is not over.
      I paid for season tickets and expect to see the best XI play the best football they can.
      I did not pay to see training ground exercises or a reserve squad. I do not expect a win every match. I do not expect to see a classic every time I’m in Chester. I do expect to see the best team take the field. I am not interested in watching someone work through his issues on the pitch; that’s what the training ground is for, that’s what Bethlehem is for. If the coach of the Philadelphia Union is not prepared to select his best men, then I will not be renewing my season tickets.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        That brings up an interesting dilemma. Once the team has been mathematically eliminated from the playoffs is it better to play the best XI or is it better to not bother to dress players you are planning to release at the end of the season and stick with people who will be with the team going forward?

      • Atomic Spartan says:

        Based on your point Osager, why are we paying for Jim Curtin’s education? Any reasonable approach would have him serving as an apprentice under an experienced master – perhaps one with some offensive tactical savvy – instead of having to study for his license during OTJ training. I want the best 12 heads in the game, including the coach; we STH’ers are overpaying for sure.

      • because good coaches are hard to find?

      • You don’t think it’s worthwhile to play some of the younger guys who are the future of the team, who may not be worse then those in front of them by much if at all?

      • it’s worthwhile to play them at Bethlehem

  4. Old Soccer Coach says:

    A mantra on the pitch well known to many here from coaches is, “Get/Keep his head down!”
    That was my read of Richie Marquez’s charge out to midfield, Chris. The guy who is following the ball most closely keeps pressuring it. In Marquez’s case the hoped for result is to force him to play the way he is facing — backwards — and to someone he can see right in front of him rather than with a glance to either side. Marquez achieved the goal to at least some degree and promptly retreated.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      I trust your judgment on that and appreciate the insight. My thought was more about whether the gap he was vacating would be filled, but I suppose that’s less his issue than his teammates.

  5. 1) The loss –er, I mean, the draw — was just so, so Union.

    2) I have to respectfully disagree with Andy Muenz — I do think it’s fair to say that Yaro single-handedly cost us 2 points, for the second time in 3 weeks. At this point I have to question whether he indeed has enough upside to make it worthwhile to continue to develop him.

    3) On the flip side, it was truly fantastic seeing the 2016 Keegan back. Where has HE been?? Can he please start the rest of the season???

    4) I agree with the author about Blake. He has not been quite up to his usual standards the last couple of games. Granted he’s spoiled us all rotten…

    • Andy Muenz says:

      As long as the disagreement is respectful, Scottso :-).
      Actually, I do think that 95-99% of the blame belongs to Yaro. I was just expressing my doubt as to whether the team wouldn’t have found a way to blow the lead even if he had stayed on the pitch.

  6. Atomic Spartan says:

    Ten Real Reasons why Chad Johnson was at Saturday’s Union Game:
    1.He’s going to be the Union’s Next DP signing
    2.The MLS wants to experiment with a new position, Wide Receiver
    3. He’s opening up a new venture, called “Club 85” a block away from Talen
    4. He’s partnering with Terrell Owens to buy the Union
    5. He’s trying to hit up Jay Sugarman for a loan
    6. He’s running for Mayor of Chester
    7. He’s working as Mo Edu’s therapist
    8. Union PR thought they would need something to distract the fans from watching the game
    9. He wants to buy the Commodore Barry
    10. He’s helping Fafa set up a line of “DosDos” sports apparel

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