Player ratings

Player ratings: Philadelphia Union 2-0 Seattle Sounders

Photo: Earl Gardner

On a sunny but cool fall afternoon in Chester, Pa., Philadelphia Union dispatched the otherwise dangerous Seattle Sounders in front of a sparse but happy crowd at Talen Energy Stadium. Goals from rookie Marcus Epps and enigma Roland Alberg kept the Union’s faint playoff hopes a-flicker, at least for the moment.

The Union won this game against an opponent who’s record would suggest that they are superior because every player on the field did one of two things: their job, consistently, or something truly special.

Player ratings:

Andre Blake – 7

If you forgot the Union were actually playing with a goalkeeper in the first half of this match, you’d have been forgiven: Andre Blake’s first touch didn’t come until the 43rd minute. His third came in the 54th when a well-worked Sounders attack stranded the left side of the Union defense. Blake’s point-blank save was brave, though not as acrobatic as his leaping parry in the 63rd minute to deny Clint Dempsey or his 81st minute effort to stop Will Bruin. As Taylor Twellman summarized: “Andre Blake will do three amazing things in every Union match.”

Fabinho – 6

The SunRocket was active for the entire first half, and it was fortunately more “SpaceX going to Mars” than “Red Bull FlugTag.” Contributing to the offense with his usual array of crosses and wandering-but-effective dribbles is par for the Fabinho course. What was unexpected, though, was, in the middle of the first half, when the Brazilian unleashed a cannon of a shot off of a poor Stefan Frei throw that nearly found the net. He followed that up in the second half with another blistering effort that Frei could only parry wide. Fabinho scored a goal in Montreal several years ago with that hammer of a left foot, and it might be the most powerful shot on the team; his was a well-needed and assertive performance.

Richie Marquez – 6

Though it is a well-known mandate in Union game scripts, Marquez did not have a slide tackle for the full 90 minutes of this match (at least to this author’s recollection). He was, however, strong in the air and as positionally sound as he’s been in a long time, despite some late lapses caused more by the acres of midfield in front of him than anything he could do. It’s good to see Marquez in form against such a dangerous attack, as he and Elliott represent the best chance the Union have right now for back four stability in 2018.

Jack Elliott – 5

As usual, Elliott was in most the right spots. He was turned around on a 13th minute counterattack, but wasn’t punished for it because of an excellent, sliding recovery by Fabinho in the box. He had several second half, unforced giveaways that ultimately didn’t hurt the team, but it wasn’t his cleanest game by any stretch. Considering his contribution to the team’s clean sheet, though, it’s hard to give him any real demerit.

Ray Gaddis – 5

Gaddis had a few bad giveaways early, but was otherwise solid in the first half, including some genuine offensive contributions and a good professional foul in the waning minutes. In the second half, Gaddis was good 1 v 1 but could often be found chasing and turned around as space started to open up. Gaddis is consistent in his game and is NEVER the guy standing around and watching the ball go by him, even when he knows he’s caught out.

Alejandro Bedoya 7

Bedoya is everywhere for this Union team, even though he’s not always the center of the conversation. His off the ball runs were excellent, as was his defensive positioning and commitment. He and Maurice Edu have this in common regarding their contributions to the Union over the years: They always have a real influence on the match, though rarely on the score sheet or highlight reel. Much like Mikey in the movie Swingers, they’re both “the guy behind the guy behind the guy,” and very little great happens without their contributions.

Haris Medujnanin – 6

Medujnanin had help in this match because his midfield mates made space for him (as they often do) and checked to him (as they rarely do). The result was an unhurried and precise display from the Bosnian until he began to tire around the hour mark. After that, it looked like Haris might just as likely hit a 40-yard diagonal ball to start a counterattack as give up on a poorly hit pass to cause a chance for the other side (he did both in the final fifteen minutes).

Marcus Epps – 5

Epps did the two things he does consistently for the Union: Hustle and make delayed or not-quite-right choices in the final third. Then, after a brilliant interchange between Medujanin and Ilsinho, he was suddenly calm, cool, and collected with a near post finish with his weaker foot for the Union’s first goal. He was bright in the second half, too, and involved in several decent chances in front of the Sons of Ben.

Ilsinho – 6

The Brazilian found good spots in this match, played within himself and what the defense gave him, and weighted quite a few passes to perfection. Though he and C.J. Sapong weren’t always on the same page with their runs, they were both protective of the ball in the case of sixes and sevens. For Ilsinho, who may just trigger his contract renewal next match, this represented one of his best matches at the 10 ever in Blue and Gold. Not bad for a guy who played left back in the highest level matches of his career.

Fabian Picault – 5

Picault is fast, but not always with purpose or in line with his teammate’s vision. In this match, however, his movement was very good and, despite a bad giveaway early, he used that movement to great effect on offense and defense. He had some chances in front of goal that went wanting, but was otherwise consistently a threat around the edges of the Sounder defense.

C.J. Sapong – 5

Sapong missed an early header but spent the first half doing what he’s best at: holding up the ball and drawing fouls (including a first half yellow on Jordy Delem). In the second half, particularly when he was switched out wide, Sapong showed his poise and strength on the ball, helping the Union keep possession and push for a second goal.


Roland Alberg (for Ilsinho, 71′) – 7

Roland Alberg had a miscommunication with Picault in the box in the 73rd minute, offering Union fans shades of disagreements past (see: at Montreal). He was otherwise his normal, disconnected self until he took a short corner, put on a tweet jacket with calfskin leather patches on the elbows, brewed himself a cup of tea, lit himself a loose-leaf, hand-rolled cigarette, and proceeded to give all in attendance and watching from home a postdoctoral class entitled, “Advanced Geometry: A study of near zero angles, spherical objects, and the non-rotational aerodynamic potentials of audacious shots.”

Jay Simpson (for Marcus Epps, 77′) –  5

A quiet shift suddenly turned loud as Simpson put a point blank header toward the bottom corner of the River End goal. It was a well taken chance, but Stefan Frei was up to the save.

Derrick Jones (for Fabian Picault, 88′) – N/A

Not much to say for Jones other than it was good to see him back in the first team colors.

Geiger Counter

Alan Kelly – 6

Kelly was largely a non-factor in the match, something every official should aspire to. He made some good calls (Fabinho’s slide tackle in the box, Sapong getting pulled down from behind), missed a few inconsequential ones, and overall didn’t make any egregious ones. That’s a good shift.


  1. Matt Thornton says:

    This might just be the best sentence I’ve read on PSP all season:

    “He was otherwise his normal, disconnected self until he took a short corner, put on a tweet jacket with calfskin leather patches on the elbows, brewed himself a cup of tea, lit himself a loose-leaf, hand-rolled cigarette, and proceeded to give all in attendance and watching from home a postdoctoral class entitled, “Advanced Geometry: A study of near zero angles, spherical objects, and the non-rotational aerodynamic potentials of audacious shots.””

    Bravo, Chris.

  2. Geiger counter: Kelley missed a pretty straight up red card on the pull down and called some soft stuff and let some others go…I’d say it was a pretty poor outing from him over all.

    • Agreed on the red. It wasn’t that much different from the one Yaro picked up against Atlanta except Fafa was taken down by his legs rather than by a hand on the shoulder.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      I didn’t think it was a foul. Picault goes down pretty easily a couple times a game just because of his size and if Kelly had given a Red, the story would have been his influence on the match more than either side’s.

      • I was there. It was clear obstruction. The defender was beat and all he could do was foul fafa to stop the play.

  3. Roland Alberg routinely drives me crazy, and I’m glad he won’t be a Union player for much longer, but I will say one good thing about him, in all sincerity: I love how he doesn’t celebrate at all after he scores. He lets his teammates do the celebrating for him. It shows confidence and an understanding of his role. (“Why would I jump around and pump my fist? Scoring goals is my job.”) THAT’S how it should be done. The guy is liable to make an excellent second striker for somebody in this league.

    • Was listening to a podcast by Kyle MArtino who was talking about strikers. Said they often disappear in games and have no contribution to make to a team until they score a goal. The whol time he was talking, it could have been describing Alberg for me. He walks around or stands still, seem to be unaware that football match his happening all around him. Then the ball is rolled to his feet and magic happens. I can still see that curler he put into the net seconds after coming on vs New England on July 2. I was behind the goal for that one. Guy is a finisher.

      • John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

        The problem is he’s not a striker on this team. Which can be taken many ways.

      • We’ll never know what might have been. Or if it would have been at all.

      • That would be fine… if he were actually a striker. And had no other responsibilities. But the striker in Curtin’s system is expected to play defense, and Alberg cannot play up top by himself in any case.

      • We’re playing a system?

      • Curtin should have made Alberg into a striker on this team and tried 2 forwards up top. Secondly, sapong isn’t a lone striker he needs support.

    • I don’t take it that way at all. I take the lack of celebrating as, more or less, “Why should I share joy with you or anyone else. F this place, this team, this coach and these fans”.

    • you’re glad?
      he won’t?
      I guess goals are just too pedestrian for you?
      I’m sorry he drives you crazy
      Roland Alberg routinely scores goals
      I like goals
      I think every team needs a few goal scorers and Alberg is one

      • Roland Alberg does not fit the system we have, at all. He can’t play up top by himself, he doesn’t play enough defense or have enough speed to play on the wing, and he has none of the proper attributes of a CAM. And that’s not even mentioning the fact that the guy is locker room cancer.

        So yes, absolutely meant that I am glad he’ll have only a couple more games in a Union kit. He needs to move on to someplace more suited to him. And we need to get a real CAM (and a real backup to Sapong), neither of which is Alberg.

      • As I said elsewhere the team should be build around Arlberg since I think he is the highest scorer per minutes played in the MLS. As it is the team is build around Sapong and we know what that has brought us this year.

      • My only regret is not selling Alberg sooner.

      • John Harris says:

        I’m very hopeful he will not be back. I think “grip it and rip it” is not particularly unique and his liabilities are way, way too great.

  4. Fafa and Epps should be rated higher. Scoring the game winning goal should generally get you more than a 5 unless there’s something else you did that was obviously bad and I didn’t see anything.
    Fafa had several excellent runs (including the one that should have been a red) but was often left hanging out to dry when no one else was keeping up with him (especially Jr, Ilsin)

    • Fafa’s cross to Simpson right before he was pulled was pretty.

    • I would maybe rate Epps a point higher on the back of his goal, but I agree with assessment of his game. Before his goal I thought he made several questionable decisions with the ball at his feet from the wing in the final third.

  5. All Cris Carter does is score touchdowns….

    • John Harris says:

      Chris Carter didn’t cause enormous problems for the team – lack of ball distribution; lack of defense which Alberg is required to do; clubhouse cancer

      • Where’s the evidence he’s a clubhouse cancer? I’ve seen evidence that he’s not going to win “most popular” or “always plays fair,” but nothing approaching cancer.

        As far as “must play defense, best strikers aren’t usually known for it. I don’t recall Diego Costa playing a lot of defense last season for his title-winning side. Look, Alberg’s no Costa, but In him you have a guy who can score from anywhere withing 30 yards of goal. That puts every defender on notice when he’s on the pitch. It’s just nuts that Curtin couldn’t get more out of him. I’m sure it’s not an easy task, but it’s a shame and a waste.

      • Carter was released because of his drug and alcohol abuse. I appreciate your right to be wrong, just surprised with the gusto you rushed to demonstrate it.

  6. barely treading water in 2017

    the departure of barnetta with no natural replacement at cam doomed this team day 1 of the 2017 season. although barnetta was not the assist leader, he had vision leadership and got the offense in position. he made the pass before the final pass that led to the goal. he also was willing to play defense .

    curtin and ernie should be fired for gross negligence.

    they should have addressed this glaring problem as soon as barnetta said he was not returning. they both knew he was not coming back by june 2016. barnetta let it the public know he was leaving in august 2016.

    this entire season was like watching one of those rare nfl football games where the starting qb and backup qb are both knocked out of the game and the team is forced to use the disaster qb who has not played qb since high school. unfortunately this game lasted all season.

    Bedoya played the good soldier and ilsinhio tried but could not fill the role consistently. alberg never had the temperament or skills to do what barnetta did and ernie should have known this.

    if it wasn’t for the surprising offensive contributions of harris this season would have been a total disaster.

  7. The continuous momentum and work during practice will allow you to be in top form during the entire game, not just at the beginning.

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