Player ratings

Player ratings: Philadelphia Union 6-1 Orlando City SC

Photo: Paul Rudderow

On it’s own, Sunday was a brilliant Sunday at Talen Energy Stadium.

The weather was spectacular, there was a fond farewell, and the Union thrashed Orlando City SC 6-1. The final day of the 2017 season had all the makings of a perfect afternoon.

But it wasn’t perfect. The shadow of another disappointing season loomed large over the field.

Despite the win, where the Union set their record for most goals in a half and matched their highest total in a game, the postgame questions and answers focused on the future. Head coach Jim Curtin was asked if this may have been his final game with the club. Midfielder Ilsinho expressed his desire to return but admitted it is far from a certainty.

It was definitely the final game for former captain Brian Carrroll, who announced his retirement earlier in the week. The sincerity of the pregame tribute video was a pure moment for the fans and the club.

While Carroll’s departure is a definite, who knows who else will be leaving the Union. Defender Oguchi Onyewu is a solid veteran, but the organization is loaded with young talent at center back. While Onyewu didn’t see the field, Chris Pontius, Roland Alberg, and the aforementioned Ilsinho did.

It was a farewell performance for more than just Carroll.

Player ratings

Andre Blake — 7

After the Union’s early start, Blake helped preserve the two goal advantage early in the match. He denied a dangerous header from a corner and winger Giles Barnes’ strike from the right of the box. The best stop was saved for forward, Dom Dwyer, who had broken the keeper’s bid for a clean sheet. A quick pass in the final third shifted the attack from left to right, where Dwyer was all alone. Blake read the movement, cut the angle, and his feet-first save denied Dwyer’s bid for a brace.

Raymon Gaddis — 6

All in all it was a nice night for Gaddis, who did well to contain Barnes. Gaddis didn’t go forward often, but that’s not his game. Keegan Rosenberry was rightfully held accountable for his tweet, but the club will need the dynamic display of his rookie season going forward at the position.

Jack Elliott — 5

The Brit was lucky early that Dwyer did not have his finishing boots. Overall, it was a great season for the fourth round rookie, but a late season dip in form mirrors Rosenberry last year. The grind of an MLS season is a difficult adjustment in the long run.

Richie Marquez — 6

With all the depth the organization has at center back, Marquez is the forgotten man. He may, however, be the best of the bunch. His workmanlike performance at the back wasn’t flashy, but he avoided the dangerous mistakes.

Fabinho — 7

The Brazilian has been up-and-down all season. He ended on an “up.” Fabinho did well getting forward and picked up an assist after springing Fafà Picault down the left flank on the Union’s third goal.

Haris Medunjanin — 7

It’s remarkable watching Medunjanin play. There is an audible gasp when the midfielder completes passes that have no business being completed. And it’s not just the accuracy, but the subtle ability to make small movements to open passing lanes that shines—as it did when the Bosnian recorded the assist on the Union’s fifth goal.

Alejandro Bedoya — 7

Bedoya’s centered pass to Ilsinho in the opening minutes of play gave the Union a dream start. For the rest of the match, Bedoya was a nightmare for Orlando. It was his usual display, hounding City’s midfield and using off-the-ball movement to deceive an inexperienced back line.

Ilsinho — 9

If this was the Brazilian’s last game for the Union, he made sure to go out with a bang. Both of his goals were clinical in their technique, but it was his assist on the team’s second goal that left many jaws unhinged. It was a subtle supporting run into the box followed by a sublime lofted pass to Picault over a sliding defender.

Marcus Epps — 4

In a game of goals, Epps picked up a secondary assist, but that was about it. The rookie only had 45 minutes to work, making way at halftime for the man of the hour.

Fafà Picault — 9

Twice Orlando underestimated Picault’s pace and twice they were burned. First, Orlando center back Seb Hines was caught too far upfield as Picault raced by before centering a ball into the box for a C.J. Sapong tap-in. Next, it was Scott Sutter looking silly, attempting a headed pass back to his keeper from midfield. Picault thanked him for the gift on his way to his second goal of the evening. He was taken off at the half as a precaution.

C.J. Sapong — 8

It’s not often you score a brace and are the third best player on the pitch. Sapong’s two goals, with a combined distance of a Fishtown front yard, did cement his status as the MVP of the Union’s season, though. With his 15th and 16th tallies of the season, he broke the club’s single season scoring record.


Chris Pontius (HT for Picault) — 4

It’s tough to imagine the club bringing Pontius back. After leading Philadelphia in scoring in 2016, the veteran winger could only muster two goals this season. He has been invisible in the final third, and it was again the case on Sunday. Going forward, the club will need more production from the position in attack.

Brian Carroll (HT for Epps) — n/a

Carroll’s last 45 minutes of MLS action wasn’t about any on-field performance. It was a celebration of the 32,618 minutes he had previously played in the league. The 36-year-old veteran rightly received multiple standing ovations and cheers. Hopefully, Carroll’s next chapter in life mirrors the success he achieved in soccer.

Roland Alberg (85′ for Sapong) — n/a

In possibly his last five minutes of action for the club, Alberg failed to score one of his patented golazos that had no effect on the outcome of the match. It was a truly disappointing performance.

Geiger counter

Joseph Dickerson — 1

There is only one word to describe the referee’s performance: awful… Also disgusting. Atrocious would another appropriate adjective. How dare he not deem Sapong’s flop in the box a penalty. How could this novice whistle-blower deny Carroll the chance of a goodbye goal? Has Dickerson ever even watched a sports movie?

Player of the game

It’s an easy one.


  1. This is going to my by HOT TAKE all off season, so let me introduce it to you guys: CJ is overrated and I am not impressed with him. I think we can, and need, to do better at striker.

    He is not a player who makes the team better. The team makes HIM better. He is not a good piece for a team looking to take the next step.

    He does not scare defenses, and he is easily taken out of games. When a strikers being compliment is that “he is a big part of our defense”, and fans are ok with that, than I have to wonder if everyone else is taking crazy pills.

    • where this falls apart for me is the implication that there was a good team around sapong. he had a career year (both personally and team record wise) and he certainly was not working with a great team around him

      • It’s not that we had a good team, but we had good games where he was provided service – like Fafa burning a USL-level backline yesterday.

    • He is exactly who he is. And did exactly the job we told him to do. He was never a clinical finisher but its hard to drag a guy who met and exceeded expectations on a team where almost no one else did that.

      • I can buy that he did the job we told him to do. That’s fine. But that just puts this shit tactic on Curtin and I wish we could aim higher.

      • Section 114 (Former) says:

        The blame (for this) isn’t on Curtin, but on Stewart. This team doesn’t have creators in the front four. Sapong is a nice piece, a good striker for a two striker system, but the wrong piece as a sole striker on a team without weapons to surround him.

    • It’s not a hot take, it’s an incredibly dumb one.

      Honestly, how can you rip a striker who scored a third of the Union’s goals this season which was tied for 8th in the league? This isn’t the NBA where a mediocre player can put up numbers playing on a bad team. Scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in soccer.

      • He doesn’t make the team better, the team makes him better.

        Name one team 1-6 in the Eastern conference who would take CJ over their current striker.

      • So your argument is teams that finished higher than the Union wouldn’t choose him over their current striker therefore Sapong isn’t a good striker? What kind of logic is that?

      • Well the logic is that we WANT to become one of those teams right?

        So then you can start to look at positions and where you need to upgrade to get to that level.

        And thus I arrive at my conclusion.

      • That’s a rather simplistic and flawed way of looking at things.

        If you wanted to focus on improving the Union’s attack, you should look at the other positions too. Strikers aren’t the only ones who score goals, they’re scored by wingers, midfielders, etc. So rather than just compare Sapong to Ola Kamara, you should review the other players around each of them as well.

      • also strikers don’t just pick up the ball and take on the whole defense and score on their own. it usually takes several players working together to score a goal

    • I disagree completely. This is a man who scored 16 goals this season ON A TEAM WITHOUT A PLAYMAKING CENTER ATTACKING MID. Who was supposed to get him the ball?? There was no trequartista, no strike partner to play off of, and yet he put the ball in the net almost once every other game. And this time, he did it for the entire season instead of burning out.

      Add to that his very underrated passing ability, his endurance, and his ability to play strong defense from the front and you have a guy who is a major asset to the team.

      Now, if the Union want to drop $5 million on a superstar striker, would that make the team even better? Sure it would. But that’s likely not happening, and if they DID have that kind of money to spend on someone, it should be on a playmaker, not a striker. Both Dan Walsh on this site and Matthew Doyle on talk all the time about how underrated Sapong is, so it’s not just me who thinks this.

      • Good arguments. Earnie told me the same yesterday: that he considers CJ the ‘best’ player this season, especially after getting goals in double figures for the first time in his career.

    • You would be the fan taking the crazy pills. CJ played above expectations this year and is a true asset to the team. He’s about the least of our worries from a personnel perspective.

    • The guy scored 16 goals on a mediocre team who averaged a woeful 16,000 people per game and is painfully mismanaged and dysfunctional. It doesn’t matter what he is, what he can be, what he was or what he will be. He scored 16 goals while I watched other players dick around who had no business being on the field. I’m not gonna nitpick, in fact I don’t know if I can make a sound judgement on many players because there is something wrong with the entire organization. Marquez couldn’t find the field for 6 months and now Curtin can’t get him off the field. How can I properly evaluate players when the manager can’t seem to do it either?

    • I sincerely do not understand the CJ hate. Him and Blake were absolutely co-MVP’s this year.

      • Evaluate a player’s worth by looking at how well it does when he does not play.
        Remove C. J. Sapong from the front defensively, and watch whether the team has greater or lesser defensive success.

  2. Nick, Elliott saved Gaddis’ bacon numerous times yesterday after the latter had balls dropped in behind him. Also ran over to cover and thoughtfully pass the ball out of pressure rather than booting it back to OC at least three or four times. Furthermore, Elliott had a masterful pass out of pressure and through two OC players to start the counterattack for the fifth goal.
    I agree that Gaddis rightfully started over Rosenberry given the social media debacle, but I think you are seriously undervaluing Elliott’s contributions yesterday and overlooking what was a poor game by Gaddis. For perhaps the 4th or 5th time this season, he was directly responsible for surrendering the clean sheet. Lost Dwyer on the play and immediately put his hands to his head bc he knew he screwed up.
    We seem to be holding Elliott to a much higher standard than Gaddis by giving the former a 5 and the latter a 6.

    • Yea I really think Gaddis’ time is up here. He is a Fabhinoesque white knuckle ride whenever he is out there we should get someone who can legit compete with Rosenberry and see who can take the starting job.

      • I can live with an Aaron Jones and Rosenberry competition for RB. Especially since we have several other spots we should be looking to spend more money at first.

      • Aaron Jones hasn’t sniffed the MLS yet and Rosenberry is an enigma. I would bring in a gooch like winger to be a stabilizing influence until one of those two can claim the starting job.

      • A. Jones was on loan to Bethlehem all season bc he is an int’l and we did not have enough spots. We don’t know whether he would have completed for time as he literally could not play for us this year.

      • If they felt he was good enough they would have found a way.

    • Need a stud veteran CB to pair with either Elliot, Richie, Yaro (whoever wins the dogfight in training camp next season) and the back line will be in good shape. That said, that star CB is about as important as the #10 on this team. Solves a whole lot of problems.

      • If we decided on a vet CB we gotta start making HARD CHOICES on which of our young players we keep and what ones we cut bait on.
        They are still high on Yaro and remember with Elliot no Union rookie has ever put up two good seasons in a row.
        I would still prefer a Gooch like player over an out and out starter.

  3. C.J. would be a perfect second strike option for a team that deploys two. He will bury his fair share of chances and do the dirty work that true premiere strikers do not. His hold up play will create opportunities for a strike partner. For a team that employs one striker, he is not ideal, but is by far the best this roster has

    • Gotta agree with this. To be fair to CJ, he definitely improved this season from last. I haven’t seen every game since mid-summer, but his decision making seems to have been better. At the game yesterday, there were several times when a Union player running down the wing failed to pick up his head to note supporting runs and sent the ball curling behind CJ and others. He’s no David Villa, but I can imagine a pairing up top with another striker or even a solid #10 who is also a legit goal scoring threat, he’d be very useful. Statistically, he had a solid season.

  4. Sugarman either needs to pay for a DP lone striker or needs to pay for a coach that understands and can coach a system where CJ can work with another guy up top, as Pete suggests. Or Sugarman can pay for both… Yeah, right.

  5. I believe Pontius hit the woodwork, so you cannot say he was “invisible”, but that also shows the he’s been snakebit and has not added any goals this year.

    • Yes, he hit the post with a wide open net. It showed his entire season in one play.

      • Um, you watch the game yesterday? That ball was deflected by the GK and was a great save. Hardly “a wide open net”.

      • Listen to Mike, he speaks the truth.

      • Right now, I’ll have to take your word for it, Mike. I only saw the live view from 40-50 yards away and didn’t see a deflection but it certainly wouldn’t be the first time I missed something.

      • The highlight video replay shows the deflection.

    • And it was a great pass from Arlberg that set him up, so Arlberg was also not disappointing.

      • Alberg was disappointing. Given the way the Union were scoring, I was expecting a hat trick in the time he was in there. So anything less is disappointing.

  6. Just a few unsolicited thoughts:

    I don’t mean to overstate this, and I mention this amidst another disappointing season, but this is very likely the best central midfield pairing the Union has ever had. Sunday and various moments throughout the season demonstrated that with a proper, playmaking (and maybe elite) attacking midfielder in front of Bedoya & Medunjanin this midfield could be dangerous.
    Picault has a bright future here. Excited to see him progress – or perhaps hoping the coaching staff doesn’t stifle his progression.
    I agree with Elliot, but I am, again, hoping the coaching staff overlooks the dip and from and goes with him and Marquez in March. They can’t expect a rookie to come in to MLS, play almost every game and not be exhausted at the end of the season. Yaro and Onyewu are both capable alternates on a 3-game week and should be used as such more next year. Trust the bench.
    Finally, regardless of who stays and who goes the front office NEEDS to demonstrate they are willing to pay and/or improve the scouting of foreign markets. Sunday should not give them a reprieve from the otherwise disastrous season, and I’m afraid if they don’t right this ship soon they will lose the casual fans, especially if they make them choose over all the exciting young kids the other 4 teams are putting out there every game.

    • I loved being at the game yesterday watching us demolish Orlando, but it whitewashes over a lot of dirt on this team.
      I don’t want the FO to be feeling good right now.
      I don’t want them thinking ‘oh, maybe Ilsinho could play #10 for us next year’. I don’t want them thinking ‘these guys played pretty good together, maybe we can ride it into next season’.
      I hope that Ernie takes a long hard look in the mirror and remembers that we need a true head coach with real experience.

  7. Section 114 (Former) says:

    I don’t think I’ve seen anyone give Elliot credit for the spectacular first pass on the second Ilsinho goal. He only got the secondary assist, but he should get a bonus point just for that beauty.

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