Player ratings / Union

Player ratings: Atlanta United 1 – 1 Philadelphia Union

Photo by Earl Gardner

A 1-1 draw in Atlanta was the Union’s least likely point in an otherwise grueling beginning to 2019. The result flatters many Boys in Blue, but not all.

Here is the player-by-player breakdown.

Player Ratings

Andre Blake – 6

Beaten twice by Josef Martinez without being punished, and nearly a third time when Martinez’s bicycle kick attempt was smothered without a rebound, Blake’s night was as good as could be minus the goal allowed and an unnecessary and nearly costly flap at a cross in the 92nd minute.

Kai Wagner – 8

Wagner has become simply the most reliable left back the Union have had since Jordan Harvey. He dominated his side of the pitch on defense and offense, cold-stoned Pity Martinez in the 62nd minute, and frankly had fans wondering if Julian Gressel still played in MLS (until Gressel’s forearm shiver in the back in the 86th minute).

He’ll be the team’s first big overseas signing once the rest of Europe realizes what Ernst Tanner already knew: The Machine can play. The downside? It’s “See you in 2020,” Matt Real.

Austin Trusty – 3

Trusty continues to be hasty with the ball far too early in possession, satisfied to lump possession forward despite the ability to make a really solid through pass (like the one he put in front of Fafa Picault in the 5th minute). He compounds this tendency with bouts of poor communication with Wagner (and Gaddis last year), and even in his assertive moments, he loses the plot (like in the 56th minute when he brilliantly stepped in front of an Atlanta attack, dribbled through their midfield line and sent Corey Burke to the corner, except about 10 yards too far ahead).

Josef Martinez knew he could get behind the speedy center back and did most of the night. Only some good luck kept Trusty’s rating from being lower and the Union from losing the match altogether.

Jack Elliott – 6

The Englishman looked as poised on the ball as anyone in Union white and was involved in the offense in surprising measure. He was beat for pace more than once, but made up for it by splitting lines linke a regista and keeping Atlanta honest in their press. Mark McKenzie has a lot of work to do to get his spot back in the Union back four.

Ray Gaddis – 5

More than one of the regular Union Twitterati noted that the Chester legend was involved far higher up the pitch than perhaps at any point in the entirety of his career. The kicker? Gaddis did it with some real utility in spots. Above all, and for the second match in a row, he did his primary duty in limiting the touches of his opponent’s playmakers (Gerso for Sporting Kansas City and Darlington Nagbe for Atlanta).

Haris Medunjanin – 3

Medunjanin did his part in helping Gaddis and Company marginalize the deft Nagbe, playing reliable if mediocre defense. However, he was undone again when his man made a late run in the box and scored a goal. This time it was Ezequiel Barco, he of the $15 million transfer fee and 5’6″ stature, free to loop a header across the goal mouth and into the back of the net. Medunjanin’s trademark “squat-and-stare” positioning on the run did little to stop the minute Argentinian and has to infuriate defender-turned-head-coach Jim Curtin.

Warren Creavalle – 6

Creavalle put in his normally hyper active shift, exhibiting some great movement and possession-breaking defense. His score isn’t higher for two reasons: he should’ve taken his only goal-scoring opportunity first time (from a brilliant ball by Brenden Aaronson) and he only played half the match because of a hip injury. Until halftime, Creavalle was putting in a replay performance of his career-defining effort in the team’s 9 v. 11 loss in The ATL in 2018.

Alejandro Bedoya – 5

A player who is tough to define had a game that was tough to judge. On one hand, Bedoya’s naive positioning and foolish foul on Leandro Gonzalez Pirez in the 13th minute was so reminiscent of his work against Ignacio Piatti in the team’s infamous 3-3 draw with Montreal from years past as to give one PTSD. On the other hand, Bedoya was key in keeping Atlanta’s attack at bay, moving his midfield with shape, and clogging passing lanes for the entire match.

Brenden Aaronson – 9

Forget that Aaronson scored a goal in his first match (at the end of some scrumptious passing, a dummy the likes of which Messi would be proud [not an exaggeration], and a shot from outside the box!). Anthony Fontana did that just last year and basically didn’t play for the Union again. Aaronson deserves the highest praise this site doles out because he did score a goal, looked better oriented in the Union’s XI than the record-signing he replaced, and defended Jeff Larentowitcz at the tip of his midfield diamond so well that Atlanta were forced to omit the middle of the field for much of the night.

Fafa Picault – 3

Picault’s is a rating that has a range of 6 and unfortunately ended up on the bottom end of the distribution. What might have earned the speedy striker his own rating of 9 as well?

  • Finishing his chance in the 41st minute when, after rounding the keeper, Picault flubbed his shot on an open goal
  • Finishing his chance in the 87th minute when, after Cory Burke finally contributed something positive to the match, Picault whiffed again from 4 yards out

Author’s note – Picault was the target of some direct fan harassment after the match, posting threats he received on his Instagram page for the public to see. To be clear, this website will not tolerate hate speech, threats, or any similar activity toward players, coaches, fans, staff, readers, or bystanders of Philadelphia soccer.

Cory Burke – 2

The Jamaican started his day energetic in defense, but wasted a sumptuous chance in the 25th minute from an inch-perfect Alejandro Bedoya cross, sending the ball deep into the Georgia night (a moment begging for commentator Tommy Smyth to say, “just put your boot through it!”). He displayed excellent movement on Aaronson’s goal though, running diagonally across the face of the defense and setting the table for the young maestro.

His night was entirely forgettable unfortunately because Burke looked lost. Never quite finding the space he wanted, the run he wanted, or the pass he wanted, the striker only had 34 touches and nearly half of them went to the other team.


Derrick Jones (for Creavalle at halftime) – 4

Jones is pushing right now. His positioning was average and his contribution to possession and the offense was too, but he gave away a bad turnover right down the middle of the field in the 51st minute and was nearly punished for it. On Atlanta’s goal, he too was doing a bit of ball-watching when his primary job ought to have been covering for his midfield counterpart Medunjanin.

Ilsinho (for Aaronson in the 73rd minute) – 5

Ilsinho was quite active in defense, all things considered, now slotted in to his more suited role of substitute. In cutting from the left and opening for a shot, Union fans might have had a bit of deja vu from the team’s demolition of Minnesota last year. This shot, however, was blocked and harmlessly recycled, not found dipping into the far corner. The Brazilian earns a 5 because he helped see out points in one of the toughest venues in this quadrant of the globe.

David Accam (for Picault in the 89th) – 3

Minutes later, enter David Accam. Accam is 4th on the depth chart of Union strikers, despite the fact that he’s a winger. He’s high on the Union depth chart of wingers, except the team doesn’t have wingers in their lineup anymore. Thus, Accam is left in a bit of a pickle, particularly after his injury-plagued campaign in 2018. Also not helping matters? His first touch in this match was one in which he dribbled directly out of bounds.

Geiger Counter

Robert Sibiga – 6

Sibiga didn’t insert himself in the match, didn’t fall for much of the usual MLS shenanigans, and didn’t send off any of the Union’s best players. Come to think of it, perhaps his rating ought to be higher?


  1. Barry Evans says:

    Jack Elliott is Scottish, hence the Scotland flag in the River End.

  2. Barry Evans says:

    It is. He identifies as Scottish though. The only thing being born in London does is give you a British passport.

  3. It’s a shame that Picault does so much well yet can’t convert. He’s definitely a smart player and knows how to use his pace when he needs to (the Atlanta defender covering him, Robinson, was really good all night, btw). Maybe he’ll get a shooting touch back soon. He better, because I have no idea how this team is going to score goals otherwise. Burke has not done much so far. I would have pulled him for Accam a lot earlier.

    • Barry Evans says:

      Every chance that Fafa has had so far he has been almost off balance just stabbing at it while falling back. You’re never going to get a good contact doing that. Not sure where that suddenly came from as I think he would be well suited to playing through the middle.

      • He had a break away this game. You are being way to easy on him. He should easily have at least 1 goal and honestly 2 at this point with the chances we have given him.

      • Barry Evans says:

        Im not being easy on him just explaining what he is doing wrong. Im far from a Fafa fan, as I don’t think he has enough quality for an MLS side. I just think his best position may ne through the middle.


    How in the world could you even mention Jones’ name as at fault for this goal?

  5. It’s clear to me there was at least 3 guys ball watching. Haris was sound asleep. Barco was in front of him. And a slight head turn would have spied the run.
    Asronson was fantastic! And I only saw the second half!

  6. Accam fits on this team as well as Fafa does. Both are wingers. Fafa will give you more in the press and on D but Accam is going to finish better. Otherwise they are the same type player.

  7. In re strikers.
    1. The Union already have nine internationals and only eight international slots, so there is no point to mentioning Michee Ngalina who, were he signed would be a tenth international and presumably a second unavailable one (Przybylko).
    2. And Przybylko has a broken toe.
    3. Santos is out for at least a month.
    4. Burke is away March 23rd in San Salvador, El Salvador.
    Accam and Picault v Columbus.
    At least the Union still have putative strikers left. Bethlehem started a right back and a midfielder at striker Saturday night.

    • Or, as suggested in the comments of another article by All4U, play Fabian as a striker with Aaronson as the #10.

      • I think with this you keep Aaronson’s work rate/creativity/hustle and add creativity/goal scoring/movement to the striker position. Sure you lose height and weight, but gain so much more in connection/creativity ability.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      I’d argue to put either Fabian or Aaronson as a false nine.
      not like they will lose goal scoring potential… because currently, there is no striker capable of scoring a goal.

  8. Haris’ “squat and stare” — unfortunately, you are right on the money.

  9. Really looking forward to seeing a Aaronson, Fabian, Bedoya and Jamiro (at #6) midfield at some point.

    • I’m not confident we’ll see Aaronson and Fabian on the pitch at the same time. If I were Jim Curtin I’d do everything in my power to start them both but that would require a formation alteration and we know how likely that is.

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