Player ratings / Tactical Analysis

Postgame analysis and player ratings: Union 2-1 FC Dallas

Photo: 215pix

Today’s a throwback, as we pack our postgame analysis and player ratings into one post after Philadelphia Union’s 2-1 comeback win over FC Dallas. Here goes.

Dominance everywhere but on the scoreboard

The Union dominated Dallas from the 55th minute onward, and you could argue they had the run of play before that as well. After the game, Union head coach Jim Curtin cited this revealing statistic: The Union had 47 penalty area entries to just 13 for Dallas.

Dallas put just one shot on goal all game, Reto Ziegler’s free kick goal, and took just two other shots. After their early goal, their approach was basically to kill the rest of the game. You can’t blame them either. After all, they started four teenagers and were without several stalwarts due to a violation of team rules.

That said, the Union’s dominance (outside the scoreline) wasn’t just due to lack of experience by Dallas. The Union put in a solid defensive showing that had only one flaw, Marco Fabian’s ill-advised foul just outside the penalty area that gave Ziegler a free kick from a perfect spot.

Union subs changed the game

Curtin has taken a lot of criticism for his predictable substitutions over the years, but on Saturday, he used his subs probably better and more creatively than he ever has.

Fafa Picault departed in the 55th minute for Cory Burke, an unusually early substitution by Curtin that brought in a physical force that the Union were missing.

The problem with starting Picault and David Accam together at forward is that neither is a powerful force in the center of attack. Each is really a winger at heart, performing best in an inverted left-sided role that allows them to beat their opponents with speed or tricky dribbling. The Union got away with it the prior two weeks. However, with the Dallas defense packed deep to protect a lead and featuring one of the league’s best center back duos in Ziegler and Matt Hedges, neither Union attacker got the one-on-one opportunities they wanted.

Burke changed that, getting into dangerous central positions in the attacking third.

Cory Burke’s touch chart in the attacking third. (Credit:

In doing so, he not only created opportunities for himself, but he became a magnet that opened space elsewhere for teammates.

In comparison, Accam was largely invisible outside one excellent opportunity on goal, while Picault got touches around the penalty area but couldn’t do much with them.

Touches by David Accam and Fafa Picault. (Credit:

It’s probably fair to say that the Union will be at their best with one traditional center forward and a second striker, and we have yet to truly see how Sergio Santos looks or where he’ll fit.

Right back Alejandro Bedoya dictated the ending

Yes, that was Alejandro Bedoya dictating the game in possession from a right back spot, along with regista Haris Medunjanin.

Yes, that was Bedoya making a mazy run to score the game-winner.

Each of Curtin’s substitutions changed the game, but the final one remade the lineup into one that won the game. Jamiro Monteiro came on with fresh legs and bossed the midfield, Ilsinho cracked open a packed defense with his dribbling, but it was the ability for Bedoya to slow things down and dictate possession from the right back position in the final 20 minutes that closed the deal for the Union.

The Union funneled nearly everything down the right side in the final 20 minutes, after Bedoya moved to right back. (Credit:

Once Bedoya moved to right back, the Union became an almost exclusively right-sided team, as the passing chart to the right shows.

From the 78th minute onward, Bedoya completed 11 of 12 passes, while Ilsinho completed 13 of 14, all but two on the right flank.

Meanwhile, left-sided defenders Kai Wagner and Auston Trusty funneled nearly everything to the right side, and Brenden Aaronson, deployed as a left-sided midfielder, didn’t even touch the ball in those final 20 minutes.

In case you’re wondering, the Union really miss Keegan Rosenberry.

Kai Wagner has proved to be a left-footed Rosenberry, a possession-focused metronome at left back who probably plays stronger defense but is less attack-minded. He’s such a similar player that he even has some of the same tics in his game, such as the sharp cutback away from attack that Rosenberry would use on the right side to give himself space and slow things down.

If the Union’s attacking width is going to come from their fullbacks, they need someone opposite Wagner who can help drive the attack. Ray Gaddis, though a capable defender, is not that man.

Bedoya showed what the role can provide when manned by a capable attacking and possession presence, but he is also someone tailor-made for the right-sided midfield in the diamond. That’s where he belongs most of the time. Either Olivier Mbaizo must step up to claim the right back role, or Ernst Tanner ought to look for reinforcements.

Player ratings

Andre Blake — 5

Blake had little to do behind a defense that contained Dallas nearly all game. Standing rooted to the ground on Reto Ziegler’s free kick goal was not the best look.

Ray Gaddis — 5

A solid defensive showing, but his attacking limitations continue to limit the Union, something illustrated by Bedoya’s performance in the role.

Jack Elliott — 7

Elliott’s long ball passing remains one of the overlooked but extraordinarily impressive facets of this team. He completed 10 of 17 long balls and put in a solid defensive showing.

Auston Trusty — 7

Trusty had 13 defensive actions (interceptions, tackles, etc.) and a fantastic open field recovery to stop a potential one-on-one attack by Zdenek Ondrasek.

Kai Wagner — 7

Wagner put in another solid shift, playing good defense and completing 90% of his passes, including two key passes.

Haris Medunjanin — 6

Medunjanin was excellent in possession, and his defense has not hit the highlight reels since the Toronto horror show.

Alejandro Bedoya — 8

Bedoya had a solid but unspectacular game until his move to right back completely changed the course of events. His goal was well-taken, and he dictated possession from the right back spot in a way we haven’t seen since Rosenberry’s departure.

Brenden Aaronson — 6

It’s still early in Aaronson’s career, but one thing you probably didn’t expect from him was to record 3 tackles and 6 recoveries. His ability to turn upfield in traffic upon receiving a pass may prove over time to be elite in MLS.

Marco Fabian — 3

A missed penalty. More obvious dives. An unnecessary dirty foul in a dangerous position that led to the Dallas free kick goal. All in all, another cynical horror show from the big signing. Right now, he looks like the player who should go to the bench for Jamiro Monteiro. Certainly, he should be done with penalty kicks.

Fafa Picault — 4

Picault wasn’t much of a factor, and his 55th minute departure was one of the earliest substitutions we’ve seen from Curtin ever.

David Accam — 3

Accam had one good chance on goal, but other than that, he was largely invisible.


Cory Burke — 8

Burke’s entry changed the dynamics of the match. Until his arrival, the Union forwards played like the wingers they truly are, but Burke brought a physical presence that altered where the game was played in the attacking third.

Ilsinho — 8

Ilsinho is the league’s most dangerous substitute, and he proved it again Saturday by serving as the can opener that pried open an excellent Dallas back five to create the game-winner. In fact, I really want to nickname him the Can Opener. Who’s with me on this one? (Anybody? Nobody? Hm.)

Jamiro Monteiro — 7

Monteiro can ball. His defensive aggression brought teeth to the midfield, and his willingness to drive forward in attack created the penalty.

Geiger Counter

Timothy Ford — 3

Reto Ziegler deliberately drove his spikes directly into Fafa Picault’s chest and didn’t get called for it. Ziegler later got booked, but it turned out to be his only booking of the game, meaning he stayed on the field all 90 minutes.


  1. I’m seeing a distinct lack of chemistry between Fabian and his teammates, save for Wagner & Ilsinho. Aside from those two guys I see a lot of miscommunication and misinterpretation. Because of the suspension I’m willing to give him some more time but before the dog days of summer he needs to start producing (and stop taking PKs).
    Aaronson is a completely different story and I can only fault him for being bodied a few times but bigger, more experienced guys. Fresh meat gettin’ tenderized. Hope he can manage the kocks.
    Fabian shouldn’t get automatic starts because he’s the marquee signing when Aaronson is picking up a LOT of slack. (I don’t actually expect Fabian to ride the pine any time soon if at all).

  2. I don’t have the stats handy to back up my feelings, but I thought Gaddis had a slightly above average game. And I also thought that the center backs, particularly Trusty, gave the ball away A LOT. And I’m not talking just about the speculative long balls forward but midfield passes that were picked off that we were fortunate not to pay for. Trusty also made a really poor play tracking down a Dallas winger, deciding to go for a slide tackle that took him completely out of the play.

    I’ll take your word for it, Dan, that they played better, because I missed about the first 10 minutes of the second half. And I wasn’t taking notes. I might have given Elliot a 6 and Trusty a 5. Gaddis probably a 6.

    A place of agreement is Fabian. He’s got a bit too much of the shit house about him. I don’t mind the dark arts entirely, but I think he needs to do a lot more to prove himself on this squad right now. He’s being outplayed by nearly everyone else.

    • Elliott was 10 of 17 on long balls. Trusty was 6 of 12.

      Trusty still sends too many no-chance long balls when he runs out of ideas, but hey, they just held a team to 3 shots.

      • I must have been focused on the negatives. Pretty good pass completion rates from both.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Made the same comment out loud to myself at the game Saturday about Trusty just kicking the ball. Seems like he is doing it a lot more often – especially more often than those numbers are showing.

    • 1 shot on goal (from a foul by your number 10) and only 2 more total shots means your d is doing something right.

    • While I don’t disagree that Fabian needs to prove himself a bit, and maybe it’s just learning what he can get away with in the league. (and I think it’s back to FaFa for penalties) What I do appreciate is the fact that with both him and Aaronson, the Union have 2 midfielders on the field at the same time, that for the most part, their first touch of the ball is generally aggressive and positive.

    • Zaplatynsi says:

      As far as a “feel” that Gaddis had a good game, it seemed to me that Dallas was more than happy to let him receive the ball in space over and over again and make some forward progress. Just no fear that it would amount to anything useful, and they were, by and large, right. If I were game planning against the Union, that’s where I’d want to funnel the ball, too. So I could definitely understand it “seeming” like Gaddis had a solid outing, regardless of the stats.

      It’s also another reason I thought Curtin’s subs were so effective. Dallas spent 3/4 of the game getting nice and comfortable with not focusing so much on the right side of the field, and then Jimmy set Ilsinho and Bedoya loose to attack that tendency, while Burke moved the centerbacks around.

      Really a pleasant tactical surprise.

      • I agree with this. People are saying Gaddis has been getting forward a lot more this year which is true but every time he gets in the final 1/3 it’s basically a backwards or sideways pass. He doesn’t ever try to take his man on or rarely ever try to cross the ball in the box so he isn’t really any threat that high up the field. Curtin made excellent subs and should be commended on a great match.

      • Excellent points.

  3. Chris Gibbons says:

    I had Blake lower in my book. He set up a wall to protect his near post and had Fafa Picault on the end who, other than Marco Fabian, is the shortest player on the team. Jack Elliot is nearly a foot taller. Put him there and the score stays 0-0.

    • To be fair, the ball was moved a foot to the left after the wall was re-set; a move not noticed by Blake or the ref.
      That being said, I’m not sure why Fafa is in the wall, nor why Blake just stood there in shock, watching the ball go right over Fafa’s head. There was no attempt to do anything other than watch.

  4. pragmatist says:

    Honest question: Are Picault and Accam that low because of anything they did wrong, or simply because Dallas packed the box, completely negating the strength of both players? How should those guys play in those situations? They will guy muscled by backs like Hedges, and they won’t get the room to work that they need.
    Not really arguing, but if a team is hell-bent and capable of taking 2 of your players out of a game, there may not be much to do, until you sub them out.
    Just a thought…

    • They adjusted to the packing the box by both getting wider to get more space to work with, good idea for smaller quick players. They then did absolutely nothing with the ball when they had it. Clearly the game needed a big body to come in and bust up the CBs a little, but I still think the strikers had more room to work than we are stating here.

  5. pragmatist says:

    On Fabian, you mentioned that he’s the one that needs to go to the bench in order to get Monteiro minutes.
    Just to be clear, that would mean Monteiro on the left and moving Aaronson to the 10, correct? I don’t think Monteiro is a natural 10 like the kid, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

  6. Fabian looked off this game, but last game he completely controlled. Too much negativity towards him so far. I think Cincinnati game planned to take away Medunjanin and Fabian made them pay. This game they took away Fabian and other players had to step up. He’s still getting used to his teammates so I can’t fault him too much yet (honestly Wagner for how great he’s been has really been lacking that final ball too and Dockal took a while last year as well).
    This game showed why people have been railing against Ray as a starter, even though he has been better this year. A competent attacking player can completely dominate the game from the wings in this formation as Bedoya and Wagner have shown. If I was making the lineup next week I’d have Bedoya as RB and Monteiro in midfield. This is the only way to get your best players on the field. Credit to Curtin and the staff for that tweak because throughout all the crowded midfield discussion I never once saw this idea come up.

  7. I thought both teams played well defensively. Dallas killed the U attack for 60 mins. Then the subs started to open them up. Our young guys still make mistakes but they are mostly getting the job done! And Arronson is fun to watch. Was disappointed with the free kick that scored the goal. Must have been some kind of communication error. Hard to tell from the opposite end of the pitch!

  8. The Union have the 3rd-highest xG in the league (and are within a hair of being #2). It is a bit hard to fault the starting CAM under those circumstances. I think Fabián is doing some things right that you are not appreciating. I did not see this match, so I am not disputing his rating here, nor any of the ratings for this match. But saying he should go to the bench seems strange to me.

  9. Andy Muenz says:

    I think Fafa and Accam are rated too low. If nothing else, they helped wear down the defense so that Burke and Ilshino could be more effective when they came in. Fafa also did enough where a red card should have been drawn. If he’s not in the right place there, then there is no chance for the card (it’s not his fault that the officials and VAR missed it).
    Fabian’s score is right on. He had a reasonable game for the most part but made 2 glaring mistakes which could easily have cost the Union 3 points.
    3 is way too high for the ref. His calls were inconsistent all night. Someone should have checked VAR once Fafa lifted his shirt and showed the stud marks on his chest. I also didn’t like how he was telling Gaddis not to move forward on throw-ins whereas Dallas took multiple throws 15-20 yards downfield from where the ball went out. Speaking of which, the assistant referee on the east side of the stadium had several throw-ins going to the wrong team.

  10. The Chopper says:

    I remember folks around here were ready to pull the plug on Dockal last season before May. And many were ready to banish Medunjanin to the bench after just two games this season.

    Remember, MLS pre-season is short with a small amount of live game action. New acquisitions come into camp late and must acclimate quickly. Fabian’s suspension further hindered his game minutes. Harris needed time and real meaningful game time to adjust to a different formation, different role and new teammates. In the end, class usually wins out. Harris is a class player, Fabian if healthy is a class player. Let it play out, if this time stays healthy we are likely to have an enjoyable summer.

    • Honestly Fabian has had a better start with this team than all the other big name signings. I have no reason to be less excited about him after watching him play than I did when we got him. Guy is going to be a stud for us.

    • I agree with this and think it’s crazy to talk about benching him in favor of anyone. I’d just like to see him cut out the shithousery. Or at least get better and more discreet about it. 🙂

    • Good point about Dockal. I meant to include that in my piece, but it just stayed in my head.
      So here’s the point:

      In Fabian’s defense, he needs time to acclimate to a new team and a new league. That acclimation apparently includes the need to not be a dirty player, because MLS has VAR and a discipline committee that reviews video.

  11. Ilsinho, the Can Opener; brilliant! I am with you!

    • According to Google translate, the Portuguese phrase for “can opener” is “abridor de lata.” Maybe call him “Abridor?”
      I do like the new nickname, though.

  12. Roger That says:

    Nothing bad to say about that performance, but an injection of grit and size up front is needed for the Galaxy; Burke should start in place of Fafa, and Monteiro in place of … ?

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