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Player ratings: Philadelphia Union 3-1 Atlanta United

photo: 215-pix

That was fun, wasn’t it?

Philadelphia Union reclaimed the top spot in the East with a fantastic come back win against defending MLS Cup champions Atlanta United. Despite giving up what felt like a backbreaking goal just before half time to Josef Martinez, the Union rebounded in the second half behind goals from Brenden Aaronson, Kacper Przybylko, and Sergio Santos.

In what was billed as the biggest regular season game in Union history, the team rose to the occasion. Jim Curtin seemed to nail the lineup and the subs, the game plan worked pretty close to perfection, and the crowd was as loud as I’ve heard at Talen. It really felt like a special win.

Player ratings

Andre Blake – 6

Not much Blake could do to stop Josef Martinez’s fantastic goal. I side with Jack Elliott in thinking that Blake should have come for the loose ball that ended with Martinez somehow missing an empty net. Finished with three saves, his pushing away of Emerson Hyndman’s 78th minute strike maybe the best of them.

Ray Gaddis – 7

Really solid match for Gaddis at right back. Got forward quite a bit more than anyone expected. Did well to keep Hyndman at bay for the most part.

Jack Elliott – 8

Elliott and McKenzie were excellent at putting out fires with last ditch tackles and big blocked shots. No bigger tackle than the one at midfield to win the ball that led to Aaronson’s goal.

Mark McKenzie – 7

See above for Elliott. McKenzie has looked extremely composed in his two starts, decent on the ball, not diving in on tackles and making speedy recovery runs look easy. It’s going to be hard for Trusty or Collin to win the job back if McKenzie can maintain this form.

Kai Wagner – 7

In a battle of Germans down the wing, Wagner came out on top of Julian Gressel, by making the winger defend rather than join the Atlanta attack for much of the match. Great ball into space for Santos to run onto that led to Przybylko’s winner.

Haris Medunjanin – 9

A man of the match performance from Medunjanin. Wearing the captain’s armband in Alejandro Bedoya’s absence, the midfield maestro pinged the ball and kept the Union moving for the full 90 minutes. Picked up a beautiful assist, dropping the ball on a dime, for Aaronson’s goal. Would have had a secondary assist had Przybylko’s goal not been disallowed in the first half. And he added 12 recoveries, showing just how far he’s come defensively this season.

Jamiro Monteiro – 7

Moved next to Medunjanin, Monteiro again showed off his flexibility with a strong match. Tasked with winning the ball back, he finished with 10 recoveries. If you want to point to him being a little slow to recover on Atlanta’s goal, I could see it, but not many teams in MLS could defend that attack. Monteiro also covered a ton of ground and only missed on five passes the whole night.

Brenden Aaronson – 8

If only Aaronson could play Atlanta every week. He now has two goals in two games against the defending champions. His goal on Saturday was a beautiful finish and perhaps even a better run. Combined with that, he knew Przybylko was likely offside and didn’t slide a pass to him. The play started with his pressure on the Atlanta defense too, as Adam Cann explains here. Aaronson was getting lumps kicked out of him for large parts of the season, and it seems the youngster has finally started to figure out the physicality of the league. He kept his feet for most of the match and won his duel with Jeff Larentowicz, one of the more physical defenders in the league.

Marco Fabian – 6

A decent, if unspectacular night, for Fabian. Would have loved to have seen him make the shot that ended up hitting the crossbar, an open shot from 16 yards that sat up perfect. Close to an assist with a clever touch off his thigh on Przybylko’s disallowed goal.

Fafa Picault – 6

Hardworking performance for Picault, who did an absolute ton of dirty running. I still have questions about his decision-making in the final third, but Picault’s pace and work rate will continue to make him a valuable option when the team lines up in the 4-2-3-1.

Kacper Przybylko – 9 

He keeps scoring. He keeps scoring big goals too. With still a lot to do on the winner, Przybylko absolutely smashed his shot past Brad Guzan to win the game. Unlucky to have his first half tally ruled out, as it was also a fine finish. But better than all of it might be the striker’s work rate. He dropped into midfield and allowed the midfield three to move fluidly. Even finished with four recoveries, not bad for a striker.


Ilsinho – 7

Good performance off the bench for the Cheat Code. Nabbed a secondary assist on Santos goal with a great run and well timed pass into the path of Przybylko. But importantly, the Brazilian came on and demanded the attention of Atlanta’s defense and created space for his teammates.

Sergio Santos – 9

The almost forgotten man returned after nearly two months out to score and grab an assist on the game winner. What a weapon Santos could turn out to be as the Union push into the final part of the season.

Anthony Fontana – 7

Nice cameo for Fontana, who only entered in the 85th minute. Did really well to hold the ball up in midfield in the build-up to Santos’ goal.

Geiger Counter

Robert Sibiga – 9

A really well-officiated match by Sibiga. Atlanta is used to getting the calls, and they still got a fair amount, but the man with the whistle wasn’t buying all that Atlanta was selling. No complaints from me about the disallowed goal, though man, that was close, Fabian offside by inches. I thought Sibiga let the game flow pretty well without letting it ever get away from him.

Man of the Match – Haris Medunjanin

You want to make an argument for Przybylko for a complete performance and a game-winning goal? Sure. You want to tell me about Sergio Santos returning from two months out to have a goal and an assist off the bench? Fair argument. But Medunjanin made the Union tick all night and had one of the most complete games we’ve seen him have over three seasons.


  1. Chris Gibbons says:

    Give me Blake at a 7 for two reasons: he split lines with his passes out of the back (a few of them anyway) AND he played the ball to Wagner, around several Atlanta players, that led to Wagner’s run, pass, and hockey assist on Pryzbylko’s goal.

  2. I think I agree with every one of these ratings, +/- 1 point. Not sure that’s ever happened.

    I’d give Jack Elliott a 7 for that blunder with Blake, and for nominally being the one beat on the goal (though I’m not sure what he could’ve done, being realistic). He still had a great match, though. And glad you noticed the excellent match Ray Gaddis had.

    My only real disagreement is that I’d give MotM to either Przybylko or Aaronson, both of whom did tremendous defensive work in addition to their goal-scoring. But Haris had a great match too.

  3. Excellent point about Ilsinho drawing the attention of Atlanta’s defense after he came on. ATL regularly had three defenders shifted to his side and waiting for him whenever he received the ball along the sideline in the attacking half. That freed up a ton of space everywhere else on the field.

  4. 9 is what Aaronson should have received rather Sibliga since Aaronson should have drawn a PK. Not sure why that wasn’t reviewed by VAR since it looked like a pretty clear foul on replay.
    I would probably dock McKenzie the point I gave him last week as I think he could have stepped up and intercepted the pass on the give part of the give and go which led to Atlanta’s goal.
    I would put about 90% of the miscommunication on Blake as it was obvious that Elliott was just trying to shield the ball to him and Blake never stepped up to pick it up.
    Aaronson is Beast of the Match for me.

  5. Howard Schimmoller says:


    I agree with you 98% of the time, however…

    Sibiga gets on my nerves!

    He does talk to the players… which I really do appreciate, but he lets them go way too far AND THEN hits them for a card on something that is really relatively minor.

    This accumulation of lectures, lets player A’s serious fouls go because it is “only his first” yet player B’s results in a yellow, because it simply “his 3rd in fraction”

    Not to mention the third of the field he is standing in when he sees the foul…

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      He also just has that look to him, like he enjoys being the center of attention. Like going to midfield and pausing before announcing the no goal.

    • His finger-wagging routine whenever there were calls for a foul he wasn’t going give and his “no more fouls – ENOUGH!” arm sweep gesture made my wife and I laugh the whole game…at him, not with him.

  6. In Tanner We Trust says:

    I had not forgotten about Santos, but I did have some doubts. So happy for him. Aaronson was MotM for me but several players made a legitimate statement Saturday night.

  7. Old Soccer Coach says:

    In re:Santos, whose feed to Przybylko and coffin screw finish are deserving.
    He got a red card in his previous match with the Steel. Clearly USL red cards do not affect MLS eligibility, at this point in time.
    In the rules summaries available to the general public there is no mention of the issue of red cards in other competitions.
    Likewise, Leandro Gonzalez Perez got a red card in the US Open Cup final, and played. Same comment about publicly available rules summaries applies.
    Zach Pfeffer may be rolling his eyes, for those whose memories go back that far.

  8. Was at the game. Loved it and as excited as all the rest about the win, but I think some of these are too high.
    For me Jack and Mackenzie both get 8s, but Jack loses one (7) for not following the run on the give and go goal. Mackenzie was a beast all night on arguably the most dangerous striker in the league.
    Fabian was average and would have scored if he did not try to put the ball through the net. Was also repeatedly offsides – should be 5.
    Haris’ effectiveness went up significantly in the second half when ATL got too tired to press. Before that I don’t recall him doing a lot. Certainly not a 9.
    Meanwhile, Monteiro was the midfield hero of the first half for the Union. He was the only U midfielder the ATL midfield could not catch on the ball in their press, and he was the only U player catching the ATL midfield on the ball with the U press in the first half. He deserves an 8.

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