Player ratings

Player ratings: Atlanta United 0-3 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

In one of the most remarkable results in club history, Philadelphia Union pulled off a 3-0 victory in the first leg of their Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal against Atlanta United.

The visitors were overrun during a first half where Atlanta seemed certain to score a goal (or three). But Philadelphia hung on and grabbed three second-half goals, two on devastating counterattacks, completing a smash-and-grab visit to the South.

Player Ratings

Andre Blake – 8

The Union don’t win this game without Blake’s first-half heroics. They might have been blown out. But brick-wall Blake parried away a half-dozen quality chances from the home side, which gave the Union the platform they needed to get the victory.

Olivier Mbaizo – 4

Another inconsistent night from Mbaizo, who seems to vacillate between eye-poppingly good and eye-poppingly bad on a minute-to-minute basis. Was the better of the Union’s fullbacks on the night.

Jakob Glesnes – 4

Glesnes hasn’t looked as sure this season as he did with Mark McKenzie as his partner, either on the ball or off it. Made his fair share of strong clearances during the second half.

Jack Elliott – 4

See Glesnes. Wouldn’t mind seeing Stuart Findlay getting a game or two soon. Made a noteworthy sliding tackle to break up a point-blank chance midway through the first-half.

Kai Wagner – 3

Wagner was beat over the top early on — not something you’re accustomed to seeing from the German. Jurgen Damm gave Wagner trouble all night and the Union were fortunate that they did not pay for it. His corner kick led to the opening goal.

Jose Martinez – 4.5

Possibly the toughest performance on the night for me to evaluate. The early yellow card was very bad, both because Martinez will be substituted for the second leg and because it forced him to dial the aggression back just a bit. In their dominant first half, Atlanta’s passing took Martinez out of the game. But at the end of the day, his side kept a clean sheet, and the desperate hosts couldn’t get anything going in the second half.

Leon Flach – 7

Flach turned in the best midfield performance on the night. He covers so much ground and does so tirelessly. Flach made the second goal happen, combining a sharp one-two with Santos with a powerful 40-yard run and a perfect pass to find Przybylko in space. A really impressive start to the season for the 20-year-old.

Alejandro Bedoya – 6

Bedoya looked more like himself in this match after a tough go against Miami. Filled space, recovered well, made the right read — and, on an emotional night, kept his side from losing their cool.

Jamiro Monteiro – 5

A relatively anonymous night for the Cape Verde international. I still think he’s miscast in the No. 10 role, as he doesn’t do enough to put the strikers in good positions. Still, his defensive work rate and willingness to go hard for 50-50s were up to his high standards.

Cory Burke – 2

The limits of a Burke-Przybylko partnership were apparent throughout the first half, whether it was a plodding breakaway or multiple situations where both strikers made the same run on well-struck crosses. Burke never seemed to find the game and was deservedly removed at halftime.

Kacper Przybylko – 8

Anonymous in the first half, Striker Muffin came to life alongside Sergio Santos in the second. His first goal showed good instincts that haven’t been sharp so far this season. His second was a clinical, powerful finish. And his assist on the third goal was marvelously unselfish.


Sergio Santos – 8

Santos’s introduction changed the game. His speed and power opened up new areas of the pitch, and after the first goal he sprung the two lethal counterattacks that put the game away with some great hold-up play and vision. I could do with a little less flopping, but Santos should be starting games for the Union.

Anthony Fontana – 6

I’m not sure if he had more than one touch, but it went in the back of the net. He’ll be disappointed to be coming off the bench, but if he keeps scoring goals the starts will come.

Matt Real – n/a

Came on for the final five plus stoppage as a midfield body.

Player of the Match – Andre Blake

Could’ve gone with Kacper or Sergio here, but last year’s Goalkeeper of the Year kept the Union alive in a half where they were on life support. A marked contrast with the flailing Brad Guzan at the other end of the pitch.

Geiger Counter

Jair Marrufo – 6

Set the tone early by not hesitating to show a yellow card to Martinez. Marrufo’s calls were consistent and neither side will feel hard done by.


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    An 8 for Blake? An 8? Seems to me to be at least a 9 if not a 9.5. Remember, this was a performance where the Union pitched a shutout despite all 4 defenders and the CDM coming in with ratings less than 5.
    I’d also bring up Fontana to at least a 7 as he also got back and helped on defense a couple of times and helped the Union break out of trouble.
    Looking at the post that was linked to in the roundup showing the rankings and comments from an Atlanta perspective, they disagree with you regarding Marrufo. Of course they only had 2 Atlanta players with ratings less than 5.
    One other thing worth mentioning (although I should probably save it for the game analysis post) was that the corner kick the Union scored on was one where they stopped having both Monteiro and Wagner running out to the corner.

    • I agree on Fontana, when he first subbed on for Flach it looked like he was playing the 8, which surprised me because I thought Curtin did not trust his defense enough and wanted him higher up the pitch. And Fontana was covering ground and helped a lot while he was at the 8 too, which is a good sign.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      I get your argument for Blake, but think I’d have the rating about the same as Peter. I look at it like the baseball WAR stat: how many of those saves would the average MLS keeper make. I’d say the answer is 3-4 of the 7, which means what he did on the other 3-4 was supernatural. Which maybe is still worth more than an 8….

    • I wouldn’t have a problem with giving Blake a 9 (or Fontana a 7). My general rule with player ratings is that if your number is +/- 1 from what I wrote down, we don’t really disagree. Player ratings are mapping a subjective view of each player’s performance onto an arbitrary numerical scale. There will be some differences in there. As always, appreciate your thoughts.

  2. Chris Gibbons says:

    I’ll disagree slightly on Marrufo. His yellow for Martinez was justified, but he let a lot of heavy challenges go uncarded, including an elbow that drew blood. Set the bar early, and then meet it throughout. Failed the test for me.

    • I understand why the referee didn’t card Robinson, though, and agree with the non-call.
      . . .
      IMO, Miles Robinson’s elbow was unintentional and both players were entitled to put their best efforts into winning that challenge fore the ball. Robinson was very good at winning challenges in that match.
      . . .
      The contact point at issue is the kind that easily cuts and bleeds of course, but that alone shouldn’t warrant a card (not saying you implied that). An Atlanta player also got a bleeding cut on his scalp in another incident.
      . . .
      To me, intent is the key factor for cards, and I understand why referees don’t want to chill aggressive footballing for fear of being penalized for it even if it doesn’t involve an unsportsmanlike foul. Fair play leads to injuries too.

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    Okay… I’m going to come right out with it.
    I feel for Anthony Fontana.
    He’s the odd man out again it seems and I think it is dirty low down.
    I would wager $1,000 he scores more gols as a False9 then Corey Burke and he’s already got the lead on him.

    • Yeah, it’s a tough situation for him. I can see why he’s not starting as a striker. I can also see why Curtin has opted for Miro at the 10 and Flach at the 8 so far, even though I don’t think it’s a great use of Monteiro. I hope he gets some games from the start as the season goes on, because I think he has more potential than a super-sub. If it continues, does he need to go to another team / coach to continue his development?

    • I agree. I think it’s a bit silly to not have Fontana in the starting lineup. He scores goals whenever he’s on the field, and despite Kacper’s performance last night, he’s probably the only player I would trust to score game in game out.

    • Still think the way you get the best Union team on the pitch is to move Bedoya back to right back and put Fontana at #10.
      If nothing else, feel like we should try this when Fontana comes as first sub off the bench.

    • Fontana was told he was being given the keys, only do be a team player and move out of position as a striker. His reward… the bench!
      Jim should at the very least had him there and see…
      Not sure what his contract situation is, but I think he and Real are out of contract at the end of the year.
      Is it the Union not offering the contract, or the players not accepting the contract.
      We need to know. On a different note, the Union will be in every game this year, Blake and the defense will be very good, the only concern is where the offense will come by, but if last nights game was any indication (assuming they can get results like that 50% of the time) should be a decent season.

    • I’d like to see Fontana at the top of the diamond, rotating with Miro. Miro would also rotate with Bedoya and Flach in the 8 positions. Cycling Martinez is tough as I’m not sure who else they have besides Elliott. I know Bedoya and Miro can play the 6 but maybe one of the young guns is preparing to take that position?

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      I do not disagree in the least. But Burke has to be given minutes. He missed all of preseason. All.
      Curtin has to condition him using MLS and SCCL games, especially since Union 2 is dialed back from the USLC level.
      Fontana was probably going to start in the midfield until Flach convinced Curtin he was good to go, judging by The coach’s comments.
      Fontana is the offense’s Swiss Army knife while the strikers are healing and conditioning and Ilsinho is out. McGlynn, Sullivan, and Aaronson are clearly judged not ready yet, and de Vries is still unavailable. Fontana is first choice to solve a problem at all five of the attacking positions.

  4. pragmatist says:

    And if you want to include the coach, Matt Doyle and Taylor Twellman have some interesting thoughts on Curtin:
    “I think it’s pretty obvious that Salzburg should go after Jim Curtin to replace Jesse. Ideal candidate given his track-record wrt winning, tactical flexibility and player development.”

    • Why did you have to piss on such a beautiful day. LOL. Please no not yet.

      • pragmatist says:

        That was pretty much the tenor of ALL of the responses! LOL!!

      • Richie_the Limey says:

        I don’t think this team loses much (if anything) if Curtin leaves. He is no tactical genius wih a secret sauce. Any competent coach should get a tune out of this squad. It has been really well assembled. If anything we might do better (for example why is Burke starting over Fontana?)

      • Theoretically Burke gives you better hold up play. He’s a bigger body and plays kind of nasty. He also does a lot of hard running. In a CL match, I think there’s a value to these attributes. Did this happen? No. As was repeatedly stated this was Burke’s first start in over a year. I think Jim tried something. It didn’t work. He then had the balls to change at the half. Sorry, I don’t see this as a negative.
        I don’t think anyone has ever claimed Jim is a tactical genius. But there are many more things to being a coach than tactics. Jim’s man management is off the charts. Decry it all you want, but there is an obvious affect Jim has on his players. He gets them all to believe, and buy in, and boy have they.
        No one is irreplaceable. Jim will be gone some day. But I’d like to see him and the team win some more silverware before he goes. I also don’t think it’s as easy as picking up any competent coach off the street. But again, that’s not what the Union, this Union, would do, now would they? They’d find the right fit. Or they’d go again until they do. See Sven Gartung in the “Where are they now?” section of Union history.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        With all due respect to those who think it will be OK to let Curtin go, I think it is a lot harder than people realize to get as much out of a team like this without any superstars. While they haven’t been perfect (and nights like Saturday they are sometimes beaten by superstar talent) Curtin has really gotten the most out of this team playing like a team the last couple of years and he will be difficult to replace.

    • No offense to Jim, but if someone mentioned Ernst getting a job at a big club I would be substantially more upset. I think that Jim is executing Ernst’s plan with Ernst’s players.

      • You’re totally right and I 100% agree but I Think that is why Jim to a Red Bull system in the future is not so far fetched. He is implementing a REd Bull style system very well under someone who has a ton of ties and love for the RB system. That means a lot.

  5. Bizarre ratings. What more could you ask of Blake? Martinez a 4.5? It was a master class in time wasting, crowd control, and provoking an emotional response from the opposition. I even disagree with the Ref rating, i thought he did an outstanding job controlling the game and had some great no calls.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Martinez was great in the second half, but was also a large part of the inability of the Union to control the ball at all in the first half. Plus, getting himself suspended for the next game for a needless foul has to negatively affect his rating.

  6. We didn’t give up any goals right? WTH Peter, your defensive ratings are way out of whack. I’m not saying their 8’s or 9’s, but 6’s and 7’s at least.
    These players looked tired in the first half to me. As they should playing 3-4 days before. Martinez, Blake and Elliot were the only ones who didn’t seem partially gassed. I think in part, the result is overshadowing the effort. They bent without breaking so many times, Atlanta fans are almost indignant that their team wasn’t allowed to score. That was a skill on display that only the best teams can display. It so reminds me of Jim Johnson’s Eagles defenses. I don’t know, I am just so impressed with the heart and guts I saw last night.

    • The counter-argument regarding the defense is that Blake had to do his Superman impersonation so many times because the defense allowed Atlanta to get into those dangerous spots time and time again, especially in the first half.
      Maybe they shouldn’t be 4s, but I really don’t think you can make a good case for them being 7s either. I’d put them each up 1 point – which, as Peter points out, is close enough. Blake, on the other hand… I’m not really sure what else he could’ve done to earn a 10.

      • I don’t think all of Atlanta’s offense was due to the defense. Plenty of give-aways by the forwards and mids. Not much a defense can do but hold on and survive, which is what they did. Sorry, 3-4’s are not good enough. It’s a 2-3 point difference for me not just a one point. Elliot did nothing egregious and had a lung busting run near the end of the match to help get them out of their own side of the field. He’s certainly a candidate for a 7. Sorry no, these ratings are too low.

  7. I hope to see Fontana soon. We need to rotate Bedoya and will miss Martinez. Hopefully Curtin will do this over several games rather than realize that at this end of this marathon everyone is exhausted.

    • Curtin is probably anticipating Martinez will miss enough games throughout the season due to card accumulation to get sufficient periodic rest, so he’s playing him whenever he’s available. Hopefully Bedoya will pick up on this pattern and start collecting periodic late-game YC’s so he will also get the occasional day off.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Bedoya doesn’t need any help in that department given the one he picked up in Columbus.

  8. Barry Evans says:

    I take it the 1, 9 and 0 on your keyboard are broken as thats the only things that make Blake an 8, and Burke a 2. Blake has to he a 10 for me, even if you don’t like giving the max/min, especially giving Kacper an 8 who was also very poor in the first half despite his 2nd half heroics.

    Burke being a 1 is also deserving of an absolute dreadful performance. If Blake has what id term a normal game for keepers, we lose this and Burke starting would point to being a big reason. Did he do a single thing well?

  9. Disagree with a lot of the low rankings, traveling on the road against an extremely tough Atlanta squad required a full team effort. As a unit the boys played great. And let’s especially not undervalue the transition game out of the back.

  10. I think Martinez was better. Him getting bossed out of the midfield defensively was because he was overrun, which seems a bit fair to blame on him and more a credit to Heinze’s tactics. Martinez also did a lot of good on the ball this game, and served as important release valve in the first half. While he didn’t create many transition chances, releasing pressure was an important action in and of itself.

  11. When a goalie is MOTM, either the defense didn’t have a great game or they were totally over matched by the other team’s offense.
    When the goalie is bored, the defense is probably having a great game.

  12. Steve Whisler says:

    It’s funny because I looked at the Atlanta player ratings on Dirty South Soccer, and they were unreasonably high (likes almost everyone was 7>) for losing 3-0.


    • The Philly fanbase is notoriously tough to impress, as we all know. We hold our players to very high standards and let them know when they don’t reach those standards. It takes a special kind of competitor to put up with us.

  13. Individual player ratings occur within the contexts of the tactical plans set out by the coaches.
    It would seem Heinze decided to negate the Union attacking down the left channel through Wagner and Flach by high pressing them AND threatening them with Jurgen Damm’s pace. It worked like a charm until Atlanta gave up a goal and had to chase the game even more.
    Look at the aggregate passing chart. Find it Under stats on the MLS match Center summary under schedule. Atlanta invited the Union to build through Mbaizo and Glesnes and tried to hinder using Wagner and Elliott.

  14. These ratings seem too low for a 3-0 road victory in MLS’ toughest stadium. Particularly for the defenders and Martinez.

    Also, I motion that Martinez’ nickname be changed from El Brujo to El Cujo.

  15. One thing I think these ratings accurately bring up is the fact that the back line really sis t have a good night. Despite the clean sheet. I think the Union were up to the challenge of defending set pieces, but they were carved open pretty regularly. I think Glesnes on particular had a night he’d probably like to forget.
    Understandable given the super short rest and the travel. But I suspect if we had lost, the blame would be focused on that back line.

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