Player ratings / Union

Player ratings: Philadelphia Union 1 – 0 Atlanta United

Photo credit Marjorie Elzey

As the scoreline clearly shows, the Union won on Saturday. And they won playing a high-pressing style that kept the visitors from ever really building offensive rhythm. It was as tidy a performance as the Union have put in this season, though it’s hard to say why. No one player did anything we haven’t seen them do before, with the possible exception of Andre Blake who for once wasn’t a complete lockdown in goal.

So it seems this is an inverse of an old Union plot device; it’s a progression to the mean. No team’s record ever completely reflects the reality of how the team is playing, and in the Union’s case they are a better team than the seventh-in-the-east standings would have suggested before the game.

Player ratings

Andre Blake — 4

A little harsh considering the clean sheet. But Blake made a number of dangerous mistakes this game, especially when trying to clear the ball. That cost him a lot of points, even if it didn’t wind up hurting the Union.

Kai Wagner — 5

The first half saw flashes of the Wagner we remember, contributing to the attack with his speed and passing accuracy while still providing powerful defensive support. But it faded as the game went on, a disappointment for fans and surely for the German himself. Whether it’s his chemistry with Flach or balancing responsibilities with Mbaizo, figuring out how to get Wagner back to being more involved in the game could be the back line’s biggest unanswered question at the moment.

Jack Elliott — 7

What was he doing all the way up there? Whether it was fighting for a header or taking a free kick deep in the Atlanta end, Elliott was more involved in the offense than since last year’s experiments at defensive midfield. And honestly it worked. Jack’s passing and ball handling has always been unusually good for a center back, and paired with the fact that he’s twelve feet tall (citation needed) he’s an asset when he’s able to get up field. If the Union had better depth at center back it would be great to see him getting more chances to play further up field.

Jakob Glesnes — 6

More than once the Norwegian played a ball that looked slightly scary on screen. But based on his teammates’ reactions it must have been the camera angle, or they’ve just become acclimated to his occasionally hair-raising decisions. And aside from that it was his usual strong performance, keeping Atlanta from having too many real chances.

Olivier Mbaizo — 6

You may have noticed improvements in the outside back’s game recently. His confidence is up in 1v1 situations, key for his offensive and defensive responsibilities, and he’s starting to anticipate passes before they happen putting him in perfect position to pick pockets once the ball gets there. He’s not yet the player we all want him to be, but the improvement is welcome.

Jose Martinez– 5

Yes, he was working his sinister magic. And yes he did an amazing job driving past two defenders before giving Przybyłko the assist. But other than that, he spent most of his time taking poorly thought-out shots from well outside the box. Don’t get it wrong, the Union as a whole need to shoot more. But maybe the defensive midfielder isn’t the player to be taking on that responsibility.

Leon Flach — 4

The young midfielder continues to show the promise that had so many excited when he first got here. But unfortunately he hasn’t show anything else. He’s got speed, he’s got a good read on the game, and he’s not afraid to step to opponents defensively or offensively. But for all those positives, he’s still not creating chances or breaking up opposing attacks.

Jamiro Monteiro — 5

Not a bad game. But not a good one either. He seemed to be about fifty pounds too light to stay on his feet against Atlanta’s extremely physical play.

Daniel Gazdag — 5

A particularly short shift, leaving some wondering exactly where Gazdag was expected to contribute. He’s clearly a player of significant skill, on display with his passing and positioning. But his presence hasn’t elevated the Union attack, and if he can’t do that what can he do?

Kacper Przybyłko — 6

He got the goal, and for that we are all grateful. But if it weren’t for that would there be much positive to say about his play? Either he was under heavy coverage and as a result wasn’t a viable target, or he received the ball and failed to make anything of it once he did. Which happens, a striker’s lot is repeated frustration mixed with occasional success. But that ratio continues to be unfavorable for Kacper this season.

Sergio Santos — 7

A great game from the Brazilian who put in work all game long, even if he never got a goal to show for it.


Paxten Aaronson (for Gazdag in the 57th) — 6

He’s starting to show the brilliance we were told to look for. Of particular note was his work to keep the ball from going over the endline in the eighty third minute. The pass to Monteiro didn’t amount to anything, but Aaronson did all he could to make it happen.

Quinn Sullivan (for Przybyłko in the 78th)– 5

Not much to base an opinion on, but he’s clearly comfortable bringing the game to more experienced defenses, and the Union would benefit from seeing more of that.

Jack McGlynn (for Martinez in the 78th)– 5

A short shift for the midfielder, who let el Brujo get off the field early, mitigating some yellow card anxiety.

Anthony Fontana (for Santos in the 88th) — Pass

Nothing to see in this run-out-the-clock substitution, other than confirmation that Fontana is still alive.

Geiger Counter

Robert Sibiga — 8

A high score doesn’t mean we agree with every call the center ref made. Instead it’s a reflection of the ref’s impact on the game, which was thankfully minimal. He was calling a tight game for the first hour, giving both teams fouls that they maybe didn’t earn. But he was consistent, and around the hour mark every player had adapted to this interpretation of the rules, and the game played with minimal interruption for the final thirty minutes. That’s all we want, a ref we can understand. And every decision Robert Sibiga made was pretty understandable in the context of how he was calling the rest of the game.

Player of the Game

Sergio Santos

Yes, Przybyłko got the goal. But Sergio Santos put in so much work on Saturday that it would be a shame for him to leave empty handed. So in recognition of his hard work, his smart play, and his excellent decision making, he is this week’s Player of the Game.


  1. Chris Gibbonds says:

    Monteiro looked better to me than your rating, namely that he was flying to the ball defensively (which is something he did when he came here and then only half-heartedly did much of this year). Still needs a better chemistry in the final third though. Either way, my close friend who does radio for Atlanta asked me why the Union don’t play through Monteiro more often, as it appears other teams are worried about him more than anything else.

    • Agreed. While miscast as a 10, even on his slow days, I think he’s our most talented player and should be the focal point.

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        Yep, Monteiro had a good game and you could tell he was getting used to being an 8 again. There’s a reason other teams fear him more than any of our other players. You can tell teams surround him and force him backwards whenever they can.

  2. Larry Guengerich says:

    I agree with the official’s rating. So good when they are not noticeable

  3. A couple of points. I agree with your comments about the ref. I left the game and for once was not complaining about the ref- I actually complimented his work. He was consistent which reduces the number of useless player huddles around the ref.

    Jakob Glesnes – It must of been your angle or maybe it was mine. This was one of a few number of games in which he did not have a pass that scared me. I was surprised that Jack took the free kick and not Jakob (Jack’s was good but likely not as much power as Jakob)

    I thought Olivier Mbaizo looked so much more confident than in the past. In the final third we need more aggressive play and willingness to take defenders on – instead of cross after cross.

    I watch every game wondering what we are going to see from Martinez. Its always interesting and he rarely fails to shock me (positive and negative)

  4. I think there was a major reason why Wagner was better at the beginning of the game and Mbaizo in the second half. The sun. The Union were working most of their offense on the side of the field near the benches so Guzman would be facing the sun when trying to see the ball. It was no coincidence that the goal came from that side of the field.
    Blake has always had issues with long ball distribution, Atlanta’s press just made it more noticeable.

  5. Completely agree on the referee rating. Refreshing to feel that way. I thought Gazdag was as active and involved as he’s ever been since joining the U. While there wasn’t a finished product to point to, I was surprised to see him pulled so early. Not saying he was a world beater, but he wasn’t get pulled at half time bad by any means.

  6. Enjoyed the player ratings as always! Spot on with the Elliot observation, I was surprised to see him so involved up front. It reminded me of my last year coaching travel, I had a big CB who decided suddenly that he wanted to get involved, it was fun to watch his development.

  7. Amazing that Elliott and Glesnes essentially play the same position, Elliott (deservedly) gets the higher rating, and Glesnes makes the idiot league soccer team of the week.

  8. Daniel Gazdag’s firtst job is to replace Brenden Aaronson DEFENSIVELY. He is beginning to get closer to doing that.

  9. el Pachyderm says:

    Paxten’s best play of the game IMO was his deep deep track back to disrupt a play at the top of the box none of the other players on the team make… except for the young man who played here last season and now plays in europe.

    • Mark McKenzie? 🙂 🙂

      • Wou;ld not have minded having his speed to counter Atlanta’s last Saturday.
        Atlanta had a pace advantage over the Union’s back line. It was clear twice in the first half.
        But the Union’s press was so effective that they were never able to play for the green space behind the Union’s restraining line.
        Particularly Barco one v one against Glesnes gave me pause. But Araujo v Elliott was scary, too.

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