Player ratings / Union

Player ratings: Portland Timbers 0-2 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Even before kickoff, Sunday night’s game had some drama as the NASCAR All Star Race featured a red flag.

This extended the racing competition into the broadcast slot previously promised to Portland vs. Philadelphia, moving kickoff to an even later 10:35PM eastern time. After that the race went into overtime, prompting Fox Sports to move the broadcast to FS2, without ever actually mentioning that they were doing so on air.

Not exactly the support MLS needs from its broadcast partners.

However, once the viewing drama got sorted, the Union got down to business and put in as complete a performance as fans have seen from them this season. Obviously an early goal helps set the tone, but even in their opponent’s house, the Union never seemed like they weren’t controlling the narrative of the game.

Player ratings (Heading 5, bold-faced)

Andre Blake — 7

There’s no denying that the clean sheet is largely due to a fortunate VAR decision in the sixty-ninth minute. Up till then, not much had been asked of the Union’s goalkeeper, making the score a little softer than some might expect. However, no goals scored in no goals scored – and in the dying minutes of the game, Portland managed to actually ask a few things of Blake. The Jamaican was more than capable of handling the situation.

Kai Wagner — 7

There weren’t a lot of headline-grabbing moments for the German, other than the assist on Sérgio Santos’ goal in the forty-eighth minute. Between off the ball positioning and keen pressure when (for example) Yimmi Chara had the ball, bumped scores across the back line is in order for a defense that allowed just two shots on goal.

Jack Elliott — 6

Like his left back teammate, Jack Elliott had a good but not groundbreaking game. He doesn’t score as high though, as he was drawn out of position in the sixty-ninth minute, allowing the Sebastián Blanco goal. Granted, that goal was eventually ruled offside, but the Union can’t rely on friendly officiating to win games.

Jakob Glesnes — 6

Similar score for a similar story. Both center backs consolidated in front of goal to reinforce Andre Blake in the sixty-ninth – which is a good thing – but in doing so left an irresponsible amount of uncontested space in the box. In cases like that, a player like Sebastián Blanco is always going to take advantage. However, the Norwegian was an overall positive force on the night and should be remembered more for being part of the back line that held the Timbers to just two shots on goal.

Nate Harriel — 7

He’s obviously not a finished product, and considering the outragously high bar the “first” generation of Union homegrowns set, some are seeing him as a disappointment. But the reality is that Nate Harriel is already a very good right back, and at just twenty one years of age there’s reason to believe he could be extremely good in the near future – especially if his long throw-ins keep stymieing opposition defenses.

José Martínez — 8

Fans talk a lot about players who can only be as good as what is asked of them. Well, apparently fans haven’t been asking enough of Martínez, because Sunday night was a peak performance for the Venezuelan. Some of the thanks for that goes to Diego Chará, who as the recently-crowned most yellow-carded player in MLS history, has a sinister magic all his own. But that magic was no match for el Brujo, who drew the elbow that gave the Colombian his yellow card, and a few more fouls that should have seen Portland’s midfielder earn at least another.

Leon Flach — 7

Flach creates a lot of pressure when the other team has the ball in the midfield, resulting in a lot of turnovers. It would be great if he could make something of said turnovers. And yet, even without that dimension, slowing down the opponent and giving your team time to get in position to defend is a valuable skill.

Alejandro Bedoya — 8

A “glue player” is on the field to help the whole team play better: connecting passes, covering runs, and generally bringing individual performances together to be more than the sum of the parts. That’s exactly what Bedoya did on Sunday night. The former USMNT midfielder was extremely mobile this game, always seeming to pop up right where he needed to be in order to squash a Portland drive or unlock a Union breakaway – add in an assist and it was a very good night for the captain.

Dániel Gazdag — 8

Are fans calling that a bike? Whether it counts as a full bicycle kick or not, the Hungarian international opened the Union’s account early on Sunday with an acrobatic goal that set the tone for the rest of the match. He was a consistent threat in the Union attack for the rest of the night too, keeping the Timbers defense busy even if he never got a great shot himself after that.

Sérgio Santos — 8

Finally a goal for the Brazillian, who’s been taking a supporting role for the most part so far this season – many would say too supporting. Nevertheless, he showed he still has the instinct to be a killer when he needs to be, as shown by the perfectly timed jump under the perfectly placed header that gave the Union their second goal of the night.

Julián Carranza — 7

Getting to know your teammates takes time – and when you’re a striker, knowing exactly when and where to expect the ball from every teammate in every situation is most of the job. Carranza’s only had five months and ten games to do that with the Union, and he’s already shown himself to be worth well more than the second-round MLS SuperDraft pick the Union gave up to get him. Give it a bit more time and fans will probably see why Miami paid six million dollars for him.


Paxten Aaronson (for Santos in the 52′) — 7

He doesn’t have the engine his older brother has, which could make it hard to see why he was described as better than his brother in early scouting reports. But he makes up for that with more confidence on the ball, and on defense, and it’s not like he’s slow by any means. It’ll take a bit for those skills to grab attention, but when it does there’s every reason to expect another Union homegrown making a move to Europe.

Cory Burke (for Carranza in the 81′) — Pass

Short minutes for the Jamaican, who clearly had a hard time getting a feel for the kind of game Allen Chapman wanted to see – which is understandable.

Geiger Counter

Allen Chapman — 2

Consistency is key for a referee, and Allen Chapman was not. On one hand he let play get chippy right from the get-go, and with two physical teams like Philly and Portland, that’s a recipe for chaos. He seemed uninterested in getting Sebastián Blanco back in line as the Argentine harangued a sideline official about a throw-in decision he disagreed with – or preventing Sebastián Blanco from haranguing Union athletic trainers Paul Rushing and Steve Hudyma as they were administering the concussion protocol to José Martínez. Lest you think this is all about Blanco, the concussion protocol happened because Diego Chará had just elbowed Martínez in the back of the head, earning Chará a well-deserved yellow – but then Chará continued to lead with his elbows for the rest of the night with never a word from Chapman.

If any Timbers are reading, you’re perfectly justified in feeling poorly done by the offside call. Either the player was or was not in an offside position. If it takes five minutes of careful scrutiny to determine whether or not that was the case, it’s probably not going to meet the standard of interfering with the play any more than if they were onside.

Player of the Game: Chemistry

The Union have never been what one would call “star studded.”

Of course that’s a reflection of their low-budget roster, with the team pouring money into youth development rather than acquiring flashy designated players. And yet, the Union ended the weekend where they started – first in the East, ahead of a very good New York City FC and a quite good Orlando City SC. Even though no one is talking about it this season, the Union are in third place for the Supporters Shield, with just two points separating them from first and over half a season left to play.

Most importantly, they’re doing that because the way this team plays together. Look back across these ratings and you’ll notice a theme – players putting in good performances without any headline-grabbing moments.

Dániel Gazdag had a great night.

So did José Martínez and Sérgio Santos.

So did the whole Union defense.

This wasn’t a game influenced by a single player triumphing in a vacuum, it was the collective whole. It was every player showing up, doing their job, and doing it well that gave the Union that most valuable of MLS results- a road win.


  1. I concur with the 5 rating for the heading in bold face

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    A few comments (and Peter will be happy that I’m not calling for a republish this week):
    Just after 10, the NASCAR announcers did actually mention that game coverage would begin on FS2 at 10:10 (and fortunately I had set my DVR to record both channels starting at 10). That being said, the MLS scheduler should get a rating of 1 for putting an east coast team in this game given that the all-star race runs long almost every year.
    While it’s fair to ding Elliott for being out of position on the non-goal, he should also be credited with chasing down the ball in the offensive corner when others had already turned back. He was then able to feed Kai who crossed it in to Santos for the insurance goal.
    Regarding Harriel, the FOX play by play announcer showed his incompetence when he talked about how Harriel is not as acclaimed as the other Union academy products. Could that be because he’s not a Union academy product but was traded for? I do think he is much better than Gaddis was at this stage of his career (and Gaddis was a couple of years older). And given what else was let go, his yellow was really soft in my opinion.
    Carranza needs to be docked significantly for taking himself out of Saturday’s game. He has to know that he’s in yellow card jeopardy and not pick up a card as he’s being taken out. It was a poor yellow to take in any circumstances but especially when it picks up a suspension. Could easily cost the team points.
    I thought it was interesting that Curtin brought in Aaronson rather than Burke when Santos needed to come out.
    As far as the offsides call goes, the player who was offsides was clearly involved in the play as he took the initial shot that Blake saved. It was a question of whether the cross was deflected by a teammate or not.

    • Harriel’s case is funny – he joined the academy in 2018, but didn’t join the first team til ’21 – but they still had to trade for his HG rights. For the national tv audience (and me), still should count as an “academy product”, though maybe with an asterisk.
      Either way, definitely agree on him looking better than the first couple of years of Gaddis (or Mbaizo, for that matter).
      +1 on it being interesting that Aaronson was in ahead of Burke (and also the Carranza yellow being so dumb). Excited for the Aaronson/Sullivan striker pairing this weekend

  3. Didn’t see the game – changing channels nixed my DVR.
    Great game for them to win!
    It appears that Bedoya played the whole game again though. Think the lack of rotation there is going to hurt this summer.
    Great news is that the kids are really good!
    Just wish that there was more intentional voluntary resting of him now, so there wouldn’t be required resting of him later.
    Miles are going to add up on those 35yr old legs.

  4. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Jim Curtin is conservative about making changes in his defense, to understate it a bit. Yet Nathan Harriel has become a starter ahead of the homegrown midfield three.
    Furthermore, he won the position from a starter, he did not slide into a previously emptied position. He has beaten Mbaizo out of a job..
    He is not a disappointment.
    So far every opponent has tried to attack through him as the rookie in a solid back line. So far he has met their challenges. His mind is as quick to read the game as the Union’s system demands. The defense is stronger with him in it.

  5. Re- the VAR decision – it took so long because it was hard to tell if the ball glanced off the head of the timber. If it did, clear offside, and vis versa. Almost everyone missed it live, VAR did its job

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