Player ratings / Union

Player ratings: Chicago Fire 1-0 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Mid-week games often have lower viewership numbers, the result of many fans “missing out” due to various work and personal commitments during the busy parts of their schedules.

But “missing out” might be overstating the issue for this specific game, as a depleted Philadelphia Union went out to Chicago only to give up a goal and go down a man.

Not that the result was inevitable, the first-place Union looked more than capable of handling the last-place Fire at first. But with just two day’s rest since the game against New York City FC, pretty much all of the young homegrowns away with the U20 World Cup-bound USYNT, and a meeting with Columbus right around the corner, head coach Jim Curtin simply didn’t have another option when the first idea failed to generate goals.

And so the nine-game unbeaten streak ended, and the Union logged their second loss of the season. So it goes.

Player ratings

Andre Blake — 7

Sure, Federico Navarro got one past him. But that goal was hardly Blake’s fault, and he was spectacular for the rest of the night. Maybe not the Web Gem diving save Blake of yesteryear; but the more organized, and effective, defensive commander with superior shot stopping ability that the Union’s foundation is fortunate to rest on.

Nathan Harriel — 5

Nate didn’t do anything wrong in the game, so his halftime substitution shouldn’t be seen as anything other than a tactical decision. But when not much is asked of a player there’s not much to grade them on, and not much was asked of Harriel in his 45 minutes.

Jack Elliott — 4

There’s a case to be made that an unusual bout of indecisiveness on this Mountaineer’s part gave Navarro the space he needed to score on Wednesday night. You can see him drifting over to reinforce Wagner while Chris Mueller is advancing the ball, a justifiable impulse at the time. But after the ball is passed to Boris Sekulić, Elliott is clearly chasing rather than anticipating the play. Which means one of the best defenders on the team is out of the action when the ball eventually finds Navarro’s feet. It wasn’t the worst mistake of the night, but in an otherwise quiet night for the Scot, it cost him points in this column.

Jakob Glesnes — 5

Like his batterymate, a quiet night on the back line doesn’t leave us with much to talk about for the Norwegian. No major gaffes to point at, but no shining moments either.

Kai Wagner — 6

His vision and confidence showed well in this matchup, minimizing the impact of former Union men Fabian Herbers and Kacper Przybyłko with ease. Unfortunately he wasn’t able to bring his offensive side of the game to bear, and the Union were ultimately diminished because of it.

José Martínez — 3

A red card, deserved or not, is going to hurt your score. El Brujo showed some of his magic, including a Marquez-esque slide tackle in the first half. But it was clear to everyone that Radchuk was calling a tight game, and Martínez failed to adjust for that. A player this well versed in the dark arts should not make that kind of mistake.

Leon Flach — 3

Essentially absent from all ninety minutes of the game, his most significant contribution was making sure the Union fielded the full compliment of players at the starting whistle.

Alejandro Bedoya — 4

The captain wasn’t as present in the game as one would hope, as his passing and defensive pressure could have have been a difference maker. But Chicago dominated the midfield for the whole game, limiting Bedoya’s impact and ultimately preventing the Union from ever getting a foot in the game.

Dániel Gazdag — 4

Possibly the only midfield player to not get squeezed out of the game, so credit there. But his presence wasn’t an entirely positive one, with several mistouches, missteps, and missed opportunities. In the end you can say this about any one of the Union midfielders- yes Chicago did a good job minimizing their impact, but that’s the game. At some point it becomes a player’s responsibility to overcome that challenge, and failing to do that is a failure to meet expectations.

Julián Carranza — 6

A good showing in short minutes. And the substitution made sense; both because it made space for Cory Burke and his scoring-in-Chicago proclivities, and because Carranza played for the full 90minutes last Sunday and will probably need to do the same next Sunday.

Mikael Uhre — 5

We’re seeing the potential for everything everyone promised us the Dane could do. But he has yet to really turn that potential into tangible benefits.  There’s actually parallels to be drawn between Uhre and Flach, however one of those players costs a whole lot more than the other.


Olivier Mbaizo (for Harriel at halftime) — 5

With the Fire clearly willing to sit back and make the Union work for it, Mbaizo made sense. His offensive contributions could stretch the game, and his defensive liabilities aren’t as much of a concern against a team that’s parking the bus. Important word there being could, which is not the same thing as did.

Cory Burke (for Carranza at halftime) — 6

Burke has earned a reputation as something of a firefighter, and he showed why with a magnificent header shortly after the start of the second half. Unfortunately Gaga Slonina was more than equal to the challenge with a scrambling save. Definitely a highlight in a game that desperately needed them, but that being the only highlight

Chris Donovan (for Uhre in the sixty-sixth) — Pass

It’s hard for a new attacking player to make an impact late in any game. But it’s damn near impossible when the team gives up a goal two minutes after he’s subbed on, and goes down to ten men four minutes after that. Not the most auspicious debut, but it can only get better from here.

Geiger Counter

Michael Radchuk — 6

Grading referees is more about consistency than anything else. And Radchuk was consistently soft. Did that result in some questionable calls? Absolutely, the one Glesnes earned that kept a Fire goal off the board in the first half, Martínez’ second yellow, or Wagner’s yellow in the seventy seventh were all rather soft. But they were consistently soft, and that allows most players to adapt and know what is going to be allowed and what isn’t. And that’s much better than a ref that let’s the game get away from them and then tries to bring it back under their control.

Player of the Game

Quinn Sullivan

What’s that old saying, “an ebbing tide lifts boats in a different harbor”? The young homegrown’s stock probably rose the most in this game despite him being several thousand miles away in Honduras.


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    3 is about 2.5 too high for Martinez. His second yellow cost the team a real chance to get back into this game and just tired out more legs for Sunday…another likely loss against a suddenly hot Crew team. But he was also somewhat at fault for the goal for not being able to control the ball in the box.

    • martinez deserves all the shit for the red card and ensuing tantrum, not being able to perfectly control a dangerous cross that happened because wagner got spun around and megged by a mediocre mls winger is low on the list of criticisms though imo

  2. Overly harsh on Flach. He has a role on this squad which he’s very skilled. Heat seeking missle to dislog the ball in his area….

    Not exactly sure why everyone is so tough on this 21 YEAR OLD. I for one am a big fan, hope he stays and grows with us for years.

    BTW… was at Union 2 game when Raisco showed himself to be a waste of money, and met Herr Tanner. Just a class Act, WINNER. So glad he’s incharge.

    In Tanner we trust!

    And check out what Chris Albright has done for Cincy. Just a terrific job.. Union West!

    • Micah Bertin says:

      I agree, too harsh on Flach. My son and I were at the game and I actually commented to him how much of an impact Flach was having on defense.

      Soldier Field is a beast of architecture. And despite our wearing Union away jerseys – or maybe because of it? – everyone was so friendly to us it was quite nice.
      And here’s a tip if anyone ever plans to go to Union games in Chicago in the future. Go to Reggie’s a great dive bar with very good food and an expansive Rooftop Bar and they provide free shuttles to and from the game. Soldier Field is very hard to get to via public transportation so this is a great option.

      Will follow them to Columbus Sunday.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      I’m with you. Too harsh on Flach. I thought he played very well, more so considering the rest of the team was not.

    • I agree it’s unfair on Flach. He is just doing what is asked and he is great at it.

      I think it’s totally fair to aim all that anger at Curtin though. Obviously Curtin values defense and its important, but I think it’s possible to have too much of a good thing and Flach in the midfield is probably that right now

      The complete lack of a coherent offense and our complete inability to create good chances off turnovers (I’m not even asking us to stop trying direct long balls … I’m asking us to start trying GOOD direct long balls…) can be traced back by our 8s inability to control the ball and make a decent forward pass. Atleast Bedoya has enough veteran savvy to do this sometimes – albeit inconsistently in his age – but Flach never does this.

      This puts tremendous pressure on us to score first, and puts tremendous pressure on the entire team when we work so hard to win the ball only to send it forward hopelessly and give it right back.

      If we had an 8 who wasnt Flach, who would maybe control the ball and pick out a good pass – like McGlynn – perhaps that would be a better balance than what we have now.

      Obviously we are in a good place standings wise … but Curtin should open his eyes and see the current trajectory we are on. Losing some defense in exchange for offense may be what we need for the second half of the season, unless we want to keep trying to eek out ties by the skin of our teeth every game.

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        Would have been a good game for McGlynn. Shaquiri and Mueller were on, but the rest of Chicago was largely not. I think McG stand a chance of totally dominating that field and opening things up.

  3. The Martinez second yellow didn’t look too bad in real time, but watching the replay, he grabbed a fistful of jersey from behind to slow a transition. Probably the right call, and a poor decision to grab a player that slow, in a relatively harmless part of the field, when there was some help behind him.

    • I agree and will go one more. No referee is going to miss a handful of jersey, an ankle clip and the takedown, especially after the first yellow, from a guy with a history of being on the wrong side of the edge.

  4. What’s the rating for the VAR crew for missing a handball on Shaqiri in the build up to the Fire’s goal?

  5. Extremely generous to Wagner, the goal happened entirely because he got clowned by a mid tier mls lifer and his passing was awful. IDK about offensive vision either, half of his crosses were pure hopes and dreams with no target in the box. If he’s gonna keep talking big about how he should be playing in the prem or buli he can’t play anywhere close to the way he did last night

    Similar with Uhre. Carranza is tearing it up and was only with the team slightly longer than Uhre at this point, and we’re halfway through the season. You accept a transition time but you’ve gotta show something

    Toughest part is that there isn’t really anything to change. Unless one of the homegrowns pops off, so far they’ve shown why they aren’t starters and honestly haven’t even been very impactful “super subs” either. The vision is clear, this is still the best roster on paper we’ve ever seen, and when it works it’s great. But 90% of the time the buildup play is just unbelievably and inexplicably sloppy, I’ve seen better passing in the midfield from u-15 teams. Is it chemistry? Fatigue? it doesn’t make sense but hopefully it comes together, and if it does the team will be a force, the clock is ticking though

    • His cross in that found Burke’s noggin was a thing of beauty, though. Passing seems to be a major problem across the squad. Only thing they’re reliable with on the ball is playing out of the back. Once they get possession in the midfield or attacking third, every pass seems to have less than a coin toss’ chance of completion.

      • Could it be coaching?

      • Yoyo Mama says:

        Wagner is clearly one of the best crossers in the league fully agree, just not sure that vision in particular was on display last night.

        And very true on passing it out of the back, which makes the cluelessness moving forward even more baffling. How can a team so adept at passing through pressure lose their damn minds the second they have the whole field in front of them?

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Well…. unfortunetly after watching Jack Mc. on a USNT team that allows him to just kinda amble around the field finding space and decimating teams with his other-worldly vision and delivery as a Regista… Union isn’t the environment for him.
      He instantly solve the putrid midfield issues. And make no mistake. The midfield is Putrid right now. Gazdag being asked to do way too much… dropping deeper and deeper to be relevant because they can’t get him the ball up the field usefully

      • Yoyo Mama says:

        I love McGlynn’s vision passing and calmness, I’m a huge huge fan and I love registas, Medunjanin was the first name I got on a union jersey. You have to admit though that Jack’s defense is a massive liability even in that role, even the most unshackled regista has to be able to put in a tackle or win the ball now and again or if not at least have the defensive vision for interceptions. Even compared to current day 37 year old Medunjanin as a very apt analog in terms of style, Jack’s successful tackle %, duel win %, header win % and interceptions are not good. On the other hand though when he has played at the 8 he has still covered less distance than and created fewer key passes than Bedoya even when coming off the bench. The Union system definitely isn’t built around his style of play, but even compared to very similar players in very similar systems he still has work to do.

        I truly love his game and hope he can step up either in defense or shuttling so that he can see more of the field, but I definitely think the claim that putting him in will instantly solve the putrid midfield is very much a “grass is always greener” situation. We’ve seen him come in for Flach multiple times and it very much hasn’t solved everything. We’ve seen him play in a double pivot and that didn’t solve everything. And even against 18 year olds in WQC he’s left the team in tight spots defensively. I have high hopes but time will tell.

      • All your points about McGlynns defensive holes are fine and true. I accept them. I am also ready to try McGlynn anyway. We need offense, and I understand that we are sacrificing defense for offense.

        All I want is to not bang our heads against this wall and try to brute force our way out of this funk. And don’t get me wrong – I 10000% expect Curtin to do that. I expect him to change basically nothing. I expect him to throw some minutes towards the HG, Sullivan as second striker, at the 8. Aaronson as a dual 10 with Gazdag. All things that he will be basically FORCED to do because right now Flach and Bedoya are going to be getting oxygen on the sidelines by the time the HGs come back.

        Also I put 0 stock into the substitute minutes McGlynn (or any other HG) has gotten so far this year. 20 minutes every three games when we are a disjointed, unorganized mess is not a recipe for success.

        Want outside the box? How is this. Flach and Martinez as our 8s. McGlynn as the 6. McGlynn would be protected by two top 5 defensive 8s in the league. Something like that is within reach, but will never happen. If McGlynn is your 6, then it doesn’t matter if your 8s can’t progress the ball. Right now, we have Martinez trying to build out of the back next to the CBs and watching that every game is probably why no one from Europe wants to buy him.

      • Yoyo Mama says:

        Find me a team in the world that plays with a 6 who is the player on the team with the 2nd lowest tackles per 90 (Sergio Santos has 2x the successful tackles per 90 as Jack as a striker), and shifted their all star CDM to the 8 to do so, and I’ll consider it. There’s a reason that proposal is “out of the box” though. Not bashing your head against a wall is one thing, intentionally dropping key players so that you can play your other key players out of position is another.

        Not putting any stock into substitution appearances is a cop out imo. Brenden looked great in his sub appearances with worse strikers in front of him, which is why he got played. Harriel instantly made an impact in his sub appearances, which is why he plays. Flach showed up as a bench warmer and won his spot over the course of 2 sub appearances pretty much. It’s fine to say sub minutes don’t show the whole picture, but youth players and bench players around the world know the drill, you take the chances you get or you won’t get more time end of story. Chances have and will continue to be given, up to the HGs to prove they deserve more.

  6. el Pachyderm says:

    you’re a nice guy Jim O’Leary.
    Back in the day, I’d just write… OFF WITH THEIR HEADS.
    I’m sticking to my exsanguination imagine from Twitter…. which sadly did not elicit a retweet or even a ‘heart’ from Union land.
    Absolute bleed out on TV last night.
    Any wonder why I can’t get my footy crazed kid to give an absolute shit about Union. He tells me, “They are boring and terrible”… and will then watch Le Havre as antidote. It is not hard to argue at times. It’s like me watching FC Delco win games… blinding patrons with the pinstrips. Yea. They win. But it’s absolutey TERRIBLE soccer.
    God Union suck ass sometimes. And concerningly it is more often than not as we slog into summer. It’s fucking unwatchable. A total failure of playing philosophy. Jack McGlyn…. now he’s watchable. Leon Flach? Unwatchable. Easy fix from my POV.
    not only is it intellectual surrender to watch them play sometimes, but it is the equivalent of ball peening your phalanges as masochism.
    They sucked. Awful soccer. AWFUL. Better get it going sooner or later or you’ll make a liar out of me arguing you can win the damn tourney at the end of the season.
    In other news, lovely day. Best.

  7. Deez Nuggs says:

    Too high for the ref. Definitely a missed penalty on Burke. Taken down in the box. Dude did not touch the ball. But even playing devil’s advocate… let’s say he DID (which he did not), he barely nudged it, Burke was on top of it, still would have been a chance at goal, and he gets tripped. P.E.N.A.L.T.Y.

    • So frustrating how ineffective Curtin and Bedoya are at getting in the refs ear on decisions like this. The two legs vs Club America were not enough for them to learn.

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        Eh… Club America was gonna beat us anyway, and CONCACAF is a different animal with refs. Not sure they get the updated copy of the rules, and the one they do have is torn, coffee-stained, and in a language they don’t speak.
        But here… VAR just ignores things sometimes. I don’t get it. I guess Curtin could bitch till he gets sent off, but I don’t know if it changes things.

    • My Nuggs says:

      What level of a ref are you? Since you think it’s too high of a level for these refs. Enlighten us of thigh professional couch sitting arbitro.

      • Deez Nuggs says:

        US Soccer grade 6. Or maybe nothing. The fun thing about the internet is that you have no way of knowing if anything is true. But it does seem like you’re taking it a bit personal when I said that I – with the help of replays the ref didn’t have – saw things different. But please enlighten us what you saw. You could see things differently than I did. That’s what makes a discussion reasonable instead of an attack.

  8. el Pachyderm says:

    It was easy to see how good Dockal was when he arrived. Same for Gazdag tbh… though the inability to get Gazdag the ball properly is hampering his impact and doingtoo much at times. I see Uhre similarly.
    Lots of people gave Dockal a hard time, then he proved to be one of the best players in the league. I love aesthetics. Dockal had the goods aesthetically. So does Uhre.
    In due time, I think Uhre does the same. He’ll score 15-18 goals in this league in his sleep.

  9. Atomic Spartan says:

    The way to lineup for a trap game is to do something completely different. Play every sub ya got regardless of readiness, hope they hang on for 65 mins, then bring in fresh legged vets, who, btw, will be that much fresher for your next game. You’ll never know what your bench can really do till they play. That was 13th place chi town last night. What better time to throw the dice? Are they gonna do worse than lose? Unfortunately JC doesn’t know how to shoot craps.

    • +1

      • Section 114 says:

        Agree, except all their subs were in Honduras.
        This is the downside to only carrying 28 players. Whenever the team is hit by a run of “luck” — an injury run (which happens), games during international breaks (which happens), releasing your entire bench to a U20 tourney (which happens), multiple disciplinary suspensions (which happens), MLS rigs the COVID rules to benefit NYCFC (which NEVER happens), they get exhausted and tired and don’t even have the right bodies for tactical or strategic moves.
        Maybe the front office should plan for what will happen and have enough depth, in scattered risk pools (e.g. no more three Jamaican internationals or four US u20s at the same time) to field a full squad through a heavy period of games.
        It’s not like there are two empty roster spots that would fit workmanlike MLS veteran scrubs who would never get called for international duty or be worn out by regular play. Oh wait, there are.

      • Tim Jones says:

        They have had 24 players available in fact, not 28.
        There has never been any official comment.
        25-28, by my guesswork are Portella (injured list), Oravec (loaned out), de Vries (loaned out), and Sorenson (unrecallable loan to Union II, I am guessing about the unrecallable part).

      • Atomic Spartan says:

        Findlay, mbaizo, Reale, Donovan, Burke all could have started and played 60. So what if we lost with them on the field? We wore out our already tired first string for what? JC knew it was a trap game and walked the starters right into it.

  10. Harriel Was getting lit up by Shaqiri. Got past him to put two dangerous cut backs into the box and I liked seeing Mbaizo come on. I think they should be sharing more minutes.
    Wagner had a terrible game by his standards, failed to control a couple simple passes (the whole team did to be fair) and got embarrassed on the goal. Martinez should have one touch cleared, but he is a clown who is uncoachable to give Curtin the benefit of the doubt.
    Too Harsh on Flach, who has a high ceiling and did excellent covering on counterattacks. The longball to Burke was on all second half (as it often is to Santos diagonally), and other than one from elliot no one could weight it properly. Positives: Gazdag was on fire, was a foot away from equalizing, and the other fowards need to adapt to his angles. Thank god we arent in the open cup, imagine how much worse we would look.

    • Deez Nuggs says:

      Mbaizo had a good game. I don’t say that lightly, because I was not always happy with him last year. Shaquiri was definitely on his game. Harriel is a young player. He doesn’t come up against competition like that… good learning experience.

  11. Tim Jones says:

    three of the four starting midfielders have played 180 minutes, 90 on Sunday and 90 on Wednesday. And probably will have to each play 90 on Sunday coming up.
    The total pool of players available to Union and Union II when every one is present and healthy is 43. Twenty-nine will be available this weekend. 33% absent.
    Red Cards and injuries. international travel documents, tournaments in other competitions and the transitions associated with families graduating sons from high school and sending them away to college.
    Draw what inferences, explanations and conclusions you will. those will be the facts this weekend.

  12. Tim Jones says:

    MLS NEXT Pro announced earlier today Friday that the U II – Crew 2 match has been postponed, time and date TBD.

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