Player ratings / Union

Player ratings: Inter Miami CF 2-0 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Earl Gardner

If we only had some of the information about Saturday’s game, it wouldn’t look so bad. In a game just four days ahead of the start of their 2023 Concacaf Champions League campaign, the Union lost on the road to a Miami team that has all the indicators of being quite good this year. If we didn’t know the starting lineup, we could assume Union head coach Jim Curtin heavily rotated the squad, giving key players a rest so they could be in peak condition for Tuesday’s meeting with El Salvador’s Alianza.

But we know it was a first-choice lineup unchanged from week one’s win over Columbus; the same lineup that took the Union to the top of the east last season. So it wasn’t squad rotation that was to blame for Saturday’s result. Instead it’s a failure to perform at a level we know these players are capable of, and possibly a failure to plan for the game appropriately, that gave the Union their first loss of the season.

Player ratings

Andre Blake — 4

Andre Blake had the time to get in better position to stop that shot, and he didn’t. We know he has a near super-human ability to stop shots like that even when he isn’t in an ideal position, and he did not. There’s certainly a conversation to be had about the field players who let that shot happen in the first place, and we will have that conversation. But whether he should have faced that shot or not is separate from the fact that he did face that shot and failed to stop it. We know he is capable of better, and this grade reflects that.

Olivier Mbaizo — 4

In week one we talked about the Cameroonian international’s relative irrelevance in that game, but brushed it off as Columbus’ open front door made wing performances (and especially left side performances) largely a non-factor. Unfortunately that’s not the case this week. As valued as his offensive contributions are, a defender’s first responsibility is to defend. And whether it was miscommunication with José Martínez or just undefined priorities, he stopped covering Robert Taylor moments before the Miami player scored.

Jakob Glesnes — 4

A recurring theme of the night wasn’t players making mistakes so much as failing to play up to their potential, and Jakob Glesnes was one of those players. On both Miami goals the Norwegian didn’t do anything wrong; he didn’t leave runners unmarked or commit a gaffe like scoring an own goal. But he also wasn’t putting pressure on Miami, forcing them into passes or shots they didn’t want to take. He was flat-footed, watching play happen. That complacency gave Corentin Jean and Robert Taylor all the time they needed to collect the ball, settle, and take the shots that sealed the Union’s fate.

Jack Elliott — 5

Like his batterymate, Jack Elliott failed to cause Miami any stress when they were in the Union’s end. He comes out ahead though because at least he looked engaged when the goals happened, even if he was ultimately unable to do anything about it.

Kai Wagner — 6

Kai Wagner showed more fight than any other Union player on the night. Unfortunately that was mostly literal fight, as he let Miami know they were under his skin early. Still, he was in the mix and was trying to make things happen. But it was all  fruitless in the end as he was unable to meaningfully change the course of the game.

José Martínez — 3

We already mentioned El Brujo’s role in Robert Taylor’s goal in the 77th minute, but let’s really take a look at what happened here. You can see in the above clip that Mbaizo was initially covering Taylor, but passed him off to Martínez so Mbaizo could cover Rodolfo Pizarro. Whether that was what was supposed to happen or not, it did. And Martínez as the more experienced player should have been able to adapt, even if Mbaizo’s decision wasn’t the “right” one. But he didn’t close in on his man, and the young Finn had all the time he needed to score a goal that’s got a fair chance of winning Goal of the Matchday.

Leon Flach — 4

Where is Leon Flach? Not just in this game, but in general, where is he? The young German-American has made 70 appearances for the Union since arriving in 2021, which means it might be time to consider changing the description of his talent from “potential” to “unrealized potential”.

Alejandro Bedoya — 5

Something of a home game for the indefatigable captain who grew up a half hour from DRV PNK Stadium in the Ft. Lauderdale suburb of Weston. So it wasn’t the weather slowing Bedoya down. Yet he still seemed unable to get a handle on the game. That could be a symptom of how poorly the rest of the team was playing, or it could be the cause when you consider how essential his role is to a healthy midfield.

Dániel Gazdag — 5

As the Union’s most offensive midfielder, it is Gazdag’s responsibility to bring the game up to the strikers while being the first line of defense when the ball transitions to the opponent. But when the Union attack is relying on quick counters as it did on Saturday, that sidesteps his strengths – part of the overall problem on the night. The Union allowed Miami to prevent them from playing to their strengths, and Gazdag is usually one of those strengths.

Mikael Uhre and Julián Carranza– 4

Not much for strikers to do when they see so little of the ball. Both had shots on target in the game, but neither of them ever had a chance that really felt like it could have been the one to change the Union’s fortunes on Saturday.


Jack McGlynn (for Flach at 62′) — 5

McGlynn was a little more assertive on the ball than Flach, but ultimately was just as ineffective at preventing Miami from doing what it wanted in the midfield.

Joaquin Torres (for Uher at 62′) — 6

He wasn’t able to play up to the standard he set in his first appearance for the Union, but who could?

Quinn Sullivan (for Martínez at 78′) — 5

A tactical shift from the defense-oriented Martínez, Sullivan was part of what allowed the Union to slow down the game and control possession better later in the game. Though ultimately it’s worth asking if that was really anything any Union player did or just Miami taking their foot off the gas to hold on to their two-goal lead.

Andrés Perea (for Bedoya at 86′) — Pass

Despite twelve minutes on the field due to eight minutes of stoppage time, there really wasn’t enough time for the Orlando City transfer to make an impact in his second appearance for the Union.

Geiger Counter

Chris Penso — 3

A common refrain in these player ratings is that more than anything match officials need to be consistent. A ref can let the game play, allowing for chippy play and rough tackles, and still get a good score. Or they can call every foul, blowing their whistle for every minor detail, and still get a good score. Because in both cases players can anticipate what is and is not a foul in the ref’s eyes, and change how they’re playing accordingly. Both interpretations of the game are valid, they just need to know which interpretation the ref favors.

Chris Penso failed to meet that bar. Early cards for Leon Flach, José Martínez, and DeAndre Yedlin all suggested a tight interpretation of the rules, and honestly seemed reasonable at the time. The game was getting chippy and if Penso had failed to act, things could have easily gotten out of hand. But then he had nothing to say when Miami keeper Drake Callender came out of goal to flip Mikael Uhre over his shoulders. So which is it ref? Is this a prim and tidy gentleman’s game or a no-holds-barred brawl?

Man of the Match — Jim Curtin

We usually name a player of the game, someone who’s efforts stood out as having the most impact on the field. But for MLS matchday two we’re naming a man of the match because it was a coach, rather than a player, who is most responsible for the result.

Looking back through these ratings, it’s hard to see one standout performance. No one player committed the fatal error that cost the Union this game, it was a collective effort. Or rather a collective lack of effort. The Union did not look up for this game. They did not look motivated and they did not look prepared. They didn’t appear to have a plan when Miami came out swinging early in the first half, and they didn’t seem to come up with a new plan even when half time gave them a chance to catch their breath and coordinate in the privacy of their locker room.

Those are all the job of the head coach. Senior players, “locker room leaders” can do some of it, but without a plan communicated clearly and effectively a team will fall flat. The Union did fall flat, and it’s hard to find anyone more responsible for that lack of preparation than Union head coach Jim Curtin.


  1. I think Andre COULD have reached that shot but I’m not sure he SHOULD have. I’ve seen pretty evenly split opinions on that one between should have and could have. I find myself leaning could have.

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