First Kick: Philadelphia Union vs. Houston Dynamo, Player Ratings

Posted on 20 March 2011 by stoma

GK Faryd Mondragon (9.5 *ASN PHILLY MAN OF THE MATCH)- It was announced just before the game that the new goalkeeper had been named the new captain of the Philadelphia side.  Very rarely is such a decision so quickly vindicated, as Mondragon so rapidly and clearly assumed the leadership position that to call anyone else the captain, even in name only, would seem absurd.  One cannot say enough (although us members of the media have certainly tried) about the effect of Mondragon’s communication and organization at the back.  However, it must also be pointed out that his words would not carry with them so much weight if his teammates were not sure that Faryd could and would hold up his end of the bargain.  It was apparent to even the casual observer, let alone the other men on the field, that Mondragon would not melt down, would not concede a soft goal, would be the rock between the posts that his signing promised.  His simple presence, commanding as it was, appeared to improve Philadelphia’s defense all by itself.  That Mondragon only logged 3 saves in this match belies the effect that his play had on the game.

LB Jordan Harvey (7.5)- As was the case last year, Harvey alternated with the right back in taking turns pushing forward.  However, as opposed to last year, Jordan appeared to be the stronger defensive option of the two wing backs and, as such, spent more time at the back, with excellent results.

CB Danny Califf (9)- Last year’s captain showed no signs of indignation or dejection at his “demotion” and Faryd Mondragon’s ascension to the captaincy.  Showing his belief that the team comes first, Califf not  only scored his first goal as a member of the Union in just the season’s 5th minute, but played as solid a game at the back as we’ve seen from any defender since the Philadelphia side’s inception.  The goal itself was a product of chance as well as opportunity, with Califf cleaning up a loose ball at the goal mouth after Sebastien Le Toux’s strike clanged off the crossbar.  More important, however, was Danny’s multiple blocked shots and important clearances.  His performance in the opener went a long way towards showing that there is room for more than one leader on the pitch and in the locker room.

CB Carlos Valdes (8.5)- A brilliant MLS debut from Valdes put to rest (at least temporarily) concerns that the loss of fan-favorite Michael Orozco-Fiscal and the injury of Juan Diego Gonzalez left the Union with a dearth of options at the back.  Valdes especially showcased his value in the final third of the match, after Houston burner Dominic Oduro came on and was checked mercilessly by the veteran Colombian, who revealed superb speed of his own.  Along with his ability to execute the directions of Mondragon as well as the coaching staff, the Union once again have high hopes from their central defense.  As opposed to stretches last season that gave rise to such hopes, Valdes and Califf have a legitimate chance to be the stalwart duo this team needs.

RB Sheanon Williams (7)- As much credit as Sheanon deserves for his highly successful forays to the front, his renowned long throw-in ability (which directly produced the game’s only goal), and his riverboat gambler’s mentality in the passing lanes, he needs to be taken to task for his multiple lapses in the final third.  The team survived Williams’ man getting behind him in a dangerous position at least four times; they cannot survive that kind of breakdown consistently in the long term.

MID Stefani Miglioranzi (6.5)- Much like last season,  the spectacular is not to be expected from Migs, but solid play and much-needed defensive help is the norm.  A fairly mistake-free opener from Stefani, with his standard two or three savvy plays gaining an edge for the Union.

MID Brian Carroll (6.5)- Nothing extraordinary from the other defensive midfielder, either.  The long-time MLS veteran does, however, bring a poised and calming presence to the midfield and to the defense in general, which serves to remind that the success of Carroll’s teams (2 MLS Cups, 4 Supporter’s Shields) is no accident.  One area of improvement to look for from the defensive midfield: either Miglioranzi or Carroll (and the smart money is on Carroll) needs to establish himself as the link to the offense.  That simply did not happen in the opening game.

MID Justin Mapp (7.5)- The touches may have been sloppy, reflective of nothing other than the beginning of the season, but Mapp was decidedly in the mix on nearly every meaningful exchange.  Make no mistake: his ability to hold possession while simultaneously advancing the ball is what makes this team go offensively, especially with Fred gone from the squad.  Mapp’s play is what allows Le Toux to find the space he needs to create, will allow Ruiz the outlet he needs when he holds up, and will get Danny Mwanga goal bound on several instances this season.  A full offseason with the Union can only benefit Mapp’s ability to help this team and increase the impact he will have on the pitch for Philadelphia.

MID Kyle Nakazawa (6)- A surprise starter, Nakazawa struggled to get into the flow of the game.  He continues to develop defensively, but is still not quite physical enough when necessary.  His value is still largely tied up in his free kick ability, which was not quite visible during this game.  Expect continued improvement from Kyle, but also remember that there is a ways to go before we see a finished product.

FWD Sebastien Le Toux (7)- A solid game for last season’s runaway team MVP, even without the results.  The fans, not to mention the team, have grown so accustomed to Seba’s off-the-charts work rate that it almost seems like a downer when he doesn’t record a goal or an assist.  But, as always, Le Toux did exactly what was needed, whether it was fighting for a shot that didn’t hit the back of the net so that Califf could collect the rebound or simply block a pass to prevent a counter-attack,  he managed to get his fingerprints all over the game.

FWD Carlos Ruiz (6.5)- The skills are still there, that much is clear.  But, whether it was due to early-season rust or not quite being in form yet, the execution was not yet game-ready for the prolific Guatemalan scorer.  Ruiz was still able to hold the ball up on occasion and proved himself a pest to Dynamo defenders trying to initiate the transition to offense, but failed to do so when it was most needed.  Still,  with no offense intended, one can easily see how Ruiz will give the team what they had hoped to get from Alejandro Moreno last year.

FWD Danny Mwanga (5)- The rising star striker coming off the bench as a super-sub sounds fantastic in the abstract, but for the concept to work, Mwanga has to be accepting of this role, ready to come on with high energy and, most importantly, be ready to put the ball away from the second he steps on the field.  Mwanga had the high energy part down, but did not seem to understand what his purpose on the field was (especially as he came on with the team already leading) and missing on two clear scoring opportunities, the first coming just moments after he entered the game.  Supporters should not be worried about the precocious attacker, but if he is to continue in this role, he needs to acclimate himself to it quickly.

MID Gabriel Farfan (N/A)- Surprisingly, the first Farfan we saw in live game action was not this year’s 2nd round draft choice, Michael, but his twin brother, the late offseason signee.  Gabriel relieved Kyle Nakazawa in the 69th minute and was able to contribute a bit of possession holding ability to Philadelphia’s late-game defensive stand.

MID Amobi Okugo (N/A)- Came on in the 85th minute as a defensive replacement for striker Carlos Ruiz a day before heading off on national assignment (along with teammate Zac MacMath) to Guatemala, where the two Union youngsters will try to help lead the country’s U-20 squad to qualification for the 2011 Under-20 World Cup.  In order to meet their goal, the group will need to reach the semi-final round of the CONCACAF U-20 World Championships.

1 Comments For This Post

  1. Chris S Says:

    I think your defensive analysis was dead-on (which isn’t the case most places) but your ratings for the front 6 were probably too high, especially for a player like Nakazawa (and I think Migs too) who were detrimental to the team’s success on Saturday

2 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. The Philly Soccer Page » Nice way to start the week, no? Says:

    […] American Soccer News. (I think our numbers are more realistic.) […]

  2. ASN’s Best XI, Week 1: Goalkeeper takes first Player of the Week honors | American Soccer News Says:

    […] DEF: Danny Califf (Philadelphia) Last year’s captain showed no signs of indignation or dejection at his “demotion” and Faryd Mondragon’s ascension to the captaincy.  Showing his belief that the team comes first, Califf not  only scored his first goal as a member of the Union in just the season’s 5th minute, but played as solid a game at the back as we’ve seen from any defender since the Philadelphia side’s inception.  The goal itself was a product of chance as well as opportunity, with Califf cleaning up a loose ball at the goal mouth after Sebastien Le Toux’s strike clanged off the crossbar.  More important, however, was Danny’s multiple blocked shots and important clearances.  His performance in the opener went a long way towards showing that there is room for more than one leader on the pitch and in the locker room. – Sam Toma, ASN Philly […]

Leave a Reply

Advertise Here
Advertise Here