Home Opener: Philadelphia Union vs. Vancouver Whitecaps: Player Ratings

Posted on 27 March 2011 by stoma

GK Faryd Mondragon (6.5)- After an uneventful start to the game, with a lot of long balls attempted by both sides, the sleeping Dragon, so to speak, was awoken in the 27th minute when a ball bounced back and was collected easily by the captain.  However, Vancouver striker Eric Hassli got tangled up with Danny Califf and proceeded to throw the Union defender to the ground.  First, Faryd alertly signaled to referee Yader Reyes what had occurred.  Then, when it was not immediately clear that Reyes would discipline Hassli, the captain stomped 40 yards out to make sure he did.  Following the exchange, the tone of the game was set.  Sure, it got chippy at times, but the Union showed an edge they did not quite have in their inaugural season.   This set off a see-saw of bookings that did not end until Hassli eventually picked up his 2nd yellow, earning himself a trip to the locker room and allowing the Union to open it up and find their way to a second consecutive 1-0 win.  In terms of his actual play, Mondragon did not have to do as much as he did in the season opener, once again recording 3 saves, only one of which was of any difficulty: Gershon Koffie’s long strike around the 30th minute that caught Faryd off-guard, leading to an awkward lunge that send the ball off to the goal’s right.  Even then, however, Mondragon managed to prevent a rebound opportunity and faced little action in front of the net the rest of the way as he completed his 2nd clean sheet in as many opportunities in the MLS.

LB Jordan Harvey (6)- Another solid defensive effort from Harvey.  The 1st half was all about holding the fort against Vancouver’s attack in an ebb and flow that had no real order other than a steady diet of long balls and very little prolonged buildup that called for Jordan to venture forward.  But Harvey’s renewed commitment to marking continues to produce results.  Came off for Jack McInerney in the 66th minute as Philadelphia made their push for a winner, not to mention that Eric Hassli was no longer around to worry about at that point.

CB Carlos Valdes (7.5 *ASN PHILLY MAN OF THE MATCH*)- Two things so far are clear regarding Valdes: (1) He is still not sure of his positioning with his new club; and (2) He is athletic, skilled and aware enough to more than hold his own regardless.  On at least three occasions, it appeared as though Carlos was out of place and sure to be beat, but in each instance he was able to recover, once by craning his neck to just nudge a ball in the air enough to change its path.  Valdes did take a couple of badly judged fouls, but nothing that hurt the team.  Ultimately, the defender made the necessary plays that kept danger away.  Through his first two games with the Union, he has shown that he is willing to make the high-risk, high-reward play that a team needs to win.  Mondragon has gotten the lion’s share of the attention and press, and deservedly so, but Valdes has been every inch as important a signing and, over the run of 90 minutes, has even more of an impact when he plays as he did against the Whitecaps.

CB Danny Califf (7)- Along with Valdes, the key to the Houston match in front of Mondragon, the center backs were tasked with keeping out the forward tandem of Eric Hassli and Atiba Harris, both large target men with a nose for the goal.  As typical for the defender, he decided to play as physically as possible within (most of the time) the confines of the rules.  This paid dividends in the 29th minute when Hassli took a cheap shot at Danny when he thought no one was looking, but the strategy threatened to backfire when Califf earned a caution of his own in the 31st minute, but the veteran was able to manage the burden of playing on a yellow well the rest of the way.  In addition, last year’s captain kept things calm in front of the Union’s goal, as it was never truly threatened.

RB Sheanon Williams (5.5)- Another instance of why Williams is a vexing talent: throughout the 1st half, the team asked him to stay back for the most part, but it just wasn’t in him.  Sheanon only really looks like he is completely into the game if he gets to freelance a bit and show his astounding physical ability on the attack.  One cannot doubt his ability, but his commitment to his defensive responsibilities still requires improvement.  Fortunately, despite his world tour of a career thus far, Williams is still 21 and is certain to improve. 

MID Kyle Nakazawa (4.5)- While he showed deficiencies defensively in the season opener, Nakazawa’s play was largely neutral.  Against Vancouver, however, the young midfielder can be fairly said to have detracted from the team’s performance, as his offensive contributions were nonexistent as well.  He started to find space down the right flank shortly after the red card, but his inability to take advantage in any meaningful way led to his substitution for Roger Torres in the 66th minute.

MID Stefani Miglioranzi (6)- Provided the stability in the midfield that the team has come to expect.  Migs has arguably become the lost man in the Union’s rise.  When the defense was poor last season, it was Stefani as the lone bright spot for an underperforming team.  Now, with a defense that is thriving, Miglioranzi is just another face in the crowd.  Regardless, that does not detract from his play, which in this match was highlighted by his long shot that was deflected and ended up at the feet of Le Toux and ended up in the back of the net.

MID Brian Carroll (7)- With Justin Mapp out, the team looked to Carroll to maintain some possession and link the attack.  Unfortunately, Carroll did not answer the call in the 1st half, instead providing sloppy touches, tentative passes backwards and timing that was a beat slow.  In the 2nd half, however, the game changed, and Carroll was a big reason why.   Following the red card, he pressed up and played the point position on what amounted to a prolonged power play for the Union, with the ball in Whitecaps territory for the vast majority of the time.  He initiated several productive forays towards the goal and disrupted any attempt at counterattacks.

MID Sebastien Le Toux (7)- Early in the match, especially without the benefit of field marshal Justin Mapp (who

Le Toux

was out with an Injury), the team looked to send Seba forward into space often with no real results.   Of course, that never tells the story for Le Toux, whose now-legendary work rate demands that his game never be evaluated until it has ended.  Sebastien can plug away fruitlessly all day, only to find himself on the receiving end of an absolute gift, a lucky bounce that lands at his feet, and be ready to capitalize.  Le Toux took that chance and made a brilliantly clinical pass to Ruiz for a wide-open net.  What makes a player dangerous is the constant state of preparedness; Seba has that.

FWD Carlos Ruiz (6.5)- The Little Fish got to swim for the first time in a Union uniform.  Frankly, other than his goal, he did not do much else.  This is not to say Ruiz played poorly or hurt the side, just that he did not have or create many opportunities and did not take advantage of the precious few he did have other than his finish on an absolute sitter.  However, the bottom line is that this might be all the team gets from Ruiz and it may be unreasonable to ask anything else.  Philadelphia needed a game-changer, and such a player only needs to be relevant in the short stretch of a game where the result lies in the balance; he can disappear for the other 80-85 minutes and still do his job effectively.  That was Ruiz’s performance against Vancouver, and it proved to be all the Union required of him.

FWD Danny Mwanga (5.5)- Clearly more comfortable starting the game, Mwanga was able to work himself into the flow of the game as the pace picked up.  Unfortunately, he just never produced results.  Right now, Mwanga’s limitation is his reliance on his own freakish physical abilities.  He needs the ball to thrive and when he finds himself in a pinch, his instinct is to keep the ball.  Danny needs to realize that his ability to make the spectacular play cannot bail him out consistently enough to take the next step in this league.

MID Roger Torres (5)- Came on for Kyle Nakazawa in the 66th minute.  As was the case last season, the 19 year-old was clearly overmatched physically.  If Mapp’s injury persists, the ineffectiveness of Nakazawa and now Torres could prove to be problematic.  This team needs production on the wing.   

FWD Jack McInerney (5.5)- Came on for Jordan Harvey in the 66th minute as the third attacker.  Showed that his physical maturation and technical development continues to catch up to his abilities with several successful runs and, most importantly, some strong holding up in the corner as the Union worked to run out the clock up a goal at the end.

MID Gabriel Farfan (N/A)– Came on for Danny Mwanga in the 83rd minute for defensive purposes to help secure the win.

6 Comments For This Post

  1. NJBluesFan Says:

    Totally disagree with your review of Roger Torres. He instantly created spark and made the Whitecap defenders chase after him. He may be small but he is effective and I think he really adds to the team.

  2. Kenfunky Says:

    You are crazy about torres, He was a bright spot from the moment he came into the game. He actually has some offensive vision and some possession ability. He is outmatched physically but his job is not to win the ball, it is to be creative and create opportunities and I think he did more than enough of that to warrant over a 5.

  3. Sam Toma Says:

    I maintain my position on Torres. He didn’t create space; he simply had space due to the man advantage. He didn’t force them to chase; they were already chasing due to good ball movement. With regard to the offensive vision and possession ability, I agree and have always agreed that he has that in him, but he has yet to turn those abilities into results on any sort of consistent basis. Keep in mind that we’re talking about just over half an hour of playing time for the season right now. We’ll definitely be keeping an eye on Torres going forward and certainly expect him to get more game action. Thanks for the responses; such rapid responses on the same issue let me know that I’ll have to be sure to have an extra-close eye on Torres in his upcoming appearances.

  4. Sully Says:

    I, too, think you’re being a bit harsh in your review on Torres, but I’m floored that you said that Ruiz did nothing other than put home a sitter. The bicycle kick that he had in the 66′ (?) was an incredible example of him making something spectacular out of, largely, nothing. Cannon just happened to rise to the occasion. I haven’t seen other games around the league yet, but that’s going to be tough to beat as Save of the Week.

    Also, I think McInerney played very well and showed great movement off the ball. Both he and Torres brought a ton of life to the offense after they were subbed on.

  5. Eli Says:

    Dead wrong on Torres. He’s the only man on the squad who consistently looks to create space with his passing. Either over the top(properly weighted) or through the defense. Sure we some some of last year’s Roger come out, but he’s 19 and needs more time on the pitch. I thought he showed well and definitely earned more time.

  6. Chris S Says:

    I heartily agree with the other comments on what we feel is low valuation of Torres’ and Ruiz’s contributions. I also thought Nakazawa was under-rated (this week), though I don’t think as high of him as others do. Like last week, though, I think your defensive analysis is excellent.

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