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Philadelphia Union vs. San Jose Earthquakes: Player Ratings

Posted on 02 May 2011 by stoma

GK Faryd Mondragon (6.5)- With even the defenders pressing up early on, Mondragon served as a glorified sweeper, easily collecting a quantity of balls that got through the stretched out Califf and Valdes.  Faryd didn’t face his first challenged until the 21st minute, when he was called into a flurry of action including two corner kicks and an attempted ball over the top from Anthony Ampaipitakwong that required the keeper to parry it aside.  Then, in the 30th minute, as the Union threatened to give up yet another goal off a set piece rebound, Faryd went feet-first to stonewall the sliding attempt of Chris Wondowlowski, a brilliant save that set off fireworks between Mondragon and Earthquakes midfielder Ben McDonald.  This, of course, quickly ignited a full-squad confrontation once Danny Califf saw his goalkeeper being pushed by an opponent.  The end result was matching yellows for Faryd and McDonald and a chorus of “Mon-drag-on” chants from the River End.

For the rest of the match, with the crowd frenzied and then taken to a crescendo when the Union took the lead in the 76th minute, Mondragon assumed his role once again as the calming presence at the back.  Although he only officially recorded 1 save, that’s not counting the aforementioned rebuke of Wondolowski and a critical punch of a 50/50 ball bouncing in that Steven Lenhart had a real chance at putting away.  The 1 official save was also solid, as a San Jose corner ricocheted onto the head of Lenhart only to be calmly snatched by Faryd to preserve the shutout.

LB Jordan Harvey (5)- After a largely uneventful 1st half in which Harvey joined Sheanon Williams in pushing as far up high as they could get away with, calamity found Jordan in the form of a 50/50 ball that ended up with Chris Leitch tangled up at Harvey’s feet.  Attempting to disengage himself and go after the ball, Harvey managed what appeared to be a bit of an extracurricular jab with his spike into Leitch’s midsection.  This earned Jordan a 41st minute sending-off, compounded by the fact that referee Mark Geiger missed Leitch’s obvious retaliation, which should have resulted in discipline for him, as well.  Pursuant to Major League Soccer’s rules, the straight red earns Harvey a 2-game suspension. The decision will most likely be appealed.

CB Danny Califf (7)- As we said about Valdes a few games ago, while Mondragon has rightly been rapidly gaining notoriety around the league for his immense ability, the defense directly in front of him should also be receiving a large amount of credit for Philadelphia’s quick turnaround from porous last season to impenetrable so far this season.  Further, the imposing presence of both Califf and Valdes has allowed Piotr Nowak and the technical staff to develop more offensive-minded tactics without having to worry that they will be left vulnerable at the back.  As we saw against San Jose, the Union can be successful defensively with just Califf and Valdes hanging back.  Even down a man, the side did not have to abandon the attack, which allowed them to secure the home win they were seeking.

CB Carlos Valdes (7.5)- Another stellar defensive outing from Valdes, especially so as he and Califf were given even more responsibility than usual with both wingbacks pushing up high early on.  Then, after Harvey’s ejection, as the Union continued to attack, it was the steady hand of Valdes that insured that no quick counterattack or long ball challenged the Philadelphia goal.  So solid has Carlos’ play been that it seems fruitless to try and point out the myriad positive plays he makes in this space.  Instead, one must try and identify any mistakes.  As has been the case more often than not this season, there were none against San Jose.

RB Sheanon Williams (6.5)- Along with Harvey, Williams spent the first half-hour of the match joining a relentless Union attack as the center backs alone held the fort in front of Mondragon.  Made an impact early, earning a corner in the 13th minute, and remained a part of the action even after Philadelphia went down a man.  Along with his long throws, which have become an integral part of the attack, especially on the occasions against San Jose when the defense was not ready for a quick restart, Sheanon was again a positive influence on the opposition’s side of the pitch.  When the time came for Williams to defend, the results were not as strong, but neither were they highly disappointing.  Sheanon’s weakness remains judgment of long balls in the air and understanding when to step up and gamble.  However, his speed has so far allowed him to recover on mistakes, an attribute that will make him all the more valuable as his technique continues to improve.

MID Amobi Okugo (8 *ASN PHILLY MAN OF THE MATCH*)- Left as the sole defensive midfielder to help anchor the defense, it was trial by fire for the rapidly developing Okugo.   From early on, it was clear that Amobi was up to the task, as he not only stood tall in defense, but was happy to keep the ball and move forward to initiate the attack.   Then, at halftime, when Stefani Miglioranzi came on to take on the lion’s share of the defensive responsibility, Okugo shifted to a hybrid role and found himself pushing forward as the Union’s attack continued to gain momentum, even with the man disadvantage.   First, he trailed the attack in the 70th minute when a failed clearance came to him and he took a strong shot from 25 yards that forced Jon Busch into action.  Then, the payoff came in the 76th minute, when a strong run into the box ended with an attempted cross that struck the hand of Earthquakes defender Jason Hernandez and resulted in the ultimately game-winning penalty kick, converted by Le Toux.  Okugo’s versatility is fast making him invaluable to the Philadelphia side.  It is going to be incredibly difficult to keep him out of the starting XI from this point forward.

MID Sebastien Le Toux (7)- Le Toux still struggled with his first touch in traffic, but the attacking formation at the outset gave him a little more room to work with, and Seba took advantage from the kickoff on.  Sebastien made threatening runs, combined with Torres, Ruiz and Mwanga on several legitimate scoring opportunities and used his speed to get behind the San Jose defense with regularity.  There was also the nifty move that took him into the penalty area only to be derailed by a hard challenge from Sam Cronin just before he took his shot.  A bit of a breakout game for Seba, even without the results in the run of play.  Of course, all of this took a backseat to Le Toux’s 1st goal of the season off of the 76th minute penalty kick, the only goal of the match, driven down the center and toward the top of the goal.  Seba remains the team’s designated penalty taker and has yet to be denied in that role as a member of the Union.

MID Roger Torres (6)– A somewhat surprising start, as Piotr Nowak and his staff unveiled a much-welcomed attacking lineup at home.  Tasked with manning the middle of the front three midfielders, Torres would need to prove that he could be the engine of the attack, opting for the simple pass more often than the homerun ball.   He definitely showed a bit more discretion than we’ve seen from Roger, although the only serious chance involving him was a shot attempted on Jon Busch’s near side in the 16th minute after receiving a deft pass from Carlos Ruiz that Busch parried relatively easily.  With his first start of the season, Torres showed a continued improvement in poise and presence.  Unfortunately, before anything tangible could materialize, he was taken off at the half for defensive purposes in place of Michael Farfan.

MID Keon Daniel (7.5)- Daniel is beginning to really put his imprint on the Philadelphia side, taking more initiative and gaining more trust from his teammates and the coaching staff with each passing game.  Keon took control of the buildup from the left flank, allowing Le Toux and Torres the room to operate and move forward.  Daniel’s play became even more vital when Jordan Harvey was sent off in the 41st minute, first moving back to cover the vacated left back position to close the 1st half and then taking on even more responsibility as the team continued to push for a goal in the 2nd half.  In particular, his combinations with Michael Farfan and Le Toux down the wing were invariably productive.

FWD Danny Mwanga (6)- A capable, not spectacular effort from Mwanga against San Jose, as he was able to use his possessions well, either turning upfield or linking with his teammates.  Where Danny still needs to improve is his off-the-ball presence.  We’ve all by now seen him turn on that extra gear, the one that most people, even professional athletes, do not possess.  However, this seems only to occur when Mwanga already has the ball and can smell the goal.  Rare is the occasion when he will turn on the jets to make a center run or make a challenge that could change the game in the final third.  When he shows that level of stamina and work ethic, though, he will be among the league’s elite.  Mwanga was brought off for extra midfielder Stefani Miglioranzi at halftime after the Union went a man down.

FWD Carlos Ruiz (7)- For possibly the first time since joining the Union, it can be said that Ruiz truly worked with and for his teammates against San Jose.   Taking more of the distributor role in this match, he first combined with Roger Torres and Seba Le Toux for an early chance, then found Torres in the 16th minute with a ball that sprang Torres for shot on goal.  He also made himself available with runs into the area, notably receiving a ground cross from Le Toux that resulted in a shot that was blocked.  In the 2nd half, Ruiz continued his good work, highlighted by an exchange in the 70th minute in which he received a ball in from Michael Farfan, turned and found Le Toux, and laid it off for what was the best opportunity the Union had all day during the run of play.  Came off for Kyle Nakazawa in the 83rd minute.

MID Stefani Miglioranzi (6)- Came on for defensive purposes at halftime after Harvey was sent off, replacing Danny Mwanga.  In a shorter burst than his usual role up until now as a starter, Migs was far more effective than he had been in recent matches.  He consistently battled for every ball, made several key tackles and kept his wits about him when he found himself in possession in a hotly contested midfield.  Obviously, it is not likely that a defensive midfielder can be considered a super-sub, but we must remember that it is a long season and Stefani will still be needed even if he is not to return to the starting XI on a consistent basis.  It was reassuring to see that he will be ready when called upon, regardless of the role he is asked to play.

LB Michael Farfan (7)- Came in for Roger Torres as the new left back in a suddenly defensive formation following halftime, the Union apparently shifting their goal from win to scoreless draw a man down.  However, this clearly was not the case, as Farfan, in his professional debut, showed an adroit capacity for pressing up and not only joining, but engineering, the attack.  Several combinations with Keon Daniel and Sebastien Le Toux led to real chances for the Union as they seized control right at the outset of the 2nd half.  In addition, Farfan showed true competency at the back, a role he had not taken on at lower levels but has been groomed for since the beginning of the season in training.  Another in what is becoming a long string of pleasant surprises for the Union early on in this campaign.

MID Kyle Nakazawa (N/A) Came on for Carlos Ruiz to help salt away the game in the 83rd minute.

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Philadelphia Union vs. Seattle Sounders: Player Ratings

Posted on 17 April 2011 by stoma

GK Faryd Mondragon (5)- With the weather wreaking havoc on any attempted long ball and generally slowing the pace, the goalkeeper played a much bigger role than usual in initiating the attack.  The preferred Union set was to play back to Mondragon and allow him to either send it deep or lay it off to start the build from the back.  This did not always produce excellent results, as the poor conditions led to several shanks on attempted clearances from Faryd, but nothing that ultimately put the team in too much danger.

Mondragon did not have a particularly shaky game by any means, but he didn’t do anything directly in front of goal that was especially positive, either.  He only had a couple of serious chances in front of him, and neither resulted in saves.   The first ended when Danny Califf somehow got in the way of a point-blank shot from Alvaro Fernandez after Faryd deflected Fredy Montero’s cross to Fernadez’s feet in the 78th minute.  The second ended in the back of the net for the equalizer.  Mondragon did not record any saves, but still provided leadership and stability.

LB Jordan Harvey (7)- Harvey at this point must be recognized as one of the elite man markers in the league right now.  A week after neutralizing Dane Richards, Jordan was tasked with handling the even more dangerous Steve Zakuani with largely no help whatsoever.  Additionally, Jordan still managed to get forward to pair with Keon Daniel for what is becoming a formidable tandem in creating threatening builds down the left flank.

CB Danny Califf (8.5 *ASN PHILLY MAN OF THE MATCH*)- The solid, reliable play from Califf continued against Seattle.  In addition, he was able to make a couple of the more “flashy” plays at the back usually reserved for Valdes.  Most notably, he got in behind Steve Zakuani at the last moment when the goal-scoring threat almost found himself in against Mondragon in the 20th minute.  The unofficial MLS leader in blocked shots continued to add to his total, as well, continuing to show uncanny anticipation and feel for the opponents’ shooting lanes.  Obviously, his signature play of this match came in the 78th minute when, as he saw play flowing to the weak side, he filled the area directly in front of the goal.  This paid off when a deflection found Alvaro Fernandez mere feet from a goal mouth no longer occupied by Faryd Mondragon, who had dived to deflect the cross.  Instead of an equalizing goal, the shot blasted off of Califf’s shoulder and, at the time, appeared to be a game-saver.  Of course, Seattle did eventually equalize, but that does not detract from Danny’s overall performance.

CB Carlos Valdes (7.5)- With the Union dominating possession early and Califf holding down the fort at the back, we got to see Valdes push up a bit and display his ability to play the passing lanes in the midfield.  He single-handedly created a scoring chance in the 28th minute, intercepting a pass that prevented a Seattle counterattack, taking the ball up the right flank himself and then sending a nice-looking cross in that required some quick defensive reactions from Seattle in order to dispose of it.  In addition, Carlos certainly did not shirk his vast defensive responsibilities, keeping things fairly simple in front of him and within his general radius as usual.

RB Sheanon Williams (7)- Again factoring largely in all facets of the game, Williams distinguished himself in a slow, sluggish start to the game by flying up and down his side of the pitch.  With the wind at full force, Sheanon’s signature throw-ins were particularly impressive in that they did not appear to lose any distance even in the face of the gusts.  Williams also played some decent defense, most notably making a saving tackle on Steve Zakuani when he received a cross in the area from Mauro Rosales, although he remains a touch undisciplined when there is a broken play that requires prolonged periods of defensive play.

MID Kyle Nakazawa (6.5)- Back into the active roster and the first XI with Brian Carroll nursing his strained hamstring, Nakazawa looked to make his impact early, just missing on a strike from the left side of the area in the 18th minute.   Most importantly, Kyle drew the foul at the top of the area that directly led to the Union’s only goal in the 32nd minute.  Nakazawa continued to get himself in dangerous positions throughout the remainder of the game.  He still shows a reluctance to shoot when open, instead choosing to defer to the established goal-scoring triumvirate of Ruiz, Le Toux and Mwanga, but this game was definitely a  strive forward for Nakazawa.

MID Amobi Okugo (6.5)- Another strong, if unspectacular, game from Okugo.  Elevated to the starting XI with Carroll out, Amobi continued to show the skills he can bring to the Philadelphia side if given consistent playing time.  He is certainly no defensive liability, but his value is largely tied up in his ability to be the engine in the midfield, the immediate link between the defense and the attack.  Look for Okugo to grow more comfortable holding possession himself and creating immediate opportunities for others as his role continues to grow.

MID Stefani Miglioranzi (5.5)- A bit better performance from Miglioranzi against Seattle as, with Brian Carroll out, he was tasked with fortifying the Union defense from the midfield and did so in the manner to which followers of the club have become accustomed.   Came off for Danny Mwanga in the 59th minute.

MID Keon Daniel (7)- Against the Sounders, Daniel displayed the work rate and field coverage that the Union need from the wing spot.  In addition to leading several productive forays up the flank and toward goal, Keon also showed the speed and stamina to track back and help on defense when Seattle’s wings tried to get forward.  Deft vision allows Daniel to poke into passing lanes and a soft first touch gives him the ability to settle dangerous deflections and regroup.  We’d still like to see Keon go a little more north-south with the ball, but he’s giving the Union much more than they could have expected from Keon at the outset of the season.

FWD Sebastien Le Toux (7.5)- The poor conditions actually seemed to benefit Le Toux, which seems counterintuitive, but makes sense if you think about it. Unlike a pure speedster like Zakuani, Seba has amazing speed and is strong enough to push through the wind and mud, resulting in Le Toux looking like he is still running at his normal pace while everyone else was a step slow.  This allowed Seba to get into space with higher frequency than we’ve seen thus far this season and even get behind the Seattle defense on occasion.   We’re still awaiting the kind of tangible production that Seba unleashed last season, when he was directly involved with an MLS record 71.4% of the team’s goals.  Granted, his 1 assist thus far is still actually good for 25% involvement, but that is actually more depressing than it is a mitigating factor for Seba’s play.

FWD Carlos Ruiz (8)- Was playing an excellent game even before his strike from the free kick opened the scoring in the 32nd minute.  Sensing that offensive opportunities would be at a premium due to the conditions, Ruiz turned on the pressure early, selling out for all balls in his radius in an effort to create chances.  Then, after 4 games’ worth of Le Toux and Nakazawa skying free kick opportunities, the Little Fish was given a chance after Nakazawa drew a foul just outside the box in the 32nd minute.  Ruiz came through with his 2nd goal of the season, a beautifully taken strike that traveled the width of the goal mouth in the air, approximately head high for Seattle keeper Kasey Keller.  Keller got a hand on it, but could not stop the well-paced ball from continuing to the back of the net, and Philadelphia had the lead that would last all the way to the 90th minute.  Ruiz continued to plug away and was able to connect with Le Toux on a couple of legitimate scoring chances that didn’t fully materialize before being taken off for Justin Mapp in the 80th minute.

FWD Danny Mwanga (6)- Came on for Stefani Miglioranzi in the 59th minute in an ultimately unsuccessful push for a 2nd goal that would salt away the match.  However, Danny was productive, especially as a target man up top once Ruiz was brought off in the 80th minute.  He was unable, though, to find himself much space to operate, even when Seattle opened it up to push for their equalizer.

MID Justin Mapp (N/A)– Came on for Carlos Ruiz in the 80th minute in an attempt to close out the win.  Unfortunately, Mapp was not able to maintain much possession and waste the clock away, as was the hope with his inclusion.

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Philadelphia Union vs. New York Red Bulls: Player Ratings

Posted on 11 April 2011 by stoma

GK Faryd Mondragon (6.5)- Faced with rebounding following the first goal conceded and first loss of his MLS career then a PK loss in the Open Cup on Wednesday, the captain was a little more fired up than usual against New York.  Given that his default setting is “uber intense”, referee Alex Prus and his assistants were in for a long night.  All in all, a solid outing for Mondragon, as he caught a couple of breaks but did what was asked of him throughout.  Neither of Juan Agudelo’s near misses, the shot in transition in the 21st minute that hit the left post and the strike in alone against Faryd that struck the crossbar in the 31st minute, would have been soft by any stretch had they found the back of the net.  Other than those, there was not a whole lot of action for Mondragon, who only faced 1 shot on goal and recorded 1 save and was never seriously tested once the Union went up.

LB Jordan Harvey (7)- Not a lot of opportunity for Harvey to get forward in this match, but for good reason: Harvey was tasked with handling the blazingly fast Dane Richards, which he did with excellent results.  Richards never even sniffed the goal and rare was the occasion where Harvey needed help in keeping him covered, which could have created openings elsewhere.  Jordan was given one job against New York, and he performed it successfully.

CB Danny Califf (6.5)- Another solid game for the former captain.  Nothing spectacular, but he did his job with little drama.  It is becoming apparent that, paired with the quicker, flashier Valdes, Danny will play the role of stabilizer in front of goal, which certainly seems to suit him well.  Califf did have the only major defensive lapse of the night, allowing Juan Agudelo to shrug him off and then lose his mark before seeing his strike hit the crossbar in the 31st minute.  No points off for missing on a scoring opportunity in the 17th minute when Justin Mapp’s free kick found its way through to his feet, although it was comical.  Perhaps Danny thought that since he had scored in the opener off of his left foot, that was his strong side.  Our humble advice is to use the right boot next time, sir.

CB Carlos Valdes (8 *ASN PHILLY MAN OF THE MATCH*)- The gatekeeper to the penalty area was stingy with entry against New York, as Valdes played ballhawk in the Union’s final third, refusing to let anything get over his head.  Further, when tested directly, Carlos dispossessed his man straight up several times.  Some may say that Thierry Henry had a down game, but that is downplaying the job Carlos did to make that the case. Valdes was the most important factor in ensuring that the Union’s goal remained untouched for a 3rd time in 4 games.

RB Sheanon Williams (6.5)- A complete effort from Sheanon on Saturday, as he contributed in his usual manner by pushing forward effectively and also helped to put the clamps down on Dwayne DeRosario defensively.  Sent several crosses in that created scoring opportunities, most notably in the 17th minute when his cross resulted in the Roy Miller handball that led to Justin Mapp’s dangerous free kick and in the 81st minute when the ball he sent in was deflected out to Stefani Miglioranzi, who one-timed the ball high over the bar.  His performance against New York proved what a weapon he can be when firing on all cylinders.

MID Justin Mapp (5.5)- A welcome sight back in the first XI, Mapp provided the stability that the team has come to depend upon on the wing, linking as well as joining the attack on a consistent basis.  His timing may have been a touch off, as he missed Le Toux on an easy through ball to send Seba in alone against the keeper in the 34th minute.   Still, a good first game back and a relief for Union supporters to see him getting after it and not showing any obvious effects of a lingering injury. Came off for Danny Mwanga in the 59th minute.

MID Stefani Miglioranzi (4.5)- For the 2nd straight game, Migs took something off the table.  Coupled with a couple of questionable angles at tackle attempts was Stefani’s inability to avoid telegraphing every single pass he made.  Compared to last season, when Miglioranzi received mostly high marks, the problem is most likely not that he has become any worse himself, just that everyone around him has flourished and improved while he has remained the same.  We wondered here if Eduardo Coudet was redundant playing in the same midfield as Migs; now the question is whether Migs is redundant in a midfield that already has Brian Carroll.

MID Brian Carroll (N/A)- Strained his right hamstring trying to explode for the ball early and had to come off for Amobi Okugo in just the 6th minute.  According to Carroll post-match, the injury is not expected to be an issue going forward.

MID Keon Daniel (6)- Having earned a start in regular season play after his excellent showing in the 2nd half against Los Angeles, Daniel had another effective outing, if not as visibly stellar as his debut.  However, in addition to playing up the wing, Keon proved valuable in tracking back to help out defensively on the vast speed of New York’s attack, particularly Dane Richards and Jan Gunnar Solli, who was perpetually pushing forward.

FWD Sebastien Le Toux (6)- The return of Justin Mapp and Keon Daniel’s inclusion in the starting XI allowed Le Toux to start the match up front.  And this would have worked wonders, as Seba was able to receive the ball in dangerous positions numerous times.  However, there was one problem: Le Toux had apparently managed to leave his first touch on the training ground.  Time after time, Sebastien was left with one man to take on between him and the goalkeeper, but he could never find his way around.  Still, it is clear that Seba needs to play up front in order to maximize his impact on the game and, not to sound like a broken record, but the effort he puts forth every single game is, in most cases, going to overcome any deficiencies in his game on a particular night.

FWD Carlos Ruiz (6.5)- Began the match with a keen sense of the team’s need for offense (or at least offensive opportunities), and tested Bouna Coundoul from distance twice, catching him off his line the first time and seriously challenging him the second.  When the team sputtered in the midfield in the middle of the match, Ruiz went out and got himself the touches he wasn’t getting through the normal run of play.  He even managed to intercept a pass and would have found himself on a one-man breakaway but for an unlucky bounce of the ball backward and over his head.  As has been the case throughout this young season, Carlos also did his job getting under the skin of the New York defense, drawing a yellow card on speedster Dane Richards for a reckless challenge in the 29th minute.   Came off for Roger Torres in the 67th minute.

MID Amobi Okugo (6.5)- Came on for an injured Brian Carroll in the 6th minute and was able to assert himself into the action.  Perhaps it was an uptick in confidence following his highly positive campaign with the national team U-20’s, perhaps just a continuation of the development Amobi had already begun to exhibit during the preseason, but we anticipate Okugo will make a real push for inclusion in the first XI going forward this season.  He showed that he has the ability to be the engine in the middle and more than hold his own defensively.  Depending on what Piotr Nowak and the coaching staff want to do with the formation in the middle, look for Okugo to replace Miglioranzi on a regular basis if current trends continue.

FWD Danny Mwanga (6)– Came on for Justin Mapp in the 59th minute as part of a short-lived three-attacker look from the Union.  This match was tailor-made for Danny, with its wide-open spaces and room down the flanks to operate.  He used the space to draw fouls and keep possession in the New York defensive area.  Mwanga’s efforts to disrupt initiation of New York’s build from the back found the ultimate reward in the 68th minute when he deftly intercepted an attempted outlet by Tim Ream and fed Roger Torres for the match’s sole tally.

MID Roger Torres (7.5)- Came on for Carlos Ruiz in the 67th minute.  Waited all of 30 seconds to change the game (we were actually able to time it at 13 seconds from the time the restart occurred to the time the ball hit the back of the net), barely staying onside on a breakaway with Danny Mwanga off of a turnover, receiving the ball and calmly putting it past Bouna Coundoul into the bottom right hand corner of the goal.  For the rest of his time on the pitch, Torres was an unquestionably positive influence on the match for the Union.  Torres got into space, kept possession and switched fields effectively, all of which wasted precious seconds and served to prevent the Red Bulls from ever mounting a serious challenge to the Philadelphia goal in the waning moments.  Most importantly, he turned the atmosphere from a healthy buzz to simply electric, whipping the supporters into a frenzy with his goal and then keeping them on the edge of their seats every time he touched the ball.  Easily the performance of the year thus far for young Torres.

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Philadelphia Union vs. Los Angeles Galaxy: Player Ratings

Posted on 03 April 2011 by stoma

GK Faryd Mondragon (6)- Well, the newly minted captain is human, after all.  I suppose it is better we realize that sooner rather than later, but it’s still a disappointing fact to be faced with.  This is not to say that Mondragon played a particularly bad game; the single goal he gave up was certainly no softie.  However, he did get burned by Juninho (who hasn’t?) only to see the shot rattle the woodwork and benefited from Juan Pablo Angel uncharacteristically flubbing a sitter, pushing a header that came as the result of a Landon Donovan cross off a counterattack wide of the goal.  Ultimately, Faryd did only allow the one goal, but for the first time he seemed a bit hesitant to come off of his line for balls in the air.  Mondragon also did not make any particularly difficult saves, although he did strongly repel a David Beckham in-swinging direct kick that was ticketed for the back of the net.  All in all, not a stellar performance from the captain, but nothing to be concerned about, either.

LB Jordan Harvey (5.5)- Called upon to push forward more than in the first two games combined, Harvey almost paid dividends on several occasions, most notably sending a lovely early cross towards Carlos Ruiz, who had managed to shake Omar Gonzalez during a run to the goal; unfortunately, Ruiz could not get himself on the end of the service.  On the defensive end, did well when directly called upon, but the fact that the flanks were open for the Galaxy attack through much of the game must fall partly on Harvey.

CB Carlos Valdes (6)- A quiet yet effective game from Valdes, as he combined with Califf to largely shut down the Galaxy attack and keep things relatively quiet in front of Mondragon.  Carlos took some smart fouls in tough spots while managing to keep himself out of referee Paul Ward’s book, seemingly an incredible feat in and of itself.

CB Danny Califf (6.5)- Gamely plugging away despite a strained meniscus in his left knee, Califf continued to show his commitment to maintaining his readiness and engagement in the game through the full 90 minutes.  Danny also continues to display his ability to get into shooting lanes and block shots and crosses, which is quickly making him one of the most valuable center backs in the league.  Even when the game opened up and the Union were pushing for an equalizer, Califf was the strong anchor required to prevent the type of easy counterattack that plagued the squad last season.

RB Sheanon Williams (5)- Mixed results for Sheanon against Los Angeles, with nothing particularly good or bad about his game.  Performed ably when asked to go forward and was more or less competent defensively.  However, his tendency to try and get overly physical when he feels he is in a bad spot defensively hurt him in this match and will continue to do so if referees keep perceiving his challenges as reckless, which they often appear to be even when they are really not.  Williams was largely overmatched by Donovan; there is no shame in this, but there is also no need to compound the difficulty of marking someone like Donovan by taking him down repeatedly and giving the official the opportunity to discipline you and give the opposition multiple free kicks in dangerous positions.  Williams was taken off for Jack McInerney in the 73rd minute.

MID Kyle Nakazawa (5)-Another down performance from Nakazawa, which is becoming a bit of a troubling trend.   As we’ve stressed, this team needs production from the attacking midfielder spots, particularly from the wing.  Nakazawa may not take much off the table, but at this point, he is not bringing anything to the table either.  A free kick specialist who does not put any free kicks on frame or to a teammate in a dangerous position is not very valuable.  Nor is an attacking midfielder who has to be taken off for another attacking midfield because he is not playing his role effectively.  

MID Brian Carroll (6)- Carroll continues to be an excellent defensive midfielder, but it was more clear than ever during the Los Angeles match that the team cannot rely upon him to be any sort of dependable link to the offense.  He has better ball control and possession ability than Stefani Miglioranzi, but is no better equipped to participate in the buildup or attack in any meaningful way.  None of this is to detract from what Carroll is, but it is certainly something to note for a team still searching for its identity in the early part of this campaign.

MID Stefani Miglioranzi (4.5)- For the first time in memory, we can honestly say that Migs played a poor game for the Union.  Sometimes it looks like he is just doing things effortlessly because he performs so smoothly; against the Galaxy, one had to wonder if he actually was exerting any effort because the results were so lackluster.   Whether he was missing wide open passes to continue the buildup or tentatively looking to go backward with the ball when the Union were trying to push forward with the man advantage, Stefani looked a bit out place, topping a substandard performance off by losing Leonardo during the scoring set piece, which led to the only goal of the match.

Sebastien Le Toux ©ASN/Terry McLaughlinMID Sebastien Le Toux (6.5)- Along with the rest of the attack, Le Toux was largely invisible for the early part of the match.  Seba did manage to track back a fair bit in an effort to initiate the attack from the midfield, but his efforts were largely fruitless throughout the 1st half.  At that point, it became clear that Le Toux would need to move forward in order to be effective against the packed-in Galaxy defense, so Piotr Nowak and the coaching staff decided to remove Danny Mwanga and let Seba operate from the top of the formation.  This proved a wise decision: even though the Union still did not break through, their attack created far more chances in the 2nd half, the best of which was created by Le Toux when he took a shot from the top of the area that was deflected and landed at the feet of Jack McInerney, who just missed equalizing.

FWD Danny Mwanga (4)- Unlike Le Toux, Danny never found a way to get himself involved in the game after the team’s early offensive struggles.  Part of Mwanga’s necessary development is going to have to be him acquiring the knowledge of how to maximize his touches and opportunities when they are severely limited, as was the case in Los Angeles.   Due to his ineffectiveness, Mwanga came off for Keon Daniel at halftime.

FWD Carlos Ruiz (5.5)-Conversely to attackers such as Le Toux or Mwanga, there is really not much one can expect Ruiz to do if the ball is not getting to him from the back.  His job is to receive the ball and hold up or capitalize on a chance, not to advance the ball from the midfield and link all by himself.   Of course, when crosses did come his way, he was either a step late (50th minute) or committed a foul (77th minute).  Still, though, you have to give Ruiz credit for doing his best to get under the opposition’s skin, which led to Chris Birchall’s sending off, and for continuing to plug away until the final whistle was blown.

MID Keon Daniel (7 * ASN PHILLY MAN OF THE MATCH*)–  Rare is the occasion when a substitute can do enough to be called the best player on the field for a particular side, but that was the case for Daniel in his first appearance in a Union kit.  The 24 year-old Trinidad and Tobago international came on for Danny Mwanga at the half and allowed Seba Le Toux to move up front.  Immediately, Daniel took control out wide and became the link between the backfield and the attack that was lacking for the entire 1st half.  He was the point man on the vast majority of the buildup in the 2nd half and acquitted himself quite well, showing reliable ball handling and excellent field vision.  If Justin Mapp is out for an extended period of time, Daniels may be the answer the Union are looking for on the wing.

MID Roger Torres (6.5)- This game was simultaneously an exhibition of the talents Torres already possesses and his limitations.  Roger came on for Kyle Nakazawa in the 62nd minute.   His presence was sorely needed, and his inclusion in the match unquestionably benefited the Philadelphia side, but Roger’s playmaking still lacks that refined sense of discipline that produces results.  The kid can create, there is no doubt about that, but his tendency is to go for the all-or-nothing play, the spectacular as opposed to the practical.  He sees things on the pitch that few others can, but he needs to understand that he cannot simply will the play to end how he envisions it.   Sometimes he needs to make the lateral pass to maintain possession and momentum instead of trying to drop one over the top of the defense; sometimes he needs to go out wide instead of trying an outside foot direct pass to Jack McInerney making a run towards the goal mouth, who himself chided Torres following the play.  Torres breathes life into the Union attack, but we’re still waiting on tangible products of his contribution.

FWD Jack McInerney (6)- Came on for Sheanon Williams in the 73rd minute as the Union made their final big push for the equalizer.  McInerney continues to show signs that he is going to be a very special player when he puts it all together.  Not only can he be a large contributor, but he has the makings of a team leader.  Union fans might decry the effort and heart displayed against the Galaxy by some on the pitch, but those accusations cannot be put upon Jack Mac.  He came into the game prepared to try and make a difference and almost did on several occasions.  His retaliation against Chad Barrett in stoppage time for an upending that earned McInerney a red card and a one-match suspension may have been ill-advised, but it also went a long way towards endearing Jack Mac to the fans even more.

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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.

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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.

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Philadelphia Union vs. Chivas USA: Player Ratings

Posted on 26 September 2010 by Breton Bonnette

A helpless Zach Thornton...

The Union bucked recent trends and converted their chances on Saturday, dispatching Chivas USA with a 3-0 scoreline. Fred, Alejandro Moreno, and Seb Le Toux provided the fireworks while Brad Knighton, with help from a rock solid back four, recorded his second shutout in three league appearances.

Philadelphia Union Starting XI

————————–Knighton—————————–

Williams——–Califf————Orozco F.———Harvey

————————-Miglioranzi—————————-

Le Toux——————–Fred————————Mapp

——————Mwanga———Moreno——————–

GK: Brad Knighton – 6

The FC Dallas fiasco probably flashed before his eyes mid way through the first half after a through ball found Alan Gordon barreling down on Knighton and net. A well-timed and luckily feet-first tackle kept Gordon from capitalizing. Wasn’t fully tested again until the 89th minute when he parried a rifled shot from Alan Gordon. Post-match, Nowak was more than satisfied with Knighton’s presence in goal, “I think right now he has all the confidence to be #1 in goal”.

DR: Sheanon Williams – 7

The whole team looked to be a bit rusty after two weeks off but Williams especially. The youngster has pace, however, and the ability to track back after an errant touch or two. His long throw continues to be dangerous as was his pace. Williams almost got on the end of a Fred cross in the 56th minute after pushing forward. His man-to-man marking is shaky at best, showcased midway through the second half. Luckily, Alan Gordon isn’t known for his medium to long-range shots.

DC: Danny Califf – 7.5

Shut down Alan Gordon after being isolated. Not the hardest thing to do but it was vital as Gordon was the most energetic for Chivas during the first half. The central pairing of Califf and Orozco Fiscal kept things quiet for Brad Knighton and it was a performance certainly worthy of the captaincy.

DC: Michael Orozco Fiscal – 7

Solid the brunt of the game. Lost his mark, however, early in the second half leading to a wide-open Jesus Padilla look at net. Padilla mistimed the volley thankfully sending it wide of Knighton’s net. Orozco Fiscal dealt with the Goats’ danger man Justin Braun (9 goals) well though, keeping him silent and far from Knighton’s net.

DL: Jordan Harvey – 7

Harvey had a good day, getting into the attack and wreaking general havoc on the Chivas backline. It was ensemble performance for the back four but even in spite of a shaky start, the fullbacks were particularly dangerous throughout the whole match. Tracking back, at times, was an issue as Lahoud and Sal Zizzo were able to jumpstart counterattacks after Harvey was caught forward.

MR: Sebastien Le Toux – 8

Even though things weren’t as organized as usual on the offensive end, Le Toux’s motor was once again running beautifully. He’s dangerous up top but his work on the flanks really got to the Chivas USA defense. Both him and Mapp were able to deliver better than usual crosses with his efforts paying off right before the end of the first half. Le Toux and Moreno renewed their partnership early in the second half with a couple well-played combinations. Despite the 2-0 scoreline, Le Toux didn’t let up. After a foul he suffered, Seb deflected the free kick off the Chivas wall and right past a wrong-footed Thornton. Only a minute later, he almost added with a rocket from the outside.

MC: Stefani Miglioranzi – 7

An understated game. Decent distribution and not afraid to get in the mix. Miglioranzi, even without Coudet or Jacobsen in the first half, was able to clog up the midfield and shut down guys like Paulo Nagamura. He rarely gets the credit but his play as of late allows Le Toux, Fred, and others room to really go at the opposing defense. Migs at times was almost acting as a third centreback, shutting down passing channels and picking up loose balls .

MC: Fred – 7.5

His quarterbacking of the Union offense was part at best in the first half but, surprisingly, Fred was back quite a bit and made some key poke tackles at the top of the box. Right before the half, after a low Le Toux free kick, Moreno feint, and Zach Thornton parry, Fred ushered home the rebound to make things 2-0. Probably one of Fred’s best performances in a Union uniform.

ML: Justin Mapp 6.5

Plagued with the same bad touch in the early moments but made up for it with pinpoint accuracy on his dead balls. His corner found Moreno for the first goal of the match. He delivered several deep free kicks into the danger area. Probably should wind up the set piece taker from the corner as well as kicks 30-40 yards out.

FW: Danny Mwanga 5.5

His touch was all over the place early on and looked a little out of place. His touch impeded forward progress on several occasions. Had a couple promising moments but all in all it was Mwanga’s first forgettable appearance in a long time. Replaced by Jacobson at the half.

FW: Alejandro Moreno – 8.5 *ASN Philly’s Man of the Match*

Sheer determination almost saw Moreno power a diving header past Zach Thornton in the 18th minute after a beautiful cross from Seb Le Toux. That determination did pay off in the 25th minute after Moreno muscled home a fade away header off of a well delivered Mapp corner. The goal did wonders as Moreno continued to threaten throughout the first half also providing the flick on that ultimately led to Fred’s goal. It was good to see Moreno at 100%. Scored points with Union faithful post-goal by kissing the badge.

Substitutes:

Andrew Jacobson – 7

Came on for Danny Mwanga at the half, pushing Fred left and Le Toux up front. A great performance all around although his passing was a bit heavy for the most part but he supplies a defensive presence that Coudet cannot. His service of the forwards and overall vision is improving. Frustrating Paulo Nagamura.

Amobi Okugo – N/A

The youngster came on in the 74th minute for Fred.

Roger Torres – N/A

Replaced Justin Mapp in the 77th minute.

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Player Ratings: Kansas City at Philadelphia

Posted on 04 September 2010 by Breton Bonnette

Frustrations abound so the game recap will be laid out by the following player ratings. A relatively decent game by all players involved but the season-old issue persists. One huge mistake dictates the course of the game. Let us just focus on the player ratings…

GK: Chris Seitz (5)

Pretty sure-handed all around as several balls that came in were somewhat dangerous. However, when called into serious action, Seitz left things exposed. Davy Arnaud saw the keeper off his line a little bit and curled a shot far post. He was called on several times after that as the Union pressed forward but these types of mistakes are costly. Piotr Nowak has a decision to make for next weekend and it sounds like he is leaning in one direction.

DR: Michael Orozco Fiscal (6)

Orozco Fiscal was quiet and, for him, that’s impressive. He was doing his job, distributing, keeping Ryan Smith in check. Right at the onset of the second half, he was forced to make a dramatic diving stop on Smith after the Wizards attacker had rounded Seitz. In the late stages, the right-back had a chance to push forward a fast moving counter attack but he couldn’t corral a switched ball.

DC: Danny Califf (6.5)

The Wizards attack rarely threatened Califf the biggest reason for that. His physicality was kept in check as he dealt with two big strikers. Had no trouble with distribution today.

DC: Juan Diego Gonzalez (5.5)

Blown by early on, exposed by Ryan Smith’s speed, but made up for it with a decent sense of positioning. He still looks shaky back there but held his own against a big Teal Bunbury and Birahim Diop duo.

DL: Jordan Harvey (6.5)

Harvey was active up the left wing working with high energy and helping wake a sluggish offense up early on. Between Orozco and Harvey, either their conditioning has improved to the point where they can not get caught up as often or these guys have figured something out.

MR: Justin Mapp (7)

Mapp can run an organized, confident attack at times or he can be a frustrating player in his nonchalance and laid-back approach. He was impressive today, however, directing traffic. If anything at all came out of today, it’s that Mapp should probably be starting. He’s provides some of the same creativity and excitement of Torres without the uncertainty of whether or not he can execute his idea.

MC: Amobi Okugo (7)

Starting in place of the injured Eduardo Coudet, Okugo took some odd touches early on – still working on those early game jitters it seems. Once he settled down, the 19-year old asserted himself well in the middle. Probably his best match of the season and put in a decent enough performance to warrant another look.

MC: Stefani Miglioranzi (6)

Miglioranzi unleashed a beauty of shot in the 27th minute and quarterbacked a central midfield that received passing grades on the day. The veteran did what he had to do to win the midfield, stopping up any central runs and distributing loose balls out wide. It was nice to see a Union player take a troublesome

ML: Andrew Jacobson (6)

Gave way to Roger Torres at the half and I’m not sure why. He wasn’t Fred on the wing but he certainly held his own. He was the logical midfielder to take out but not when you’re a goal up and Roger Torres is notorious for being a defensive liability.

FC: Danny Mwanga (8) ASN PHILLY’s MAN OF THE MATCH

If it weren’t for Jimmy Nielsen, Mwanga could have had two on the day. It would be tough not to call him Rookie of the Year at the moment. He matures every game out. The 19-year old kept Kansas City’s defense on their toes all game and his assist to Le Toux was calm and composed after a 50-yard run. The best thing about Mwanga was his close-quarter dribbling. Impressive all-around.

FC: Sebastien Le Toux (7)

Le Toux was given one of the easiest goals this season in the 33rd minute thanks to the work of Danny Mwanga on the wing. The Union all-star’s mutually beneficial relationship with the rookie is now most certainly the hottest strike tandem in the league. So much so that even if Moreno gets healthy enough again, we can’t imagine him breaking this partnership apart.

Substitutions:

Roger Torres (5)

Came on at the half for Andrew Jacobson. It’s clear his feet can’t quite carry out what his mind is coming up with. On several occasions, he had an easier, more direct route but he opted for the flashy chip or pass against the grain. Needs to work in simpler manners, especially if he’s going to be the defensive liability that he is.

Jack McInerney (N/A)

Philadelphia Union Starting XI

——————————-Seitz———————————–

Orozco F.———-Califf———–Gonzalez————-Harvey

——————Miglioranzi——–Okugo————————

Mapp——————————————————Jacobson

———————-Mwanga——-Le Toux———————–

Kansas City Wizards Starting XI

—————————–Nielsen———————————-

Harrington——-Conrad———–S. Thomas———Espinoza

——————-Rocastle————Auvray———————

——————————-Arnaud——————————–

————-Bunbury——-Diop——R. Smith——————-

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Philadelphia Union vs. Real Salt Lake: Player Ratings

Posted on 12 August 2010 by stoma

Man of the Match

GK Seitz (7.5) *ASN PHILLY MAN OF THE MATCH*-

Single-handedly kept the Union in the game after being abandoned by his defense on the equalizer.  In the 2nd half, Seitz came up monstrously big and ended the game with 4 saves, none of them of the garden variety.   While he still doesn’t have his first clean sheet of the season, this is the first time we can honestly say he deserved one.  We’ve been asking for Seitz to step up and carry the team; tonight, he did it.

LB Jordan Harvey (5)- A game of conflicts for Harvey, as he stayed back more than usual while Orozco-Fiscal got the call to press up tonight.  Late in the game, Piotr Nowak had to implore Jordan to push higher as the Union drove for a winning goal.  A highly intelligent player, Harvey can be guilty on occasion, such as tonight, of thinking too much and not relying on his instincts.

CB Danny Califf (4.5)- Straight up embarrassed in allowing the equalizer in the 17th minute by Fabian Espindola, who tore through him and easily slotted one past a helplessly exposed Seitz.  When the captain should be bowing up when his team takes the early lead, that’s two consecutive games where 1-0 leads have turned into 1-1 draws going into the half.   Califf, as has been the case too often this season, responded to his gaffe by making panicky clearances the rest of the way.  Throw in the general shakiness on balls in the air, and we have a third consecutive poor game from the captain.

CB Juan Diego Gonzalez (5.5)- His first appearance for the Union on Sunday displayed that he needs to be on the field at the back for this team.  His second appearance validated that belief, as he was the stabilizing force in front of Seitz that Danny Califf once again proved incapable of being.  Let’s not forget that he played his role in conceding the equalizer, as he let a routine ball into his feet eat him up.  However, conversely from Califf, Gonzalez was able to rebound from the mistake and play solidly from that point forward.  Unlike Cristian Arrieta, Gonzalez has the confidence and polish to pick up that slack, as he showed tonight.

RB Michael Orozco-Fiscal (6)- Took on more of an active role tonight, as he got the call from the coaching staff to spend more time pushing up and on the ball from the fullback position.  When he got the ball at the back or in space, Orozco-Fiscal looked extremely comfortable holding, moving forward and picking out the right pass.  In addition, he handled his defensive responsibilities almost flawlessly, A complete game from the burgeoning staple in the lineup.

MID Justin Mapp (5)- Mapp managed to disappear for the most part tonight, as he did not play an integral role in any significant buildup or any real chance.  Fitness may still be a factor since coming over from Chicago, as Piotr Nowak saw fit to remove him for Roger Torres in the 56th minute.

MID Kyle Nakazawa (5)- Still not the strongest defensively, but using his talents to get forward, having a strong shot off a pass from Danny Mwanga that Kyle Reynish managed to stop.  Kudos to Piotr Nowak for realizing that Nakazawa is not interchangeable with Stefani Miglioranzi, and all credit to Nakazawa to adapting his role to accentuate his strengths.   It must also be mentioned that, the defensive struggles in the midfield notwithstanding, Kyle did make several key clearances in the final third.  Came off for Amobi Okugo in the 63rd minute.

MID Eduardo Coudet (6)- With Miglioranzi still out, Coudet has been asked to be the reliable rock in the center of the midfield diamond and he has responded admirably, recognizing the need with the current personnel to drop back more and allow the other midfielders to control the ball on the attack.  Sure, he may be somewhat limited in that it appears he can only play offensively or defensively in a particular game, and never both, but there is something to be said to staking out a role for a single game and doing the job exceptionally well.

MID Fred (5.5)- Along with Mapp, didn’t play a major role in this game as the attacking tactics favored longer services and quick, timed releases from the strikers.  Unlike Mapp, however, Fred was still able to play a role in the attack, making several well-timed forays into the area when Le Toux would split out wide and wait for the chance to cross.  Ultimately removed for Andrew Jacobson in the 81st minute.

FWD Sebastien Le Toux (6.5)- Showing once again why he is a viable MLS MVP candidate, Seba continues to do it all for this team.  His 8th assist of the season puts him at an even point per match average, puts him in the top 3 for assists in the league and puts him staunchly in the race for most points in the MLS this season with 13 games to go.  And all that is without mentioning how pretty the assist on the Danny Mwanga goal was: receiving a long Jordan Harvey throw and knowing he had Mwanga streaking on a timing pattern, he quickly turned away and flicked the ball with exquisite touch directly into Mwanga’s path, putting him clear in on goal.  The rest of the way, Le Toux more or less created or was on the end of every chance the Union had, unfortunately coming up short.  Still more evidence, however, that he is the engine that makes this team run.

FWD Danny Mwanga (7)- Back after missing three games due to injury, the frontrunner for MLS Rookie of the Year continued to bolster his case with his 6th goal of the season , a calm finish off a beautiful Le Toux flick-on to give the Union an early 1-0 lead.  In addition, he showed off his developing interior touch with a slotted ground pass from the endline out to the top of the area for Kyle Nakazawa, who had his blast saved by Kyle Reynish.  Not a perfect game, as he certainly let a couple of chances go by the wayside, most notably a clear chance to take on the keeper 1 v. 1 in the 62nd minute that was erased after a heavy first touch put the ball into Kyle Reynish’s clutches.  However, his strength continues to improve, as a couple of hard turns on defenders playing him close followed by ignition of the burners forced hard fouls from the defense and free kicks from dangerous position.  Mwanga is really beginning to show how he can effect a game in ways other than his scoring. He has Nowak impressed at his development over the past three months.

MID Roger Torres (5)- Came on for Justin Mapp in the 56th minute for his first appearance on the pitch in an MLS game since July 10 against San Jose and overall since July 14 against Celtic F.C., when he badly sprained his right ankle.  Showed that he has the creativity and elusiveness, but still unsure of where to go with the ball once he gets by his man.  Still, good to see the youngster at full speed once again. 

MID Amobi Okugo (5)- Came on for Kyle Nakazawa in the 63rd minute as the more versatile option in the midfield and showed why the promise is so high for the 19-year old.  Looking more and more comfortable on the ball with each passing appearance, Okugo is starting to build the confidence to let his immense talent show.  For now, it’s still in the form of teasing flashes of brilliance, but watching the ease with which he moves displays his potential obviously to anyone watching.

MID Andrew Jacobson (N/A)- Came on for Fred in the 81st minutes.  Took a couple of long, strong shots, but ultimately did not impact the game significantly in his 14+ minutes.

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Philadelphia Union v. Columbus Crew: Player Ratings

Posted on 06 August 2010 by stoma

GK Chris Seitz (4.5)- Beaten by a great header off of a free kick the first time and let down by his defense the second.  Two legitimately good saves.  Still, not his strongest outing and, since his save on the Pat Noonan penalty kick in the win against Seattle, has not had a save that rallied and energized the team.  For as much fire as he shows back there, Seitz does not often enough take the team on his back.  That’s the next step in his development.

RB Michael Orozco Fiscal (5)- Was able to push forward more this game with only 1 striker to worry about for Columbus, but Orozco-Fiscal did not really make anything happen in any of his forays to the front.  He did make several promising runs down the wing without the ball, but we never got to see what would have happened had the ball been sent his way, as it never was.  Defensively, nothing great and nothing overly damaging.

CB Cristian Arrieta (5.5)- Along with Califf, he struggled with the one-striker set that Columbus was featuring.  The two center-backs never got their communication down in terms of when to pass off coverage to the other, and this situation was exacerbated when Stefani Miglioranzi was lost late in the 1st half.  Although he was not as culpable as Califf in the two goals, a bit more maturity and assertiveness on the part of Arrieta could have helped to prevent either or both.

CB Danny Califf (4)- Poor showing from the captain, as the second goal falls pretty much all on Califf’s shoulders and he certainly played a part in the first.  Trying to make the savvy play instead of the practical play, he denied Lenhart from going far post and ended up leaving the goal side wide open.  Can’t do that against a scorer of Lenhart’s caliber and expect good results.  As has been the case throughout the season, the fate of the captain and the keeper are inextricably tied; this was an extremely poor effort from both.

LB Jordan Harvey (4.5)–  That’s now two consecutive subpar games for Jordan, officially a cause for concern.  He was so solid early in the season that we did not realize he had a failing: a chronic inability to settle bouncing balls.  Perhaps not a problem for your average defender, but for a fullback who is asked to come forward and participate in the attack as frequently as Harvey?  Yeah, it’s an issue.  If he’s going to continue to be Piotr Nowak’s answer as the attacking fullback, we’re going to have to start seeing some execution to go with his obvious smarts and instincts.

MID Fred (5.5)- The benefit of being a good player on a bad team is that you’ll always get plenty of chances to shine.  The downside of being a good player on an improving team with the potential to be good is that you have to adapt to the talent around you.  Now that the Union have acquired Justin Mapp, who is just as comfortable on the ball for long stretches as Fred, the latter is going to have to learn to make the most of his now-depleted touches and get used to not having the ball run through him every single time down the field.  This is going to have to be partly Piotr Nowak’s job as well, as he can no longer have Mapp & Fred just roam around the top of the midfield as each individual sees fit.  They’re going to have to have defined roles until they learn to play off of each other and to trust one another’s strengths.  Tonight, we saw a deferent Fred, something we had not seen before, a player willing to move the ball quickly and allow Mapp to shoulder the bulk of the ball-handling and distributing role.  From this point forward, the Union will be hoping to see a balance between the two.

MID Eduardo Coudet (5.5)- Another solid if unspectacular game from the new signee.  With Mapp & Fred spending the lion’s share of the time on the ball, Coudet didn’t get as many chances to participate in the attack as he did against New England.  However, him and Miglioranzi really seemed in rhythm in the middle together until Stefani was injured.  After that, it was Coudet struggling to cover for an overmatched Nakazawa for most of the 2nd half, and when Columbus started to sit on their lead a bit, Coudet disappeared.

MID Stefani Miglioranzi (6)- Actually managed to stand out a bit tonight, making a couple of key step-ups to win possession on defense and getting forward decently, even cracking off a shot in the 14th minute to force a corner, his second shot on frame all season.  Unfortunately, a rough tumble in the 41st minute led to enough of an injury to put him off for Kyle Nakazawa.  We learned afterwards that Migs had tweaked his groin, an injury he has aggravated in the past by trying to play through.   We really learned how important Stefani is for this team tonight, as his departure opened the door to miscommunication at the back and 2 goals.  While the team is deep in terms of its midfielders, there is only one defensive stalwart amongst the corps, and that is Miglioranzi.

Man of the Match

MID Justin Mapp (6.5 *ASN PHILLY MAN OF THE MATCH*)-

Now that is what the Union expected to see when they rescued him off the scrap heap in Chicago.  After a debut in which he still seemed lost in the fog of trying to come to grips with what had happened, we saw the potential and ability that earned the 25-year old 5 caps with the national team from 2005-2007.  On the ball, he is the most technically sound and creative player on the team, with the possible exception of Fred.  What he eventually does with the ball will produce results once he learns and begins to trust his new teammates.  But we got a glimpse into what will hopefully be the long and fruitful future of his role with the Union.

FWD Sebastien Le Toux (6.5)- A solid , scrappy game from Le Toux.  He wasn’t able to use his speed as much as usual and had trouble getting the final touch he needed to spring himself or a teammate for a shot, but he kept plugging away and even showed us his convincing dive in the box to draw the penalty kick in stoppage time of the 1st half.  He then, of course, proceeded to bury the PK in the right corner for his 9th goal of the season.  But, for the rest of the game, he was fractions off, most notably on the redirect of Andrew Jacobson’s cross in the 84th that Crew keeper William Hesmer managed to just turn aside, leaving the ball crawling parallel to the goal line before heading wide and out of bounds.  That moment seemed to represent the night of both Le Toux and the Union: good idea, fairly good execution, but poor results.

FWD Alejandro Moreno (5.5)- Ale definitely has a bigger impact, plays a bigger role, and plays better when Danny Mwanga is not on the field.  Unfortunately, the team does not.   And Moreno didn’t quite do enough to convince anyone that matters (i.e. Piotr Nowak) that this is not the case.  It is almost as if he has a mental block on scoring at this point, but it’s definitely not all in his head.  Every gilt-edged chance Alejandro has seen this season ended like the one we saw in the 20th minute, when he first had a shot on that was deflected, then had the clear chance spoiled when he failed to recover fast enough to strike the ball before it could be cleared.  Maybe there’s a metaphor in there somewhere for the 31-year old losing a step, but by now it has become too depressing to even take it.

MID Kyle Nakazawa (5)- Came on for Stefani Miglioranzi in the 41st minute.   While we thoroughly enjoyed the two beautiful balls he served up off of free kicks, both of which should have been goals (one of which became the Le Toux penalty kick call), we did not take as much pleasure in watching Nakazawa repeatedly getting beat in the air and muscled off of the ball.

MID Andrew Jacobson (5.5)- Came on for Fred in the 77th minute.   Probably should have been the substitute for Miglioranzi, given his more physical nature.  Used his energy to create several chances, most notably the low cross that Le Toux redirected only to have Hesmer turn it away and McInerney fail to catch up to it before it trickled across the end line.  More positive stuff from Jacobson as he makes his case to start in the midfield.

FWD Jack McInerney (N/A)- Came on for Justin Mapp in the 83rd minute.  Did not have a significant impact on the game.

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