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July 21, 2016

New England 1, Union 1 (4-2 pens): Grades and analysis for a shootout loss

Soccer Union
072116_union2_PU Courtesy: header Philadelphia Union/for PhillyVoice

C.J. Sapong battles with Je-Vaughn Watson during the Union's U.S. Open Cup match against the New England Revolution.

After all of that, a couple of poor penalties made the difference.

The Union crashed out of the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday night, falling just short of a third-straight appearance in the semifinals of the tournament.

It's a shame for Philly, which didn't start well, but found a way to scratch and claw its way back into this game. On an offensively stale night, Andre Blake kept his team above water long enough to snag a stoppage-time goal – only to watch ex-Union goalkeeper Brad Knighton to get the last laugh with a pair of shootout saves.

In a way, the loss could be a blessing in disguise for the Union, who can now turn their full focus to the playoff race instead of juggling two competitions at once. In years prior, Jim Curtin's team didn't have much else to play for while pushing for the U.S. Open Cup trophy. After losing both finals in consecutive years, the season was pretty much done.

This season, Philly can regroup, recalibrate, and concentrate on getting into the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

Communication breakdown

What happened on the goal that New England scored just before halftime?

It looked like all 11 Union players collectively fell asleep on a routine set piece.

In fact, everyone in the stadium was caught off-guard, as the Revs' broadcast tried to cut to live action to pick up what was happening.

In truth, everybody is to blame for that defensive breakdown. Blake needs to be yelling, and screaming, and pointing out a guy who is simply standing to the side of the wall, unmarked.

Center backs Richie Marquez and Ken Tribbett should be organizing, pointing out assignments, and directing midfielders and forwards who have dropped in to help with dead ball defense.

And the guys on the end of the wall need to realize what's going on as well. Fabinho tries to peel off at the last minute, but Ilsinho seems to be standing in no man's land, not really covering anybody.

Here's what Jim Curtin said about the goal:

"At the end of the first half, we fell asleep on a restart. I think that's disappointing to give up a goal like that, where we have numbers back. Guys switched off for a second. It's always, for me, the center backs' job to be screaming and organizing and making sure nothing happens. Ilsinho fell asleep for maybe a second and they played it short and caught us."

Here's a screen grab from that goal, where you can see how Ilsinho and Barnetta are stacked on top of each other:

/for PhillyVoice

You can see that Barnetta and Ilsinho are not ten yards away from the ball, but there's nothing wrong with that. New England can play quickly if they spot this sort of opportunity.

In most cases, a referee will not interfere with this type of play. The only time he or she might blow the whistle is if the attacking team specifically asks for 10 yards of space. In that situation, the ref will usually walk off the 10 yards, move the defenders back, then whistle play to restart. The attacking team can't play a quick restart while the ref is asking defenders to move.

In this situation, it's impossible to tell, because the broadcast didn't pick up the pair of Revs standing over the ball before the pass to Watson was made.

Digging deep for a late equalizer

On the equalizing goal, there's a lot of great stuff going on.

It really begins all the way back in Fabinho's corner of the field, with a simple throw-in and layoff back to the Brazilian.

It looks like Fabi just lumps that clearance forward, but I think he was definitely aiming for that side of the field. On the switch, the Union have numbers moving forward and Sebastien Le Toux, who doesn't win a lot of headers, does very well to flick on for Ray Gaddis, who was smart to quickly get up the field.

Gaddis moves the ball forward, and does a nice job to keep the play alive in two different situations, first with a triangle that involves Fabian Herbers, then second with that low cross on the end line.

Le Toux then acts like a target forward for the second time, with a trap, turn, and left-footed dink for Herbers to bring down and volley home.

It's really a brilliant goal all-around, and it starts in the opposite corner of the field.


Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Blake; Fabinho, Marquez, Tribbett, Gaddis; Creavalle, Barnetta; Ilsinho, Alberg, Pontius; Sapong

C.J. Sapong: C+

Early on, he had that great run behind Sambinha that earned a yellow card for the New England center back and gave Philly a great restart opportunity.

As the game progressed, he continued to play his typical center forward game, but just couldn't get enough meaningful touches in meaningful areas.

His penalty miss in the shootout essentially ended Union chances of advancing.

Ilsinho: B

He played the great one-touch pass to spring Sapong for an early chance.

Later, he had a half-chance on a Fabinho cross that just missed Sapong, but he could only aim a header at the far post, which was blocked by Sambinha.

Ilsinho really started to heat up in the second half and had some excellent interchanges with Alberg and Sapong that lead to a couple of half-chances. He also hit a wicked shot in extra time that clipped the crossbar.

Defensively, he deserves part of the blame for falling asleep on New England's goal.

Roland Alberg: C

Again, not enough meaningful moments for Alberg in the first half.

The set piece delivery could have been better, and he gave up defensively on a counterattack that could have resulted in a New England chance.

His best contribution came in the second half, when he took a touch, beat a defender, and played in Ilsinho for a close-range effort that the Brazilian couldn't poke past Knighton.

Chris Pontius: C

Not enough touches for Pontius, which has been the case in many games this season. He doesn't need a ton of touches to influence the game, but he just never really got involved in this one.

Tranquillo Barnetta: C+

Two early giveaways for Barnetta, who was slow to start.

At the beginning of the second half, he got a look on goal from a designed corner kick peel play, but couldn't get enough on a header from about 10 yards out.

He made a great run in the 54th minute, but he just couldn't pick out Sapong on the final pass inside the box.

Barnetta is clearly better in the #10 spot, but someone has to play the #8 after the departure of Vince Nogueira. There's going to be a learning curve here.

Warren Creavalle: C

It's the same story with Warren Creavalle. He's a hard-working, ball-winning midfielder who doesn't distribute the ball cleanly enough.

Fabinho: B

He saw a lot of the ball in this game and did a lot of defending. For the majority of the game, he was very sharp.

The play that stood out to me was a Revolution counterattack, where he did well to stay shoulder-to-shoulder with Kei Kamara and force the striker into a backheel pass for a late-arriving teammate.

Richie Marquez: B+

It looked like he could have stepped quicker to close down Kamara on that early scoring chance around the 11th minute.

He may have saved a goal about 10 minutes later when he stuck out his trailing leg to keep Rowe from getting on the end of a Kamara return pass.

For the most part, he played a smart and solid game.

Ken Tribbett: B-

He got tangled up with Gaddis on a play inside the box early in the game. Thankfully for the Union, Kamara couldn't free himself for a chance at the loose ball inside the box

Later, he attacked the near post on a set piece play and appeared to whiff on a cross that Gaddis put across the goalmouth.

His best play of the night may have come just before halftime when he hustled to beat Kamara to a loose ball on the goal line after Andre Blake had parried with a diving save. That prevented the Revs from doubling their lead with another quick goal.

Ray Gaddis: B-

On the first half set piece chance, I thought he took way too much time to get the cross off, yet somehow found a way to get a dangerous ball across the box

It wasn't always convincing from Gaddis on the defensive end, but he got the job done and made the necessary plays.

In the second half, he deserves a ton of credit for his role in the Union equalizer.

Andre Blake (man of the match): A


66' Fabian Herbers: B+

For the second-straight game, Herbers came in at the #10 position.

He seems to operate well from that withdrawn spot, and you can see how that little wrinkle put him in two good positions on the equalizing goal, first with the check-back and layoff, then with the late run on the finish.

66' Sebastien Le Toux: B

It was an excellent hold and turn on the equalizing goal. Plus, the aerial win on the Fabinho clearance really sparked the run of the right flank.

That's not Seba's game, but he looked incredibly composed in both of those moments.

Surprisingly, he missed a penalty in the shootout, which has only happened once before in his Union career.

76' Leo Fernandes: B-

He had a golden chance to score the go-ahead goal but just couldn't stuff it in at the beginning of extra time.

Referee: Sorin Stoica: C

There's always something with Stoica. In this game, he was inconsistent with his foul calls, which lead to a bit of unraveling as the game entered extra time.

Revolution broadcast: A

Good picture, good audio, good graphics, and the first-choice broadcast team of Brad Feldman and Paul Mariner on the web stream.

It's unfortunate that they couldn't pick up the entire sequence leading to the Revs' goal, but that happens even on professional television broadcasts. This was an enjoyable experience for a game that I had to watch on Youtube. It just would have been nice for the Revs to find a grass field to play on.