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April 03, 2017

Too little, too late and some bad luck: Player grades and analysis for D.C. United 2, Union 1

Soccer Union
040317_UNION_PSP Mikey Reeves/Philly Soccer Page

Saturday's loss in D.C. left the Union at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

I'm not going to waste a ton of time analyzing a mediocre road performance.

You saw the same things I did.

The Philadelphia Union, for the second straight game, came out flat, had few ideas going forward, and found themselves on the receiving end of some bad luck. A commendable comeback effort fell short, and a few big saves from goalkeeper Bill Hamid allowed D.C. United to leapfrog the Union in the Eastern Conference basement.

Here are 10 things to think about:

     1. Philadelphia actually out-shot D.C. in this game by a count of 17-9. United scored on a penalty and a deflection while the Union had a tap-in off a rebound.

     2. Hamid saved seven Union shots. Philly logged a season-high nine shots on frame.

     3. The Union won the possession battle 57 percent to 42 percent.

     4. Philly also topped D.C. in passing accuracy, 80 percent to 73 percent. The Union completed 498 passes to United's 363 and lost the game. This is one of soccer's most useless statistics.

     5. Haris Medunjanin led the way with seven key passes. Two came from corners and one took place in his own half when Ilsinho tried to chip the goalkeeper from 50 yards out.

     6. Alejandro Bedoya, playing as a number ten, completed six passes in the final third. He didn't register a shot attempt until the 71st minute of play.

     7. Jay Simpson finished with zero shots and 16 touches in a 59-minute shift. That's one touch every 3.7 minutes.

     8. On the right side of the midfield, Fabian Herbers and Ilsinho have combined for zero shots on goal in 348 combined minutes this season.

     9. C.J. Sapong always seems to play well in the spring. Eight of his 19 Union goals have come in either March or April.

     10. Here are a few charts that show the spacing where Bedoya and Derrick Jones like to operate. You can see the overlap on the combined heat map, which means that they are sometimes occupying the same areas:


Starting XI: Blake; Fabinho, Marquez, Onyewu, Rosenberry; Medunjanin, Jones; Pontius, Bedoya, Ilsinho; Simpson

Jay Simpson: C

He gets a 'C' because he was basically stuck on an island without service.

Simpson showed some early ability to hold the ball and move it side to side, but he doesn't possess the physical traits that allow C.J. Sapong to influence a choppy MLS game.

Chris Pontius: D+

Pontius played the game with a broken hand and finished with one shot attempt and one key pass. He was dispossessed five times in seven dribble attempts and hasn't scored in 2017.

Alejandro Bedoya: C-

He gets credit for another contribution that won't show up on the stat sheet.

Bedoya's 71st-minute shot attempt forced Hamid to make a difficult save, leaving the rebound on the doorstep for Sapong.

I still don't think Bedoya is a ten, and you see that he hasn't been effective until the second half this season. He's not getting on the ball in dangerous areas and he's not finding a way to influence the game from a playmaking position.

Ilsinho: C+

People ragged on Ilsinho after the game, but I thought he was alright.

His dribbling was off, but that's expected with the rust. Just like Pontius, he lost the ball five times in attempted dribbles.

Ilsinho had two shot attempts from outside the box, plus one in his own half, which is no issue for me. Most Union players wouldn't even try something like that, and if the ball goes in, then it's goal of the week.

He did get a yellow card for simulation, which you don't want to see, but at least he was trying to make something happen in the final third, which can't be said for others.

Statistically, Ilsinho only missed on four passing attempts and recovered defensively nine times. He conceded three fouls in the attacking third and was credited with one key pass.

Derrick Jones: B-

An okay game for Jones, who looked frustrated in the second half and picked up a caution for dissent.

One of the telling moments for me was when he had a strong win against Lucho Acosta at the edge of box, brought the ball downfield, then turned it over. Those are the moments where you see the best of Jones while also reminding yourself that he's a homegrown rookie.

One of the problems is that he's running into spacing issues in the midfield, but that's less of his fault and more about the use of Bedoya as a number ten.

Haris Medunjanin: B

Reading some fan comments post-game, people seem to be souring on Medunjanin for some reason.

He's a deep-lying playmaker. He's not a number ten and he's not going to play through balls in the final third and score eight goals per season.

For the most part, he's doing what's asked to do, which is keeping possession, cycling the ball, and playing the occasional line-splitter.

Medunjanin is not the issue with this midfield.

Keegan Rosenberry: C

His distribution has been lackluster to start the season. One sequence saw him drive a low cross towards the top of the box when he had three people to aim for between the posts. Rosenberry connected on one of four crossing attempts, and that one found a player about 10 yards on the opposite side of the box.

Defensively he did fine, so no real issues there.

He did have a great shot attempt in the 64th minute, a left-footed drive that forced Hamid into a really tough low save.

Oguchi Onyewu: B

He was unlucky to take that deflection on the first goal because he hustled to rotate into position when the ball was turned over.

Richie Marquez: C

A tough day for Marquez, who I thought was the Union's best player in the first three games.

On the penalty call, his arm is away from his body, but it's still an iffy call in my opinion.

Later, he takes a knee from Andre Blake and has to leave at halftime with a head injury.

It was the first time Marquez had to leave a match going back to March 12th of last year. He played 3,330 consecutive minutes in that time span.

Fabinho: C

Yea, Fabi deserves his share of the blame for the opening goal, but you also have to point out that Blake served him up a poor outlet pass to start the sequence. Even after Fabinho keeps the ball in play, Onyewu slides to cover and the ball takes a nasty deflection into the net.

Beyond that, Lloyd Sam and Nick DeLeon didn't do much of anything coming up the right side of the field.

Going forward, Fabinho had a crossing attempt that actually ended up as a shot on goal. I'm not sure if he mis-hit the cross or if he meant to catch Hamid at the near post. He had two layoffs for shot attempts and missed on two open play services.

Andre Blake: C

I mentioned the poor outlet pass on the first goal.

Blake didn't have much to do otherwise since D.C. only had three shots on goal. He was very close to saving Acosta's penalty.


45' Jack Elliott: B+

I was surprised when I saw Ken Tribbett in the Bethlehem Steel lineup, which meant that the Union were bringing the West Virginia rookie down to RFK Stadium.

Elliott came in for the injured Marquez and played a calm and collected game. He wasn't asked to do too much, and the guys in front of him stepped it up in the second half, but Elliott kept things simple and got the job done.

D.C. didn't have a second-half shot attempt until the 93rd minute of play.

59' C.J. Sapong: A+

Three goals in three games for Sapong, who looks great coming off the bench.

It's really a perfect role for him since he's coming in to face tired backlines and he isn't knackered himself from spending the first 45 minutes tangling with two central defenders.

76' Fabian Herbers: B+

An instant spark off the bench, he got to the end line twice for a couple of dangerous cross attempts.

At this point, I have no clue if he or Ilsinho should start at right midfield. I'd probably give Ilsinho two more games to see what he can do.

Referee – Ricardo Salazar: C

I guess he was justified in the penalty call, but I could just as easily see him swallowing the whistle because of the short distance between the attacker and defender.

RFK field conditions: F-

The field looked like the surface of the moon.

Union broadcast: F-

It started with audio issues that were eventually corrected. Later in the first half, TCN lost the feed entirely, then accidentally cut to J.P and Tommy sitting in the Philly studios watching the game on a monitor.

I understand why fans want the broadcasters to travel with the team, but it's hard to justify the expense when this team needs money for other things. You can understand, however, why it results in bad optics.