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April 09, 2016

Union 2, Orlando 1: Player grades and analyzing Barnetta's beautiful goal

Soccer Union
040916_union_PSP Earl Gardner/Philly Soccer Page

Orlando City goalkeeper Joe Bendik was rooted to the spot on Tranquillo Barnetta's game-winning goal.

At times in the past, the Philadelphia Union were simply lacking quality on the field.

It doesn't mean that the players were bad, or that the coaching was bad. It just means that game-changing moments of brilliance were few and far between.

Case in point – Tranquillo Barnetta's beautiful, curling, crossbar-raking, game-winning free kick goal. It's going to be the goal of the week, and it was the difference between three points and one point on Friday night. You wouldn't have seen something like that from the 2015 Union.

For 24 hours, Philadelphia will sit atop the Eastern Conference table. Three wins in five games means that Jim Curtin's club is already one-quarter of the way towards matching the franchise record of 12 wins, which was set by the 2013 team.

Mr. Barnetta, tear down this wall

This is the best angle of the game-winning goal. Watch it about a million times.

To me, the most intriguing thing about the goal was how Philly set their own wall, and placed it in an offside position. Barnetta was asked post-game why they tried that technique.

“Actually I don’t know," the midfielder admitted. "I wasn’t (in on the design). You saw the keeper, he had no view to the ball and it was a little bit confusing for them, because they saw that the wall was offside, but they stepped two yards forward when I shot it. I think that's a really good idea to take the view off the keeper."

Curtin said afterward that the offset wall idea was inspired by another club.

"Our entire staff works very hard on restarts," the manager explained. "B.J. Callahan specifically is the point man. We have a good catalog of things. We’ve spent a lot more time and have been working on them a lot more. The second wall, if you will, the timing of that gives a distraction. It's something we picked up from another team that was successful with it. It provides a little bit of a different look. We checked with the linesman on the first time we did it when Tranquillo hit it way over, just to make sure the wall wasn’t offside and there wouldn’t have been an issue. It was good, and the second time they executed it well. We were fortunate to get two fouls from the same look."

A false 9 sense of security

Orlando manager Adrian Heath said he didn't make any subs until stoppage time because he didn't want to lose the shape of his team.

That shape was a "false 9", predicated by the absence of striker Cyle Larin.

In this design, Kaka sort of operates as a withdrawn forward, which requires wingers Adrian Winter and Kevin Molino to pinch and get forward. It was successful for a large stretch of time in this game, with Winter scoring before halftime and coming close to a second goal on a few more occasions. Philadelphia struggled on the right side, with Keegan Rosenberry and Ken Tribbett playing against a structure that you really don't see too much in world football.

Here's how Orlando played for 89 minutes:



Starting XI: Blake, Fabinho, Marquez, Tribbett, Rosenberry; Carroll, Nogueira; Le Toux, Alberg, Pontius; Sapong

C.J. Sapong: A-

Started the game with aggression and got his goal by being in the right place at the right time.

He had a chance to get another one in the 53rd minute, with a fortuitous bounce inside the box, but Joe Bendik was quick to react and save the effort.

Sapong put in another tough shift, and saw his effort impact the score sheet.

Sebastien Le Toux: C

Some good and some bad for Le Toux, who seemed to counter every good touch with a bad touch, and every good hustle play with an underwhelming decision. It was Seba's first start of the year, in for Ilinsho, who picked up a midweek hamstring injury.

Roland Alberg: C-

Alberg seemed off in this game. He managed one shot, which was off-balance from about 25 yards out. He stayed in his central spot and didn't show a lot of support for either winger.

This looks like the classic case of a new player having yet to jell with new teammates.

Chris Pontius: B

Pontius put in a nice shift. He probably could have hit that 38th minute shot with his right foot, but elected to put it on his stronger left and got a nice look at goal.

He may have pushed off on the second half set piece that lead to a Tribbett scoring chance. Either way, it was a great knock down across the box and could have earned him an assist.

Vince Nogueira: B

This was Nogueira's first start since the season opener, and he looked very comfortable out there. He sprayed a bunch of those signature diagonals all over the field, and didn't turn the ball over. I'd still like to see him get forward a little bit more.

Brian Carroll: B

A smart, savvy, and solid game from the captain, who is pushing 350 career MLS appearances.

Fabinho: C+

He wasn't challenged early in the game, then picked up a yellow with a rash challenge from behind on Molino.

Fabi started the second half with a beastmode run down the left flank, which ended with a good cross into the box. He benefited from Orlando's tendency to overload the opposite side of the field, which didn't put him in too many difficult situations against Molino and Rafael Ramos.

Richie Marquez: B

Aside from a first half slip and recovery, he didn't have any shaky moments. Marquez is good for at least one crunching tackle per game, and this time we saw it around minute 79 against Winter.

Ken Tribbett: B-

Held up well when Orlando began to overload his side of the field early on. Tribbett showed enough speed to keep up with Kaka on a driving run, then made an acrobatic clearance about 5 minutes later.

He nearly put one into his own net about 35 minutes in, and was lucky to see the ball go wide. On Orlando's goal, he got pulled out and missed on a challenge, which allowed Molino and Winter to get inside with Marquez and Rosenberry attempting to rotate.

Keegan Rosenberry: C

People will criticize Rosenberry for struggling defensively, and that's fine, but his second-minute cross was superb, and basically created the first goal.

On Orlando's equalizer, he's tasked with rotating to pick up Adrian Winter when Tribbett steps forward on a challenge. It's really hard to put too much blame on Rosenberry, because Winter's first touch was phenomenal.

The rookie right back will become better in weakside coverage, but his offensive game is already at a high level.

Andre Blake: A

One week after his average game in Chicago, Blake was his normal self, commanding the box and grabbing mostly everything out of the air.

He had a huge save on Winter in the second half, when the Swiss winger inexplicably blasted a shot right at him from seven yards out instead of slotting it to the left or right.

Then, in stoppage time, he preserved all three points with another brilliant stop on Winter from an even shorter distance.


63' Fabian Herbers: C

He had a chance in front but couldn't get much on a difficult hip-swivel and snap-shot.

63' Tranquillo Barnetta: A

Aside from the brilliant goal, he looked a little sharper tonight than he did in Chicago. Barnetta still isn't fully fit, and should assume the starting CAM spot when he's 100% back to normal.

85' Leo Fernandes: N/A

It shows you've got good depth when you can bring a guy like Leo off the bench in the 85th minute.

Referee - Jair Marrufo: B+

No game-changing decisions in this one. Marrufo let both teams play, and seemed content to allow a few borderline fouls and yellow card challenges go uncalled.