Four weeks into the 2016 season, the Union miraculously sit tied for first place in the East Conference alongside the Montreal Impact and the New England Revolution, whom the Union beat 3-0 just two weeks ago. The Union started out slow losing 2-0 to FC Dallas but followed that up with wins over the Columbus Crew and New England Revolution, both recent MLS Cup runner ups. The Union then lost to the Chicago 1-0 despite controlling the game and dominating in the shots category. But even with the disappointing lose, there is a lot of excitement around this team that hasn’t been seen in years. The defense has solidified and improved, no longer being the league’s worst as they were last year. The Union attack has finally found a sense of purpose and has created a multitude of opportunities the last few games. But here we are going to take a look at how each player has done in the first month of the season. Here is how they will be graded:
1 – not a pro (USL/NASL/MLS) quality performance
4 – average USL starter
6 – average MLS starter
9 – MLS All Star
10 – MLS MVP-quality performance
Let’s start in the back:
Andre Blake, Goalkeeper: 9
Blake is enjoying a breakout year for the Union currently sitting at fourth in the league in saves at 17 and second in the league in save percentage among starting goalkeepers that have played every game for their club. Up for MLS Player of the Month for March, Blake is a big reason for the defensive revolution for the Union and it would be a disgrace if he did not receive an All-Star nod if he continues his high level of play.
Fabinho, Left Back: 5
With Fabinho, you win some and you lose some. Considered by some to be the best Left Back in MLS last year, he has also proven that he can be a defensive liability as seen when he was torched by FC Dallas’ Michael Barrios in Week 1. He can have some solid performances but at 31 his speed is starting to decline and the Union should look for an improvement as soon as possible.
Ken Tribbett, Center back: 6
The surprise of the offseason, Tribbett has risen from Drexel University player to Bethlehem Steel signee to Philadelphia Union starter. Despite some bumps in the first game against Dallas, Tribbett has been very solid in the back for the Union and has proven himself as someone the Union can count on moving forward. His chemistry with Richie Marquez improves with each passing game and these two can provide the Union with a rock in the center defense for years to come.
Richie Marquez: 7
The surprise the season last year, Marquez has picked up right where he left off. The big ball winner for the Union, Marquez has shut down some of the best strikers in the league and captains the young backline for the Union. One of the most underrated players on the team, Marquez has played a key role to keep the Union on the positive side of goal differential this season.
Keegan Rosenberry: 8
Many people were unhappy at taking Keegan so high in the draft this January but he has proven he was absolutely worth being the number three overall pick. He had to cover MLS All Star wingers (Fabian Castillo, Ethan Finlay, and Diego Fagundez) in his first three games and performed admirably. He is quickly becoming the team’s best one on one defender and he provides a great option going forward. In addition, he revealed that he can perform long throw ins when he set up Chris Pontius’ goal against Columbus. Union fans can remember Sheanon William’s four assists from throw ins in 2013 and realize how much of a weapon Keegan can be for the future.
Brian Carroll: 5
“Old Man Carroll” was only supposed to be a depth option this year and see the field only sparingly as he played out what is likely the final year of his lengthy career. But injuries to Maurice Edu and Vincent Nogueira have resulted in Carroll playing every single minute for the Union this year. An experienced veteran with little upside, especially in the attack, Carroll is serviceable but the Union are really looking forward to getting their starters back.
Warren Creavalle: 6
Warren Creavalle has been a polarizing figure over the last couple of weeks. Against the New England Revolution, he patrolled the midfield and stopped most New England attacks in their tracks. He looked like he could push to earn the long term starting job at center defensive mid. But against Chicago he made two bone headed, unnecessary challenges that resulted in a yellow card and a straight red card. The Union had been dominating the Fire until Creavalle was sent off but afterwards things unraveled and the Fire took away a 1-0 win. Creavalle has proven he can be a good defensive contributor but needs to make better decisions moving forward.
Sebastien Le Toux: 7
Sebastien once again has continued to defy his age and be a major contributor to the Union. At 32, he now spends most of his time on the bench, but when he comes in he makes an instant impact. He uses his signature speed to rush past tired defenders, as shown with his goal against the New England Revolution. Sebastien has proven time and time again he can contribute to the team in any role that is required of him.
An experienced soccer veteran, Ilsinho struggled when asked to play centrally for the Union but his thrived out wide taking on defenders one on one. He was significant playmaker for the Union in the preseason and it is only a matter of time until he finds himself in the box score on consistent basis.
Roland Alberg: 6
Alberg started the last few games for the Union and while he personally has not radically changed the game, but the team has looked a lot looser and created more opportunities with Ilsinho out wide
Chris Pontius: 8
Chris Pontius started up the offense this season scoring two goals against the Columbus Crew to lead the Union to their first win of the season. Pontius has proven on several occasions that he is savy MLS veteran and knows how to win in MLS. He also provides the Union another aerial attack on offense and we can expect him to be a target on set pieces moving forward. If Pontius keeps up his hot start, he could return to his All Star form and DC will regret trading him to the Union.
CJ Sapong: 9
As the do everything striker for the Union, it was good to see Sapong record his first brace since 2013 against the New England Revolution. He is a hard working player both on offense and defense and looks to create opportunities for his teammates when he does not have an open shot. He has developed a good feel for Jim Curtin’s scheme and his presence in front of the goal has proven to be deadly and distracting for other teams. Many people picked CJ to score 15+ goals this season and he looks more than capable of doing just that.
Leo Fernandes: 4
In 2014, Fernandes came out of the gate and dazzled Union fans with his playmaking abilities. After spending 2015 on loan to the New York Cosmos and winning NASL Player of the Year, many people thought Leo would engage a higher gear this season but so far it seems he has regressed. He looks stale and lacks chemistry with his teammates, his passes are hesitant and he doesn’t seem prepared for the pressure of MLS defenders. He was loaned to Bethlehem Steel for their home opener which is a good place for him to rebuild his confidence before rejoining the first team.
Vincent Nogueira: 5
Vinny has only played one game for the Union this season and that was the 2-0 beat down of the Union by Dallas. It is unfair to dock Vinny for such a poor team performance and then his injury but he will rebound has he has been arguably the Union’s most valuable player of the last two seasons.
Anderson Concecaio: 4
Anderson started and played 90 minutes against FC Dallas and looked woefully out of place. He was constantly having to chase down Dallas attackers from behind and losing ground doing so. He has a big body but is very slow and other players can run circles around him. He seemed unsure of his role and lacked chemistry with his teammates. Time will tell if he can step up but for the time being should remain on the bench or be sent the Bethlehem.
Fabian Herbers: N/A
Herbers has not played enough yet this season to accurately give him a rating
Tranquillo Barnetta: N/A
Tranquillo has not played enough yet this season to accurately give him a rating.
Photo: Harrison Afful-Getty Images