Santa Claus was scheduled to make a rare May visit to PPL Park in Chester, PA, on Sunday evening, but then MLS happened. Rather than jubilantly handing out ratings of 8s and 9s for D.C. United against the hapless Philadelphia Union, Santa decided to turn around on the picturesque Commodore Barry Bridge as the events which led to United's 1-0 defeat unfolded. Instead, as we assess the player ratings following the low point of United's otherwise terrific season to date, the ratings we give the players are more likely to befit lumps of coal than the gifts Santa would have given.
Bill Hamid - 7
United's keeper was one of their three best players against the Union. He made some highlight reel saves which almost earned United a point, but he and others were flummoxed by Conor Casey all night long. And on the goal, he was beat to the short side. But, don't lay this loss at Hamid's feet since D.C. should have expected to score at least two goals against the Union's poor defense.
Taylor Kemp - 4.5
Kemp struggled in the first 15 minutes, getting beaten by Sebastien Le Toux twice. He also struggled in the last 20 minutes (plus stoppage) with some weak clearances. In between, he had some nice crosses (he took the free kick which resulted in the United goal that was called back for some reason) and some more shaky defending. Not his usual cool performance.
Bobby Boswell - 4.5
This was an off night for the D.C. United captain. Boswell had his hands full with Union old man/big man Casey throughout the match. Casey used a combination of handballs, body checks, tricky positioning, and soccer smarts to consistently get to the ball before Boswell. On the goal, Zach Pfeffer was equidistant between Boswell and Opare in front of him, with Arnaud behind, but it appears Opare was tracking Casey early and Boswell should have matched up on Pfeffer. But, like the entire defense, Boswell didn't appear to expect Le Toux to dummy the cross, so there didn't appear to be any urgency to closing down the distance to Pfeffer. As always, Boswell broke up some Union attacks using his excellent positioning, but he missed what looked like an makeable header at the end of the first half as well.
Kofi Opare - 7
Opare was also one of the three best United players on the field against the Union. His positioning was generally strong, as were his recovery runs. He missed a bouncing shot off a free kick in the first half, but he was the rock upon which D.C. United's back four were built on Sunday. As was mentioned, he was watching Pfeffer on the goal, but it looks like he had responsibility for Casey so it's hard to pin the goal on him.
Chris Korb - 3.5
I'm a fan of Korb, but this was his worst outing in a long while. He was caught out of position multiple times (or his cover didn't show up in time—I honestly don't know which), he was beaten at times, he made some bad clearances, and he had some bad touches. Shake it off, Chris. This team will need you back at your best.
Michael Farfan - 4
In the first 8 minutes of the game, the Union defense looked shambolic, and Farfan's pressure was one of the reasons (he even created a turnover that he turned into a shot, but it went too high). But as the game progressed beyond that opening period, Farfan (and the rest of the United midfield) had a hard time keeping the ball or generating consistent pressure. Farfan also was the defender faced up against Fabinho when he got off the cross that became the assist on Pfeffer's goal.
Perry Kitchen - 5.5
Kitchen was generally fine, but not great. This was the kind of game I'd have loved to see him take over and will his team to victory. That didn't happen. He was also matched up with Le Toux on the goal, but he was waiting for Le Toux to bring the ball down at this feet before doing what Perry does. Alas, Le Toux had different plans.
Markus Halsti - 4.5
Overall, not bad for his first United minutes, but also not special yet. He was largely quiet for most of his 80 minutes, although he did try a few through balls to spring attackers (particularly Rolfe). Halsti was also called upon to take a set piece, which perhaps we will see more of in the weeks ahead. In the mysterious call which negated the Union own goal which would have given D.C. United the lead in the 65th minute, he was in the scrum which forced Maurice Edu into the errant header (although I still don't see the foul).
Miguel Aguilar - 5.5
I'm basing this rating almost exclusively on Aguilar's shot which hit the post. Besides the non-Union own goal, this was the Black-and-Red's best chance all night and it came off the great work of Rolfe and then the determination and guts of Aguilar. Otherwise, he didn't bring the same energy to the game which we saw on Wednesday against Orlando City, and something seemed to be lacking in the communication with the defenders on ensuring the flanks were properly defended. Right now, I love him off the bench to change the game, but I think there's room for growth as a starter.
Chris Rolfe - 7
The third of the best three players on the field for D.C. United, Rolfe was the most energetic player for the good guys on Sunday. With the exception of the non-goal mentioned above, Rolfe was involved in almost every dangerous play United had. He wasn't able to secure the result for United, but I get the feeling United would have been leaving PPL Park much happier if the rest of the team had played up to Rolfe's (and Hamid's and Opare's) level.
Jairo Arrieta - 4.5
I felt like I was watching a combination of Kyle Porter and Lionard Pajoy. He was active, he was offside more than once, he committed five fouls in United's offensive third. It was weird. It was like 2013 all over again.
Chris Pontius (sub) - 5
Came on for Arrieta in the 59th minute. He appears to be the player called on the non-foul which resulted in the non-Union own goal. Otherwise, he put in a serviceable shift on a poor overall night for the team.
Luis Silva (sub) - 3
Came on for Aguilar in the 65th minute. My notes have three entries for Silva: 79'—bad free kick, didn't get past first line of defenders; 81'—nice through ball to Rolfe (best chance late in the game); 87'—taken off the field due to injury. I can't blame a player personally for an injury, but his injury came after United had used all their substitutions, meaning United played for about 9 minutes in regular time and stoppage time down a man.
Davy Arnaud (sub) - 5
Arnaud plays his heart out every time he is on the field, and that's what he did once he came on Sunday night. On the goal, he wasn't too far from Pfeffer, but Arnaud was clearly responsible for the next line of attackers.
Man of the Match
I'm not sure anyone wants to win this award for this game, but I'll give Hamid a slight nod over Opare and Rolfe. It wasn't his best game due to Casey's physicality, but he gave United a chance to grab a point or steal the win. The team didn't seize the opportunity, however. United won't win a trophy this year on Bill's shoulders alone, but I also think it's clear they won't win one without him.
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