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Which Union defenders have performed the best this season?

The Philadelphia Union's defense has been bad, but some players have performed better than others at positions.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia Union's defense has been terrible. There's really no way around it - when you concede 43 goals in 25 games, you're terrible.

I ran some analysis on the Union's goalkeepers and defenders to see who (statistically speaking) the best back five would be. To do this, I compiled a list of the results as well as the positions of each player when the goal was scored. I then calculated a GA/90 number (the number of goals scored against the Union per 90 minutes) for each player in each position. Some of the results were a bit surprising.


Goalkeeping was one of the ones that wasn't very surprising. The goalkeeper with the best GA/90 is Brian Sylvestre with 1.58 GA/90. Second best was a bit of a shock though, with Rais M'Bolhi and his 1.8 GA/90 edging out John McCarthy, who gives up 1.875 GA/90.

Player Goals Allowed GA/90
Brian Sylvestre 19 1.583
John McCarthy 15 1.875
Rais M'Bolhi 9 1.8


The best at each defensive position (using GA/90):

Left Back - Ray Gaddis (1.5 GA/90)
Left Center Back - Richie Marquez (1.583 GA/90)
Right Center Back - Steven Vitoria (1.5 GA/90)
Right Back - Sheanon Williams (1.182 GA/90)

If you'd prefer a right back that's still on the team, Gaddis is next with (2.143 GA/90). Also, Vitoria has made only two appearances at the right center back position. Ethan White is only slightly behind Vitoria with a 1.636 GA/90 over eleven appearances at the position.

Defensive sub - Fabinho, Edu, and Marquez all have 0 GA/90. The only player to concede a goal after being subbed on is Ray Lee, with a whopping 167 GA/90 (allowing 2 goals in 12 minutes playing time will do that to you).

Since Williams is no longer here and Gaddis can't play both wings at the same time, the best back four (statistically speaking) would be:

LB - Fabinho (1.67 GA/90)
LCB - Marquez (1.583 GA/90)
RCB - Vitoria (1.5 GA/90)
RB - Gaddis (2.143 GA/90)

Overall, the table looks like this:

Player Left Back GA Left Center Back GA Right Center Back GA Right Back GA Sub GA GA/90 @ LB GA/90 @ LCB GA/90 @ RCB GA/90 @ RB GA/90 @ Sub
Ethan White 18 1.636
Fabinho 23 0 1.667 0
Maurice Edu 7 22 0 1.75 1.833
Ray Gaddis 9 30 1.5 2.143
Ray Lee 2 167
Richie Marquez 19 0 1.583 0
Sheanon Williams 9 13 2.25 1.182
Steven Vitoria 17 3 1.889 1.5

Defensive Units

Often times, defensive units are more than the sum of their parts. So I looked at all of the sixteen permutations the Union had used in the back this year.

Two sets of back fives (GK and all 4 defenders) have had 0 GA this season. Three players are on both sets. Care to guess who those three are?

Brian Sylvestre, Sheanon Williams, and Ethan White were the three players. The lineups were Sylvestre; Williams, Edu, White, and Gaddis (against D.C. United on May 17) and Sylvestre; Fabinho, Marquez, White, and Williams (against New York Red Bulls on May 24). Worst combination should be easy - Sylvestre; Williams, Marquez, Edu, and Williams gave up five against LA Galaxy on June 20. One other line has given up 5 goals - that was M'Bolhi; Gaddis, Vitoria, White, and Williams over the first three games of the season.

The lineup that has played the most (four times) also yielded very good results: Sylvestre; Fabinho, Marquez, Edu, and Williams averaged only one goal against over the four games they played as a unit. That being said, if you want a unit that could conceivably see the field for the Union, the best available is the one we've seen most often in Sylvestre; Fabinho, Marquez, Edu, and Gaddis.

So what does this mean? Just by looking at the data, it's fair to say that the Union gave up a very valuable player in Sheanon Williams. His name came up repeatedly in a lot of favorable places. Another thing to glean from this is that perhaps it's worth taking a second look at Ethan White. Statistically speaking he's one of the best center backs on the team - and the pairing of he and Marquez could allow Edu to push up next to Brian Carroll in the 4-2-3-1 the Union play most often (although that would limit the playing time of Vincent Nogueira when he returns from injury).