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Match report: Crew 2-1 Union

There is a clear difference between playing well and creating chances, and the Philadelphia Union embodied the former on Saturday night.

A controversial (read: very poor) penalty call was the difference as the Union fell 2-1 to the Eastern Conference leading Columbus Crew Saturday night in front of what looked to be 45 people.

The first half was a messy affair. A poorly maintained pitch meant the only usable surface was up the middle. Players on both teams had trouble with control and weighting of passes on the wings. For the Union, this meant Justin Mapp was less effective than usual (insert joke here) while Keon Daniel would drift a few yards inside to open space for overlapping runs. Veljko Paunovic was largely a nonfactor in the run of play, although he would emerge as a reliable aerial target on set pieces.

Philadelphia earned what was to be the first of thirteen corner kicks in the 2nd minute. Strangely, the referee would blow the first two corners dead before the ball arrived, announcing that the Union were impeding Columbus’s meek goalie, Will Hesmer’s, position. This would come into play later when Hesmer would embarrass himself by begging for a third call in the 42nd.

The opening minutes were rough and tumble. The Union found plenty of time on the ball but put on a virtuoso display of misplaced passing and convoluted movement. It looked like Columbus would make Philadelphia pay for their wasteful ways in the seventh minute. Carlos Valdes held Justin Meram onside and the striker broke down the right channel before driving a low cross into the box just in front of the onrushing Emilio Renteria.

The Union responded with a good spell of possession, working the ball from right to left before things broke down.

Neither team had a clear grasp on how to attack the other. The Union strategy was a slow and steady build while the Crew were looking for long, low passes through the center and pushing their wingers high. Danny Mwanga produced a moment of brilliance out of nothing when he collected a bouncer and volleyed forty yards at net. Hesmer acrobatically tipped over for another corner.

It was a confident move for Mwanga, who looked comfortable in a holding striker role.

Things got chippy after Renteria dropped an elbow on Danny Califf’s skull. Gabriel Farfan followed with a loosely disguised return elbow to which Renteria took exception.

For the next fifteen minutes, the Union were the better side. Spurred into action by Garfan’s pluck, they largely controlled the flow of the match without mustering many real chances.

It was all undone in the 37th, when a fine move by Columbus up the left exposed Philadelphia’s defense and opened the scoring. Robbie Rogers broke down the left channel and met a weighted ball from Mendoza with a short chip into the box. Stepping in front of Califf, Valdes, Gabriel Farfan and Miglioranzi, Renteria tapped his finish into the far corner, a slow and tantalizing roller that allowed time for a groan before crossing the goal line.

After his first few failed to find dangerous areas, Le Toux ceded corner kick duties to Neon Keon Daniel. His first corner hit the penalty spot but no Union players thought that would be a good place to hang out on a corner.

Luckily, Daniel swung in another corner in the 42nd minute and Paunovic glided in at the back post to nod home the equalizer.

Columbus goalie Will Hesmer was apoplectic, demanding a foul be called on every Union player who entered the box regardless of race, color or creed. Embarrassed for the frail keeper, referee Mark Kadlecik offered him a yellow card on which to wipe his nose.

The teams went into halftime tied, but the sense was that the Union were one incisive pass away from a lead.

Peter Nowak believed that pass would come from one of his starting eleven and made no halftime changes. The Crew came out the same way as well and Mendoza tried to make his mark with a shot that deflected off Valdes, forcing Mondragon to scramble.

As the second half developed, it appeared the Union would need to finish another set piece to win. Mwanga and Mapp both broke into the opposing half but found little support.

In the 51st minute, Mark Kadlecik completely changed the nature of the game when he pointed to the spot. Robbie Rogers’ cross hit Sheanon Williams arm as he raised it across his chest (as opposed to stretched away from his body). Mendoza’s penalty was deflected by Mondragon but the ball trickled across the line.

Peter Nowak responded by bringing on Freddy Adu and Michael Farfan for Justin Mapp and Danny Mwanga. Of the two, Marfan was the more active. Staying on the wing, he and Daniel offered more structure to the Union offensive set.

It wouldn’t last long though. After two Sheanon Williams’ long throws, Keon Daniel made way for Jack McInerney who pushed Freddy Adu wide.

Once again, Adu spent little time in the middle of the pitch where he was so effective during the Gold Cup.

Paunovic would get the best chance of the second half for the Union off a pretty combination play between Marfan and Williams. Sheanon, who looked a different player with Farfan in front of him, made the wide run and received the pass from Marfan. The resulting low cross only needed a toe poke but Paunovic slid in a fraction too late.

It was head in hands time for the Serb, and the rest of the team could follow suit.

Although Philadelphia showed once again that they can challenge for the top of the conference, the magic that buoyed them in the early stages of the season has gone missing. It’s still around though, waiting for a confident player to take his chance and put the team on his shoulders.

The Union now trail Columbus by six points with a game in hand, and could fall to fourth place if Sporting Kansas City beats DC United on Sunday.


  1. John Fossen says:

    Bitter much?

  2. Another loss where Nowak gets the blame. Why would he leave paunovic and miserable in for a full 90? Where is okugo? Hopefully we can back ourselves into the playlets.

  3. I miss Ruiz…we no longer inspire any fear from other teams. We are seen as beatable. Instead of blaming our coach, let’s blame our mediocre players for failing to create chances and most importantly scoring goals. An objective observer would have agreed with the pk call (defenders are taught to keep their hands on their sides) and would have called Mwanga for fouling Hesmer on our goal. Nevertheless, we continue to leak goals while failing to score…This sucks: 3 out of 15 possible points!!!! No one person can be blamed but rather the ENTIRE organization!

  4. Old Serb strikes again, yet the youngins can’t find the back of the net? Mwanga seems to be having a bit of a slump, after he scored that late goal against the galaxy back in the spring I was hoping we would be seeing that kind of inspired play all season. That intensity and drive seems to be missing.
    I think it would be interesting to see both Mwanga and JackMac up top. Two pairs of young legs, Mwanga driving and Jackmac finishing.
    I know I sound like a homer but I think the PK call is a non call. That ref was definitely doin some home cookin, but we got some last week.

  5. The Crew Kits are hideous, they look like giant yellow bananas running around the pitch.

  6. They really don’t even look like they are playing soccer. Soccer is an exhausting game, and its really exhausting watching the Union play. By the end of the match, I can’t wait for the wistle. Nothing new to say that hasn’t already been said.

  7. We havent won because we are the softest team in MLS. They have not won the physical dimension of any game since week 3. Chew on that!

  8. we just cant score. this was such a bad game of soccer. nowak makes the worse lineups and subs ever. hes a big reason we arent winning next to poor play

  9. May the 4th be with us. :/

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