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Match report: Philadelphia Union 0-1 DC United

 Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

In front of a sellout crowd at PPL Park, Philadelphia Union began John Hackworth’s tenure as manager with all the intent, energy and attacking vigor that was previously lacking from their 2012 performances.

The result, however, was no different as the home side’s inability to convert chances proved costly, with Chris Pontius’ 78th minute strike stealing a 1-0 victory for DC United.

Led from the front by the recalled Jack McInerney and Antoine Hoppenot, the Union could not find the twine beyond goalkeeper Bill Hamid as the final ball was all that was lacking from an otherwise complete team performance.

First Half

With Lionard Pajoy suspended, John Hackworth announced the changing of the guard, calling on Jack McInerney for a surprise start alongside Josue Martinez and Freddy Adu up front.

At the back, the Union welcomed back Sheanon Williams and Gabriel Farfan from a toe sprain and back spasms, respectively. Amobi Okugo kept his place in the center of the Union defense after strong showings in the Open Cup and the recent friendlies in Reading and Harrisburg.

Williams’ return allowed Michael Farfan to move forward into the midfield, alongside the omnipresent Brian Carroll. Michael Lahoud rounded out the trio.

From the opening whistle, the Union showed commitment to possessing the ball through the midfield, and they probed the DC defense early.

McInerney, eager to prove his selection was deserved, did the hard work up top, stretching the United defense at every opportunity, creating a constant threat for the pairing of Brandon McDonald and Dejan Jakovic. In the 12th minute, McInerney got in behind the defense and after having his initial shot blocked, squared for Adu who blazed his effort over the bar.

It was a sign of things to come. McInerney was again at the heart of another Union chance four minutes later. Drifting in at the back post to receive Michael Farfan’s free kick, McInerney’s first touch took him too close to Hamid, who claimed the ball.

Josue Martinez was the next to join the attack, latching onto Adu’s precision through ball. But Hamid was fast off his line, cutting the angle and denying Martinez from close range.

The chances were coming fast and furious for the Union when Michael Farfan found himself in the box with time to measure his shot, curling an effort past the fully-stretched Hamid, but also the far post, and the Union failed to turn early pressure into goals.

In defense, Okugo showed strength and composure in his first start at center back in an MLS match, throwing himself into challenges against Maicon Santos and Dwayne DeRosario. His partner, Carlos Valdes, was playing out an intriguing heavyweight battle with United hitman Chris Pontius, and the two clashed at every opportunity. With the Union pressing high and winning the ball in midfield, the defense remained confident and untroubled, despite the quality of their opposition.

Second Half

The Union were on the front foot coming out of the locker room as they attempted to find the elusive opener. And while they again found themselves in the ascendancy, chances were harder to come by, as Ben Olsen’s halftime adjustments kept the Union from finding the same space in the attacking third.

In a match between MLS rivals, the only true flash point came in the 57th minute when Jakovic flew into a two-footed tackle on McInerney. While the contact was fortunately minimal, the intent was clear, and both sets of players came together before referee Ricardo Salazar issued a yellow card to the offending DC defender.

Hackworth saw the need to add fresh legs to the attack with his side continued to press, and the introduction of rookie live-wire Antoine Hoppenot nearly paid immediate dividends.

Racing onto an Adu pass, Hoppenot accelerated up the left wing. Cutting in for a shot, his effort rang off the near post, with McInerney camped in front waiting for a simple tap-in.

Hoppenot looked for immediate redemption when he worked off of McInerney to set up his own shot, which again failed to find the target.

With so many chances gone begging, it seemed a matter of time before DC United would reply. They were handed their opportunity in the 78th minute by referee Salazar.

With Pontius racing at a flat-footed Valdes, the Union captain went to ground, taking the ball off of Pontius, who fell dramatically. Salazar was quick to award a free kick and a booking to the bemused Valdes.

On the ensuing free kick, Branko Boskovic’s delivery eluded all but the last man, Pontius, who swept home the chance, giving United the lead, entirely against the run of play.

It was a hammer blow to the home side. Despite bringing on Jorge Perlaza for his first appearance with the Union, the home side’s luck in front of goal would not improve. Pressing for an equalizer, Valdes came closest to converting, heading a corner powerfully, but too close to Hamid, who did just enough on the night to keep the Union at bay.

Philadelphia Union

Zac  MacMath; Gabriel Farfan (Jorge Perlaza ’81), Carlos Valdes, Amobi Okugo, Sheanon Williams; Michael Farfan, Brian Carroll, Michael Lahoud, Freddy Adu; Josue Martinez (Antoine Hoppenot ’62), Jack McInerney (Chandler Hoffman ’74)

Unused Substitutes: Chris Konopka, Ray Gaddis, Gabriel Gomez, Keon Daniel

DC United

Bill Hamid; Robbie Russell, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Daniel Woolard; Andy Najar, Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon (Lewis Neal ’61); Dwayne DeRosario, Chris Pontius (Hamdi Salihi ’81), Maicon Santos (Branko Boskovic ’72)

Unused Substitutes: Joe Willis, Emiliano Dudar, Marcelo Saragosa, Danny Cruz

Scoring Summary

78 – DCU: Pontius (Boskovic)

Discipline Summary

26 – PHI: McInerney (Caution)

58 – DCU: Jakovic (Caution)

77 – PHI: Valdes (Caution)

81 – DCU: Najar (Caution)

91 – DCU: Hamid (Caution)


Ricardo Salazar


  1. James Korman says:

    Wow another painful loss. For whatever reason our guys were much more fluid than usual offensively. Great to see…But, no goals again!

    Is it just me, or are were extremely susceptible to set pieces? Does anyone know the percentage of goals we’ve given up on set pieces versus goals conceded during the run of play? I’ll bet it’s lopsided.

    • Adam Cann says:

      5 goals given up from indirect fk or corner (3 and 2 respectively), 5 goals from general play, 4 from open-play crosses, and 1 on what the league terms, “rebound.”

      8/15 goals against have come from headers.

  2. Well, they looked good. That’s what counts for now. They seem to get lost in the final third. They did have some good chances,however, a lot of the attacks seemed to fizzle in the final streach. Almost like: “We got the ball here now what do we do with it?” Well you put it in the net. “But how?”

    They need to keep working. A good team has a good blend of youth and experience, i.e., Man U.

    For now I’m happy with the way they maintained possession and moved the ball. A bit more speed is needed but overall they played well.

  3. Now THIS is how I expected the Union to play when they got rid of LeToux. Quick, possession-oriented, playing on the ground, smart movement off the ball. You can count on one hand the number of bombed long balls hopelessly searching for a one-man band up front.

    Also the defense makes sense without Califf – high line, more commitment to winning balls in midfield, emphasis on speed and possession rather than size and physicality.

    What’s missing are clinical finishing and any kind of threat on set pieces.

    • Yeah, one would have to agree. Work on the set pieces they need to get some results from those especially when nothing else is working. Hopefully, they will continue to develope and play this brand of soccer, that’s the way the game should be played.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      That last line is also what you’d expect to be missing without Le Toux and Califf: Finishing and any kind of presence (offensive or defensive) on set pieces.

  4. Ditto to all. THIS should have been the Union from week one. It was a good team to watch, besides the score of course.
    I am really happy with what I saw from Jack as well. Can anyone seriously make a case for Pajoy at this point?
    Hopefully at this point Hackworth understands the need for consistency and lets this team with this style grow.

    • Well, if they’re going to keep taking the ball to the corner and sending in hopeful crosses, then yes I can make a case for Pajoy. He’s the only one left on the team that’s an aerial threat in the box.

    • Yah Jac Mac looked good. All of the stupid naysayers need to remember that when jac mac plyed on regular basis in 2010, he had the MOST goals per minute played. Hes been a regular on our national u23 team for a reason. Jacmac is due.

  5. So much good to take out of this. Possession, fluid movement, a new look very athletic back line. But it also showed how much work Hack has ahead of him. The lack of finish was difficult to watch. I put some of that to Hamid, who is looking ever bit the next great US goal keeper, but lack of end product has plagued the team all year and one game isn’t going to fix that.

  6. N o w a k s u c k s says:

    I agree lots of positives However No reason to be to excited macmath has to come out and get that ball in the air on the goal.and i dont care how young you are the union produced more chances and dont score on them…….

  7. This is the first game worth watching since last year. Loved the ball movement and player selections. It was also nice to players in their proper spots. The result was tough to take with the amount of possesion. Over aii itwas much better play all around. Hack at least seems to understand the players strengths. now lets find the back of the net.

  8. Thought Hoppenot was great; he made things happen big time. Deserves a start next time…
    Terrible call by the ref on the free kick. Then terrible defending by the Union: seemed there were 2 DC players on the back post with only 1 defender…. One has to man-mark better on these type of freekicks! Also believe Zac Mac should have come out and punched the ball away before it got to the back post.
    While our boys squandered their chances Letoux scored the winner for Vancouver…

  9. Philly Cheese says:

    Although moral victories don’t put points up, I agree that the energy, passing, possession, and shots taken made this an enjoyable game to watch. The young forwards didn’t finish their shots, but they worked hard. Please give them a few games before returning Pajoy returns to the pitch. They need better communication, but that should come with working together under game pressure.

  10. I think we see pajoy in the next lineup. Not happy for it but am preparing for it though I hope that does not mean a change in the 4-3-3 setup.
    Does it hurt anyone else that mapp and letoux both scored this weekend and mwnaga started up top. Wish them well but someone needs to teach the young ones how to finish and not in a reserve game. Hoffman, hoppenot and Mac all had chances and tried to pass over and over again.

    Overall much more enjoyable and hopeful to watch but unless someone finishes we will be the best team on the field and lose over and over again.

  11. Josh of the worst river ward says:

    Mapp with the right foot?

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