Featured / Union / Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 0-0 Real Salt Lake

Photo: Michael Long

With both Real Salt Lake and Philadelphia Union looking to rediscover their league form, the sides were forced to share the points following a sloppy match at PPL Park on Friday night. Typically billed as attacking sides, both the Union’s John Hackworth and RSL’s Jason Kreis elected to field a solitary striker, creating a stalemate in the center of the park.

Second-half substitutions nearly created some late fireworks, but in a match where neither outfit did enough to grasp control of the proceedings, a 0–0 scoreline was a fair result. In what is becoming an all too familiar refrain in Chester, PA, Hackworth lamented, “Created a couple of really good chances there, unfortunately we didn’t finish.”

First Half

Despite needing three points from the contest, coach John Hackworth took a conservative approach. Dropping his preferred 4–3–3 into what more closely resembled a five midfielder formation, Jack McInerney ran alone up top with support from a rotating threesome of Danny Cruz, Michael Farfan and Gabriel Gomez, the latter returning to the starting XI in place of Freddy Adu. Michael Lahoud and Brian Carroll rounded out a crowded midfield, screening a Union defense that featured Ray Gaddis in place of the suspended Sheanon Williams.

Real Salt Lake came out the faster of the two sides, despite having hosted Panama’s FC Tauro at Rio Tinto Stadium on Tuesday. With the Union playing slowly out of the back, Alvaro Saborio’s pressure saw Amobi Okugo turn the ball over, but Saborio’s shot was weak.

Moments later, Javier Morales won a free kick in a dangerous spot, but the chance came to nothing when Saborio was flagged for offsides.

The Union were struggling to connect their passes in midfield as Real Salt Lake pressed high and forced the issue. And when Carlos Valdes and Gabriel Farfan’s miscommunication resulted in an RSL corner, the visitors nearly pounced. Fortunately, Valdes was quickest to react to a ball that was allowed to bounce inside the 6-yard box, pounding it clear after it rattled dangerously among a sea of legs.

Michael Farfan looked to turn the offensive impetus towards the Union in the 16th minute when he set off on a surging run, beating two defenders before earning the Union their first corner of the night. RSL quickly began to regard Farfan as the danger man for the Union, with Beckerman scything him down moments later.

Despite the success they were finding, the Union continued to rotate their midfield, swapping Gomez, Cruz and Michael Farfan across the middle. Far from the desired effect of confusing their opponents, the constant shifting disturbed any flow the Union were developing and the missed connections began to mount.

A turnover from the Union nearly proved costly in the 30th minute when Saborio earned a dangerous free kick on the counter attack, but Okugo’s defensive header was well-timed to see out the danger.

Okugo and Valdes continued to push higher and, with referee Jair Marrufo failing to reward Javier Morales for a series of increasingly theatrical tumbles, the Union grew in confidence. Still, the Philadelphia side wasted their chances with Gomez, Carroll and Lahoud all guilty of cheap turnovers following strong defensive plays.

As the match wore towards halftime, the Union nearly grabbed a surprising lead following tenacious defensive work from McInerney. Chasing the RSL defense and forcing a deflection, Michael Farfan pounced on the loose ball, skipping past two defenders before playing in Cruz. With the full goal to aim for, Cruz blazed his open shot well over the bar, before crumbling to the ground in disgust.

Second Half

If the first 45 minutes were lacking in intrigue, a flash point early into the second brought a spark to the contest. When the Real Salt Lake defense failed to deal cleanly with Lahoud’s cross, both Okugo and Cruz had a look at the rebound. Neither player saw the other, however, and in the confusion, Cruz’s shot bounced harmlessly to Rimando. Valdes followed the play in on net and when Rimando collapsed to ground after minimal contact, the veteran goalkeeper’s teammates swarmed the Union captain. Referee Marrufo took no measures, but the temperature of the match was ratcheted up a few degrees.

Minutes later, the Union continued to press forward and Michael Farfan released McInerney into the RSL box. But, driving away from goal, his first time effort was easily smothered by Rimando. Content to sit deep and defend, RSL saw the Union lay siege to their box.

Rimando caught Gabriel Farfan’s cross comfortably before Nat Borchers was forced to intervene after Valdes’ cross-field ball picked out Gomez in space. Looking for McInerney streaking in at the back post, Borchers’ header gave the Union a corner.

The pressure continued to mount as Cruz’s delivery into the box curled toward the front post where Ned Grabavoy headed off his line before Okugo mishit his follow-up volley attempt.

Both sides clashed again in the 57th minute when Chris Wingert crashed in on Michael Farfan, scissoring the Union playmaker’s legs in a dangerous tackle. While the Union players were furious with the tackle, RSL was equally displeased with the Farfan’s kick out when he attempted to shake free of Wingert. While referee Marrufo brandished a yellow card for both players, the confrontation dramatically altered the contest with RSL looking to intimidate their younger opponents.

In the play that immediately followed, Real captain Kyle Beckerman continued to play with aggression, first challenging Okugo before clattering into Lahoud.

Though the match became open and frayed, the Union kept their composure as they sought out an opener. In the the 66th minute, Michael Farfan again carved out a chance when he played McInerney into space. Unfortunately for the Union, Borchers continued his sharp defensive play, cutting out the chance before Lahoud could pound it home.

With the Union looking bereft of ideas in the final third, Antoine Hoppenot entered the match as coach Hackworth looked for a player who could finish off one of the Union’s attacking moves.

Hoppenot got his chance in the 80th minute after a dangerous free kick picked out McInerney at the back post. Knocking the ball back towards goal, Valdes latched onto the ball with a bicycle attempt that had the RSL defense scrambling. When the ball fell to Hoppenot, the striker had an open goal to aim for, but scuffed his shot into the ground and another opportunity went begging.

With 10 minutes to play, both sides seemed resigned to a draw. RSL substitute Johnny Steele nearly snatched a late winner when he ghosted in behind Gaddis. Rarely called upon during the previous 84 minutes, Zac MacMath was sharp, flying off his line to get a hand to Steele’s first effort before chasing the play to the endline and pouncing on the ball before Steele could cut it back across the face of goal.

It was end-to-end action in the final minutes, and Freddy Adu, who entered the match in the 82nd minute, had a chance to settle the contest at the other end after a strong run from Michael Farfan. Cutting past two defenders to the endline, Farfan’s cut back rattled around before finding Adu at the top of the box. Foregoing the first time shot, Adu attempted to dribble through two defenders, only to see the ball stripped from his feet.

A tired Real Salt Lake side was holding on against a surging Union attack and Okugo nearly got his first Union goal of the year in stoppage time. After Tony Beltran bundled over McInerney, Adu curled a teasing ball into the box. Slipping free of his defender, Okugo’s first-time volley looked destined for the back of the net, but the retreating Kwame Watson-Siriboe was in the right place to clear the effort.

With their last throw of the dice, Michael Farfan picked out his brother racing up the left wing.  Spotting the cutting Hoppenot, Gabriel Farfan’s ball found his striker in an offside position.

The Union will be back in action on Wednesday when they look to break their four game winless streak against Columbus Crew at  8:00pm at PPL Park.
Philadelphia Union
Zac MacMath; Raymon Gaddis, Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan; Michael Lahoud, Brian Carroll, Michael Farfan, Gabriel Gomez (Freddy Adu ’82), Danny Cruz (Antoine Hoppenot ’71); Jack McInerney

Unused substitutes: Chase Harrison, Chris Albright, Porifirio Lopez, Keon Daniel, Josue Martinez

Real Salt Lake
Nick Rimando; Tony Beltran, Nat Borchers, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Chris Wingert; Kyle Beckerman, Ned Grabavoy (Yordany Alvarez ’74), Will Johnson, Luis Gil (Johnny Steele ’62), Javier Morales (Paulo Araujo Jr. ’86); Alvaro Saborio

Unused substitutes: Kyle Reynish, Chris Schuler, Sebastien Velasquez, Justin Braun

Scoring Summary

Discipline Summary
59 – RSL: Wingert (caution)
59 – PHI: M. Farfan (caution)

Jair Marrufo



  1. Frustrating match all around. The Union had the advantage before the ball was even kicked. RSL played Tuesday then had to fly cross country at the during the ass end of season, and put out a line up that screamed “WE ARE PACKING IT IN” In the second half, they had very little interest in going forward. Were there positives? Sure. Cruz looks like he will fit in, Marfan had a top notch game. But the team needs points, no moral victories. Just frustrating, because RSL could have been had. They were catching them in a good spot.

  2. Was at the game. There were some great moments of individual efforts but as a team effort it was not that great.

    Oh and Cruz is pretty awesome.

    • He worked harder in that game than Pajoy has all year. And yes, you can break down some really solid individual stuff, but they aren’t putting it together. They also really have no plan B. Now, for the first few weeks of the season, they had no plan A either. So you have to credit Hack with getting things together. But they are hamstrung by this roster and by the lack of size up front.

    • Cruz missed a sitter.

      • No argument. He had to finish that.

      • Well… He should have could have but these things happen. the sad part is that that was the sole opportunity pretty much.

      • He did. But he workrate was intense. It seem with a combination of heart, intensity, work, dedication and the ability to brick the easiest of scoring chances the Union have replaced Letoux with 3 or 4 mini Letoux’s.

  3. James Korman says:

    Another game with two near brawls. We are clearly a very scrappy team, which I love, but are we getting a bad reputation with the refs? I personally don’t think we are too dirty but am wondering if the near fights in every game are normal. I don’t watch too many other mls games, are they all this chippy?

    • No. But the young players on the team seem to amplify the drama. Like Marfan kicking out after he was fouled, and creating that mess.

      • Philly Cheese says:

        We are giving away advantages when our retaliation is carded example Jack Mac. Feisty defending of,players may build morale, but is not winning games.

  4. Well…it wasn’t a loss. But against a tired RSL team the Union, playing at home, should have done better.
    Same problem continue to plague the team. MacMath is at times shakey in goal, and the union has no teeth. They seem to be unable to create goal scoring opportunities.
    At this point, part of the impotence in front of goal has to be blaimed on Hackworth. At this point he had the rains for sometime. We need to see improvement.
    RSL came out and put the Union on the back foot for the first 20 minutes. Clearly, RSL was the better team. But playing away and after several fixtures they were not better. Shamefully, the neither was the Union.

    • Nate Emeritz says:

      I agree that several of the negatives have to at least begin to reflect on Hackworth. The team started very slow and sloppy. Not only did they seem to lack cohesion or a plan for developing play, but when there were simple passes to be made they didn’t make them. Individual players should make these passes, but when there are multiple players making the same sloppy mistakes and they show frustration by cutting off runs, it raises the possibility that the coach isn’t prepping the team properly or getting them to accept his approach to the game. Same issue on set pieces- as IL notes, Hackworth’s been in charge for long enough now, players should be motivated to organize, mark up, and attack the ball… I didn’t see it last night and haven’t seen it in previous Union games since he took over. To be clear, players should know how to do all of these things, the coach should provide the motivation, discipline, and clear plan to execute together their skills.

      However Hackworth deals with Adu, he needs to get the team on board with his decision. I thought some of the body language indicated that they’re not too thrilled with Freddy (perhaps understandably). If Adu’s getting a chance to work into whatever system Hackworth decides on, he needs to buy in and be accepted. If Hackworth decides Adu’s a lost cause, he needs to be decisive.
      On that issue, I like Adu’s game but can’t dispute that he has not fit within the Union system (to the extent other players have consistently fit within some system). He had a great run for the USMNT in the Gold Cup last summer in the wide attacking role that he tends to play in Philly. I don’t see why he can’t do it again- although I can easily imagine reasons why he won’t, some of which he would need to fix and some of which other members of the team would need to fix, if any of the reasons actually existed (ego, desire to hold the ball, lack of control by Hackworth, lack of supporting players).

      Marfan had a good game in the middle last night- it would greatly help the Union if he and Adu could develop a working relationship, as it could improve possession, create space and service for MacInerney, and establish some structure and leadership for the team to build on. To the extent that Adu doesn’t respect his teammates (which is not a good reason for his performance), focusing him on playing with Marfan (who is certainly talented and able to play Adu into the game) might be a clearly defined way of testing and supporting Adu’s game. If Hackworth is sticking with Adu, I would make forging this relationship a priority/requirement for both Marfan and Adu.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Adu’s successes during the Gold Cup had a lot to do with the quality of players around him. We lack the talent needed to make use of Freddy’s offerings. He feels that he needs do to it all himself and, simply, does not have the challenging skills to pull it of, rendering him (almost) useless and detrimental to the club.
        Hackworth, in my opinion, is a developmental coach, not a professional manager. I like him on the coaching staff, but I’m not sure there will be much improvement with him as boss. Other options should be explored, that have no ties to the Nowak administration.
        It was said to see that our beloved Union have thrown in the towel, for good, this year. A five midfielder formation showed that we had no intention of going for three points. I would have liked to see us mathematically ellimated BEFORE we gave the campaign up for lost.

      • Nate Emeritz says:

        Agreed. Adu needs to adapt to the roster on any team he’s on, but an effective head coach can/should facilitate that process. That’s part of getting the most out of players, which has certainly not happened with Adu. Whether there’s an issue with personalities or playing styles, coordinating the two most talented attacking players (Adu, Marfan) probably should be (should have been) high on the agenda for Hackworth. There were positive individual performances but fewer instances of extended team development… the coach is responsible for bringing those together.

      • James Korman says:

        Agree with Nate. Adu + Marfan should have been better cultivated. But judging from the recent quotes from Freddy that he was “promised the keys to the offense” and those keys have subsequently been given to Marfan (justifiably) I’m just not sure if Freddy can make the adjustment.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        I thought Marfan spent a good portion of the game making moves that Adu tries to make with mixed success. And Marfan does them 3 times as fast.

      • The problem starts with the ownership group. “Youth movement” means “Cheap”.
        We will be building for the future, and building for the future… for a long time.
        In the end, the fans deserve better. I don’t think there will be a coaching change, unless there is a philosopy change, i.e., they start putting money back into the team instead of their pockets.
        The sad part, as a fan, I don’t feel we have much to look forward to. Some typical uninspired Union acquisitions and more of the same uninspired game play and results.

      • Nate Emeritz says:

        I’d love to see an experienced player who can provide structure and leadership (if not optimal mobility), such as Riquelme, Veron, Giggs (if Kagawa has filled that role now), Zidane (if he’s willing to play a few years), etc.

      • Well… I don’t think they need an old head necessarily. They need an experienced player in goal, and up top (a proven striker), at the very least.

      • James Korman says:

        Ruud Van Nistelrooy = Goals!

      • You know, I also wonder how many legit leagues in the world have teams falling over themselves to scoop up aged players who are retired or one step away from being retired.
        This is a problem with the whole MLS, but it’s a pretty broken state of affairs when DP basically means “find some old ass guy with the biggest reputation who is willing to take retirement tour, give him a lot of money, stick him on your team and hope he works.”
        I wish every DP was a Montero type. Young, talented, plucked from obscurity by superior scouting.

      • Nate Emeritz says:

        It is odd to rely so heavily on players after their prime, but has had successes and makes sense to a point. As to these players, I would pay more and more often to watch Riquelme/Veron than Montero, even at their current ages.

      • The Black Hand says:

        4-2-3-1 last night. Jumbled up an already poor midfield and Jack Mac cannot work as lone striker. If Hackworth is to become manager, he will have to do far better than what has been shown.

      • The Black Hand says:

        We need a sheik!

      • Ill settle for a Russian billionaire

      • or you know… the owner of Comcast.

      • A team can play for a win with any number of different formations. Whatever that formation was, it created some chances and it kept a clean sheet. To my eye, they looked like they were playing to win. Raggedly, confusedly, and desperately at times, but playing to win nonetheless. RSL came out a bit ambitious, but backed off and clearly were looking for a single point.

    • Jeez, what is with this MacMath hating fetish? He was completely invisible last night, in a good way. Nothing happened that was worth calling him shaky at all.

      • Aside for a very dangerous and sill spill that had an excellent chance of being the game winner for RSL and another game loss for the Union. All that work and one spill by MacMath leads to a loss! Yeah thats what all of us want to see.

      • But it was not a loss. It was a draw. Against a superior opponent.

  5. Sean Doyle says:

    Union unbeaten in their last two matches.

    Alway look on the bright side of life.

  6. Here is what I would like from this point forwards:

    Hackworth should keep his interim status and the team should be looking now for possible new hires. At this point, I would characterize Hackworth as a great guy, great motivator, and solid scout of youth players. I don’t think he has shown the guile to manage an MLS side.

    On the field I think the rest of the season clearly now is training for the next. No players that are not going to be with us next year (thinking people like Slopez, probably Daniel) should grace the field.

    Gaddis should start as a fullback and Garfan should move to the midfield. We already know what Garfan can do back there- let’s see if Gaddis can take it to a new level. Then Garfan can have the same opportunity in the midfield, coming out in the second half for one Roger Torres.

    Soumare should start as a center back as soon as healthy and Okugo should move into the midfield as well.

    Cruz should start as a midfielder or forward with Adu coming in as a sub.

    I am OK with JacMac starting every game with Hip coming in as a substitute for either him or another striker. If we are keeping Martinez, he needs to play! If not, Hoffman should play as much as possible without puting his GA status at risk.

    That leaves two players that I love to sadly offer to other teams: Carrol and Gomez. There is no way they can be part of our long term plans when we have Okugo. I think we could get something solid from an MLS team for Carrol and I see Gomez having a market in Central/South America.

    Our primary targets for new players in my view:

    A striker with a resume.
    A solid veteran GK to mentor ours.

    • Agree with the player acquisitions and I’m not entirely sure about Hackworth. He just hasn’t done enough. I know its asking a lot, but there is simply not enough improvement.

      However, its doubtfull that any of that will happen considering the continuing trend from the ownership group.

    • I would agree with all of this. My main takeaway is that I am no longer sure about the 4-3-3. We simply don’t have the dynamic wingers required to take advantage of Jacks runs and make plays in the final third.
      I think Jack is doing a great job, he makes such intelligent runs and opens up space, but there is simply no one making that run behind him or running into the space he creates. Not to mention if he is out wide, then it’s a crapshoot as to whether or not we would have someone in the box waiting for a cross or not.
      THAT is why I am now on board with bringing in another strike. A good one, of course, I don’t want some 34 year old on his retirement tour or anything.
      But two strikers is the way to go for us now, otherwise Jacks skillset is being wasted.

  7. This team is too small(smurflike) and can’t finish. I love the Union however they are unwatchable,dull and rutterless. Hackworth wants league wide respect but this organization (ownership to interim-manager) is 2nd rate when it comes to fielding a team for this sports market. They can run around in circle for 90 minutes and accomplish nothing. Le Toux and Mawanga were the best tandem for this team before the Nowak purge. I hold Sakiewicz and the ownership responsible for the dog and pony show this has become. Adu and Soumare are not going to be consistant impact players with the current roster. McInerney and Hoppenaut are over-rated an best used as subs. This is a 2nd division team in a top sports market. They should have built off of last years playoff appearence. I would trade Adu to NYRB for Le Toux and make moves to bring in quality MLS talent. I would then keep only the young players who are going to step in and perform, not take up space on the bench.

    • Agree; well said.

    • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

      You complain about lack of finishing, then suggest trading for Le Toux!?!?!?!

      • That’s right and if you could widen you tunel vision you would know that the team would adjust to his strengths and yes he would finish! I guess that’s all you derived from my post.

      • James "4-3-3" Forever says:

        Le Toux was a model professional, but lets be honest here. When he was here all we really did was punt long balls towards him. Even beyond the fact he missed his fair share of chances as well, we were never a sophisticated offense with him.
        In fact, I would even argue that Jack makes smarter runs. The only difference is that with Le toux he always had a strike partner able to run into the holes LT created. Jack doesn’t have that.
        Hell, Jack and Le toux are basically the same player. Except Jack is like 6 years younger, has a youth NT pedigree, and I would agree always displays better touch than le toux (not thats its hard to have a better touch than a stone foot like le toux)

  8. James Korman says:

    So I guess Freddie will get his chance to play Quarterback on Wednesday with Marfan out with too many cards?!? This is his chance to show the world what he can do in the #10 role.

    I’d really like to see Josue Martinez play up front as the central forward. He has clearly not impressed as a winger. Before starting giving up on him I’d like to see if we could rekindle his scoring touch up top. He was fairly prolific in that role before we got a hold of him. Didn’t he score a ton of goals as the focal point in Costa Rica?

    Let’s get some answers and see what we’ve got. It may even pay some unexpected dividends.

    • Ed Farnsworth says:

      Good point on Michael Farfan being suspended for Wednesday’s game for yellow card accumulation. Will Freddy be given the No. 10 role?…

      • James Korman says:

        Freddy, Freddy, Freddy….The time is now!

        What if Freddy lights it up as the #10 on Wednesday night? 1 goal and 3 assists in Michael Farfan’s absence? Then what?

  9. Eli,

    I was at the game but when did this happen?

    “It was end-to-end action in the final minutes, and Freddy Adu, who entered the match in the 82nd minute, had a chance to settle the contest at the other end after a strong run from Michael Farfan. Cutting past two defenders to the endline, Farfan’s cut back rattled around before finding Adu at the top of the box. Foregoing the first time shot, Adu attempted to dribble through two defenders, only to see the ball stripped from his feet.”

    I was at the match and watched the replay and something similar to what you described happened but not how you described. Yes, Marfan made an excellent run and cross but a RSL defender headed it to another RSL defender who miss hit it into the air to Freddy at the 18 yard box. Yes, Freddy could’ve first timed vollied it, however, 1. this would be a low percentage shot and 2. Beckerman was closing him out. So, Freddy to split two defenders (lets face it only Freddy and Marfan even try to take defenders on) and an RSL defender had to clear it for a corner before Freddy could get onto it.

    Is the situation I described the same part of the match you wrote about?

    • BTW, I meant went out for a throw not corner….actually sit in that corner and thought it was a corner…

    • I remember this. And that is exactly what happened. The entire river end let out a groan when he did it.

      • well I wasnt on the river end. It happened right in front of me…the way it was described was not how it happened. Yes, he couldve first timed it with Beckerman closing him out, but then you would kill him for taking a low quality shot. Then, he took two defenders on, split them, and before he could get onto the ball another defender cleared it out of bounds…please tell me what Freddy did wrong? Did we play better with him on the pitch, then without him?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *