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Match report: Philadelphia Union 0-1 DC United

Photo: Earl Gardner

It was a former Philadelphia Union striker, Lionard Pajoy, who scored the lone goal Thursday night, condemning his former club to their eighth straight match without a win. While the Union’s much maligned attackers again failed to find the back of the net, it was the lack of creativity and playmaking out of the midfield that cost the home side. With neither side capable of carving out clear chances in the first half, Pajoy finally broke the deadlock in the 67th minute, lashing home a volley after Chris Pontius’ had gotten behind Gabriel Farfan. Though the Union threw numbers forward after the goal, it was not enough and they again were held scoreless. Opponents have now kept a clean sheet against the Union in five of their last 10 league matches.

First half

After the most recent installment in a string of disappointing offensive performances, John Hackworth made three changes to the side that drew 1–1 in Toronto. Antoine Hoppenot joined Jack McInerney and Danny Cruz up front with Freddy Adu dropping to the bench while Gabriel Gomez and Keon Daniel teamed with Brian Carroll in midfield, replacing Michael Lahoud and the suspended Michael Farfan.

With DC United in the heat of the Eastern Conference race, the Union entered the match with a chance to play spoiler against their I-95 rivals. Having suffered the loss of captain Dwayne De Rosario to a knee injury, manager Ben Olsen handed the midfield keys to veteran Montenegrin playmaker Branko Boskovic. Surrounded with attacking talent in the likes of Chris Pontius, Nick DeLeon, and former Union striker Lionard Pajoy, United entered the match with everything to play for.

Both teams began the match tentatively, however, with lofted balls and aerial ping-pong the story of the opening minutes. With the Union comfortably corralling Pajoy up front, they were ineffective in the build up, with the trio of Gomez, Daniel and Carroll all sloppy in possession.

United were the first team to find their comfort zone, but shaky goalkeeping and defending gifted the Union early chances. First, a simple cross from McInerney had to be scrambled away after Bill Hamid mishandled. Next, Brandon McDonald’s casual play at the back allowed Gomez to pick off his clearance, setting up Hoppenot to chip through DC’s defense for McInerney, only to see the play brought back for being offside. The regularly solid DC keeper continued his rough evening when he flapped at a corner in the 18th minute. With the ball bouncing invitingly on the edge of the six yard box, three Union players converged, but the chance went begging when a lack of communication allowed United to scramble clear without conceding a shot.

Despite DC’s growing possession stats, they failed to test the Zac MacMath outside of Pontius’ 20th minute free kick, which the Union keeper easily beat away. At the other end, Gomez sent Sheanon Williams on a run up the right flank and the fullback picked out the streaking Hoppenot at the near post, but the striker’s first touch was too heavy, taking the ball out of play with only Hamid to beat.

McInerney had the next Union chance when he charged down a clumsy touch from Hamid, but the keeper kept his wits about him and got his body behinds McInerney’s attempt to poke home.

For the Union defense, Okugo and Valdes were having little trouble dealing with the threat of Pajoy, sliding off of the lone striker to smartly intervene on Pontius and DeLeon as well.

Second half

Trying to improve on a first half in which they failed to register a shot on goal, the Union came out chasing the game after halftime. Gomez found McInerney quickly, but the striker couldn’t get the ball out of his feet, shooting tamely at Hamid. McInerney then dummied into the path of Cruz, who also failed to get much behind his shot.

With Gomez and Daniel sitting too deep in midfield, McInerney was forced into an attacking center midfield role as he tried to be the creator the Union so desperately required. In the 52nd minute, Okugo picked McInerney out in midfield. Seeing the defense sitting deep, the Union No. 9 unleashed a powerful, dipping blast that Hamid spilled to the feet of Hoppenot. That Hoppenot could not beat the prone Hamid was of no matter, since the rookie striker, making only his second start, had strayed offside.

Having failed in their early bid for a second half opener, DC had the next swing of attacking chances. After DeLeon skipped past Carroll, Okugo did very well to hold him off, cutting off the pass before forcing the winger to blast a hopeful ball well wide. Pajoy was next on the scene, slicing behind the Union defense to touch Boskovic’s curling service just over MacMath’s bar.

Looking to retain the momentum, Olsen brought on a second striker and Maicon Santos got himself directly into the action. Racing in behind the Union defense, MacMath had to be alert, leaving his area to slide the ball clear with the fresh-legged substitute lurking. Carroll’s defensive pressure was just enough to put off Santos moments later when the big forward powered past Okugo before banging his shot wide of the mark.

In the 67th minute, Santos started the break that led to DC’s opener. With the Union recovering from an ineffective corner kick, Santos’ long ball hooked behind Gabriel Farfan into the path of Pontius. With Farfan beaten to the end line, MacMath decided too late to come off his line, giving Pontius time to chip his cross into the center of the box to Pajoy. With time to settle and find his balance, Pajoy smashed his volley into the back of the net with the Union defenders helplessly looking on.

Searching for an equalizer, Hackworth took off Gabriel Farfan for Chandler Hoffman, moving the Union into a 3–4–3 formation. Minutes after DC’s goal, Josue Martinez nearly brought the Union back level after Valdes flicked Gomez’s corner into his path. But delaying on the ball too long, Hamid recovered to smother the effort at the far post.

While the Union pressed bodies forward at every opportunity, they lacked the creativity to break down the organized DC defense. Freddy Adu added some quality off the bench and Martinez just missed out on nodding home after Hoffman flicked on Adu’s curling service four minutes from time.

McInerney continued to fight with the much larger Jakovic and McDonald, rising above the former to nod down Williams’ cross, but Hamid got his body comfortably behind the effort. Martinez was next to try his luck, but his low, worm-burning shot skipped past both Hamid and the far post.

Pontius had a chance to finish off the match in the 90th minute, but Valdes slid across to end his surging run into the Union box.

With their last throw of the dice, the Union barged their way into Hamid’s area with stoppage time running down. Still the Union could not manage a shot on target before the United goalkeeper could smother the loose ball.

The Union will look to break their winless streak on Sunday afternoon when Houston Dynamo visit PPL Park at 4pm.

Philadelphia Union
Zac MacMath; Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Carlos Valdes, Gabriel Farfan (Chandler Hoffman 70); Brian Carroll, Gabriel Gomez (Freddy Adu ’77), Keon Daniel; Danny Cruz, Jack McInerney, Antoine Hoppenot (Josue Martinez ’57)

Unused substitutes: Chase Harrison, Raymon Gaddis, Michael Lahoud, Roger Torres

DC United
Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Brandon McDonald, Dejan Jakovic, Chris Korb; Chris Pontius, Perry Kitchen, Branko Boskovic (Maicon Santos ’57), Lewis Neal, Chris Pontius; Lionard Pajoy

Unused substitutes: Joe Willis, Robbie Russell, Ethan White, Raphael Augusto, Emiliano Dudar, Hamdi Salihi

Scoring Summary
67 – DCU: Pajoy (Pontius)

Discipline Summary
None

Referee
Baldomero Toledo

PHILADELPHIA UNION

D.C. UNITED

Goals

0

1

Attempts on goal

14

7

Shots on target

5

2

Shots off target

4

4

Possession

58%

42%

Corners

5

2

Fouls

13

14

Offsides

3

4

Total passes

461

335

Passing accuracy

83.5%

76.1%

Yellow cards

0

0

Red cards

0

0

 

 

34 Comments

  1. James "4-3-3" Forever says:

    …I fear we got rid one of one tactical moron and replaced him with a tactical idiot, guys.
    Daniel AND Gomez? Those are two guys who only have the words “Mediocre” and “Painfully average” next to their skill set. Theyre best ability is clogging a midfield, and NIETHER had the sort of direction or skill to take control offensively.
    It was painful that even with all these changes, Jack Mac still was so starved of service he was dropping back enough to count as a midfielder.
    Which is really only one of two positives last night. I thought Jack did well with how he could; obviously he is a striker but he hasn’t been so overwhelmed with our lack of quality that it gets to him. His ability in dropping back and playing quick touches seems to improve every game. He was practically out best midfielder last night.
    And Okugo had another mostly great game and his train is really starting to speed up. I STILL want to see him in that holding mid spot, but really he is getting some A+ experience back there.

    • I hear you, but our options are really limited. Torres has looked awful/horrendous/not-MLSworthy since returning from injury. Adu is still not viewed as a 90 minute guy by this staff — I’m really starting to shift over to Adu’s side on this. Awful finishing on a couple of very good balls from him and lack of good runs for him last night. Marfan obviously not available due to YC.
      —————
      Amobi, rightfully, was getting all sorts of love from the broadcast team last night. Would not be surprised to see him on a team outside the US by the summer of 2014.

      • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

        Torres has played a total of 45 minutes spread over 4 appearances since returning from injury. That’s not enough time to deem him a complete lost cause. Adu should have started, but right after him should have been Torres. Both have more to offer offensively than what was put out there.

      • In at least two of those appearances, he directly negatively contributed. In the other two, he looked entirely ineffective. Quite frankly, if he had more minutes/appearances, he might have done more damage. At this stage, I’d say we are almost better off not putting him (or Soumare) on the field this season and focusing on a full return to health for next season.

      • James Korman says:

        I agree with Eli. Adu should have started. With Marfan dq’d Freddy “would have had the keys to the offense” and I for one would have liked to see him in that role. We have nothing to lose.

        …and when our offense was sputtering they should have brought in Torres.

        I was initially intrigued by the deployment of Gomez in the attack because early in the season he WAS one of our biggest offensive threats (check the stats!) It did not seem to work.

        I have absolutely no idea what Coach Hack will try next?!? He obviously ain’t messing with the D. I assume both Adu and Marfan will be on the pitch. I’m ready to look at Pfeffer, Chrithian, or Jimmy McGlaughlin this week too.

        Go Union….Let’s turn it around tomorrow. Kick. Some. Ass!!!!!!

  2. Honestly, there is no need to even talk or write about these games anymore. The team is awful, the players that we could hang on to are totally apathetic to the season and the ownership is clearly in this to make money even if it means the team is of amateur quality. We have to accept that we are an expansion team again. This off season should see a total reconstruction of the team where no one besides Valdes and Okugo are safe–I mean from grounds crews to CEO. Best thing that could happen at this point is if the stadium is completely and utterly empty for every game. Maybe a sinking ship will prompt the ownership to sell or do anything. Has Sugarman or any member of iStar Financial ever even been seen at a game?

    • Wouldn’t hang on to Williams and the Farfans? Really?

    • I understand your view, but I don’t think a total boycott is the answer. Yes the simplest way to get the f.o.’s attention would be to cut off the supply to their bank account, but that’s not entirely fair to the players who, at least for the most part (i.e. defense, Brian Carroll) are still out there playing hard. All the crap that has gone on with this team is not their fault, and I will go to the last few games to support them, and only them. That being said, last night was brutal. Difficult to watch.

      • You’re both right, I’m just at that point where pitch forks and torches is much more appealing than reason and empathy. As for Williams… The context of his comments and the direction they were pointed towards would be nice to know because it either meant he is pissed, doesn’t care anymore and has stopped playing or he was calling someone out. I’d lean towards the latter, but I don’t know.

  3. This season is over. Couldn’t they at least try to entertain us instead of continually fielding a defensive lineup?

  4. I have to admit that I’m starting to fall off the Hackworth bandwagon. With Marfan out, last night should have been when he gave Adu a shot to step up as the number 10. Then when he made the change to the 3-4-3, which in itself wasn’t a bad idea, he move Sheanon over to the left side which was a horrible idea.

  5. After last night, I’m also in agreement. When we’d tailgate for Union games, I used to have that anxiety and excitement build up and last through the entire game.

    Now, going to the game feels like a waste of time. You look around, people are on their phones, checking email, no one is even in the game anymore. And last night’s “paid” attendance? Was more like 13,000 in person.

    The team right now has nothing – no motivation, the players clearly show they either have no idea what they are doing, or, as another poster said, have given up on the season. Even MacMath last night was quoted as saying “the team has no fight anymore”. That’s GREAT to hear. I agree that this off-season again should be a house cleaning. Keep Caroll, Valdes, Williams, obviously MacMath and Okugo – other than that – demolish. Garfan last night looked like all his skills disappeared with his hair cut. I’m baffled how this team has completely fallen apart – I think the Penn State men’s team would give us a run for our money. Martinez? What a waste he is – all of these horrible decisions by Nowak are now our hauntings.

    I’ll be at the last 3 games, but really only to see friends – not to watch the match.

    • Garfan was cover-your-eyes bad last night. Everything he touched turned to crap.

      Don’t want to beat it into the ground, but Nowak screwed us with Lopez. Left back has to be a very high priority this offseason.

  6. At this point in the season, with nothing left to play for (trying to stay positive, but also being realistic) Hackworth should be experimenting every game. I couldn’t care less about consistency at this point, all I want is 1 goal. 1. If that means he puts a 2-2-6 on the field I’m fine with that. Right now we should only be playing for wins, since points don’t matter. He should be trying different combinations of players, different formations, different tactics whatever he needs to to prepare for next season. EVERY player should be fighting for their job, and every player should be given the opportunity to prove they deserve a spot on this team in 2013. This season has been a complete and utter failure, and the fact that we continue to fail on the field yet there has been little to no visible attempt to make changes (at least until last night) to the lineups or tactics is just adding insult to injury. Sorry, but I’m very fired up about this because I have not yet renewed my season tickets, and while I am 100% committed to this team and do intend to renew them, part of me is concerned about the direction the team is going. Right now we’re a long way from being a playoff team and while next year will be a fresh start, it doesn’t appear as if the front office is willing to spend the money on top tier players, if they even have any at all.

    • Well said, regarding experimentation. Hack’s selections surprised me, but experimentation needs to happen. At Gomez’s salary, Hack needs to know if he can play anywhere on the field for his team. With Daniel, he was good enough last year that Hack has to figure out if the problem is what’s being asked of him in a 4-3-3 (4-2-3-1, really).

      Was I surprised Adu didn’t start? Sure. Not sure I agree with it either. He and Torres need to see the field. They need to be part of the experimentation, and not just experimenting where to stick them on the bench.

  7. Very depressing. The Union don’t have a single player that has a decent first touch. Every time one of them is supplied with some good service and finds themselves in a position to do some damage, they make the inevitable clumsy, clodlike, first touch and the threat is over. The only positive I took away from last night was that they seemed to be winning more balls in the air than I’ve ever seen before. But it was useless since once the ball hit the ground they proved to be no threat at all. This team puts fear in no one. Perhaps they should remove the snake from the Union crest and replace it with a cuddly kitty.

  8. santas grotto says:

    If I hear another person say that the Union have a “great core of young players” I will vomit. These are not great young players. Freddy Adu is not even good. Danny Cruz is not good at all. Jack McInerney is not great. Hoppenot is not good. Martinez is not good. I’m not sure Lopez even exists anymore. Garfan is not nearly as good at left back as say someone who is actually a left back. Finally, wait for it… MacMath is not good either. These are average young players expected to be above average players playing like veterans. I would keep Williams, Okugo, Valdes, Marfan and Carroll. The rest aren’t good enough to win in this league.

    • Carroll’s practically a cadaver in soccer terms; replace him with Okugo next year, assuming you can get your $300k/yr CB on the field with Valdes.

      • James Korman says:

        What exactly is going on with Soumare? I get that Okugo has fit in perfectly on the back line but why then acquire Soumare in the first place? Too similar to the Perlaza deal? Why the he’ll did we acquire him and never play him? The assets we gave up would have been useful this offseason. And don’t blame all this on Piotr Nowak either. Puzzling moves.

  9. Putting Keon and Gomez out there last night was like putting your goon line out in hockey. They were set up like they were waiting for a brawl that never came. I’m not the biggest Freddy supporter, but he at least has the potential to make the final pass to set someone up. I don’t understand why Torres is in Hack’s dog house. He doesn’t play defense, fine. Neither does Freddy and he gets a more consistent run out.

  10. That might have been the worst game I have ever seen in person. DC was as bad, if not worse, than the Union for most of the game somehow. Our midfielders were AWFUL. Unless he’s screwing Hack’s old lady, Freddy HAS TO play more. Last night he was the only guy out there creating anything.

    Why the hell is Hack still trotting out Gomez, who is old, expensive, and ineffective? Get anyone over the age of 25 off the field from this point forward. We need to see the kids the rest of the way, results be damned.

  11. The Black Hand says:

    Piss poor. With the exception of a beautiful slide tackle by Valdez, there was not one positive moment. Our “talented youngsters” have little business being in a starting XI, on any club. What was delivered, to us, this year was garbage…from day one. Keep Shaenon, Carlos (if we can), Amobi and Gaddis. I will personally help the others pack their bags. Yes, that includes both Farfans, Jack Mac, Adu, Carroll, MacMath and EVERY other player. Time to hit reset and try again, with a real manager. I can no longer convince myself that the talent is within our club.

  12. UnitedPenn13 says:

    I had a good chuckle while reading this match report when I got to “With the Union recovering from an ineffective corner kick…. As far as the Union are concerned “ineffective corner kick” is redundant. Does anyone know the last time the Union scored on a corner kick?

  13. Union basically fields an excellent MLS reserve team every time out. Unfortunately they are playing in the adult league. With that being said, the statistics are surprising. I never really thought we were threatening at any point last night except for some of the scrambles in front towards the end yet DC overall shots, corners, etc shockingly low. Don’t look for much from them later on should they make the playoffs.

  14. Philly Cheese says:

    Williams has got to pick up trailing Pajoy on goal. He ran right past him to be third player on Pontius. Most obvious of overall lack of connections. Hoffman on at 70 at least provided a few touches in front of net….more than others on pitch much longer. Time to give Cruz a rest and put Hoffman, Jack Mac and Josue as three starting strikers. Hoppenot can be “less than super sub” for one of these three at 60 or 65.

  15. Jul 1 0Ihr kf6nnt nicht Steve irwin mit Johnny Knoxville vergleichen!!!!!1 ist diseer vergleich le4cherlich2 Knoxville ist oder muss als stuntman ausgebildet worden sein..3 diser steve irwin hat nicht so geniale stunts wie johnny und co gemacht.ich finde jackass genial weil es ma was anderes is als diese ganz anderenspiedfigen tv sendungen (z.b Gfclcans Hochzeit ) .

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