Union match reports

Match Report: Philadelphia Union 3-3 Vancouver Whitecaps

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

In front of a sellout PPL Park crowd, Philadelphia Union treated their supporters to the most entertaining match of the season, though they were unable to claim a vital three points, drawing 3-3 with Vancouver Whitecaps.

After a first half in which the Whitecaps took advantage of two counterattacking chances to storm into a 2-0 lead, the Union reorganized at halftime, turning the tables on the visitors in a torrid 8 minute span in which they scored three times. Two Conor Casey goals sandwiched a tally from second half substitute Sebastien Le Toux and saw the Whitecaps pushed back on their heels.

Unfortunately for the home crowd, the Union were unable to make the 3-2 lead stand up, with Pedro Morales converting from the penalty spot after Zac MacMath felled second half substitute Darren Mattocks in the box.

“It’s frustrating that we didn’t get three points in a game, but at the same time there was a lot of character shown on our field by our team to come back and put that kind of energy in,” said head coach John Hackworth after the game. “Vancouver was putting all of their players back and playing for that 2-0 victory, and we broke them down again and again. I thought it should have been 4-2, to be fair. A couple chances and it would have been different.”

First Half

Only one change was made to the team that defeated Chivas USA in Los Angeles last weekend with Zach Pfeffer making his first start since 2011, replacing Fred. The Home Grown Player slid out onto the left wing, moving Cristian Maidana into the midfield along with Maurice Edu and Vincent Nogueira.

The new look Union midfield looked promising from the opening whistle, pressing forward as a unit in the early going. Conor Casey was the constant target up front, and in the 11th minute Casey won his second consecutive header off of a long Sheanon Williams throw-in, flicking the ball just over the bar.

But while the Union were possessing the ball comfortably, Vancouver showed their ability to counter quickly in the 18th minute. Striding through the midfield, Russell Teibert’s entry pass sent Nigel Reo-Coker into space. Spying a wide open Erik Hurtado, Reo-Coker’s delivery found the forward’s head and the Whitecaps jumped out to an early lead.

The Union continued to play in crosses though, and both Danny Cruz and Casey had chances in front of goal, though neither could convert.

A bit of luck fell to the Union in the 32nd minute when another speedy Whitecaps counterattack appeared to be kept out by the left arm of Ray Gaddis. But, referee Jose Carlos Rivero was unmoved by the protests from Morales, who had exchanged passes with Hurtado to create the chance.

In the 41st minute, the Whitecaps found their second goal of the half, after Hurtado flew past Fabinho. Cutting the ball back, Hurtado found Nicolas Mezquida, who slipped free of his marker and buried the point blank chance.

Second Half

In need of a new strategy, John Hackworth removed the ineffective Pfeffer in favor of Michael Lahoud. Rotating his formation, Lahoud pushed both Nogueira and Edu higher up the pitch, sending Maidana wide to the left.

Edu’s advanced position nearly paid off in the 51st minute when Nogueira’s shot was partially deflected from the corner of the box. The deflection fell kindly for Edu but, unfortunately for the Union midfielder, his quick touch beat David Ousted but not the post, and the chance stayed out.

Still, the Union were growing in confidence, while the Whitecaps looked too eager to sit back and absorb pressure.

In the 63rd minute, the Union finally found their breakthrough when Fabinho played Maidana into the corner. Maidana’s quick service was met by a diving Casey, who powered his header inside the near post.

Before Vancouver could regain their composure, the Union were pressing again. And in the 68th minute, the home team crafted their best goal of the season.

Collecting deep in his half, captain Amobi Okugo picked out Casey dropping across the midfield line to receive the ball. With Vancouver closing quickly, Casey laid a pass into the path of Maidana, whose first touch took him free of pressure. Picking up Nogueira’s run to the left corner, Maidana sent him beyond the Whitecaps backline with a perfectly weighted pass. Though he had a chance to shoot, Nogueira quickly raised his head and sent the ball rolling across the box for the trailing Sebastien Le Toux to hammer home.

If Vancouver was stunned by the Union’s first goal, they were dumb-founded by the second. By now, the Union attack was coming in waves and only three minutes after Le Toux’s equalizer, Casey had the ball in the back of the net yet again. When a cross deflected high in the air, Edu reacted quickest, settling and pushing the ball to Maidana. With the Vancouver defense dropping off, Maidana flicked his pass on for Casey who turned from 20 yards and buried a low drive past a helpless Ousted.

By now, everyone was getting into the action and Ray Gaddis nearly made the most of a rare foray into the box. This time, Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted managed to stand his ground, but he could only block Gaddis’ tight angle shot as far as an onrushing Casey. With the goalkeeper stranded, Casey was denied his hat trick when his shot rebounded back off a defender’s chest.

Just when it looked like the Union would run away with the match, Vancouver found an equalizer.

When Maidana’s 80th minute cross was headed clear, the Whitecaps pounced quickly and Morales sent a long ball ahead for Mattocks to chase. Mattocks, perhaps the fastest player in MLS, pulled away from Okugo and touched the ball beyond the advancing MacMath, who brought him down with a crunching challenge.

It was Morales who stepped up to take the penalty and while MacMath got down well, he was unable to extend his streak of three penalty saves in a row.

Showing the same intensity they had throughout the second half, the Union pressed forward to find a fourth.

Nogueira found himself sent clean through in the 86th minute, but his first time shot was straight at Ousted. Next it was Okugo who leapt highest to send a powerful header to the back post, forcing Ousted back into action to beat away the effort. Edu then tried his luck as he exchanged passes with Le Toux, but was unable to keep his shot under the bar.

“To go down 2-0 at home, unacceptable,” Said Hackworth. “But to come back and score three straight goals, fantastic. And to give up a goal again, it’s a rollercoaster of emotion and it’s not one you really want to have, to be fair. I feel like we’ve let points slip away, you know, all year. I wouldn’t say tonight we did that. It was brave of us to come back, and it showed character, but at the same time, we had that game in our grasp, but we didn’t finish it out.”

With 4 points in the last two matches, the Union head into the World Cup break with 15 points from 16 matches. The team resumes league play after the break on the road against New England on June 28.

Philadelphia Union
Zac MacMath; Ray Gaddis, Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Fabinho; Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira; Danny Cruz (Sebastien Le Toux ’66), Cristian Maidana (Leo Fernandes ’88), Zach Pfeffer (Michael Lahoud ’46); Conor Casey
Unused substitutes: Andre Blake; Ethan White, Brian Carroll, Andrew Wenger

Vancouver Whitecaps
David Ousted; Nigel Reo-Coker, Johnny Leveron, Jay DeMerit (Andy O’Brien ’24), Jordan Harvey; Gershon Koffie, Matias Laba (Darren Mattocks ’74); Nicolas Mezquida (Sebastian Fernandez ’66), Pedro Morales, Russell Teibert; Erik Hurtado
Unused substitutes: Paolo Tornaghi, Mehdi Ballouchy, Omar Salgado, Kekuta Manneh

Scoring Summary
18 – VAN: Hurtado (Reo-Coker, Teibert)
41 – VAN: Mezquida (Hurtado)
63 – PHI: Casey (Maidana, Fabinho)
68 – PHI: Le Toux (Nogueira, Maidana)
71 – PHI: Casey (Maidana)
81 – VAN: Morales (penalty)

Disciplinary Summary
53 – PHI: Gaddis (caution)
80 – PHI: MacMath (caution)
90 – VAN: Leveron (caution)
90 – VAN: Morales (caution)
90 – PHI: Lahoud (caution)

Referee: Jose Carlos Rivero

Philadelphia Union Vancouver Whitecaps
29 Attempts on Goal 6
9 Shots on Target 4
14 Shots off Target 1
6 Blocked Shots 1
10 Corner Kicks 2
13 Fouls 14
43 Open Play Crosses 8
0 Offsides 2
3 First Yellow Cards 1
0 Second Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
58 Duels Won 50
53.7% Duels Won % 46.3%
418 Total Pass 304
84% Passing Accuracy % 74%
58.8% Possession 41.2%


  1. Most exciting game of the year. PPL hasn’t rocked like that in a long time.

    • Except for Friday night, Ireland vs. Costa Rica.

      • That match was definitely fun. A really passionate crowd. But there were only half the people that were at this match so I stand by my statement.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Exciting game. While it cost them two points, it was still nice to see that the Union did not try to sit on the lead once they got it.
    I’m thinking that against a team that counterattacks like that, the Union should probably scrap the long throw-in. That basically cost them the second goal.
    It was disappointing to see them give up the PK, but I honestly thought MacMath was lucky not to see a red.

    • Old soccer coach says:

      I give John Hackworth credit for putting his fastest possible center back combination on the field, but Robinson could trump it and did by neutralizing Gaddis by sliding Hurtado to his flank and then putting Mattocks centrally. The only person in the Union City Islanders dual roster with any hope of matching Mattocks-Hurtado is Clesio Bauque, and he’s no defender.

  3. Okay. First the positive. Well done. Credit deserved for digging in and responding with the best 30 minutes of football this city has seen in well, maybe 5 years.
    That is the positive. Vancouver was as advertised. Their counter striking was among the best I have seen. Vicious and fluid and beautiful and I am envious. Jealousy is an acceptable emotion. Envy? Envy is ugly and I envy the swagger the Whitecaps have. They pretty well chose to take foot off accelerator, having not properly learned lesson from Timbers game. Again, credit to Union for taking advantage.
    Now for the not-so-positive. Last week there was talk amongst the PSP frequenters that maybe a new sponsor was in need when we presumably overhauled the system and FO. I couldn’t help but think to myself, with disdain and for large portions of the first 60 minutes the most proper sponsor for this team would be changing the jersey to white and yellow and having CHICOS BAIL BONDS written on it. What a comedy of errors: 20M square passes getting intercepted as though a 12 year old were making the pass. Union players running into one another or dribbling the ball right into the space another blue clad player occupied. Noguiera yet again with his hands in the supplication of Jesus pose as he looks at players standing still. So what can be taken from this game?
    Once again, despite the valiant effort, the same problems exist. Nothing has changed and in the face of such a valiant effort to steal 3 points, we wound up only with 1. See you in three weeks boys.

  4. Atomic spartan says:

    All credit to the boysin blue, but also to those in the SOBs, who you have to think shocked this team to Finally SHOOT THE F’n BALL. Sorry kiddies, but it frankly had to be said.

    Lahoud a major factor, LeToux a master stroke sub, Leo still a mystery. Maidana and Nogueira worth everything it took to get them. Edu, not so much. Conor Casey, glad you’re finding out where the net is.

    All in all, a miserable first half and a scintillating second. The coach has got to find a way to get this team to come out stronger from the start, and get the defense to play as a unit. A deflating tie, but a sign of hope for better things. That wasn’t Chivas out there.

    • So if we see Lahoud in starting IX next does it confirm your suspicions that there is no rhyme or reason.

    • I disagree on the Edu comment – I thought it was one of his best games of the season. Jury is still out overall, but for this game, he looked strong.

    • Give Edu a chance. When you have a suspect lineup around you you are only as good as your weakest link. Like Cruz for example. I give Pfeffer another shot at a start. stick Cruz on the bus put LeToux on the field.
      The long throw ins are good if they are done quickly. Williams takes too long to get to the ball. If he isn’t there throw it in.
      LaHoud had a solid game but not enough to start.

      • Agree with sitting Cruz, but what did Pfeffer do to deserve another start? As the author states above, Pfeffer was totally ineffective on Saturday. He’s not ready for prime time yet. There’s a big difference between starting a match and playing in the last 10 minutes of a blow out.

        Speaking of sitting players, it may be time for Williams to spend some time on the sidelines trying to remember what it was like to play the game with focus and intensity. His half-hearted efforts on the pitch this season are extremely frustrating to watch.

  5. OneManWolfpack says:

    Just saying… as a season ticket holder who splits his tickets… this wasn’t my game…
    Anyway, the TCN feed cut out after the U tied it at like the 69th minute… not sure if others had the same problem. I didn’t get to see them take the lead, or give it up (had to watch the recap on the MLS site)… Total bummer. Unacceptable.
    As for the game, other than the two they gave up in the first half, it was great to see em fight back and not only tie it, but take the lead. This is the team I want to see. A draw kills us, as we should be winning at home, but there were some positives.

    • Yes, both comcast sports channels went dead for couple of hours. Extremely frustrating.

      • Yes, both Comcast sports channels went out, but only if you are a COMCAST CUSTOMER! My friend, who has FiOS, had no issues with the broadcast.

      • kingkowboys says:

        +1 I have FiOS and had no issues. That’s terrible that a Comcast channel goes out on a Comcast cable subscription. My condolences for those that missed out.

  6. All in all this was a good outcome for the team. The team didn’t quit and it was a valiant effort but why put yourselves in that situation over and over again? Unfortunately they keep giving up valuable points at home and that is due to poor coaching. If they had any type of competent coaching this team would be leading the east far and away and we wouldn’t be grouping to find positives to take away from a draw. Hackworth is still a lame duck and is not the leader that this team desperately needs moving forward. There is so much potential with this club. Happy LeToux and Casey scored. Happy Pfeffer got a well deserved start. I could be wrong but MacMath needs to stop recklessly charging out of his net. The angle was cut down and there was coverage. If he gets beat with the shot fine but that penalty was not smart. Maybe its time for Blake to get a start. We need to see what the #1 pick can do. Looks like PPL was rocking.

    • Eli Pearman-Storch says:

      I don’t see any reason to blame MacMath for that. He has to come out and try to make a play because Mattocks can finish from right angles. Sometimes speed just means everything. MacMath gets to that ball against 99% of players in MLS. Sometimes and out of this world athlete makes an out of this world play. And Mattocks certainly is that type of athlete.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        “Speed means everything” just sometimes? Please! Faster players beat slower players of the same skill level, assuming violent maiming with weapons is excluded. You cannot turn a plough horse into an Arabian; you can make it a faster plough horse with conditioning and weight training, but you cannot make it an Arabian. The proportion of quick-twitch muscle fiber is genetic.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Actually, Eli, I do put some of the blame on MacMath for the tying goal, but not for giving up the penalty. I thought he should have been off his line and out of the penalty box playing the ball away when the ball went over the heads of Mattocks and Okugo and they started chasing after it. I think he could have gotten to it first and either kicked it out of bounds or downfield.

      • I think is just a case where speed kills. Watching the replay, the ball is ahead of Mattocks and Okugo, but they are stride for stride. Zac sees this, hesitates, and by the time he realizes Mattocks will get there first, its too late.

        Can we blame the bad hop on the PK on the 3 matches at PPL this week chewing up the area in front of the goal? If that ball doesn’t jump over Zac’s arm he may have had his 4th PK save of the year.

      • I see your point Eli. However I think in that situation the goalie cuts the angle and forces the shooter to try and beat him. Also as erratic as that ref was MacMath could have gotten a red card as well as put the player on the dot.

  7. I am glad that they pulled a point from this, but it seems that there now needs to be direct focus on specific issues. This week we saw no real exposure of the weaknesses shown on the set pieces, but that seemed to be more from a lack of restarts. In addition, I will note that I think that the single option long throw from Sheanon Williams is both unreasonably easy to defend and dangerous, since it leads directly to the counterattacks that led to at least one goal last night. The long throw is not leading to goals, and it is in part due to the one-trick pony appearance of the offense when a throw in ariss in the Union’s offensive third. The defense marks men, expecting the long throw to a head. It is exciting to watch, I guess, if you are not hoping for a positive outcome from the play. It reminds me of youth games and clueless parents oohing and aahing over a long ball played downfield. This game is not won by giving the ball away, and these long throws create an unnecessary fifty-fifty ball and counterattack opportunity for the opponent, with Sheanon upfield and an overtaxed defense both stretched and undermanned. If you want to do it, at least mix in some shorts so that the defense must play you honestly.And, thanks Comcast for the dropped signal. I appreciated not e=seeing either the lead or the tying goal. Well worth the money we pay for your service.

  8. FC Union says:

    Thank you for your service Coach Hack.
    A great second 45, but this miserable first 45 crowned your failure as a coach.
    We will always think fondly of you when we watch spectacular performance from Noguiera, Maidana, Gaddis and Jack. Oops. and Adu. Oops. and Edu. Oops?
    Unlike Nowak, we do appreciate you, and wish you well in your future endeavors. BYE BYE!

  9. Old Soccer Coach says:

    For those interested in the youngsters under development, Pedro Ribeiro played a full ninety for City Islanders down in Richmond as a number ten lone striker. Marquez again played the full ninety in the back. Hernandez came off the bench at the end for McGlaughlin who had been dangerous in the first half with their best chance to score but had been neutralized in the second half by Richmond readjustments. There are some interesting things being tried down on the farm by the city islanders coaching staff. All their games are streamed on you tube, by the home side.

  10. Real JP Melinson says:

    I almost don’t mind that it was only a draw, because that was the best half of Union soccer I’ve seen all year.

  11. Te contrast between the best players playing together (Nogs, Chaco, Seba, Mo & Casey) for 40 minutes versus the tactics (the long throw-in, cross after cross, set pieces missing their target, & sitting Nogs back) was as obvious as the difference in each half’s score. Cruz had 2 in a row blocked in about 10 seconds. What good are so many unfinished chances – the story of the offense all year?
    Hackworth should have gotten better advice on how to head coach talent in the off season. Or try to get it on the break.

  12. Was anyone else disappointed in Pfeffer? He looked tentative at best and lazy at worst. After multiple passes to the wing he just stood there and didn’t make runs into the box. Maybe Hackworth tells him to do this, but it continued even after Union were down 1-0. I was happy he was subbed out and wonder if Hackworth noticed the same lack of commitment.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Agreed with the Pfeffer analysis. I was really looking forward to see him finally start. He looked lost. A shame he didn’t step up. Not sure what was up with him.

      • Timothy H says:

        Its funny how people realize what they wanted wasn’t always best for the team. The comment sections have been filled with Pfeffer support, and he underperformed. Nothing against him, and I hope he can acclimate to the team.

      • I want kid to have minutes on the first team. I accept there will be a learning curve.

    • Zach needs minutes. It was his first start at home. I don’t get how anyone can be so critical of him when the team itself is bad and mismanaged. Unbelievable! If there is a problem it’s coaching. Hackworths record with young professionals with skill isn’t good. He also can’t coach veterans with skill. Which is why Danny Cruz is Hackworth’s go to guy. I’d hate to see Hackworth in this kids head.

      • Similarly he has played centrally his whole career. Every time he did get the ball he was centering it. Not to much the two plays he drifted very far inside he was playing quick one-two touch that would have resulted in good chances had there not been excellent defending.

        Every time he was subbed on the last few weeks he was located centrally he was playing the ball quickly and smartly. He could not do that out on the left as only Fabhino was offering support and not great at that.

      • I agree. You saw when Chaco was moved out wide he is much more effective there. Chaco is not a willing second runner behind the central striker. In the substitute appearances by Pfeff he has made the second runs into the box which pull defenders. He should have started in the middle with Chaco on the left, where he can utilize his best skill, his crossing.

  13. Southside Johnny says:

    Casey looked good. Maybe not last year good, but good. So do we run him into the ground again or….what? Le2, Wenger, Wheeler …?

  14. The Black Hand says:

    We scored three goals (none were penalties)!!!
    Hackworth made a proper sub (LeToux).
    Okugo and Williams are not the answer. (Swapping Edu and Okugo might be). Mo is so lazy at the 6…so so lazy.
    I didn’t see a replay yet but through my ‘beer goggles’, MacMath got some of that ball (on penalty).
    Vancouver is a tough team! 19 was very, very good.
    I thought the boys showed some heart…it had been a while!

  15. Jimmy Trojan says:

    a good result with Brian Carroll on the pine!

  16. Shocked I tell you says:

    Sunday, 8 pm ET and Hack still has the reins! This is not good.

  17. Dick Buttlewein says:

    Wow the 2nd half comeback was a thing of beauty. Zach screwed up and could easily have been tossed. MAIDANA!!! And Casey is clearly now hitting his stride. I’m bummed we are off now because I think the boys were starting to “feel it!”
    I understand the Carlos Valdes situation, but we NEVER should have let Jeff Parke relocate for personal reasons. We’ve been blessed to have Califf, Valdes, and then Parke anchoring our back line. We badly miss the stay at home CB that kept it simple and was physically imposing AND sound positionally. I believe that is our biggest need by far.

  18. kingkowboys says:

    This game was an emotional roller coaster to say the least. I think it echoed how the season in general has gone.
    1st half was terrible. The attack was disjointed and completely imbalanced with attack after attack going down the right side. The counter attack was wide open and we got killed for it. I think Mo really did nothing to shield that back line on both counters. With Maidana and Nogs playing attacking roles in the 1st half there is no reason for him to do anything more than defend and distribute. He should have been able to help on both goals but was no where to be found.
    Pfeffer… I was glad to see him get a start after good showings as a sub. I thought that putting him on the left was odd and it showed. He and Maidana should have switched after the first 15-20 minutes. He plays centrally and we need Maidana’s left footed service out there.
    2nd half was awesome. I was so deflated at half time but ecstatic to see a comeback. I think Le Toux and Lahoud were good smart subs. Le Toux obviously directly impacted the score, but I think Lahould did fantastic in his distribution and allowed Edu and Nogs to venture farther up field than Edu himself allowed Maidana and Nogs in the first half. Excellent combination on the Le Toux goal. Casey looks to be turning the corner and coming into his zone again. Maidana’s service has been impeccable. I think that we should come out against New England (and HCI unfortunately) in the same manner as the 2nd half. Casey is the hot striker so we run him into the ground for now. Confidence is everything in a striker and if he keeps getting goals till we sign a wonder striker (lol) so be it. I still think CB is a bigger need than striker (cancel the Valdes loan…cough cough).
    Heart breaker to give up a PK. I was praying for the magic to stop a 4th PK. MacMath almost had it but it bounced over his lower arm. He was INCHES from stopping it. Looking at replays it looks like Zach missed the ball, he was a half second too late, and Mattocks runs into him. I think the call was just, PK, yellow and not red. I think MacMath could have come out to cut the angle and been fine. Okugo was right behind Mattocks so if he slows to take a shot Okugo has a chance to slide in and block.

  19. That must have been one heck of a halftime speech.

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