Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 0-1 Crystal Palace

Photo: Daniel Gajdamowicz

With the weekend off from MLS play, Philadelphia Union fell 1-0 to Crystal Palace of the Barclay’s Premier League in a friendly at PPL Park. Beginning the game with a majority of their starters, Crystal Palace manager Tony Pulis sent his team out to attack, and they controlled the first half with their direct play and flying wingers Yannick Bolassie and Jason Puncheon.

While the chances came fast and thick it was a Union own-goal that proved to be the lone tally on the night. When Ethan White’s header caromed back towards his own net in the 20th minute, it flew over the head of Andre Blake, who had rushed off his line on the play.

The second half brought a raft of changes from both sides, but while Marouane Chamakh and Sebastien Le Toux had excellent chances at either end, neither could add to the first half scoreline.

“I think we learned a lot about our group.,” interim head coach Jim Curtin said after the game. “It was a good exercise for our guys who maybe haven’t gotten to see a lot of minutes to see what a real game looks like against a very good opponent. It’s funny, everyone wants to talk about how athletic MLS is, and everyone is big, fast, and strong and you look out there and it kicks off, they’re (Crystal Palace) a lot bigger, a lot faster, and stronger in a lot of ways. It was a good exercise for our guys, though.”

First Half

The Union began the game with a number of players who are not regular starters, including Andre Blake in goal, Austin Berry, who has battled injuries and illness for much of the season, partnering with Ethan White in the center of the defense, and Brian Brown, who recently arrived with the club on loan, up top.

Crystal Palace raced out of the gates, with Yannick Bolassie steaming past Ray Gaddis in the opening minute. His cross was met at the back post by Jason Puncheon, but his header was wide of the mark and bounced back off of Fabinho.

With Bolassie and Puncheon flying up the flanks, and Dwight Gayle hanging on the back shoulder of the defense, the Union struggled to contain the double threat.

In the 14th minute, Bolassie, having switched flanks, pushed the ball through Fabinho’s legs before being felled by the Union defender, though no foul was called. Moments later, Chamakh got in behind and cut the ball for Bolassie, who had slipped the attentions of Fabinho, but his shot was straight at Blake.

But in the 20th minute, Palace were gifted the opener. When White rose in traffic, he could only push his header back towards goal, but with Blake racing off his line, the ball floated beyond him, giving the visitors a deserved lead.

The goal didn’t slow down Crystal Palace’s intentions, with Blake coming up with an impressive double save to keep the deficit at one. When the referee surprisingly did not whistle for a penalty after Fabinho scythed down Puncheon in the box, Bolassie reacted first. Leaning back, he fired a rasping bicycle kick that Blake did well to palm away. Quickly regaining his feet, he was able to smother Chamakh’s follow up effort.

The disorganization in the Union back line was showing as the ball was allowed to bounce in the box before Gayle struck. Once again, Blake reacted well, doing just enough to keep the shot from skidding beneath him.

“Andre Blake bailed us out a bit,” said Curtin. “Made some big saves.”

As the half wore towards a close, Vincent Nogueira and Maurice Edu both looked to challenge Julian Speroni from distance, though neither was successful, Nogueira’s shot flying straight to the goalkeeper, and Edu’s going inches wide of the mark.

Second Half

Jim Curtin rang the changes in the second half, with rookie Pedro Ribeiro making his first Union appearance since the preseason, replacing White in the center of defense.

“The idea before there was an injury or two, I wanted to play him in the No. 10 role underneath the forwards. So, that didn’t happen tonight,”  Curtin explained of the decision to use Ribeiro as a defender. “He stepped in and played center back against some very good forwards and did a good job.”

As both sides settling into a rhythm with their new group of players, Chamakh nearly doubled the advantage in the 61st minute when he shook free of Austin Berry. With Blake flying out to cut down the angle, Chamakh’s chipped effort landed on the roof of the goal.

At the other end, Aaron Wheeler cut inside Adrian Mariappa near the endline, but with only Speroni to beat, he mishit his shot badly, rolling it out of bounds.

Crystal Palace raced back, releasing Glenn Murray behind Ribeiro. But, Blake was out quickly yet again, clawing the ball out of the air for his sixth save of the night.

Sebastien Le Toux had the Union’s best chance of the night in the 81st minute when he was released by Corben Bone. With Antoine Hoppenot open at the back post, Le Toux seemed in two minds, firing the ball just wide of the far post and his teammate.

After the game, Curtin said of Crystal Palace, “This team doesn’t look like they’re in preseason, they looked fit, they looked organized. Obviously there’s a lot of interchange and new faces coming in and out with the subs, but they have a way of playing, and their coach, credit to him, he does a great job with them, that’s why they finished middle of the premiership. They’re a direct team, they’re very direct and they attack with numbers — it almost looked like a 4-2-4 in a lot of ways tonight, especially in the first half when they came at us. Settled down a little bit, though, and I thought the second half we actually had a lot of play, which was encouraging.”

The Union are on the road when they return to league play next week against Sporting Kansas City for their second consecutive Friday night feature.

Philadelphia Union
First Half

Andre Blake, Fabinho, Austin Berry, Ethan White, Ray Gaddis, Maurice Edu, Vincent Nogueira, Fred, Danny Cruz, Andrew Wenger, Brian Brown

Second Half
Andre Blake, Fabinho, Austin Berry (Michael Lahoud, 72), Pedro Ribeiro, Sheanon Williams, Brian Carroll, Amobi Okugo, Sebastien Le Toux, Corben Bone, Brian Brown (Antoine Hoppenot, 72), Aaron Wheeler

Crystal Palace
Julian Speroni, Joel Ward (Adrian Mariappa, 51), Scott Dann (Patrick McCarthy, 54), Damien Delaney, Jerome Williams, Jason Puncheon (Barry Bannan, 54), Mile Jedinak (Stuart O’Keefe, 51), Joe Ledley, Yannick Bolasie (Jerome Thomas, 54), Marouane Chamakh, Dwight Gayle (Glenn Murray, 51)

Scoring Summary
PHI – Ethan White (Own Goal), 20′

Disciplinary Summary
PHI – Brian Brown (caution), 35′


  1. I thought Blake looked damn good.
    I was disappointed to see Pedro playing CB. I was hoping to see him in the attack.
    Mike Lahoud proved he can be a serviceable emergency right back. And, hey, he didn’t pick up a red card. Bonus, I guess.
    Brown had a few nice runs but wasn’t quite in sync with any of his teammates yet.

  2. Bonesaw!

  3. Article made LeToux’s shot sound like a flub. What i saw was a perfect cross Hoppenot couldn’t finish.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I thought Hopp let it go because he thought it was going in. Which is completely stupid, especially in a friendly. If he would have stuck his foot out it would have gone in. OR… Maybe I’m giving Hopp to much credit… and maybe he just flat missed it. Ha

    • Hoppenot should have tied it. I was right there; for some reason he did not stick out his foot; about as bad a miss as Wondo’s against Belgium. If a striker can not finish such opportunities then they may as well hang up their boots.

      The ‘pass’ may have been a bit overcooked by leToux but that’s no reason not to stick out a foot.

  4. Agreed Gonzo. Looked like a perfect set up from Seba that Hoppenot had to finish…but didn’t. Everyone around us said the same thing.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      LenToux wound up and hit as hard as he could at the back post. He could have made a very simple pass to Hoppenot for an easy finish but he drove it right at the back post. Hopp was in the right position to receive a pass, but I think Le Toux was between thoughts and put way too much mustard on it for Hoppenot to have a chance. That was one of the two times Le Toux had an open teammate racing into the box and simply overcooked the pass.

      • It looks like Hoppenot was letting it go as to not steal Sebastien’s goal…a nice gesture to Le Toux from Antoine, but everyone prefers a goal instead of nothing.

  5. Great One says:

    Might be extreme, but all this moving and playing with Ribeiro cannot be helping him.
    Also, I agree with Curtin, these foreign teams so often look bigger and stronger. It’s got to be because their football and basketball players end up playing soccer, not just the slighter guys

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Completely agree. I remember Stoke last year. Those dudes looked like freakin’ linebackers! All of em!! Palace was massive too.
      I turned to my dad at the game and said: remember, this is a mid to lower table EPL team. I can’t imagine watching a Liverpool, Man U or City going all out. Wow. I mean Palace was good but that next level must be insane. Anytime I’ve seen an EPL team it’s ways been a friendly. I need to get to England.

  6. Andy Muenz says:

    A few things struck me as interesting this game. The first came in the first minute when Bolassie just steamed by Gaddis. I don’t recall anyone in MLS ever being able to do that.
    A second thing that stood out was that Fabhino was the only Union field player who went 90 minutes. This should serve as a reminder as to how thin the Union are at outside back (not just left back). If one of the three backs gets hurt and another has card problems, we could be back to seeing Le Toux play back there 🙂
    Finally, hopefully the Union got some good tape of the game so they can learn from some of the things Crystal Palace did well. That’s really the best part about these international friendlies for MLS. The MLS players have a chance to play against stronger opponents and learn from those games which is something that a lot of leagues at the same level as MLS don’t get a chance to do.

    • Eli Pearlman-Storch says:

      I believe Fabinho played 90 because he is no longer the starter and Curtin wanted to give both Gaddis and Williams at least a half off.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        I agree the Fabinho assessment.
        Also, I was taken back when Bolassie looked like he walked by Gaddis. That was crazy. He was bigger, faster, quicker.
        And if Wheeler could learn how to make a diagonal runs in the box he would have had 2 solid chances.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Eli, it’s clear that’s why Fabhino was the one who went 90. The problem to me is that anyone had to go 90 besides Blake. I could have seen Berry or Brown going 90 to help get them in game shape (and that’s why they were the last two replaced) but there really was no one to bring on for Fabhino without making Sheannon or Ray go the distance.

  7. Union Rules says:

    Edu’s shot was inches wide? From my perspective right behind the goal, I think the appropriate unit of measure should be yards or perhaps meters.

  8. I’ll add a couple thoughts:
    -Brian Brown has confidence. He took a speculative shot from about 30 yards out the first time he got the ball-which is always good to see in a young striker. Definitely still needs to get into a rhythm with his team, but he just had trouble finding space against two well organized centerbacks for Palace. Deployed a bit more as a wide player in the second half and seemed a little lost out there. Still pretty promising amount of pace and technical skill.
    -Andre Blake proved once again that his quickness and athletic ability are top class. Imagine if Nick Rimando was about a foot taller and 30% leaner. Would love to see him bulk up a little bit and probably needs to work on communication and organization skills, but otherwise looks to be nipping at MacMath’s heels quite nicely.
    -Corben Bone was pretty impressive in the number 10 spot. I don’t see him as a starter, but had the ability to control the ball under pressure had good vision in the final third.
    -Pedro at CB…in a friendly…ugh. C’mon Jim! Friendlies are about answering questions, not winning the game. Why not put Amobi back at CB and put Pedro in his natural role so we can see what he can do. Terrible decision in my opinion. A real missed opportunity.

  9. Hi-lights of match

    Incredible the own goal, the Hoppenot miss, and how the announcer pronounces Letoux.

    • Thanks Guido- nice to see what everyone is talking about. Funny he got LeToux wrong but nailed Hoppenot’s name. Blake with some very nice saves.

  10. John Ling says:

    Oh, also – I’ll say again: 7pm weekday start times are full of suckitude! Ugh! Even leaving work before 5pm, we didn’t get there until after the game started. As we got out of the car, we could hear the announcer introducing Edu in the starting lineups. (and our delay wasn’t helped by Authentic Philly being out of fried pickles, making us wait for the next batch to cook – but not telling us that when we placed the order, so we couldn’t just decide to skip them.)
    Come on, Union. 7:30 start times for weeknight games, please.

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