Union match reports

Match Report: DC United 1-0 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Mike Long

Luis Silva nodded in a Chris Korb cross in the 10th minute and Philadelphia Union failed to score for the second straight game, going down 1-0 in defeat to DC United on Saturday afternoon in the nation’s capital.

Both teams had chances — with Bill Hamid and Carlos Valdes respectively coming up big — but a disjointed match produced no dominant performances, and Philadelphia will have to bounce back on Thursday when Chicago Fire roll into PPL Park.

“The goals have dried up and we’re gonna have to find a way to fight through it,” interim manager Jim Curtin said after the game. “We need to now win 3 games in a row to give ourselves even a chance at the playoffs.”

First Half

Jim Curtin made one change to the team that drew with Houston last weekend, inserting Amobi Okugo for the injured Ethan White. The moved forced Maurice Edu into the back line to partner with Carlos Valdes.

The Union had an early chance when Andrew Wenger latched onto a Sheanon Williams cross in the 5th minute. But the winger’s effort was tame and straight at Bill Hamid, who caught easily.

DC would take the lead in the tenth minute through the in-form Luis Silva. Chris Korb did well to latch onto a ball in the Union box after Philadelphia failed to clear their lines. He floated a cross into the mixer that Silva was able to flick into the far corner of the goal with Rais Mbolhi rooted to his line.

Philadelphia was forced into an early change shortly after the goal when Sebastien Le Toux came up limping on the right touchline. The Frenchman stayed down for a few minutes before struggling to the sideline. Le Toux could not continue and was replaced by Danny Cruz on 22 minutes. It was later confirmed that Le Toux had a right ankle sprain, though the severity of the injury remains to be seen.

DC was back on the front foot when play resumed. In the 2oth minute, Perry Kitchen tested Mbolhi with a stinging shot from 25 yards that the goalkeeper could only parry away.

Shortly after that, Valdes came up with two huge stops on the goal-line to keep the score at 1-0. Hamid spotted Fabian Espindola breaking and hit the striker with a long punt. Espindola was in on goal alone, but Valdes cleared the ball off the line after the striker rounded Mbolhi. The ball caromed straight back to Espindola, who cut it for Sean Franklin. The resulting shot was again repelled by Valdes, who was still lying on the goal-line.

Chances for Philadelphia would be few and far between as the first half wound down. Despite six corner kicks, the Union finished the half with only a single shot on goal.

Second Half

There were no changes for either team at halftime, but the Union came out for the second half with a renewed intensity.

Cristian Maidana won a free kick about 30 yards from goal in the 55th minute. A training ground routine involving two men in front of the ball ended with Maidana lofting a cross toward the back post, where Williams nodded a tame header on frame that was easily saved by Hamid; a header back across the box would have been a better option.

The Union had one of their best chances in the 61st minute through the hard work of Wenger.  Breaking into the United box from the left wing, the Union midfielder forced Hamid off his line to challenge. A side-footed ball past the onrushing goalie skidded past the far post. Conor Casey appeared to have a chance to pull away from the play into the center of the area for a tap in, but he stayed too close to Wenger and could not get a touch on the ball.

The Union’s desperation grew as DC retreated further into their own half. Cruz had two long distance shots toward the DC goal, but neither was terribly troubling to Hamid, both shots flying well over.

Jim Curtin implored his men forward, screaming for Philadelphia to put more numbers into the box. Brian Brown was introduced for Casey in the 63rd minute, but the young Jamaican saw little of the ball.

Maurice Edu pushed higher into the attack as the game wore on. His powerful shot in the 79th minute was saved by Hamid, but the goalkeeper could not hold the ball. Cruz looked to be in to tap in the rebound but an excellent recovery from Taylor Kemp was enough to put off the Union midfielder and Hamid gathered the loose ball.

Pedro Ribeiro replaced Valdes in the 82nd minute as the Union went to three in the back. Ribeiro went straight into the forward line to play alongside Brown.

With time ticking down, the Union resorted to Route One football, lofting balls forward for Ribeiro to flick on. It would be a losing battle with two defenders there to put him off every time the ball came forward.

Maidana won a dangerous free kick in the 86th minute from a Perry Kitchen foul 25 yards from goal. The resulting effort was poor, slamming straight into the wall.

The Union would survive a few late DC counterattacks with Edu doing well to foul Nick DeLeon, preventing a two-on-one against Ray Gaddis.

The 1-0 scoreline when the final whistle blew, though disappointing for Union fans, was a fair one. Philadelphia next faces Chicago at PPL Park on Thursday, Oct. 2 in what will surely be a must win game.

“Chicago’s a team that knows how to grind out ties, that is for sure,” Curtin said. “On our home field, we’ll have to do a good job committing more numbers into the box.”

Philadelphia Union
Rais Mbolhi, Ray Gaddis, Carlos Valdes (Pedro Ribeiro 82′), Maurice Edu, Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Cristian Maidana, Vincent Nogueira, Andrew Wenger, Sebastien Le Toux (Danny Cruz 22′), Conor Casey (Brian Brown 63′)
Unused substitutes: Zac MacMath, Fred, Fabinho, Brian Carroll

DC United
Bill Hamid, Chris Korb (Chris Pontius 61′), Bobby Boswell, Steve Birnbaum, Taylor Kemp, Sean Franklin, Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon, Fabian Espindola (Lewis Neal 85′), Luis Silva (Eddie Johnson 68′)
Unused substitutes: Joe Willis, Kofi Opare, Samuel Inkoom, Jared Jeffrey

Scoring Summary
10 – Silva (Korb)

Discipline Summary
86 – DC: Kitchen (caution)
90 – PHI: Edu (caution)

Referee: Silviu Petrescu. AR1 (bench): Claudio Badea; AR2 (opposite): Adam Wienckowski; 4th: Marcos de Oliveira

Philadelphia Union DC United
16 Attempts on Goal 15
4 Shots on Target 7
8 Shots off Target 3
4 Blocked Shots 5
9 Corner Kicks 5
39 Crosses 19
3 Offsides 3
7 Fouls 13
1 Yellow Cards 1
0 Red Cards 0
407 Total Passes 375
78% Passing Accuracy 79%
52.9% Possession 47.1%
47 Duels Won 49
49% Duels Won % 51%
15 Tackles Won 9
4 Saves 4
15 Clearances 38


  1. Ugh. Would have liked at least a draw and a point. And already let Toronto get back ahead of us. With Le Toux out for a bit, not feeling good. Were going to need other teams to help us if we hope to sneak into the playoffs now.

  2. At this point the team has no one who can put the ball in the net. It looked like Casey just gave up on the perfect feed from Wenger. Okugo seemed to be trying to play DM in the same style as Edu rather than the way he is comfortable with. Cruz and Nogueira think the net is about 30 feet off the ground. Including the Open Cup final, the team is now winless in their last four.

    • I think it might be time to give either Ribeiro or Brown the nod. I picked up the game about 15 minutes before the half, and in less than 10 minutes, saw Casey jog to take on a defender, giving up on a chance to keep the ball in the DC defending third; out of position way too often; when his man was getting tied up, Casey (again way too often) didn’t move into space to give an option, rather he moved into a crowd to eliminate all options; nowhere to be found when needed… Unless the ball is put right on his head or instep, he can’t do anything with it. Curtin needs to figure out what to do about a quality striker, or I’ll be getting off his bandwagon real soon.

    • I agree about Brown seeing more time- seems to me if they want Maidana and Noguiera and Edu/Okugo in the midfield they need more goal scoring quality at the 9 and 11 and then a feasible option or two off the bench. Brown didn’t really even get a whiff this season since coming, though what I have seen is not very appeasing. The same issues keep arising with this club that have been here since the beginning: multiple levels of legitimacy.

    • netherprovidencepops says:

      You’re right Andy, gravity is an issue with the boys up top. It’s most likely that poor Philadelphia juju.

    • Entirely apart from losing LeToux, if JC wants more in the box (or final third like the Seattle match), wasn’t the better move to start Okugo for White? Edu is not there much in run of play. JC went back to a counterattacking lineup to play a high pressure, increased shot style of play. Then he says they’re not playing the style they should. He at least makes that move after Seba exits. And puts in Brown, not Cruz – who is more effective on the run in the counter. I don’t get it.

  3. They were very slow to the ball today. Thought with a weeks rest and a short trip they would have more jump in their step. A lot of confusion in the middle of the park and you never thought for a moment they would score no matter how many corners and free kicks they won.

    Very disappointing.

    • Yeah, Chopper, I was bummed today. The U have been playing pretty good football (especially vs. Seattle in the Cup final), but appeared very disorganized today. These games happen, but, unfortunately, we’re kind of out of time.

    • Yes after they went down I had zero confidence they would score.

  4. See I thought the interm manager and I had an agreement that at no point in time would Andrew Wenger and Danny Cruz be on the field together. Redundancy. Please redact that from my memory.
    I am not an alarmist and try to maintain an even keel as best as possible, but with so much for me to say and so little of it being positive- it is only the truth. This shows that we actually cannot play with any team in MLS. We were outmatched outhustled outgunned and outclassed. What a bummer. Carlos Valdez looked slow and unsure from the 2 minute mark and the whole team followed suit. Including my most sacred member of the team Amobi. We spent a week hashing out lineups on this site and it turns out none of it mattered with our arguably best XI. NOT. GOOD. ENOUGH.
    Without Le Toux we are sunk. Who’s going to score? Where is our Luis Silva? Is he playing with the reserves somewhere? With the U18s? Is our Luis Silva actually even a member of the Union organization. That dude was an 8 goal scorer and Bam-O break out year. Do we not have the player anywhere?
    And can someone explain how you and me saw the distress this team was in and how yuo and me were likely yelling at the TV to bring in Brian Brown for Le Toux to help run off of Casey as he received the ball. Because despite what Kyle Martino thinks, Cruz for Le Toux is not a ‘like for like’ substitiution.
    More from the department of ‘that sucked’. Gotta love TFC scoring 3 in 20 minutes to further distance The U from the playoffs. And lastly, what a total toilet bowl that stadium is. How in the world is the great DC United relegated, pun intended, to that house of hanging plants lying in the corner?

    • The Black Hand says:

      Losing Seba leaves us exposed, as we do not really have another quality wide option. Cruz has value, but I don’t think he is a reliable option…but he may be our only.
      Perhaps Fred??? Good player, but I don’t think that he has the pace.
      Maidana??? Good player, but best showing as a #10.
      Is it possible to get Pfeffer on the job?? Tough to throw him into the fire like that, but the boy can play.
      Sheanon?? Leaves us leaning on Fabinho (whom I don’t hate as much as others), but he is still a liability on defense.
      Sebastian LeToux is not my favorite. BUT, I cannot deny the impact he has for our club. His loss is crucial and the timing is deadly. Points have slipped away and our playoff chance is becoming a long shot. The next few games, and how Curtin adjusts his XI, will show whether, or not, this guy has the chops. I think the ‘interim’ may have been lifted prematurely.
      It is never easy with this club…it’s part of what endears them to me. It will make it all the sweeter, when we finally do put all of the pieces together.

      • How about McLaughlin?

      • The Black Hand says:

        So green! Leo?

      • McLaughlin, Pfeffer and Hernandez should all get time now that Herrisburgs season is over. I can’t believe the teams depth sinks so low that Danny Cruz is an option. People tell me he creates space for others. I don’t care he needs to be more creative than running to draw a foul.

      • Morgan Langley plays wing for Harrisburg and their season over tonight one way or another. He’s had a good year, maybe worth a call up to give him a shot.

      • The Black Hand says:

        Couldn’t hurt.

      • old soccer coach says:

        Disagree with the Langley idea after watching HCI lose to Sacramento. Langley did not have a good game particularly. McGlaughlin should get the opportunity to come in and practice with them now that the USL Pro season is over. Pfeffer is still the youngest of the bunch and physically that really showed against Vancouver, he was badly overmatched.

      • I watched that too OSC. Langley did not play well. The entire HCI midfield was like an automatic turnover whenever they got the ball. Hoppenot flopped at least 4-5 times and didn’t get one call. His rep is well known by now.

  5. James Lockerbie says:

    Joel, I feel your pain my sons u12 8v8 game was more exciting and they actually won 3-2.

  6. I’d have to agree the guys looked heavy-legged and not very crisp today. Curtin spot on about the lack of bodies in the box offensively. With cross after cross sent in to what turned out to be Casey and 3-4 defenders, I had very unhappy Hackworth flashbacks. I do believe we are seeing the lack of roster depth catch up to the U a bit. The roster is really only 13 maybe 14 players deep (that’s only counting one goalie, of course). Sure, there are another 4-5 guys who could come in and not embarrass themselves but they are heavily reliant on either Maidana or LeToux manufacturing offense out of nothing.

    The game highlight for me was Espindola tumbling head over heels on M’Bohli picking up a ball in the box, then having the nerve to get in Rais’ face about it. Espindola is good, but he’s also a flopping dandy.

  7. Hard to watch. Literally hard to watch. As in, the players just vanished into the shaded areas of the pitch. What up NBCSports?

    • Not much NBC can do to fix a crappy stadium.

    • Gruntled Fan says:

      Couldn’t agree more, not sure about the shade issue, could have lived with that if the game was at least watchable. The crappy stadium and empty seats don’t help much either. Think my wife had the right idea of taking a nap during the game after DC went up 1-0.

      Just seems like we went from playing well to having no scoring options. At least we know our number one need for the off-season, I don’t think any of the younger options are the answer for next year, but at this point can it really hurt to play them now?

  8. It seems pretty clear that the other coaches now know what Curtin’s strategy is, and how to stop it. Coach, if you want the ‘interim’ tag dropped, you need a Plan B.

    • The Black Hand says:

      LeToux had made himself so valuable, that his loss is very hard for any manager to have a backup strategy on the ready for. We will see what Jim Curtin is all about on Thursday. If he gets it wrong, the playoffs will sail away. His options are incredibly limited.

    • I’d prefer to put this on Sak rather than Curtin. Outside of Casey and LeToux, this team has zero proven goal-scorers. This has been the case since the preseason, and I doubt Curtin had much say in the summer transfers.
      The team had the chance to go out in the transfer window and bring in either a quality striker or left winger with scoring ability. Instead they brought in another goalkeeper (and a high-priced one at that). I’m all for taking a flyer on Brian Brown, but there should had been a proven player added as well.
      It looks like another oversight by the front office that will yet again cost this team entry into the playoffs.

      • 100% spot on!

      • Lack of a proven striker has Sakiewicz (former GK) written all over it. MacMath was the least of this team’s problems, and he had a great year until M’Bolhi signed on. Facts are facts, and M’Bolhi has had 6 different stints on 4 different teams in 5 years…red flag. Irrespective of the goalkeeping though, I just can’t fathom why Sakiewicz undervalues finishing so much, especially after moving McInerney for Wenger. There was no effort to improve that facet of the team all year.

      • +2 – sak’s a hack. track record speaks for itself. time for the real money owners to buy him out.

      • I could’ve accepted not adding a top tier striker during the summer window if it were due to the need to hire a permanent manager first. But with the circus that the search has become, who is going to come here to play or to coach that will make a real impact? This season looks like it will end like 4 of the other 5. With no great expectation for 2015.

  9. That’s our best IX… now what? Another season in the toilet? I was hoping for a playoff run, but we’re seeing once again the September downward curve the Union has us used to now.

  10. Players looked a bit gassed. Long season. It may have been too big of an early hole in the ground. Some wonderful memories this year, though.

    I will be interested to see who stays and goes. I cannot believe LA got Pirlo. That’s just unfair. He’s going to destroy MLS next year.

  11. Anyone else notice DC’s #1 pick (Birnbaum) starting and playing well at CB today? Must be nice to have a draft pick that high who can contribute…..

  12. An 81 minute commercial for the invaluable role played by #11 that none of us needed. Casey becomes the sole established finisher & draws twice the attention. As bad as the result is, the medical report will decide whether the season is really over. Sak said Brown was the new weapon, but the coach has kept him in the holster. It’s just that kind of disconnect that a new, experienced manager/GM with a vision fixes. And why removing the “interim” tag is the wrong move. I see the return of Antoine Hoppenot.

    • Apparently, they haven’t removed the tag yet, right? If that’s the case, we’ll see what Jim is made of here in the last 4 matches.

      • Here’s the thing: the tag story is still out there. Instead of concentrating solely on the playoffs, the moves made (or not made) inevitably will be filtered through the effect on the tag. The tag should not be a distraction. It’s now Day 6 & NOTHING from the club on it. Why?

      • It’s not a distraction. Jim Curtin has had interim status since day one. Come to think of it, most coaches are pretty much interim.

        Some unsubstantiated strories come out and suddenly it’s a distraction that he is interim. Everything indicates he will be sticking around. The front office does not have to react until it is ready. It is only a distraction on this page.

      • Actually your CEO is quoted as saying he never named him “interim.” And he confirmed 3 names on a list to become permanent, a search he suspended. When it’s the first thing your coach discusses at his presser before this match, it’s a distraction. When players are asked, it’s a distraction. When the FO says nothing about a widely reported story, it’s a distraction. Obviously it WAS true. Now, who knows? We didn’t make it a distraction. Your FO did. In case you didn’t notice, a lot of people question your FO.

  13. If it’s still worth looking ahead, thinking this team could still put a dent in the playoffs, seems trying to sneak into that 5th spot is the only hope. And we need Columbus and/or NY to falter. Chicago next week is a must win just to stay in the chase. We alao need NY to lose tonight and for NE to beat the Crew next week.

    There no more margin for error. Two out of an available nine points the last three matches has been a real let down.

  14. At last Nick Sakiewicz makes a comment!

  15. Is anybody similarly alarmed by the play of Carlos Valdez?
    I’ve had a chance to sleep on it and, yep, we’re sunk if Le Toux is out.

    • Agreed Joel, Valdes has not looked right last couple games. I didn’t see the Open Cup final but maybe whatever knock he took there is lingering? Two great saves off line yesterday though.

    • The Black Hand says:

      Valdez has lacked conditioning, since returning from his loan/WC.
      We are facing an uphill battle without LeToux, thats for sure. Though, I think that we still have the pieces. Brown could be lethal for us up top, if deployed properly with an intended tactic. I would have him paired with Casey (Ribiero). In my opinion, Noguiera has to take over the #10, with Maidana slotting out wide. Wenger on the other flank. Backstop the three with Amobi. That grouping should provide intelligent ball movement, giving Casey (holdup) and Brown (speed) opportunities. We don’t have the time needed to weather the adjustment phase of adding a player, who is completely unfamiliar with playing with these midfielders.
      The “interim” is gone. Now, Curtin is going to have to merit that decision. This situation is definitely going to test his “chops”. I think that we still have a slim chance. If Curtin calls on Danny Cruz, we are done.

  16. The similarities I find between when Hackworth’s interim was removed and Curtin’s are a little scary. First, if the recent rumor is true, both will have been named full-time manager following a winless streak, and if it is made official this week it will be following a loss, like Hackworth. Both made smart (and simple) changes that initially ignited the team and brought success, but neither manager* (Curtin isn’t done yet) adjusted when the team faded down the stretch; they continued to ride those changes in hopes it would sort itself out. Curtin rested guys against the Red Bulls and gave away points, then after losing in 120 minutes to Seattle he put the same XI out there against Houston, and tired legs gave away 2 more points. Now he trots out the same lineup that needed a late penalty against NY and was shut out by Houston and they lay another egg. The XI on Saturday was the team’s best XI, but that doesn’t always mean it’s the best XI to start. I think Casey needs a break, Valdes is nowhere close to in form, and Okugo has been less than stellar at CDM lately.

    The one way to distinguish himself from Hackworth – and the issues that arose from hiring within before – is to be creative and think outside the box. This team has scored 3 goals while allowing 6 over the past 4, and is quickly fading in the playoff race. The XI he is putting out there isn’t getting it done, so something needs to change. Hackworth seemed afraid to make changes, down to using Hoppenot as the first sub regardless of the situation. At first Curtin couldn’t make a wrong move, and everything he did made sense and worked. Lately, however, there seems to be hesitation and insecurity on his part, and not everything he does makes sense. If this team is to move forward with Curtin, he has to get creative and get this team to win right now. I don’t know how many more off-season rebuilds/changes of philosophy I can take without seeing real results.

  17. Spot-on analysis.

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