Union match reports

Match report: Columbus Crew 2-1 Philadelphia Union

The stadium in Columbus was half-full, and for large portions of the match both Philadelphia Union and Columbus Crew seemed to be playing at half speed.

But in the end, a loss of concentration saw Philadelphia give up a late, late goal to fall 2-1 to the Columbus Crew in the final match of the 2014 season.

Injuries to Carlos Valdes and Vincent Nogueira forced Jim Curtin to push Maurice Edu into the back line and introduce Danny Cruz on the wing. Sebastien Le Toux moved up top to press the Columbus back line. Brian Carroll took Edu’s spot in the middle next to Okugo.

Columbus left Federico Higuain out entirely, with Ben Speas returning to the attacking midfield role he played two weeks ago against Philly.

The Union came out with pressure and attempted to force Columbus into the same mistakes they made at PPL Park. The Crew seemed prepared, and while there were some shaky moments early it was clear that head coach Greg Berhalter had a plan to get through the pressure.

First half

In the seventh minute, Justin Meram wriggled into space and blasted a warning shot straight at Zac MacMath. It was the first sign that the Union were not on the same page playing transition defense, with Okugo and Carroll looking far from clear on responsibilities.

Five minutes later, the second big alarm bell came in from the left, as Waylon Francis’ cross was smashed off the crossbar by Jairro Arrieta. The Costa Rican striker spent most of his shift pulling away from Ethan White and he should have put the Crew ahead.

In fact, he would do just that a minute later. Columbus sent a breakout pass to Ben Speas in the center circle. With nobody near him, Speas picked up his head and sent Arrieta through alone. The striker may have been offside, but the flag stayed down and he rounded MacMath to put down an early marker.

Philadelphia was seeing plenty of the ball but creating few opportunities. The press was not nearly as effective as two weeks ago, and Columbus kept Wil Trapp deep to force Philly wide. Andrew Wenger and Danny Cruz drove at players, but found little support or space.

In the 25th minute, Columbus almost doubled the lead on a mirror image of their earlier goal. Edu read the play and stepped in to cut it off, but it was clear the Union had not figured out how to lock down the middle of the pitch.

In the 28th minute, Le Toux held off a defender and spun to shoot, giving the Union their first shot on target of the afternoon. It was a harmless shot, but it gave the visitors some life as they sought to break down the compact Columbus defense. The last fifteen minutes of the half saw the Crew sit deeper and deeper, with Philly pushing but unable to create clear opportunities. Cruz began what would become a trend as he fired straight at Steve Clark from Le Toux’s drop pass in the 41st.

Second half

There were no personnel changes at halftime, but Philadelphia came out with more aggression than the hosts. Edu and Okugo began throwing their bodies around, and the former gave Ethan Finlay an early lesson in physicality.

In the 51st minute, Cruz slipped through the defense to power a header on goal but, again, all he found was Steve Clark’s waiting gloves. Moments later, Carroll broke into the box, but Cristian Maidana’s splendid cross was just out of his reach. By this point, Carroll and Okugo had worked out their defensive troubles and began pinning the Crew’s midfield deep. Tony Tchani took up residence in front of the back four, with only Speas roaming the middle of the park.

In the 53rd minute, Pedro Ribeiro replaced Wenger. The rookie moved up top, pushing Cruz left and Le Toux to the right. Okugo picked up the game’s first caution moments later when he surprised Tchani with a strong hip challenge.

Columbus got into the subbing game in the 62nd and 65th, with Arrieta leaving for young Romain Gall and Finlay stepping off for Eric Gehrig.

Ribeiro’s day would unfortunately end minutes after Gehrig’s arrival. The Union striker’s forehead collided with the back of Gehrig’s head off a restart. The rookie looked woozy and was soon replaced by Zach Pfeffer. Michael Lahoud came on for Brian Carroll at the same time.

If it seems like most of the second half highlights were substitutions, well, take from that what you will.

In the 73rd minute, Cruz again found room to power a left footed shot on goal, but once again Clark did not have to move to beat back the strike.

As the match wore down, it looked like Philly would need something special to break through. They got it when Columbus fell asleep and let Le Toux sneak alone to the end line on a throw in. Sheanon Williams found the Frenchman, who padded the ball down for Okugo to sweep into the path of an onrushing Pfeffer. The Union’s first homegrown signing notched his first MLS goal as he coolly slotted beyond Clark to tie the contest.

But this is the 2014 Philadelphia Union. So you know what is coming next.

Deep into extra time, Waylon Francis — as he had all match — ended up in huge space on the left. A low cross found Tchani 12 yards out, and the big midfielder’s shot deflected off Edu and MacMath before landing at Bernardo Anor’s feet. The midfielder made no mistake from a yard out.

In every replay, Anor looked far offside. But the assistant referee must have ruled that the deflections counted as a change in possession, as he instantly sprinted away and signaled for a goal.

Thus, the Philadelphia Union’s season ended the way it began: With a late, late goal canceling out a reasonably strong performance.

Philadelphia Union
Zac MacMath, Ray Gaddis, Maurice Edu, Ethan White, Sheanon Williams, Amobi Okugo, Brian Carroll (Michael Lahoud 73’), Danny Cruz, Andrew Wenger (Pedro Ribeiro 53’, Zach Pfeffer 73’), Cristian Maidana, Sebastien Le Toux
Unused Subs: Andre Blake, Fabinho, Fred, Brian Brown

Columbus Crew
Steve Clark, Hector Jimenez, Michael Parkhurst, Taylor Wahl, Waylon Francis, Wil Trapp, Tony Tchani, Ethan Finlay (Eric Gherig 65’), Ben Speas (Bernardo Anor 78’), Justin Meram, Jairo Arrieta (Romain Gall 63’)
Unused Subs: Matt Lampson, Emanuel Pogatetz, Kevan George, Aaron Schoenfeld

Scoring Summary
CLB: Jairo Arrieta (Speas, Trapp) 13’
PHL: Zach Pfeffer (Okugo, Le Toux) 85’
CLB: Bernardo Anor 90’

Disciplinary Summary
PHL: Okugo YC (persistent infringement) 57’

Philadelphia Union Columbus Crew
12 Attempts on Goal 15
7 Shots on Target 4
3 Shots off Target 4
2 Blocked Shots 5
7 Corner Kicks 3
36 Crosses 15
3 Offsides 1
16 Fouls 9
1 Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards 0
396 Total Passes 409
81% Passing Accuracy 79%
49.8% Possession 50.2%
41 Duels Won 44
48.2% Duels Won % 51.8%
14 Tackles Won 15
2 Saves 6
17 Clearances 40


  1. Good on you Zach.

    Um. Yea. There are juice boxes and beer in the fridge tastycakes in the cabinet lock up on your way out.

  2. Boooooooooooo!

  3. You act like the assistant has the authority to reinterpret the offside rule whenever he wants.

    • Richie The Limey says:

      Law 11 – Offside.

      Gaining an Advantage: A player is offside when…

      Playing a ball that rebounds to him off a goalpost or the crossbar having been in an offside position or playing a ball that rebounds to him off an opponent having been in an offside position.

  4. I thought the Union looked like the better team throughout. Better chances and better possessions. That late goal just sucked.

    Oh well. I don’t see a point getting too worked up. Let’s have a good off season. And put this one behind us.

  5. If Danny Cruz is the best I;m done, he couldn’t play in the 4th division in Europe runs around like a chicken without a head,, go EPL

  6. More of the same in early every facet from this team. Glad that’s over.
    Congrats to Zach scoring his first goal. Hope that is a sign of things to come.
    If I see Pedro Ribero starting as a striker next season or Danny Cruz as a best IX – I will know, for certain, this team has no clearly defined plan, vision or philosophy. I know I know…. more of that talk from me.
    Please dear Union, give me a reason to believe next season.

  7. Regarding award for Hope Solo– Can someone answer how a goalkeeper who did not have to make one save in a tournament is awarded the tournaments best goalkeeper.
    If I had ham I’d make a sandwich if I had bread.

  8. In how many losses/blown lead ties this season did the Union outplay their opponents for most of the game only to see the lack of finishing combined with late game inability to play smart cost them points?

  9. Didn’t get to watch the game, how did Zach play besides his goal? Looked like he had some good movement at least in that highlight.


    • You Joels have me cracking up this morning.
      Wonder if I know one of you guys.

      • It’s all in the font and how you approach movable type. Nuance. We’re like identical twins only very different. We are just adding to the confusion of what has been a very confusing year- using our little mix up here as a litmus for the general zeitgeist of a mixed up soccercity.
        maybe I’ll break out a pseudonym next season- bring clarity. call myself el Pachyderm.

      • Joel Prushan (formerly known as Joel) says:

        Screw it im just using my last name

  11. When I saw the XI, I saw all I needed to know. What didn’t we learn yesterday? Can’t finish a game (Portland). Not athletic or deep enough to win with high press (Seattle), cant finish in final third (pick ’em), LeToux is our sole weapon (34 games), Carroll should not start (every game he played), . . . . If the kids are good enough to be selected, start them these two games. Cruz again, for heaven’s sake?! Curtin says winning is contagious. With apologies to anyone this might offend & with props to Lahoud especially, then PPL Park should immediately be designated as a quarantine site for ebola. Bold prediction: Curtin is gone within 2 years – most unfortunately. #KickEbolaInTheButt

  12. Sooo I decided to look into a depressing trend for the Union had for the entire year….

    IF matches/games were only 75 minutes long:

    The Union would have a record of 16-12-6 for 52 points.
    Correcting for change in points: The Union would have finished 3rd ahead of NYRB (52) b/c of more wins. Columbus would have 50.

    6 Leads at the 75 minute mark turned into 5 Ties and a Loss.

    • Nice analysis… depressing, but appreciated.

    • What is the breakdown between coaches? We had 2 seasons. Portland was lapse in player concentration. Columbus was Curtin’s mess: from style to subs up by 2 at 75′ mark. What’s in common is WSSM.

      • Lost 9 points under Hackworthless and only 1 with Curtin(s). We lost 3 points to Columbus as you mentioned, but the U did come back to tie both Chicago and the Cancer Drinks after trailing at the 75 minute mark. BUT you are correct WSSM.

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