Union match reports

Recap: Philadelphia Union 6-0 London United

Photo: Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

In their third match of the preseason, Philadelphia Union defeated London United, 6-0. The scoreline was equally reflective of both the Union’s dominance and London United’s ineptitude.

Union head coach Jim Curtin said after the game, “I thought the guys that opened the game were very good – they set the tone early and scored two great goals. For the second group playing 30 minutes, regardless of the score, we set the goal in the pre-game meal, the exercise was to treat it like we were down a goal going into it and I needed them to score two goals. They took that task, played up-tempo, had a lot of good crosses in the box and we were able to score four goals. I was very happy.”

First Half

The Union started off the first half with a solid attacking move from trialist Eric Ayuk, who rounded his man and played a ball in to Dzenan Catic. Catic layed it off to Fred, who sent it well over the goal. London United reacted with one of their few threatening moves of the half with a long shot that was sent low and straight at John McCarthy, who handled easily.

Catic soon set up another one of his teammates when he dummied a pass from Fred. The ball fell to Danny Cruz, who blasted over.

McCarthy soon had his one truly uneasy moment of the half when he reacted late to a ball on the edge of his box. He reached it under pressure and headed wide to right back Raymond Lee.

Catic continued his strong passing play, playing Cruz in on goal. The play was threatening, but defended well, and the ball was tackled away.

The Union drew first blood on a well taken free kick by Zach Pfeffer in the tenth minute. He sent in a near post cross to a poorly marked Richie Marquez, who rose to the ball and calmly headed it into the bottom corner. It was one of the many well taken free kicks by Pfeffer, who had a strong outing at the No. 10 spot.

Fabinho later found himself committing a hard foul on a 50/50 challenge. He came up unscathed, but caused an injury to an unfortunate London United player. The ensuing free kick was well claimed by McCarthy.

Fred and Cruz then combined on the left flank, with Fred playing in Pfeffer, who had the ball tackled out for a corner. The corner was taken by Pfeffer and played in dangerously, but was ultimately cleared.

London United came back again with a set piece, this time a long free kick off of a Vitoria foul. The ball was reached by Fabinho, who’s shanked clearance was controlled by Lee. Fabinho soon redeemed himself with a dangerous cross following an incisive pass by Michael Lahoud. The cross came in to Catic but was cleared for another corner. Pfeffer took it again and played in yet another good ball, which was cleared out.

After coming up with some creative combinations with Fred and Pfeffer on the left side, Danny Cruz saw his day end following a yellow card for a rough tackle from behind in the London half. Jim Curtin immediately subbed him out for Jimmy McLaughlin.

“Coming back off of injury, it was good for him to get 20 minutes,” Curtin said. “We managed it in a way where he had the full warmup with the team and had a good 20 minutes”

Philadelphia’s next shot came from about 50 yards out off of Steven Vitoria’s boot. He may have seen the keeper off his line, but his shot was well wide. Another shot soon came from Pfeffer after receiving a pass from Fred. He controlled it and turned well, but fired high and wide.

The second Union goal resulted from some excellent combination. A McLaughlin and Fabinho give-and-go along the flank ended with McLaughlin’s crossing into to Fred, who struck a thunderous half-volley from twenty yards. London United’s keeper had no chance.

The Union midfield continued to combine effectively, with little to no resistance coming from the London defense. Fred played in again to Pfeffer, who’s low shot was well saved and pushed out for a corner.

Eric Ayuk — who showed a lot of promise, but lacked the final pass going forward — was subbed out in the 32nd minute for Antoine Hoppenot.

Marquez soon had his one shaky moment of the night, swinging and missing on a London free kick into the box. Fortunately, Vitoria was there to clear. The clearance was just one of many by Vitoria, who was absolutely dominant in the air and had a solid game in the back.

The Union nearly got their third goal of the night following an excellent play by Hoppenot on the right wing. He took his man off the dribble and played a great cross into an unmarked Catic. However, Catic connected poorly on the header, which sailed high and grazed the crossbar before going over. After missing his first clear chance, Catic soon collected his first yellow card for a rough tackle from behind.

The Union backline continued their solid outing, with clearances coming from both Vitoria and Marquez in quick succession.

The half ended with one final attacking move, this time by McLaughlin along the right side. Dribbling straight past his man, he fired a hard near post shot that was well saved.

Second Half

The second half kicked off with the entrance of Ethan White, who replaced Steven Vitoria.

After relative inaction for the first few minutes, London FC collected their first yellow card when Devante Totesaut fouled Pfeffer from behind in the 50th minute. He got his second yellow only one minute later after being left in the dust by Hoppenot.

The ensuing free kick was shot to the upper left corner by Pfeffer, but it lacked power and was easily saved. Pfeffer soon found another scoring chance after an excellent pass from Catic. His connection was rushed, and sent well wide.

Hoppenot soon sent another hard cross across the top of the six that was narrowly missed by Catic. McLaughlin’s cross from the opposite flank barely eluding Pfeffer at the top of the box.

Hoppenot had another chance from a well taken corner by Pfeffer, but his open header went high and wide.

Jim Curtin made a wholesale sub in the 61st minute, putting in Sebastien Le Toux, Cristian Maidana, Andrew Wenger, Maurice Edu, CJ Sapong, Sheanon Williams, Raymon Gaddis, as well as new acquisition Fernando Aristeguieta. Both Ethan White and Richie Marquez remained on the field, although they were largely untested for the rest of the game.

The first chance came to Aristeguieta, who met Wenger’s cross and headed wide.

Wenger followed up his cross by collecting a pass from Edu, cutting inside his man and firing wide right.

The floodgates nearly opened when Williams played in Le Toux, who crossed to Aristeguieta. The Venezuelan headed down brilliantly straight onto the run of Maidana, but his shot was blocked.

Sapong then drew a foul at the top of the box. The free kick was taken by Maidana, who drilled his shot off of the crossbar.

The Union were finally rewarded by their unrelenting pressure in the 70th minute, when Gaddis slipped a pass to Wenger, whose cross was well collected and fired home by Aristeguieta.

Aristeguieta nearly got his second only minutes later after heading yet another cross from Wenger over the bar. Sapong also found himself wide open in the box following a cross from Williams. His header was poor, but still forced a save from the London keeper.

Wenger then scored his first as the ball fell to him after a scramble in the box. He took his opportunity well and blasted his shot to the far post to make it 4-0 in the 71st minute.

Wenger nearly made it 5-0 a few minutes later when his inadvertent cross turned shot was tipped over the bar.

The Union found their fifth in the 80th minute. Le Toux laid off a free kick to Maidana, who’s hard shot deflected off of a poorly constructed London FC wall and into the net.

Edu then won the ball in midfield and played Aristeguieta in on goal. His shot was well taken but strongly saved. Le Toux nearly found his first soon after. Fernando played him in well, but his shot and ensuing rebound were saved.

Philadelphia found their sixth in the 85th minute courtesy of a howler by the London keeper. His throw was intercepted by Wenger and deflected to Aristeguieta, who easily played it into goal.

Aristeguieta said after the win, “It was my first game, I was very excited to get working with the team. You can’t stop with that [two-goal game]. We have to keep working and I have to get to know them. It’s the same for me as for them, they don’t know me. And these games are for that – to be ready on March 7.”

One final threat on goal came when Le Toux crossed to Wenger. His shot beat the keeper, but was cleared off the line with Sapong closing in.

After scoring only one goal in the first two preseason games, the Union have now scored nine more over the the last two — admittedly against less cohesive opponents. Still, the goal explosion is as welcome as it is encouraging. Curtin said after the game,”With all of the forward options that we have now, that front line gives you a lot of flexibility. They’re all mobile, they can cover ground – they’re going to create a lot of problems for defenses.”

The Union play their final group game of the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic when the face MLS opposition for the first time of the preseason on Wednesday. Kickoff against Columbus Crew is at 5 pm and the game will be streamed.

“Obviously you like to get results and like to win,” Curtin said. “But at the same time, we know that there’s tougher tasks ahead and we look forward to Columbus.”

Philadelphia Union (first half)
John McCarthy; Fabinho, Steven Vitoria, Richie Marquez, Raymond Lee; Mike Lahoud, Fred; Danny Cruz (Jimmy McLaughlin, 21), Zach Pfeffer, Eric Ayuk (Antoine Hoppenot, 32); Dzenan Catic

(Second half around the 61st minute)
John McCarthy; Ray Gaddis, Ethan White (came on for Vitoria at the start of the second half), Richie Marquez, Sheanon Williams; Maurice Edu; Andrew Wenger, Cristian Maidana, Sebastien Le Toux; CJ Sapong, Fernando Aristeguieta

Scoring Summary
PHI – Marquez (Pfeffer)- 10
PHI – Fred (Mclaughlin) – 29
PHI – Aristeguieta (Wenger) – 70
PHI – Wenger – 71
PHI – Maidana (Le Toux) – 80
PHI – Aristeguieta (Wenger) – 85

Disciplinary Summary
PHI – Cruz (caution) – 21
PHI – Catic (caution) – 40
LU – Devonte Totesaut (caution) – 50
LU – Devonte Totesaut (caution) – 51

Referee: JC Riviero


  1. Sorry to be the glass half empty kind of guy but that LU team was a joke. Really looked like a U-13 squad. On the bright side the U crushed them and didn’t play down to the competition’s level as they have often done. I’m very eager to see how they fare on Wednesday against an MLS team.

  2. The positive:
    Let’s see how many I can get to agree with this first comment as it will give me a barometer. Here goes, are you all ready? Eric Ayuk was the best player on the field for the first 32 minutes. Yes he was….- AND he seems to have that most rare of qualities- La Pausa. I hope he makes the team and sees time because he should. Moving on. Pfeffer made some nice runs. Catic is going to be good. Hard to tell how our defense was as LU was really really really overmatched. Michael Lahoud is absolutely a fine 2nd choice holding mid. I admit to feeling quite comfortable when he is in as I know he is going to destroy, find the ball and cycle it. Really it is what you want from the 6. Nothing flashy. Quality defensive play.
    The Neutral or The God Giveth and Taketh Away Category.

    Gotta send Pfeffer out there again and again. He made two nice off the ball runs but was really sloppy and poorly positioned and didn’t look good at all at times- as though he was overmatched/invisible which is a bit concerning- particularly when he was in the center midfield. Could be he wasn’t getting the ball but it seemed he was well marked and unable to affect play. I’m not sure that is an ideal position for him at this point. Guess we will see.
    Regarding the final 30 minutes, I will offer not much as what could or should we have expected. Thank God they dominated that team. Phew– if they didn’t. Also, do we all agree that the best formation is a 4-3-3 as that is the only way to get the final 30 minute team on the field at once and still include Noguiera? Without one of those midfielders being fit though, I can easily see the 4-1-3-2 as best fit like they played tonight with Edu holding the fort. He is quite capable.
    The Negative:
    This is going to be rough but I really think it is the truth. On any given Saturday morning around 11:30 or so throughout the course of an entire season, I can go to any Primera Division CASA league game and find 5 better players than Danny Cruz. I’ve tried I’ve tried I tried. But he is not an MLS player. He isn’t even an MLS bench player. This is my final assessment- I’ve seen enough. Argue ad infinitum to try and change my mind- but despite the 2 or 3 things he will do well, there is WAY too many holes in his game. He and Fabinho were nearly unwatchable on the left and Fabinho didn’t play that bad but when paired with Cruz it was tough to take against a really really overmatched team. Lastly and because this is the lens through which I see the game, considering there were maybe 300 people there, was it really necessary to play a futbol game on a football field. It is a big bummer for me to see our game relegated (pun intended) to playing on football fields. It is ALL wrong: Seattle, NE, IMG, Preseason, World Cup whatever. Enough with the goals that I an hoist on my back and the 30 yard line.

    • I didn’t see the match, but as far as Danny Cruz goes I can’t agree more. I know he works hard. He tries, he really does. But the team really needs quality out there. Quality wins games. Quality win titles. Danny doesn’t have that.

    • I saw the match and I couldn’t agree more. Danny Cruz doesn’t belong in MLS, especially at his six figure salary.
      I would love to agree about Ayuk, but to be honest I couldn’t really make him out on the screen. I’ll take your word for it, though.

    • I agree with you’re take on Cruz. It has been one of the things that has confounded me about the mindset of the Union head coach(s) and staff. I can admire his hustle and heart but he does not belong on a professional soccer team. He just doesn’t have the skill. I don’t care if he is coming off of an injury. There were players on LU coming of injuries who showed more than Cruz. He has no basic skills. If he is on this team in place of someone who deserves a chance then this organization and coach are in fact just plain dysfunctional. Again there are players on this team who are taking roster spot from others who are more deserving and to me that’s total BS!

      Like what I saw last night. The game against Columbus should answer some lingering questions. Mainly can Curtin build a solid skilled roster, make the right in game adjustments and can he coach? If he can then there is hope, if not (and I love JC) he will be nothing more than a user friendly JH.

    • I have been ranting about Cruz from day 1. It probably made up more than half of my comments when I first started commenting. The scary thing is that Cruz is much improved over his form from 2 seasons ago and he still doesn’t belong here. Sorry Danny, but you are a blight on this team and league. “A” for effort though.

  3. That team was so overmatched, but it was still nice seeing the guys get out there and have some fun. (I’d like to know what their time of possession was)

    Nando could have easily had the hat trick, although against that club it may not have been much to brag about. He looked healthy and seems like a good fit for us.

    Catic also had some missed opportunities that he should be able to capitalize on with the 1st team. Really looking forward to seeing more of this kid.

  4. I really hope that after the Crew game the Union’s final game of the tournament ends up being against another MLS team. I’m not saying that this game was a waste of time – it’s great to put 6 in the net, give fringe guys some time, give the new striker a runout and do a 1-0 down mental exercise in the 2nd half. The problem is that this was the 4th preseason game, and just when the competition should have been ramping up, the Union were stuck playing against what is essentially a semi-pro team. I’m feeling better about the roster, but unless the next two games are against real opposition I’m going to be worried about the team’s preparedness going into March 7 (or whenever the season is actually going to start).

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      On the other side of the bracket, the Danish team -HB Koge? – currently lies fourth on points with one, the new USL side Oklahoma City Energy FC and Toronto FC are tied for second and third with three, and the Pink Heiffers are first with four. The non-MLSers play and the MLSers play in the final round similarly to our side of the table. Pinkies win or tie, they play in the Championship with seven or five points and Toronto finishes with three or four. Toronto wins they finish with six, Pinkies with four, and their places depend on OKC’s result. If both Toronto and OKC win, they tie for first on points and are placed by the next tie breaker which is unknown to me. Goal difference, should that be it, in the group currently is Pinkies +1, TFC & OKC 0, and HB Koge -1. So, OKC still theoretically could win its group or place second over a losing Pinkies side. HB Koge still could finish second if they were to beat OKC and if they were to hold the tiebreaker over Pinkies. The only certainty is that the consolation and Championship games cannot both have a non-MLS side in them from that side of the group.

      • Actually, if Pinkies tie and OKC wins, OKC wins the group. Pinkies game is after the Union, so the Union won’t even know if first or second gets them the date with another MLS club until after they’ve played.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Yup. I stand improved and say thank you!

      • Which is frankly, a joke. The Union should not be signing up for preseason tournaments where they MAYBE get to play 2 MLS teams in total. It’s ridiculous.
        PS many thanks to you and Old Soccer Coach for pointing out the mechanics of the this tournament.

  5. The Little Fish says:

    The opponent was terrible but I was happy for a few reasons: Fernando (Beardnando?) hustled his butt down to Clearwater recognizing the urgency and condensed timeframe. The fact that he played and scored is crucial because with strikers you want to get the confidence going prior to opening day. Also, I’m personally getting more comfortable with Pfeffer as depth behind Chaco Maidana. I saw some pretty nifty passes that demonstrated Pfeffer’s good field vision as a distributer. Vitoria looks very imposing on our back line. He looks like he can really play! Carlos who? Maybe this whole thing comes together? Tough, skilled, scrappy, tall club? Ahhhh, hope springs eternal. I cannot wait for Wednesday. Go Union…!!!

  6. The Little Fish says:

    I’m also quite comfortable with our defensive corps. I would not invest big bucks in a LB at this point. Which teams out there do? Gaddis will only be better this year on the left with more time there. Fabinho is fine as a backup left back. He’s pretty consistent, and truthfully has more offensive skills COMPARATIVELY versus other backup MLS LBs. It’s a relative thing really. I’m also totally cool with Michael Lahoud as backup Defensive Midfielder. As long as we can score goals I think our defense is actually pretty stout. Having talented guys like Williams who can play inside or outside, and Gaddis who can play left or right is a very big deal with our apparent financial constraints.

  7. Good job but can we talk about Parma I mean holy shit…

    • Parma situation is insane. Players showed amazing compassion in not pushing the issue to get their back wages in order to help the back room staff, but in the end, they all got burnt. Very sad.

  8. I don’t care if the competition was Madrid or a local CYO team. You have to play the team on the field, and the Union went out and dispatched them with ease.
    It was a substandard team, and the score line reflected that, as it should. Great job by the U for putting them away without any drama whatsoever.
    People wanted to see Chaco score more (check), Wenger continue his fine form (check), a new striker add firepower (check), and for a new lockdown CB (check).
    Again, yes, I understand the level of competition, but they treated them exactly as they should. Learning to beat teams worse than you is an underrated team trait.
    More importantly, the offense got used to puttingn the ball in the net. They put a ton more on frame, which has always been a problem for us.
    I’m very much looking forward to Columbus. They are a sneaky good team and will make noise this year. Wednesday will be a great measure of our team.
    In the meantime, these past two results are encouraging, because this team is doing exactly what they should: playing solid defense, scoring when presented with the opportunity, controlling the game.

  9. what’s the word with draftee Eric Bird? Is he still with the team?

    • and where is Blake?

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        From somewhere, maybe the twitters about the scrimmage against Tampa, I thought I’d heard Blake had picked up a knock. I have the same question about Bird; he seems to have disappeared into night and fog, no word one way or the other. Only circumstance I can think of is a knock that takes a really long time to heal well. The silence is confusing as I can see no advantage to be gained from it.

      • I was under the impression Mr. Jim thought Bird was a natural substitute for Nogeria from eariler reports. I don’t understand why there can’t be injury updates like in every other sport.

      • Blake hurt his knee in Jacksonville. Going to likely miss a month or so.

      • Damn. Good intel though!

  10. I have a feeling that I’m going to love this Beardnando kid!

    Speaking of kids, McLaughlin seemed to be all over the pitch yesterday. What are his odds of not going to Harrisburg to start the season??

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      The contrast between McGlaughlin and Cruz was direct and not that favorable to Cruz. Cruz challenges for the balls that are cemetery, not hospital, passes, and he brings pace, both good things. McGlaughlin is pressing him, but has yet to prove he is as effective in contesting a big physical MLS defender. If Jimmy does that, then I would be surprised not to see him on the first team roster. My own guess is that the roster is already in place, although nothing has been announced. In the past they have not picked up late cuts from other teams for last minute roster shuffles, so I am assuming that habit continues. Therefore I think Cruz remains. We also know nothing of how Danny’s personality and style influence the intensity of team practices. If he helps move practice closer to game intensity, that is a very real positive contribution. He also is a player rep in the CBA negotiations, so I suspect he will be given consideration while those negotiations are on-going, as cutting him would be extremely bad negotiating PR. But it would not surprise me if this is his last season here, as Jimmy is pushing him, certainly did so last night.

      • I am assuming you watched the game and if so, what is your assessment of the play from Ayuk and Pfeffer OSC?

      • If I were running MLS I’d serve the player reps a big plate of Prosciutto di Parma at the negotiating table and let them chew on it for a little while. No it’s not perfectly analogous but I’m just sayin

  11. Nice to see the recreational leagues are continuing in Canada…

  12. For the first time in a long time we have a team that showed a KILLER instinct in spite of the opponent. They did not play down to the level of their opponent. That is a tremendous sign. You have to play the team on the pitch. Playing down to their level develops those lazy sloppy habits we’ve seen in the past(hear that flyers!). Kudos to the Union. If JC makes the correct(hard)decisions about the roster I feel the Union will be very competitive. There’s is nothing more dangerous than a team with something to prove. Let’s see how we do against Columbus(I hate them).

  13. THANK YOU … Danny Cruz is a horror show to watch and I haven’t been able to figure out how he was able to even make the bench let alone get on the field. I swear he has blackmail pictures on somebody!

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      My dad and I have been saying Cruz has gotta have pictures on someone almost since the first day we acquired him. Haha. He and Carroll need to not combine for more than 100 minutes this year.

  14. Old Soccer Coach says:

    I have been pondering Joel’s earlier comment about Eric Ayuk Mbu#14 the Cameroonian trialist at flank midfielder. I noticed that he went shoulder to shoulder with a bigger opponent and the bigger man went down, the second time I’ve seen that strength and field awareness. I had the impression of pace at the YSC open practice. He did what he was supposed to do combining with teammates in combination play both moving the ball out of the defensive third and moving into the offensive one, to his clear credit. He was an effective cog in the machine. What I do not remember seeing from him is beating an opponent down his sideline one v one on the dribble. The screen is small; it’s focus, imprecise; my eyes, old; my attention tends to focus on the central channel, and his channel was the furthest away from the camera. So, our best player in the first 32 minutes, no. But he clearly belonged with his teammates on that day and time. Were I to bet, I would say he’s similar to Jimmy two preseason’s ago and needs a season at Harrisburg to play a lot opposite Morgan Stanley on the flank, with the difference being that he is younger than Jimmy and stronger on his feet than Jimmy was. I am assuming that the impression I have of his age – 17 or 18 – is correct. I know nothing of the reliability of Cameroonian vital statistics; its colonial experience was originally German followed by French, but I know nothing post-colonial practice.

    • Thanks for response and willingness to ponder. He had a 1v1 battle that he used his speed to win- whether that counts I’m unsure. What I liked was his technique on the ball- he got in and out of a few jams without any sense of control issues. He was the player, besides Catic that really stood out for me in first 30. I did not see a final pass this time. What I liked was his reading the game and his willingness to slow the play down- as we all know it gets a bit frenetic with our incessant need to play fast. He is a young man with tremendous upside and I hope he sticks. It is likely some seasoning at Harrisburg would be ideal.

  15. Another positive that I think too many people are missing about this team is the potential star we have in Wenger. He showed glimpses of what he could do last year once he was given a set position that he could work on. With an entire offseason devoted to getting stronger at this position it looks like he might be able to excel this year. Especially if a we get a forward with a hot streak this will allow Wenger to have a one on one matchup on the outside where he has shown that he has the ability to take people on, get in good positions, cross the ball well, and even score. I think there is some potential that we will see fulfilled this year.

    As for the team as a whole I think we have a shot this year. The only major contributor we lost was Okugo, and while I was just as pissed as anyone to see him go, we have the players that can fill his position. We have to remember that this team was notorious for blowing leads and giving up late goals. If they manage to simply stop giving away those points there is a chance we could side comfortably in the playoff spots.

    • Andrew played nicely. I appreciated the 2 left footed crosses I saw from him. One was a miss the other dead accurate and well taken. He looks bigger whether through strength or because he is growing up. I agree. The Wenger Winger.

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