Union match reports

Recap: Philadelphia Union 1-1 Columbus Crew (5-3 on penalties)

Photo: Courtesy of Columbus Crew

In their first match against MLS competition in 2015, Philadelphia Union defeated Columbus Crew 5-3 on penalties after the score ended 1-1 at regulation.

Fernando Aristeguieta  opened the scoring in the 27th minute before Columbus equalized int e 67th minute. After regulation, the Union were perfect from the penalty spot while goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi made a clutch stop to ensure the win.

The game was contested under trying conditions with fog and high winds.

“It’s tough [to play in conditions like that],” Union head coach Curtin said. “The rain is no problem, but the wind ruins our game and you saw an example of that today. There wasn’t a lot of passing because of 25-30 miles per hour wind and also the fog. But give the guys credit, they battled through it and got the win.”

First Half

The Union started Ray Gaddis, Steven Vitoria, Ethan White, and Sheanon Williams in front of Rais Mbolhi in goal. In front of them were Maurice Edu, with Zach Pfeffer left, Cristian Maidana center, and Sebastien Le Toux on the right. Up top were CJ Sapong and Fernando Aristeguieta. The Union tweeted before the game,”Andrew Wenger was a game-time decision (neck). Staff elected to give him the night off.”

In the first chance of the half, Federico Higuain struck Mbolhi’s right post and Kei Kamara buried the ensuing chance into the Union net, but the goal was called off for offsides.

Minutes later, a pass was played across Mbolhi’s goal and sent into an open net, only to be called off again.

Although they were porous down the wings early on, the Union recovered well and soon generated their first chance of the half, with Fernando Aristeguieta firing wide. The ensuing corner by Cristian Maidana was struck over everyone, as the adverse weather conditions played a key role on the day.

Sheanon Williams had a strong first half, beginning with a blocked shot on Kamara, which was cleared by Steven Vitoria.

The Union soon won a free kick from thirty yards off of a Will Trapp handball. Maidana struck it hard, but into the wall and out for a throw.

Working into rhythm, Philadelphia soon generated one of their most threatening chances of the game. Aristeguieta received the ball at the top of the box and held up play well, sending Zach Pfeffer in from the left. Pfeffer did well to round his man and play across the box to CJ Sapong, who fired just wide.

The Union threatened again soon after. A poor clearance out of the back fell to Sebastien Le Toux, who controlled it and layed a ball off for Williams, but his hard drive was blocked out for a corner. The corner was taken again by Maidana, who continued to struggle with his delivery.

As the half wore on, Jim Curtin’s men became more organized in their high press, and Columbus struggled to adjust. Combined pressure from Maidana and Sapong led to a crossing opportunity, which forced a strong claim from Crew netminder, Steve Clark.

Union hearts skipped a beat soon when, in the span of five minutes, Maurice Edu was struck in the face and Le Toux twisted his ankle. Both were able to carry on, but Le Toux walked with a slight limp for the rest of the half.

Both Williams and Ray Gaddis began to leave their mark on the game in their defensive third, snuffing out multiple Crew attacks. Their teammates also did well to clog up passing lanes in the center of the field, and Columbus struggled to find anything going forward.

The defensive tenacity finally paid off in the 27th minute as Sheanon Williams won the ball at midfield. He exchanged passes with Sapong and sent an inch perfect cross to an open Aristeguieta. The Venezuelan finished the play just as effectively as Williams started it, sending his diving header across the face of goal and into the top corner.

“Sheanon Williams made a good play – a good defensive play that led to a good counterattack,” Curtin said after the game. “It’s something we’ve talked about and practiced a lot in training. Fernando did a good job to get on the end of the cross and head it in.”

Gaddis tackled the ball away in similar fashion only minutes later. He also played in to Aristeguieta at the top of the box, but this time the shot went wide. A better option might have been passing to a streaking CJ Sapong down the wing, but it wasn’t meant to be.

Columbus soon responded to the pressure and attacked down Philadelphia’s left wing. Gaddis was under duress, but blocked a cross out for a corner, which was cleared upfield by Edu.

The weather significantly worsened around the 35th minute, with a heavy fog and a strong wind blowing towards the Columbus goal. The wind seemed to push the Union further forward as Maidana, Le Toux, and Aristeguieta all sent in good crosses, but no one was able to get on the other end.

The game then saw its only two cards in the thirty-ninth minute, courtesy of Sheanon Williams. The defender appeared to push a Columbus player after fouling him, leading to a minor shoving match in which Maurice Edu came to his rescue. Williams and the Crew’s Kristinn Steindorsson both were shown yellow cards following the scuffle.

After a shaky start, both Ethan White and Steven Vitoria had solid halves. They were tested multiple times on crosses and balls over the top, but maintained their line and did well to clear, time and time again. Maidana was a surprise in the defensive third as well, blocking multiple crosses out for throws after tracking back. He and Gaddis came under heavy pressure late in the half, but both were up for the challenge.

Mbolhi also had to handle his one true test in the first half, coming out of his box to volley his first MLS clearance since his howler against Chicago. Fortunately, this one was much more successful.

White closed out his half with two more interventions. He had an excellent sliding tackle on Kamara in his own penalty box, and then headed out a cross only seconds later.

The Union had the last two chances of the half. First Le Toux crossed in to Aristeguieta, who struck his half-volley wide. Pfeffer had the last Union touch when he won the ball in the attacking third and struck a cross that barely eluded Sapong.

Second Half

The second half started with a near complete substitution of field players. Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Raymond Lee, Michael Lahoud, Eric Ayuk, Fred, Danny Cruz, Dzenan Catic, and Conor Casey all entered play, with Mbolhi and White the only players remaining from the first half.

Danny Cruz got things going early in the second half, beating his man off the dribble before sending a cross straight in to Columbus backup keeper Matt Lampson.

Conor Casey started off his day playing more of a false 9 role underneath Dzenan Catic, and set up Erik Ayuk with a number of through balls along the wing. The first such pass lead to Ayuk striking a hard drive that was blocked out for a corner.

Casey then played a decent ball to Catic over the top. Catic lacked the pace to get onto it and then committed a silly foul on the Columbus center half.

Ayuk continued his solid performance with a hard tackle in the final third that yielded a cross by Fred, which was blocked away.

As the half went on, Catic struggled to get on the end of long passes out of the back, often getting physically out played along the way. Columbus took advantage of his giveaways with decent pressure up the flanks, eventually drawing a corner which was cleared out of bounds, and somehow for a goal kick, by Michael Lahoud.

Cruz saw his day end prematurely just as it did against London United, this time due to injury. The play started with Fabinho stepping high to win the ball before playing it upfield to Casey, who turned well and sent in a great ball to Cruz. Cruz initially rounded his mark, but lost the ball off of a great tackle by someone who was well disguised by the fog. The tackle brought Cruz down hard and resulted in his immediate substitution by Brian Carroll.

Carroll was initially inserted along the right wing, which was probably a career first, but soon went back to defensive midfield as Jimmy McLaughlin came in for White in the 60th minute. Oddly enough, this required Lahoud to make his professional debut as a center back, with Carroll in front of him and McLaughlin on the wing.

The wind continued to kick up with McLaughlin’s insertion, and combined with the Crew to attack the Union defense. Multiple clearances from Marquez and Mbolhi were sent to midfield and pushed back to the edge of the Union box, all before striking the ground.

Columbus took advantage of the extreme conditions by sending in several crosses in a manner of a few minutes. Lahoud’s first intervention as a center back was a shaky one, as he whiffed on a clearing header. Fortunately for him, so did the Columbus attacker. As the game wore on, he and Marquez recovered well do clear a series of crosses out of the Union box.

One such cross lead to Columbus’s first shot on goal, as god knows who pounced onto a Lahoud clearance and fired in a low angle shot high to Mbolhi’s near post. Rais reacted well to palm the ball over.

McLaughlin and Casey gave their defense a brief rest when the big forward’s incisive through ball found McLaughlin in on goal. He tried to find Catic at the far post, but the cross was blocked.

After some solid play in their own box, the Union back line gifted Columbus the tying goal in the 68th minute. Fabinho was caught under pressure and forced to play back to Lahoud, who lost his footing. The ball found its way to Justin Meram, who chipped his shot over a charging Mbolhi.

The Union responded exceptionally well, as McLaughlin played a great cross field pass to Ayuk. The trialist continued to display his ability on the ball, spinning past his man and beating another before drawing a penalty.

Casey stepped up to take, and tried a cheeky chip down the middle. Unfortunately, Lampson wasn’t buying it, and recovered back to the center of the goal to save it with ease.

Despite the setback, the Union pressed on to find a winner. Carroll came up with two key interventions that led to Union counters. The first one fell to Fred, who dribbled upfield completely uncontested and shot narrowly wide of the target from 20 yards. The second fizzled out early off of a poor pass from Fred.

Ayuk again made his presence felt off of another good ball in behind from Casey. He beat his man yet again but had his shot blocked to the outside of the net.

Mbolhi was tested a number of times late in the game, twice by crosses and once by a poor backpass from Raymond Lee. He handled both crosses easily, and managed to volley the pass away after taking a touch.

Regulation ended with a tough challenge from Lee deep in his right channel. He handled the moment well, and cleared away.

Penalty kicks

The game shifted immediately to a shootout after the end of regulation time to determine who advanced to the tournament final on Saturday.

Both teams buried their first two penalties, with Fabinho and Fred sending their shots past Lampson, and Tyson Wahl blasting one past Mbolhi and Aaron Schoenfeld sending him the wrong way. Carroll stepped up next, sending his shot low and hard past the keeper.

Mbolhi then came up against Justin Meram, who had beaten him in regulation. Meram struck his penalty well to the left, but Rais went full stretch to beat the ball wide of the post.

Conor Casey then redeemed himself with a well taken penalty to the right of Lampson before Ben Speas narrowly beat Mbolhi down to the same side.

The responsibility was then on Michael Lahoud to win the game, and he did so with an absolute blast to the bottom right corner of the net.

The Union next face New York Red Bulls in the IMG Suncoast Pro Classic final on Saturday at 7:30 pm. The game will be streamed.

“We set the goal for the third phase of preseason to win this competition and we’re on track to do that,” head coach Jim Curtin said after the game. “It’s something that we’re happy about and we’ll see how Saturday goes.”

Philadelphia Union: Rais Mbolhi; Raymon Gaddis (Raymond Lee 46′), Steven Vitoria (Richie Marquez 46′), Ethan White (Jimmy McLaughlin 60′), Sheanon Williams (Fabinho 46′); Maurice Edu © (Michael Lahoud 46′); Zach Pfeffer (Eric Ayuk 46′), Cristian Maidana (Fred 46′), Sebastien Le Toux (Danny Cruz 46′) (Brian Carroll 58′); C.J. Sapong (Dzenan Catic 46′), Fernando Aristeguieta (Conor Casey 46′)

Columbus Crew SC: Steve Clark (Matt Lampson 46′); Hector Jimenez (Chad Barson 46′), Michael Parkhurst © (Sergio Campbell** 46′), Emanuel Pogatetz (Tyson Wahl 46′), Waylon Francis (Chris Klute 46′); Wil Trapp (Mohammed Saeid 46′), Tony Tchani (Kevan George 46′); Ethan Finlay (Ben Speas 46′), Federico Higuain (Ben Swanson 46′) (Sagi Lev-Ari 73′), Kristinn Steindorsson (Justin Meram 46′); Kei Kamara (Aaron Schoenfeld 46′)

Scoring Summary
PHI – Aristeguieta (Williams, Sapong)- 27′
CLB- Meram 69′

Shootout Summary
PHI – Fabinho (goal)
CLB – Tyson Wahl (goal)
PHI – Fred (goal)
CLB – Aaron Schoenfeld (goal)
PHI – Brian Carroll (goal)
CLB – Justin Meram (saved)
PHI – Conor Casey (goal)
CLB – Ben Speas (goal)
PHI – Michael Lahoud (goal)

Disciplinary Summary
PHI – Williams (caution) – 39′
CRC – Kristinn Steindorsson (yellow card) 39′

Referee: Fotis Bazakos
Assistants: Richard Gamache, Abdul Kuttaineh


  1. Is there a replay of this game anywhere on the interwebs that I can find a replay of this match? I had class and missed this live stream.

  2. I guess I’ll kick off the comments with the obvious questions:

    1) If JC is focused on RESULTS at this point of the training, why, why, why, WHY…Is Connor Casey taking the penalty in the second half?

    There was NO NEED for that game to go to penalties, but they screw around and let CASEY muck around with the weakest penalty effort I can ever remember seeing at the professional level.

    2) Why are Cruz, Carroll, and Casey still on this roster?

    No, I don’t “hate” any of them, just cold, objective, skills assessment. Aside from a 6 inch square patch of forehead, I see no useful reason for Casey to be eating up minutes. His lack of any mobility and ball skills below his eyebrows leaves the team essentially a man down all over the field EXCEPT for the 6 year box IF he can get to it.

    And please don’t give me the “locker room leadership” thing, they could do that as coaches rather than eating up rosters spots the U could use to give some of these younger players some much needed minutes at the top level.

  3. I thought the first team played well. The goal against showed the lack of depth at center back.
    The biggest worry for me was that Mbolhi didn’t adopt to the poor conditions and play short passes rather than try to kick the ball long (usually out of bounds). Especially after last year’s debacle against Chicago, I have little confidence in his ability to distribute the ball.

    • Depth at CB isn’t as bad as it looked. White-Vitoria starters. Marquez bench with Williams and Edu both capable cover.

    • Wholesale changes are not the norm during the season so most likely Marquez will be the first sub off the bench. I honestly don’t think MBolhi is an issue. Right now people want to put everything he does under a microscope. I watched the ACN and he was fine.

  4. Ayuk continues to sound like an interesting option. I didn’t see the game, but for those who did, does he look like someone who could stick around on the roster?

    • He really should make this team. Imo he’s out performed every bench option. He’s what this team needs off the bench. He looks like he could be effective in MLS.

      • Old Soccer Coach says:

        Caveat is that his good showing was against the Crew’s bench player not their starter, and not being knowledgeable at all about the Crew’s bench I cannot responsibly comment further. But yes, his pace, understanding and reaction times make me agree that he looks like the first team so far.

    • In reality, no one saw the game. It was way too foggy out!

    • Ayuk should definitely be on the 30, whether he stays or goes to HBurg is the question. They may send him down so he gets game time since they will likely go with LeToux and Cruz on the right. He’s probably the best dribbler we’ve had since Marfan

  5. First unit looked promising and that was with both Nogs and Wenger sitting out with injuries. Pfeffer continued his impressive camp. It looks like the 4-4-2 is where they are going. Sapong and Nando can be a very dangerous combination. They were certainly effective in applying pressure and keeping the ball in the Columbus half. Curtin wants them both on the field.

    Chaco appears to be the odd man out when Wegner’ and Nogs return. Chaco and Pfeffer will make that second unit much better than it was tonight.

  6. Beardnando strikes again!

  7. The Little Fish says:

    I only caught glimpses of the game but am glad they won. Good karma. My only criticism would be (after reading) the odd positioning of players like Lahoud at Centerback, BC on the wing, and Casey playing the false 9 “behind Catic.” Weird way to utilize precious player evaluation minutes.
    The Ginger Ninja scores another goal. Most excellent!

    • I think BC was only in because Cruz got hurt. Not sure if they had any other options on the bench at that point. (He was the 21st field player out there plus Nogs and Wenger who weren’t available.)

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      From what I saw live – I did not carefully replay the tape with repeated slow motion segment reruns as Davis Russell must have done to identify players so effectively amidst the fog – the false nine is a defensive responsibility to be assumed by whichever of the two strikers happens to be closer to the spot when we don’t have the ball. All four strikers did that throughout the game interchangeably. The scheme as they seem to be playing it has the #10 dropping back in front of the #6 when we don’t possess as far as I could discern. Defensively it played like a 4-1-1-3-1. The two forward set places a great deal of pressure on Edu, Vitoria and White, as there is a triangle defending the”critical area” not a square. I am not sure this two striker formation will be the first choice to start a game, yet, especially against a strong attacking team. I think they are learning how well it will play against increasingly good opposition. I expect them to try it against Pink Heiffers. If it works, we might see it against Colorado. And it will likely be the tactical choice once are behind with nothing to lose. But I would not start is way against a team with two strong tactically flexible attackers like, for example, Seattle. Dempsey and Martins shredded our square in the critical area in OT. What would they do to a triangle?

      • Davis Russell says:

        I was actually down in Bradenton covering the game. Fortunately the fog wasn’t quite as bad live, granted it got pretty awful for me in the last 15 minutes. I described Casey in the false 9 role because of his positioning relative to the wings, which was only partially correct for me to do. Personally, I felt that it played like a 4-1-3-2 both in attack and defense, although there was a lot of variation based on the personal and tactical situations. Obviously, that’s largely up for debate.

  8. Does anyone know if they’re going to upload the full Match replay ? I’ll be kinda pissed if they don’t, since they had a replay of the London fc game.

  9. Erik Ayuk. Becoming proxy for the departed Amobi Okugo for me in showing that he plays the game differently.
    Best player on the field in first 32 minutes against London and now goes right back out to show that it is no fluke against a higher level of competition. Guy can play. Plays with vision. Plays with quickness of thought. Sharp incisive passing. Uses his body beautifully. The antidote to more of the same of the bench. A guy who plays with speed but doesn’t rely on it every moment of the game. Plays with some pause. Needs to develop for sure but the key ingredients seem to be in place. One thing I have come to love in watching way too much european and SA futbol is the art of human movement…
    …players from the best leagues in the world have uncanny body control and futbol specific agility. It is a trait that has not yet translated stateside to the American molded player. Noguiera and Ayuk have a rare complement of agility and torque to their game that is unmatched on that team by most. It is nice to see.

  10. One thing the recap doesn’t do justice to is how well Fred played. Fred played like he was 25 not 35. I’m not a big supporter of costly veterans taking roster spots from the young guys, but credit where credit is due.
    Fred and Ayuk were the 2nd half stars.
    On the down side, I’ve seen enough of Lee to know he’s not MLS ready and I’ve seen enough of Lahoud at CB to know that if we are forced to resort to him there for an extended period they better get on the hotline to Berry in SK to recall his loan

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Lahoud at CB is a result of training camp and preseason dynamics, He’s thin now when he’s making nine to eleven substitutions at once. He only gets three in a real game. Right now CB depth after Marquez is provided by guys playing other positions long before you would get to Lahoud. Removing the entire back line is a preseason artificiality in the first place. Williams would move over before Lahoud would go in in the two striker set. Edu would go back and they would drop out of the two striker set. I agree that they are thin for a full squad substitution. But that’s not a regular season game situation. For practice purposes for full field intrasquad scrimmage coaches may step in, or Lahoud, etc. depending or circumstance.

      • Yeah, the only way Lahoud replaces a CB come regular season is if he’s going to holding and Edu is sliding back to fill the emergency.
        How excited should we be about Fernando? On the one hand, 3 goals in 2 games (and not even full games at that). On the other hand, 2 of those are against London United. And on the other other hand (what, doesn’t everybody have 3?) it’s preseason for everybody, so who knows if the Crew were trying something different or whatever.
        But still, it’s a damn promising start for sure!

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