Union match reports

Match report: DC United 2-1 Philadelphia Union


Chris Rolfe converted a second half penalty, and D.C. United defeated Philadelphia Union 2-1 on Saturday night at RFK Stadium.

Sebastien Le Toux gave the Union an early lead, scoring his first goal of the season in just the 5th minute. But Chris Pontius equalized just before the halftime whistle, nodding in a cross from Taylor Kemp.

Zach Pfeffer was whistled for a handball when challenging for a high cross in the 85th minute, and Chris Rolfe slammed his penalty past Brian Sylvestre to give United all three points and end Philly’s winning streak at two.

First half

Jim Curtin made two changes to the team that defeated New York last week. Maurice Edu returned from suspension to replace Ethan White, and Fernando Aristeguieta was back in the side after returning from international duty with Venezuela, replacing the injured Conor Casey.

The Union started strongly with good possession in the DC half during the early minutes of the match. They were rewarded when Le Toux scored his first goal of the season in the fifth minute. Andrew Wenger did well to force a turnover from Steve Birnbaum just inside the 18-yard box. Cutting across the top of the box, Wenger laid a soft pass from just above the penalty spot to Le Toux on the right. The Frenchman made no mistake finishing into the far corner of Bill Hamid’s goal.

Philadelphia looked to double their lead minutes later when Chaco Maidana led an 8th minute counterattack. His cross was a good one, but Aristeguieta could only hit right at Hamid from eight yards out.

Maidana himself would get a chance in the 28th minute. The midfielder picked up the ball on the left side 25 yards from goal and ripped a left-footed shot that was well saved and then held by the superb Hamid.

DC nearly equalized in the 33rd minute. From a corner kick, Steven Birnbaum elevated over Edu at the back post and powered his shot across the face of goal. Fortunately, a well-positioned Fabinho was at the far post to protect the lead with a goal line clearance.

Wenger should have nabbed his first goal of the season in the 36th minute. A great pass from Maidana put the struggling winger in on goal down the left, and a powerful left-footed shot caromed off the crossbar and bounced out.

DC equalized moments before halftime. Taylor Kemp’s crossing game was in fine form, and he was given time and space on United’s left side. The fullback’s driven ball barely missed Davy Arnaud but found Pontius at the penalty spot. The winger out-leaped Richie Marquez and flicked a beautiful header into the far upper corner, past the outstretched arms of Brian Sylvestre.

Second half

After an uneven opening 15 minutes to the second half, Aristeguieta had a chance to give the Union the lead in the 60th minute. Sheanon Williams’ cross from the right side found Wenger at the back post. Wenger headed the ball down, and Aristeguieta flicked a difficult shot on goal that brought out the best in Bill Hamid. He knocked the oddly struck ball out of the air and collected the rebound.

There was a contentious moment in the 62nd minute when Vincent Nogueira brought down Chris Rolfe from behind. It was a clear foul, but as Rolfe rolled on the ground, he also clearly kicked out and struck Nogueira in the midsection. Referee Ted Unkel merely punished Nogueira for the initial foul.

C.J. Sapong was introduced in the 72nd minute and Zach Pfeffer in the 80th as the Union looked for a late lead.

DC almost took the lead in the 78th minute with a set piece from 30 yards out. The opportunity from the center of the park was hit well by Rolfe, but Sylvestre moved swiftly to his right to track it down.

Nick DeLeon came close to giving United a lead in the 83rd minute. The midfielder struck a fierce shot from 23 yards that forced Sylvestre to his left to save.

United was awarded a penalty kick in the 85th minute. A long, floated cross struck Zach Pfeffer’s arm as the midfielder retreated in defense. Rolfe stepped to the spot and sent it low to the left corner, giving Sylvestre no chance.

The Union’s best chance to grab a late equalizer came when Maidana lofted a cross to the back post from the right side. Sapong rose well but could only loop a header onto the top of the net from seven yards out.

Philadelphia will look to rebound when they take on Columbus Crew Wednesday night at PPL Park (7 pm).

Philadelphia Union
Brian Sylvestre, Sheanon Williams, Richie Marquez, Maurice Edu, Fabinho, Brian Carroll, Vincent Nogueira, Cristian Maidana, Andrew Wenger (Zach Pfeffer 80′), Sebastien Le Toux (Eric Ayuk 89′), Fernando Aristeguieta (C.J. Sapong 72′)
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Ray Gaddis, Ethan White, Fred

DC United
Bill Hamid, Taylor Kemp (Chris Korb 72′), Kofi Opare, Steven Birnbaum, Bobby Boswell, Sean Franklin, Chris Pontius (Miguel Aguilar 75′), Davy Arnaud, Perry Kitchen, Nick DeLeon, Conor Doyle (Jairo Arrieta 65′), Chris Rolfe
Unused Subs Andrew Dykstra, Kofi Opare, Chris Korb, Markus Halsti, Facundo Coria

Scoring Summary
PHI: Sebastien Le Toux (Andrew Wenger) — 5
DC: Chris Pontius (Taylor Kemp) – 45
DC: Chris Rolfe (PK) – 85

Disciplinary Summary
DC: Conor Doyle(foul) — 42
DC: Bobby Boswell (foul) — 59
PHI: Vincent Nogueira (foul) – 63
DC: Chris Pontius (foul) – 64

Philadelphia Union DC United
14 Shots 11
5 Shots on Target 5
5 Shots off Target 5
4 Blocked Shots 1
 4 Corner Kicks 6
 22 Crosses  24
 2 Offsides 1
 12 Fouls 16
1 Yellow Cards 3
0 Red Cards  0
 323 Total Passes 496
 75% Passing Accuracy 82%
 39.4% Possession  60.6%
 54 Duels Won 41
 56.2% Duels Won %  43.8%
20 Tackles Won  4
2 Saves 4
7 Clearances 26

53 Comments

  1. el pachyderm says:

    I’m torn this evening between Talking Heads, “same as it ever was” or Vonnegut’s, Tralfamadorian simple nearly elegant thoughts about death, “and so it goes.”
    .
    ‘Same as it ever was.’
    .
    ‘And so it goes.’
    .
    .

    Somehow, we are bound to the affliction of mediocrity….and if this be the case…..you might as well look good being in your middle.

    .

    .
    In truth, I am okay with this result tonight. While I feel the club pushed the pace too much in the second half (needed a slow gin and quaalude at key moments) as it is habituated to do, the club offered the aesthetic I crave in the first half. This is futbol.
    .
    This version of the game allows me to breath and feel good and be proud. This version of the game provides for me art, as the first half, was artistic…. and in intellectual honesty, a loss like this must be taken in stride by me. I have written at length about winning versus aesthetic. They had a point in the hand that is necessary- yes, but beyond scoring points they needed to show me at last – that they can play.
    .
    Tonight, the team, with a ‘full’ complement turned a corner and PLAYED- – looked dynamic and rhythmic and in control. Fluid movement.
    .
    This version of the game is what I live for. Unfortunately, a stray handball took away needed points. I am proud to say- I rescind….
    .
    …. we are afterall – not a Laughingstock and I am hopeful. At last. Thank you.
    .
    Now get your shit together – go out and win on Wednesday. Just keep the ideas. Keep the rhythm. Keep the sway.

    • An honest and artful response. And I agree.

    • The Little Fish says:

      Great post. I especially enjoyed the Slaughterhouse Five reference!

    • George H says:

      Well put, Joel. I felt the same way until we lost our shape, Edu got bumped off his jump by Arnaud which allowed Pontius to score on a terrific header. We wasted some much great work in the first half with a momentary lapse, but those are the thin margins that games are won and lost by.

      2 weeks ago – Aguilar hits the post and DC has a goal called back before Pfeffer’s winner.

      Last week – Felipe and Grella both hit the post before our 2nd half breakout.

      This week, Wenger hits the post and we have numerous chances to get a 2nd before DC equalizes. Then,we’re right there in the 2nd half and a guy who shouldn’t have been on the pitch converts an easily avoidable PK. Bah!

      It will be interesting to see if Curtin learned any lessons from the last time that we had 3 matches in 8 days. Last time, he didn’t rotate enough and the team melted late in the 3rd match vs NER. These next two are both winnable and we need at least 4 pts to have a realistic chance at staying in the playoff race

  2. There is nothing worse than getting the combination of 2 non red cards and a freak penalty and also having to listen to zero emotion or opinion from the announcing crew about any of them.

    JP on le touxs break away ” it looked like dc had men back”

    I’m convinced he does not actually watch the games he calls.

    And pappas on pfeffers hand ball “that’s unfortunate” …..right that’s exactly what I yelled at the tv

    • turn the sound off – best way to watch

      • The Chopper says:

        J.P. is rock solid in his prep work and knowledge but is generally sleep inducing and Pappas follows his lead. J.P sucks the life out of whoever he works with. He is a fine announcer but clearly graduated from the Jim Nantz school of boredom.

        This is football, there should be emotion in the presentation.

    • Part of the problem is they are calling the game from a studio, in Philly. They don’t actually Go to the away games and call from a press box. They are forced to call the game from the feed they are given. Kinda brings home how poor the Union are.

      • Scottymac says:

        That’s pretty much an MLS thing. The Union thing is JP and Pappas have to watch a stream on a gently used Surface tablet.

      • Ray Hudson calls every match from a screen just saying

      • John Ling says:

        I’ve often wondered why the Union don’t at least give J.P. a “spotter” in the stadium. There seem to be way too many times that J.P. Doesn’t know for sure who got booked, who was subbed for whom, and so on. All those things are solved by having an intern in the stadium with a cellphone connected to the producer.

  3. I saw better tactics moving forward. Good creativity. Too little speed up top. Chaco too high. Subs still come too late. DC played dirty.

  4. On the plus side, Parkhurst got what looked to be a questionable red card in their game vs Orlando, so he’ll be out for Wednesday. Plus they had to play with 10 for about 60 minutes in Orlando heat, should be tired. Ribeiro just ripped a late equalizer in that one.

  5. OneManWolfpack says:

    Awful decision by the referee to give that PK. Yes it hit is arm but to me it was so insignificant that it doesn’t warrant a PK, especially in a 1-1 game in the 84th min. No freakin luck for this team. NONE.
    .
    And that dirtbag cheap shot Rolfe should’ve been sent off for his crap. Then he gets the PK. Screw him. I’d get a yellow right off the bat against him next game. That was BS.
    .
    They looked like an actual soccer team again though. Moving the ball, creating well. I thought Curtain subbed to late, but all in all the last few weeks have been better. After all, we don’t demand a team that wins, we demand a team that tries. *wink

    • The Black Hand says:

      A tough penalty…but a penalty. We had our chances. This was the best 90′, that I have seen to date.

      • Atomic Spartan says:

        NO! Clear ball to hand and overly aggressive AR who gave center man no room to discuss.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        For once I agree with The Hand.
        .
        Clear PK for me. He needs to keep hand/arm down in the box. He interfered with and robbed offensive opportunity. Pretty sure we’d all be crowing for a PK if role reversed and not called.
        .
        Reminded me of the Orosco-Fiscal eyes closed hand ball of years passed.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Clear handball… yes. Clear call to impact the game at that time… no. That is my point. The AR made the call. That’s bad refereeing in my opinion. The head man wasn’t making that call. In the box, with less than 6-7 mins to go, it has to be the head ref. Not the AR.
        .
        However, the red card / handball in the Columbus / Orlando game might have been a worse call… that was disgraceful.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        Are you implying that an assistant referee should not do his job?
        .
        Not sure I’ll ever agree with that.

      • Atomic Spartan says:

        Certainly not. Implying that AR’s should follow established protocols and do their jobs correctly. Ball to hand or hand to ball, it makes no difference. It was his place to advise, to signal possible infraction and allow center man to make the final call. He left no room for center man to do that.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        Not implying that. Simply stating it should have been the referee’s decision not the AR. He’s the boss. It did not look like the referee was making the call till the AR overruled him. That’s my anger. And for that to happen… at that moment… against OUR team (who has been screwed multiple times already this year)… its BS.

      • alicat215 says:

        it was a handball……….

      • And the AR did what he had to do to make sure the right call got made.

  6. The Black Hand says:

    This club showed a little football, tonight. Outcome be gone…we hung with DC.

  7. Steve H. says:

    You know your team is bad when you look for silver linings in another loss. Ahh, the platitudes, we put in a good 90, we looked like a professional team out there, the lads left it all on the pitch tonight… etc.
    .
    When you have a losing team, a bad team, a team that does not consistantly win, you resort to platitudes. The Philly Union fans have been reduced to platitudes… again.
    .
    Fact is Mo Edu is a nice player but in the MLS an expensive defender is a waste of money. MLS DP players need to make more of a difference than what Mo brings to the Union. Its not good enough for the money spent. Omobi would have been better money spent.
    .
    Pick a team, any team, and you can be fairly certain that the other team will have better DP players than Philly, not just positionally, but players who show up on the score sheet.
    .
    Another weekend, another loss, and we still have a roster full of people who do not equal more than the sum of their parts.
    .
    Sigh, its going to be a long, long, losing season… again.

    • el pachyderm says:

      It is what it is. Winners never quit. After the storm the sun will shine. It could be worse.
      .
      I share your cynicism, but not this morning- ah….this morning….we’re taking it one game at a time and I’m just happy to be here.

      • Steve H. says:

        Platitudes are what losing teams wake up to in the morning, like a cup of coffee, black, no sugar.
        .
        Our roster does not have what it takes to win.
        .
        Even if we snuck into the playoffs with the last spot like we did a couple of years ago, the team still isn’t good enough to compete with the best teams in the league.
        .
        People say you make your own luck. It may, or may not be true, but time after time the team comes up short. Sure, they are trying out there on the field, but the team is not good enough as currently constituted.

    • “You know your team is bad when you look for silver linings in another loss.” Sorry, what? Most of us who have been watching the team play know that they have been bad. We don’t need to read the comments to know that. They have been bad, most of the season. Against DC they were not bad. They lost, but they were not bad.

      • Steve H. says:

        Meh, we’re Stoke City. Our bar has lowered so much that we are happy with a professional effort?
        .
        I’ll keep watching games because there are only 22 MLS teams and we have one. I’ll keep going to games because I love watching live professional soccer with my kids.
        .
        I’m done finding silver linings in losses. The players may be nice people, and hard workers, but the team is just not good enough to complete as presently constituted. Nor has it been so for the entirety of the existence of the team.
        .
        Like it or not, it needs to be said.

      • Okay so you’ve said it 3 times now. Move on.

      • Ok, you’re right, point was made.
        .
        Moving along.

  8. The Little Fish says:

    Head in my hands as soon as the PK was called. Unreal. Totally gutted.
    /
    I swear Wenger is like an AC slot machine that we’ve been feeding quarters to all night long and don’t want to walk away from as it’s just about to payout.
    /
    Once again. Sapong needs to get more than 20 minutes. He can wear down defenders, successfully receive balls coming over the top (we love that) and score goals. Find a spot please JC.
    /
    Every time I look at Aristigueta I see Willy from the Simpsons. Cracks me up. We need to provide ‘Nando better service. Keep the damn ball on the ground for a change. I’d like to think Pfeffer would help in that regard but geez when he screws up he REALLY screws up.
    /
    Wednesday night can’t come soon enough for me. We’re starting to look better.

    • Pfeffer is more of a liability than an asset at this point. Has hurt us more than he has helped. Wenger couldn’t buy a goal…time to sit his struggling ass.

    • Dr. Union says:

      Wenger needs to sit as I say every week. There is no reason to think this is even a slump anymore this is just what Wenger is and that is he is not that good. He is maybe a best a serviceable bench player. To go along with your point on giving CJ more time why not pull Wenger out of the line up play two up top with CJ and Nando it makes the most sense with the way the players have been playing.

  9. At the end of the first half, I thought we had a chance to win this one. And then the ref. didn’t get involved. Then he did. And we lost. The officiating in this league is horrible. It’s a joke. Chris Rolfe deserves a three game ban.
    .
    As for the team’s effort, I’m happy. I really think they are starting to get better. The ember of Hope is getting brighter. (I think…)

  10. Darth Harvey says:

    I’m unsure if anyone else saw it on the Pfeffer hand ball, but the AR called it on him. As a ref, on nearly every level of the game, the centerman tells his AR’s in their pregame, “that unless it is something completely egregious that I missed, you leave the box to me.”

    The ref had the angle to see that Pfeffer did make an attempt on the ball, but closed his eyes and winced (pretty embarrassing when you look at the replay btw) and made an effort to make a play with his head. This looked more ball to hand on a player with his eyes closed than an egregious violation of the laws of the game that would warrant the AR to make this game changing call.

    The centerman didn’t have the stones to toss out Chris Rolfe for violent conduct and he didn’t even have the stones to overrule or at least consult with his AR that deemed it his game to influence.

    All in all, a good effort by the Union. But to have another game with poor officiating that influences the outcome, is just frustrating for the Union and should be embarrassing to the league. But Garber’s got more things to worry about than having actual refs… He’s gotta identify where our 36th franchise will be opening up in 2032. The Halifax Howitzers perhaps?

    • Well said on all fronts. The AR makes that call?! I mean really?!? It’s a joke. Not only is it absurd in general, it’s made even worse by the fact that the Union have gotten NOTHING BUT JOBBED all season by referees. Whether it’s a call made, or not made, they have gotten screwed WAY more than they have not. That call ruined a good effort.
      .
      And yes, we might be Stoke City, as someone stated above, but a few weeks ago, we were Hull, QPR, Burnley. You have to be Stoke City, before you can be Chelsea. Haha. But seriously, they are playing better, and there is a lot to be said for that… for now at least.

    • alicat215 says:

      Pfeffer has cost this club 5 points this year…….5!

  11. Can someone ask Curtin why he abhors subbing so much at the next pressed? It’s as if he waits as long as he possibly can and then only subs for injury or fatigue. Never strategically. Does he get paid by starter minutes?

    • He’s not a good manager. Period. He has deficiencies that he is working through as the guy in charge, instead of learning under someone else first. His substitutions are clearly one of them.

    • Atomic Spartan says:

      Agreed. Subs should have been made in time to counter each of DC’s moves.

  12. Scottymac says:

    The way they played last night makes me think that 7th place isn’t out of the question.

  13. alicat215 says:

    While most of my fellow supporters here are “happy” with last nights performance, maybe I saw something different. The last few weeks…we were sharp on the counter….quick passes. We would make you pay with a scoring chance or sustained pressure for a few minutes. Outside of a few instances, I saw regression to what we were doing a few weeks ago…….slow, nonchalant counters out of the back without purpose. Not questioning effort, just the sharpness wasn’t there again……and it needs to be for success. Pfeffer, ducked that ball…..”turtled” it…..like the little ones who are scared do. I think the kid’s a nice player, but he needs to do better with that ball. Were they better than a month ago, yes……but they also weren’t as good as the last two weeks. IMHO

  14. alicat215 says:

    How was there no red card on Sebs’s break away, he clearly got his body in between the CB and the goal, he had the lane first…the CB clumsily ran through his back! The inconsistencies of these officials makes me think they put on stripes during the fall and do PIAA matches…….

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Agreed. And the lack of even a card on the Rolfe kick to Nogs chest was ridiculous. Where was the AR on that one??!? Yeah, didn’t think so.

  15. pragmatist says:

    This one hurt. We should have come out with at least one point.

    But I think we showed that we are exactly what Curtin described in the preseason: a team that is shooting for the 4-5 spot in the playoffs. We’re an average team, and we’re playing like it now. It’s actuall an improvement from the first 2+ months.

    Wenger was more assertive last night. That’s a huge positive. Love him or hate him, if he gets going like he was at the end of last year, that’s a huge addition for us. (Yes, I know everyone’s tired of waiting.)
    Curtin needs to find a way to get Fernando and Sapong on the field together. They are our best front-line options, but for very different reasons. The combination could be a nightmare for back lines.

    Let’s say we draw on Wednesday. That’s 7 points from DC/NYRB/DC/CLB. If I had offered that before we started the games, everyone would have taken it.
    They are headed in the right direction. Let’s hope last night was just some bad luck, and more horrific officiating (the Rolfe kick-out, not the PK) that killed us.

    • 4-4-2 gets them in the same XI. I am not sure what else does.

      • pragmatist says:

        I agree. At that point, you’re dropping Wenger or LeToux to the bench, and the other to the midfield. Or both to the bench, and Zach or Ayuk to a midfield wing. Either way, I think that would be a quality XI.

      • Dr. Union says:

        Its pretty clear that from the beginning of the season a 4-4-2 get the best 11 on the field and is the needed formation yet the union still play at 4-2-3-1.
        Wenger is the clear bench option at this point still has nothing to offer and is now hindering the movement of the ball as well as taking up space for players to run in too. Just can’t take him starting anymore its one bed game after the next.

  16. McMohansky says:

    After DC equalized we all knew they were done for. They don’t have the resiliance that comes from a history of winning.
    They didnt come out for the 2nd half with the same intensity they started with, and that shocked no one. Our awful announcers made a salient (if poorly expressed) point early on about Curtin stressing a 5-second rule. Wenger did exactly that and it led to LeToux’s goal. The team won back balls in the offensive zone in the first half. They stopped that intensity after DC scored.
    .
    Tough break with the hand ball, and it could’ve not been called but it was correct and Pfeffer again showed his immaturity. Just head the ball out of play and concede the corner. Basic stuff gone awry. Again.
    .
    Goalkeeping distribution is just awful, has been all year. Got to keep the ball on the ground with this group.
    .
    Agree we need more Sapong with Nando at the same time; whether or not they start together.

  17. Dr. Union says:

    In watching this game had to say I enjoyed most of the first half play. However there are still many of the same problems as usual. One Wenger = bench he just doesn’t have it and it’s not a slump. His streak last year was a fluke as many have seen from him before. Time to move on and make him a sub off the bench he works well for that. Fabinho and Carroll both had another good game if you ask me. It is also very clear to me Edu should be nowhere near the midfield ever when he was pushed up at the end of the game it did nothing, but crowd space and stall movement. Edu is just not a midfielder anymore plain and clear. Edu and Marquez middle pair = rest of the season CBs it worked well. Curtin is still out of his element he clearly doesn’t see the need to make substitutions or change tactics and I mentioned this last week when Casey came off because he was hurt. A sub of CJ at 75 is to late, should have been at least 10 minutes sooner. Zack Pfeffer coming on in the 80th minute doesn’t make sense for a few reasons: 1) this is an offensive substition fine to go for the win, but you are away from home and 2nd half momentum was against you taking one point at the 80min is valid, 2) Pfeffer needs more time to get on the ball and work into the game to make a bigger impact, 3) Wenger clearly needed a break sooner and should have been the first man off as he was starting to get run ragged as the attack started moving down the Union left side. If you are making and 80th minute sub of Pfeffer I would argue you bring in Gaddis and push Fabinho up to the wing. Ayuk in the 84 minutes was nothing more then a desperate attempt. While officiating is a problem in MLS not much can be done about it so you have to take care of finishing the game off yourself and this team has never learned how to do that. They either bunker to early or throw everything out there to late.

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