Union match reports

Recap: DC United 3–2 Philadelphia Union

After starting incredibly well, scoring two goals in the first four minutes, the Union eventually gave up three of their own, falling prey to the boa-constrictor-like grip of DC United. CJ Sapong and Sebastien Le Toux scored early, but DC would claw back through goals from new acquisition Alvaro Saborio, Nick DeLeon, and Fabian Espindola.

First half

With injuries still limiting Andrew Wenger and Richie Marquez, Ethan White and Eric Ayuk retained their starting berths, and were joined by Zach Pfeffer, who entered for Vincent Nogueira. Nogueira was held out primarily for fatigue reasons rather than an injury, and was on the bench.

Knowing that a good start was imperative, the Union wasted absolutely no time in opening the scoring, with Sapong on the board after 20 seconds. Pfeffer won the ball in midfield and fed Sapong, who laid off for Christian Maidana. Sapong then curled into the box where he received a chipped entry pass from Maidana, knocked his marker down while turning, and easily tucked the ball into the corner.

Moments later, another DC turnover led to a Maidana shot that went just wide. And it wouldn’t end there. Le Toux received the ball wide left, squared up to his man, then sent in a centering pass toward Sapong. Sapong missed his kick, but the bodies around him screened the keeper’s view, and the ball slowly rolled into the far corner for 2–0 after less than three and a half minutes.

DC woke up a bit, but the Union remained the aggressors, looking more dangerous than the home team, and refusing to allow DC time on the ball. United, for its part, found themselves passing the ball into touch more than to each other.

It took until the 23rd minute for DC to threaten, but it would mark the beginning of the end for the Union. Nick Deleon carried the ball central and fed Chris Rolfe. Rolfe drove at the Union and passed to Fabian Espindola on the right side of the Union box. With the defense closing in, Espindola hit a ball across Brian Sylvestre’s goal, just missing wide. In the 26th, Espindola sent in a dangerous cross from the left wing toward Saborio. Surrounded by three Union players, he was crowded out and the ball bounced to Deleon at the back post, but his centering header flew over everyone.

DC should have gotten on the board soon after. In the 33rd, Ray Gaddis clipped Davy Arnaud as he drove into the Union box. Espindola stepped up to take the PK, but sent his attempt well over the bar, perhaps concerned about Sylvestre’s size. The let off would not last long. In the 37th, Deleon fed Chris Korb high up the right side. He shaped to cross, but when Fabinho bit, he cut back and sent in a left foot cross to the back post, where Saborio was there to finish first time.

In the 41st, a Union corner was missed by DC keeper Andrew Dykstra. Le Toux took it down, cut inside his man, then shot the ball into the stands.

The teams would reach the break with the Union worthy leaders, but DC finishing much stronger and knowing they were far from out of the game.

Second half

DC continued to press the Union at the start of the second half, holding Philadelphia in its own half for long stretches. DC’s wide play, especially from Espindola, was causing problems, too. Philadelphia began to settle, though, and after ten minutes began to reassert themselves through counterattacks, though none that turned truly dangerous.

The game settled into a slow pattern of traded possession with neither team threatening greatly. But in the 66th, DC would break through and level things. Espindola evaded the attentions of several Union defenders at the top of the box, taking the ball to the top corner. WHile the angle was getting tight, his shot was hit with real pace. Sylvestre got down to block, but could only parry the ball out in front of him, where Deleon was there to put away the rebound.

The Union managed to generate a couple of chances. In the 75th, a half-cleared Union corner was gathered by Maurice Edu, who sent a lofting cross to the back post. Fred, on for Pfeffer, was unmarked, but looped his header over the bar. The Union would get even closer a few minutes later. Edu, pushing into midfield, sent a ball into the box for Sapong to run onto. He got there before Dykstra, but the chip clanged back off the crossbar.

And DC would take the lead in the 79th. Korb again was put into space on the Union left, and crossed first time. Espindola met the ball in the six and drove the ball into the ground and in.

A broken free kick in the 82nd almost led to a Union equalizer. The first ball hit the wall, the second flew over everyone to the back post, but the ball eventually found Edu, whose shot was blocked. The ball rebounded again, before another Union shot was deflected just wide.

The Union generated one more half-chance in the 90th. Sapong, pushed wide by the entrance of substitute Fernando Aristeguieta laid the ball off for the sub, Aristeguieta drove into the box on the right side and sent a drive toward the far corner, but Dykstra did well to get down and make the catch.

But it was the last chance, and after three minutes of extra time, the Union fell, 3–2, away to DC United.

The team will look to return to winning ways when they host New York Red Bulls at PPL Park on Saturday, August 1 at 7 pm.

Philadelphia Union
Brian Sylvestre, Fabinho, Maurice Edu, Ethan White, Ray Gaddis, Brian Carroll, Zach Pfeffer (Fred, 67), Cristian Maidana (Vincent Nogueira, 80) , Sebastien Le Toux, Eric Ayuk (Fernando Aristeguieta, 80), CJ Sapong
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Steven Vitoria, Fred, Jimmy McLaughlin, Conor Casey

DC United
Andrew Dykstra, Bobby Boswell, Chris Korb, Steve Birnbaum, Taylor Kemp, Chis Rolf (Miguel Aguilar, 76), Davy Arnaud, Nick DeLeon, Perry Kitchen, Fabian Espindola (Conor Doyle, 89), Álvaro Saborio (Jairo Arrieta, 81)
Unused Subs: Alex Bono, Warren Creavalle, Clement Simonin, Daniel Lovitz, Robbie Findley

Scoring Summary
PHI: CJ Sapong (Cristian Maidana) – 1
PHI: Sebastien Le Toux (Zach Pfeffer) – 4
DC: Álvaro Saborio (Chris Korb, Nick DeLeon)- 37
DC: Nick DeLeon – 66
DC: Fabian Espindola (Chris Korb) – 79′

Disciplinary Summary
PHI: Eric Ayuk (Foul) – 68′

Philadelphia Union DC United
16 Shots 15
7 Shots on Target 5
6 Shots off Target 5
3 Blocked Shots 5
 7 Corner Kicks 6
 22 Crosses  30
 2 Offsides 5
 7 Fouls 11
1 Yellow Cards 0
0 Red Cards  0
 388 Total Passes 478
 76% Passing Accuracy 85%
 44.2% Possession  55.8%
 43 Duels Won 36
 54.4% Duels Won % 45.6%
14 Tackles Won  10
2 Saves 5
19 Clearances 26

Click here for match highlights.


  1. WSSM.

  2. Great One says:

    Curtin continues to unimpress as a coach. Good guy but limited. Also clearly limited is this roster, never more evident than today. The Barnetta prayer better not be the only hope of an answer.

    • Yeah, Curtin still learning on the job, but I can’t yet hold it against him with this roster. It’s just tissue paper thin. Agree that they need 4-5 guys in addition to Barnetta…IF they even get him.

    • They have zero depth. Vittoria must still be hurt because there’s no other reason that Ethan White is out there. Can’t really blame any of this on Curtin. He gets them up for games, puts them in the right position, but they just don’t have the horses. Season depends on the Open Cup, they ain’t making the playoffs. And Chaco was pedestrian again today.

      • Great One says:

        The roster is definitely number one, but Curtin is still at fault a little here. He doesn’t change tactics and is reluctant to make subs even when it’s obvious.

      • Dr. Union says:

        This is nothing new though Curtin doesn’t make subs not the proper tactics and we still have no depth.

  3. I don’t understand the hesitation with substitutions, I really don’t. At around the 50′ mark, we started to completely lose the midfield; Nogs should have been sent in for Pfeffer to gain control and help connect the forwards. Instead… Fred… f&*$ing Fred. It drives me insane every time this guy gets minutes ahead of any other midfielder on the bench.

    • I was glad to see Nogs get some rest, despite how important he is for us. But my gosh, Pfeffer was invisible out there. He was the guy with fresh legs and needed him to step up. What is his MLS position going to be? Probably best as Nogs understudy but he did nothing there today. On the wing he’s been OK. I think he played striker for the U-20s, maybe it’s time to try him as the smaller guy up top running off Sapong or Aristeguieta?

      • The Truth says:

        I wonder that too. You see has talent but I has always looked lost when deployed. Poor kid, I want him to succeed.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    This team HAS to learn how to protect a lead. Twice in DC, KC, New England, and NYCFC all saw leads turned into losses.

  5. My current thoughts on the Union season.

  6. The Truth says:

    Didn’t watch. Don’t care. I audibly chuckled when I saw Gaddis blow the coverage on their game-winner.

  7. – Gaddis: continues to mark well 1v1, but his distribution, touch and panic level with the ball is not first-team quality.
    – Fabinho: got burned on the first goal and caught staring AGAIN on the second goal. Just move him to the mid-field.
    – Edu: A strong game and was best going forward. If only he could without sacrificing any semblance of structure.
    – White: Boo
    – LeToux: I love that he’s pissed at Pfeffer for a bad pass, but seriously, pot-kettle Seba…Still, always brings 100% to the match.
    – Carroll: Not a horrible game, but really provides nothing on ariels where the team is just a nightmare.
    – Sapong: MOTM for me. His hold up play and vision were great. I wish he could be paired with some legitimate talent.
    – Chaco: I like Chaco on the ball, but he’s just too slow. Kitchens was covering the entire midfield.
    – Pfeffer: Meh

    • Dr. Union says:

      Edu should not be going forward period started to break down in the back everytime he does that. So tired of him making these useless 80 yard runs you are a CB stay home and organize your backline so you don’t drop 3 points giving up 3 goals.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        If Sapong’s shot is an inch lower, then Edu’s run would probably have picked up 3 points.
        I don’t think any of DC’s goals were scored while Edu was pushed forward.

      • I disagree. Mo is experienced enough and good enough a player to know when to push forward. His run led to Sapong’s shot off the crossbar. You should focus your displeasure with the lack of depth, especially in the defense. White is a USL-level player. Gaddis is pretty good. Williams was having a poor season, Fabihno is inconsistent. Mo is about the only good thing going from this back line, and he’s playing completely out of position from his normal central defensive midfield position.

      • Williams was the most in-form fullback on the squad prior to being traded away. This backline is still a work in process.

      • If he was the most “in-form” fullback, he would have been starting. I like Sheanon as a player, but his marking was beyond sloppy this season, which is why he lost his spot.

  8. el pachyderm says:


  9. el pachyderm says:


  10. Would Sheanon Williams have made a difference protecting the lead? Couldn’t have done worse. 3 unanswered goals. The last 10 games of this season are going to be meaningless. And the ramp up to next year frustrating. Again. What a depressing shit show. No consistency of plan. Inadequate FO and coach. Players left floundering. Sigh.

  11. el pachyderm says:

    Okay….feeling better now. watching Pfeffer today makes you realize how good and important Noguiera is. It seems JC is putting Pfeffer everywhere except where he should be which is earning his bones on the wing.
    Imagine an outside attack of Pfeffer and Ayuk with Seba coming off the bench. Push Wenger to OB and reserve midfielder. Push Fabinho up to midfield depth reserve OB.
    Ayuk and Pfeffer can learn of the job and impact width, 1v1 and late runs into the box.
    This is all so simple. Isn’t it?

    • The Little Fish says:

      I like it.

    • Pfeffer looks completely lost on the field. He seems to be wondering around. When he receives the ball he is looking to get rid of it as quickly as possible. No attacking. No creativity. Just get rid of the ball. I feel bad for him. He seemed like he had some real potential, and perhaps he still does.

  12. Phil in Wilmington says:

    It’s an incomplete roster. There is no starting 11 — hasn’t been all season. There is no money or cap space to do a damn thing about it until M’Bohli is moved–until then, they sell more assets, becoming even less of a complete roster.

    The only time fans should be surprised is when the team gets a result.

  13. The Union appear to work extremely hard at not making the playoffs. Sapong hitting the crossbar was a shame as this just as easily could have been 3-2 Union, but alas, the better team found a way to win and the poor team, well, you know the rest.

  14. ‘Defense first’, 750k+ for a CB and GK that don’t play, and the worst goal difference in the league. Bring back Hack?

  15. Look, we’re not making the playoffs with this roster. No coach, good or bad, is winning consistently with this group. They’re just way too thin and have 3, maybe 4 quality MLS starters on the team (Edu, CJ, Nogs, maybe Gaddis). White is a disaster in back. Pfeffer is still really young and doesn’t know how to play at this level yet. Nando and Casey are not fit. Chaco has no speed, plays no defense, and when he’s not on his game offensively, is a real liability. Fabihno is inconsistent. Wenger is garbage. Marquez and Vittoria are hurt. There’s just not a whole you can do at this point.

    It’s all about the Open Cup now. If we can beat Chicago and then win the Cup Final, then the season is a success based on what that opportunity brings next season. Anything less than an Open Cup win…season is a disappointment, unfortunately.

    • Dr. Union says:

      Even with an Open Cup win which I find doubtful I would hardly label the season a success. This season is a disaster.

      • I disagree. An Open Cup win puts them in the Concacaf Champions League next season, which will makes them a much more attractive destination this offseason. To me, that’s a successful season because we weren’t winning MLS Cup or Supporter’s Shield any way you look at it. Sure, playoffs would be nice, but I’ll take the Open Cup trophy over that any day of the week.

      • I’m with Dr. Union on this issue. At best, an Open Cup championship would be a bright spot in an otherwise miserable season. It would NOT make the 2015 season a success.

  16. I like Jim. I really do, but I’m having a hard time trying to see how this season, and particularly bad loses like this, are not primarily his fault.
    Yes his roster is paper thin. Yet —
    1. We have about 25 percent of this team’s salary allocated to the Centerback position and have the worst goals allowed per game average in the league. Jim made these deals.

    2. Jim is a former CB and his defense seems to lose all its poise when trying to hold a lead (unless it’s an open cup match and we’re playing 10 on 11). Is this just bad players? Or is it bad tactics?

    3. Jim trades defensive depth to Houston. For my money, Williams was the better between him and Gaddis.

    4. Jim declares Gaddis is his guy.

    I have a hard time reconciling these decisions and the consistently bad defensive performance on players playing poorly. This team cannot defend. And its most expensive players are defenders. Yes, we’ve got guys injured, but you have to have better all around and you cannot lose a 2-goal lead. Absolutely unacceptable. Everyone watching new he Union were going to give up three goals and lose. Especially from the opening whistle of the second half. Ugh. What a lousy game.

    • el pachyderm says:

      Did you have any faith this team was going to hold that lead? They caught DC alseep like Dempsey caught Ghana asleep…
      …Then they went on the defensive, cold walnut nutsack and shriveled up (like usual)which has proven to be a futile undertaking because they lose any sense of control and identity and unified movement. The testes pull up into the stomach and oh my its over.
      Tonight this club was the Tin Man, the Lion and the Scarecrow all wrapped in one neurotic soccer player.
      I just sat and waited as DC began to control the midfield and Espidola got warmed up as from that point…
      …it was the law of inevitable eventuality.
      So Union.

      • No. I thought after goal 2 that we were headed for a draw. But knew by half time that we were going to blow it. Every time this team plays back on its heels, it leaks goals. Maybe it is as simple to explain as a lack of quality players. We’re just not good enough.

        If Barnetta was watching this game while contemplating his future, he probably booked a flight back to Germany to talk to any Bundasliga team that would have him.

      • Dr. Union says:

        Barnetta has offers from Leicester City and Real Betis, I heard. I doubt he comes to Philly and if he does he must want his career to end. It seems soccer players come to philly to kill their careers much like people use to do at chivas.

  17. John Ling says:

    Fred as the first sub is a problem. Fred is – as best as I can tell – an incredibly nice dude. But he’s done. That said, I also understand the goal was to give Nog a break. He needs one. I know coaches are loathe to change the backline barring injury, but I’d rather see Vitoria come on and push Edu into the midfield if Pfeffer is really the player who needs to come off at that point.
    The defense should be ashamed of themselves, as a unit, for ball watching. Sylvestre needs to do a much better job with that rebound, but the defense also needs to anticipate a mistake and make some sort of effort to keep DC off that ball. Any effort. Like, even take one step toward your keeper. Please?
    The Union need to figure out how to get Fernando and Sapong on the field together without muting Sapong. Sending him wide seems to take him out of the match.
    We went to Xfinity Live to watch the match before heading in for Jamaica-Mexico. We got there and the score was 2-0. So, basically, all we got a chance to see was DC slowly work the game back into their favor. *sigh*

    • I agree on getting Vittoria in there and moving Edu up to #6. I think the Union should focus on evaluating who they have. Who cares about getting into the playoffs when the likely scenario is first round elimination? Let’s see Vittoria and Marquez behind Edu. This roster is beyond a work in progress. It’s a mess.

    • So, I actually disagreed with putting Mo back at the center back position at first. My opinion was that Mo and Nogs complemented each other very well, and we spent the $$ on Vitoria, so let him play. The problem is, who do you pair Vitoria with? Ethan White is god-awful. Last year, his on-the-ball play was shaky, but at least his marking and defensive mindset were passable. Now? He’s a f’ng disaster across the board. Loses marks, out of position, doesn’t read the play well. The other problem is that you have a good young CB in Marquez, who is hurt right now. But, do you really want to risk the progress he’s made when he comes back by playing him with Vitoria and Fabihno? How much has Mo helped Richie grow as a player? Probably quite a bit. Nah, the season is what it is, Open Cup or Bust. If you want / need to move Mo to the #6 next season, you already know what you have. I’d rather leave Mo in the back, try to win the Open Cup, and continue Richie’s development when he comes back. Oh, and I’d switch out Sylvestre for McCarthy. I think we know what we have with Bryan. He’s a backup. As a former GK, I am intrigued by McCarthy. Sure, he had a rough start and his distribution is inconsistent (specifically, punts at the moment), but he has major size, has no fear, and seems to have really good hands. His decision making at this level will get better with more experience. And this offseason, he will clearly be working on his distribution. But upside? I think he’s got a much higher ceiling than Sylvestre.

      • Sylvestre is 6’5″. McCarthy is 6’3″. McCarthy makes a lot of bad choices in over committing, committing to early and ball distribution. He may make that spectacular save, but he’ll also make the mistake to let in the easy one. Sylvestre is consistent. He may not be spectacular, but he’ll stop the ones he should stop. I’ll take Sylvestre at this point. I’d rather be able to count on something, than rather have to worry about what the goaltender is going to do next.

      • Sylvestre has made two glaring errors in the last two games on deflections that should have been parried wide, but instead ended up as easy put-back rebounds right in front of the goal. You take those goals away, and we get two away ties instead of two away losses. And, McCarthy has played outstanding in the last two Open Cup games. To be clear, both GKs are young, so each guy is going to make his fair share of mistakes. But I just think Sylvestre has plateaued at this point, while McCarthy is trending up. Re: size. Wow, you’re correct on that. Maybe I’m seeing things, but McCarthy appears to play so much bigger than Sylvestre. That’s really surprising.

      • John Ling says:

        I’ll take option #3 – Andre Blake.

      • Is Blake even healthy yet?

      • John Ling says:

        Believe so, yes. And he’s back from Gold Cup duty now. (Granted, he didn’t have far to go after the final…)

  18. this team is so exhausting to follow

    • I watched it delayed after coming back from Mex v Jam. Instantly pumped by the lead we got and invested in the match until tied. I just knew we were gonna blow it. Wound up fast forwarding until the inevitable.
      I go from the High of Harrison to Despondent in DC.


      • I knew in my heart they would not hold a 2-goal lead. I knew it as soon as the Union scored their second goal. Maybe it was because I had just spent 90 minutes as a neutral observer in a stadium filled with Mexicans, but I just felt so, realistic? notoptimistic? I just knew they would not hold that lead. Why I stayed up until 1:30 in the morning watching my DVR, I don’t know. Someone please explain me to me.

  19. Great One says:

    We will not make the playoffs, there is no doubt there. This will be yet another season where we are just waiting to clear the books of bad moves and then spend all winter telling each other to be patient and that everyone else is being negadelphian.
    It doesn’t have to be completely lost though. We have no need to watch Carroll. The dude has played very well this year, no doubt, but we don’t need to see him. Move Edu up and see if we can make that midfield work. See if Vitoria can play. We’re paying him a fortune, let’s see him. Marquez is fast enough to cover for him sometimes. Play Ayuk, Pfeffer and (gasp) Maclaughlin as much as possible, get them blooded in MLS and see if they come out the other side. Try out a different formation, give the other teams something different to think about, give Nando and Sapong a shot together. Lastly, play Blake, period. Sylvestre has performed admirably, but Blake has to be the future, put him in and leave him in.
    Think outside the box Jim, this season is done with. Make changes and you will get changes, good or bad, but the status quo right now is plain not good enough.

    • I would be fine with these changes, but not until the Open Cup run is over. After that, have at it. I would also like to see more of McCarthy in net. While he’s been inconsistent (much better as of late), he has nice upside if he can get there. At the very least, he starts for the remainder of the Open Cup. After Open Cup, if we want to see what Blake can do, I’m good with that.

    • Maybe if some of the kids had gotten time last year, Marquez would have impressed and the club could have saved the 400k spent on Vitoria.

      Maybe Pfeffer would be a half season ahead in his development and better able to handle his role.

      Just a thought.

  20. Dr. Union says:

    The season was done awhile ago and there were no drastic changes. This will only continue when all the team is healthy the team will be the same 11. We will drop the same amount of points and we will be talking about the same problems. Until we clear the roster and start again with a new FO this team has already shown what it is and what it will continue to be players and coaches and FO included in all this.

  21. Did Williams say play me or trade me? Can’t see the logic of selling our only other outside back.

    • We sold him because it was the last year of his deal, he was the only player that had value and we needed the $$ to go after Barnetta. Curtin also said in May the RB job was Ray’s for the rest of the season.

    • He probably didn’t say that, but this is the last year of his contract and he might have not been making the right noises about re-signing, which would (in theory) force the Union to try to get something for him rather than lose him in the re-entry draft. Also, if they are in fact serious about bringing in Barnetta, they needed to clear some salary and bring in allocation money.
      All that said, unless there’s a plan to bring in some cheaper backup, you’re right, it doesn’t make sense. Right now our 3rd fullback is probably Mike Lahoud, who is 1) Not a fullback and 2) Injured.

  22. Lack of depth + poor coaching = loss. Once we tried to pack it in after going up 2-0 it was only a matter of time before we were broken down whether we had a good formation or not. We’ve lost 5 games that we held the lead in and drawn 2 others. That’s 19 points dropped after getting the lead. Pfeffer shouldn’t have even started the 2nd half but per usual Curtin waits too long to put in any subs. It should’ve been Nogs for Pfeffer but old man Fred got the nod for some reason. We don’t have anyone in the back 4 that can get up and head balls away on set pieces on a consistent basis. Heck, have we even scored a goal via head on a corner kick this year? I’m pretty sure this can be taught. It’s bad at both ends. Getting rid of Shaenon was purely a $$ issue. I wish he had stayed but sadly the move had to be done. Hopefully Valdes salary will be picked up by someone and it appears that we are stuck with M’Bohli for a while unless we get lucky. Hopefully we can find a win to win the Open Cup. I know most teams don’t try to win it. I don’t know why since you get into the champions league and get $250,000 which is something we clearly need. Just hoping we get some structure starting from the top down before we start next season.

  23. To me, it is apparent that we need to grab a few European esk defenders. Wether they’re from Europe , South America, USA, Africa etc. we need defenders who know how to play the euro style meaning marking up tight on opponents when defending a rush or counters, not giving offenses so much space. Players who can clear a ball with purpose and who can possess and play the calm passing game in the back. They need more skill on the ball in the back. In my eyes Fabinho is safe right now in this aspect and I would let edy off the hook as well. The rest of the back like are suspect.

  24. Oh – it was awesome when ESPN said Mike Lahoud got the yellow card, instead of Ayuk. I had a good chuckle over that one.

  25. This great city, region, and fan base deserve better then this appalling flea circus run by Frick and Frack!

    • Totally agree!
      A built in fan base that is starting to not care.
      Last I checked their were a few dozen comments on their FB page where normally a game like this would have well over 100.
      Apathy seems to be setting in.

  26. Union fans’ motto: You’ll never squawk alone.

    Of course, the squawking is entirely justified.

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