Union match reports

Match Report: San Jose Earthquakes 1-2 Philadelphia Union

Maligned throughout the year for questionable substitutions, Jim Curtin found the perfect move on Saturday night.

Introducing Conor Casey in the 71st minute of a game they trailed 1-0, Curtin’s Philadelphia Union rode a brace by the big man to a stunning 2-1 win in their first appearance at San Jose’s sparkling new Avaya Stadium.

After a first 60 minutes marked by two disputed penalty non-calls, a handball by Fabinho handed Chris Wondolowski the opportunity to score from the spot in the 64th minute. But Casey overpowered the Earthquakes defense with goals in the 74th and 86th minutes thanks to excellent service from Ray Gaddis and Tranquillo Barnetta, and the Union defense put together a solid performance on the road against a red hot Quakes side.

“[Casey] had a good week of training, he’s kept his head up, he’s been a real veteran and a positive guy in the locker room even when he hasn’t been playing a lot,” Curtin said post-match. “When he got his time, he certainly took advantage of it.”

First half

A variety of circumstances forced Jim Curtin to make three changes in the Union lineup. With Andre Blake out on international duty, John McCarthy stepped back between the pipes, while Michael Lahoud deputized in midfield for an absent Brian Carroll. With Barnetta sliding into the center of midfield, Erik Ayuk took Cristian Maidana’s place in the lineup.

In the early stages, Barnetta was the Union’s most influential player. Taking the captain’s armband with Carroll and Maurice Edu out, the Swiss midfielder drifted across the pitch, making sharp passes. Barnetta capped a solid stretch of build-up play in the 18th minute with a shot deflected just wide.

“Tranquillo is a guy who we brought here to be a leader,” said Curtin. “He’s a guy who I thought by giving him the band would empower him a little bit. I thought he had a very good night.”

In the 22nd minute, a sharp header by Quincy Amarikwa off a Marvell Wynne throw-in  presented the first tough challenge for McCarthy, and the Union man was up to the task. Amarikwa gave Steven Vitoria fits a few minutes later, taking the ball off the Union man and forcing a desperate tackle.

Trouble struck for the Quakes in the 39th minute, when Victor Bernardez went down with a leg injury. JJ Koval, a defensive midfielder, entered the match in an emergency situation at center back. In his first moments of action, he came very close to surrendering a penalty, running over C.J. Sapong from behind in the box.

The fairly dire half ended with the score level, a grand total of one shot on goal — a low powered strike from Vincent Nogueira in the 18th minute — registered between the two sides.

Second half

Both sides entered the second half unchanged, and it didn’t take very long for the hosts to register the first great chance of the match. Former Union man Shea Salinas flicked a strong cross from Marvell Wynne to Amarikwa, whose shot beat McCarthy but just clipped the outside of the post.

A great interchange between Nogueira and Barnetta led to the next controversial penalty call. Streaking into the box, Nogueira was felled by Quakes keeper David Bingham, but the referee wasn’t interested in making the call. Post match, Curtin made it clear that he wasn’t happy with Ismail Elfath’s decisions, calling them “clear penalty kicks, that were missed by the referee.” 

Instead, the Earthquakes would be the beneficiary of a penalty. On a cross hit deep into the box, Fabinho got his hand up high and was called for a deserved penalty. Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski didn’t miss, sending McCarthy the wrong way and breaking the deadlock with his 13th goal of the season.

In the 71st minute, Curtin called for his first sub, and it proved to make all the difference. Conor Casey came on to replace Sebastien Le Toux and wasted little time in making his mark, powering a header past David Bingham off a gorgeous ball in from Ray Gaddis.

Suddenly, both sides had all to play for. San Jose attempted to ratchet up the tempo, though the absence of Anibal Godoy left them bereft of ideas for the entire evening. Amarikwa, San Jose’s best player on the night, blasted one over the bar, and Wondolowski forced McCarthy into a tough save off a header.

The final laugh, though, would go to the Union. A perfectly placed free kick from Barnetta found Casey, who glanced a header past the helpless Quakes keeper. Suddenly and improbably, the Union held a 2-1 lead.

With the Avaya Stadium sellout crowd stunned into silence, the Quakes were forced to lump balls towards the box with their remaining moments. The Union stayed strong at the back, with Steven Vitoria having an especially good game in the air.

Late substitutions were made by the Union, as Andrew Wenger and Warren Creavalle made late cameos, and the visitors held the toothless Earthquakes at bay until the final whistle blew.

The Union, winners of two of their last three and now in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, return to PPL Park for a Eastern Conference clash with Columbus next Saturday, Sept. 12.

Philadelphia Union
John McCarthy; Fabinho, Richie Marquez, Steven Vitoria, Ray Gaddis; Michael Lahoud, Vincent Nogueira (Warren Creavalle 90+3′); Eric Ayuk (Andrew Wenger 89′), Tranquillo Barnetta, Sebastien Le Toux (Conor Casey 71′); CJ Sapong
Unused Substitutes: Brian Sylvestre, Zach Pfeffer, Ethan White, Fernando Aristeguieta

San Jose Earthquakes
David Bingham; Marvelle Wynne, Clarence Goodson, Victor Bernardez (J.J. Koval 39′), Shaun Francis; Fatai Alashe, Cordell Cato, Matias Perez Garcia (Tommy Thompson 82′), Shea Salinas; Chris Wondolowski, Quincy Amarikwa (Adam Jahn 86′)
Unused Substitutes: Bryan Meredith, Leandro Barrera, Michael Fucito, Mark Sherrod

Scoring Summary
SJ — Chris Wondolowski (PK) – 64′
PHI — Conor Casey (Ray Gaddis) — 74′
PHI — Conor Casey (Tranquillo Barnetta) — 86′

Disciplinary Summary
SJ — Clarence Goodson (Unsporting Behavior) — 52′
PHI — Fabinho (Handball) — 63′
PHI — Conor Casey (Unsporting Behavior) — 79′

Philadelphia Union San Jose Earthquakes
 7 Shots 12
3 Shots on Target  2
 1 Shots off Target  6
 3 Blocked Shots  4
 6 Corner Kicks 7
 21 Crosses  26
2 Offsides 1
 9 Fouls  12
2 Yellow Cards  1
 0 Red Cards  0
 347 Total Passes  439
 75% Passing Accuracy  78%
 44.2% Possession  55.8%
 45 Duels Won  50
 47.3% Duels Won %  52.7%
 14 Tackles Won  17
1 Saves  1
 21 Clearances  21


  1. Nice headers, Conor!

  2. Uh..?…holy shit! We’re right under the red line. This can’t be….wait, it is…..WTF, my head is expanding each second. This roller coaster….I love it! Thank you Union!!!!!!!! Open Cup finals, win on the road, I know the odds are against us but as that lady said “why can’t us?”!!!!!!!

  3. Lazlo Hollyfeld says:

    Need to keep winning; get three again next week and I’ll start to get excited again.

    Casey was great, and it helped having Koval back there instead of Bernardez.

    Nogs WAS fouled by Bingham in the box, and it should have been a penalty. Not sure about the other one.
    CBs were good too.

    • Other one was even more of a foul. Sapong was just shoved from behind. It was the same play that Barnetta got called for in his first game against the pink cows.

  4. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Though it is conventional, the occupation of the hole behind the striker by Barnetta meant a more conventional ability to keep some possession in the attacking third and a better ability to get men forward into the box.
    The SJ commentators were lauding Shea Salinas’ play in recent games and lamenting its absence tonight, I would guess Ayuk gets some credit for that and some protection against criticism for not having much of an offensive impact.
    Ray Gaddis’s chip to Casey deserves to have the adjective “gorgeous,” journalistically appropriate in its restraint, amplified amidst further analysis.
    The deep setup of the defense necessitated by SJ’s pace and Vitoria’s lack of it was complemented by the absence of SJ’s Panamanian creative attacker.
    Jim Curtin matched Conor Casey’s strength and head skills perfectly to Victor Bernardez’s departure.
    How many of the wins have come on the road, in addition to numbers 7 and 8 in the sequence?

    • RSL…no wait, that one didn’t count. Sporting KC, DC United twice, no they blew those 3. I think the only one was NYRB.

      • Lazlo Hollyfeld says:

        I get angry just thinking about the points lost in those games.
        Even half of those twelve points, and the Union are looking much, much better for that sixth spot.

    • Lazlo Hollyfeld says:

      NYCFC (H)
      DC (H)
      NYRB (A)
      Columbus (H)
      Seattle (H)
      Portland (H)
      Montreal (A)
      San Jose (A)

  5. Multiple personality disorder. Most bizarre team in the league.

  6. Ref can’t blow his whistle when Sapong gets pulled down in the box, or when the keeper swipes Nog’s legs out, but sees the Fabi handball perfectly. The referees screwing the Union for me continues to be the sub plot of the season.
    After the Chicago game, the consensus here was that even though the ref swallowed his whistle in the last sequence of the game and allowed a game tying goal that should not have counted and could not have been rebutted, it was still the Unions fault for not winning the game anyway.
    That is what makes this game really significant to me regardless of the regular season outcome. I think it shows an improvement in the team’s character, and the first time I have seen Curtin make an in-game adjustment that was oh-so-what was needed.
    Regarding Casey, he has to lead the Union in shots on target per minutes played. I am hopeful he is out of the doghouse for that terrible open cup red card and can see the field for significant time as the team faces a need to basically win every game and get help to make the playoffs.
    One more thought, I think it is important that they try to make it. Ayuk and anyone else young on this team that has any potential need to get playoff games under their belt even if we play the role of first round sacrifice.

  7. I’d like to get a scientific analysis of our comments over the past few months and have them tracked in a graph representing our emotional state, as a group. It would read like an overly active EKG.

  8. U.S. Americans can’t seem to decide whether to list the home soccer team first or second. I think we should follow the same convention as the rest of the world, but that’s like, just my opinion man. I think we can all agree that PSP needs to pick a side, so to speak, and be consistent. You guys are switching it up almost every week.

    • or that Americans list W-L-D and the rest of the soccer world, I believe, lists W-D-L. I am always trying to figure out which is which.

      • Why is the team after VS always the home team in every other sport but the visiting team in soccer? Just wanted to add that to the list of questions.

      • By convention. Like pretty much everything in sports. It’s just that we exceptional Americans do things differently.

  9. Interesting watching how Barnetta worked in helping the Union transition from defense to attack. Maidana does a good job as well, but Barnetta seems to drop a little deeper which ensures that we don’t have that gap in our midfield. He drifted wide at times, but always seemed to be more central when the ball was coming out of defense.

    Nice win especially after falling behind on the road, but it really only means something if we get 3 pts vs Columbus next Sat.

  10. Casey’s heading ability is so strong. Wish he could run better or that we had a younger player with similar heading ability.
    Unfortunate that the team is so inconsistent this year. At least there is hope that they could beat KC on Sept 30. Otherwise think the inconsistency will continue, preventing them getting a playoff slot.

  11. That handball was shockingly bad. It was the kind of thing you see in pee wee games when a 5 year old just can’t resist reaching out and touching the ball. Happy with the win but Fabinho should be kissing Casey’s ass all week in gratitude.

    • I was following the game on the MLS site Twitter timeline and right after the handball Matt Doyle tweeted it was “the Hand of Dog play by Fabinho”. I was just thinking “F–k you, Doyle” until I saw the replay. It really was remarkably similar to the Maradana play from the 80s.

  12. I’m convinced it’s an a actual directive now: “No PKs for the Union… under any circumstances.” It’s disgraceful that at least one PK call wasn’t made. I don’t want to sound like a crazy person… but I don’t know what to think anymore.
    Anyway… this team only makes my indegestIon worse. Ha. So bad, then so good. Get it together and make these last two months interesting.

    • I don’t think you’re crazy but CJ goes down way too easy and Le Toux almost got booked for diving so I think they have a reputation

      • The Nogueira takedown seemed so cut and dry though. Reputation or not, I’m not sure how that ever gets ignored. The Sapong one still seems like a penalty, but I can see where that one can be argued.

    • That wasn’t a conspiracy, that was typical Ismael “No stitches no foul, unless someone nicks the ball with his pinky” Elfath refereeing. San Jose has some pretty strong penalty shouts, too. The guy is everything that’s wrong with the MLS’s style of play. He’s just wrong equally to both teams.

      • no kidding…it looked more like UFC or American Football- at one point the #10 Perez pushed Noguiera like he was coming off the line as an undersized right tackle. Ridiculous. Ridiculous. Ridiculous.
        One of my least favorite aspects of MLS soccer. It sure isn’t futball.

  13. I respect JP for all he has done but could some one politely ask him to stop trying to pronounce Nogueira with anything other than his regular American guy accent? French Rs are not flapped, they are guttural, or uvular if you prefer, but please don’t try, unless you want to sound like Peter Sellers in the Pink Panther.

  14. WELL DONE CONNER CASEY, WELL DONE. Not one but TWO world class headers. Second one even better than the first!!! That second slicing header was better than any cut of prime rib I’ve ever seen… WELL DONE!!! GO UNION keep priming the pump for sept 30th!!!

    • The Little Fish says:

      I agree 100%. That dude saved our ass. As far as I’m concerned he should start against Columbus. In truth, he should be fresh as a daisy right now. He’s definately got 5 or 6 games left in those legs. Casey gives Barnetta, Nogeira, and Maidana (after his timeout) a true, legit target. Please play him Jimbo…!!!

  15. Casey has too many limitations to play regularly, but he is one thing that no one else on the Union is and that is a bona fine professional finisher.

    It is going to be interesting to see the Nogs-Barnetta partnership develop in the middle during Chaco’s absence. It certainly could mean more consistent possession. Obviously, something that has eluded the Union the past two seasons.

  16. That's So Union...!!! says:

    Gutty win. Character building effort. Proud of our guys for pulling out that victory on the road. Fun to watch on TV. A couple more wins and this could get interesting. Go Union. Keep up the great work!

  17. The Little Fish says:

    Connor Casey For President…!!!

  18. Great win! I really think Ayuk has shown some real improvement. He was doing more defending than I remember in the past. And his passing seemed to find a Union foot or chest more often…please tell me if I’m wrong… I just see him having soooo much up side…also…Gaddis contributed to the offence!!!

  19. Gotta say, I thought Curtin was crazy for wanting to play Barnetta in the middle when we so badly needed a winger. But now I see his point. Maybe our starting left winger should be Chaco?? Have him be kind of a wide playmaker?? Or even better, let’s get a striker with a different kind of skill set and play a 4-2-2-2, with Barnetta and Maidana as the 2 CAMs.

    Also, Elfath’s refereeing performance was pretty appalling. The absolutely refusal to give the Union any PK calls is getting ridiculous.

    • Lazlo Hollyfeld says:

      Curtin would only employ a 4 triple 2 in an alternate universe. He’s too traditional, too Bradley-esque.

      The criticisms I’ve seen of Maidana playing out wide are that he is simply not fit or not quick enough to play out there.
      Like the idea and would love to see it.

  20. I was yelling at my TV when Casey came in for Le Toux. I didn’t mind Le Toux coming out, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why Casey was the sub. Goes to show what I know, I guess…

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