Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 1-2 Columbus Crew

Kei Kamara scored two first half goals as Columbus Crew took the season series, defeating Philadelphia Union 2-1 at PPL Park Saturday night.

CJ Sapong cut the lead in half with a goal in the 66th minute, but the Union could not find an equalizer in front of a rain-soaked home crowd.

Jim Curtin said after the match, “We were beaten by a better team tonight…We weren’t the proactive team tonight. We reacted to what they did, and we reacted too late.”

First Half

Curtin made no changes to the team that defeated San Jose last week. John McCarthy kept his spot in goal despite the return of Andre Blake from international duty. Andrew Wenger and Maurice Edu both missed out through injury while Chaco Maidana served the second game of his suspension.

Despite ceding possession to Columbus, Philadelphia would get the match’s first chance in the 9th minute. CJ Sapong found time and space and slid a pass into the box for Sebastien Le Toux to run onto from 35 yards out. Columbus goalkeeper Steve Clark was quick off his line to push the ball away before the Frenchman could get a touch.

The Crew announced their intentions in the 10th minute. Waylon Francis found space to cross from the Columbus right and found Kei Kamara six yards from the Union goal. The big striker could only nod the ball wide with the goal gaping.

Columbus took the lead in the 21st minute with Kamara again at the center of things. Federico Higuain sidestepped two Union tackles in midfield before dishing a ball to the right for Harrison Afful to cross. The front post ball deflected off the back of Richie Marquez’s head straight to Kamara crashing past Ray Gaddis at the back post. The big man could not miss the frame from five yards out. McCarthy looked to have time to move across to make a stop, but he was too slow to his right and the shot bounced into back of the net.

Columbus doubled their lead just five minutes later as Kamara notched his second in the 26th minute. Afful was again involved in the move down the right side, getting on the wrong side of Fabinho and driving at goal. Spotting Kamara streaking in, he laid a perfectly weighted pass along the ground for the striker to tap in from six yards out. McCarthy slid over to get a hand to the shot, but failed to keep it out of the net.

Philadelphia tried to respond through Tranquillo Barnetta in the 29th minute. Sapong laid off a nice pass to the midfielder 25 yards from goal and the Swiss international took one touch before blasting a shot that forced a good save out of Steve Clark.

Columbus took the 2-0 lead and a 63.4-36.6 percent possession advantage into the halftime break.

Second Half

Jim Curtin made no changes to start the second half, and Columbus was content to hold the ball and avoid giving Philly a chance to counterattack.

Conor Casey and Michael Lahoud joined the fray in the 59th minute, replacing Eric Ayuk and Brian Carroll respectively.

Philadelphia grew into the match as the second half went on, with Conor Casey and CJ Sapong both getting half-chances in front of the Crew goal.

The Union cut the lead in half in the 66th minute through Sapong. Casey emerged from a scrum with the ball 30 yards from the Crew goal and sent in a nicely weighted pass for Le Toux to run onto on the right side. Le Toux held off Waylon Francis and sent a perfect ball across the box for Sapong to tap in for his 8th goal of the season.

The Union nearly equalized in the 79th minute. Barnetta played Le Toux in down the right side and the midfielder’s deflected shot almost looped over Clark, but the goalkeeper pushed the ball onto the crossbar and it was cleared out for a corner kick.

Fernando Aristeguieta replaced Fabinho in the 80th minute, with the Union going to three at the back and three big strikers up front.

Philadelphia pushed forward in search of an equalizer, but failed to create many clear cut chances as the game finished 2-1 in favor of Columbus.

The Union look to rebound when they host Houston next Sunday at PPL Park (7 pm).

Philadelphia Union
John McCarthy, Fabinho, (Fernando Aristeguieta 80′) Steven Vitoria, Richie Marquez, Ray Gaddis, Brian Carroll (Michael Lahoud 59′), Vincent Nogueira, Eric Ayuk (Conor Casey 59′), Tranquillo Barnetta, Sebastien Le Toux, CJ Sapong
Unused Subs: Andre Blake, Warren Creavalle, Zach Pfeffer, Ethan White

Columbus Crew
Steve Clark, Michael Parkhurst, Waylon Francis (Chris Klute 78′), Harrison Afful, Tyson Wahl, Ethan Finlay (Cedrick Mabwati 72′), Justin Meram (Emanuel Pogatetz 85′), Tony Tchani, Will Trapp, Federico Higuain, Kei Kamara
Unused Subs: Brad Stuver, Hector Jimenez, Mohammed Saeid, Jack McInerney

Scoring Summary
CLB: Kei Kamara — 21′
CLB: Kei Kamara (Harrison Afful) — 26′
PHI: CJ Sapong (Sebastien Le Toux) — 66′

Disciplinary Summary
PHI: Steven Vitoria (intentional handball) — 86′
CLB: Steve Clark (time wasting) — 90′

Philadelphia Union Columbus Crew
16 Shots 9
7 Shots on Target 5
5 Shots off Target 2
4 Blocked Shots 1
 7 Corner Kicks 4
 15 Crosses  11
 5 Offsides 0
 11 Fouls 16
1 Yellow Cards 1
0 Red Cards  0
 350 Total Passes 464
 79.4% Passing Accuracy 83.2%
 43.5% Possession  56.5%
 50 Duels Won 26
 64.1% Duels Won % 34.2%
14 Tackles Won  9
3 Saves 6
24 Clearances 24


  1. WSSM

    • Indeed and the only question I have after that game…(because nothing happened new beyond what we have seen for nearly 6 seasons) is….where can I get a Kei Kamara?
      He reminded me, in Barbasol yellow, of what I imagine Shell Silverstein’s, Flying Festoon looked like in my imagination…in a good way of course. He captured my imagination.
      At least we have The Striker.

    • This isn’t news and our loss is no surprise.

  2. Lazlo Hollyfeld says:

    no bueno

  3. I have never watched a half of soccer in which both fullbacks performed as poorly as Gaddis and Fabinho. The space Columbus was given to send in crosses was absurd.

    The bigger issue: with Gaddis and Fabinho regularly tucking in so centrally, is this an order from Curtin?

    This is all irrelevant though. After five years, three head coaches, dozens of starters, numerous disaster-level player moves, and a recognized lack of investment in the roster, this team cannot succeed.

    This team will not make it out of the MLS basement with Nick Sakiewicz at the helm. All of our analysis, critiquing, crying, and screaming is utterly pointless. The core leadership of this team is rotten and nothing, absolutely nothing, will change until he leaves.

    • You sir have reached resignation. Resignation and acceptance are not the same thing.
      I resigned at this near juncture last year when the team in Barbasol yellow asked us to choose the belt, the pipe wrench or the hand gun as the means to terminate a season.

      • James Lockerbie says:

        There is two ways out of this building the stairs or the windows.

        “We’ll take the Stairs.” As they throw themselves down the stairs.

    • The Little Fish says:

      Our fullbacks were atrocious. Weakest link?

      • I thought it was Gaddis’s worst game. And the first half, when our goal was right in front of us, the amount of space Fabinho (and Le Toux) gave to Columbus out wide was frightening. I’m hoping it was coach’s orders – some failed strategy – rather than our fullbacks intentionally tucking inside so often at the expense of the flanks.

  4. Avert your eyes. Do not look inside the yellow ribbon. Nothing to see here. Move along.

  5. That loss rests squarely on the heads of Albright-Curtin. That’s their first-choice team:

    McCarthy – basically a high school goalkeeper. Laughable that he expressed the goal of playing for USMNT after his first appearance for Union. Good luck with that!

    Fabinho – protected over Ribiero – a valuable commodity per Albright-Curtin

    Vittoria – 1/2 big offseason signings

    Marquez – a good player and definitely one of Curtin’s favorites

    Gaddis – kept in place of Sheanon and another of Curtin’s boys

    Carrol – resigned for a position we didn’t really need (Edu & Lahoud) and clearly a Curtin fav.

    Nogueira – best player on the team – too bad no one ever moves into space for him

    Barnetta – their big midseason signing – slow and not that skilled and falls down at the slightest touch

    LeToux – a club legend and a great player

    Ayuk – maybe not Curtin’s first choice but a whole lot better than Curtin’s first choice (Wenger)

    Sapong/Aristeguieta – both brought in by Albright-Curtin so they’re presumably the first and second choices up top (how many hold up forwards and slow midfielders can a team possibly need?!?)

    There. Curtin-Albright’s first choice team and they couldn’t compete at home in desperate playoff-determining game with a team from a much smaller city with the same budgetary limitations.

    The Union need new and better coaching staff, scouts, and desperately need a sporting director.

    Maybe instead of yelling stupid childish shit at the ref the SoB should ask Sak where the hell our sporting director is.

    We’re wasting our time and our money on this team.

  6. I really want to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs so I can be cautiously optimistic for next season as opposed to being despondent over this one.

  7. In the stands,it looked like the first half was played by guys told specifically to save their legs. More walking, less checking to the ball and more ring footed passes than I have seen in a LONG time. I keep wondering if the drumbeat of “this is a must win game for us” has beaten the boys into nonchalance, since they were anything but desperate on the field tonight. It was frustrating to see the high line that the Crew were able to maintain, and the offensive response by the Union- sit deeper ten yards. If there had been any real challenge during the first half, the Crew defense winds up sitting back, and the Union has a chance. Instead, strikes start from the defensive side of midfield, and the lack of speed and control means a breakdown before an attack can lead anywhere. Sad, and frustrating to watch.

  8. Sometimes I feel like I’m watching the Greatest American Heroes out there. They have the suits, but they’ve lost the instructions.

  9. I was all set to go. I had my poncho out and everything. Then my wife got sick so I was stuck at home. Man did I luck out. First time I’ve ever thanked anyone for vomiting.

  10. OneManWolfpack says:

    The Union are Chelsea… well Chelsea this year 🙂

  11. That first half was terrible. No energy, nothing. The way the U was pushed around, especially Ayuk and Nogueira, are we gonna call them Smurfs again? As for the discussion of whether Maidana is in Curtin’s plans, tonight is what it looks like without Maidana.

  12. At least they gave something resembling a damn towards the end. They lost, naturally…But at least they gave a bit of damn. Not sure what a partial damn is. A darn? They gave a darn? Like 20 minutes of darn?

    Just win the cup…

    • I was pulling for them for the tie even though it was meaningless in the grand scheme. They were outplayed, outgunned, and no amount of heart was gonna change it. But they had some heart.

  13. Well, I’m glad that I stayed at home for this one (I’ve uttered that statement far too many times this year). Aside from the USOC Final, I don’t expect to be down at PPL at all for the remainder of the year. I’ll just leave my two seats empty (it’s not like you can resell them) in silent protest.

    Perhaps they can win the USOC and generate something positive in this terrible season, but the reality is that this team just isn’t worth it for me.

  14. Marquez was good last night, everyone else was awful. That was also Noguiera’s worst game– poor passing, and couldn’t keep possession of the ball.

  15. On the bright side, it seemed like the kind folks at Talen Park fixed the covering over the Bridge-side seats. On previous rainy nights, the water would pool on the edge of the awning and periodically dump on my head, back in Row BB. No such problem last night. So, there’s that.
    And, Kei Kamara for MVP, even with the hairdo that made him look like a Lego guy. Him, or Giovinco.

  16. WestmontUnion says:

    I think the discussion needs to stop around which players are in Curtin’s future. He would have to show a completely new ability to manage the team, prepare them to compete week in week out, and show better tactical IQ for all remaining games of the season for me to even have the slightest confidence that he is the right man for the job next year.

    In 2016, if SAK and SUGA are serious about growing this team at the same pace as the rest of the teams in the league, they need a new GM and Manager asap. I’m all for making Curtin manager of Bethlehem Steel alongside Carroll and Fred and calling it a day on his tenure as manager of he Union. He can take all his favorite players like Gaddis, White, Casey, JMac and Fabinho with him too.

    Even if SAK doesn’t have a desire to invest in the team and give us a chance to compete, he has to be smart enough to realize that the product on the pitch has to at least appear competitive and competent. More times than not under Curtin we look like a team without a plan terrified of the opposition and about to be picked apart at any moment. This is so bad for business and SAK has to make a statement by announcing change on the last game of the season otherwise I fear that many fans, now silenced in River End and much of the rest of PPL park will not return next year…

    • It’s actually a bit of a shame the Union didn’t do Lehigh Valley last year. Because what you suggest here – sending Curtin there to coach – would’ve been possible. I like Curtin. I think he’ll be a good coach some day. But having him learn on the job is painful. If BSFC had existed this time last year, they could’ve given Curtin that job, since he was still just the interim here. Then he could’ve learned from whoever they hired to coach the U, made his gameday mistakes in a less urgent environment, and been all set to take over as the next coach in 3-5 years or so.
      Sadly, now, Curtin likely won’t take such a demotion. And that said… I would still keep him for next year. For two reasons. First, this team has had enough of an upheaval in its short history already. They need some consistency. And coupled with that, I do think Curtin has improved. I’ve seen enough improvement to be willing to give him another off-season, another training camp, and another season to see where things go.

      • You have to keep Curtin for your first reason. I haven’t seen any progress on your second.

        The longer the club goes without hiring a GM, the worse 2016 is going to be.

      • WestmontUnion says:

        I agree that stability and not continuing the merry go round of coaches is key. That said, I don’t think Curtin (as would many coaches) like a GM/Soccer Director who essentially is going to pick the team. I think Curtin realizes by looking at Petke’s employment situation (and that’s while being far more successful than Curtin’s been), that his options are limited. I think he would take the USL job, and it would be a good move for him.

        For the GM and Coach set up to work, you need a Coach who actually has an eye for talent, a strong/clear tactical philosophy and also an ability to get a group of professionals to believe in them. Curtin strikes out on all of these factors. NYRB is again a perfect example with Marsch and their new GM both having the same tactical philosophy and the building of the team around non ‘star’ DPs has proven a great strategy. I believe that they are two signings away from being best team in the East.

      • el pachyderm says:

        At best Jim Curtin is a USL coach at this early tenure of his education.
        Roberto Martinez, Paulo Maldini…these men get to make the jump to highest league.
        Not Pep, Not Zidane, Not Giggs.
        It was insane to take interm tag away from Jim curtin after hoping against hope the first time it would work and didn’t.

  17. The Oenophile says:

    I am glad I did not waste my time going down there in the rain (due to a family commitment), but I must admit that I doubt I will be going to the final two home games, especially as they are both on Sunday nights. And I am definitely NOT re-DOOPing for next year, I have given my heart and soul to this team for six years now, but I cannot do so any more.

  18. The Little Fish says:

    Painful loss. We obviously need Chaco Maidana. Casey should’ve started. He earned it last week. Nogs really struggled to complete passes or hold the ball. Ray Gaddis was brutal (again!) with the ball at his feet. Fabinho’s 1st half was absolutely dreadful. Other than that we looked pretty good.
    All we are saying…..Is give Blake a chance. Hindsight is 20/20 but I would love to see what would have happened with Casey and Blake starting……

  19. Late last season, when the Crew announced that they had signed Kamara, I yelled and cursed. “Dammit! That guy would be perfect for us! Why didn’t we sign Kamara?!” Boy was I prescient.

    Also, I completely agree with a couple of folks above that even Nogueira sucked in that game. One of his worst outings in a Union kit.

  20. Maybe it’s me, but didn’t the Union do what Curtain said they were going to do, at least in the first half. He said mid-week, teams that high-press get taken advantage of by Columbus. So the first half, they sat back. This was obviously a directive. When Columbus had the ball, Sapong and Barnetta never pushed higher than the third stripe in the grass passed the mid line. It wasn’t until the second half when Curtain threw it out the window and told them to attack and high-press. It was too late. It wasn’t enough.
    In part I can’t argue with Curtain wanting to try something different. Columbus does what they do so well, let’s give them a different look to counter it. Ok, fine. But I also feel he went away from what made them look so good against San Jose. Pressing high to get the ball is what the Union do Well. They cause other teams to make mistakes, cause turnovers. This happened in the end, for a little while. Till Columbus took the game and closed it out. Like Curtain says the Union need to learn to do.
    Let’s be honest. We knew this season was over halfway through. It’s long since been time for evaluation(yes again). Evaluation of everything; coach, players, strategy, plan, vision, philosophy. The only problem here is there’s no one to do this. Or we hope there isn’t. Otherwise it’s Sak. Which none of us want. So we are back in holding position once again. Praying for an U.S. Open Cup win.
    What happened last night shouldn’t be surprising. This whole year shouldn’t. This club has been designed half ass’d. From the search for that non-existent G.M.. To the hiring of Renee M. to help with that search (not being the target of). Through the hiring of our three coaches (Curtain being the least to blame because he had no experience coming in). And of course, player selection. This is status quo. Cirle around one more time fellas. The pattern is full.

  21. old soccer coach says:

    they “parked the bus” in the first 25 minutes and were dissected, by surgeons not high school biology students. the service to Kamara was magnificent on at least four occasions; he missed twice.
    Columbus’s attacking four plus one or both defensive center midfielders collapsed on Carroll and Nogueira, surrounded them and pressed them as a coordinated group. That did two things simultaneously, it won the ball and triggered runs forward by the outside backs to put in crosses, either early or late, that were of exquisitely finish-able quality. Kamara is a finisher.
    Curtin tried to do what worked in San Jose. Columbus with its A lineup is a much, much better side than San Jose minus its internationals, much better.
    Casey can last about 30 minutes is the conclusion I draw from how Curtin has handled him recently

    • I agree with your assessment of the early portion of the game, and am mystified. How can one go into a “must win” game, in a defensive posture, and hope for a counterattack to lead to a breakout score, in the formation that was chosen? I saw a transition from the “please don’t hurt me”, one striker up, formation when Casey and Aristiguieta came on. It looked like a much more aggressive, possibly 3-5-2. As the teams took the pitch, it was clear that Columbus was sitting high; why was Sapong not much higher in his attack positioning? If the game is essential, the Union needs to score one goal at least, and the initial formation (not to mention the attitude of the players) must be to get that goal or those goals. It was inexcusable to play that deep in a situation that needed offense to give up those chances to Kamara, which were absolutely admirable services from a midfield that knew to look for him,and were able to get forward to hit him. Good adjustment late in the game, which should not have been necessary, and was clearly too late, when the late flurry of chances by the Union showed what could have been, with a bit of luck and some assertion of offense.

      • Why do you go into a “must win” game in a defensive posture and also tell the world in your mid-week press conference that you’re going to be in a defensive posture? Didn’t serve much purpose but I’m sure Berkhalter appreciated the heads up.

  22. A truly Afful first half, kei?

  23. Sure hope these sad sacks can win the open cup in order to make some major changes because this is by far the most embarrassingly disgusting and poorly run team and organization in MLS. IMO they don’t deserve to represent this city ,region or fan base! I’ll say, I don’t care if Curtin was managing the Galaxy, HE IS INEPT! That goes for the entire staff!

  24. I think Columbus plays the most attractive footy in the league…….and they don’t change. This is the way we play, you adjust to us………we don’t change for anyone. If you solve it…….more power to you. MLS needs a few teams like that……..

  25. OneManWolfpack says:

    For the love of god please play Andre Blake.

  26. Lack of skill, creativity, a first touch and one touch pass are all missing from this side. We have wingers with no moves to get by people. I’ll give Ayuk a pass because he’s only 18 but LeToux and Wenger when he was playing are not great. The fullbacks are below average. They can’t play the ball out of the back calmly and tuck in far too often. We still love passing the ball from side to side instead of turning up field and playing down the center. That’s how we created our 2 best chances in the first half. When you have a below average team in speed and skill you can’t be good for long stretches. There are a lot of changes that need to be made. I think we are still seeing McCarthy because Curtin doesn’t know who to play in the USOC finals. Curtin is in a very tough spot with that because McCarthy has played all of the matches and helped get us there but I think Curtin knows Blake is a better keeper. It we have a bunch of money to spend this offseason please do not waste it on one player. We need so many pieces that we have to acquire a lot of players and hope most of them work well with the system we decide to use in 2016.

    • Kind of like how Okugo played in all the matches and got us to final last year only to sit in the most important game….Should not be hard…as the manager set the precedent last season. MacCarthy sits.

      • emotions should be set aside when there is hardware on the line. Okugo was by far one of our best 11 last year…….+1. Your right, precedent has been set

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