Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 2-0 New York City FC


Chris Pontius and C.J. Sapong scored first half goals and the Union coasted to a 2-0 victory over NYCFC on Saturday afternoon at Talen Energy Stadium.

Pontius turned in Tranquillo Barnetta’s low cross in the 26th minute to open the scoring, the goal his 3rd of the season. Sapong doubled the Union’s lead in the 41st minute, redirecting Sebastien Le Toux’ shot for his fourth goal of the season.

The Union are now 3-0 at home this season and share the Eastern Conference lead with Montreal Impact, who fell to Toronto FC on Saturday.

First Half

Jim Curtin made two changes to the team that lost in Seattle last weekend. Brian Carroll returned to the starting lineup in place of Warren Creavalle and made his 350th league appearance, becoming just the sixth outfield player in MLS history to do so. Tranquillo Barnetta made his first start of 2016 in place of the suspended Roland Alberg.

The teams traded early chances, with David Villa curling a shot just wide of Andre Blake’s goal in the 4th minute. That was followed by Josh Saunders parrying Keegan Rosenberry’s powerful header off a Barnetta corner kick.

Villa was at it again in the 24th minute, cannoning a shot off the crossbar after latching onto a ball into the box from Steven Mendoza. Blake was beaten by the pace off the shot but it caromed straight off the bar before being cleared.

Philadelphia would take the lead in the 26th minute through Chris Pontius. The midfielder spent the minutes leading up to the goal getting a cut on his face repaired, but made it back on the field just in time to finish a brilliant run from Barnetta. Vincent Nogueira did well to find Sebastien Le Toux over the top and the midfielder’s shot was blocked. The rebound fell to Barnetta, who could have shot first time, but instead lifted the ball over a fallen defender, took it to the endline and cut a great ball back for Pontius to tap in from close range. It was the winger’s 3rd goal of the young season.

The Union doubled their lead in the 41st minute. Richie Marquez launched a long free kick into the NYC end, where Sapong rose highest and directed a header back to Sebastien Le Toux just outside the corner of the box. Le Toux hit a low shot that Sapong cheekily redirected past Saunders from seven yards while spinning. The goal was Sapong’s fourth in seven matches.

Second Half

Fabinho picked up a clear yellow card late in the first half, meaning he will be suspended for next week’s match against San Jose.

Ray Gaddis replaced Fabinho at the half to ensure the Brazilian did not condemn Philly to another ten man spell.

New York City had a gilt-edged chance to bring the game within a goal in the 47th minute. David Villa was left wide open in front of the Union goal, but the Spanish international could not direct his header on goal from six yards out.

Ilsinho and Warren Creavalle would replace Barnetta and Pontius respectively as the Union sought to see the game out in a fairly listless final 25 minutes.

Sebastien Le Toux had a glorious chance to make the lead three in the 79th minute, stealing an awful NYC throw in and driving in on goal. But Le Toux’s shot was poor and well wide of Saunders’ goal.

The match wound down with New York City pushing at Philly’s back line but finding no way through. Andre Blake collected his second shutout of the season and the Union rose to 3-0 and home and into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference.

Next up for Philadelphia is San Jose Earthquakes on April 30 at 4pm EST in Talen Energy Stadium.

Philadelphia Union
Andre Blake, Keegan Rosenberry, Josh Yaro, Richie Marquez, Fabinho (Ray Gaddis 46′), Brian Carroll, Vincent Nogueira, Tranquillo Barnetta (Ilsinho 65′), Chris Pontius (Warren Creavalle 81′), Sebastien Le Toux, C.J. Sapong
Unused Subs: Matt Jones, Anderson Conceicao, Fabian Herbers, Leo Fernandes

New York City FC
Josh Saunders, Jason Hernandez, Frederic Brillant, Andoni Iraola, Roland Matarrita (RJ Allen 70′), Federico Bravo, Kwadwo Poku (Thomas McNamara 59′), Mikey Lopez (Mix Diskerud 77′), Steven Mendoza, David Villa, Khiry Shelton
Unused Subs: Eirik Johansen, Diego Martinez, Tony Taylor, Patrick Mullins

Scoring Summary
PHL: Chris Pontius – 26′ (Tranquillo Barnetta)
PHL: C.J. Sapong – 41′ (Sebastien Le Toux)

Disciplinary Summary
NYC: Mikey Lopez (foul) – 15′
PHL: Fabinho (foul) – 36′
NYC: David Villa (foul) – 70′
NYC: Federico Bravo (foul) – 89′
PHL: Warren Creavalle (unsporting behavior) – 90+1′

Philadelphia Union New York City FC
 11 Shots  13
 5 Shots on Target  1
 6 Shots off Target 8
 0 Blocked Shots 4
 5 Corner Kicks 6
 16 Crosses 19
 1 Offsides  1
 7 Fouls  11
 2 Yellow Cards 3
 0 Red Cards  0
 316 Total Passes  591
 71% Passing Accuracy  81%
 35.1% Possession 64.9%
 46 Duels Won 54
 46% Duels Won %  54%
 15 Tackles Won  18
 1 Saves  3
 13 Clearances 10


  1. MLS baby! Where being perfectly adequate gets you to the top of the table.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      This is great commentary… and almost as though you puposely hoped to beat everybody to the posting by-line.
      I was occupied for the game, unable to watch…too bad no Pirlo, I’ll take everybodys word on the rest.

    • something wrong with adequate?
      remind me what team have you been watching for the last six years?
      adequate just FINE with me
      pass the dog fish head

  2. Not our best game I thought, but the finishing was good enough on the chances we did make to be the difference. Seeing Gaddis on the pitch again reminded me why we haven’t been playing with him all season: doesn’t help us possess the ball and attack. Did a good enough job defending. Gonna say something I’ve never said before, I’m gonna miss Fabinho next week.

    • Zizouisgod says:

      Agreed, Gaddis is just not gonna get forward into attack on the left, but he did alright in maintaining possession with an 82% completion rate (Rosenberry was 55%).

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    Good workman like effort for the team, converting their chances and watching NYCFC miss theirs.
    I thought Gaddis for Fabhino was a great sub as it gave Gaddis some minutes and reminded us he is much better on the defensive end. That might be a good sub in the future when protecting a lead.
    I thought the ref was TERRIBLE today. He held Pontius from coming back in while Blake had possession. He kept threatening Blake with a yellow for stalling but Saunders was playing just as slowly. At least one time he waved for play on then when NYCFC lost the ball 20 yards downfield he blew the ball dead for the foul that he had waved on.

    • And Sapong was offside on his goal, so things kind of evened out.

      • You inspired me to check the DVR: even with a poor angle, the grain of the grass shows both NYCFC defenders kept him onside right as Le Toux strikes the ball. Not even close; good goal.

      • I stand corrected. And good on the AR for sticking with his call. You could see Rivero check with the AR on the headset, and the AR give a thumbs-up. Sure looked offside live though.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        As soon as the ball went in I glanced down at the linesman and saw the flag down, but I knew it was close (I didn’t have a good angle).

    • I saw nothing wrong with what the ref did. Yes, he threatened Blake with yellow…but he never actually carded him. As for rescinding the advantage…someone correct me if I’m wrong, but I think if the ref gives advantage and then the attacking team loses the ball within a touch or two, he is supposed to then blow the play dead and return the ball to the spot of the foul for a free kick.

  4. Buccistick says:

    And for once, the game did not turn on acrobatics by Blake. A few smart charges off his line, but no fingertip fireworks. Disparage Viera’s set-up all you want, but pitching a shutout means that much more given the inexperience all along a backline facing the “samurai of space” (great turn of phrase, Adam).
    … speaking of which: thoughts on Yaro’s turn against Villa et al.?

    • I thought he looked a little nervous, but handled Villa well. It helped knowing there was really nobody else to worry about.

      • Buccistick says:

        Poku seemed a handful, riding and gliding off most comers. But point taken.
        From my perspective, Yaro already looks far more comfortable than he did in his first start.
        Nothing like sticking an inexperienced GK behind an even less experienced back line to motivate him to communicate more!

    • Andy Muenz says:

      You can definitely see the talent in Yaro but also the need for additional seasoning.

  5. Anyone see what set the NYC supporters section off at the end of the game? I mean, other than being a-holes supporting a terrible team?

    • Andy Muenz says:

      My wife said she thought it looked like people were tossing empty cans back and forth between the NYCFC section and the SOBs

      • Buccistick says:

        Yup. Some kind of projectile. I don’t pretend to have caught proceedings from their outset, but I did catch sight of something flying from section 133 (traveling supporters) to 134 (SoBs); and then moments later, something flying right back in reverse.
        Between those incidents and the new stadium entrance protocol, security had a busy afternoon. Hat tip to the staff.

      • The fighting had already started prior to any projectiles being thrown. It occurred just outside the section the the nyc fans were located in, meaning one (or more) of them had gotten out of that section for the fight. I’m not blaming them for the fight (I didn’t see how it started), but again, they had a section in which they were supposed to be and the fight was just outside that section, so draw your own conclusions. Multiple projectiles left the nyc section towards 132 (including the suite closest to the river end above 132, which was full of nyc fans) prior to any being returned into their section.

  6. Lucky Striker says:

    If it bleeds……..it leads………..

  7. Nogs for USMNT yay or nay?

  8. There was definitely something being tossed by both sides…and I have been very pleased by the young defence… They have been improving every match. If they stay together… They could be a force that is not easily broken down!

  9. What happened to the team that possessed so well against Seattle? The pass completion rate was terrible (based on what I saw, not an actual stat). I lost track of how many times I saw Nogueira send the ball right to a light blue shirt. I’ll take the win, of course, but I was hoping for a more convincing and competent performance from our side.

    • Wasn’t NYCFC’s A-lineup, but it’s great to be able to see the Union is capable of so much more while still getting a 2-0 win. Expectations rising!

    • pragmatist says:

      I agree with everything you said. But the comment I made a few times was, when is the last time we looked at our team and said, “we are just not playing well” while hold on a 2-goal lead.
      They didn’t play well. And NYCFC is not a good team. But we’re getting points where we used to drop them.
      And we haven’t had our best XI out there yet. Take the points, enjoy the game, and let’s assess in about 2 months.

  10. Old Soccer Coach says:

    To me it seemed clear that David Villa was deliberately shepherding the ball to Yaro’s and Rosenberry’s side of the field at every opportunity. Thank goodness the wind lifted Villa’s first few shots while The defense was letting him have space to shoot early in the game. I suspect some on field coaching occurred to increase the pressure against him.
    Yaro’s passing out the back on long balls was not simple blast and pray. He provided precision direct service..
    The other Viera tactical adjustment that I noticed besides shepherd the ball to the rookies, was switching Shelton to the Rosenberry-Yaro side of the field at halftime. Personally, I thought Mendoza was quite threatening against Rosenberry in the first half; he split a LeToux-Rosenberry double early, and forced double support to Rosenberry against him, so I’m not sure why the adjustment occurred. Shelton in the second half was less threatening against our right side than was Mendoza in the first, it seemed to me.
    While Ray Gaddis is no asset to the attack, Steven Mendoza disappeared in the second half. I was inclined to think Fabinho came off to get Ray onto the field, since Ray will have to play next week.
    Warren Creavalle seems to be benefitting noticeably from becoming a specialist at DCM. His cameo seemed quite effective to me, card notwithstanding. That said, at least twice in the first half, BC saved Josh Yaro’s bacon..
    Barnetta was laboring towards the end of his shift. Ilsinho looked a little rusty; he will have to be played back into shape and into peak precision at speed.
    An element of luck contributed to the shutout. They got a bar and two posts, in addition to Villa’s early barrage.

    • BC was great again today.

    • I remember the crossbar, but when did they hit two posts?

      • old soccer coach says:

        one in each half, but the comment is from memory, not frame by frame analysis of the tape so I can easily be wrong. I am virtually certain of one in the second half.

    • der Fussballzuschauer says:

      I watched the game on satellite and right away the English announcers noticed that this tactical change from NYCFC’s French trainer Viera, the switching of Mendoza and Shelton, was a total failure … I, too, was impressed with Yaro’s precise passing skill and a few other things, as well, but still have concerns that, sooner or later, opponents will start asking aerial questions of the rookie in earnest … Being aware of Premier League speculation, English announcers definitely noticed Blake flapping at a high ball to his back post … Agree things might have been different had NYCFC brought along their shooting boots but, hey, a win is a win so well done Philadelphia Union

  11. Dude… everyone… we’re in 1st. What, was it like July when we got our 12th point last year?!?! Just enjoy this. We’re better than last year. That is what we all said we wanted… we got it… now let’s enjoy. Not NYC A team… who cares… THEY STINK! This site can be awesome, but sometimes three comments are just brutal. Let’s enjoy this. We are decent and getting better. And for tomorrow: Let’s Go Flyers 🙂

    • Zizouisgod says:

      Yes, you’re absolutely right. We should enjoy this instead of nit-picking things that didn’t happen. The line between success and failure is very small in this sport so you can always find things that we were either lucky or unlucky with.

    • Am I missing something? Thought I was pretty clear that I was happy with what happened vs NYCFC. Union didn’t play great yet still won a shutout (no matter the quality of the lineup they faced). Not really sure what you are ranting about.

    • james lockerbie says:

      +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1

      Please, I don’t know where train is headed, but I want to enjoy the ride as long as it last!

  12. I’d say they “did what had to be done” rather than “coasted to” this win. Playing with a 2 goal lead for most of the match isn’t very familiar. Pontius finishes, Seba still . . . Fabinbo’s accumulation is alarming. Sapong is reaping well-earned rewards. Very happy for BC’s 350th. He’s definitely winning the “Told You So” award this year. Curtin says the planned for Pirlo, so they had to adjust. And the result says they did. No, the stats aren’t impressive. Except for two. Much higher percentage of shots on target. And 2 – 0. The Quakes will be a much tougher test. Waiting to see that best XI.

  13. Zizouisgod says:

    Nice to get a win when you’re not at your best.

    Smart move by Curtin to bring Gaddis on at the half for two reasons:

    1) Fabinho was really struggling with Shelton and was a strong candidate to be sent off in the 2nd half. Gaddis was a much better match up vs Shelton, so much so that Viera switched him to the other side soon after the half.

    2) He knew that he needed Gaddis to get some game action so he can be ready for next week (as others above have pointed out already)

    As much as everyone thinks that this wasn’t NYC’s A side, I think that the starting XI today is better balanced and tougher to play against than their normal starting XI.

    We struggled in possession today, but I think that this had more to do with our overall set-up as Carroll was set up more as a deep DM by design to limit Villa’s space. And, as he is apt to do, Nogs started to dropped deeper as he felt pressure and started to seek out the ball more from deeper positions (his average position was deeper than BC’s). NYC was pretty effective in the first half at compressing our space and preventing us from switching fields. Once they fell behind, they became less diligent in this tactic and the Union were happy to maintain their shape and allow NYC possession in non-dangerous positions.

    • old soccer coach says:

      NYCFC has collected lots of attacking assets, not so many defensive ones. I don’t follow them at all; it seemed to me the message was being sent to the midfielders that they have to work hard and they have to defend.

    • The Little Fish says:

      I agree on all your points about Gaddis. I like him as a stay home, lock down Left Back.

  14. I know I’m not alone on this site with tempered expectations. It was a beautiful day in Chester. I think some are waiting for the wheels to come off. For me that feeling is almost gone. The U wouldn’t have held this lead the past few seasons. It was not a great win.But it was a win. There is progress with this team. It is NOT the U of the last few seasons. We the fans are used to the old ways,players,FO. They have changed,the Manager is not hampered by a lack of options. So we get to win a game that we are used to conceding late goals and getting a draw OS loosing. Progress.

  15. The Little Fish says:

    Hey I was critical of Ray Gaddis last year but I must admit that I felt relief seeing him at LB with a precious 2nd half lead to protect. Specifically, because I knew he would “stay home” unlike Fabinho (our unexpected offensive fulcrum) who can most often be found in the other team’s end of the pitch. I knew that Gaddis (especially on the left) would stay put and not create huge defensive gaps. Kinda speaks to our depth but I really like Ray Gaddis as a lock down, stay home Left Back. He’s pretty darned solid in that role I think.

  16. Like it that Pontius scored! Kind of had given up on him for not performng after telling some show on SiriusXM that he would lke to be called up to the MNT again. If he really wants to he has to keep on scoring. Then if Sapong keeps on scoring then we will stay in first place! Could not be at the game and have not yet seen any highlights so can not comment any more.

  17. old soccer coach says:

    for the first half hour our precision of pass and anticipation of delivery seemed quite good. Then NYCFC got desperate and upped the defensive pressure. We did less well, but had punished them twice.
    Viera may have been trying to encourage his side with his post game analysis, but his grasp on reality was flawed. The first goal is Barnetta’s refusal to give up and technical skill; yes, the NYCFC clearance was flubbed, but it did not go directly to Pontius for the tap in. The second goal was Sapong outmaneuvering his marker to lay Marquez’s pass back to Le Toux and then redirecting Le Toux’s erring shot. There was no egregious mistake or unforced error.
    Furthermore, giving your allegedly better midfielders relief in the first game of a three in eight stretch seems odd, it makes sense only if you judge the first team of the three to be noticeably the weakest. At the moment that suggests NYCFC technical staff has not been paying attention. The Union may not yet be of the league’s elite; no longer are they of the dregs, however. Sieve!’s “perfectly adequate,” above, has the ring of truth to it.
    For el Pachyderm’s appreciation of atmosphere, the SoBs were fully present, in full and unified voice, and the Tifo displayed after the goals was magnificent [the segmented rattlesnake was the underlying theme, I could not make out the text.] The music played prior to the official march on theme was quite good, for rock and roll. My own preference would always be the Polovstian cavalry threat theme from Borodin’s Prince Igor – timpani are unmatched, even by taiko; that ‘s why the Romans used them in battle, and why Napoleon imitated the Roman general concept of drums – but the choice was a good second-best. 😉

    • Buccistick says:

      The tifo featured player initials and numbers: https://pbs.twimg.com/media/Cgz8XY9WgAAsskb.jpg
      The comment by 700 chopper, below, about the favorable weather warrants emphasizing something else that Old Soccer Coach said earlier: unusually warm it may have been for late April — but with wind speeds averaging 12mph and gusts twice that fast, most goal kicks and other lofted passes just kinda hung up there.
      And since no one else has said it yet … no Pirlo, no party. Sorry, Patrick! 🙂

  18. 700 chopper says:

    Great weather for a match. We won the game. Mike wrote great prose about it and we are in first place I think that sums it up!!!!!!! Go Union

  19. Jim Presti says:

    And a tactical match plan actually worked. Sapong kept pressure on the CBs while the midfield closed down the remaining passing lanes forcing Saunders to start the attack out of the back – fully knowing that Saunders is notorious for horrible horrible distribution and on the ball thinking. It worked. NYC FC spent a solid amount of time in their half especially after Poku was subbed

  20. About that Nyckfick XI, you know, it depends on who’s opinion you want. Go to the visiting team boards. Other than hhhhating, absolutely hating on their GK, many would say that was close to their best XI. Pirlo has not been great, Mix has been less. So, just not a good team. It’s okay. Beat a poor team 2-0. Tougher tests lie ahead.

    • That’s a fair point. I’ve been watching NYCFC this year, mostly because I want to see how Viera coaches. Maybe I should have said they didn’t start their most offensive XI. I think Mix has been livelier than last year for sure, and am a fan of McNamara. Yesterday aside from Villa, it didn’t seem like they had anyone who was going to threaten- although Mendoza has been sneaky dangerous. But I’m thrilled to get 3 points.

  21. To be brutally honest, none of the sides our boys have beaten have been at full strength. Seems we have been blessed to miss some very dangerous players. There may be a few afternoons/evenings ahead that will be pretty rough.
    I have still have the team on 45 points, and would be happy to see that improvement.
    All of that having been said…This is really REALLy fun!!!

    • Fat Uncle Phil from Urkel says:

      The Union haven’t been full strength, either. Edu hasn’t played, Nogueira, Ilsinho, and Barnetta have all missed games.

  22. der Fussballzuschauer says:

    Bethlehem Steel FC have now scored a whopping two goals in the three United Soccer League games this season in matches where they have had no fewer than SEVEN players under Major League Soccer contract to the Philadelphia Union in their starting line-up … Say, exactly how much “player development”, at least offensively speaking, can really be going on with just two goals scored in 270 minutes of soccer anyway?

  23. So yes win, no not best game. I get that Yaro is the backup RCB and Anderson is the backup LCB, but I would recommend Yaro stays in the USL. While he can hit a pass he is not confident in anyway at the back. He constantly gets turned and backs off on pressure to much. Had NYCFC actually hit shots on target this game winds up 3-2 NYCFC win. To me Yaro has seem largely unimpressive being considered one of the best in the draft. However, a year in the USL did wonders for Marquez and Tribbett so I would say leave him there let him learn. Do not flip flop him between the top team and USL he is just not ready for MLS caliber. Yes he got away with okay play the last two weeks and was servicable, but gives up some glaring horrific mistakes that have not been taken advantage of. He just outright worries me at the back especially since Rosenberry still gets beat to the inside.
    Also I think this game showed something glaringly obvious about Alberg not being on the pitch. With Alberg in the middle his defensive work rate constantly keeps the other team off the ball. This was clear with Seattle and some of the previous games. Alberg makes the midfield of the opposing team uncomfortable to high up the pitch (Alberg is not afraid to make tackles get in players faces and muscle people off the ball and that is making many CDM in the MLS uncomfortable as they usually have lots of free time on the ball). For me I would consider Barnetta back out on the left possibly with Pontius coming in off the bench with Le Toux around 60-70min for new energy. Pushing Barnetta Center and Alberg and Ilsinho coming off (when Pontius and Le Toux are brought in for energy).
    Also nice to see Gaddis get some time still a lock down defender, yes seemed uncomfortable where to be on the offensive end, but clearly if he is on the pitch no one will be working down that side. Especially if he is on the left with Marquez.

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