Union / Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 1-1 Montreal Impact

Philadelphia Union weathered both a literal and figurative storm in Montreal on Saturday afternoon, earning a 1-1 draw on a miserable day at the home of the Eastern Conference leaders.

Fresh off a ferocious match with Los Angeles, the Union were overwhelmed in the first 10 minutes of the match, and Didier Drogba gave Montreal the early lead on a powerful shot in the third minute. Philadelphia, though, recovered slowly and worked a fine team goal finished by C.J. Sapong in the 24th minute. Both sides pushed and probed throughout the second half, creating few clear cut chances, and a draw was a fair result on the day.

First half

Just three days after a hard-fought draw with the Galaxy, Jim Curtin elected to make only two changes to his side. Facing the speedy Dominic Oduro, Ray Gaddis was preferred over Fabinho at left back, while Warren Creavalle replaced Brian Carroll in the holding midfield role. A minor quad injury suffered in training kept Ilsinho from making the 18, and Walter Restrepo made a rare appearance on the bench as a result.

It didn’t take long for the home side to break the initial deadlock. In the third minute, C.J. Sapong attempted to clear a Montreal corner, but his weak header fell to a completely unmarked Didier Drogba. Sitting center of the box 16 yards from goal, the Ivorian legend didn’t make a mistake as he buried a shot into the top half of the goal, and the hosts led before most of the crowd had found their seats.

The Impact dominated the first 10 minutes of the game, while Philadelphia aimed to shake off the hangover of a Wednesday game and an international flight. The danger man was Ignacio Piatti, who roasted Josh Yaro one-on-one before driving a low shot off the outside of the post. Piatti had another golden chance in the box just moments later, but Andre Blake was equal to the challenge and smothered his shot.

After weathering the initial storm, the Union slowly settled into the game, controlling possession without much offensive output to show for it.

But they would equalize with their first shot on goal, off a sparkling counterattack in the 24th minute. Tranquillo Barnetta did the hard work to drive the ball up the field, spraying it wide to Chris Pontius plowing down the wing. Pontius’s cross found Sebastien Le Toux at the back post, who played a perfect ball back across goal where Sapong was all by himself. Sapong gently deposited the ball into a gaping net from two yards out, atoning for his error on the Impact goal with his 5th goal of the year, and suddenly it was all even at Stade Saputo.

The game settled into a rather entertaining back and forth. Blake was called upon to make two reflex saves on Drogba, one off a free kick at the edge of the 18 and the other on a powerful header inside the box. Blake was equal to both blasts.

On the other end, the Union continued to look to counterattack with pace, forcing some good defensive work from the hosts. The best chance came on a late run into the box by Vincent Nogueira, who received a ball from Barnetta, took two wonderful touches to control, and raked a shot the forced a leaping save from Dave Bush.

The Union had a scare when Richie Marquez was forced to the side with what appeared to be a hip injury late in the half, but he was able to return to the pitch. Both sides went to the locker room with the scoreline even at 1-1.

Second half

Neither side made any changes at the start of the second half, though the Union were nearly forced into one after just one minute when Sebastien Le Toux was clipped from behind by Maxim Tissot. The Frenchman missed barely a minute though.

The Union controlled the action in the first 15 minutes of the half, neutralizing Montreal’s attacks and looking dangerous on the counter-attack. High pressure nearly led to a great chance when Nogueira picked off a pass at Montreal’s 18, but the Union couldn’t find a lane to shoot after passing the ball around the box.

Curtin made an aggressive move to chase three points, lifting Chris Pontius in the 66th minute and inserting Fabian Herbers.

Drogba jumped over Richie Marquez for a header that flashed just wide, then removed himself from the game after struggling for much of the second half with miscellaneous lower-body injuries.

The Union narrowly missed seizing the lead when Keegan Rosenberry drove a great cross through the box, but Sapong just narrowly missed it at the far post.

The match grew more cagey as both teams made substitutions. Montreal refreshed their midfield with Kyle Bekker and Lucas Ontivero, while the Union responded by bringing in Brian Carroll to fortify the defense.

Herbers had a great one-on-one chance with the keeper, but Bush was able to get just enough on it to force a corner kick.

Both sides probed with little effect for about 20 minutes. Curtin made the last change when he inserted Roland Alberg for Barnetta, who had been very effective on the day. Following the changes, the Union were unable to find any offensive fluidity going forward, but the defensive unit held strong to deny the Impact any clean looks at goal. A flurry of late pressure from the Impact led to nothing and the match ended all square at 1-1.

Given the short rest for the Union, the travel, and the quality of the opponent, the Blue and Gold will be content with a point at Stade Saputo. Philadelphia will be back in action next at Talen Energy Stadium, hosting rival D.C. United on Friday at 7 p.m.

Philadelphia Union
Andre Blake, Keegan Rosenberry, Josh Yaro, Richie Marquez, Ray Gaddis, Warren Creavalle, Vincent Nogueira (Brian Carroll 74′), Tranquillo Barnetta (Roland Alberg 84′), Chris Pontius (Fabian Herbers 66′), Sebastien Le Toux, C.J. Sapong
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Fabinho, Ken Tribbett, Walter Restrepo

Montreal Impact
Evan Bush, Ambroise Oyongo, Victor Cabrera, Laurent Ciman, Maxim Tissot, Marco Donadel, Harry Shipp (Kyle Bekker 56′), Partice Bernier (Lucas Ontivero 73′), Dominic Oduro, Ignacio Piatti, Didier Drogba (Johan Venegas 70′)
Unused Subs: Eric Kronberg, Hassoun Camara, Wandrille Lefevre, Lucas Ontivero, Michael Salazar

Scoring Summary
MTL: Didier Drogba – 3′
PHL: C.J. Sapong (Sebastien Le Toux, Chris Pontius) – 24′

Disciplinary Summary
MTL: Ignacio Piatti (dissent) – 36′
MTL: Marco Donadel (foul) – 50′
MTL: Ambroise Oyongo (foul) – 80′
PHL: Ray Gaddis (foul) – 81′

Philadelphia Union Montreal Impact
14 Shots 17
5 Shots on Target 6
5 Shots off Target 6
4 Blocked Shots 5
6 Corner Kicks 6
19 Crosses 23
2 Offsides 1
8 Fouls  11
1 Yellow Cards 3
0 Red Cards 0
 434 Total Passes 399
 79% Passing Accuracy 78%
 52% Possession  48%
 55 Duels Won 42
56.7% Duels Won %  43.3%
 16 Tackles Won 11
 5 Saves 4
 18 Clearances 17


  1. A point on the road against the 1st place team is fan-fuckin-tactic. They played well and could’ve gotten all 3 points. This team is for real. Well done today given multiple factors (road game, quick turn around). I’m all in…

  2. That was a wonderful goal. Great to see that after the U give up an early goal they can fight back as a cohesive unit. It seems like they have a good team wide vibe. Really good effort defensively closing the passing lanes, and extra props to Warren for being everywhere.

  3. Impossible to be anything short of pleased with this/these micro-result(s)… one point against LA then in Montreal is fine.
    …the 6 games in 22 days thing, without one of them being a US Open Cup game or a CCL game is absurd… but so is MLS in general so that solves that.
    lastly… I have firmly and squarely arrived on the Micro-helipad of thought that is convinced Le Toux and Pontius cannot…neh should not be on the field at the same time, and while that is not about to change this season it seems, going forward this needs to be addressed and here is why…
    They essentially are the same player (though Pontius is quite better of the two)…. this team needs at least one, though two wingers would be better — (notwithstanding inverted wingers which is a whole other desire and argument) who can attack space and defenders on the dribble and neither can…AT ALL… this ability to put pressure on outside backs then causes the center of the defensive spine to change shape which then opens space in the middle of the field for late runs shifty striker movement the CAM receiving ball in space with a disorganized defense… I can no longer stand seeing Le Toux gather the ball wide on the half turn in acres of space and elect to one time the ball centrally or worse still — cross it to nobody… and the third time this happened tonight, when the entire offensive channel was open I had enough.
    I want a speedy and shifty striker to pressure the central defenders, but in the absence of this… the wingers simply have to be more technically savvy… bring chaos and move the defense out of position which this team is almost completely unable to do… it is this quality Illsinho brings to the game which is why the entire ‘ginga’ of the team changes when he arrives… not saying Ilsinho is the long term answer to this, but these types of players need to be built through the Academy… or brought here with a specific skill set to destroy defensive shape.
    Yea! the Union scored a nifty gol on a cheeky one touch volley from Le Toux… I do not begrudge this but it was still a gol scored off a hopeful cross and this brand of game is nauseating… all the while obviously being please the team is moving in correct direction… which is the Macro.
    Well done tonight boys.

  4. Man, Rosenberry just keeps getting better ..his one v. one d is just great..he always seems to step straight to the ball..and Barnetta is the absolute driving force of the o..iv been a season ticket holder for 4 years and followed from the beginning..I love this years version of the Union..Jim has really turned me around on him..I didn’t like the fact Ernie stuck with him but hes starting to make sense to me, except for Barnetta begin on for 85 mins.. But, He high presses without fear which is ballsy and I respect that

  5. Andy Muenz says:

    I was happy with the way the Union played from when they settled down in about the 10th minute until about the 88th minute. Then they shut down and started to play for the draw at which point only bad things could have happened. Given the difference between 3 points for a win and 1 point for a draw, they need to get the mentality that the risk of losing while playing for the win outweighs the “safety” of playing for the draw.
    After 7 games without a draw, they now have 3 in a row. Time for a win Friday against DC United.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      I attributed the breakdown in offensive cohesion to the departure of Barnetta on top of the departure of Nogueira. The three central midfielders were Alberg, Creavalle and Carroll, a combination that has not seen extensive minutes together since Florida, if then.

    • I would normally agree about going for the draw as opposed to the win, but for the 2nd game this week, on the road, against the other top team in the east, I’ll calmly accept this tactic and move on. Our next game against DC looms large as a pretty excellent opportunity to get all 3

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Indeed. I tend to think withdrawing Noguiera in favor of Carroll was very heady… kinda like John Obi Mikel in final minutes to see out a draw for Chelsea at United.
        one of the times a substitution didn’t follow script or pattern… I will hammer what needs hammering but relent that which is well thought out.
        -to be honest, I kept waiting for Montreal to score as I am not yet officially a convert.
        -this game was a well earned point – whereas that game against SJ was not… and LA plumbs the middle.

      • Just Rob f/k/a Rob127 says:

        Agreed. I kept waiting for the last minute loss too. I’m sorry but after 6 years I’m conditioned to pessimism. Pavlovian I suppose. I’m trying to do better because this team is earning it, but I’m not quite there yet.

    • My thoughts exactly. I’m happy where we are right now especially after years of disappointment, but let’s actually beat some good to teams so we can truly be a good team. Time other teams start to fear us. People are talking about Montreal like they are the best team in the East when in reality, they were only a point up from us with a game in hand. Were Montreal fans happy because they tied the Union because of our record so far this season?

  6. The scary thing for the league is this Union team can get better. They could have easily gotten 6 points from LA and Montreal.

  7. Excellent result! But the fact that Sapong headed the ball to the center (instead of out wide) is somewhat disappointing. Some other players stood out big time.

  8. Can’t stop Drogba doing Drogba things. Very fair result, and great grind from the Union. That Rosenberry is something else, can’t believe how well the called that. Need a better option than Herber’s, not really producing enough.

    • Just Rob f/k/a Rob127 says:

      I’ve come to look at Herbers as the new Hoppenot. You know exactly when he’ll be subbed in and he has no effect on the match.

      • +1

      • pragmatist says:

        I think that’s a little unfair, but mainly due to when he comes in. It’s pretty hard to have an effect on a match at 22 years old when you only get 5 minutes to play each game.
        If he came in more often with 30 minutes or so, he might have a chance to do more. But this was the first game, I think, where he got more than 10 minutes.
        Much better than Hoppenot. But the jury is admittedly out until we can see more.

  9. This team is good. We need to recognize…

    • I found myself watching the last ten minutes with a concern that Montreal would score, NOT a FEAR that it was coming… this IS a different team…

  10. Zizouisgod says:

    Very good performance on the road vs one of the favorites to win the East, especially to withstand the early storm and get back level. There were some nervy moments in the back, but the young guys also played really well at times (Gaddis was the senior member of the back line so on average, it was a young group.)

    This team has been enjoyable to watch. There was a stretch midway through the first half where it seemed like we had the ball for like 5 minutes straight. It was all good possession, probing, not forcing it or launching a hit & hope cross, recycling the ball back and starting again. It was beautiful and really started to frustrate MTL.

    Matt Doyle posted a vey complimentary article about Rosenberry on MLS.com which is worth a read.

  11. The Little Fish says:

    Great result. Very exciting finish. LeToux produced. Gaddis played great. I was very critical of Ray last year but he looked solid out there. Warren had an amazing game too. And Rosenberry continues to look like an ALL STAR. I love this team!

  12. philpill says:

    Marquez showed real heart playing through an obviously painful hip pointer. Hope he’s not a scratch Friday.
    Blake kept us in this match. Again.

  13. Phil in Wilmington says:

    This team has talent and fight and confidence. The results are solid entertaining and very enjoyable soccer–win lose or draw. Between the youngsters playing like men on fire and the veterans playing at or above their own potential (Brian Ironman Carroll anyone), this is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TEAM from 12 months ago. They’re not perfect and it’s a long season, but this is what’s been missing in Philly. What a difference a competent front office makes.

    • As others noted, the “comeback” in this squad may be the single biggest difference. That’s an intangible that I credit to the coaches. The fly in the ointment I see is Ilsinho. Quad hurt. Not started for several games before. Methinks “Chaco!” Coincidence or correlation? We still lack a starter on the wing with exceptional technique (again, not news).

  14. Here’s a shocking thing to realize: not only are the Union looking extremely strong, and leading the conference (on points per game), but in these last two impressive games against top teams, 9 of the starting XI have been players who were on the squad, or signed to the squad, before Ernie Stewart came on board. Really makes you think.

    • Phil in Wilmington says:

      Think about what? 9 players don’t make a starting lineup. Depth at each position doesn’t make for competition. The Union have been 2 or 3 players short of a solid roster since the days of Peter Nowak and were showing no signs of changing the culture that had permitted that. It was close, but this is professional soccer, not horseshoes or hand grenades. In my opinion Sak’s sacking, and the talent brought in (on field and off field) to move the club forward, has been an integral part of this Renaissance. Again, it’s fortunate that Yaro and Blake and Rosenberry have been so strong, and who’s to say if Edu is a plus or minus once he returns, but change brought needed change. I’m not losing sleep over Sak being gone.

    • For example, Blake. Problem is same exec then signed a starting keeper and we all know the rest. What this season so far makes me think is that Earnie’s influence permeates every facet of this organization that is encouraging: personnel to coaching, first team to Academy. And one of those additions is ROY in Matt Doyle’s opinion (see link and comment above) and was the MOM Wednesday. Who would disagree that the 2015 U would have lost both the last two matches? Likely in routs.

  15. der Fussballzuschauer says:

    Excellent match from Andre Blake, particularly in regards to claiming high balls. The English crowd know that the Jamaica international is a fine shot-stopper but are wont to question his positioning and his ability to command the air in his penalty box sometimes. Blake’s work on crosses yesterday definitely left the Sky Sports commentators suitably impressed – they take it for granted all of Jamaica’s best national team players come to England sooner rather than later.

  16. I have said all season.that this defence is very good. I think they have a bright future ahead of them. Yaro and Rosenburry are so calm and relaxed even with heavy pressure.Richie’s tackles are so well timed and he usually wins most head balls. Ray and Fabi each have a roll I think,situationally. I think it should be mentioned that Ray is stepping up to the attacking style the other backs play.it’s nice to see progress from him on offence.

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