Union match reports

Preseason match report: Philadelphia Union 2-3 DC United

DC United dominated early, and Philadelphia Union could only claw back two goals in the second half and fell 3-2 in their last preseason match Saturday evening in Florida.

Jim Curtin’s final preseason lineup featured the expected back five of Andre Blake, Keegan Rosenberry, Oguchi Onyewu, Richie Marquez, and Fabinho. Alejandro Bedoya paired with Haris Medunjanin in the center with Chris Pontius and Ilsinho on the wings and Fabian Herbers linking through the center to Jay Simpson.

First half

DC threatened first as Steve Birnbaum forced Blake to claim a header off a second minute corner kick.

In the fifth minute, Ilsinho was let off the hook after he barged into Lloyd Sam from behind in the Union box. The referee waved play on despite the fairly obvious foul. Three minutes later, Marquez entered the book as DC continued to find gaps through the center to attack the Union back line.

Soon after, Sean Franklin stung Andre Blakes hands with a volley off a corner kick, foreshadowing the defensive trouble to come for Philadelphia.

In the 14th minute, Onyewu was left in the dust near the midline, and DC United broke through the Union’s right channel. Rosenberry moved Acosta off the ball, but Nyarko found the loose ball, danced through Rosenberry and a timid Onyewu, and curled the ball beyond Blake to open the scoring. It was a goal DC United’s dominance deserved.

The Union continued to pay for leaving Acosta in space. Turning down the right, the attacking midfielder was unchallenged as he dinked the ball across goal and into the path of Jared Jeffrey, who coolly finished with a low volley in the 21st minute.

DC added a third in the 24th minute. Patrick Mullins shifted his hips and left Onyewu behind before firing a laser past Blake into the far top corner.

The match became chippy as Bedoya gave Jeffrey a late push before Rosenberry and Acosta picked up cautions in separate incidents. Jay Simpson finally got his first look at goal from 20 yards out in the 36th minute, but he blasted his shot well over.

In the 41st minute, Bedoya finally found the caution he was looking for when he ran through Mullins in the middle third of the pitch. The match was nearly completely out of hand in the 43rd minute after Acosta went down under a push from Marquez in the box. Play went on and Ilsinho broke past Marcelo to drive at goal. He found Simpson deep in the DC box, and when the Englishman’s shot deflected back out top, the Brazilian fired an open look over the goal.

Second half

CJ Sapong’s entrance to the match was greeted with yet another caution, as the big striker slapped Acosta during a leap ten seconds after the kickoff.

The Union striker was nearly on the board in the 49th minute when he turned to fire at the edge of the six yard box. Hamid, however, read the play well and galloped out to close the angle.

After struggling throughout the first half, Philadelphia’s center backs got them on the board in the 51st minute off a corner kick. Marquez slammed the ball into the far post before Onyewu rose from the chaos to punch the ball into the net.

In the 63rd minute, Derrick Jones came on for Fabian Herbers, pushing Bedoya further up the pitch and giving the Union a midfield more suited for the road match they will open the season with in a week.

The match became a slog as time went on, with final passes going a yard too long instead of finding feet. Chris Pontius, in particular, was off his game and will look to refocus before meeting Vancouver next weekend. Marcus Epps replaced the Union’s scoring winger in the 75th minute.

Mullins thought he had his second of the match in the 78th minute, but he was incorrectly called offsides with Onyewu stepping up late.

In the 86th minute, Marcus Epps used Fabinho’s excellent overlapping run to cut inside into space and laser a shot into the far corner past a sprawling Hamid. It was an excellent read, cut, and finish from the Super Draft second rounder.

Overall, it is difficult to argue that Philly was terrible as much as DC United was very strong, organized, and coordinated going both ways from start to finish. Along with their three first half goals, DC could have (and likely should have) been granted two penalty kicks.

One minute before time, Alejandro Bedoya was shown a second yellow card for a petulant post-foul blast into the stands. The ejection marked an inauspicious end to an uneven 2017 preseason for Philadelphia Union.

The Union open their 2017 MLS regular season on the road Saturday, March 5 at 9:30pm EST against Vancouver Whitecaps.

Three points

  • Struggles in the center: After this performance, it will be difficult for Jim Curtin to play with Bedoya and Medunjanin deep on the road when Philly opens the season in Vancouver. DC not only got behind Medunjanin with ease, they also quickly identified that the real fun was playing through the middle then quickly finding wingers behind the Union’s advanced fullbacks. As good as DC’s wing play was tonight, Kekuta Manneh is better.
  • Stretched shape: Philly still isn’t certain how to play off Medunjanin. Come short and play wall passes? Go long and get in behind? The big man can handle both, but as it is, there’s not enough in terms of patterns and understanding.
  • Welcome to the JonesZone: The Union have four and a half holding midfielders on the roster counting Medunjanin. With Maurice Edu injured, Derrick Jones seems to be Curtin’s favorite to play a defensive role in the center. He’s been very good in two of the three Suncoast Invitational matches, and grew into the Montreal match (along with the rest of the team). It was notable that Philly’s midfielders often left Medunjanin alone before Jones joined the fray, and the young mid did a great job reading the game and making DC’s route through the center difficult.

Philadelphia: Andre Blake; Keegan Rosenberry, Oguchi Onyewu, Richie Marquez, Fabinho ; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Chris Pontius, Ilsinho., Fabian Herbers; Jay Simpson
Subs used: CJ Sapong, Derrick Jones, Marcus Epps

DC United: Bill Hamid; Nick DeLeon, Steve Birnbaum, Sean Franklin, Taylor Kemp; Marcelo Sarvas; Lloyd Sam, Jared Jeffrey, Patrick Nyarko; Luciano Acosta; Patrick Mullins

Scoring summary

DC – Nyarko 14′
DC – Jeffrey 21′
DC – Mullins 24′
PHI – Onyewu 51′
PHI – Epps 86′


  1. Preseason has done wonders for me!
    I’m proud to say my WSSM is in midseason form!

  2. James Lockerbie says:

    Here’s to a slow start to the season, finishing STRONG !

  3. IO hope this ends all Herbers as a 10 nonsense.

  4. Listen. It’s pre-season. Team had 0 urgency out of the gate. As I said somewhere on Twitter earlier, they looked annoyed to have pool time at the Hilton interrupted.

    That said, they better shape up when the points count. Defense looked remarkably poor. Attack was limp. I like Herbers but he’s no 10. Onyewu was slow as hell. Might be in for a rocky start.

    • Winning is cultural. It isn’t a light switch. Preseason or no, they play like they met in the parking lot pregame.
      If they find their form, it may not be til midApril or so in the home stretch of PTFC,NYFC, MTL.

      • Fire beat Toronto 4-1. It is preseason.
        That said, I always want to see the team win. But at the end of the day, I doubt the staff put together any real tactical plan based on a scouting report on DC. I would bet that the U’s game plan was based around what they wanted to work on not on what they thought they would have to do to win the game.

      • +1. Always gotta remember to not get too high or too low during preseason. Lots a new parts this year too.

  5. Was this fake soccer
    Not sure but hurt my eyes to watch
    Switched to a cooking show at half time ugh

  6. I would offer a caution to the analysis of Jones, namely that he was not on the field with D. C.’s Acosta.
    Vancouver does not have a comparable attacking midfielder, so Jones starting at the 8 makes the most sense.

    • I think starting Jones is the best option. Appears to be a similar player to Edu. Allows for his growth and setting up a system for the year.

  7. I Am Citizen Insane says:

    .troubled by the defense. troubled by the lack of times our ‘skill’ players touched the ball. Acosta a difference maker. don’t think Union have that player in the similar position.
    I stand by my same perch as last season… a continual upward trend in playing well. I’d rather come out slow and build towards something resembling quality as season wears on… this actually would instill more faith in the manager for me.
    I wish I knew what to make of Bedoya. Wish I didn’t want pure speed on the wings: Epps, Picault and even Ilsinho. Funny the arguably best player on the team last year Pontius is a player I’d replace in a heartbeat for speed but that is probably nearsighted.
    This is the first time I’ve seen the team all preseason and it was pretty blasé but thevgsmes font count so… meh.

    • I Am Citizen Insane says:

      Ball is in the air too much still from this sample size.
      Way to many hit and hope balls. one thing for a defender to play a long ball to a good run but to just boot it into the other teams 18 is bolloxmagain and again. Not good enough… please fix.
      United Kingdom ball.

      • I hear your hope that they play “attractive soccer”, however you define it. I’d posit that they are who we are seeing, not who we project hopes on. They will defend athletically, Blake will contort himself to keep them in games, they will bang in enough ugly goals against lower level sides to amass points to keep hope alive.
        But they can’t spell tiki-taka if you spotted them the tiki.

      • Tottenham plays a lot of long balls. But still plays attractive football. And U.K. Football. But we don’t have a Dele or a Kane.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        …was referring to third tier UK ball…. sorry.

  8. The Little Fish says:

    This game was a REALITY CHECK for us. We looked just dreadful in the first half. Defense looked a step slow and not completely in syncopation. But they were due for a clunker though. Our 1st team D had been clean prior to that, no?
    I like Bedoya but don’t think we’ve seen his impact maximized- and honestly I have no idea how to achieve same. Is it his position? Or the players he’s been surrounded with? Is he a ‘glue guy?’ I mean…um…he is fiery and stuff. Hoping more time with Harris to “gel’ will do the trick (fingers and toes crossed!)
    Marcus Epps looked (the most) impressive again last night. I know he’ll spend the year at Bethlehem but he definitely looks like a shrewd draft choice.
    My overall impression of the entire pre-season was that it was a success. A couple more tune-ups might be nice, but with a 30+ game season we might as well just get started. I do hope Jimmy can pull it all together without digging an early hole. I think we have enough veterans on the squad to prevent that. In my opinion a good coach gets this team out of the gate quickly with at least 5 or 6 points in the first three weeks.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Thank you for the idea of the ampersand between paragraphs. Ding, the light goes on. Much obliged
      Now I just have to remember it!

    • Bedoya looked like he was trying to put out every fire at once without gaining control over any of them. To my eyes his best position is nowhere near the center of the pitch. Maybe it’s the players around him as you say. Maybe he really is trying to do to much.
      I wouldn’t be so sure Epps will start with BSFC. The same with Jones. I’m more than willing to bet the both start with the big club.

  9. It’s still preseason so I’m not sure what to make of all this, but:

    Onyewu- When a centerback gets old and loses his pace, he starts to play a little deeper to prevent a team from beating him over the top. And you saw a couple of instances where D.C. exploited that (especially on the disallowed goal where it was clearly onside). Against mobile forwards, he’s gonna struggle unless he learns to stay with the rest of the back four and let Marquez run the over the top balls down.

    Sapong- For all of his faults, his play as a target man really opens things up for the club. You could see how much he tied up DC’s centerbacks with his presence. Haven’t seen that ability yet from Simpson, but to be fair to him, he’s still getting acclimated to a new country, league and team so patience is needed while he gets settled.

    Bedoya – I just can’t see how he can play as an 8. He just doesn’t seem to have the tools to meet the physical demands of this position. I think he’s probably best suited at the 10 or out wide, but Ilsinho seems to have that right attacking mid spot locked up and Pontius is a no brainer on the left pinching in as an inside forward. So the 10 is likely where we’ll see him.

    Epps – Originally thought he would be playing a lot for Steel this year, but he’s probably going to make the 18 many weeks. His goal was impressive, but he has shown throughout this preseason that he can play at this level.

    Jones – He has a legit chance of starting at the 8 next week with Harris at the 6.

  10. If Jones starts as holding mid I’ll stop blaming FO for idiotic reliance on Edu’s return. (If he does ever play again for the U he’ll be a shadow of his former self given the almost 2 years without meaningful games.)
    Thanks OSC & TLF!
    This team has no idea what it’s doing defensively (D.C. should really have scored 8 goals in this one if not for Blake standing on his head and some missed fouls in the box) and no idea what it’s doing offensively (playing a formation requiring a #10 with no #10 on the roster).
    How you don’t blame the coach for that I have no idea. But you guys (except Adam S) just go ahead and keep giving JC a free pass because he’s reportedly a nice guy…
    Rosenberry the only good field player in the 1st half. He was clearly frustrated at the end of that half. Now that he’s trained under a good coach (Arena) I bet he won’t stand for the Union FO’s idiocy for long. He’ll explore options in Europe or request a trade. Pity.

    • I’m actually not going to blame this one on JC. The roster holes are just so glaring. So, so glaring. Curtin has no passable option for starting striker. He has to choose between quality and speed in the offensive midfield. He has no passable option at defensive mid. He has no passable option at CB next to Marquez (and, it should be noted, I don’t think Yaro was good enough last year that he should have been penciled in as a starter to begin with, so I don’t think Yaro’s injury is to blame here).
      I still think JC is a poor coach, but for yet another year, the people who like him will have ample excuses to make for him. But if those excuses are “the roster just is flawed and not good enough”…nah, that can’t be it. Earnie is perfect. Sorry for even bringing it up.

      • I Am Citizen Insane says:

        Who has ever once said the sporting director is perfect?
        You. You are the only one, just now.
        By the way, thank you for the PSP transitional contribution. Keep it up.

      • It was more a reference to the people who say things like “Earnie knows what he’s doing” and “it’s a good signing because Earnie has an eye for talent” and things of that nature, which are very common. Maybe “perfect” is hyperbole, but there are many people on this site and on others I run across that worship at the Altar of Earnie and I can’t help but look at this roster and, well, you can see all the same holes I can.
        You’re welcome!

      • But it’s Ben so everything is Curtin’s fault. He hates the coach more than anything in the world based on his posts. I do think he knows a lot about soccer and loves the team but his hatred of Curtin overshadows all his comments.

    • So as the person who defended Curtin (more to give him a chance than actually liking what he does)in his first year, yeah you got the whole giving Curtin a free pass idea wrong. Really wrong. I actually have no idea where you could have come up with that. Certainly not from reading the PSP comment section.

  11. The Island of Misfit Toys were fortunate the score wasn’t 5 or 6 to 2.
    Bedoya looked like a leader drawing a second yellow on a stupid midfield foul and petulant blast of the ball at the popcorn vendor in the nosebleeds.
    Jones hasn’t looked “very good”, he’s looked like a guy who will play before he’s ready and we’ll get a front row seat on his learning curve.
    @VAN; TFC; @OCSC; @DCU – predictions on a point total out of 12 to start? My prediction is the August 9th post on how dropped points in March are hampering our drive for 6th.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say the opening month or so (4 games), with 3 on the road, is going to make or break the season. Lose 3 and draw 1, and you might never recover. Like I said in my post below, I’m not gonna freak out, but it is definitely a problem to finish the preseason like that.

      • Really? I think it’s an insane exaggeration to say the first 4 games are going to make or break the season.

  12. The Union had ample opportunity to score. Medunjinan, Bedoya, Simpson, Ilson Jr. all had point blank chances.They have to bear down and score. Herbers, Simpson, Rosenberry, Ilson Jr. and Fabinho didn’t have a great game. Neither did Pontius for that matter. We know they can do better. When the 2nd half started and the sun wasn’t a factor the Union moved the ball pretty well. They can do better. If Curtin is to blame for anything it’s not starting Jones IMO. Why he put Herbers at the 10(?) is beyond me. He was obviously trying to figure it all out. I guess Alberg hasn’t won Curtin over? The defense was just sloppy from the mid-field back. Acosta is good but he’s no world beater. We know Curtin and Stewart are stubbornly sticking to that formation. To me it takes the striker right out of the game. Moving forward, against teams with speed on the wings Curting needs to at least counter with FaFa(injured) or Epps. They can be very effective if used correctly. Bedoya needs to cool his jets. If his kid was sitting in the stands and someone hammered a ball like that he’d be ready to kill.

  13. I wish we had another preseason game or two so we could see Najem and even Fontana at the 10 for a longer period of time.

    At this point I would be ok with Jones at the 8. He is as atheltic and rangy as WC but already better offensively and obvisouly can grow alot.

  14. OneManWolfpack says:

    I’m not gonna freak out. It’s a preseason game. But I am pretty sure, as many people have also said, Bedoya is not a 10. Jones looked good and Epps impressed a bit, especially with the goal.
    It seems to me Curtin is going to have to actually manage, and find the right combination of starters and subs, to make this team go. This concerns me the most.

  15. Rather than Herbers at the #10 depending on the scenario, any thoughts on Ilson Jr.#10 with Epps on the right and Bedoya #8? The Union need to have more speed and stretch the field. Just a thought.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I am open to anything… but is Curtin? Not sure.

    • Yep. Ilsinho at #10 is interesting idea. As was said above, you really cant play this formation successfully without a quality #10 and quality #9. Too soon to tell on Simpson, but Ilsinho is probably one of the most creative players on the team with some of the best feet. Now that he has lost the extra weight, maybe he could do this. Rather have Bedoya on the wing though than at #8. For now think Haris needs with more defensive cover at Dmid to adjust to MLS and to his new teammates.

    • Mickey Goldmill says:

      We need speed. Speed’s what we need. Greasy, fast speed.

    • Ilsinho looked bad to me last year when he played the 10. He seemed more comfortable with the sideline on his right and than cutting in. He seems like a different player this year though so I wouldn’t be opposed to trying it.
      One thing I think is that Bedoya playing the 8 isn’t great. Hopefully he’ll figure it out, but he seems all over the place. Can’t have our 8 that committed to getting forward if Medunjinan is playing the 6 or we are going to get run over as witnessed in the last game.

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