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Match report: Real Salt Lake 1-0 Philadelphia Union

The Union’s four-game winning streak came to an end in the Rocky Mountains on Saturday night, with Joao Plata’s first-half goal leading Real Salt Lake to a 1-0 win. Philadelphia submitted a dour performance and were fairly punished for their defensive lapses with their first loss in seven matches.

Jim Curtin’s two changes restored the lineup that faced Houston last Wednesday. Chris Pontius returned to the right wing over the injured Fabian Herbers, and Fabinho replaced Giliano Wijnaldum at left back.

Though the Union looked the more fluid side in the early portion of the match, Real Salt Lake had the first good chance in the 16th minute when the ball fell to Joao Plata in the box. The diminutive attacker’s low, hard drive was stopped by a great reflex save from Andre Blake.

Moments later, Fafa Picault had two outstanding attempts to score. After an outstanding ball over the top from Haris Medunjanin, Picault’s chipped attempt was parried by Nick Rimando. Picault’s follow-up header looked certain to find the net, but Aaron Maund sprinted back to clear the ball off the line.

Blake matched Rimando’s save just a minute later, when Luis Silva put a one-time shot on goal from eight yards. Blake’s outstanding reflexes led him to reach his goalpost just in time to make the save.

After their bright start, the Union began to flicker under RSL’s attack, and they would soon surrender the opening goal. In the 36th minute, a combination of passing at the edge of the box sent Jefferson Savarino in behind the ball-watching Philadelphia defense. His square ball found Joao Plata cutting past Ray Gaddis for a tap-in, his first goal of the season.

RSL’s counterattacks continued to probe the Union’s weaknesses. In the 43rd minute, the hosts marauded down the field in acres of space, allowing Luis Silva to unleash a curler at the Union’s goal. Only another tremendous save by Blake, at full extension, kept the Union within one goal. The Union entered the halftime break with much to do.

The second half, however quickly turned dire, with the Union completely unable to force the issue. Neither side produced anything resembling a serious scoring chance, and fouls and yellow cards accumulated for both teams.

Seeking a spark, Curtin turned to his bench. However, Jay Simpson and Roland Alberg brought little to an already bare table. Marcus Epps made his MLS debut in the final ten minutes of the match, showing off his speed but little else.

Philadelphia had one final opportunity to snatch a point with a dangerous free kick in the final minute of stoppage time. Haris Medunjanin’s rocket of a shot found only Rimando’s palms, as the ageless keeper parried away the Union’s last gasp with ease.

Their winning streak snapped, the Union next head to the Bronx, where they will take on NYCFC and MLS’s strangest pitch at Yankee Stadium. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. Eastern, and the match will be broadcast on 6ABC.

Three points

  • Caught on the counter. All evening long, Real Salt Lake found joy on the counter-attack. The stretched visitors left acres of space for RSL to play through, leading to their goal. 
  • Impotent offense. Other than an early pair of opportunities for Fafa Picault, the Union couldn’t get anything going at all offensively. Chris Pontius, Ilsinho, and C.J. Sapong all cooled after their recent run of strong performances.
  • Blake being Blake. In poor form to start the year, Philadelphia’s All-Star keeper has returned to his 2016 quality. Blake made a number of sharp saves to keep the scoreline respectable, and bore no responsibility for Plata’s game-winning goal.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Ray Gaddis, Oguchi Onyewu, Jack Elliott, Fabinho, Fafa Picault (Jay Simpson 61′), Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin, Chris Pontius (Roland Alberg 71′), Ilsinho (Marcus Epps 83′), C.J. Sapong
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Richie Marquez, Keegan Rosenberry, Warren Creavalle

Real Salt Lake

Nick Rimando, Tony Beltran, Aaron Maund, Chris Schuler, Chris Wingert, Luke Mulholland, Sunny, Albert Rusnak, Jefferson Savarino (Omar Holness 88′), Luis Silva (Yuri Movsisyan 64′), Joao Plata (Justin Schmidt 90′)
Unused subs:
 Matt Van Oekel, Justin Schmidt, Reagan Dunk, Jose Hernandez, Ricardo Velazco

Scoring summary

RSL: Joao Plata (Jefferson Savarino) — 36′

Disciplinary summary

RSL: Luis Silva — 28′ (unsporting behavior)
RSL: Chris Wingert — 52′ (dissent)
PHI: Oguchi Onyewu — 70′ (dissent)
PHI: Alejandro Bedoya — 77′ (unsporting behavior)

Real Salt Lake Philadelphia Union
 16 Shots 14
 8 Shots on Target 3
 6 Shots off Target 8
 2 Blocked Shots 3
 9 Corner Kicks 6
 21 Crosses 22
 1 Offsides 0
 17 Fouls 14
 2 Yellow Cards 2
 0 Red Cards 0
 388 Total Passes 353
 76% Passing Accuracy 76%
 52% Possession 48%
 53 Duels Won 54
 49.5% Duels Won % 50.5%
 20 Tackles Won 14
 3 Saves 7
 25 Clearances 27


  1. John Harris says:

    4,200 feet elevation. Union looked winded all night.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Back to the Union of the first 6 games. During most of the second half they seemed to be playing like they were up a goal and just clearing it downfield, not worrying whether or not they would get the ball back. They were outhustled all night. And now they go to NYCFC and will likely have to play without Bedoya or Jones due to national team duty.

  3. el Pachyderm says:

    Gonna hear about Andre’s great game and he is a flat out highlight reel but the fact is – he is also an event horizon in possession and this is very much an issue.
    Everything starts with the goalie and he has to stop hoofing the ball every damn time he’s used as an outlet to pressure…. he’ll often times Fabinho is flashing wide and he just has to open his hip and play square. It’s ugly. It’s ineffective. It’s an issue that Trumps the many fine saves he makes, IMO. the manager needs to fix this for me to buy in completely… as this is as much a tactical issue as it is a tryst issue.
    Otherwise unsurprised. Real was in need of this game. Moreso than Union riding a strong point streak. The next game is the important one if the two…. back into rhythm.

  4. Oh well. I guess they couldn’t be red hot forever.

    On the one hand, I’m a little disappointed in Curtin for not making subs earlier. Ilsinho was just getting nothing done, and I personally wanted him out in by the 58th minute, not the 81st minute. On the other had, 2 of the 3 subs were completely impotent. Epps looked decent, but Simpson did nothing, and I am seriously not sure that Alberg touched the ball even once. So maybe he didn’t sub because he knew there wasn’t much point.

  5. Old Soccer Coach says:

    It’s not like going to Bolivia or the Tibetan plateau, but altitude is a factor.
    Also, aside from Jack Elliott, who is young? From my flawed memory, isn’t the next youngest 26. The entire central midfield is between 30 and 32. And two of then have played every minute.
    RSL is better than their record.
    And home field is real.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Actually, the last two times that the Union were at Rio Tinto, they were somewhat unlucky not to come away with three points (and got one point each time).

  6. Steve H. says:

    The problem was that RSL stayed compact and didn’t get stretched out, which just made the Union try to use the long ball. We have trouble when teams deploy this tactic and stick to it.
    Had Fafa’s early chance turned into a goal, then RSL is forced to press and that, in turn, would have helped the Union’s tactical issues. Instead, RSL scored early and no longer had to press with a 1-0 lead at home against a team who has trouble tactically passing through a compacted defensive unit.

  7. Zizouisgod says:

    We really struggled in the 2nd half as RSL controlled midfield. We couldn’t generate any sort of meaningful possession. RSL was very well drilled in their approach to limit Medujanin’s influence on the match. They even knew when he was going to do his dragback move to escape pressure.

    They also pushed Pontius pretty far to the sideline in the build-up play so the field was really compressed. Picault got a little more central, but he really had little influence after late in the 1st half. To me, that really isolated our play and limited Medujanin’s and Bedoya’s ability to drive the attack forward.

    If it wasn’t for Blake, this could have been a much worse score line.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Seems the manager needs to read up some more on Antonio Conte’s version of shadow play to drill tactical and positional responsibility—- to the blade of grass.
      This dot (.) represents Union…..
      …..Now imagine a straight line from here across seemingly infinite crests and troughs to London and that’s how far away we are tactically.
      ……..Funny, the solution though is not all that complicated- it all starts with Andre Blake.
      Baby steps please.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Agree on Blake. When people talk about him going overseas, I’m always skeptical because of his inability to distribute the ball well with his feet.

        BTW – I did watch that Conte doc a few weeks ago. Good stuff and thanks for recommending it.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      I agree too regarding Haris. Salt Lake muffled him completely.

  8. Apparently if you have the same XI and the same tactics for three weeks, even Mike freaking Petke can come up with a game plan to beat you. Union looked out of ideas.

  9. scottymac says:

    I believe they are considered the Wasatch mountains.

    • The Wasatch Range, along with the interestingly-oriented Uinta Mountains, make up the “Middle Rockies.” So, you are both correct.

  10. philpill says:

    Seven saves kept an uninspired, tired(?) U closer than deserved. Was Blake told to punt those balls to give a breather to the back 6?

  11. Outside the box says:

    Just some thoughts-

    I kind of felt like they wanted our outside backs to get the ball wide, because they weren’t worried what would happen next.

    If an outside midfielder is subbed out and you have one on the bench, why don’t you use them first? (I know he is a rookie, but if he is in the 18 then he has to have some clue as how to play the position)

  12. Adam Schorr says:

    I really, really, really cannot figure out why Simpson keeps being used. He is truly godawful. Give literally anybody else a chance at this point. I cannot watch him being slower, less physical, and less impactful than everybody on the field every time he’s in. Maybe he “needs service”, but he does absolutely nothing to help the team reach a point where they can provide it, doesn’t put himself in good positions, and isn’t fast enough to make dangerous runs.
    Other than that, road game at altitude and the Union looked like it. Blake is a shot-stopping god.

  13. OneManWolfpack says:

    They get one for me. One. This is it. Back on the horse and back to playing well next week or trouble will be brewing again.
    Not gonna get nuts even though they really only played for like the first 20 minutes of the game.
    If Blake can figure out distribution he will be all world. Dude is a shot stopping BEAST.
    Happy Memorial Day to all!

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