Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 1-0 D.C. United

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union snapped a three-game losing streak on the backs of a gorgeous Fafa Picault goal and some heroic goalkeeping from Andre Blake, topping D.C. United 1-0 on a warm Saturday night at Talen Energy Stadium.

Looking to avoid a fourth straight defeat, Jim Curtin made two changes to the side that lost last Sunday to New York Red Bulls. Giliano Wijnaldum earned his second league start, displacing Fabinho at left back. Captain Alejandro Bedoya, recovered from a hamstring injury, took the deep-lying midfield spot vacated by the suspended Derrick Jones.

The ninth- and eleventh-placed teams in the Eastern Conference, beginning slowly, tried to feel each other out. The first flash-point came in the 13th minute, when Kofi Opare and C.J. Sapong collided in the D.C. box. When Sapong hit the deck, the crowd roared for a penalty, but referee Sorin Stoica stoically let play continue.

Philadelphia broke open a dull deadlock with a howitzer of a goal from Fafa Picault. A looping cross from Bedoya went through the box and dropped the speedy winger, whose one-time volley singed a hole in the back of the net.

Much like the first, the second half began quietly. It suddenly blazed to life when a ball swung into the box by Luciano Acosta clanged off Oguchi Onyewu’s arm. Stoica pointed to the spot, and Lamar Neagle stepped up to face Andre Blake. The Jamaican keeper kept the Union ahead, getting down with a leonine leap to his right to deny Neagle’s low drive. The 17,656-strong crowd roared in appreciation — “it’s the loudest the crowd has been all season,” Curtin said after the match.

The scene in Chester turned bizarre in the 73rd minute when Stoica issued D.C. United’s Luciano Acosta a red card — and then almost immediately rescinded it. Acosta appeared to foul Haris Medunjanin near the end boards, and the referee did not hesitate in awarding what seemed to be a completely undeserved red card. After a moment, however, Acosta was allowed to stay on the pitch, with no additional explanation given.

After the match, Stoica said that Medunjanin stated that he was not kicked after the play. As that was the reason for the initial call, Stoica took back the red card. Ben Olsen called Medunjanin’s move “classy” after the match, which is certainly accurate.

With the drama turned up, the Union almost doubled their advantage on two occasions. A strike by C.J. Sapong on the turn forced Hamid to full stretch, then a low one-time strike by substitute Jay Simpson forced the D.C. keeper down quickly.

Hampered by their lack of talent and ideas, D.C. United barely threatened the rest of the way as the Union looked to kill off the game. Then, almost out of nothing, a Luciano Acosta cross in stoppage time nearly earned D.C. a point.  Neagle’s point-blank header met Blake’s fingertips just below the crossbar and the Union goalie cemented his Man of the Match status with another stunning stop.

Philadelphia wraps up a three-game homestand in league play next weekend when they host their northern foes New England Revolution at Talen Energy Stadium, kicking off at 5:00 p.m. on ESPN. In the interim, they will travel to Red Bull Arena on Wednesday to face New York in the U.S. Open Cup Round of 16.

Three points

  • Fabulous Fafa. The Union’s speedy winger scored a sweet goal on the volley, using just enough power and precision to beat Hamid. Picault worked up and down the flanks all night long with great success.
  • Blake saves. D.C.’s impotent attack barely challenged Andre Blake, but when the keeper was needed he came up big. It was a typically acrobatic stop by the Union’s backstop — and his stoppage-time fingertip save on Lamar Neagle might have been even better.
  • More refereeing weirdness. Have you ever seen a red card get completely rescinded? It always seems to be an adventure in Chester. But good on Haris Medunjanin, a truly classy individual, to lobby the referee to change a clearly incorrect call.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Oguchi Onyewu, Jack Elliott, Ray Gaddis, Giliano Wijnaldum, Fafa Picault (Marcus Epps 84′), Chris Pontius (Jay Simpson 64′), Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Ilsinho (Roland Alberg 70′), C.J. Sapong
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Keegan Rosenberry, Josh Yaro, Ken Tribbett

D.C. United

Bill Hamid, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Steve Birnbaum, Kofi Opare, Taylor Kemp, Ian Harkes (Julian Bueschler 83′), Jared Jeffrey, Lamar Neagle, Luciano Acosta, Sebastien Le Toux (Patrick Nyarko 57′), Jose Ortiz (Deshorn Brown 63′)
Unused subs:
 Travis Worra, Chris Korb, Marcelo Sarvas, Jalen Robinson

Scoring summary

PHI: Fafa Picault (Alejandro Bedoya) — 31′

Disciplinary summary

DC: Jose Ortiz — 31′ (unsporting behavior)

Philadelphia Union D.C. United
9 Shots 11
 4 Shots on Target 4
 2 Shots off Target 4
3 Blocked Shots 3
 7 Corner Kicks 7
 18 Crosses 25
1 Offsides 1
15 Fouls 15
 0 Yellow Cards 1
 0 Red Cards 0
372 Total Passes 360
 77% Passing Accuracy 78%
 50.4% Possession 49.6%
 48 Duels Won  49
 49.5% Duels Won %  50.5%
 10 Tackles Won 11
 4 Saves 3
 25 Clearances 30


  1. Bedoya is a great 8.

  2. A very strong finish from Fafa, and his best match by far, but on the whole, I think the Union should feel fortunate to have been bailed out by their GK again. Those were two pretty bad teams out there, just as there were last weekend.

  3. Blake’s distribution was godawful, yet again, but when he makes superhuman stops like those I’ll live with the lousy punting.

    Fafa’s goal was absolutely magnificent.

    Medunjanin, Sapong, Elliot, Onyewu, and substitute Simpson all had strong matches. But I couldn’t believe Neagle (and another D.C. player) got so wide open for that cross in stoppage time. That should never, ever happen at that point in a 1-0 match.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    Kudos to Haris, and to Stoica for admitting he missed the call and reversing himself. If only Felipe had as much class last week and we had someone other than Chapman there.
    The Union were the better team tonight and deserved the 3 points, although they have a long way to go to play with some of the better teams. Until the goal I thought their strategy was to not let Hamid make any great saves by never shooting the ball.

  5. So I’ll be the first one to mention the rescinded red card?! (Edit: while I was typing Andy beat me to it) I sit in 127… it was right in front of us… it was NOT red. But it was AT THE VERY LEAST a foul… probably a yellow and if it had been a second yellow, then fine he’s gone. But to show straight red and then not even call a foul?!? I literally have no words for that. And the ref wasn’t that bad all night… that was just most bizarre thing I have ever witnessed in a legitimate professional game.
    As for the Union… they did enough to win so that’s fine. The effort was good. And Blake was completely out of control amazing. Dude is a shot stopping BEAST. Distribution is still a mess but man can he stop a shot. Wow. 3 points is 3 points. Another winnable game next week vs NE
    If more info or an explanation came out regarding the red that wasn’t a red… please let me know.

    • pragmatist says:

      The card was issued for activity after the ball went out of bounds. Since they deemed the action not to have happened at all, it was just a throw in. The trip/push was never called in the first place.

      • OneManWolfpack says:

        I guess. Thanks for the info. From what I could see. Acosta grabbed Haris jersey to a point of pulling him almost down. At the very least it was a foul. I, among many others I’m sure, were amazed he showed a red but just as amazed there was no foul at all.

    • I am as honest as the next guy, but I don’t agree with what Haris did. Refs miss calls all the time. It is a part of the game. They are so many bad calls in MLS that we have the Geiger counter. Sometimes the calls go for you – sometimes against. That is how it goes. Remember the “Rosenberry face” at Casey’s red card last year?
      If the ref asked Haris his opinion BEFORE issuing the card, then 100% tell the truth. After the card is issued the action had been taken. Then you walk away.
      If the ref asks how you feel about his call, you remind him that he already made it.
      The U would have been holding a one goal lead and a one man advantage if that had happened, and there would have been no dishonesty involved – just one more bad call by a ref that jumped the gun and issued a card before conferring with the assistants or players involved.

  6. el Pachyderm says:

    this is The Redundancy…
    A wise parent observes their kids’ performances as mere individual data points to the sample size that is a long term developmental pathway in whatever activities they pursue… this I know and weigh every positive or negative comment along the punditing pathway.
    Congrats on winning a game tonight. But unlike my children, to whom I say as practice– “I love to watch you play.” This team will receive no such positive affirmation to build tender esteem. I will write what needs to be written. It is simply not good enough.
    This past Tuesday I had the old walnut checked by Doc StrangGlove, the annual physical of middle age rite of passage, snap of latex, Surgi- Lube the long digit, “turn and grab the table” with talons and clenched jaw
    …trying to relax
    trying to relax
    trying to relax
    trying to be open to easy passage…. breath and go anywhere somewhere other than the exam room. Oh the humanity.
    Sounds as though my walnut is “Fine, so far,” says StrangGlove with an awkward forearm Cub & Redbird 1994 baseball pound on the way out of the room and into an uncertain future- Phew thinks I- this First Team Experience however which feels about the same week in week out as that finger in my assho!e is not ‘Fine, so far.’
    I am convinced Just. Play. Well is an impossibility under these current managerial conditions and while I applaude the long view, the Vision Philosophy and Plan, the short weekly experience leaves me breathing and clenching the jaw in hopes this is all just over soon.
    want more. demand better. not dooped.
    Sorry. Just the truth.

    • Atomic Spartan says:

      Yes. Not at all impressed by a 1-0 vs an equally bad team. Not enough ideas, few connections and a scary defense late.
      JC, please give CJ a rest and don’t run him into the ground again. He was barely moving in the last 15 min.
      And thanks Soren (and Haris) for giving us a completely unique experience. Dear PRO, can you please assign a real ref to Talen sometime?

    • Zizouisgod says:

      At least the Union were also tight at the back and you both got positive “results”.

  7. So without Blake this would have been 4-1

    • I didn’t see 4 for DC. I saw 2 at best. And Hamid made a save or two so maybe a 2-2 draw. But isn’t that why you have a solid keeper? He can steal us points. Maybe he did tonight but 3 points are 3 points. It fixes nothing, yes, but a win is a win. Take it and get another one next week.

    • Where are you getting 4-1?! The Union totally outplayed D.C. tonight. And as Wolfpack says, don’t forget the fact that the second best keeper in MLS was playing in the other team’s net.

  8. Adam Schorr says:

    Whether it was intentional or lucky, that ball by Gaddis to Bedoya was inch perfect. Picault has really good sense running off the ball – he was trailing well behind the play and never really hit a sprint, so nobody noticed him or picked him up.
    Andre Blake is really good. Really, really, really good.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Thanks for pointing out the ball by Gaddis. I meant to mention that too. Definitely an assist in the NHL if not in MLS.

  9. Can they play D.C. every week? Two out of three ain’t bad. The Haris & Ale show is what holds this team together. Without their understanding of each other, and Ale’s work rate, this team would be totally lost. Having Blake to clean up mistakes doesn’t hurt either.
    Three points. Meh.

  10. I’m just here to comment on the fact that this comment section would’ve been 4 times larger if they had lost. Be happy they got 3 points, sheesh.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      …depends upon what a contributors metrics for success are, sheesh.

      • Which are subjective and unable to be consensually agreed on sheesh.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Yup which is why people like to come here in this first place & not to be condescended to….sheesh.

    • Dan Walsh says:

      That’s an interesting pattern we see here, isn’t it?

      • Union fan says:

        Except for the fact that it isn’t remotely true. Union coming off a 3 match losing streak and the last 3 match reports have had 46, 32, and 18 comments. This one has 37, or if you prefer to take out these 6 since they aren’t about the match- 31. Right about the same.

  11. Great One says:

    Really really happy for the win. It’s fun to watch a young guy like Fafa improve and score. Andre is a joy to watch as he makes the casual fantastic save. He does still need to work on distribution.
    On the other hand, I fear that the coach will use games like this to say that “it” is working. A few great individual performances and a bad opponent does not equal sustained success. The team is devoid of ideas, CJ looks to be making the beginning of the negative slide he made last year when the coach decided he couldn’t rest for even a minute.
    What has happened to Chris Pontius?

  12. A few thoughts from watching the game from home for a change….

    1. Chris Pontius is either in his own head or has lost a step or just forgot how to play. Please start epps over him for the next few matches because pontius looks cooked.

    2. Haris needs a game or two off….he seemed a step slower of mind and foot both in this game and against NY pink energy drinks. If coach Drape starts him on Wednesday he really learned nothing from last year.

    3. Read #2 but apply to Sapong.

    4. Bye Fabinho and hello Wijnaldum…..that sun rocket should be launched into orbit any minute.

    5. Kudos to Picault for becoming a big contributor and entertaining player on a team otherwise devoid of fun and entertainment. Now we just need to create a better chant when he scores for us.

    6. If and when Jay Simpson finishes a chance he might actually get hot and stay hot. He has an innate ability to find space that Sapong doesn’t and if that half turn in the penalty area comes off thats a beautiful goal we talk about for the rest of the week. Would love to see him get a full game on Wednesday.

    • I don’t agree with your Sapong assessment. He plays like a man possessed every game despite never getting any calls and going 90 almost every game. If he had a better 10 to work with this team would be scoring way more goals. More from him and more from his teammates

      • He plays like a man possessed but never in positions close to goal or in the box. I get it, thats his style but the dude is the most un-dangerous striker when he is playing well. That strike where he turned and forced Hamid into a good save, i want to see that several times a game.

        But all we see several times a game from him is falling to the ground and asking for anfoul.

      • I’m not saying that he’s not giving 100% effort every game but instead that if we continue to run him out there every game like we did last year the results will be a tired and unproductive striker. We’re already seeing that his goal scoring rate has dropped similar to last year around the same time with a similar amount of games played. You have a striker on the bench you’re paying like a starter so rest CJ for a game or two and get some squad rotation going.

  13. I liked the whole crowd booing Acosta every time he touched the ball, after the rescinded red. It’s been a while since I’ve heard that passion for the non-SOB sections.

  14. Wijnaldum seemed very cool and calm under pressure. Did a nice job preserving possession and finding a smart way out of trouble on multiple occasions. Also didn’t seem as if DC United was much interested challenging his side of the pitch. Perhaps he has earned some playing time!

    • Perhaps it was just because he was feeling out the game, but several times in the first half both Picault and Onyewu were visually frustrated at Wijnaldum’s decision making with his distribution. He was holding on to the ball instead of making the early, easy pass.

      • I would take that 100 times over instead of Fabinho’s talent for isolating himself, going f it!, and dribbling towards 3 defenders down the left before finally losing the ball.

      • Interesting. Well, I would hope that the speed of his decision-making improves over time. At the very least he seems willing and able to use both feet, and that should serve him better under pressure than Fabinho’s unwillingness, and perhaps inability, to use his right foot.

      • Yes. I would absolutely give him additional starts over Fabi in order to get him into the flow of things. That said, there things he will have to get better at or he will cost us a game in a new, but similar way Fabi has.

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