Union match reports

Match report: Columbus Crew 1-0 Philadelphia Union

Photo: 215pix

A shorthanded Philadelphia Union side failed to generate any offense and fell, 1-0, to Columbus Crew SC off a freak goal by Justin Meram.

With players missing due to the Gold Cup, injury, and suspension, Jim Curtin fielded somewhat of an experimental side. Jay Simpson earned his first start in months over the injured C.J. Sapong, while Adam Najem and Marcus Epps received their first career starts in the absence of Roland Alberg, Fafa Picault, and Chris Pontius. Josh Yaro stepped in at center back, making his first start of the year over Oguchi Onyewu, while Alejandro Bedoya returned from paternity leave to captain the side.

John McCarthy came up big in the early stage of the match with a reaction save on Ola Kamara. Kamara found himself unmarked in the box, receiving a 40-yard bomb from Wil Trapp and sizing up a one-time volley. McCarthy’s reflexes, however, were up to the task, keeping the game scoreless after six minutes.

Otherwise, the first half passed largely free of incident. The Union did well in possession, but could not create sustained pressure in the final third. Columbus attempted to build through ex-Union Academy goalkeeper Zack Steffen, and tested the Union with offensive pace down the wings. They, too, created little.

Columbus got on the scoresheet in the 65th minute thanks to a lucky deflection. Justin Mearam wormed his way into the box and fizzed one across the face of goal. The ball ricocheted off Yaro’s heel and snuck under a wrongfooted McCarthy.

The listless Union found themselves seeking a goal, but Columbus would have the next great opportunity. Artur’s free kick from close range, conceded by Jack Elliott, took a deflection and looked certain to be a goal. But McCarthy stood on his helmeted head, getting a hand down to keep the ball out of the net.

Charlie Davies made his first MLS appearance of the season, looking to spark some life into Philadelphia. Without any offensive options on the bench, Fabinho and Warren Creavalle soon joined him. The three failed to make any difference, and Columbus killed off the game quickly and painlessly.

Philadelphia finish a three-game road trip with just one point. Wednesday’s return leg against Columbus becomes a must-win game, as Philadelphia cannot risk falling further behind their Eastern Conference competition. Kickoff is at 7:30 at Talen Energy Stadium.

Three points

  • Unlucky goal. Philly’s defense wasn’t the problem at MAPFRE Stadium, as any mistakes were summarily cleaned up by John McCarthy. It took an unfortunate deflection to get the home side on the board.
  • Offensive disfunction. The Union looked better in possession, sure, but that didn’t equal dangerous action in the final third. Zack Steffen barely had to do anything all night long, as the Union finished with zero shots on goal.
  • A rough patch in the schedule. Of course the Union’s densest run of fixtures — two straight weeks of Wednesday/Saturday fames — would coincide with the Gold Cup and a rash of offensive injuries. The Union will be hoping that Fafa Picault, C.J. Sapong, and Roland Alberg are up for Wednesday’s game.

Philadelphia Union

John McCarthy, Giliano Wijnaldum (Fabinho 75′), Josh Yaro, Jack Elliott, Ray Gaddis, Adam Najem, Marcus Epps (Warren Creavalle 81′), Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Ilsinho (Charlie Davies 69′), Jay Simpson
Unused Subs: Jake McGuire, Keegan Rosenberry, Brian Carroll, Oguchi Onyewu

Columbus Crew

Zack Steffen, Jonathan Mensah, Alex Crognale, Lalas Abubakar, Harrison Afful (Hector Jimenez 46′), Wil Trapp, Artur, Jukka Raitala, Kekuta Manneh (Cristian Martinez 75′), Justin Mearam, Ola Kamara (Adam Jahn 86′)
Unused subs:
 Brad Stuver, Josh Williams, Nicolai Naess, Ethan Finlay

Scoring summary

CLB: Justin Meram (Artur) — 65′

Disciplinary summary

PHI: Jack Elliott — 68′ (unsporting behavior)

Philadelphia Union Columbus Crew
3 Shots 11
 0 Shots on Target 6
 2 Shots off Target 3
1 Blocked Shots 2
 4 Corner Kicks 7
 6 Crosses 23
2 Offsides 4
17 Fouls 11
 1 Yellow Cards 0
 0 Red Cards 0
436 Total Passes 427
 81% Passing Accuracy 85%
 50.4% Possession 49.6%
 43 Duels Won  53
 44.8% Duels Won %  55.2%
 18 Tackles Won 14
 5 Saves 0
 16 Clearances 19


  1. Ken Zo Lo says:

    Possession was good when it was zero zero. This game was painful to watch, esp. at the end.

  2. It’s becoming hard to get excited for these games when i know who is on the roster. There aren’t enough good players.
    I know Jay Simpson has barely played but i really don’t like watching him. He doesn’t seem like he makes good runs or checks to the ball or fights physically for the ball or provides good hold up play. Supposedly he can score goals with good service, but if that’s all we were looking for we should have just tried to get Jack Mcinerny back. I’m sure he’s cheaper, he’s younger, he doesn’t take an international slot, and he already knows the league

  3. We suck so much.

  4. How many times have the union fielded a team that has not produced a shot on goal in a game?

  5. The past, present, and future all look the same for this organization…

  6. What A joke..wijnaldum is just a complete mess, how has Rosenberry not won the job back from Mr. Mediocre ray gaddis yet, and I can’t believe that McCarthy is the best player on the team at the moment….terrible

    • Not Wijnaldum’s fault really…when Ilsihno is the 11 in front of you giving zero defensive effort, there’s not a whole lot you can do with Maneh/Meram running at you and Afful overlapping on the same side. Good luck with that.

  7. 20 Days until Premier League

  8. The rest of the season should be trial by fire for any academy product, anyone playing up in Bethlehem, literally anyone playing competitive men’s leagues should be invited to practice and make the squad. A “Frankenstein” team would be more fun to watch than this putrid rable! This club is a complete and utter dumpster fire and has been mismanaged and misrepresented since inception.

    When a keeper who wears a scrum-cap because he thinks it looks cool rather than because he head surgery on his skull like Cech is your best player….alarm bells are ringing.

    I’m tired of all the “Philly” Cliches about this coach, from this coach, and the horrid social media presence that makes the club look kitschy and like we have to try this hard just to get recognition even from the most loyal of supporters. I would rather have 11 brawlers who can barely play just physically punish teams and grind out 0-0 draws because at least you know what the identity is. Currently I do not see professionals take to the pitch and actually resemble a team that can actually play footy.

    Burn the Witch!

    • el Pachyderm says:

      ….great Radiohead drop.

    • John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

      He doesn’t wear a cap because he thinks it looks cool, he wears it because he suffered multiple concussions. Love the rant but try to show a little knowledge of things before you go on it.

      • Peter Cech had a fractured skull from making a save and getting a knee to the head, hence he wears a scrum cap as he needs to. McCarthy wearing an unstrapped scrum-cap is more akin to a hockey player wearing his helmet loose….not going to help you with not getting concussed. Also no mouthpiece for that matter? Furthermore he has said his favorite Keeper to watch is Peter Cech……soooooo you put 2 and 2 together mate….fashion statement over functionality especially if you are going to wear safety equipment improperly especially with a history of concussions. Then again, who am I than just an ill-informed observer of a shit club

    • Academy not doing great either lost 5 of 6 in DA playoffs worst showing ever ,, director is from Scotland worst style soccer from all of Europe , a head coach who has the worst record of any Union coach, Image the previous coaches with these players, Bethlehem average team at best, the whole organization has to start over, stadium is in a battle zone, parking lot is a joke,

      • That’s exactly my point…..people defend a great idea poorly executed since inception. Nothing this club has done other than building an actual training facility and the Academy (as a concept) is a net positive. Coaching from Academy to Professional is an absolute joke, and I know “favoritism” at YSC plays a massive part in this as well at the youth level. Shit begets shit and until the consumer swallows that bitter pill and starts pulling their hard earned dollars away, then we keep getting fed the shit sandwich. I do not know how much more can be said about the comedy of errors this ownership has played a part in. They need new ownership with a complete rebranding of the club and culture. sell the stadium in Chester to a local university with plans on moving the stadium to the Naval Yard that has direct ties to better mass-transit and to drive in and out from without feeling like you and your family need armed guards. So many missed opportunities because of piss poor management and not willing to spend smart or spend in general. The market says DP playmakers are what drive teams to succeed…..The Union have NO DIFFERENCE MAKERS period and the one shinning star last year has been picking splinters out of his ass for 1/2 the season thus far……that’s a fucking massive problem period

    • Dan Walsh says:

      Points to Conks for one of the most ill-informed comments ever on PSP.
      As John mentioned, McCarthy wears the cap because of a history of concussions.
      It definitely doesn’t look cool. More like the opposite.
      Wearing a mouthpiece has nothing to do with concussions.
      If he wears the helmet without a strap, it’s because it works well for him. I wear something similar to what Carlos Valdes wore after his concussion(s) with the Union. Also my choice, because it works best for a center back who hits a lot of headers. It looks much cooler than McCarthy’s helmet.

      Also, new PSP rule:

      Radiohead lyrics can only be invoked when linked to intelligent comments — and even then, only once per month per commenter. If you break this rule and continue to dry up the conversation, you will be the one who cannot talk.


      • el Pachyderm says:

        Your living in a Fantasy World. That there that’s not me.
        using Radiohead lyrics to light a candle and guide the fireworks and hurricanes of trapdoors that open in a post.
        This isn’t happening. I’m not here.
        Tried to say
        Tried to say
        Tried to say

      • Dan Walsh says:

        OK Pachy, your next set of Radiohead lyrics can go live on Aug. 24! 😉

      • UnionGoal says:

        Not sure what he is wearing works.
        At least two concussions since he started wearing it.
        I know everyone else likes him, philly guy and all, but honestly I wish McCarthy would retire for his own safety. We know more about concussions now than we did 10 years ago.
        I cringe every time he is in between the pipes.

      • Dan Walsh says:

        Interesting links, Andrew. Thanks for posting them.

        I’m skeptical of the mouthguard report’s relevance. The study compared improperly fitted mouthguards to properly fitted mouthguards. It did not compare to a control group of people without mouthpieces at all. So this study is looking at the question of appropriate use of mouthpieces, as opposed to whether it’s better to use one or not to. Anyone who ever used them back in the day knows you had to dip them in boiling water and then fit them to your teeth. I can definitely see how not properly fitting them would lead to more concussions. But in the end, this is a study by dentists for dentists, and does not address the question of whether properly fitted mouthpieces decrease the overall concussion rate, as opposed to not wearing a mouthpiece at all. (Note: Just the same, if you find data showing that properly mouthpieces do impact the overall rate of concussions, I’d obviously walk back my earlier comment. I didn’t exactly put much thought into it.)

        As for the scrum caps study —

        That study focused entirely on rugby. I’m not a rugby player, but I played American football for years. (I’ll treat them as approximate, if imperfect, analogues. Feel free to correct me.) Do you have the same amount and severity of regular blunt force trauma to the head? In soccer, most head impacts are from headed balls. Head-to-head impacts obviously happen — I’ve experienced it — but they’re the occasional exception, not the rule.

        That said, a study focused on soccer might obviously reach the same conclusion. I’d be curious to see one, although I’d hope they would evaluate all forms of head gear.

        If you find better data, I’m interested. Feel free to email me, even. I have a strong personal interest in this topic, and I’m less interested in being right in an argument than I am in finding the best overall solution.

  9. Andy Muenz says:

    Should have started Creavalle (or Carroll) instead of Ilsinho and let Bedoya play out on the right like he’s been playing for the national team. Put Epps out left and send Ilsinho to Bethlehem (or maybe Reading).

    • I’m tired of hearing this. He played the 8 against Nicaragua and had a great game.

      We don’t have the personnel for a 4231,and it’s obvious. But that won’t change, as Earnie and Jim have said as much.

      Medunjanin has dropped in form over the last few weeks. I wonder if the travel he’s not used to is getting to him.

      The season is over. Even if they somehow sneak up to 6th, it’ll be one and done.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        I wasn’t making a comment about Bedoya so much as one about Ilsinho who looks like he’s pretty much checked out the last couple of games.

      • Fair enough. As well, I am mostly referring to the seemingly large group of people that are calling for Bedoya to be on the wing ir at cam. We tried the latter.

        I was one of those until i saw how much “better” we were with Ale at the 8, and it was confirmed by the gold cup. Je was slotted at both spots (wing and 8) and the difference was night and day.

        This is one move that curtin and earnie have been right about.

        Also, I should note that i see those comments mostly on fb and not here.

  10. el Pachyderm says:

    Keep it nice and simple tonight. Intellectual honesty zeroing in on a target.
    Stefan over Blake every time- as it was lovely watching Columbus build play starting from the keeper out over and over and over again. Can argue me all you want but that is the standard- not aerobic bubble gum shot stopping.
    Columbus is a better team so I’m not too despondent over the loss because I can stand behind this group of players even without nary a shot on gol- (how exactly does that happen in 90 minutes?)- as there was higher order thinking, a resemblance of aesthetic.
    Introspective (albeit slow build up) possession. Poking and prodding and forcing Columbus defense out of shape which did occur multiple times even if the final ball died on a withered vine of dim thinking or bad touch as so often is the case. Seems the team petered out as they were forced to chase deeper into the game once Columbus-Rush 2112’d them and “assumed control.” To be perfectly honest tonight was the best the team has looked from a pure futbol POV in forever, just because it was not so frenetic. I actually thought the oh so slow build up was a welcome especially in the first 60 minutes over what is almost consistently unwatchable.
    At this point making it watchable is my goal always the simple request to just play well which mostly they did tonight for 2/3 of the game. Face it the season is over and an attempt to snatch that last playoff spot with 19 points in nearly August IMO is a futile effort especially when said meaningless grab will certainly be accompanied with the marketing ploy of success. Hogwash.
    The only success measured this year is a concerted effort to vet the young players going forward and give them a chance to build rhythm and chemistry.
    Inarguable from this corner of the bar. Or your corner of the Cliff.

    • No consistency in play or notable improvement in buildup, possession, or at least firing that final ball on frame……then I want proverbial heads on pikes and some semblance that there are consequences for being absolute shit. I am more worried how arguably the best rookie defender last year now is picking splinters out of his ass? That’s the player failing or a pigheaded coach who maybe got called out by said player after coming back from USMNT camp…..I dunno something doesn’t smell right #thenoseknows

    • You and I must not have been watching the same match. There was no chemistry whatsoever, the fullbacks got beaten to a pulp, Medunjanin was a shell of his usual self, Simpson got no service, Epps showed nifty flashes but made all the wrong decisions — as though he’d been training at the Ilsinho School of Football — while Ilsinho himself was largely invisible.

      I’m not getting too down about this match because the squad was decimated and we had to start a whole raft of new players at once. Of course, perhaps if Curtin had been doing some squad rotation all along we might not have been quite like this…

  11. Adam Schorr says:


  12. Really awful performance and a deserved loss. Was the team allergic to passing the ball forward against Columbus? Jimmy boy thought we had a lot of possession. Really sad when our manager thinks 50% is a lot of possession. None of the fans have much if any hope now or for the future. I wouldn’t mind it as much if we weren’t good but fun to watch but we aren’t fun to watch. It’s very boring soccer we are attempting to play. At least we try hard though right?

  13. Buccistick says:

    More Najem, please. In one full shift, he looked the part better than any of the square pegs that Curtin has mashed into the round hole of #10.
    Having said all that: only 17 more days of watching the rest of the league through the summer transfer window …

    • Personally, I hope they do nothing in the summer transfer window. Wait until the season ends. Then you can get rid of higher salaried players (edu, Pontius, alberg, Ilsinho, Simpson) although I want Simpson to have a run of matches to at least try and prove his worth. Sell Blake if his value is good. Trade a defender since we have a bunch of them for a 1st round pick or TAM/GAM. Then in January go get a #10 and a striker with the money you would have available.

  14. This team looks completely lost when they finally get the ball in the final third. Nobody on the same page, it doesn’t matter who is on the pitch. They need a real coach more than a #10. The Steel are more pleasing to watch then this garbage. I’d settle for Burke, but 1st choice is Nesta from Miami.

    They aren’t getting a #10. If they do it’s gonna be someone who doesn’t really fit and on a free.
    Chicago spent 3 mil on 1 transfer fee this year. Not salary.
    I’d be surprised if the Union spent 3 mil total in transfers in 7 years. Bedoya 895k. Most they ever paid. Sugarman out! Curtain out!

  15. This team was a joke and will be a joke for years to come. I’m tired of this BS. When your owner and the coach are clueless that’s what you get. And don’t get me started on below average players.

  16. The Chopper says:

    I was impressed by the deepest team we’ve ever had. We have lots of bodies capable of playing true Union Soccer.

    • I was hoping for a good bit more than the “Union soccer” to which we have become accustomed. It is interesting to see that, when one has several players for each position, but each brings new and interesting ways to give the ball away, or pass to the wrong foot, or send the ball into space where nobody on the team anticipated making a run…I agree that there is depth, but the lack of comfort that each player displayed with the teammates that surrounded him last night was painful to witness. Count the unforced errors with bad passes, launches into the ether, etc. Add to them the errors of effort (with Epps apparently deciding to emulate Ilsinho’s need to dribble through 30 opponents). I saw the possession numbers and wondered how they could be at 50% with all of the gifts and missed connections. C’mon guys. Columbus is alright, but they were shorthanded, too.

    • Does Chopper work for the Union?

  17. Clearly they can’t build an academy and field a quality playoff team at the same time. No evidence of that from this group. Two shots on goal in the past two games against average to bad teams. What does that make us?

  18. The happiest I got was when I saw the lineup. If only something like that was tried 10 games ago instead of being forced into it because of injuries and the Gold Cup. Same old Union.

  19. Zizouisgod says:

    When you need a goal and your best available attacking subs are a striker who has barely played in almost 2 years, a defensive midfielder and a left back, it’s safe to say that your roster is defective and poorly constructed.

  20. scottymac says:

    Seems like we’re just a piece away from a deep run. Really missed CJ and Pontius, then his offense will click, we’ll get them back Wednesday for all three points and then on to the playoffs!!!!
    Nope. Not seeing how the rose colored glasses lot do it.

  21. They are offering three free games this season with season ticket purchases for next season. Talk about panic.

  22. Peter..thank you for the write_up. Appreciate it since I haven’t been able to catch many games this summer.
    I agree with other commentators about Curtain. He is great guy, very personable, but not sure why he can’t get team to gel since their 4 game streak. Has he lost locker room? Talent and potential seem to be there…so something missing.
    Someone…player, coach, sporting director or owner needs to light a fire under this team. New leadership period.
    Ingredients are there..spark isn’t. Tired of commentators complaining we need messi…we don’t.
    To add to el pachy…vpp and a spark.


  23. So I know we have a lot of our first team out but, this is the last time I’ll say it. Ilsinho’s only position is the # 10 spot period. Stop putting him out wide. It won’t work. Winjaldum shouldn’t start. Isn’t good enough yet. Najem should not be in the 18 not good enough yet. Maybe someday but not rn. Epps – not smart enough yet, tries to be a hero every chance he gets and loses the ball. Trade Simpson, he’s just not good. Under the slightest amount of pressure he can’t keep the ball. Loses the ball 90% of the time. Trade him. I guess lastly, fire Curtin, just on the fact that he is putting ilsinho out wide fit multiple games. He’s killing the midfield. Since we don’t have a lot of our starters, that gives even more reason to keep ilsinho as the stacking mid paired with Harris and Bedoya. Playoff run is over with. I doubt we’ll make it. Fire Curtin. Oh and Stewart should be on thin ice as well.

    • Keep Curtin, but have him be assistant or U-23 coach. Everybody seems to love him on the team, but he’s just not ready for the top spot right now.

      I want to see Ernie go out and get a coach that he wants. I think he’s got some good ideas, but we don’t have the guy that understands them and can implement. At the end of preseason Ernie had said at one point that they were abandoning some higher level tactics because the guys just weren’t getting it. That’s on the coach.

      • UnionGoal says:

        Silver…he is very personable and anyone that has met him has a hard time saying he should go. I totally agree with you but doubtful he would accept demotion.
        More likely he will be Francona…leave with his lessons learned and make another team great.

  24. Philip Narozanick says:

    How long until the league steps in and we become Chivas whereas we won’t play for 3 years and need new owners? This team, its owners, the coaches and the front office should be embarassed for how pathetic our team performs, the front office oversells and how idly the coaches stand by their losing tactics and losing mentality. Please MLS, force the sale of this team to an ownership group that will give us a team that can actually compete.

    • Sugarman sits on the expansion committee. Maybe he’ll sell to one of the groups that misses out on this round of expansion. I can’t imagine he’s in a rush to sell though – the league’s rising tide lifts even the SS DOOP’s value.

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