Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 3-0 Columbus Crew

Photo: Paul Rudderow

The Union took their chances well against a Columbus Crew side primed for self-destruction, defeating their nine-man opponents 3-0 on a pleasant evening at Talen Energy Stadium. Ilsinho, C.J. Sapong, and Marcus Epps all got on the score sheet, but it was a missed penalty from Roland Alberg that brought a controversial edge to the final result.

Facing Columbus for the second time in five nights, Jim Curtin made three changes to a lineup that produced a limp performance in Ohio. C.J. Sapong returned from injury to replace Jay Simpson, Roland Alberg returned from suspension to replace Adam Najem, and Oguchi Onyewu returned from rest to replace Josh Yaro.

Philadelphia scored their first goal from open play in nearly a month thanks to a perfect volley from Ilsinho. In the 20th minute, a cross floated into the box was misplayed repeatedly by Columbus’s defense. Sapong chose to hit a nifty bicycle kick toward the penalty spot where Ilsinho was waiting. The ball came off the Brazilian winger’s foot like a rocket, and Zack Steffen’s fingertips could not keep it from finding the back of the net.

Moments later, Columbus should have scored the equalizer. Kekuta Manneh broke into the Union box, drew John McCarthy out of his net, and hit a low shot that seemed certain to go in. But Jack Elliott made a great recovery to clear off the line, and Columbus’s follow-up attempt clanged off the crossbar from about three yards.

A wild sequence in the 35th minute saw Columbus reduced to 10 men and Union players screaming at each other on the field. A marvelous counterattack from Ilsinho and Roland Alberg concluded with a beautiful pass to Sapong in the box, who was brought down by Jonathan Mensah. Mensah received straight red for denying the goal scoring opportunity, and Ismail Elfath pointed to the spot.

Though Sapong earned the penalty, Alberg jumped in and grabbed the ball. The two broke into an animated argument, with Sapong even running over to Jim Curtin to express his frustration. Alberg, though, stood fast and had his hard drive stopped by a fingertip save from Steffen. Boos rained down upon the unpopular Dutch midfielder as the Union missed a chance to double their lead.

After the match, captain Alejandro Bedoya said that when the two were arguing, he told Alberg to take the kick. “We decided that if Roland is on the field, he’s the penalty taker, and that’s what I said,” said Bedoya, adding that “the next one is C.J.’s.”

Jim Curtin also downplayed the disagreement, saying that the incident showed that the team is together. “I’ve never been on a good team where stuff like that doesn’t happen.”

Early in the second half, the Union looked to take advantage of their man advantage. Ilsinho pulled a sweet dribble move and used his next touch to hit Bedoya streaking into the box, but his centering pass for Alberg was inches ahead of the midfielder. Philadelphia cooked up a number of half chances, using the width of the pitch to keep Columbus under pressure and scrambling.

Philadelphia nearly ended the game in the 58th minute when Medunjanin landed a cross-field ball at Sapong’s feet. The striker’s one-time drive looked destined to go in at the near post, but it clanged harmlessly wide.

Columbus sought to get back into the match. A drive at a tight angle beat McCarthy but deflected harmlessly over the crossbar.

The Union finally doubled their advantage thanks to the spurned Sapong. A ball played in by Giliano Wijnaldum found Sapong, whose first shot hit the post. But the rebound fell right to Sapong, who smashed home for his tenth goal of the season, and his first from open play since May.

Columbus’s miserable night turned into a no-good horrible very bad night when Lalas Abubakar saw straight red in the 76th minute. Just after Gregg Berhalter made his last sub, Abubakar elbowed Ilsinho in the face, prompting Elfath to issue his second straight red of the night.

Philadelphia found their third goal not long after. Running down the wing, Ilsinho played a strong cross to the back post for Sapong to nod down. Marcus Epps, running down the middle, finished from close range for his first goal in MLS play, a fitting cap to a night that saw him take eight shots.

The Union kept their season alive with the win, splitting a home-and-home with the team in yellow. There is no rest for the Union, however, as they take on New England Revolution this weekend at Gillette Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m.

Three points

  • All unhappy families.  A penalty kick and red card turned from a blessing into a curse for the Union when Roland Alberg and C.J. Sapong bickered heatedly over who should take the kick. Jim Curtin and the rest of the team watched helplessly as Alberg’s penalty hit Zack Steffen’s fingertips and stayed out of the goal. Though things seemed smoothed over after the match, this is the second on-field blow-up Philadelphia has in as many weeks.
  • Taking the man advantage. Once Columbus went down to ten men, they barely figured in the match at all. The Union applied the pressure, got the crucial second goal, and saw out the match. (The extra red card in the 76th minute helped, too.)
  • Rookie of the year. Jack Elliott turned in another outstanding performance, including a save off the line and any number of calm defensive clearances. The late draft pick looks so comfortable next to Oguchi Onyewu, and the rookie added more evidence to his claim on postseason recognition.

Philadelphia Union

John McCarthy, Giliano Wijnaldum, Oguchi Onyewu, Jack Elliott, Ray Gaddis, Marcus Epps (Charlie Davies 88′), Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Roland Alberg (Adam Najem 68′), Ilsinho (Jay Simpson 84′), C.J. Sapong
Unused Subs: Jake McGuire, Keegan Rosenberry, Warren Creavalle, Josh Yaro

Columbus Crew

Zack Steffen, Jonathan Mensah, Alex Crognale, Lalas Abubakar, Hector Jimenez, Wil Trapp, Artur (Ethan Finlay 75′), Jukka Raitala, Kekuta Manneh (Cristian Martinez 71′), Justin Meram (Mohammed Abu 55′), Ola Kamara
Unused subs:
 Brad Stuver, Josh Williams, Waylon Francis, Mohammed Abu, Ethan Finlay, Adam Jahn, Cristian Martinez

Scoring summary

PHI: Ilsinho (C.J. Sapong) — 20′
PHI: C.J. Sapong — 66′
PHI: Marcus Epps (C.J. Sapong, Ilsinho) — 81′

Disciplinary summary

PHI: Giliano Wijnaldum — 31′ (unsporting behavior)
CLB: Jonathan Mensah — 35′ (red card, denial of obvious goal scoring opportunity)
CLB: Lalas Abubakar — 36′ (dissent)
PHI: Ray Gaddis — 39′ (unsporting behavior)
CLB: Lalas Abubakar — 76′ (red card, violent conduct)

Philadelphia Union Columbus Crew
27 Shots 13
 6 Shots on Target 2
 12 Shots off Target 5
9 Blocked Shots 6
 4 Corner Kicks 9
 15 Crosses 20
1 Offsides 1
19 Fouls 7
 2 Yellow Cards 1
 0 Red Cards 2
440 Total Passes 351
 85% Passing Accuracy 77%
 55.3% Possession 44.7%
 41 Duels Won 52
 44.1% Duels Won %  55.9%
 14 Tackles Won 12
 1 Saves 3
 17 Clearances 17


  1. 1-0 on Pride Night!
    Every night should be Pride Night!

  2. The fastest that Alberg moves is that second after Sapong gets fouled. (Running to scoop up the ball too hold it to make sure he gets the PK).

  3. Pragmatist says:

    I’m looking forward to a midfield of
    Fafa-Ilsinho(or real #10)-Epps
    Get that alignment out there and we’ll have a fighting chance at making the playoffs.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    Not related to the Union game but Blake just left the Gold Cup final with an injured hand.

  5. Andy Muenz says:

    I have to question the first red card. Isn’t it supposed to only be a yellow for denying a goal scoring chance inside the box to avoid triple jeopardy (PK, Red card, and suspension)?
    That being said, I don’t understand why Curtin didn’t bring in Keegan immediately following the second red given that both Union outside backs had yellows. Probably should have considered Creavalle for Bedoya as well since Bedoya is a card away from a suspension.

    • For the life of me the way Curtin is handling this Rosenberry / Gaddis stuff is mind boggling. I dont hate Ray at all but why isn’t Rosenberry playing?! Surely he can take work out of his funk if he just rides the bench?! Does he play at Bethlehem?

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Rosenberry isn’t playing cause he’s not responding. I’ve been saying this for months… Jim Curtin sees it IMO.
        Keegan’s mentality is soft. Id swear it. His job was taken and clearly he hasn’t doubled down in training… the rest of the time he’s tweeting about the British Open or NBA.
        Adversity shows us the measure of a person and currently I’d say Keegan isn’t focused. Just a hunch mind you.

      • UnionGoal says:

        El Pachy,
        I am surprised at you–admitted twitter stalker and then using it for some very questionable psycho-analysis.
        Perhaps Keegan doesn’t comment on soccer because he sees many of his contemporaries get in trouble, suspended, lose jobs, scholarships, etc. due to the 140 character quote taken out of context.
        Most people use social media to share some of their interests and life updates with friends and family==I’ll go out on a limb and guess you are neither to Keegan.
        If he had commented on a game, something innocuous like “It was a rough game” would you again put on your Freud hat to divine from that nugget that “Keegan was suckled too much as a child so 18 years later he cannot handle the pushing and shoving of Columbus players.”?
        Seriously dude–the idea you are stalking him to come up with “soft mentality” really creeped me out.
        Gonna get a shower now.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Regardless of how Rosenberry is performing he should be out there when the team has a 3-0 lead, the other team is down 2 men, AND both outside backs have yellows. Why risk the ref giving another yellow?

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Shrug UG. Shrug.
        Don’t forget to clean behind the wet ears.

      • Union Goal, I don’t think you really understand what Twitter is for. The whole point is for more “exposure”, whether or not you are a celebrity. I mean people are basically asking for followers, i.e. “stalkers”. Twitter really isn’t meant for family and friends. It’s to create an image of you for the world to see. So I’m not exactly sure why el P’s comment struck you as weird. It’s just his take on what Rosenberry puts out. If Rosenberry wasn’t looking for attention, he wouldn’t put it out there.

    • Your logic doesn’t really make sense, Andy, because Red Card and Suspension always go together by definition. Do you mean to avoid double jeopardy?

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Much as I agree with you, Scottso, that it really should be called double jeopardy, triple jeopardy was how I always heard it described when the rule change was under consideration by FIFA a couple of years ago and first implemented for Euro 2016.

      • The red card is discretionary in the case of triple jeopardy. Elfath must have thought the foul deserved it.

    • The description I read was that the player should be cautioned with a yellow card instead of a red EXCEPT when the player is found guilty of:

      1. Pushing, pulling, holding
      2. Not attempting to play the ball, or where there is no possibility to play the ball
      3. The foul is worthy of a red card regardless of the situation (violent conduct etc.)

      I think it’s to protect players (mainly goalkeepers) who mistime challenges rather than clearly intending to foul.

      I was in the River End so can’t comment on last night’s incident but it looked like a bit of 1 & 2 from a distance

  6. Also I thought Elliott was decent tonight but not outstanding. Got beat with speed a few times (which is gonna happen – I understand) and had a few sketchy back passes that almost caused real trouble. Not hating on him at all just saying I didn’t think he was his usual “very good” tonight.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      One of those sketchy back passes seemed to be Ray Gaddis fault for giving him the ball in first place. Elliot was left untenable and played back to keeper awkwardly.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        I remember that exact pass and was thinking the exact same thing at the time (that Gaddis made the first poor pass).

    • I agree – honestly, I thought it was as bad a game as Elliot has had all season. (Granted – that speaks as much to as good as he’s been all season as it does to tonight’s game.)

    • Zizouisgod says:

      Columbus specifically targeted Elliott as Kamara stayed away from Gooch’s side most of the match (especially in the 2nd half). So every free kick that Columbus took from their own half, Kamara tried to post Elliott up and I thought Elliott did very well with his defending of him. There were some problem with back passes, but it wasn’t always Elliott’s fault when you see other players like McCarthy acknowledge that they weren’t in the right position to receive Elliott’s passes.

      BTW – it is very funny to see opposing players visibly tense up when they are potentially going into a challenge with Gooch. His mere presence really intimidates opponents.

    • But I just watched a .GIF of his clearance off the line, which I honestly didn’t even recognize when I watched the game on TV because I thought McCarthy had saved it, and holy sh%$ what a play that was. He even stayed on his feet and kept running while he did it!

  7. hope they update Blake’s status tonight.Watching him cry leaving the pitch is scary.

  8. Alberg is a disruption and does not bring enough to the offense to justify his presence on the field. Wandering aimlessly when the team is on defense is all that I saw him do tonight. Similar to what somebody above noted, I think that his only takeaway all night was the ball on the PK. I was concerned about some of Elliott ‘s drops to McCarthy- entirely too exciting on too many occasions. Glad to watch the attack heat up. Let’s just hope that doesn’t only happen when up two men.

    • I’ve believed all season that Alberg does not belong on this team. Yea.. he scores a good goal once in a while, but the other 95% of the time he is a -1 for the whole team while on the field (and I think off it too). From my perch in 114 I was infuriated by his behavior, it can’t be good for the team to have such childish displays, regardless what Curtain says.
      And, did anybody else see what I think was Epps furious I think with Alberg in the second half? It looked like Medunjanin spent alot of time trying to calm him down…

      • Completely agree on both counts. I am in 119, and watched his selfish actions out there. The most aggression that I saw from him going after the ball was in grabbing it for the PK. I truly want to rewatch the game, to confirm what I thought was his wandering on the field, instead of true defensive activity. Epps was correct, also. Alberg stopped and/or ignored several chances for through balls to continue to open players on the wing in order to blast meaningless long “attempts” (to be charitable) into the stands. I value team play over a lot, and will take (for example) Ray Gaddis getting beaten upfield when he hustles back on the switch to cover the center of the field for Jack Elliott, as he did on one occasion in the second half. Showing up your teammates as often as he does insults the game. I got off on a bad foot with him in yesterday’s game when, very early on and on the first time that he came close to touching the ball, Alberg was bitching to the ref about slight contact. He is not worth the damage that he does to the grass running around out there.

    • Does anyone else get the impression that, aside from Alberg’s numerous on-field limitations, he is also a chemical nightmare? As in, poisonous with teammates? Doesn’t it seem that all the on-field disagreements involve him?

      • Not just his teammates. As I said in the above post, he started mouthing off to the ref in the very early part of the game, and for practically nothing. He is just a mess, and that was “just a despicable performance”, to quote Howard Cosell.

  9. el Pachyderm says:

    Najem checked shoulder and touched the ball more in first 6 min on the field then Alberg did whole game. No contest answer for me he’s the player going forward and I’m surprised CJ doesn’t shank Roy Alberg right in the field with his pointer finger.
    Epps again and again attacking the end line … grew into game and was not content to lump bastard crosses every time. Good on him.
    Rough night from GW at LB… especially when he was sleepwalking and got kicked by haris with ball. Speaking of haris the play he made the wound up eventually with Sapong in on gol was remarkable and world class…. deft shit.
    Jack Elliot may not be here long either…. kid is quite good. So much better than Richie Marquez it isn’t even measurable. Takes him awhile to get to top speed but when he does his length affords him the ability to close.
    Sapong was solid tonight but I swear he is slow to see proper movement…. over and over same things occur. Otherwise he played pretty well ….so credit there.
    A needed victory. Played half decent too.

    • Let’s see if Elliot continues to improve next season before saying that. It can be hard to predict progression vs. regression (see Rosenberry, Keegan).

    • Also, I don’t know how on earth you can criticize Sapong after last night’s match, man. He was an absolute beast. Effectively had a hand in FOUR goals, even though they only scored 3. And an assist on a bicycle kick?!?

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Agreed. CJ played well and I also recognize I am confirming biases often with the player.
        His movement frustrates me…. CJ and Altidore the both.

  10. UnionGoal says:

    Thanks for the update. Appreciate it.
    I wouldn’t read too much into the PK controversy–see it happen more often than not but usually not as bitter.
    Hopefully just a minor disagreement.
    Surprised that Curtin handled it that way, though.
    When you guys play, how do you handle it?
    With my teams and now my son’s teams, usually player fouled, especially with scoring opportunity, has option to take kick or hand it off to the team’s designated kicker.

  11. The Union won. Yay! It was nice to see CJ get to 10 goals. I’m happy for him. If it wasn’t for shithead Alberg, he might have had it sooner. I know a few above talked about this being a bad game for Elliot, but even when he made mistakes he still recovered well and even saved a goal. You gotta love the kid. Najem looked good when he came in, but it still seems as though some players aren’t used to him yet. Hopefully that relationship continues to grow and he gets more time.

  12. Zizouisgod says:

    Why is it so hard for a manager to designate the order of PK takers and if there are injuries that have happened in the match, then the captain can make the decision? It honestly feels like a cop-out by Curtin to push all of the decisions to the on-field captain, especially if players have goal bonuses. A peer of a player shouldn’t be making that decision, it should be the manager. Curtin should tell the team, this is the order of PK takers. Simple as that.

    FWIW – if a guy has missed 50% of their PK’s this season like Alberg now has, he shouldn’t be first on the list at any time.

    • Agreed. This PK nonsense has to stop. JC should post a list of PK takers before each match. If #1 on the list is playing when a PK is called, #1 takes the kick. If #1 isn’t in the game, then #2 takes the kick. If #1 and #2 aren’t on the pitch, then #3 takes the kick. Etc.

    • I detest Alberg, but that was his first miss of the season. He’s now 2 for 3.

      • Zizouisgod says:

        Yes, you’re correct.

        My recollection of the one that he had converted vs. MTL was that it was a miss, but in reality, it was just so poorly struck and Bush should have stopped it easily.

        That’s why I should never rely solely on my memory.

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