Union / Union match reports

Match report: Minnesota United 1-1 Philadelphia Union

C.J. Sapong and Ethan Finlay scored in a wild, end-to-end affair between Philadelphia Union and Minnesota United that finished 1-1.

For the second straight match, the Union took an early lead over an expansion team with the word “United” in their name, but conceded an equalizer to manage only one point on the evening. Only the timely intervention of VAR prevented it from becoming the second straight match where a Union defender was sent off.

Marching into Minnesota for the first time, Jim Curtin’s starting lineup featured three new faces. With Josh Yaro and Alejandro Bedoya suspended, Oguchi Onyewu and Warren Creavalle returned to the side — leaving expected starter Derrick Jones on the bench. Ilsinho replaced Roland Alberg in the attacking midfield platoon. The host Loons were without leading goal scorer Christian Ramirez, who missed out with a hamstring injury.

It didn’t take long for the Union to snatch an early lead on the road. In just the 5th minute, Fafa Picault beat his man down the right wing and fired a sharp cross through the end zone in front of goal. The static Minnesota centerbacks could only watch as the ball found C.J. Sapong, who tapped in from five yards out.

Andre Blake kept the match level in the 18th minute after a nifty move saw Minnesota’s Sam Nicholson get behind Rosenberry and in prime real estate in the 18. His shot looked destined for goal, but Blake made a leaping save to push the ball just wide.

On the other end, Chris Pontius hit one across the face of goal that looked sure to sneak in or be tapped in by Sapong. But the ball instead went just wide, and the replay seemed to show Sapong inexplicably declining to make contact with the ball. The Loons breathed a sigh of relief.

Minnesota leveled the score late in the half through Ethan Finlay. Francisco Calvo received the ball on the edge of the area and unleashed some devastating footwork to get past the defense. His close range shot was right at Blake, but the rebound clattered around in the box. When Giliano Wijnaldum failed to clear, the ball fell to Finlay, who fired into an open goal in the 40th minute.

Minnesota came out like a squad possessed in the second half, pinning the Union deep in their own half and peppering the box with corner kicks. It was a storm barely weathered by the Blue and Gold. Curtin made a surprisingly early substitution, hauling off Picault and bringing on Roland Alberg.

Things got crazy in the 68th minute, when Minnesota had a penalty given and then taken away. Off a corner kick, Onyewu hit the ball with his fist, which was up near his head. The referee did not hesitate to award a penalty and a second yellow card to Onyewu. But before the Union man hit the showers, the referee utilized VAR to spot a foul committed on Onyewu right before his offense. Over the howling protests of Adrian Heath and 22,000 Loons supporters, the penalty and yellow card were rescinded.

Without a penalty to enjoy, the wind billowed out of Minnesota United’s sails, and the Union enjoyed a period of pressure. Yet Bobby Shuttleworth wasn’t called into action —Haris Medunjanin blasted one over the bar from 15 yards, while Alberg clonked one over from slightly further out.

The game stretched like Silly Putty as both sides sought to grab an elusive win, but shots on goal were few and far between. Alberg managed a ferocious drive from a tight angle in stoppage time, forcing a save from Shuttleworth. Charlie Davies’ entered with 15 seconds left in the match — not enough time for the little-used striker to open his Union account.

Picking up just one point, the Union fell even further behind the pace set by Atlanta United. The playoffs, at this point, are little more than a pipe dream. Philadelphia take a trip up the Turnpike next Sunday for a nationally televised matchup against the Red Bulls. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.


Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Giliano Wijnaldum, Oguchi Onyewu, Jack Elliott, Keegan Rosenberry, Chris Pontius (Charlie Davies 90+3′), Haris Medunjanin, Warren Creavalle, Ilsinho (Marcus Epps 79′), Fafa Picault (Roland Alberg 57′), C.J. Sapong
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Ray Gaddis, Richie Marquez, Ray Gaddis

Minnesota United FC

Bobby Shuttleworth, Jerome Thiesson, Michael Boxall, Brent Kallman, Francisco Calvo, Collen Warner, Ibson, Ethan Finlay, Kevin Molino (Johan Venegas 75′), Sam Nicholson (Jose Leiton 75′), Abu Danladi
Unused subs:
 Patrick McLain, Joseph Greenspan, Miguel Ibarra, Collin Martin, Ismaila Jome

Scoring summary

PHI: C.J. Sapong — 5′ (Fafa Picault)
MIN: Ethan Finlay — 40′

Disciplinary summary

PHI: Giliano Wijnaldum — 38′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI: Oguchi Onyewu — 55′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI: Ilsinho — 60′ (unsporting behavior)

Philadelphia Union Minnesota United
 13 Shots 13
 3 Shots on Target 6
 9 Shots off Target 2
 1 Blocked Shots 5
 2 Corner Kicks 11
 13 Crosses 18
 0 Offsides 3
 14 Fouls 15
 3 Yellow Cards 0
 0 Red Cards 0
 359 Total Passes 453
 72% Passing Accuracy 77%
 44.3% Possession 55.7%
 65 Duels Won 51
 61.3% Duels Won % 38.7%
 14 Tackles Won 12
 5 Saves 2
 17 Clearances 29


  1. If we can’t beat that Minnesota team, who the hell can we beat?

  2. Character: I’m sorry sir.
    Henry Chinaski: You’re not sorry. You don’t know what sorrow is. I do.

  3. Why didn’t we see Jones? Seemed like the ideal spot for him to get minutes.

    • Because Curtin sucks. It’s an insult that Jones was not out there.

      • I agree , Creavalle looked very good. I’ve always thought he was good player. He disrupted the opposing offense. His passing was great and was very calm on the ball. He was all over the field playing defense and offense. So he gets an 8 out of 10 in my book. But, will we see him starting again ? I highly doubt it ……and yes, I wanna see derrick Jones on the field as well. He’s been one of the best players for this team all year.

  4. Spring City Phil says:

    If only Curtin had subbed in Davies 15 seconds earlier the Union surely would have come away with 3 points!

    • to be honest I think he was stalling for a tie, and possibly a miracle on that last free kick. I can see the logic of that somewhat. It’s not like the Union had a player on ther bench after Alberg who could influence the game to put on it the 80th minute.

  5. At about the 82nd minute I stopped to myself and went “Wow, I’m watching some really horrible soccer here”

  6. I literally forgot about the game tonight.

  7. Was at the game. Fun crowd that does as much as it can with the home they have. Definitely looking forward to the new stadium. As for the game…ugh. I know we were missing Ale and playing on the road, but those were 2 points lost, IMO. First of all, no Jones?! Unless I missed something or my eyesight is failing, he wasn’t even on the bench. Secondly, Medujnanin, Creavalle and the back 4 managed to make the MNUFC attack way more dangerous than they would have been on their own. Sloppy giveaways and lazy tracking back, at least from my vantage point, opened opportunities that should never have been there. Finally, I got no sense of any adjustments made by Curtin or how he envisioned the subs were meant to have any meaningful impact. Would never have made it through 90 on TV.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      It is possible that the pre-game focus on Jones was what the Chief First Directorate of the old KGB in the Soviet Union called “disinformation.”

      • Possible, however I think it’s more likely the “Academy/youth is our future” line is a stalling tactic until Sugarman can sell.

  8. The Union really should have won this match. So many opportunities to go up 2-0 that were squandered.

    Creavalle is limited in what he brings to the table and TBF, played alright. Just don’t understand how you can tout a philosophy that you want to develop young players and Jones doesn’t start last night. The opportunities are limited playing behind Medujanin and Bedoya so why not give him a run out last night?

    • Because “build through youth” is a marketing talking point to get season ticket holders to ignore the lousy product currently in front of them and renew.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Clearly, Curtin thought that Medunjanin at the #8 and creavalle at the #6 was better. It is faster and tougher at the #6 and more creative at the #8 than Medunjanin at #6 and Jones at #8.
      My gut tells me Jones will end up at 6, in a year or two,primarily because of scarce offensive creativity over distance.

      • They’re gonna have to figure something out for next year to get all 3 of those players (Haris, Ale, DJ) on the field at the same time. Jones should not be sitting. He is a destroyer and covers a ton of ground. He needs to play at this level to develop.

      • I should have kept track of how many times Medujanin pointed to his teammates. Seemed to be happening quite a bit. He just doesn’t have the legs nor the motor to play the 8. Was fortunate to be playing vs a very poor Minnesota central midfield.

  9. Desacrate through Reverance says:

    Hey CJ, don’t worry about Pontius getting his 1st of the year. Worry about winning the damn game. That was not the time to be the nice guy.

  10. That move on Gooch though…

  11. How anyone still defends Curtin is beyond me. We are terrible.
    Minnesota stinks and we could barely move the ball around. The players can’t possibly be that bad right? This play and Tactics are coming from the coach.

  12. Youth movement looks good for phillies for 2018. Same for Union in 2_3 years only if mls copies mlb rules of club control and farm system.
    More likely than pro rel happening in us.
    However as someone pointed out…Philly had sports vacuum that union could have used to create larger fanbase. That window is closing.
    I met and like Curtin but perhaps this is time to try someone else. New formations or new tactics or new ideas. But his last presser per PSP description sounded like a resignation letter full of excuses and frustration. If that’s the case then I wish him success in a new position in union or as an academy director or college coach or wherever he lands.

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