Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 6-1 Orlando City SC

Photo:Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union put on a dream performance in their final match of the 2017 season, downing Orlando City SC 6-1 at Talen Energy Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

Jim Curtin’s men scored twice in the first six minutes of action, added another two before the opening half concluded, and dropped two more in the second frame with Brian Carroll patrolling the center of the park for a final time.

Fafa Picault had a brace and an assist before leaving the game at the half with a concussion. Ilsinho kept up with the winger by opening the scoring, feeding Picault for the Union’s second goal, then and nabbing a second of his own just after the hour mark. C.J. Sapong eclipsed both teammates by setting the Union’s single-season scoring record with his 15th and 16th goals of the season.

Both sides had been eliminated from playoff contention before MLS’s “decision day,” but only the Union showed up with the intensity a regular season match deserves. The home side played with confidence and freedom while Orlando looked more interested in returning to central Florida.

Curtin made only one change to the side which lost 3-2 last week in Chicago, with Marcus Epps getting the nod on the right wing ahead of Chris Pontius. It could be the latter’s last game as a member of the Union, as Pontius will be a free agent after this season.

It was definitely the final match for former Union captain Brian Carroll, who announced his retirement late last week. The 15-year veteran capped off his career with a substitute appearance, playing the entirety of the second half after entering for Marcus Epps.

Orlando City had two players making their first career starts in goalkeeper Earl Edwards and midfielder Richie Laryea.

The match barely had time to find a rhythm when the Union struck. Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya raced down the right flank before centering a pass to Ilsinho, who was making a late run into the box. With his first touch, the Brazilian smashed a shot by the helpless Edwards.

It took only two minutes for Philadelphia to double their advantage. Solid build-up play in the final third culminated in Fafà Picault’s headed effort glancing off the bar and into the net. Ilsinho was again involved in the goal, providing the primary assist with a wonderful chipped pass over the Orlando backline.

Next, forward Sapong set a new franchise record with his 15th goal of the season. In the 26th minute, Fabinho sprung Picault down the left flank. The winger’s pace was on full display as he blew by Orlando center back Seb Hines and centered the ball across frame for Sapong to make an easy tap-in.

The party continued as the Union set a franchise record for goals in a half in the 38th minute. City right back Scott Sutter’s headed pass back to his keeper fell well short of the mark. Orlando received another lesson on just how fast Picault is, as the winger raced by the helpless Sutter and was alone with Edwards. A deft nutmeg of the keeper netted Picault his 7th goal of the season.

Both sides made two changes to start the second half.  For the Union, the man of the hour, Brian Carroll, came on for Epps. Pontius also came on to replace Picault.

Ilsinho got his second goal of the game in the 63rd minute, finishing a swift counter. Midfielder Haris Medunjanin collected the ball around the center circle before driving at the Orlando back line. The Bosnian played a wonderful through ball to the onrushing Ilsinho, who finished with poise.

Andre Blake’s bid for a clean sheet ended in the 72nd minute. Orlando captain Yoshimar Yotún’s free kick found U.S. international Dom Dwyer in the box. The former Kansas City striker’s diving header gave Orlando their first and only goal of the contest.

The Union had a quick answer though.

Sapong became the third Union player to register a brace on the day, banging home a rebound from no more than two feet away. Edwards did well to make an initial save on Medunjanin, but he could do nothing about Sapong’s close range finish.

The save of the game came in the 80th minute. Dwyer was alone on the right flank as play shifted from the left. Blake came off his line and closed the angle, making a remarkable feet-first stop.

When the referee blew the whistle on the Union’s season, the club and fans could at least say their final match was an entertaining one.

Three points
  • A fond farewell. Brian Carroll received multiple standing ovations and was honored with a pregame tribute after which he took a moment to address the crowd. It was a sincere and touching moment between the fans and the stalwart player.
  • 11-14-9. The Union finished with the same record as in 2016 but fell short of the playoffs. They were stagnant as other clubs in the conference improved and an expansion Atlanta flexed their financial muscles.
  • Home cooking. The season boiled down to home versus away performances. Talen Energy Stadium became a fortress while road woes were largely responsible for a disappointing 2017.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake; Ray Gaddis, Jack Elliott, Richie Marquez, Fabinho; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Ilsinho, Fafa Picault (Chris Pontius 45′), Marcus Epps (Brian Carroll 45′);  C.J. Sapong (Roland Alberg 85′)
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Oguchi Onyewu, Giliano Wijnaldum, Jay Simpson

Orlando City SC

Earl Edwards; Scott Sutter, Seb Hines (Tommy Redding 45′), Léonardo Pereira, PC Giro (Donny Toia 45′); Richie Laryea, Dillon Powers, Yoshimar Yotún; Carlos Rivas (Antonio Nocerino 66′), Dom Dwyer, Giles Barnes
Unused subs: Hadji Barry, Servando Carrasco, Pierre da Silva, Jake Fenlason

Scoring summary

PHI: Ilsinho – 3′ (Bedoya)
PHI: Picault – 6′ (Ilsinho, Epps)
PHI: Sapong – 26′ (Picault, Fabinho)
PHI: Picault – 38′
PHI: Ilsinho – 63′ (Medunjanin)
ORL: Dwyer – 72′ (Yotun)
PHI: Sapong – 74′

Disciplinary summary

PHI: Sapong – 65′ (unsporting behavior)

Philadelphia Union Orlando City SC
 12 Shots 15
 7 Shots on Target 5
 4 Shots off Target 9
 1 Blocked Shots 1
 2 Corner Kicks 4
 11 Crosses 21
 3 Offsides 0
 16 Fouls 11
 1 Yellow Cards 0
 0 Red Cards 0
 439 Total Passes 490
 83% Passing Accuracy 84%
 46.8 Possession 53.2%
 53 Duels Won  35
 60.2% Duels Won % 39.8%
 15 Tackles Won 8
 4 Saves 1
 21 Clearances 7


  1. *shrugs*

  2. The Chopper says:

    Glad BC got a good send off. Well deserved. As for the game Orlando was overmatched, the Union are far more experienced in meaningless matches.

  3. I’ll get back to critical tomorrow. Made it to the game with the kids and it was hard not to have fun with the performance, even if it was against the abject failure that is the Orlando City lions. Glad CJ recorded goals 15 and 16. Well deserved from him. With the amazing weather, it was a nice night out to end a tepid season of sub mediocrity.

  4. Watched the ESPN decision day broadcast. They never showed highlights despite the plethora of goals.
    If the union put up six goals in a meaningless match and national feed jumping between matches doesn’t care, did it really happen?

  5. A wise man. says:

    Do not accept any spin. None. Total failure, yet again… only this year they can’t sugar coat it with a meaningless playoff loss.
    From Tommy and JP to some of the local bloggers on Twitter.
    I’m on to you. I see you. . But the experience is first rate at The Park.
    make me vomit. Same damn thing with USMNT.

  6. Three of the four defenders for Orlando were reserves, as were both goalkeepers and a midfielder. Earle Edwards Jr. Started 23 times for Orlando City B in goal. Seb Hines, center-back, started 15 for OCB. Leo Pereira, Center-back, started 8. PC, right back, 6. Richie Laryea, midfielder, 12.

    • Thank you, Tim. Union first team proved it can beat a USL team. Hooray.and like a minor league baseball team they tend to win at home not on the road.
      Jim Curtin job secure for 2018 based on this win.
      Congratulations Jim.
      To those saying pro relegation the answer, the Union will be Bournemouth or Norwich. Up from usl and down again. Can’t believe that would be much better than this season.

    • You mean Orlando “played the kids.”

  7. Fun game to be at although obviously not Orlando’s A team.
    Nice to see BC get 45 minutes without looking like it was his first action of the season.
    Definitely a better finish to the season this year with 11 points in the last 7 games compared with 2 points over the same stretch last year. Hopefully it will lead to a better start in 2018 than we saw in 2017.

    • Not his first action, his 1st with the Union.
      Started season opener for the Steel at #6 when James Chambers was called away to Ireland by his father’s passing. And did a rehab stint in one game in Bethlehem after the back issue had been improved.
      I know, I know. Picky picky me.
      Worth mentioning because, while no names were named, it’s a safe guess that the veteran leadership in the locker room at halftime to which coach Burke referred after the game may have had something to do with BC. (Steel were down 0-2 at half, tied it, and lost late on a header 2-3.)

      • Thanks for the correction, Tim.
        Actually, I really should have said his first action since July when he played in the Swansea friendly. In either case, there are a lot of players who would be significantly less match fit after that layoff than BC was.

  8. I remember a few years ago we got stomped by ORL at home as the U didn’t show. This time they did. Best game I’ve ever seen. Now the question is do your stick with Curtin as they will play for him but he lacks the coaching level of ATL or NYFC?

    • Regarding your last question, below are the Union’s final regular season records during Jim Curtin’s time on staff. Note that he was an assistant in 2013 and took over as interim coach halfway through the 2014 season.
      2013: 12 wins, 12 losses, 10 ties
      2014: 10 wins, 12 losses, 12 ties
      2015: 10 wins, 17 losses, 7 ties
      2016: 11 wins, 14 losses, 9 ties
      2017: 11 wins, 14 losses, 9 ties
      Given that track record, why would anyone feel confident that the Union will be successful in 2018 or beyond with Jim Curtin as head coach?

  9. I know it was a meaningless game. But they punished a weak team at home. The way they should! Great to have BC in the game! Hope all the best for a class act. Great to see Haris tried to find him on a set piece. It would have been a story book ending for BC to score!

  10. This was the performance that I had been hoping, even expecting, to see all year. Well oiled passing, finishing by people that think about shooting, etc. Thanks, boys. Now, Blake showed again why I see him as the Union’s MVP. Without his magic, five or six of the draws and wins may not be points for this team. Last point: why do we continue to see better referees doing youth club games on weekends than in MLS? Sapong gets mugged, no call. A clean play by Sapong to head the ball, foul and yellow card. At times, it is laughable, but more often it is simply despicable.

  11. I would just like to point out that the Union’s home record this season was 12th in the league. That’s not even in the top half, for those of you keeping score at home. Apparently Talen was not nearly enough of a “fortress”. Combine that with a road record that ranks 20th, and… you get the picture.

    • And the sad thing about their home record is that it was the best season they’ve ever had at home. So our best ever season is worse than 11 other teams’ 2017 record. Yuck.

  12. Also, the Union finished the season in 16th place out of 22 teams. Any relegation rules would be speculative, but there is no way they would be relegated at that position using anything approaching the rules used in Europe. So can we please stop saying that pro/rel would be the answer to the Union’s woes?? Because it wouldn’t.

    • it wears me out it wears me out says:

      With respect this is a banal argument. Promotion and relegation do not exist in MLS therefore we cannot say with any degree of certainty what would or would not have happened.
      Likely this team would have been in the 2nd flight YEARS ago, already under new ownership and either looking to ascend or being happy as a lesser league team.

      • Or up and down regardless of ownership because no owners would spend Atlanta like amounts for 18,000 seats.
        Pro rel not answer in mls for at least next decade or two..but definitely at lower tiers could work and start.

      • Union goal’s thinking reflects some ideas I have had.
        But for minor league promotion and relegation, you have to have different levels — which is coming — and lots of teams — whether current trends continue is unknown.
        The USL expansion may possibly lead to three regional conferences instead of the current two with inter conference play existing only to make the schedules have equal numbers of games for everybody, as now.
        But how the NASL situation develops — next key date Oct. 31 when the judge hears the request for relief against the USSF ruling — and what the USL Canadian sides do with respect to this new Canadian Premier League that will being playing next summer after the World Cup, unless plans change, will directly affect USL.

      • If you really want to get technical, even DISCUSSING pro/rel is a banal argument because it is not happening in the US any time in the next decade or longer, and maybe ever. You might as well talk about soccer balls made of silicon, or jet propulsion cleats, or Lionel Messi playing for the Union. Those are all about equally realistic.

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