Preseason / Union match reports

Preseason match report: Philadelphia Union 1-2 D.C. United

Photo: 215pix

In their first preseason game in the Suncoast Invitational, Philadelphia Union fell 2-1 to D.C. United at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla.

United forward Darren Mattocks opened the scoring with an early header. The goal jumpstarted the Union, who dominated large portions of the contest but couldn’t find a response until a headed effort from forward Cory Burke leveled the match in the 88th minute. Just a minute later though, D.C.’s Luciano Acosta capitalized on a horrid mistake by Richie Marquez and secured the victory with a late goal.

Union head coach Jim Curtin’s lineup may have shed light on three ongoing positional battles. Raymon Gaddis got the nod at right back ahead of Keegan Rosenberry. Homegrown player Auston Trusty paired with Jack Elliott at center back, a familiar partnership so far this preseason. And, of significant interest, 18-year-old Anthony Fontana was given the first chance to impress in the No. 10 role with Ilsinho injured.

D.C. United struck first in the 15th minute, with the goal coming from their new forward. Hungarian midfielder Zoltan Stieber capitalized on the space the Union gave, swinging a cross into the box. Mattocks, acquired in December from Portland Timbers, beat Gaddis to the far post and headed past helpless Philadelphia goalkeeper John McCarthy.

Only a minute later, United nearly doubled their lead. Union left back Fabinho took a tactical foul and earned a yellow card after pulling down U.S. international Paul Arriola just outside of the box. Stieber’s left-footed free kick was bound for the upper corner, but a leaping McCarthy denied the curled effort.

The save seemed to wake a listless Union side.

Philadelphia’s first real chance came in the 20th minute. Forward C.J. Sapong found space behind the D.C. back line and rounded goalkeeper Steve Clark, but he drifted toward the right edge of the box in the process. It gave center back Steve Birnbaum the angle to rejoin the play, and he cleared Sapong’s off-balanced finish from the goal line.

The Union couldn’t take advantage of a penalty earned by Sapong in the 29th minute. After the referee awarded the rather weak penalty, Sapong stepped up and fired to Clark’s right. The effort was too close to center, letting the keeper get just enough to push the shot off the crossbar.

With possession being dictated by Philadelphia, the Boys in Blue pressed in the final third, but couldn’t break down United. A Fabian Herbers effort from a tough angle found the outside of the near post. Later, Fabinho fired his own rocket from distance, but the effort was pushed over by Clark.

Curtin made only two changes at the half, bringing on forward Jay Simpson for Sapong and right back Keegan Rosenberry for Gaddis.

The English-born attacker, competing for minutes with the newly signed Cory Burke, made an almost immediate impact. Simpson turned D.C. center back Frederic Brilliant in the box with some brilliant footwork of his own before firing a left-footed effort across the frame of goal. It was ever-so-close, but bounced just wide of the far post.

Mattocks and Stieber nearly combined again for United’s second in the 60th minute. Stieber found space down the Union’s right flank and drove toward the box. As Elliott came forward, Mattocks snuck into the vacated space to receive the pass. Equidistant from the end line and the right goal post, the Jamaican forward tried to bend a right-footed chip into the far corner from the tight angle. McCarthy’s hand, however, made sure the deficit remained at one.

Philadelphia’s fresh legs, brought on in a mass substitution in the 62nd minute, continued to maintain pressure on D.C. United.

The biggest miss of the night came in the 81st minute. Warren Creavalle’s no-look pass launched a beautiful sequence from the Union down the right flank. Rosenberry drove into the final third before feeding the ball to Fafa Picault. The speedy winger sliced into the box with pace, remaining parallel to the end line. He then squared a pass to attacking midfielder Adam Najem. Battling for the starting No. 10 role, the 23-year-old had a golden opportunity to not only level the game, but also impress his coach. From about a yard behind the penalty spot, Najem fired, but his attempt sailed over the crossbar.

In spite of the miss, Najem still found a way to make his mark on the match. Forward Cory Burke had come on in the 76th minute to replace Simpson. Najem sent a cross into the box in search of Burke, a 76th-minute substitute for Simpson. It was a pinpoint service. The Jamaican rose and headed past longtime Vancouver keeper David Ousted, leveling the match.

While just a preseason contest, it looked like the Union would at least have something concrete to show for 70 minutes of hard work.

Then Richie Marquez took that something, tied a piece of concrete to it, and dropped it off the coast of Tampa.

A minute after Burke’s goal, the center back had the ball at his feet with nobody behind him. Under little duress, Marquez gifted the ball to Luciano Acosta, who was then all alone behind the Union defense. Acosta calmly and cooly finished, beating goalkeeper Jake McGuire and Philadelphia Union. After successfully fighting back, it was all undone in an instant.

The Union will continue their preseason run in the Suncoast Invitational this Wednesday at 7 p.m. against Montreal Impact, looking for a better result.

Three points
  • Two-face. Which version of Rosenberry will the Union get in 2018? In this game, at least, Philadelphia got the left back who earned an invitation to the U.S. camp. He attacked with conviction and defended with heart. Unlike last season, Rosenberry didn’t look caught between two minds.
  • Trusty the process. The Philadelphia basketball team isn’t the only local squad with talented youngsters. Trusty looks closer to locking down a starting spot on Opening Day. Marquez might have ensured that tonight.
  • No No. 10 news. Fontana looked to have the edge, getting the start, but failed to make any real impact. Najem provided a great assist but had a terrible miss. Ilsinho’s injury has complicated things, and neither “kid” claimed the job as their own today.

Philadelphia Union

John McCarthy; Raymon Gaddis (Keegan Rosenberry 45′), Jack Elliott (Joshua Yaro 62′), Auston Trusty (Richie Marquez 62′), Fabinho (Matthew Real 62′); Alejandro Bedoya (Warren Creavalle 62′), Anthony Fontana (Adam Najem 62′), Haris Medunjanin (Derrick Jones 62′); Fabian Herbers (Fafa Picault 62′), C.J. Sapong (Jay Simpson 45′) (Cory Burke 76′), David Accam (Marcus Epps 62′)

D.C. United

Steve Clark (Ousted 45′); Oniel Fisher, Steve Birnbaum, Frederic Brilliant (Opare 68′), Nick DeLeon; Junior Moreno (Durkin 45′); Yamil Asad (Acosta 45′), Zoltan Stieber, Ulises Segura, Paul Arriola; Darren Mattocks (Mullins 65′)
70th minute subs: Ian Harkes, Chris Odoi-Atsem, Bruno Miranda, Jalen Robinson, Jared Jeffrey

Scoring summary

DC: Mattocks – 15′ (Stieber)
PHI: Burke – 88′ (Najem)
DC: Acosta – 89′


  1. I watched. Gaddis, Fabinho, same as last year….related…I enjoyed Real and Rosenberry, and thought their 2018 was a good season. Can’t wait to see them in 2019.

    • I thought Corey Burke was fun, and so was Fontana and Najem….let them play.
      All three had plays here and there where Union regulars seemed confused by the creativity and success of a particular move, and promptly screwed the pooch.

    • Forgot. Trusty definitely looking like he belongs at this level.

  2. Please just play rosenberry. Gaddis is fine and all, but he can’t be our future. Let Rosenberry show if he’s matured or hasn’t. Also, seems stupid, but I’m glad Curtin took off CJ at half to give Simpson and then Burke a run. I just feel like other iterations of Curtin would have kept CJ in, even for a preseason game.

  3. John P. O'Donnell Jr says:

    Something about Corey Burke this year. He been scoring against the second team, I like to see him start the next game to see what he looks like against better competition. Najem buries that goal and…..sadly he looked a little overwhelmed with the moment. Good thing is he didn’t get down and that pass was spot on. Lastly, is it just me seeing the front line not passing to finish and instead taking a bad shot?

    • Burke is looking like a solid backup player. First of that kind to be trained up by Steel, which is very useful to roster building but never gets discussed. Shame he’s already 26 and not a little younger though.

      • Did Simpson do anything else besides turn a guy to merit a spot over Burke? Based on his work with Steel last year and reports from this year so far, it sounds like Burke really should have the #2 spot behind CJ.

  4. Pure Guesswork
    Always remember that anytime a coach says anything to the public he is also talking to his team, especially in preseason when all players are judging where they stand in his mind at that particular minute.
    Therefore, the exact syntax and non-verbal tone of Jim Curtin’s words matter, as do the nuances of his substitution patterns.
    He refers to his preseason as having three phases, and has subdivided the third phase – the current one – into two parts, namely, working on team wide concepts up until the Suncoast Invitational and then doing whatever it takes to take get a result.
    Hence we guess that in minds of the coaches and the minds of the team, Saturday night’s match represented the beginning of formal exposure to ticket-buying public in general, and their Philadlephia fans in particular.
    The concrete significance of the guesswork might be that Gaddis and Rosenberry are in a head-to-head competition and as last year’s starter, Gaddis gets the courtesy of the first start on the public stage. Outsiders have no idea how Jim Curtin sets up the internal dynamics of his group. Outsiders easily understand that he needs to win and keep their trust and confidence. That Gaddis and Rosenberry received equal time suggests that formally the competition has not yet been resolved.
    In similar fashion, interpret the careful details of the competition at striker, the competition for the number 2 slot backing up C. J. Sapong between Jay Simpson and Cory Burke. It is clear that there is one. Simpson is receiving the courtesy due a returning first-teamer. His minutes are equal to Sapong’s while Burke’s are not.
    But Steel fans are noticing that the big Jamaican is banging bodies with the best of them, and that he has both of the goals the first team roster has scored during the second Florida sojourn. They have noticed further that both assists came from men with whom he played in Bethlehem.

  5. Does anyone know where I can find a full replay of the match?

    • I’ve been looking everywhere. None seem to exist

      • Found it. Go on the MLS website. Find the preseason recap page although that’s not what they call it.
        Scroll down to Feb 17 and under score and all the recaps links The is a link that says replay, next to one for Suncoast invitational. I did not test the link.

    • It was broadcast on the Rowdies YouTube. Look up suncoast invitational. Probably something on YouTube somewhere still.

    • Did you search Philadelphia Union on You Tube? I thought I saw a replay available sometime a little before 4 pm Sunday. It may take a while to get that much data uploaded and checked for functionality. And if a third party is the primary producer, that may affect things.
      I was not looking for it so my information is peripheral vision quality rather than solid.

      • I was wrong. It was neither the Union nor major league soccer. I cannot remember what it was, sorry.

  6. FWIW, from Matt Doyle:
    I watched a little bit of 3 games so take the following with a grain of salt. Here are the players who impressed me today:
    Zoltán Stieber, Junior Moreno, Lucho Acosta, Austin Trusty, Keegan Rosenberry, Adam Najem, Trapp & Artur, Carleton, TomThom, Ola, Amarikwa

  7. Is McCarthy looking better as backup to Blake?
    Two things worry me about him…
    1. In the past he has seemed unnerved when scored upon…very emotional, visibly upset, waving his hands and chastising the defense in an exaggerated manner. How has he been this preseason?
    2. History of concussion. I know sylvestre signed elsewhere…do we have enough depth at gk at Bethlehem? Not looking for another M’bohli but just assurance of depth.

    • I thought McCarty looked like a solid MLS starter last year when Blake was away. I have no worries about him as a backup other than the concussion issue, but it’s been a while wince he had one so that’s always encouraging.

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