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Match Report: Philadelphia Union 0-0 Columbus Crew

Photo: 215pix

Philadelphia Union and Columbus Crew played out a dour scoreless draw in front of a sparse crowd attending a 2 p.m. matinee at Talen Energy Stadium.

Jim Curtin made just one change to the team that defeated New England two weeks ago, with Borek Dockal making his first appearance for the Union, replacing Anthony Fontana.

Philadelphia did well to keep possession in the opening quarter of the match, but chances were few and far between against an organized Columbus defense. The best chance in that period came when Keegan Rosenberry’s whipped-in cross was corralled by C.J. Sapong and left off for a shot from Dockal. But the effort was rushed and sailed over the bar.

The Crew would have a decent chance in the 27th minute. Federico Higuain’s deft pass in the midfield freed Gyasi Zardes down the center of the pitch, but pressure from Jack Elliott was enough to put off the striker. The ex-Galaxy man fired his shot into River End.

There were chances at either end to start the second half. First, David Accam lined up a shot from 18 yards that was on target, but did little to trouble to Zack Steffen. Then, Zardes headed just wide of Andre Blake’s goal as Columbus struck on the counter.

Further chances were hard to come by as the game wore on. Cory Burke was a lively replacement for Fabian Herbers after he entered in the 63rd minute. But it was only half-chances and close calls for either side as the game ended scoreless.

After another bye week, the Union are next in action when they travel to Colorado to face the Rapids. Kickoff on March 31 is at 9 p.m.

Three points
  • Slow start for Dockal. The new man struggled to find the game for most of his 77-minute outing against an organized Columbus team. He’ll look to be more involved in two weeks in Colorado.
  • Not much action for Accam. David Accam found himself stifled by the Crew defense, with little room to run at defenders and touches in the final third hard to come by.
  • Another clean sheet. Auston Trusty and Jack Elliott looked sharp and kept the Crew at bay for much of the match. While there will be disappointment in not creating more going forward, the defense has started the season with two clean sheets.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Keegan Rosenberry, Jack Elliott, Auston Trusty, Fabinho (Ray Gaddis 45′), Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Borek Dockal (Anthony Fontana 77′), Fabian Herbers (Cory Burke 63′), David Accam, C.J. Sapong
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Richie Marquez, Jay Simpson, Derrick Jones

Columbus Crew

Zack Steffen, Harrison Afful, Lalas Abubakar, Jonathan Mensah, Milton Valenzuela, Pedro Santos, Artur, Cristian Martinez (Niko Hansen 73′), Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain, Gyasi Zardes
Unused Subs: Josh Williams, Ricardo Clark, Mohammed Abu, Luis Argudo, Hector Jimenez, Jon Kempin

Scoring summary
Disciplinary summary

CLB: Artur — 53′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI: Alejandro Bedoya — 76′ (unsporting behavior)
CLB: Federico Higuain – 79′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI: Keegan Rosenberry – 88′ (unsporting behavior)

Philadelphia Union Columbus Crew
 9 Shots  11
 3 Shots on Target  3
 4 Shots off Target  6
 2 Blocked Shots 2
 2 Corner Kicks 3
 18 Crosses  17
 0 Offsides  4
 14 Fouls  15
 2 Yellow Cards 2
 0 Red Cards  0
 510 Total Passes  540
 83% Passing Accuracy  84%
 48.6% Possession  51.4%
 48 Duels Won  50
 49% Duels Won %  51%
 9 Tackles Won 13
 3 Saves 3
 18 Clearances  14


  1. thoughts
    -Damn nobody was there
    -I was ready to rechristen Fabhino’s Sun Rocket to Herbers
    -I think Burke should get the next start on the right.
    -We need a Left back of the future someone step up
    -Going to Columbus may be the best thing for Zardes be may flourish being the man.
    -Rosenberry had a great game

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Agreed on Rosenberry. He seems to be back. Had a really good day today. Also agree on Burke. Anyone but Herbers

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Nice to see the shutout, but the offense needs to shoot more.
    Any idea why Fabhino came out at the half?

  3. OneManWolfpack says:

    Herbers was atrocious today. I’m not liking the way he’s looked the first two games. Fafa can’t come back soon enough. Really enjoyed the defense today. Kept a solid Crew team in check. Good start to the season there. I was there and it was a light crowd… but again the weather was tough. All in all the Union have some weapons on O and I think if the D keeps playing this way they can be a real team this year. I’ll take a win and a draw to start the year. Not mad at all.

    • For whatever reason Herber’s running seemed really labored. It made me wonder if he was 100%.

      • Pepito, The Biggest Cat in the Whole Wide World says:

        Agreed. It looked like he was running through quicksand every time he got the ball at his feet. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen him on the field but I don’t remember him being that slow.

      • I said the same thing to my kids at the game. Actually used the quicksand reference as well….

        Herbers was just not good.

        Gaddis also looked poor – entirely unwilling/unable to get involved going up the wing

  4. I was happy to see the defense hold what was, prior to this game, a potent offense in check. The Union’s offense was just…uninspired. I can forgive a zero but show me some good build up or a nice passing sequence or at least some flubbed gilt-edged chances. Just felt super unthreatening. Dockal HAS to be better. I can’t tell you how many times I was screaming about the huge 40 yard hole in front of the Crew’s back four and NO ONE from the front four even tried to get a Crew back to follow him into it or even just move into the space to receive a pass. All in all…we didn’t lose so I’ll be mostly content for now, but they have to get better.

    • At one point, the camera showed Dockal yelling at Herbers. Dockal was making hand movements like, “friggen make a run and I’ll hook you up with a pass”. Herbers looked like he didn’t understand

      It was right after Dockal sent a pass that in, if Herbers made the run, would have produced a scoring opportunity.

  5. Wasn’t able to watch until the second half… Apparently ABC can’t broadcast the matches on streaming tv services? I had a cooking shown. MLS live didn’t work until the second half started.

    In the second half I saw an attack that was not at all coordinated. Poor passes, bad runs and driveler that fizzled out in the box. Maybe this inproves as the season progresses…. Hope it does.

    • For me, Jim Curtin’s comment, that the match flipped at halftime, was the best analysis I’ve seen so far.
      I would have put the flipping point at the 55th or 60th minute, not HT, but that’s based on the possession stats.
      In the first half the Union defended a good team quite successfully by jumping the passing lanes and possessing the ball.after the 65th, Columbus increased their energy, the union lost a step, and possession really turned.
      We saw how Jim Curtin wants to play in the first portion of the game. The subtleties of Dockal’s sense of supporting his striker were fun to watch, as was the dominance of the center of the pitch in the central channel by Bedoya, Medunjanin, and Dockal.
      Frederick Higuain diagnosed the weakness of the Unions possession strategy about three quarters of the way through the first half as Andre Blake’s feet, particularly his confidence in them in any situation other than long, high, direct clearances. Fortunately he was losing energy by the middle of the second half.
      The other adjustment Berghalter made was to get more out of Trapp and Artur in contesting the center of the pitch, and as Dockalks motor slowed, Columbus began effectively to contest that space.
      The union missed having a stronger offensive threat on the right flank. Herbers game is more combo play than individual penetration. Had Ilsinho been available, he would have been my preferred substitute. As it was Columbus could swarm both Accam and Sapong.
      Berghalter paid the Union full respect by playing his A side and reigning in his outside backs. We were taken seriously.
      The Union did not create chances. But we saw how they want to play the game, and they did so effectively for the first half plus ten. Thanks about right for the conditioning level at this stage of their season.

      • Love this summary. As someone who doesn’t always see as much as he wants in a match, I crave this.

  6. Section 114 (former) says:

    Yawn. Ownership.

  7. Pragmatist says:

    I would like to give Dockal time to get settled. And Columbus can be a tough midfield to break down, so it wasn’t a cakewalk intro. Not an excuse after some time acclimating, but let’s give him that time.
    Columbus is pretty good. This was a decent draw. We had a few chances that need to be cleaned up. But all in all, not a bad day, just bland.
    However, Trusty looked great. He schooled a CLB defender at one point on the left wing. Great move, plenty of confidence and created a chance.
    The ref needed to be more aware, also. There were a few moments where he took 2-3 minutes to get a simple restart going. One was a HM free kick outside the box, and he laid it off to Bedoya (I think). But it took so long to set up the restart that it completely fizzled. That is both on the ref, and on the Union for not realizing they needed to call an audible there.
    Still feel like early season. Still inside the 6-game window if “who are they?” But there were positives.

  8. el Pachyderm says:

    …..and two more weeks off.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Yeah really… WTF is this schedule?!?

      • Section 114 (former) says:

        After the schedule was announced the U agreed to reschedule a Seattle game for CCL reasons. That’s a classy move. Yeah, it’s annoying, but it was the right thing too.

      • Aren’t sounders out in ccl last week? Why reschedule next week?
        Agreed about weather and extra practice time but didn’t we learn last two years union can’t sustain compressed fall season…injuries and basic fatigue.
        Depth now doesn’t mean depth in late August.

      • UnionGoal – they rescheduled last week’s game. This weekend is an international window, I believe.

    • Zizouisgod says:

      Can’t even blame the international break as there are 7 MLS matches next weekend.

    • Joel Pterasaur says:

      I really cannot believe the incredible stupidity of this schedule. Here we are with a second week off…and there’s DC United who HAVE NO STADIUM playing every week. What a joke.

    • Honestly, I’m ok with it. First, I would much rather have our bye weeks now when it is cold and miserable, and instead have more games in the spring/summer. Second, we get to have a game in hand or 2 for most of the season. Lastly, these 2 bye weeks gives dockal precious time to speed the process of integrating into the team while minimizing the poor play resulting from the cohesion process.

  9. We saw what happened with a focused effort to hold down Accam. He is lightning though. CJ looked a little slow today. The turnover towards they end where he didn’t even get a shot off, that is why, while very solid, he is definitely not elite. Herbers was poor. Medunjanin was off as well. Rosenberry, Elliott and Trusty all very solid once again. Columbus is a good team, but with Accam in check the offense is very stalled. With Dockal the game we need more runs from CJ, Accam and Herbers. Too many long balls.

    • Every time Accam had the ball in the final third, he was swarmed by three defenders. The U had no answer to that.

      • Outside of the Box says:

        Seemed like every time Accam would go to the middle they would swarm him. Wish our other players had the presence of mind to play off of that, so Accam wouldn’t have to force a bad shot.

  10. They had two weeks to prepare and delivered dreck.

    • Atomic Spartan says:

      Yep. I understand the popular desire to see Borek Asap, but that did not make sense today given the opponent. Should have started Fontana because he has better knowledge of the moving parts of this team. We need more Burke, less Herbers.

  11. A final thought.
    By the end of the game it was clear that not everyone in the group was reading the high press “keys” together. Both Bedoya and Medunjanin stepped up to pressure, no one else did and each man gave the universal, non-verbal for “what gives, guys?”
    Haris Medunjanin sprinting forward into the attacking third to high pressure the ball late in the game is a testament to the man’s conditioning and his commitment to the philosophy.

  12. It’s still early in the season, so I’m not heart broken. In years past that second half swoon would have led to a Crew goal and a Union loss. I take some solace from this. There are some kinks to work out. I was buoyed by the amount of possession in the first half. Unfortunately it led to nothing tangible. My worry at the moment is Accam. Though not in his play. More that the Union don’t know how to use the new weapon they have. The give it to Accam and let him run at defenders, is not a strategy. It seemed like every time he got the ball he was quickly surrounded by two-three players and there was no other Union player around to help. There were no runs off on a tangent into the box to receive passes from him, no support. Losing Fabino made it entirely worse. When Gaddis came in, it was like the ball went to die on the left. Hopefully these things will change as Dockal gets more time with his teammates. For my money Fontana would have been the better option to start on the day because he has made those runs and did when he came in, but it was too late.

    • Zizouisgod says:

      Agreed on Accam. His influence was limited because much of the Union’s attack went up the right. It seemed like every time Accam got the ball, Columbus had plenty of cover nearby and not enough Union players to support him.

      It will be interesting to see how things evolve when Picault returns as he likely won’t require as much support as Herbers to generate attacking movements. It does make you wonder why the Union don’t just try Bedoya on the right since he drifts there anyway. Then you can have one of your central midfielders stay more central which will help Accam.

      • I’d rather have Burke at this point and leave Bedoya where he is. Burke offers so many more things IMO. That one play in the corner where he held off 2-3 defenders, would not happen with Bedoya or Fafa. Burke excites me. The other two, not as much.

  13. So I watched the post game interview with Borek. I love his attitude and his views. I think he’s in for a surprise though. What he saw, is mostly what we all here have pointed out for years. His observations about the up and down, back and forth play, are interesting in that, this is MLS play. His views/expectations/play are more advanced than MLS has shown previously. I wonder how long/when his disappointment with teammates will settle in. Don’t get me wrong, I love this attitude. I’m just not sure how well it’s going to settle with the rest of the players, or the coach.
    If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend you do.

    • I’m hoping he will be a leader, and influence the play of Accam, Sapong, and Picault. He knows where to put the ball, he just needs the others to be there.
      In a related note, the team as a whole needs to gel. When Fabi yells a Herbers after a blown pass, it speaks volumes.

  14. I agree less Herbers. He was not reading the game or his teammates. Could still be getting up to speed, possibly lack of time with Social. Ok with a tie. Stupid schedule keeps them from finding a flow just yet…

    • Ha….I should really proof read. Dockal… Not social… auto correct hates me! Maybe Herbers needs to socialize with Dockal…

  15. The more hours that pass since the game ended the more positive I feel. Columbus will probably be one of the best teams in the east. Berhalter has them in fine form and I don’t suspect that’ll falter anytime soon. We held them to no goals and few chances after a bye week. We didn’t score, yeah, but we were incorporating a new cog into our midfield and we’re without a starting winger. Our backline looks very good and we should all hope Fabi isn’t hurt. Let’s be annoyed but not disappointed.

  16. Meanwhile at BSFC Jones, Ayuk, Epps and Najem was the starting midfield, so the young guys were getting live game work in together too. Not a bad situation.

  17. I agree that (1) this game was not the most thrilling to watch, and (2) I think this was a good draw against a good team.

    The stands were sparse – except for The River End. Two good showings by TRE this season (after last year’s pretty sparse showings)

    Trusty and Jack were great again. Trusty’s run to get back and close on Zardes (totally cutting down the angle for Zardes to shoot) was probably the play of the game. He is sooo fast.

    I don’t know if Gaddis was told not to push forward, but he was mediocre the second half and virtually non-existent pushing forward up the wing (and the lack of a left foot even more obvious) to help create space for Accam. Part of the reason the Crew could double and triple Accam.

  18. Outside of the Box says:

    I thought Burke was a forward. Why don’t they play him there. I’m not hating on CJ. I liked the numbers that he put up last year. But if they are going to jam a forward in an outside position, I would rather it was CJ. It would be easier for Burke to play press Defense than try to figure out what he is supposed to be doing defensively on the outside. Also, in the couple of samples we have seen Burke, it seems he has better touch in tight spaces and I feel he may be a better partner for Dockal.

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