Union match reports

Match report: Colorado Rapids 3-0 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Corbin Elliott/Prost Amerika

Philadelphia Union’s first road trip of 2018 looked a lot like 2017.

After the Union controlled the ball in the opening 45 minutes, the Colorado Rapids smashed the visitors 3-0 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park behind a dominant second half highlighted by forward Dominique Badji’s first career hat trick.

A year after winning just one game away from Talen Energy Stadium, Philadelphia’s pre-match alterations to their travel schedule proved to make no difference for the final result. The 90 minutes spent on the field matter more than all the time spent in a different time zone.

Head coach Jim Curtin made one change to the side that played to a scoreless draw with Columbus Crew two weeks ago. With the injury to Fabinho, Curtin opted for youth at left back. Homegrown Matt Real made his MLS debut ahead of veteran Raymon Gaddis.

In the first half, the Union dominated the ball. Against the Rapids’ high press, Philly chose to maintain possession rather than loaf the ball upfield. The young back line moved the ball around the pitch with assurance, forcing the home side Colorado chase the game.

Despite securing 56.4% of possession on the road, Philadelphia failed to generate a shot on goal. The Union were the better team in the first half, but couldn’t produce that crucial movement in the final third.

It was largely due to the risk-averse play of the fullbacks on both teams. Because of the danger that winger David Accam presents, Colorado right wingback Marlon Hairston was reluctant to press upfield. Conversely, Real failed to take that space and add another option to the Union attack. Unlike Fabinho, with his endless overlapping runs , the 18-year-old was conservative in his positioning.

Of course, it was the Rapids who generated the only dangerous moment of the half against the run of play. Goalkeeper Andre Blake made a diving stop from a Colorado corner kick, and Real cleared a follow-up attempt from the line in the 44th minute. It ensured the contest would be scoreless after 45 minutes of action.

If halftime is the opportunity for adjustments, only one side took advantage.

Colorado seized control from the Union at the restart and never looked back.

The Rapids broke the deadlock in the 53rd minute. Midfielder Jack Price sent an out-swinging corner from the right flag into the box. English center back Tommy Smith rose over C.J. Sapong and headed the ball to the back post. Badji was there to knock in his second of the season from close range, beating center back Jack Elliott to the spot. Oh and by the way, Colorado was the only team not to score from a corner in 2017.

The forward from Senegal wasn’t done.

Badji added a second goal in the 61st minute. After laying off a lovely ball to midfielder Johan Blomberg in the box, the resulting shot deflected off Elliott and back to Badji. With Blake out of position after the initial strike, Badji easily deposited a back-breaker into the empty net.

It wasn’t until the 81st minute that the Union finally got their first shot on goal. It was a routine header from center back Auston Trusty — playing in a back three after Real was removed for striker Cory Burke in the 75th minute — straight at goalkeeper Tim Howard.

The only dangerous moment from Philadelphia came in the 89th minute. Haris Medunjanin fired a free kick from just outside the box, but it wasn’t enough to mar Howard’s clean sheet.

Just to emphasize the Union’s abysmal second half performance, Badji finished off his hat trick in the 87th minute. Blomberg played a long ball over the Philadelphia defense to the pacy attacker running off Elliott’s back shoulder. The forward created space and fire a low shot across frame and inside of the far post.

It sealed the Union’s first loss of 2018.

Three points
  • Attacking woes. Despite controlling the opening portion of the match, the Union failed to get any chances on frame. The attack was static in the final third and has yet to score an even-strength goal in 2018.
  • Young defense. By no means was it a great performance, but this result falls more on the shoulders of a midfield unable regain control in the second half than on the Union’s youthful back four.
  • The collapse. It will be interesting to find out why the Union came out so flat after the halftime whistle. Colorado made every adjustment, and the Union couldn’t provide any answers.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake; Keegan Rosenberry, Jack Elliott, Auston Trusty, Matt Real (Cory Burke 75′); Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Borek Dockal (Anthony Fontana 82′), Fabian Herbers (Ilsinho 64′), David Accam; C.J. Sapong
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Mark McKenzie, Raymon Gaddis, Warren Creavalle

Colorado Rapids

Tim Howard; Tommy Smith, Danny Wilson (Axel Sjoberg HT), Deklan Wynne; Édgar Castillo, Enzo Martinez, Jack Price, Johan Blomberg, Marlon Hairston (Dillon Serna 60′); Dominique Badji, Joe Mason (Stefan Aigner 79′)
Unused Subs: Zac MacMath, Bismark Boateng, Micheal Azira, Niki Jackson

Scoring summary

COL: 53′ – Dominique Badji (Smith, Price)
COL: 61′ – Dominique Badji
COL: 87′ – Dominique Badji (Blomberg)

Disciplinary summary

COL: 48′ – Jack Price (unsporting behavior)
COL: 63′ – Johan Blomberg (handball)
COL: 69′ – Dillon Serna (time wasting)

Colorado Rapids Philadelphia Union
 12 Shots  15
 5 Shots on Target  4
 4 Shots off Target  8
 3 Blocked Shots 3
 6 Corner Kicks 4
 18 Crosses  18
 1 Offsides  1
 14 Fouls  11
 3 Yellow Cards 0
 0 Red Cards  0
 387 Total Passes  493
 75% Passing Accuracy  80%
 44.5% Possession  55.5%
 54 Duels Won  52
 51% Duels Won %  49%
 12 Tackles Won 5
 4 Saves 2
 26 Clearances  13


  1. el Pchyderm says:

    Unable to watch a second of game this week … but if PSP has written in a match report once, “Union play well in first half then get out adjusted in second half” PSP has written these words forever in the Curtin era.
    It is truly breathtaking after how many years and for multiple reasons, we still have NO IDEA what this manager really is.
    is it viral
    ivy poison
    is it autoimmune
    pink granular
    is it in my head
    &going to be okay
    am I going to die
    finding out

    • Great One says:

      I’m pretty sure we all know what this manager is.

    • And what would you have changed to give us the 3-0 win?

      • You’re probly right, we should probly just give up at this point, nothing can be changed or different right?

      • el Pachyderm says:

        Did you not read my post, Chief. The comment was about PSP match reports. I did not see this week’s game- only read — yet again how the game was a ‘tale of two half’s.’
        The is undeniable and undebatable.

      • I’ll make sure to put “a tale of two halves” on the list of phrases to no longer use. 😉

      • Tim Jones says:

        Oh dear. Dan, if you do that, what alternative will I use, since I am one of the offenders? 😉

      • UnionGoal says:

        Dan…you can only strike phrase from psp articles when union_or more accurately, Curtin–removes the cause.
        Maybe better idea is for a psp contest to come up with best half-time speeches Curtin can use.
        Just saying.

    • The Chief says:

      Ah Ok I understand. I did watch it, and it was not great. However, I’m at a loss as to what we can change to make all that big of a difference, within reason. Saying we need to get rid of the entire team is unreasonable in case one needs reference.

      • Darth Harvey says:

        I don’t think anyone is calling for the whole team to be replaced anymore. We have gone through a lot of turnover in the offseason with the offloading of contracts (with little to no replacement) but the starting lineup is 50% new players. The same thing keeps happening at halftime regardless of who is on the field, because we have the same manager leading the team.

        I’m not saying that I know what the appropriate response to Colorado’s adjustments at halftime should’ve been, but that’s why I sell software and watch soccer. I’m not being paid to coach a professional sports team.

        Do we think the Berhalters, the Sigis, heck even the Bob Bradleys of the world, would go into that second half, see what Colorado was doing, and say “Welp – I guess they have us figured out…you boys are on your own.”

        We won’t do better until we can coach better.

    • The difference between halves was seriously ridiculous. The halftime whistle is a dead end for the union. If they’re leading, it’s usually a draw or loss. If they’re tied, it’s usually a loss. If they’re trailing, turn it off.

  2. Tim Jones says:

    In the first half they played with the 20 mph wind. In the second, against it.
    David Accam’s presence means the opposition is not attempting to play with a high restraining line
    Both organization teams went to a three man backline, and played that defense with some credibility. The differing levels of success reflect poorly on Nashville, it seemed to me, as the difference’s primary cause.
    Both teams, the Union and the Steel, were better prepared than their opponents coming out of preseason in their respective opening games, to give credit where it is due.
    Dockal is still on the road towards North American level conditioning for games, and the only way he gets there is games themselves. Barnetta did not become decisively influential instantly either. We as yet have no idea whether the Czech will ever match the Swiss in that regard. Or the Frenchman of Portuguese descent.
    The most interesting new thing I saw all day was how well Adam Najem played as a defensive center midfielder for Bethlehem after James Chambers went off.

  3. Great One says:

    Not sure how this didn’t come down to a few key points. Number 1 is how Curtin continually and always gets out-adjusted and out-managed. It’s actually amazing that it continues so clearly on this narrative over and over. Nothing much else matters after this, Curtin got crushed.
    Second straight game that the wings were more or less conceded to us, Accam was doubled, and CJ was more or less allowed to drop and see what he can do. Herbers didn’t take advantage, the union never switched up attacks, and CJ never differed his movement. This meant Colorado didn’t have to adjust either. They watched how we moved in the first half, made some minor changes and punished in the second half.
    Decent overall night for the back line, minus Elliott. Hard to blame him though, the first goal was clearly his doing, just a quick mental mistske that happened to have the ball fall there. The second was a fluke, third was being tired. Gonna just chalk this one up to “shit happens” sometimes. Good to see Rosenberry have another good game, this should be even better when we have a real right midfielder.
    Real dreck overall, less and less to point out as positives in each game so far. Curtin better figure out what to do when Accam is doubled, because that will be every game now.

  4. How much longer must we suffer the fools who own, direct, and COACH this team? Stupid:” Knowing the truth, seeing the truth but still believing the lies.” Nothing is going to improve under the current regime!

  5. Not too worried about defense either. Dockal better figure it out fast . I don’t have the optimism that I had at the beginning of this season. Did not see the beginning of the game. No Fafa yet? When He returns it will be impossible for any team to double up on Accam. offense should improve with his return. Herbers has struggled this season. Happy to see Pontius score at LA yesterday. The guy is a real grinder. Ibrahamavic is just amazing. Still a Union fan but I got watch La just to see what he does.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Yes and the seriously good news is, the Union marketing department will be sure to remind you to tune in to the LAG games or Seattle or Chicago —as this is all one big happy family.

  6. Curtin…oof. My word Man. Even if you don’t understand what’s going on in real time, let an inten watch the first half and tell you. Then adjust! Do you just go get a beer and hang out during halftime like us other fans?!

    Sapong…he really needs a coach. The poor guy is doing the exact same things…like he’s an old video game player. Working hard, but Predictable. Assuming a different lineup never happens, I bet a couple good pointers with video sessions, and a freaking coaching strategy would work wonders.

    Defense…young guy mistakes and flukes. Hard to win when your offense can’t score. Keep plugging guys! Can’t wait to see a couple of you in National Team colors someday.

    Midfield…might be you guys need to coach yourselves. Go out to dinner as a group weekly and strategize for quick adjustments. Maybe come up with your own game plan ideas for second halves. Might be you need to score on your own. Sapong will support your plays, I’d bet.

    I’ve said this for the whole Curtin era, but my kids say I’m always repeating myself anyway so…the Union always seem to play like they met in the parking lot before the game. Everyone’s trying, but they’re trying to do it themselves. Generic and hopeful.

    Just one game, but oh so familiar.

    • Saw this posted by someone on Brotherly Game.
      135 road league games in Union history.
      Only 25 wins.
      If true, that is quite a pattern. I wonder what the league average is for away games? I wonder how many ties in that 135? Anecdotally, it seems many visiting teams come to Philly and win or tie.

    • I am on the same page as you. The team now has enough pieces to be a playoff team. The offense with accam sapong and fafa should be able to produce 2 goals a game. The defense should be able to hold the opponents to 2 or under every game. The midfield is more than adequate. if dockal meshes with the team soon they should be better and be getting win or tie 2 of of every 3 games. and maybe a loss every fourth. That’s what this team looks like to me on paper.

      If curtin does not have them on a clear track to the playoffs in the next 10 games he must be fired.

      Ernie has put a decent team together as asked . Its up to Curtin now. I never liked the guys. He is unimaginative as you said does and not game adjust and has no emotion. What a boor. A true stick in the mud who does not inspire his team or fans of the team.

  7. This offense still has no idea what to do with the ball. No interchanging movement. Lots of stopping and watching others with the ball. Still no strategy to get Accam involved in the attack besides giving it to him and letting him run at 3 to 5 players. I understand they are still trying to all fit in but it doesn’t look promising so far. Real was fine. Wish he was a bit more aggressive. But the kids did fine. Can’t blame Jack for the deflection. It happens. Let’s hope one of these new coaches has better ideas about offense.

  8. John Harris says:

    There were specific inadequacies last night. DO NOT FORGET THE ZEITGEIST of this organization… cheap, unambitious ownership.

  9. It’s not that Curtin has again been out coached at the half, it’s for the THIRD time in three games he’s had multiple weeks to prepare for a team and presented ZERO ideas on how to attack.
    Imagine if Trusty got that first half tackle on Aguedelo wrong in the box against the Revs and they could be on 1 point. They get SJEand OCFC at home. Both meh squads. Anything less than 6 points and this team will have a rough May on the road.

    • Joel Pterasaur says:

      Yeah it wasn’t so much he was out coached in the second half, he was just out coached period. The Rapid were perfect happy to sit back and let us run around with meaningless possession in the first half and then hit hard in the second when we were gassed.
      Our front four is simply atrocious. Sapong is big and strong, but everyone knows he’s not a threat on goal. Accam is useless unless in space. Herbers…what is he doing on the 18. I can’t remember him playing a single pass that wasn’t backwards. And Dockal…what a disappointment. We paid how much money for this? Go grab someone off the street, they’ll have more of clue than that guy. Maybe I’m wrong…maybe he’ll make me eat my words (I truely hope he does) but nothing I’ve seen from him has shown even a glimmer of a competent player…much less a playmaker.

  10. OneManWolfpack says:

    Tale of two halves. Curtin can’t figure it out. Offense can’t or won’t shoot. Same old story. So Union and so damn frustrating. An extremely winnable game they got nothing from.

  11. I think I’ve hit peak ennui. Don’t even care anymore. I’ll tune in if nothing else is going on, but I’m not going to be making any appointments to see this team fail on a weekly basis. And that’s what they’re going to do.

    • Similar apathy. I saw City play brilliantly in the AM. El Trafico in the afternoon—some of the best MLS soccer I’ve ever seen—and laughed knowing the Union would be anywhere near “entertaining” let alone muster anything resembling cohesion. After the St Patty dreck I witnessed in person, I casually watched half one, seeing enough of nothing, then DVR scrubbed two. So glad I didn’t waste 45+ on that.

      • Ditto — I saw Liverpool in the A.M., Bayern Munich destroy Dortmund at noon, the best MLS game I’ve ever seen in midafternoon, all the while thinking: tonight’s going to be a serious anticlimax. And I got what I expected, after being almost somewhat entertained by the Union’s play for the first 20-ish minutes. Even so, that LA-LA game had me feeling like MLS had just about arrived on the “serious league” scene…until I then realized that there are only a handful of teams in the league that have talent on that level.

  12. The Truth says:

    The Union play like they’re allergic to the final third; hilariously uninventive, listless, and lame.

  13. 2014 through 2017-The Union were the better team in the first half, but couldn’t produce that crucial movement in the final third.
    Until Curtain is fired-The Union were the better team in the first half, but couldn’t produce that crucial movement in the final third.

    • EXACTLY… insanity. Doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. Curtin is not a bad guy, just the wrong guy for this role, and JAY IS TO BLAME. THE BUCKS STOPS WITH OUR CHEAP OWNER.

      SELL THE TEAM TO OTHER PHILADELPHIA OWNERS! Jeff Lurie, could fill LFF with 20,000 per game, during the Eagles off season, nicely… and get us out of Chester once and for all! PLEASE SELL THE TEAM.

  14. This team is too predictable, and they need to learn how to possess the ball correctly. They force play down the field , every cross is hopeful. I think ilsinho needs to be implemented more for creativity going forward, unfortunately it’s hard for surrounding players to link up and to be on the same page as ilsinho when he has the ball. We’re missing Fabi as well. Real didn’t look bad at all but no one has the offensive prowess of Fabi to take on the opposition one on one and to put dangerous crosses in the box. He has been the best left back on the team thus far. He’s like our own Marcello in a way (not comparing the two).

  15. The definition of insanity is………………..

    doing the same thing, over and over, expecting a different result.

    BIG DEAL, Curtin changed up the travel schedule. AUKM? With kids this young, you mean to say they already need to be coddled and pampered? I can see an old guy like Ilsinho.

    ITS THE COACH. OMG…………….. can’t anyone in that management structure see that we are just NOT of MLS quality in our game plan, our execution or our player selection? Starting Real over Ray is ridiculous. Curtin has done that exact thing to countless players, and we wonder why Vinny and Tanquillo said “bye bye”? Dochal will be next! Just watch.

    This is ridiculous…………… 9 seasons and same ole, same ole. NO SHOTS ON GOAL……… and it seems like Chris Pontius found his scoring touch again!!!! Just ridiculous.

  16. Yes, Curtin has been the number one problem. He should have been let go already and they decided to keep him so get used to the same old Union strategy and play.

  17. Quaker Shiker says:

    Founding member, until this season. I re-newed then called back my Rep and dropped when Ernie gave his full confidence to Jim Curtin for 2018.
    He is a “NICE” guy, but nice guys finish last, and I am tired of that.
    Still watching, just not paying for three seats and beers.
    PLEASE find us a coach.

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