Union match reports

Match report: LAFC 4-1 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Peter Andrews

The Union’s first trip to Banc of California Stadium featured an unwelcome first — the first hat trick ever by a player for Los Angeles Football Club.

Adama Diomande struck three times and Latif Blessing added one in stoppage time, sending the Union to a 4-1 defeat in the city of angels on Saturday evening. Fafa Picault scored the Union’s lone goal, but it wasn’t enough to stop a dominant LAFC side.

Jim Curtin made one change to the team that dominated Vancouver last week. With Borek Dockal absent from the team for personal reasons, Ilsinho slid over to play the No. 10 and Marcus Epps came in on the right wing. Haris Medunjanin completed his suspension for a referee altercation with Atlanta last month, though the Bosnian traveled with the team and watched the match from the press box.

At kickoff, ex-USMNT manager Bob Bradley’s expansion side sat third in the Western Conference, picking up an impressive 27 points through 15 matches. LAFC came into the match shorthanded, though, with star men Carlos Vela and Diego Rossi missing out for the World Cup and rest, respectively.

The Union had the first quality chance of the match in the 11th minute, but C.J. Sapong couldn’t break his streak of poor form. Alejandro Bedoya did well to play the striker in on goal, where he found himself one-on-one with LAFC keeper Tyler Miller. But Sapong couldn’t get the ball out of his feet and Miller cleared the danger as far as Epps, who blasted it into LAFC’s safe-standing section.

The hosts, backed by a boisterous sellout crowd of 22,000, struck first in the 25th minute against the run of play. Latif Blessing got the ball to Adama Diomande at the corner of the box, who put rookie center back Mark McKenzie in the blender with a series of dribbles and fakes. Diomande then scythed a shot that crossed the face of goal and nestled inside Andre Blake’s far post for the opening score.

Mere moments later, the Union just missed an answer. Off a corner kick, Bedoya’s header looked destined for goal, but João Moutinho headed off the line from his defensive position on the post.

LAFC were not so wasteful. In the 43rd minute, the black and gold strung together a neat series of passes that cut Philadelphia’s defense to ribbons — Blessing to Benny Feilhaber to Mark-Anthony Kaye, who served it up on a platter for Diomande to earn his brace from point-blank range.

Facing a two-goal halftime deficit, the Union earned a vital first goal just moments later. Epps bombed down the wing and put in a sharp cross, missed by Sapong but unable to be controlled by Miller. The rebound fell right to Fafa Picault, who bundled home from close range to cut the deficit in half.

LAFC restored their advantage ten minutes after the half. Again moving the Union’s defense with quick passing, the ball came to substitute Aaron Kovar sprinting down his right wing. Kovar’s cross took a deflection off Blessing and fell right to Diomande, who hammered in his third goal of the evening. The Norwegian’s hat trick was the first in LAFC history, and it left the Union with a mountain to climb.

Needing two goals, Curtin opted to bring David Accam into the match, hoping the struggling Ghanaian could provide a spark in his longest MLS outing in a month. Cory Burke and Anthony Fontana joined him shortly afterward, but the Union looked no more dangerous after their introduction.

With Diomande off the pitch, Kovar looked to join the party in the 78th minute with a long-range strike that clanged off Blake’s post. The rebound fell to Lee Ngyuen to fire into an open net, but the assistant referee correctly flagged him offsides.

With the match well-decided, LAFC compounded the Union’s misery with a stoppage-time goal. Ngyuen unleashed a vicious shot at Blake, who stopped the shot but left the rebound. Blessing cleaned up into the open net, adding a deserved goal to two assists on the night.

The Union are back home next weekend for a grudge match with first-place Atlanta United. Kickoff at Talen Energy Stadium on July 7 is at 7 p.m.

Three points
  • Land of the midnight sun. Adama Diomande is on fire. The Norwegian has seven goals in his last four matches, including a hat trick on Saturday night. Philadelphia had no answer for number 99.
  • Defensive dysfunction. It was too easy at times for Bob Bradley’s side, who executed a smart gameplan that involved opening the Union up down the flanks. Back on their heels, Philadelphia offered their opponents too much time and space on the ball, and LAFC took advantage with some sweet buildup play leading to the second and third goals.
  • Inconsistency. It’s one step forward, one step back for the Union. Off an outstanding result against Vancouver and facing a weakened LAFC, the Union found themselves too easily overrun. Another tough test aways next week.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Keegan Rosenberry, Mark McKenzie, Auston Trusty, Ray Gaddis, Warren Creavalle, Alejandro Bedoya, Ilsinho (Anthony Fontana 82′), Marcus Epps (David Accam 62′), C.J. Sapong (Cory Burke 72′)
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Fabinho, Jack Elliott, Derrick Jones

Los Angeles Football Club

Tyler Miller, Steven Beitashour, Laurent Ciman, Walker Zimmerman, Joao Moutinho, Benny Feilhaber (Calum Mallace 87′), Eduard Atuesta (Aaron Kovar 54′), Mark-Anthony Kaye, Latif Blessing, Adama Diomande (Shaft Brewer 75′), Lee Ngyuen
Unused Subs: Charlie Lyon, Jordan Harvey, Dejan Jakovic, Tristan Blackmon

Scoring summary

LAFC: Adama Diomande — 25′ (Latif Blessing)
LAFC: Adama Diomande — 43′ (Mark-Anthony Kaye, Benny Feilhaber)
PHI: Fafa Picault — 45′
LAFC: Adama Diomande — 55′ (Latif Blessing)
LAFC: Latif Blessing — 90+6′

Disciplinary summary

LAFC: Steven Beitashour — 39′ (unsporting behavior)
LAFC: Lee Ngyuen — 85′ (persistent infringement)


  1. This game was lost when the lineup was put out. Curtin set this team up to fail, and they did. Sapong was horrid. Creavalle got exposed. He’s good in an emergency roll, but he can’t be counted on to anchor a defense. Just a mess.

    • Oh one game that’s not perfect for Creavalle and he’s a lost cause ? I’m sick of this mentality. Bedoya and Harris haven’t been on point every game either and they start every game. If Medunjanin was in the midfield we would have been so open and we probably would have been down more than 4 goals. Oh and our defenders that are starting right now are not that great. It’s when they are pressured by quality offenses we see how exposed they can be. Bedoya is no great defender. He gets beat a lot and fouls way too much. Does curtain ever give him shit for that? no ! Creavalle keeps the midfield in check and protects the middle. Keep him in.

      • Creavalle is not a starter in this league, period. Bedoya is actually a good defender so I don’t know what you’re watching. Haris can definitely be suspect but most of the time he makes up for his lack of pace with positioning. And then there’s his passing ability, which he outclasses Creavalle by a mile. What cause exactly do you think Creavalle has? He’s nothing but a backup here and if Derrick Jones is the future why are we wasting time? Do you want Danny Cruz out on the wing too?

      • Its funny, before this game there was talk on some message boards about how Creavalle should start over Haris. People are so hot/cold.

  2. Old Soccer Coach says:

    Dockal’s and Medunjanin’s absences may have also influenced the match.

    • Indeed, but Curtin’s selections after that were timid. He choose to put Ilsinho back in the middle where we saw a season and a half of that not working, instead of going with Fontana who has played well and is more industrious. He again chooses C.J. over Burke. There is just no good enough reason for this. Curtin starts Creavalle again, who granted has played well, as per his M.O., but when given an extended run of starts, quickly gets exposed. Curtin could have chosen Jones. Curtin could have went positive, instead he again plays negative and again another loss on the road.

      • John Harris says:


      • Two or 3 starts all season is extended run of starts ?? Really?? He does better at D mid than Bedoya and Medunjanin combined.

      • I don’t know Union 5, 3 starts in a row isn’t spot starting is it? So that would then be extended would it not? You would really choose Creavalle over Bedoya or Haris? Really?

      • Creavalle is a true Defensive mid. You think Bedoya is ??? He goes in way to hard all the time and I’m surprised he doesn’t have more yellows. Bedoya is just playing simple on the ball like Carrol did. And hey he’s doing a good job at it. Creavalle is backtracking and recovering when there’s a turnover in the middle of the pitch. Again , you’re looking at one game where Creavalle didn’t have his best game. Every other game he’s been fantastic. Every other game he’s been great on the ball and with his passing. He’s been a huge impact on the team.

      • Well Union 5 considering since before he got here, Bedoya has said his best position is D mid, and so has Curtin, and behold, He’s played really well there. So yes, I do believe he is a D mid. What I don’t believe is that Warren Cravalle is a starter in this league. What I can’t believe is your love for him. Tell us the truth, how much is he paying you? Is he your cousin?

  3. Down and Out in Beverly Hills………… The Absence of Dockal really showed his importance to this team. There was little going on in offensive half other than a couple of fleeting runs by Fafa ending with no options at the end of his runs. The team lost all its energy after the first 45 minutes ilsinio had a similar problem to Fafa, he made a couple of attacks 1 on 1 or 1 on 2 and had no option to go to. Epps seemed totally lost out there.

    Curtin should never ever stat Sapong again. He has been totally ineffective all season. He has no ball skills and last night did not get in good position to accept the rare cross or put a head on the ball on the few corner kicks the Union got. When the ball was put his feet he gave it right back to another union player. Burke may not be the answer but he has some ball skills and can actually turn an opponent turn the wrong way. He needs to start the rest of the season.

    Creavalle got exposed because he was often expected to be more forward to help the offense.

    Accam Sapong and Simpson all must go in the off season. They have been useless all season. Epps is not ready to play more then a few minutes a game to give rest to a tired player.

    I have heard no news at all about the Union acquiring a DP forward which they desperately need.

    • With some of the rumors that have been floating around the Union this summer transfer window could be interesting. Or as I fear more liley, pretty quiet. With Stewart leaving and who knows what’s going on. And if it’s anything like when he came here, he’s probably already half out the door.

  4. Andy Muenz says:

    Obviously it was going to be an uphill battle without two starting midfielders but I’m still not sure why Fontana didn’t start given that we all know Ilsinho isn’t a #10. They won on opening day with Fontana so it’s not like he can’t do it.
    We knew all along that with the young defense, there would be nights where they would make some mistakes and this was one of those nights. Probably not too bad to have it happen on a night where a result was really unlikely anyway.
    Hoping everything is alright in the Dockal family and the baby is just a few days late rather than some other issue.

  5. This loss is 100% on the coach. He plays Sapong again instead of Burke = 0 goals, he plays Ilsinho at the 10 = totally ineffective(HE IS NOT A 10 POSITION PLAYER) and once AGAIN proved he is not, his youthful back four have been struggling of late so instead of fine tuning he pulls his classic ‘AndyReid’ and repeats the same, predictably they get scorched. So the coach impeaded the forwards, mid-field and d-backs, what result could be expected??? If Curtin is still coaching next season as a founding member I WILL ‘SADLY’ NOT RE-UP MY SEASON TIX!!!’ It’s becoming a complete waste of my time and money and folks I bleed blue and gold. So sad to see this going on again and again and again and again

    • Andy Muenz says:

      While I disagree with Curtin’s choice at the 10, do you really think they wouldn’t have lost with any lineup he put out there given the players who were unavailable?
      Not sure where you get the idea that the back 4 have been struggling that much. They totally dominated Vancouver and held NJPC to one goal in the Open Cup. Yes, there were a couple of mistakes against Toronto but that was 3 weeks ago.
      Maybe Burke instead of Sapong would have done something, but it’s not like Burke did anything once he came on.
      So yes, I agree, Curtin shares in the blame but to place 100% of the blame on him is a vast simplification and overstatement.

    • In fairness to Andy Reid, at least he was exposed and lost at the end of the playoffs

  6. Andy Muenz says:

    BTW, did anyone else find Tommy Smyth annoying when he was complaining about the stadium design allowing the field to be partially covered in shadow when the only reason the same thing didn’t happen the prior week at Talen was that it was a cloudy day?

    • Smyth is correct. Shadows throw off basic precision that results in shanks, etc. Then again, we lack fine touches anyway so…

      • Andy Muenz says:

        But the fact that he was making a big deal about it in LA when no one has ever said a word about it at Talen…

    • Scottymac says:

      Talents field lies east to west, so the sun tends to track over the field. They used to provide an app to show sun glare by section at various points of the day.
      He was referring to Banc laying north to south, which would keep a portion of the field in shadow during afternoon games. It’s not often that our shamrock smuggler gets it right,but he was on that point.

    • That’s true Andy..it’s not a objection raised at home. That said, it raises a better Q for me….why do we have that lighting problem at Talen? A shadowed pitch doesn’t help our already inaccurate lads and may be a factor at times. It’s bad enough that Talen doesn’t have free public Wifi but not proper lighting?

  7. Man, why can’t we ever find players like Diomande?
    (Answer to rhetorical question = owner too cheap / no scouting infrastructure / over-spending on poor players)

    • The whole LAFC team is made up with players from all over who were cheap but excellent value. This shows what great scouting can do for a team. The Union look like total amateurs compared to LAFC in the scouting and coaching departments.

  8. Creavalle shouid be staring at the D mid. End of story. Why is it that when other players on his team have bad games we don’t hear anything about it. With out Creavalle in the middle there is a huge hole left in the midfield for teams to just break through. I think if we didn’t have Creavalle In the middle the score would’ve been more than just 4 goals. Harris and Bedoya are not D mids. They are really bad at it. No, I’m glad Creavalle was starting. Our defense right now sucks he’s players aren’t as good as people make them out to be. They need a poor quality striker. And I cannot put two forwards up top.

  9. John P. O'Donnell Jr. says:

    Moving Ilsinho to number 10 after he’s had two good games on the wing make zero sense. Play Fontana and don’t weaken two positions. It’s times to send CJ down to the Steel to learn how to just shoot the ball again. I think I read he’s only has 9 shots on goal this year….terrible.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      Perfect comments. Agree with it all. Curtin putting Ilsinho at the 10 was a predictible waste and hurt 2 positions. CJ my man… does a solid and sit yourself since Curtin apparently has no desire to do so

    • As of last week, one shot on goal for every 115 minutes or so (if I remember correctly).

  10. Diomande played for Bradley in Norway when he coached there. Those types of signings are what we were sold when Stewart came here, but they never materialized.

  11. Cann’s Corner on the MLS site/app got it right on analyzing it, especially here:
    ” The scenario is familiar and highlights Philly’s reliance on youth and patience with Sapong, two constants throughout the 2018 season. Jim Curtin will undoubtedly continue to trust his young defense and let them learn on the job, but whether he can continue to ride Sapong, who has now gone over two months without a goal, is an open question.”

    IMO, it shouldn’t be an open question. It isn’t just a slump looking at his overall production here; he’s inconsistent at best and overall just a bust with us. He might fit in better in someone else’s format with a trade if they’ll take him.

  12. Another problem with Sapong that I place partially on Curtin not correcting is the lazy and/or counterintuitive habit of thinking finding open space is a good thing if it’s also out of position for the scoring drive. McInerney also fell into that habit and hence a reason he’s faded into the minor leagues. He has problems enough with his accuracy lately than to add ‘Mr Irrelevant’ to his style in No Man’s Land regarding a pass, cross or rebound.

  13. This game was all about juxtaposition.

    The Union found a few good chances in front of goal and flubbed all of them (Bedoya skies one over the bar, Trusty does too, Sapong can’t get the ball off his foot to even attempt a shot, and only Fafa’s unrelenting hustle saves the team from being shut out).

    LAFC found a few good chances around the goal and scored all of them (Dio taking every inch he’s given, and then taking a few more, and scoring with seemingly every touch, and even Nguyen’s disallowed goal was the same kind of opportunity the aforementioned Boys in Blue flubbed).


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