Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 1 – 3 LA Galaxy

Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have braved a windy night in Stoke before, but the Swedish legend had never played a monsoon in Chester. Alas, Ibra did just fine, notching a goal and an assist over 90 minutes as the Los Angeles Galaxy cruised to a 3-1 cross-country victory over the Philadelphia Union.

Despite the extremely wet and windy conditions — and plenty of players slipping and falling on their hind quarters —  the Union were on the front foot early. Fafa Picault found acres of space down the left flank, but again there were no clear chances on goal. With the slippery conditions, the beginning of the match was a game of second balls as Alejandro Bedoya was happy to pounce and push the Galaxy on their back foot — specifically targeting struggling Galaxy center back Michael Ciani.

The Galaxy had their own chances. Gio dos Santos rounded the endline to force Andre Blake into a full-stretch save as the Mexican playmaker tried to chip the Union keeper. Blake stood on his head throughout the night, making a number of absolutely spectacular saves.

The game tempered out as both sides figured out the pitch and opposing strategies until C.J. Sapong scored his first goal in nearly three months.

In the 29th minute, a deflected Bedoya cross fell to Bedoya who played it into the box. LA keeper David Bingham had it covered until Sapong was able to get a toe to the ball and poke it into the back of the net. Slump over, but the poor recent home form was not.

LA equalized in the 49th minute thanks to a lovely through ball by Zlatan himself that put Ola Kamara on goal. Kamara, playing wing with Ibrahimovic taking his starting striker role, was able to get to the ball and chip it just enough over the sprinting Andre Blake.

The Union would come back with some chances or their own, none of which truly ever challenged Bingham.

Indeed, it would be the Galaxy who would pounce first in the second half against the run of play. After a missed open chance by former Union man Chris Pontius, LA began to find more space deep in the Union’s end. Wingback-for-the-night Romain Alessandrini found a lonely Zlatan at the top of the Union box and the Swede, given far too much time, almost effortlessly curled it around Blake to put the Galaxy up 2-1 in the 63rd minute.

The Union struggled to find any real sense of urgency after the goal, as the rain and disheveled pace of play made it difficult for the team to rally for a comeback.

The Galaxy were able to comfortably control the match and see out the result, putting it away for good with a deliciously-served corner headed in by the otherwise defensively abysmal Michael Ciani in the 83rd minute.

But that inability to pounce on the Galaxy’s weaknesses is exactly what killed the match for the blue and gold. The Union were unable to sustain any constant pressure for the remainder of the game and again failed to earn three points at home in front of a large crowd.

Three points

  • Owned in the Middle. When the Union were in control, it was because Dockal and Bedoya were able to push the Galaxy back on their heals. But after an early spell of dominance, it was Los Angeles’ midfield trio of the dos Santos brothers and Servando Carrasco who owned the middle of the pitch and cut out Philadelphia’s attacking chances.
  • Too pretty for their own good. The Union were not without scoring opportunities (shocker!). But too often, the team tried just one too many passes when they should have put a wet ball on goal.
  • Zlatan played the part. You gotta hand it to him, Ibra can put on a show. Even with the mix of boos and cheers, Zlatan was happy to the play heel — and play it he did. The Swedish striker was always looking for the backdoor opening and his vision on the field remains world-class. The pass to spring Kamara was beautiful and he nearly beat Andre Blake on a screamer from nearly 40 yards out. Even in the twilight of his career, it was fun to see the Lion in Chester.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Ray Gaddis, Mark McKenzie, Auston Trusty, Fabinho, Haris Medunjanin (Creavalle 86′), Alejandro Bedoya, Borek Dockal, Marcus Epps (Accam 60′), Fafa Picault, C.J. Sapong (Burke 78′)
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, David Accam, Jack Elliott, Keegan Rosenberry, Warren Creavalle, Fabian Herbers, Corey Burke

Los Angeles Galaxy

Bingham, Skjelvik, Hillard-Arca (Alessandrini 45′), Ciani, Romney, Pontius (Williams 79′), J. dos Santos, Carrasco, G. dos Santos (Boateng 90′), Kamara, Ibrahimovic

Unused subs: von Steeg, Steres, Lassiter, Husidic

Scoring summary

PHI: C.J. Sapong (Dockal – 29′)
LA: Ola Kamara (Ibrahimovic – 49′)
LA: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Alessandrini – 63′)
LA: Michael Ciani (Alessandrini – 83′)


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Good to see CJ score. Other than that it was a shit show by the Union. Don’t know how to play quickly on offense. Don’t know how to prevent the counter attack. It wasn’t that Ibrahimoshit was that good (except at being a crybaby whiner like most washed up stars), 90% of the MLS teams would have scored 3 goals on the Union tonight.
    Once they lose these next 3 on the road, the rest of the season won’t matter.

  2. Zizouisgod says:

    I’m not sure who to blame: 1) Curtin – for not shoring up his midfield when it was painfully obvious that the run of play had changed; or 2) Sugarman/Stewart – for not giving Curtin better central midfielder options than Creavalle.

    • lol, he does have better options. his name is Derrick Jones.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      By the time he brought in Creavalle, the game was effectively over. He was playing for Wednesday night and night taking a chance that Haris would pick up a second yellow.

  3. Macbeth III.3, just before Banquo is murdered:
    Banquo: It will be rain to-night.
    1st. Murd.: Let it come down.
    (They set upon Banquo.)

    • Double, double toil and trouble;
      Ibramovich near had his double.
      Fillet of a Union snake,
      In the Talen boil and bake;
      Eye of newt, toe of a log,
      Boys in blue cannae shoot,
      AR’s flag and blind-ref’s sting,
      CJ’s alone;Accam’s on the wing,
      For a storm of powerful trouble,
      Watch the sellout boil and bubble.

      Who knew that the Bard was predicting this game? It is sad to say that, unless there is a shutout or close to a shutout, the Union cannot count on scoring enough to overcome a willfully blind referee, ignoring Tomas Hilliard-Arce (and it actually should be Arse) trying to climb Picault’s back all night long, and twenty five secondds of activity by Ibrahimovich. One touch shots might have helped the Union get more out of their offense, but not when they settle the ball and still put it twenty feet over the crossbar. CJ needs help, and we should not be celebrating a seeing-eye squeaker of a goal from him. He cannot post up a double team anymore, and that is what he is doing, except when he is too far back in defense and playing no role in challenging the comfortable goalkeeper play from the opponent’s back.

      By the way, Chris, nice reference.

  4. Joel Pterasaur says:

    Well folks it’s been fun, see you next season. Dockal thanks for doing your best, Accam thanks for nothing. Better get a head start on looking for yet another 10 now that the season is over.

  5. I like both of our young center backs and want them to get minutes. But the first galaxy goal happens in almost every game. They get burned a lot.

    If you’re going to use 2 19 year old cbs, you need a veteran between them. But that would require a formation change. God forbid.

    More: our players would fit a 5-3-2 or 3-5-2 better, anyway. CJ has always needed a striking partner if the attacking mids won’t crash the box.

    Earnie is gone. Change the fricking formation, Jim.

  6. Part of me thought the quality of LA was too much and the loss what inevitable. Another part of me thought god if Ilshinho was out there he would carve these fools up.
    I think our midfield held its own but the final third has no finish. I think the the plan was to have Sapong play power forward and just score off rebounds and deflections.
    With so much dead money tied up in Accam and Simpson I don’t see any reinforcements coming.

  7. His coaching is maddening.

    Am I the only one who thinks they don’t play like a 4-2-3-1 and their personnel doesn’t fit that, either.
    It’s all well and good to declare a ststem-wide formation, but not if your coach can’t effectively implement it.
    I see a bunch of really talented players being wasted. CJ can play as a cf, but not a striker. I’m no soccer expert, but I don’t think anyone would disagree that he needs a partner up top. Burke is the same way.
    Either way, Curtin can’t effectively coach the 4231 with these players. They need to change the formation, at least at the top club. No sense in continuing to be abysmal. It will kill the farm system they’re trying to create.

    Curtin needs to change the formation or go.

  8. Union Are Washed UP…………………

    Sapong was and is just awful. Other than his slip and fall goal he was useless last night. He has no touch. He is only capable of making the most simple pass. He cant get open and is Only capable of scoring a goal from 3 ft. from goal. He has been useless all season. Its 10 v 11 every game he is out thee.

    Burke was not much better last night. He skyed his only opportunity 20 ft over the net. This team is going nowhere without a quality striker. I am having a hard time supporting this team when every fan knew the Union were going nowhere without improving at striker by game 5. It should have been obvious to Ernie and Curtin that Sapong lost his mojo and they needed to bring a better forward in. Sugarman should be ashamed if he in any way prevented that from happening. The union are always 2 quality players short of being a respectable team……. On a side note this was the first game I have been to since moving out of the Philly area. We made the mistake of buying seats in the SOB section. The SOBs there were mostly bunch of low life 16 to 25 year old idiots who could care less about the actual game. Their greatest joy seemed to come every time they had the opportunity to use the word suck in reference to LA or Zlatan or the refs in their lame cheers.

    • I’m not expecting to buy my seats again next year for all those reasons. Especially the SOB section part. What used to be joy (even in a loss) now feels like babysitting. I remember us all getting a thumbs up from Mondragon, a big sarcastic smile from Beckham, that mischievous grin from Califf, etc. What started as a supporters section devolved into the cheap seats, with all the stereotypical Philly trappings.
      I’ll probably still go to a game or two, (probably not in that section) but my season ticket experience is most likely over.
      Man that looks more dramatic than I feel. But maybe Sugarman will get the point if enough season ticket purchases disappear, accompanied by some GBCW posts. Is that hope I’m still feeling?!

      • Used to get a 5 or 9 game plan in the River End for several years. I’m no prude – I wanted to sit there for a reason! – but the last 2-3 years has seen it devolve completely. I used to bring friends who were potentially interested in getting to know the game more, figuring the passion and unique game experience would help get them board – i.e. Eagles fans giving it a chance! My wife enjoyed going regularly. Now guys are screaming the “C” word in my wife’s ear every 3 seconds. Instigating fights with their own fans. Had one behind us purposely hanging the flag over our backs into our faces trying to start something. I can’t sit there anymore because if I do, I’m going to beat the crap out of someone and be escorted out in cuffs. Got no time for the drunk hipster trolls anymore, especially considering the quality of play is so bad.

        We sure had high hopes in those early days, didn’t we?

  9. I like CJ but I am not impressed with his “Floppy the Duck” routine. He is not what this team needs in a difference making starting striker. This team has the skill to create chances but it’s all surface posing when you can’t finish. This teams inability to score is an indictment of this owner, coach, and organization as a whole. This is a top sports and media market where the Union are almost never in the conversation. Not in Philly or around the league. That’s because this organization is a perennial bottom feeder and content to be labeled as one. It’s ownership is weak inept, financially incompetent and noncompetitive in a league going in a different direction. There is no desire to at least bring in a name DP striker to actually score. A fish is rotten at it’s head. Philly is not a 2nd rate outpost and we deserve better and so does Andre Blake.

  10. 1. Why the hell did CJ start !! Burke is clearly doing better right now and he’s the best option we have at the moment. I don’t care that CJ scored it was a shit goal and extremely lucky. It doesn’t change the fact that he has been non existent for how many games now? When’s the last time CJ took an accurate shot from outside the 18? They need to invest in a top striker. A lone striker since our no emotional coach will not put two up top. A striker who can take on defenders like Ilsinho and can take shots from deep, who moves after he passes the ball to get into space, or who can take shots from the 18 and has accuracy. Do you hear me Albright ?????

    2. This team cannot hold a lead for 90 mins no matter what. Curtin has not taught these players how to move off the ball. They all are sluggish and stand still. This causes turnovers like the ones in this game. We feed passes and then the receiving players get caught with opposing defenders on there backs instantly because they have no immediate outlet to pass too. Our defense falls flat every game! Are Trusty and Makenzie hyped up too much ??

    3. I’m sick and tired of ppl saying that Creavalle is mediocre or just a secondary player. Did anyone see how he played when he came on for what the last 5 mins.? ( Great sub tactic Curtin. Subbing a player for 5 mins to do what exactly ???). Did anyone watch how Creavalle would make a pass then move to space immediately ?? This is how every player on the field should move off the ball. Oh then he had a great shot on goal too. But yea he sucks …… He became an outlet for every pass for the last 5 mins of the game. I like Harris a lot but he’s not gonna give you that defensive presence in the middle of the pitch. Can someone please tell me who is suppose to play defense in the middle of the field when Harris and Bedoya are in??? LA was able play right through the middle of the field. I’ve said it 100 times before, when you have Harris in there is no defensive presence in the middle of the field. How many times did Dos Santos dribble through the middle of the pitch without being stopped? More than i can count. Creavalle can flood the middle of the field and has done this time and time again. He is a good passer as well! For example, one of his first passes was to Dockal, hitting a long crisp straight forward pass splitting two defenders where Dockal was in a great position to turn and go forward. It blows my mind what Curtin can’t see, and everyone else for that matter. I don’t mind if Harris and Creavalle switch in and out but it’s clear Creavalle needs to start in many games and needs to see the field more often. It’s been about 4 years with this coach. Why is he getting the privilege of keeping his job when this team has been stagnant for 4 years ?

  11. Are they done flopping around like a fish out if water yet?

    • Oh, Happy Bob. Missed you on the Philly.com website, complaining about soccer overall and the Union specifically.

      • Oh is this the loser who models himself after Richard Simmons?

      • All4U, this was the one who wittily referred to the game as “footyball” all the time, and went on endlessly about participation awards. He had a couple of valid points about the franchise and the benefits they got from the Bridge Commission and their late payments, but he has little of value to add about the game. The Richard Simmons here is still there.

  12. The Truth says:

    I was upgraded to field level seats for the second half and got to see Zlatan punch in his goal like he had done so many times before in his career. He’s one of the more dominant forwards the game has ever seen and I lapped up every moment of it. As soon as Alessandrini beat Gaddis you could actually see Zlatan had a smirk on his face. He knew the pass was coming to him and he knew that goal was going in. Proven confidence, clinical attitude.
    To watch a true goalscorer in the zone is intoxicating. Though it was against my team, I was in awe of it. I’m bummed (not surprised) about the loss but satisfied I was able to see Zlatan play and score. It’s unlikely there will be another like him for many years.
    I’m ready to be called a fanboy. I was there wearing blue & gold cheering for the boys but to say I wasn’t stoked about Zlatan would be an absolute lie. Definitely a night to remember in Chester.

  13. So does this put to bed the question of if the Union are a good team or not?

  14. The Union had just come off of an emotional Open Cup win, and faced a rested LA Galaxy team. I’m not sure how they were supposed to look good for 90 minutes. I was there, sitting in the rain cheering for them, but that result was very predictable.

    I thought it was the first game that the Sons of Ben showed up loud and clear. That alone almost kept the game competitive until the end.

    And for those who have given up on the season. If you are correct, and you just very well might be… Delaware Park is nearby and taking wagers. You might as well get paid for your suffering. Just sayin’.

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      This is a fair point, but the team could have put 3-4 on the Gals in the first half and made their job a lot easier. Poor finishing did them in.

      • Agree but with Burke in the lineup they may have finished some more in the first half although he had a major miss in the 2nd half. But I just can not see Curtin’s fascination with CJ.

      • Guido,
        Curtin is the same coach that stuck with a snake bitten Andrew Wenger for far too long. It is hardly a surprise.

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