Union match reports

Match report: D.C. United 0-2 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Ryan Griffith

Philadelphia Union weathered a sweltering Washington night to knock off D.C. United 2-0 on Wednesday in the Union’s first game at the new Audi Field.

C.J. Sapong netted a goal and an assist, and Fafa Picault sealed the win with a 61st minute goal against a D.C. side that often looked dangerous but lacked the final product.

“We dodged a few bullets in the first half, and over the course of 90 minutes, I think we played really well,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said after the game.

The win is the Union’s fifth straight in all competitions, and they have won four of their last five road games, the team’s best ever five-game road stretch. They are also 7-1 in Wednesday matches this year, Curtin said, praising his team’s fitness and sports science team for their contribution to that mark.

The Union and D.C. each sent out largely unchanged lineups as the ones they fielded this past weekend, and the Union’s fitness seemed to fare better than their opponents’. D.C. defenders Oniel Fisher and Kofi Opare both left with injuries, the former a halftime sub and the latter in the second half.

Early on, the Union came out pressing high up field, much more than one would expect in a road game. They dropped off a bit after about 10 minutes, picking up a defensive line of confrontation around midfield. That gave D.C. room to breathe, and they took advantage of it, gaining some semblance of control. Still, the Union showed flashes of fantastic passing, notably a long, fluid stretch of passes in the 13th minute.

In the 22nd minute, D.C. had a great chance on the counter. Luciano Acosta tricked out Haris Medunjanin with some clever dribbling that left the Bosnian in the dust, and he found Wayne Rooney on the right. Rooney’s chip cleared Andre Blake but went just wide.

The Union broke the deadlock in the 29th minute. Picault sent a beautiful diagonal pass to C.J. Sapong down the right channel. Sapong cleared space and found Cory Burke cutting to the right, and Burke turned to make an improbable shot on goal. D.C. goalkeeper Bill Hamid stopped it but spilled the rebound to Sapong, who continued his run and buried the ball in the net for the first goal.

The next 30 minutes, even after halftime, saw a roughly even match. D.C. got a higher quantity of good chances, but the Union were more effective at creating dangerous shots when they got opportunities.

In the 61st minute, Alejandro Bedoya and Borek Dockal combined in the center of the field to start a counterattack. Dockal unlocked the backpedaling D.C. defense with a great through ball for Sapong on the right, and Sapong sent a low cross to Picault, who found space right in front of net and buried the Union’s second goal.

From there on, it was defend, control, win set pieces, and wind down the clock for the Union.

D.C. repeatedly found space wide on the wings — particularly on their right flank — as the Union fullbacks pinched in to compensate for United’s wingers doing the same. The Union center backs specialized in last minute cleanup jobs all night, however, and they and their teammates held the line to record the Union’s third straight clean sheet.

With the win, the Union rose above the .500 mark for the first time since March. They travel to Orlando for their next match, at 7:30 on Saturday.

Three points
  • Sapong’s big game: Confidence matters. Out on the wing, Sapong hasn’t felt the pressure to score goals. Curtin called the move to rotate with Burke and slide out to the wing a “reset.” It was Sapong’s first game this year in which he created more than one goal.
  • Rosenberry rising: We talk about the Union’s three veteran midfielders and their great passing, but take note of how much better Keegan Rosenberry looks when playing with them. Most of the Union’s great combinations come down the right side.
  • About that right side: Why can’t teams stop the Union down that flank? They bring so much of their attack that way every game. Answer: Fafa Picault. If you sink to the right side, the Union will switch fields, and Picault will kill you one on one.

Lineups

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Keegan Rosenberry, Jack Elliott, Auston Trusty, Raymon Gaddis, Alejandro Bedoya, Haris Medunjanin (Derrick Jones 83′), C.J. Sapong, Borek Dockal (Warren Creavalle 90′), Fafa Picault, Cory Burke (Ilsinho 72′)

Unused subs: Mark McKenzie, David Accam, John McCarthy, Fabinho

D.C. United

Bill Hamid, Oniel Fisher (Ulises Segura 45′), Kofi Opare (Frederic Brillant 68′), Steve Birnbaum, Joseph Mora, Russell Canouse (Darren Mattocks 64′), Junior Moreno, Paul Arriola, Luciano Acosta, Zoltan Stieber, Wayne Rooney

Unused subs: Travis Worra, Vytautas Andriuskevicius, Ian Harkes, Christopher Durkin

Scoring summary

  • PHI: Sapong 29′
  • PHI: Picault (Sapong, Dockal) 61′

Disciplinary summary

  • PHI: Elliott — 27′ (unsporting behavior)
  • PHI: Dockal — 57′ (unsporting behavior)
  • PHI: Birnbaum — 90+2′ (unsporting behavior)
D.C. United Philadelphia Union
9 Shots 13
3 Shots on Target 7
4 Shots off Target 3
2 Blocked Shots 3
2 Corner Kicks 5
13 Crosses 6
0 Offsides 0
10 Fouls 15
1 Yellow Cards 2
0 Red Cards 0
487 Total Passes 556
86% Passing Accuracy 86
46.8% Possession 53.2%
48 Duels Won 37
Duels Won %
9 Tackles Won 7
5 Saves 3
13 Clearances 11

42 Comments

  1. el Pachyderm says:

    You.Have.My.Attention.
    .

  2. Tuned in late, didn’t catch the explanation for the miserable pitch, man it looked awful, I bet DC can’t wait to move to their new…oh? never mind…

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      Tough not to conclude the drainage system has failed.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      There was no “explanation” given but you could see at halftime that the sprinklers were turned on at exactly the places where the pitch looked bad. But what can we expect from a DC stadium that’s already over a month old?

    • The light areas in the turf were just mist left over from the sprinkler locations, you see it often in a lot of stadiums (including ours). The angle of the lighting to the cameras may accuntuate the reflection to the viewer.
      .
      The issue was why was the water pooling up in the field like that rather that draining? Couldn’t believe how the ball was getting bogged down.

  3. John O'Donnell Jr says:

    Sapong has a tendency to play hot and cold and he’s been an iceberg for the season. Him heating up now to close out the season and going into the U.S. Open Cup final would be amazing as he looked much more comfortable on the wing tonight.

    By far their best team game tonight as it looked like everybody played at a high level.

    Trusty had a bounce back game and Elliott isn’t letting Mark McKenzie back on the field. Also Ray is quietly having his best season as a pro playing left back.

    Just think,we scored two beautiful goals on Washington on the road….one better than the Red Bulls could do against D.C. at home. This team is gelling.

  4. The Chopper says:

    So happy for CJ. We all called for him to be benched and rightfully so, but you can never deny his effort. Three more points on the road. This is the longest most consistent run of good form we’ve ever witnessed from the club. 12 wins matches the highest win total in league play in club history.
    Keep it going boys.

    • DeGeorge had a tweet last night: “Most importantly:
      For the first time since 2015, the Union won’t finish with an 11-14-9 record.”
      that speaks mountains more about mediocrity than good form but it’s a start to relevancy

  5. Andy Muenz says:

    The Union looked much better in their possession last night than they did Saturday. DC reminded me of the Union in prior years (and even earlier this year) where they seemed to be waiting for the perfect shot.
    .
    I checked 538.com (thanks for the link in Tuesday’s daily roundup, PSP!) and the Union are now up to a 96% chance of making the playoffs.
    .
    And right now they are only 1 point from costing me some money I’d love to spend on a home playoff game!

  6. Very unfortunate Rosenberry didn’t score in front of his old Gtown cronies. He had several great looks but Hamid did well on the night. Great win, Go Union.

  7. John Osborn says:

    I liked how in the second half, Trusty bent a ball up the left sideline in DC’s half, and how later Keegan sprinted to prevent the ball going out for a DC corner.

  8. Union are going for wins this year on the road. Curtin even said so in his press conference this week. Definitely a change from past mindsets and it’s working. Also what all the math people say you should be doing. Our ties are way down but we are tied for 3rd in road wins and only 1 behind NYRB. A couple of better bounces earlier in the season (like we are getting now) and we are probably sitting in 3rd place. Lets keep this trend rolling.
    .
    Loving Sapong out in the wing as we have shifted our attack at times to have him drop into the middle for a 2 forward look and then play a little 3 man keep away with Rosenberry-Beodya-Dockal on the right wing. Some of the best passing sequences I have ever seen the Union pull off have come though that.

  9. OneManWolfpack says:

    5th road win of the year I believe… and they had, what, ONE last year?!? Good teams learn how to win on the road, no matter the opponent. And dare I say… they are a good team, that are capable of making a run in the playoffs. Well done all around.

  10. When did we learn to pass?
    What thechell is that?
    I want my Union to head down the sidelines and hit hopeful cross after hopeful cross.
    Who do we think we are Barcelona?

  11. A fascinating match, one the team isn’t supposed to win and almost gave away early. But then, they coalesced around an obvious edge in fitness and possession and slowly destroyed their opponent through unrelenting attrition. Philly Tough AND “just play well” soccer. Wow.

  12. Zizouisgod says:

    The most impressive aspect of the Union this year is this commitment to play the way that they want to play every match, no matter the opponent or venue. Sure, there will be tactical tweaks here and there, but the overriding principle of controlling possession with short passes and lots of movement is always there.

    It’s really wonderful to see.

  13. The Corey/CJ duo is physically dominant. Cycling back and forth the centerbacks get no breaks from the brutish force. Then young Derrick Jones comes on and offers a fifth and sixth cruel shoulder. Hell yes, Philly tough.

  14. It’s been coming all year and the team is starting to look very tidy indeed.
    .
    Happy to see Cj have a nice game, but to be fair, he was still showing a lack of instinct for moving into places he should have been for some of the really good runs they had at DCs box. He probably missed out on being part of 2-3 more goals easily.
    .
    Progress is progress though! Happy to see it continue and build.

  15. Rally nice to beat a team that’s been in good form at home. Got a little lucky that Rooney didn’t convert one of his early looks, but the Union took care of business. Let’s hope the trend continues. Interesting to see Rosenberry as free kick specialist.

    • Looney probably should have converted the chip shot, but the one where he hit the post was actually better defended than it seemed since Trusty was blocking a good portion of the path to the goal so he was limited as to where he could shoot towards.

      • Definitely. There was good defending, but if Rooney had put that inside the post, I don’t think Blake would have gotten there. But no taking away from the Union. They’ve been good.

        Also, how close to completely corresponding has this 5-game win streak been to the return of Jack Elliott?

  16. There are passing sequences up the right flank that I’ve rarely seen in MLS. Beautiful

  17. Great stuff boys…..the team and gaffer are clearly on an upward trajectory. I have one issue with last night and it has nothing to do with our club………the ref! It was almost farcical…….Elliott’s Yellow was ridiculous, fouls where no one was touched, and blown corner calls. Lastly, he may have been the most “touchy feely” ref I have ever seen. He couldn’t keep his hands off the players…..anyone else notice this? He would touch dudes just walking by….weird. I wonder if a player ever said to the guy……” stop touching me dude, wtf?”

  18. The understanding and confidence that Bedoya and Dockal have right now is top class. We’ve never had two midfielders play this well together in the center of the field. They are creating so many chances. Burke is ok but imagine if they had a striker of the same caliber in front of them.

    My concern is that Haris’ athletic limitations get exposed by top level attacking talend. Idiot Tommy kept complaining about Rooney having too much space, but was the center backs had to keep stepping up to cover for Haris.

    Picault has been outstanding during this stretch of wins. His quickness, balance and effort are outstanding.

    If Trusty could pass the ball worth a damn he’d be in the EPL.

    Very happy for Curtin it’s coming together like this.

    Good times.

    • Maidana and Noga vs. Seattle in the 2015 USOC Final. Nogs and Barnetta. Outside of that……….Bedoya/Dockal/Medunjanin have been a joy to watch the past few months. Add in a nice helping of Rosenberry and Ilsinho on the right………..This team is fun to watch.

  19. Just happy and enjoying it all.

    • Until the next loss, then it’ll be all “Sugarman is stealing my money/time/sanity/cookies/???” again…Right?
      .
      ‘Cause none of this could be as a result of anything Sugarman, the FO, Curtin did well, right? Same guys. Same strategy. No big money being splashed around. We know they’re “the problem”.
      .
      Five wins and attractive soccer. Must be a player revolt or something…

      • Andy Muenz says:

        Depends. If next loss is in Seattle and they do the same thing they did against Portland, I don’t think people will be complaining (except about having to stay up late).

      • Since you come late to the party and really don’t understand, I’ll explain it to you. I’ve been on the band wagon for a while now. My problem isn’t admitting that the Union have actually done well, far from it actually. Feel free to go back and read my posts.
        .
        My problem is with you. My problem is that you presume to tell others what they should do with their money,and what they are and are not allowed to say when given an inferior product. My problem is that you ignore years of mediocrity and point to this one year and their current run of play and claim all is gold.
        .
        Sorry, but I can’t ignore history. I can’t claim someone doesn’t have the right to complain when not given value for money spent. You feel comfortable enough, so enjoy. Our time is at an end I’m afraid. I’ve wasted enough energy on you. All the best in the future.

      • Now they have to find a way to lock in Dockal for 2019 or this year will be just a pretty anomaly.

  20. i was critical of the news bits of this team being fun to watch. really, though it hasn’t been until this recent run where i invite fun to the table. it hasn’t been pretty all season but it sure has become fun. might be 8 seasons worth of run-of-play highlights during this stretch as well.

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