Union / Union match reports

Match report: Seattle Sounders 0-1 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union completed the biggest heist of Jim Curtin’s tenure on Wednesday night in Seattle, fending off waves of pressure and capitalizing on one vital error in stoppage time to nip the Sounders, 1-0.

The Union were all but finished.

Seattle watched chance after chance go begging in the first half and were making one final push for three points at home — one final push for a 10th win in a row. Jack Elliott was in the locker room after a second yellow card and the Union were hanging on for dear life with 10 men. What a point it would have been.

Then one play made it three. It started harmlessly — Jay Simpson, on as a sub in his first appearance since April, couldn’t link up with a through ball and kept pressing into the box. Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei gathered the simple back-pass and cut left before sending it back out. He was looking straight at his defender and never saw Fafa Picault coming. Picault darted in front of the pass, dribbled into the box and calmly finished between Frei’s legs to win the match.

The victory, on top of snapping Seattle’s impressive streak, moved the Union (5th place) four points clear of Montreal in the Eastern Conference. It was the club’s first win in Seattle since 2011.

For a brief moment in the 64th minute, it looked like Cory Burke would be the hero. With the score still 0-0 and the Sounders back line pressed up, midfielder Haris Medunjanin launched a chip over the back line and onto Burke’s foot at the top of the box. Burke brought it down with a touch and rifled it home, but the goal was ruled offside by VAR.

It was one of few legitimate chances for Philly, with most coming in the second half. Frei, who made four saves in total, blocked Burke from close range and made a huge double save on a Bedoya cross, but was mostly comfortable throughout the night. So comfortable that it eventually cost him.

Picault, who was having an underwhelming match prior to his heroics, bagged his seventh goal of the season. After the first half, a goal from him (or anyone on the Union for that matter) looked highly unlikely.

It was a very shaky half all around, and goalkeeper Andre Blake scrambling off his line three times in the opening eight minutes made it clear. Blake simply misjudged two of the sequences and found himself in no-man’s land as a couple chances went wide. He watched two careen off the post (one from a tight angle on the near post and another spinning in from distance) and looked unusually nervy in the first 45.

Seattle had well over 60 percent of the ball in the first half and were painfully unlucky not to score. Or maybe it was the Union that were lucky. Just after a big save from Frei in the 31st minute, Sounders striker Raúl Ruidíaz was forced off with an ankle sprain. Then at the break, starting center back Chad Marshall left the pitch with a presumed head injury he suffered after a collision with Burke in the box.

Something was in the air. It just wasn’t Seattle’s night.

The hosts fired 16 total shots, completed almost double the passes the Union did, and won the corner-kick battle, 6-2. Two balls off the post, two balls screaming across the face of goal, two points lost.

Three points
  • Take it and run. A win, and a remarkable one at that, gives Curtin way more room to throw a B- lineup out there this weekend. Rest everyone and go for a trophy. A dub like this and a U.S. Open Cup title would be one way to cool off his seat, big time.
  • Fafa. He’s one of those guys that is either really good or really bad. Honestly, for about 92 minutes of this match, he was way closer to the latter. It’s amazing how he can go from electric playmaker to “meh” winger from match to match. Thankfully, he more than made up for it in this one.
  • No. 10? Bedoya just isn’t his best up there. Can’t Medunjanin play the No. 10? He’s played there before for Bosnia and keeping Bedoya in his position would be more beneficial. Any way you slice it, Dockal leaves a big hole behind.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake; Keegan Rosenberry, Jack Elliott, Auston Trusty, Ray Gaddis (Fabinho, 59′); Haris Medunjanin, Derrick Jones; CJ Sapong, Alejandro Bedoya, Fafa Picault; Cory Burke (Jay Simpson (88′).

Unused Subs: John McCarthy; Mark McKenzie, Warren Creavalle, Fabian Herbers, David Accam.

Seattle Sounders

Stefan Frei; Brad Smith, Chad Marshall (Román Torres 46′), Kim Kee-hee, Kelvin Leerdam; Osvaldo Alonso, Gustav Svensson, Víctor Rodríguez (Harry Shipp 74′), Nicolás Lodeiro, Cristian Roldan; Raúl Ruidíaz (Will Bruin 34′).

Unused Subs: Bryan Meredith; Nouhou, Jordy Delem, Alex Roldan.

Scoring summary

PHI: Fafa Picault — 90’+3


  1. This was not the result I expected to wake up to. Fafa’s game winner was very well taken. Well done, boys.

  2. During the Sounders feed, their announcers said that there had only been 2 cross country midweek wins… in the history of the league. Ever! Amazing accomplishment.

  3. Let’s hope the Wednesday magic continues for one more week. Union are now 5-1 in MLS on Wednesdays and 2-0 in the Open Cup.
    Not their prettiest game but kudos to Curtin for getting it right and not playing the bench (like I suggested).
    And for those of you who didn’t see the goal, best short description is “5 hole”.

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    wow that game was wretched… I tried to make it through then faded about the 55 minute and figured sleep was better than watching bad soccer… and that was bad soccer.
    …only to wake up and see they won. Total Smash and Grab. But hey by any means necessary I guess,
    so happy for that, but that was not even close to Just Play Well.

    • John O'Donnell says:

      They actually started playing better in the second half compared to the first half. The first fifteen minutes was awful as they couldn’t even control the first pass. Corey Burke might have been robbed of a goal as it looked like the defenders hand kept him on. Needless to say it wasn’t clear and obvious. I would really like to see MLS take VAR out of the hands of the official and just have someone in a room in New York make the call.

      • After seeing the replay several times, I think they got the call correct and that Burke was offsides. (Also, I believe the hands and arms of either the attacker or the defender don’t affect offsides since they can’t be legally used to play the ball.)
        That being said, the play that VAR got wrong was the lack of a PK when Fafa was tackled in front of goal a few minutes earlier.

    • Atomic Spartan says:

      Playing well wasn’t in the cards anyway against this West Coast streaking opponent and without Borek.
      If you can’t Just Play Well, Just Win Ugly. But win. And they did.

    • Old Soccer Coach says:

      1sf 20 minutes – looked like the game v Montreal. Next 20 – not good, but not putrid. Seattle’s initial burst was wearing off and our energy level was rising.
      1st 20 2nd half – flashes of decent play, but just flashes not possession. Not going to get possession and control of a game without our 3 central minds all together.
      2nd 20 2nd half fewer an fewer flashes as legs got tired and Seattle summoned reserves of energy.
      And then Comet Fafa flashed out of the cosmos to create Tunguska explosion 2. Both Frei and the intended recipient of his pass were not ready for the speed of the shooting star.
      Frei set his feet like a basketball player not a soccer defender, and Picault threaded the five-hole needle perfectly with power.
      Had been hoping for a point and then they got three.

    • It wasn’t pretty, but you know, it was an extraordinarily exciting game to watch from start to finish.

  5. Atomic Spartan says:

    Who are these guys? Not the U of our love/anguish relationship!
    The kids in back manufactured their own luck. Seattle’s frustration did not come by accident. Every time the Xboxes created danger, there was someone there applying pressure, getting in the way. Sure, the posts provided a 12th man, but that only happens when you’ve snuffed out clearer shots. No embarrassing breakaways like last Saturday.
    And Fafa doesn’t score unless Simpson pressures Frei – might have been the Brit’s most valuable play as a unionite.
    But oh Fafa! Shades of a Mwanga steal! So alert, quick and accurate on tired legs!
    A team/post/Simpson/Fafa/midweek/wee hours west coast win. Worth going into work today bleary-eyed.

    • John O'Donnell says:

      Seems like a century ago he almost stole the game in Orlando. Yet when the first half came to an end with the same opportunity, he took a perfect ball that fell to his feet and couldn’t even get the shot on goal. I hate to say it but he’s a sub off the bench in this league. He’s to inconsistent with making a pass and putting a shot on target. Lucky he scored because Simpson was wide open for a tap in.

      • Wouldn’t Simpson have been in an offside position though?
        The Union should start Accam in place of Fafa…………..NOT!

      • As long as Simpson was even with or behind the ball, when it is passed (and I believe he was), he is onside regardless of whether any defenders are behind him.

  6. John O'Donnell says:

    They actually started playing better in the second half compared to the first half. The first fifteen minutes was awful as they couldn’t even control the first pass. Corey Burke might have been robbed of a goal as it looked like the defenders hand kept him on. Needless to say it wasn’t clear and obvious. I would really like to see MLS take VAR out of the hands of the official and just have someone in a room in New York make the call.

  7. I didn’t even stay up late enough to see the lineups, what a pleasant surprise to wake up to. I made the mistake of looking at the mls website’s comment section for this game. seattle fans are so whiny and so salty

    • In reality, Seattle was the much better team, except where it counted.

      • i dont doubt it, but i guess it turns out i’d rather the team win than play well. i have told myself in the past that playing well was most important but it turns out that winning is more important

  8. The Union over came Ismail Elfath to get a win. That’s a good win any day in my book, even if it was fugly.

  9. This was a character win. They battled hard. No Dockal and having to deal with Ismail Elfath aka Herman Munster to get the win.

  10. watched till halftime. that first half was so bad. no possession. lucky, so lucky to to have been down a few. fell asleep trying to get through second. woke up to JP signing off “Union with the 1-0 win.” i swear i dreamt it.

    some great comments above. DeGeorge says it’s our most wins ever, most road wins too, and we’re closing in on most points. that, i believe is the path to legitimacy.

    love the Wednesday info from Andy.
    really pumped for Open Cup. weather permitting, Piazza. if bad, Gran Caffe L’Aquila

  11. I am still a bit loggy from staying up for the game, and the emotional drain that was caused by watching it. Early on, and sporadically throughout the game, it seemed like “pass, trap, giveaway” was the pattern that dominated the Union battle plan. Andre’s flying save on the tipover in the first half was a beauty, completely worthy of inclusion in the story from early this week about his shot-stopping ability. I was expecting the roof to come crashing in at any moment throughout the game, and I STILL don’t think that Burke was offside. (If the AR didn’t signal it, and the Ref didn’t think it was offside, the video certainly wasn’t enough to overturn the real time impressions of those two.) Listening to Tommy Smyth throughout the broadcast, he was correct on the several times that he noted that Fafa and CJ weren’t getting involved. Well done to use that speed, Fafa, to jump that pass, and what a relief when the goal was scored and the game was won. The adrenaline was pumping so high that it took a couple of hours to fall asleep after that. Thanks for the win, boys, and no thanks for the short-sleeped night. Can you make it a bit easier next time?

  12. OneManWolfpack says:

    I DVR’d it and just finished watching. I didn’t know the result. No way I could’ve predicted that. Just a real gutsy effort, along with some real luck. But when it’s a mid-week, cross country, make-up game, against a team that had won 9 of it’s last 12… and drew the other 3… YOU TAKE IT ANYWAY YOU CAN.
    Agreed the first half was brutal, especially those first 15 minutes. But again… these 3 points make up for the disgrace that was last Saturday and make getting points on Sunday – no longer a necessity.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      This is pretty much spot on.
      I know I am a shit stain sometimes… but MF’er when we can’t connect passes simple passes or arrive in space early it is beyond my ability to process.
      like Fatal Error messages on the computer from years ago.

  13. I’m disappointed that MLS didn’t do us a solid after we won the Open Cup semifinal and change our game against SKC to Saturday and just put another MLS game in that ESPN time slot. I unexpected woke up to see a win which was a pleasant surprise. I suspect several changes for Sunday but I’m guessing we’ll see a few starters get 60 minutes or so and maybe a few starters come in off the bench for 30 minutes. It’ll be interesting to see what Curtin throws out there. I’m thinking Keegan will have to play RB because there aren’t any other options. Maybe Cory or CJ start and someone between Fafa/Ale/Haris start. Hope they can get something out of the match on Sunday and then 2 huge ones next week.

  14. Went to sleep at half time and fast forwarded the DVR this morning. What a pleasant surprise after the horror show last weekend! Hopefully last weekend was an anomaly and the W’s will continue to register. Only 5 more MLS games and 1 Cup game. Hope most of those will be as per last night’s 2nd half.

    • I hope that you caught Tommy Smyth calling the first half “shambolic”. What a great word to apply to the disorder that was demonstrated throughout those 45 minutes.

  15. Working some long hrs the past few weeks and couldn’t stay up for this one. This site makes my day when my only footy content is highlites and game recaps!! Nice job with all the comments! Nice job by Fafa to steal the pass and 3 points!!

  16. Flyers Win Away ( I meant Union)

    Union win was not pretty but we “out checked” Seattle and built momentum and “scored twice” in the second half . Fafa showed extreme hustle and anticipation and shot a slap shot thru the 5 hiole for the Flyers ( I meant Union Win). The only thing missing was a fight where we pummeled a sounders player. I really don’t care if everyone hates us. Seattle fans and announcers are a bunch of coffee drinking pale faced smug tatoo wearing nosring wearing geeks with fat asses and horned rim glasses. ( and I was talking about both their women and men) Go Flyers! ( I mean go U)

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