Union match reports

MLS Cup Playoffs match report: New York City FC 3-1 Philadelphia Union

Philadelphia Union’s 2018 season is over.

New York City FC and Philadelphia Union opened the MLS Cup playoffs Wednesday night, and if felt appropriately eerie at Yankee Stadium. It was Halloween, after all, and the match that ensued felt almost exactly the same as the one that had taken place just three days prior.

This match, between the very same two clubs at the very same spot, ended in the very same result. Sloppy play and early game blunders from the Union set the tone for the match, exactly as it did on Sunday and led to the same 3-1 defeat.

Philadelphia fans couldn’t help but feel that trademark Philadelphia “here we go again” feeling when NYCFC scored in just the 10th minute. It was only two minutes later in the match than their first goal on Sunday. After Warren Creavalle’s pass was intercepted around midfield, the Union killer otherwise known as David Villa hit a perfect through ball to Ismael Tajouri-Shradi who sailed it over Andre Blake and into the net. Philadelphia were down 1-0 against NYCFC for the second time in four days.

David Villa would make the Union pay again shortly thereafter. While Auston Trusty scored an own goal to make it 2-0 in the last match, he made a less egregious mistake in the 26th minute that nevertheless gave NYC their second goal of the match. Maxi Moralez, with the ball at his feet on the left wing, passed it through Auston Trusty’s legs to Villa in the middle at the top of the box. Villa gathered the ball behind Mark McKenzie and shot across his body to the far post. NYCFC were up 2-0 once more.

Maxi Moralez sealed the match in the 78th minute with a highlight reel goal. As Andre Blake rushed out to a bouncing ball at the top corner of the penalty box, Moralez got there first. With an impeccable touch, Moralez chipped the ball way over Blake’s head. It fell just over the goal line, securing NYC their third goal of the match and a spot in the next round of the MLS Cup playoffs.

Again, as if purposely mimicking Sunday’s match, Cory Burke scored the Union’s lone goal of the match. Working his magic in the 83rd minute, Ilsinho dribbled between three NYC defenders through the box to the endline. Passing it across NYC keeper Sean Johnson, Ilsinho managed to connect with Cory Burke by the far post. The Jamaican striker, who had been the Union’s best scorer all season, hit it in easily to add another tally to his stat sheet.

It was too late for a comeback, however. Philadelphia Union ended their playoff run and their 2018 season with the 3-1 defeat.

Three points
  1. Big games, bad performance. Just as the last two matches between NYCFC and Philadelphia Union were similar, the “three points” in this match report are virtually the same as those in Sunday’s – except they’re all a little more true. After losing so poorly to NYC on Sunday, Philadelphia fans were left wondering if the Union’s record of losing big games was a pattern or bad luck. The Union played horribly in their Open Cup Final loss to Houston. They played horribly in their final match of the season to lose a home field knockout match. They played horribly Wednesday night. Leaving out their past post season losses and Open Cup defeats, this season alone gives a big enough sample size to say definitively, “It’s a pattern.”
  2. Different lineup, same result. Jim Curtin tried to switch things up by moving Alejandro Bedoya to the right wing, which many have speculated is his more natural position, and starting Warren Creavalle at Bedoya’s former defensive midfield position. Curtin’s changes made little impact on the run of play, however. Doubtless, people will debate whether Curtin should have instead started Ilsinho or Derrick Jones, but they likely would have made little difference. True, they’re much different than the other options in the lineup, but the Union’s system just doesn’t fit well on NYC’s small pitch. And Philadelphia rely on their system to carry them through matches as much as they do their roster decisions. That’s both their biggest strength and one of their weaknesses.
  3. Good meal, sour taste. The last, short stretch of the Union’s season will leave a sour taste in Union fans’ mouths, as it should. The Union really did have their best season yet. They reached the Open Cup Final. They scored 50 points. At times, the Union were the most exciting team in MLS. They couldn’t finish it out, though. If you eat a great meal but the dessert is rancid, you’re not very happy with the chef.

Philadelphia Union

Andre Blake, Mark McKenzie, Auston Trusty, Ray Gaddis, Keegan Rosenberry (C.J. Sapong – 71′), Warren Creavalle (Ilsinho – HT), Borek Dockal, Haris Medunjanin, Fafa Picault, Alejandro Bedoya (Derrick Jones – 82′), Cory Burke
Unused Subs: John McCarthy, Jack Elliott, Jay Simpson, Fabinho

New York City FC

Sean Johnson, Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, Alexander Callens, Ben Sweat, Alexander Ring, Yangel Herrera (Eloi Amagat – 80′), Maximiliano Moralez, Ronald Matarrita, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (Ebenezer Ofori – 63′), David Villa (Valentín Castellanos – 84′)

Unused Subs: Brad Stuver, Sebastien Ibeagha, Rodney Wallace, Jesus Medina, Jo Inge Berget

Scoring summary

NYC: Ismael Tajouri-Shradi – 10′ (David Villa)
NYC: David Villa – 26′ (Maximilliano Moralez)
NYC: Maximilliano Moralez – 78′
PHI: Cory Burke – 83′ (Ilsinho)

Disciplinary summary

PHI: Mark McKenzie – 24′ (Unsporting behavior)
NYC: Maxime Chanot – 55′ (Unsporting behavior)
NYC: Ben Sweat – 71′ (Unsporting behavior)
PHI: Haris Medunjanin – 73′ (Dissent)
PHI: Derrick Jones – 86′ (Unsporting behavior)

New York City FC Philadelphia Union
11 Shots 7
5 Shots on Target 2
4 Shots off Target 5
2 Blocked Shots 0
4 Corner Kicks 4
8 Crosses 11
8 Offsides 5
16 Fouls 11
2 Yellow Cards 3
0 Red Cards 0
418 Total Passes 467
78% Passing Accuracy 75%
47.1% Possession 52.9%
45 Duels Won 72
38.5% Duels Won % 61.6%
12 Tackles Won 14
1 Saves 2
9 Clearances 16


  1. How do you play virtually the entire season with sapong in the starting line up, then in the biggest game of the year switch shit up and place creavalle in there…in no way am I saying sapong would of be some savior or anything, but what the hell what about chemistry, and general form…creavalle was clearly rusty I dont even know if he completed a pass…such a ridiculous move from him on top of never having this team ready to play a big match…he has failed at every opportunity to move this club forward…for christ sakes end it…but the team had a good regular season in managements eyes so see you again next year jimmy

    • John O'Donnell Jr says:

      I doubt it. I can’t imagine Jim will survive and it’s time to move on. He had a good run here but this team just chokes in big games and that’s on the coach.

    • Becaaaaaause CJ was pretty ineffective virtually the entire season and amost non-existent the last several games (including last weekend on the same pitch).
      It wasn’t a hard choice to take CJ out at all. Now, how you replace him could be debated, but I don’t have an issue with what Curtin tried. Illsinho doesn’t have enough space on that pitch to do anything effective.

      • Except on the goal… that was all Ilsinho working in very little space (through 5 defenders).

      • I didn’t mind what Curtin did at all. As mentioned, Sapong was ineffective all year, and there certainly have been calls on this site and others to move Bedoya wide so you can get Jones or Creavalle onto the field to give Haris some defensive help.
        That said, I would’ve preferred Ilsinho on the wing from the start, even if he could only go 60. But I don’t mind Curtin trying this.

  2. I like that Jim tried something different this game, I honestly didn’t think he would. That being said, I’m not sure how this team goes anywhere better with him as coach next year. Money and game changers is still the biggest problem, certainly it’s not Curtin. But that’s not really s ringing endorsement. Keep the kids, play them, give others more minutes. Otherwise move on from Curtin, Haris, Sapong, Fabinho, etc. new thought processes and better talent is all that will he’ll take us to the next level. The league will only get better, so the union need to be exponentially better to gain any ground. The base is there, make the right changes.

  3. UnitedPenn13 says:

    Same team, same field, same score, same result. Maybe PSP can just reuse all of the articles from this past Sunday.

  4. John O'Donnell Jr says:

    Thanks Jim…good luck.

  5. UnitedPenn13 says:

    Same team, same field, same score, same result. Maybe PSP can just reuse the articles from Sunday’s match.

  6. el Pachyderm says:

    Completely outclassed. Once NYCFC stopped pressing Union have the appearance of quality… but that was not at all the case. So so sloppy. To my eyes it was a lumbering American soccer poor technical skill versus European double helix quick one twos and exceptional ball skills.
    The young Union CBs need to get more comfortable on the ball to be ultimately long term effective. Mark McKenzie in particular. . The striker has no skill in the ball… and it’s glaring. They look like new born deer. I thought Haris was outstanding tonight but wonder why he doesn’t have that commitment game in game out.
    I have to imagine Jim Curtin may need to be concerned about his job security and contract renewal. Or not. Hard to say.
    I’ve watched NYCFC take it to muktipke levels of this organization. There is an enormous gulf in quality.
    For me this is an incomplete work. The season was neither an overt success or failure. What I’m certain of is their needs to be marked improvement.

    • I mean we beat them handedly at home. You arent wrong about anything, but I don’t think its that drastic. I’d say 75% of this outcome is due to the field (and yes perhaps we werent coached well enough to have enough talent to win on a bad field, but NYCFC has only lost once at home all year)

  7. Wow. A photocopy performance. Who would’ve expected this? So glad I DVR-scrubbed through the match after goal 2 to save me from a more painful inevitable end.
    Really no answers over 4 matches and honestly more. Backed into playoffs and shown the door.

    Well, see you all late January when we make moves. It’s been real.

  8. The union have yet to win a game when they have to. After seven years that’s just not good enough in a league where almost half the teams make the playoffs.

  9. The Curtains Closes on the Union 2018 season. Outcoached Outplayed and a Total Mismatch ……..Phillys team was not built to play on a small field. That is why it was so important for them to get at least a tie in the last 2 games of the season and get and start the playoffs on Talen field and at least have a shot at winning a playoff game
    NYC s team was built to play on that field. NYC can Pass better has better touch and David Villa . ilsinio was our only answer we had to create any kind of offensive threat. He was a non factor this game. Overall the Union had a successful season in spite of a mediocre coach and a cash poor ownership.The Union desperately need new business partners who can bring the elite sriker that all the top teams have.Doakal is a quality player who must be resigned. Bedoya. Fafa and Blake are the only players who must be kept. for 2019. Harris is just to slow. Simpson and Accm were busts Curtin is Total waste. He has ruined or held back the development of Several promising players since becoming a member of the coaching staff.Elliot Rosenberry Marquez to name a few. McKenzie and Trusty will regress if he remains as coach. Burke has the potential to be a good MLs striker with right coach. I pray that we get a new owner with cash and real coach next year . Philly soccer fans deserve bettter.

  10. I’m glad Jim tried something. It was honestly something I never even imagined he’d try. I think they all gave a really good effort but the skill just wasn’t there. Gaddis was bad again. Creavalle looked rusty. As el P says above they were definitely out classed. I have a feeling had they played this match at home the score line might have been a bit different but with NYCFC still ultimately coming out on top. I don’t think Curtin is back. How can you bring him back. There just needs to be a new voice in the room.

  11. I saw a few Union games live in Chester this year. I was surprised and glad to see how much league play has improved. And the Union have definitely improved. Unfortunately, they’re not improving fast enough to close the distance with the top teams in the league. Most players skills don’t improve much once reaching this level. You want it too, but it just doesn’t happen — most of the big improvements happen in High School — once you reach college level, your game is locked in, and you don’t change much — so having the new technical manager will help some in that regard — particularly with respect to fitness. What you lack in skill, you can make up for in fitness and team cohesion.

    Payroll is a issue — Union finished about where you’d expect for a team @ #16 on the payroll.

    So it goes. Next year. . .

  12. Time to close the Curtin.

    Out of ideas; out of time; next step out of a job.

    Maybe he can take those two Centerbacks with him because they suck out loud.

    Only positive is that I didn’t have to pay for the privilege of watching them flameout in Round One.

  13. Close the Curtin.

    1. Substandard talent promoted as stars to feed the Academy fantasy;

    2. Slavish devotion to his favorites (Rosenberry out for offense while Gaddis stays in?);

    3. Bereft of ideas;

    4. Loser

    I will keep my tickets but change is long overdue.

  14. Well, now Earnie can officially hire Curtin for the US head coach job. I wonder who will be the new coach in Philly? (snark on both obviously)

  15. Well, now Earnie can finally officially hire Curtin for the US head coach job. I wonder who will be the new coach in Philly? (snark on both obviously)

  16. Not to defend Curtin, but the pitch size does play a factor; there’s no room to breathe out there. Unfortunately I don’t think Curtin will be removed. Here’s to a hopeful off-season?

  17. OneManWolfpack says:

    Definitely have to move on from Curtin. Love the guy as a person, but as a coach, I can’t think of another guy (maybe Andy Reid) who’s time has so clearly run out. I, along with many others, have said that Curtin has done what he can do. If this team is spending Atlanta/Toronto money (or even half of that) Curtin’s decisions, or lack there of, wouldn’t matter as much. But they aren’t. And the moves he makes and doesn’t make do matter. This team needs a new manager, a LB, and a sure-fire striker (aka – spend some money HERE). I’m ok with Haris sticking around – seeing as I believe he has a contract for another year, but the new manager MUST work Jones into this lineup, or if not Jones, another equivalent. Anyway, that’s my quick moratorium on the season.
    As for the game last night… I believe if this game is played at Talon, the Union show a whole lot better. Not saying it’s a guaranteed win and I don’t want to sound like a whiny bitch, but that field is an absolute disgrace. There is a reason NYC lost only once on that field. It takes more than just a game or two to adjust. The CB’s, who have been calm most of the season looked panicked and rushed, and I can’t say it was because of some amazing press. The space just isn’t there. Regardless… they didn’t finish the few chances they had – NO SURPRISE THERE – and they came up small again, in another big game. 0-7 in Cup Finals and playoff all time. Almost all of them under Curtin… another reason he’s got to move on. Not to mention Sapong for Keegan in like the 70-something minute? Keegan may have been ineffective or bad or whatever, but he offers a whole lot more going forward than Ray does.
    I am optimistic to see what Tanner does this off-season and I hope it starts with a new manager.

  18. Sad ending to the season. Showed some flashes during the season but this team just can’t win the big games when it really means something (like home field). Curtin is a nice guy but just can’t win the big ones! Time for a new coach! We have had season tickets since the beginning and this is just so pathetic and sad. Let’s hope Tanner makes some changes!

  19. Being a Philly guy and sports fan his entire life, I even think Curtin has to be thinking it time to “Fire me.”
    I don’t agree that he is not a good (or at a minimum improving) coach, but I do agree that there is a life cycle to every coaches tenure in a particular environment.
    And Jim’s time here is up.
    I’ll salute him when he comes back managing another side in MLS.

  20. Let’s concede that the field, which meets FIFA minimum requirements, isn’t actually a competitive advantage for the home team. (Only for the sake of argument.) The strategy needs to address the short, narrow area by holding the defenders back a bit. While, all year, a high line defense helped push play forward, long balls from the defenders are actually the equivalent of the shorter outlets on a standard field, if the defenders hold back. On the other hand, by pushing up, the already crowded field leaves the defenders with long runs to recover (unimaginable to see how far they had to run on a field that is so much shorter than standard) as well as impeding the offense by further crowding an already packed offensive half. Blake was alone on too many occasions as the defenders were recovering. Frankly, with the exception of Ilsinho, I am not sure that any of the guys that saw the field last night have the ball skills to play in such tight quarters. They needed to be thinking of tiki-taka in the offensive third, instead of the go corner and cross that worked so much of the year. As I said, however, they don’t have the good control first touch that such a field requires. With all of that being said, I don’t know whether I expected that there would be a playoff run this year when it started. A long, bitter winter and we will be back in the same seats next year. Here’s hoping that it is a productive off-season.

  21. John Mastrippolito says:

    The Yankee Stadium pitch is an embarrassment to all of professional soccer. Would the NFL hold playoff games on a field 100 feet wide instead of 160? Would the NHL hold an elimination game on your high school rink? No, but the MLS???? No problem.

    You want to fire the coach after the teams best season because they couldn’t win two games played in your sister’s closet instead of on a real regulation field?

    Your frustration should be directed at the owners who allow this B.S. venue to be considered a professional pitch

    • I don’t think you’ll find anyone to argue with you about the pitch, but the argument to fire Curtin comes down to much more thank those 2 games, though they don’t help his case.

    • el Pachdyerm says:

      They won one more game than they lost. ONE. SO lets not get all hey this was some amazing thing.
      Congrats to garnering the most points in Union history. Congrats to winning some game on the road. Lost another open cup final. Could not secure one point in last 6 games of the best season in history to make is so they didn’t have to play two games in a row your sister’s closet… these are legitimate reasons to think a lame duck coach with a new sporting director may have to ponder his security.
      At this point I thoroughly confused about the whole thing to be honest. I’ve been on the record to move past him, yet I’m seeing some definite signs of growth…
      be a big stick in the eye if Jim Curtin Tito Francona’s Philadelphia because two different classes of owners and some hard lessons learned prove out that the guy is a Championship caliber manager.

      • I was wondering last night, if Curtin isn’t renewed, would he just disappear to some unknown high school never to be heard from again. What MLS franchise is going to hire him? his teams notoriously collapse at the end of seasons. He can’t win an important game. Sure he seems to be a players coach, but you can find them the world over, and why would anyone want an MLS retread that hasn’t one anything? If Hackworth’s best choice was to go to Lou City, and that’s after stints with US unders and in MLS, who seriously would give Curtin a chance? If we see Curtin again in MLS it won’t be for years to come after a successful stint in some lower rung of the ladder. And it would have to be quite successful.

      • Won* not one

      • 1 point in the last 6 games of the season? They crushed Minnesota in Game 32 and then lost 1-0 to RBNY in a game they dominated every which way but had an incredibly unlucky handball by a player trying to protect his face. NYCFC gave it to them yes, but look at the quality on the field. Not 1 Union field player starts for that team. Not 1. $12M on the field vs $5M. Union are 17th-18th in $$ spent (including transfer fees). 11th in PPG. Completely outperformed expectations this season. Coach ain’t the problem yo.

    • Boston Garden was was notoriously small for hockey. The Flyers played plenty of playoff games there, and were able to win before they got a bigger barn. It wasn’t the only place either. There used to be at least 3 places that were smaller than regulation sizer but my memory fails me know as to which.

      • since we have nothing positive Union to discuss and there’s a mention of hockey (friggin’ Flyers…) here’s specifics on the old rinks (of our youth)

        1987 article: “The Bruins skate on one of the three ”small” rinks in the NHL. The ice surface in Boston Garden is nine feet shorter and two feet narrower than the regulation measurements of 200 feet by 85 feet. All NHL rinks other than those in Boston, Buffalo (196 by 85) and Chicago (185 by 85) are regulation.”

      • I’ve been watching the NHL since the late 70’s and I can only remember two small rinks. The Aud in Buffalo was the other. But those were grandfathered in and when new arenas were built, they were regulation size. There was no reason for MLS to add a new team in 2015 where their pitch wasn’t regulation size (assuming it isn’t actually 70 across).

      • Thanks Chris for filling in where my memory faded!

    • Chad Boardman says:

      i don’t think anybody disagrees about the pitch in new york, but it’s a fallacy to say people want the manager fired because of 2 games on said pitch. The manager hasn’t been good enough for a long time. Additionally, turn any one of the losses during the year to a W (or 3 to draws) and they have a home playoff game against NYCFC, sans pitch excuses. Hell, just one loss to a draw put you on the road against DC instead of the kinder pitch in NYC.

      Also can we stop the jubilation about the teams best season? Just because all your other years were bad doesn’t make this one good. Bottom line they finished 6th. in most leagues, that’s not even a playoff spot. is 50 points progress? yes. maybe i’m a wierdo, but this seems like celebrating because you lost $5 at the casino when every other time you lost $100.

  22. The game was a carbon copy of Sunday’s game, and similarly this season was a carbon copy of the Union’s previous seasons. midsummer run of good form, disappointing slump at the end of the season, and a crash out of any meaningful games.

  23. Not that I think it would have changed the final outcome but… who else thinks that Bedoya is spending his day today with a Dr. and an MRI looking at his right leg

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      You can bet your house if Villa had taken a HACK like that it would’ve been a PK. Period. Disgraceful that wasn’t called. The ball was right there. You have VAR. There is no excuse

      • VAR totally screwed the Union the last few weeks. Maybe that’s who they should be going after rather than Curtin.

  24. We have been stuck with Curtin since 2014. More losses than wins, no playoff wins, no cup final wins. When is enough enough?

    Sugarman is cheap, no getting around that. At least throw some serious $$ at a coach if you will not towards players.

    This team is like an episode of “King of the Hill”. If its on TV, you will watch. You never really laugh but you are moderately entertained.

  25. Hire a real coach. Beg Comcast to step in and become primary owner sponsor or sell the team.

  26. OneManWolfpack says:

    I don’t get the Curtin love or at least the desire to keep him. Time is up. It’s been long enough. Get a new voice in here. With him out of contract now is the time. He can go quietly into the night.

  27. The Union won’t do anything until they get rid of that dumb “doop” song after goals. That was brought here by Nowak from Chicago. I still remember the Blackhawks playing that song when they beat the Flyers in 2010 Stanley Cup finals. I hated it when he brought it here and I hate it to this day. It is a curse and the Union won’t win anything until they get rid of it.

    Oh, and Fire Curtin!

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      That song is called “Chelsea Dagger”, by The Fratelli’s. The Doop song the Union play is taken from a song called, “Maria (I Like It Lowd)” by Scooter. Two totally different songs. I like The Fratelli’s a lot… but to this day I can’t listen to Chelsea Dagger. Regardless… “Doop” has nothing to do with it, and it actually fun and unique to the Union. Sorry, I’m a loser, but I had to point this out. But I do agree… fire Jim 🙂

  28. Phil in Wilmington says:

    3-4-3 for 2019?

    —-Accam ——- DP striker ——-Picault

    — Gaddis — Jones – Bedoya — Rosenberry —

    ——– Elliot – Trusty – McKenzie ——–


    keep: ilsinho, medunjanin,
    sell : simpson, sapong, burke, yaro, fabinho, dockal, herbers, (maybe ilsinho if someone gives you a crazy price)
    blood (cup matches): real, fonatana, przyblko, najem, aaronson

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