Union match reports

Preseason match report: Philadelphia Union 2-1 D.C. United

Photo: 215pix

The warm air in Clearwater led to a heated match as Marco Fabian notched his first goal for his new club and Cory Burke carried his top goal scoring form into 2019 with the winner in a 2-1 victory for Philadelphia Union against D.C. United on Wednesday night.

The penultimate preseason match for the Union began just as any mid-February soccer match played at the Joe DiMaggio Sports Complex would. Both teams came out with great energy in what started as a cagey affair between the two Eastern Conference rivals.

The Union dominated the first 20 minutes, which were sloppy and littered with heavy touches and poorly weighted passes.

Philadelphia, sporting their grey, numberless preseason kits, came out with far more energy than what was seen during last Saturday’s disappointing 1-0 loss to Montréal Impact. Union head coach Jim Curtin deployed a higher press to get his players into the game.

Young left back Kai Wagner found himself in acres of space over the duration of the opening 2o minutes. The same 19 year-old that got burned on numerous occasions by Montréal’s Bacary Sanga, a man 17 years his senior, was at the forefront of several offensive moves for the Union.

The new signing from the German Dritte Liga showed flashes of what Shalke 04 saw while he rose through their ranks, whipping in a handful of dangerous crosses, looking for the heads of C.J. Sapong and Cory Burke.

With the “hosts” failing to convert on several gilt-edged chances, D.C. pounced on their lone opportunity that fell to the feet of none other than England’s all-time leading goal scorer, Wayne Rooney.

Rooney was sprung loose through the Union’s backline thanks to a perfectly slotted through ball from Luciano Acosta to leave the former Manchester United forward all alone with goalkeeper Andre Blake, over whom he coolly lofted the ball to open the scoring.

The goal afforded D.C. the ability to settle into the match and keep a hold of the ball for longer spells heading towards the halftime whistle.

The second half brought a plethora of substitutes for both teams including several anonymous prospects for D.C. United such as “number 34” and “number 37”.

While number 34 and 37 linked up to great affect for the remainder of the night, no substitution was more impactful than C.J. Sapong making way for Fafa Picault. The ever dangerous winger appeared far more threatening going forward for the Union.

Jim Curtin’s men moved more free-flowingly, and with most of United’s starters on the bench, chances for D.C. were few and far between.

With an hour into the contest, the Union still had no goals until a few fortunate bounces that fell their way. Record signee Marco Fabian reaped the benefits during a moment of chaos for D.C. United’s backline.

The former Chivas and Eintracht Frankfurt star took his chance well when the moment came and lifted a weight off of his shoulders.

“I’m very happy to score. I know it is only preseason, but I always want to score,” said the Mexican international. “I always want to win.”

Philadelphia’s new number 10 put his club on its way to do just that.

Only 10 minutes after Fabian’s equalizer, Fafa Picault launched one last attack to seal victory.

Racing up his right wing position, the rapid winger beat Bill Hamid’s second half replacement keeper to the ball and took him out of the play with a deft backheel pass to the oncoming Cory Burke, who neatly placed a shot into the side of an empty net.

Three points
  • Much improved It was far from a pretty game, but the Union looked to have put the ugly loss against Montréal behind them with a more thorough performance against and arguably more talented team in D.C. United.
  • ¡Muy bien, Fabian! Newcomer Marco Fabian has had the weight of the Philadelphia Union fan base on his shoulders since his arrival last month, but all doubt was put to rest after his performance Saturday night. A 65 minute showing tells that his match fitness may not be in top form, but he looked as comfortable in possession as he did getting stuck in a challenge or firing a shot at goal.
  • Firey competition Is it ever a good idea to play against a rival in a “friendly”? I am not entirely sure that it is, simply for the fact that several players picked up injuries in a game that was perhaps more physical than it needed to be. Both teams went after it for the better part of 90 minutes and some players payed the price. Kai Wagner, Ilsinho, and Auston Trusty all picked up slight knocks, with the severity of Wagner’s still up in the air.

D.C.: GK – Bill Hamid; Joseph Mora, Steven Birnbaum, Jalen Robinson, Akeem Ward; Junior Moreno, Russell Canouse; Ulises Segura, Luciano Acosta, Paul Arriola; Wayne Rooney

Philadelphia: GK – Andre Blake; Kai Wagner (Mbaizo), Auston Trusty, Jack Elliott, Raymon Gaddis; Haris Medunjanin (Jones); Alejandro Bedoya, Marco Fabian, Ilsinho (Aaronson); C.J. Sapong (Picault), Cory Burke (Accam)

Scoring summary

DC – Wayne Rooney 23′ (Acosta)

PHI – Marco Fabian 60′

PHI – Cory Burke 74′ (Picault)


  1. One huge change this season for people watching at home will be the way the Union “look” while playing. Last year, the goal was possession and poise. That focus made it seem like the Union were playing well even when the weren’t scoring… it was still beautiful. This year, now that chaos reigns and possession is for the tactically gauche, the team may not play much beautiful soccer over long stretches. Instead, the brief moments of beauty will be derived from the chaos they create. This match was a good example.

  2. Notes from my phone:
    Wagner made good and bad decisions but better than Fabi so I’m satisfied.
    Burke and CJ were both slow and forgettable if you ask me.
    Fafa drifting wide is expected but not such a bad thing.
    Fabian was very good on the ball when he could actually get it.
    Haris sat quite deep and did well. Not getting caught up the field will be his biggest challenge this season.
    Elliot and Trusty put in a confidence inspiring 90. Both found themselves very high up the pitch a few times which made me anxious. Trusty has done this consistently since earning his spot.
    Aaronson also look good. Started slow but he came into the game as it wore on.
    Mbaizo very good immediately after coming in.
    D Jones is so strong on the ball, I want him to get more minutes more than anyone else on the roster.
    Bedoya with a tireless 90, started showing fatigue and making mistakes (and then fixing them).
    Tactics and performance:
    Double target men up top is a recipe for failure up top. I hope Jim realizes this but I’m not hopeful.
    The press was very promising on more than a few occasions but its vulnerabilities did not go unnoticed. Fitness will be the monkey on our back all season if we want to maintain this gegenpressing style. I like it but worry about the dog days of MLS. If Bedoya goes down injured I foresee much trouble.
    It seemed the first half was left-focused and the second half right-focused. I wonder if that was the Mbiazo effect in action. He seemed electric after a professional Gaddis shift.

  3. That was a better performance by far. Burke and C.J. looked ok up top but really didn’t compliment each other. Fafa coming on definitely changed things. Wagner absolutely looked better. Fabian played well and staying higher up the field helped a bit. Haris looked better and wasn’t run over when pushed out to the side of the diamond when Jones came in (possibly because of D.C. subs). Jones is still a monster in the middle. M’baizo looked good. Aaronson looked MUCH better in his natural position.

  4. Getting Closer…….
    Offense looked much better. Just a step away from scoring at least 2 more goals Wagner gave some good chances for the U on left crosses to score more goals. Barring injury, Wagner is the starting left back. Burke should start every game. Curtin would be crazy to ever start Sapong again. Marco worked tirelessly once more and it paid off. Fafa showed his magic and he should be worked in somewhere to use his exceptional speed for 60 minutes a game . I don’t think the back line is set at all. Tonight they looked a little shaky and the confused part of the team, especially in the center back slot.

  5. I only caught the second half but i was really enjoying the chaos the union were creating in front of the dc goal, it was much more fun that i thought itd be. aaranson was really hounding dc’s midfield and defense in a way that seemed delightfully annoying. i jumped out of my seat on the play that led to the second goal

  6. Thanks for the commentary and insights. Unable to catch any of the game. Really enjoy Fafa on the wing. Looking forward to seeing them for the home opener!

  7. Only saw the last 30 minutes but really enjoyed these. Glad I did not see CJ play. Enjoyed the passing. Passes often went to unexpected places, except when Jones come on. All his passes were too predictable and most went sideways or backwards. Can’t wait for the opener!

  8. el Pachyderm says:

    While I appreciate Haris, with MFabian able to drop deep to find game or play up high, I can do without Haris, to have what in my mind is a pure Destroyer in Derrick Jones lying deep: protecting the backs, adding grit and ever complimentary skills for a relentlessly pressing outwork the other team- team.
    Here’s the reality. If the press doesn’t work, the game is wide open and you have 5 players bombing at you on a counter-press towards your goal a la NYCFC in the playoffs. Derrick Jones is showing he’s the guy to manage this.
    Not likely to happen and the young man will tack on another year to his age without featuring, then join My Dearly Departed in some USL outpost— in a missed opportunity.

    • I agree that Jones should be the starter, but I’m not so sure Haris will get it over him. Well, maybe to start the season. As you say, and I feel, if they start getting ripped to shreds on the counter because of Haris’ lack of speed, I think (hope) Curtin will make the switch, or even push Haris out wide as he did in the second half.
      Watching Jones just dominate the middle is pure joy to watch.

    • The four-man midfield can be configured in different ways.
      Bethlehem has been focused on playing with two defensive center-mids, two center mids set more widely, and an open space where an attacking center mid would normally be.
      After Jones came on that may have been they way they were trying to play, I was not sure.
      Tanner’s ship has at least these two options for tactical flexibility, and there may be more I haven’t been smart enough to notice.

  9. So, is there an update on Santos? Is he hurt and I missed it? Or do we have another 500k striker that can’t get on the field?

  10. For those of you that missed it, or parts of it the Union have the whole match up if you feel the need.

  11. Peanut Gallery says:

    It was interesting to see Medunjanin moved to the left of the diamond when Jones came on as the destroyer.
    Lots of United subs were on the pitch at that point, but it worked. Probably related to the plan to bring Aaronson on to relieve Fabián in the second half. But it at least functioned as a no-risk way to look at a left-footed option for that side if form or injuries force changes.

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