Union / Union match reports

Match report: FC Cincinnati 0-2 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Philadelphia Union’s first ever trip to Nippert Stadium, the home of  MLS newcommers FC Cincinnati, was a wet one.

But the rain couldn’t dampen the spirits of the visitors on their way to the 100th league victory in franchise history.

The Union controlled the match throughout but couldn’t crack Cincinnati’s defense until the second half. Philadelphia’s No. 10 Marco Fabián, returning to the field after his two-game suspension, opened the scoring with a first time finish in the 47th minute. The man who provided the assist, forward David Accam, doubled the Union’s lead in the 58th minute for his third goal since returning to the starting 11.

Union head coach Jim Curtin reverted back to this season’s preferred 4-4-2 diamond setup after a brief return to 4-2-3-1 in last week’s victory over Columbus Crew.  Teenage homegrown Brenden Aaronson shifted to the No. 8 opposite of captain Alejandro Bedoya.

Conversely, Cincinnati were without their captain, center back Kendall Waston, who was held out after picking up a minor calf injury during the week. Head coach Alan Koch went with an empty bucket approach (that’s fun to say), choosing to leave U.S. International Kenny Saief on the bench to start the match.

The weather and poor quality of the field factored into a rather muted first 45 minutes of action. Philadelphia dominated statistically, with seven shots, nine corners and 62.7% of possession, but never looked truly threatening. Cincinnati didn’t manage a shot until the 42nd minute.

Those numbers are somewhat deceiving in that Cincinnati’s style of attack was to counter quickly with direct passing. The Union did well to dissipate the danger, however the home squad did manage to find the back of the net.

In the 27th minute, winger Roland Lamah sliced through the Union’s back line before sliding the ball past goalkeeper Andre Blake. Fortunately for Philadelphia, the sequence started with the Belgian about two feet offside.

The half’s best chance, though, came in the 10th minute. A creative corner nearly opened the scoring for the visitors. The 18-year-old Aaronson found Fabián at the far post with the free kick. While it may have been a shot, the Mexican’s scalding ball across frame couldn’t find the foot of a teammate to finish the chance.

After play resumed in the second half, it didn’t take long for the Union to capitalize on their early dominance. And almost ironically, it came from a lethal counter.

Brilliant buildup found Accam with space down the right flank. With patience, Accam centered a pass to Fabián, who made no mistake in his first-touch finish for his second goal of the young season. It was clinical and pure and the first goal Cincinnati had allowed in 312 minutes. With a nod that madness in March isn’t limited to the basketball courts, the Union’s No. 10 orchestrated a cheeky celebration in honor of the other sport.

The lead was nearly short-lived, however.

Blake reminded the viewers once again how good he is at goalkeeping. Lamah found space in the center of the Union’s box and sent a screamer toward net. The Jamaican, returning from international duty, made an acrobatic dive to his right to preserve his side’s lead.

The danger, though, wasn’t over. On the resulting corner, midfielder Leonardo Bertone had a free header which looked destined for goal. Unfortunately for Cincinnati, the ball was blocked on the line by their own center back, Nick Hagglund.

Those missed opportunities proved costly for the southern Ohio club.

Accam decided to embarrass all comers and double the Union’s league along the way in the 58th minute. Dummying a shot grounded one would-be defender and “Titi” deked a second with a sublime cutback. With the subtlest of touches, the Ghanaian rolled the ball by hapless goalkeeper Spencer Richey for his third tally in the last two matches.

The lead allowed for the perfect opportunity to debut recently acquired midfielder Jamiro Monteiro, who was finally available after prolonged eligibility issues. Fabián gave way in the 71st minute, as Curtin mentioned his fitness wasn’t quite there for a full 90 minute shift. Forward Cory Burke came on for Accam, who left due to injury, and Aaronson was replaced by Warren Creavalle.

Philadelphia remained in control throughout and secured their first-ever away win against an expansion team having previously gone 0-5-3 in such tilts.

The Union returns to Talen Energy Stadium next Saturday looking to extend their win streak to three against FC Dallas.

Three points
  • A meaningful change. Last week, we learned how truly special Accam’s two goals were. This week, and going forward, the Ghanaian’s jersey will read “Titi.” It’s a nickname he shared with his late father.
  • The debutant. Monteiro made his much anticipated debut, but the real question is where will he play going forward. Curtin speaks highly of the Cape Verde native, but his introduction would mean replacing one of the Union’s in form midfielders.
  • Wet turf. It might sound like a failed punk rock band name, but the weather really shined a light on the pitch. The stellar Cincinnati fanbase, and all of MLS, deserves a quality surface at every venue.
Lineups

FC Cincinnati
Spencer Richey; Mathieu Deplagne, Nick Hagglund, Forrest Lasso, Greg Garza; Leonardo Bertone, Victor Ulloa (Caleb Stanko 71′); Roland Lamah, Allan Cruz (Frankie Amaya 76′); Darren Mattocks, Kekuta Manneh (Kenny Saief 59′)
Unused subs: Jimmy Hague, Justin Hoyte, Alvas Powell, Eric Alexander

Philadelphia Union
Andre Blake; Ray Gaddis, Jack Elliott, Auston Trusty, Kai Wagner; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Brenden Aaronson (Warren Creavalle 90′), Marco Fabián (Jamiro Monteiro 71′); Fafa Picault, David Accam (Cory Burke 66′)
Unused subs: Matt Freese, Mark McKenzie, Olivier Mbaizo, Ilsinho

Scoring summary

PHI — Marco Fabián – 47′ (David Accam)
PHI — David Accam – 58′

Misconduct summary

N/A

35 Comments

  1. el Pachyderm says:

    Goddamn I love clean sheets. They help me sleep so well.

  2. Well done in tough conditions. Congrats on a great team effort. Rarely let them get a breathe.
    .
    Accam: that was a stellar first move (fake shot) to create that chance, and another toe poke finish.
    .
    Nice to see Monty get some time. Welcome to the club.
    .
    Hat tip to all.

  3. Excellent second half for the Union. The attack had a real dominating turn and probably should have scored another goal or two. Bravo.

  4. This was a fun game to watch. Wagner is rock solid. Accam and Fabián deliver. Blake is his usual highlight reel self and Bedoya is the engine that never stops. Monteiro steps in and has immediate impact. I have to say that we could use a right back that has the aptitude and skill to do what our left back is doing but that is nitpicking isn’t it..

    • Vince Devine says:

      I don’t think asking for a right back replacement is nitpicking. Gaddas probably had negative 200 yards passing on the night and hardly ever crossed midfield, and opposing teams know they can generate chances down his side of the field.

  5. OneManWolfpack says:

    Nothing bad to say at all. Played well in bad conditions. Hopefully when Accam came off he wasn’t hurt. Thought I saw him point to his groin area. Hopefully I’m crazy.
    .
    Anyway, Wagner again was a stud. Aaronson should be the starter on the right side of the diamond. And Montiero impressed me as well.
    .
    2-2-1 at the end of March… I will take that.

    • I wonder if Accam wasn’t hurt on the stretch to reach that searching ball that was sent to him a minute or three before he was lifted. It seemed like he was limping after he couldn’t reach that ball. I hope that it isn’t a long term issue after he had those same problems last year and the surgery in his core/groin.

  6. Road win in tough conditions. Team is starting to get some chemistry. Aaronson belongs. (Tommy needs to stop talking about how young he is.) Wagner’s run in the last 10 minutes was so, well Wagner. He’s a machine. (He wasn’t even out of breath when he was walking back up field.)
    .
    Bedoya being Bedoya, but if Curtin doesn’t start some squad rotation, he’ll have dead legs come August. Thankfully Jamiro is here to help with that.
    .
    Blake hurt? Titi?
    .
    Back to back clean sheets.

  7. Only got to see the second half. Nicely controlled most of the play. Agree with the chemistry. This team, with some more time and a couple tweaks, will be fun and score goals

  8. Andy Muenz says:

    Good job by the team, although they need some work on corner kicks. Nice to see that they are finishing some of their chances, although I’m getting a bit worried about Burke not finishing.

    • Yes, very much this. Aaronson kept putting them to the far side of the box, yet the Fabian shot/pass Nick mentioned was the only time a Union player seemed to even be in that area for one of Aaronson’s kicks. (Elliott had a good look at a header from one of Haris’s kicks, but sent it wide.)
      .
      Aaronson’s kicks were consistent. Somebody’s gotta get to that area of the box to challenge for the ball.

  9. I say we may actually have a team this year, they played well. There were some mistakes, but none that ended up hurting the team. Aaronson fit in well with Fabian. Accam kept his streak going. Monteiro was around the ball, winning it, from the moment he stepped on the pitch. Credit to Curtin for pulling the right strings. Can’t be happier.

  10. The Chopper says:

    Two straight wins. Two straight clean sheets with Medunjanin on the field. Two different formations, lineups adjusted to account for injury, suspension and performance. This team looked well coached and prepared. 2-2-1. New acquisitions performing well, youth getting a chance to play.

    For the moment Tanner and Curtin appear to be on the right track.

  11. This is the type of complete game this team is capable of. They have to talent to be a tough match up in MLS. Happiness is when out stars shine.

  12. Craig Schenck says:

    Love the outcome but saw a couple of dumb dives by Fabian and more sluggishness from Burke.

  13. Alright, gang. Let’s make sure Gaddis gets some credit this week please. We slag him pretty bad – some of it deserved. He’s not Kai Wagner, but he had a good game, including connecting some passes in the final third of the field. He worked the right flank quite well with Bedoya (mostly), Fabian, and Elliott.
    .
    There’s room for improvement – especially if we’re going to compare him to The Machine on the left. But overall, he played well last night, and it deserves to get mentioned.

    • Here! Here!

    • Vince Devine says:

      Sorry, can’t agree. I only saw uncreative soccer from him and his consistent passing for negative yardage. Worst player on the field, and wouldn’t start for most USL teams.

      • Chris Gibbons says:

        This is incorrect. He remains the defensive backstop in front of which Bedoya and company can operate down the right. His high pressure this season has been a revelation, and his recovery speed allows him to be high up the pitch and create chaos. He’s a limited player, but if he were “bad,” certainly one of the five sporting directors or head coaches who’ve valued him would’ve gotten rid of him. All he does is keep winning his job back, year after year.

      • “Nagative yardage”?? This ain’t the NFL. Watch Barca play. They constantly and patiently recycle the ball backward and around until a weak point is found.

      • Vince, I think your bias is showing, to be honest. What you’re describing doesn’t match up with the game stats. (find them here: https://matchcenter.mlssoccer.com/matchcenter/2019-03-30-fc-cincinnati-vs-philadelphia-union/audi-index )
        .
        Passing in Opposition’s half: 23/29 (79.3%)
        Passing in Own half: 20/24 (83.3%)
        .
        So his passing percentage in his own half was better, but his number of successes in Cincy’s half is almost equal to his number of attempts in his own half.
        .
        Some other numbers worth looking at:
        .
        Successful passes Final Third: 8
        Successful long passes: 2 (with 4 failures)
        Interceptions: 2
        Clearances: 2
        Tackles Won: 1
        Successful Take Ons: 1
        .
        (I was looking for the passing chart, because a picture is better; but couldn’t find it.)
        .
        Don’t get me wrong. I’d much rather see Mbaizo playing on the right than Gaddis. But Ray didn’t have a terrible game, despite your pre-conceived notions of it.

    • He was OK. There were a few times when he received the ball out wide and passed it back instead of taking it down the wing than made me shake my head. But I can’t recall him making any terrible errors.

    • Gaddis is limited in what he offers but he is not awful…

  14. Unfortunately, I missed the first half and caught the later portion of the second half, but this summary demonstrates a couple of things. The change in formation from one week tot he next shows a major shift in Jim Curtin’s thinking, or in his freedom to manage the club. That is a great thing, and far too late in the process. Keep it up, Jim. Second, the contribution of Accam, with his scoring coming back to levels that we were anticipating from him before is a major benefit. Thank goodness for the return to form. (Now, all that we need to do is hope that he didn’t re-injure himself stretching for that lead pass just before he left the game. I would hate to see him back down on the strength chart because of the good things that he is showing.) It seems like the defenders are working together well, and I hope that Trusty and McKenzie rise to challenge for permanence back there. Healthy competition will benefit the team as a whole. The officiating continues to be mystifying, and it detracts from both the developing teamwork and the skills that are being shown on the field. People watching the game have a hard time enjoying the sublime pass to lead a player that isn’t on the receiving end because he was just mugged, and the referee allowed play to continue. That is damaging to the MLS product and must be addressed. As I noted, I only saw part of the match, but it was an enjoyable game, and I hope to see much more.

  15. In a word, GOOD.

    .

    Kept a clean sheet and finished two chances with class in tough conditions, on the road. Can’t ask for more than that.

    .

    Squad rotation will be something to keep an eye on going forward, but that’s for another conversation on another day. For now, just happy that this team seems to be putting it together.

  16. As i am living in Germany, im not able to see all the games. Can anyone summarize Aaronsons few last games?

    Doop from Germany

    • IMO two of the three have been very strong. He is quick in his decision making with a nose for driving the net. He’s not at all afraid to take guys on and has a quick first step which he uses well to find space. Also very willing to take a shot.

      His 2nd game the touch was a bit heavy – I’m thinking the expectations from the first game may have amped him up a bit.

      In terms of weaknesses, too early to say. I would say that despite his quick decision making and fast first step his speed is not such that he can carry a counter for 40 yards.

      Defensively I think he’s been pretty strong, no obvious gaffes and his positioning has been good. As with the taking guys on 1v1 on offense he has stayed pretty aggressive when defending as well.

      Would be interested to hear other takes as well.

      He’s a starter and I would expect to see him in the 11 for some time.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      My opinion: Played extremely well in his debut at Atlanta. Scored the Union’s only goal that game (1-1 draw) and was excellent at the 10… controlling the offense. Wasn’t as good vs Columbus at home, but certainly didn’t look overwhelmed or out of place. He was played the 10 again in that game. Played on the right side of the 4-4-2 diamond midfield last night and was very good all around. Cut toward the goal in a play the led to the Accam goal. All in all has been impactful, and certainly belongs on the field. Kid can play.
      .
      If anyone can disagree or add more, feel free.

    • Oh! One other major point I neglected. He’s taken the majority, if not all, of the right-footed (in swinging) corners. His delivery, so far, has been pretty good – the ball has been in some dangerous spots. Unfortunately our guys look like little brownstones in the Manhattan landscape and haven’t been particularly close to converting.

      • Agreed. And I hate inswingers. They seem to favor the D way more than the attack. Not sure why we use them.

  17. Couldn’t watch the game. Conditions look rotten in the highlights. Both goals were very well taken, Fabian’s clean and Titi’s dirty (ew!) You have to love the wherewithal of Fabian to take that extra touch. Titi took those Cinci players out to breakfast AND lunch with those fakes. Beauties, the both of ’em. Every corner Cinci had looked threatening but I’ll chalk that up conditions.
    .
    Happy about three more points and our form at this point. Titi has been born anew and I hope whatever drove him off the pitch isn’t serious. Very curious to see Monty in the flesh next game.
    .
    Regarding Mr. Gaddis: He’s not leaving the starting XI anytime soon. He’s a consistent Defender who mostly knows his limits and Curtin knows exactly what he can get out of him. In an otherwise transformative (and so far exciting) lineup, Gaddis is Curtin’s comfort blanket. I have to give up my hopes of anyone else in that spot. At least for now.

  18. man that was a fun game to watch. I remember hearing some people theorize the 442 was not going to be as entertaining as the last season’s 4231 but i’m enjoying it now that its clicking

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