Match Report / Union

Match report: Philadelphia Union 1 – 3 Portland Timbers

Photo: Rob Simmons

Philadelphia Union are no longer unbeaten in their last six matches and no longer on top of the Eastern Conference. After several clumsy first half mistakes and a Brian Fernandez brace, a bit of improved play in the second half wasn’t enough to resurrect their chances of a home field victory.

While the Union created chances of their own up top in the first half, Portland largely sought to capitalize on mistakes from the Philadelphia backline for their own opportunities. Portland’s strategy reaped rewards first, as Timbers midfielder Brian Fernandez notched the first goal of the match in the 31st minute. After an unmarked Andy Polo gathered the ball on his own right wing, both Ray Gaddis and Jack Elliott failed to track Fernandez to the back post. Polo crossed it across Union keeper Andre Blake, where Fernandez headed it in.

Fernandez would capitalized again on a complete breakdown in the Union’s defense. In the 36th minute, after Philadelphia captain Alejandro Bedoya slipped on the patchy turf of Talen Energy Stadium, a Portland trio of Diego Chara, Diego Valeri, and Fernandez jetted into the Union’s half with only Haris Medunjanin and the centerback pairing of Jack Elliott and Auston Trusty to stop them. Medunjanin failed to slow down the speedy trio, and the resulting 3-vs-2 scenario was too much for the Union backs to handle. The ball pinged back and forth until Chara managed to get it back to Fernandez, who easily shot it past Blake to get the brace for himself and a two goal lead for his team.

The Union would begin the second half very differently than the first. In the 47th minute, Kai Wagner let the ball out wide to Fafa Picault who was able to find forward Kacper Przybylko at the near post. Przybylko had seen his share of fair opportunities not work out in the first half. This time however, he put a mild touch on the ball and tapped it past Steve Clark. Clark lost sight of the ball as it bounced over his line. Doubtless, it wasn’t the prettiest goal of Przybylko’s career, but it put his side back in the match.

For most of the half thereafter, the Union played like a team on a six-game unbeaten streak – quick in transition and breaking the defense down in possession. It seemed inevitable that they would even the score if not for the brilliant play pf Steve Clark.

It was Portland, however, that would score the next goal and seal the match. Gathering the ball at the top of the Union’s penalty box, Sebastian Blanco laid a neat pass off to Diego Valeri. The Portland captain didn’t hesitate to take the shot, curling the ball past Andre Blake. With only three minutes of regular time remaining, Portland went up 3-1.

With the Union’s loss and a tie from D.C. United, the Union now sit in second in the Eastern Conference. They face Colorado Rapids this Wednesday at 7:30 PM.

Three Points
  • Costly mistakes. If not for the early mistakes on defense, the Union may have won this match. It seems like an obvious thing to say, but it’s important to note. If Philadelphia want to be considered among the top teams in MLS, they need to eliminate these clusters mistakes entirely.
  • New formation.  The later minutes of the match saw a new player and a new formation. Michee Ngalina made his MLS debut, subbing on for Ray Gaddis. Ngalina, traditionally a winger, slotted in as a forward, creating a formation with three men up top. It was an unfamiliar shape for the Union, and it looked like it. A team that had seemingly returned to form in the second half lost several opportunities through miscommunication and confusion.
  • Frustrating, not devastating. The Union should be upset with this loss. They made careless mistakes and dropped three points. They also didn’t capitalize on their own opportunities. But they did create opportunities, and Portland Timbers – defending MLS Cup finalists – are far better than their record implies. Put those two things together and you have a team that could have won and should continue to win going forward.

Philadelphia Union
Andre Blake, Ray Gaddis (Michee Ngalina – 82′), Jack Elliott, Auston Trusty, Kai Wagner, Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya, Jamiro Monteiro, Brenden Aaronson (Ilsinho – half), Fafa Picault (Sergio Santos – 67′), Kacper Przybylko

Unused Subs: Miguel Carlos Coronel, Aurelien Collin, Anthony Fontana

Portland Timbers

Steve Clark, Zarek Valentin, Larrys Mabiala, Bill Tuiloma, Jorge Villafana, Diego Chara, Andy Polo (Julio Cascante – 67′), Andres Flores, Diego Valeri (Eryk Williamson – 87′), Brian Fernandez, Jeremy Ebobisse (Sebastian Blanco – 60′)

Unused Subs: Jeff Attinella, Claude Dielna, Jorge Moreira, Tomas Conechny

Scoring Summary

POR: Brian Fernandez – 31′ (Andy Polo)

POR: Brian Fernandez – 36′ (Diego Chara)

PHI: Kacper Przybylko – 47′ (Fafa Picault)

POR – Diego Valeri – 87′ (Sebastian Blanco)

Disciplinary Summary

POR: Steve Clark – 22′ (Time wasting)

PHI: Jack Elliott -85′ (Unsporting behavior)

POR: Diego Chara – 90+2′ (Unsporting behavior)


  1. Andy Muenz says:

    Creating opportunities is not good enough. 11 shots but only 1 on target in the first half won’t cut it, especially when your opponents have 5 on target.
    This team is not as good as everyone has been saying. They lost to a Kansas City team that is one of the worst in the west. They lost to an LA team that has been mediocre since. They drew with Vancouver who is outside the playoffs. They beat Columbus who had several guys on international duty. They beat Dallas who was without some of their regulars due to team suspension. 3 of their wins are against the bottom 2 teams in the east. Another was against Montreal who has a -6 goal differential on the season. They were only able to manage a draw against a Seattle team that rested half of their starters. And now this.
    I’m thinking this is likely 2016 all over again where they are top of the table midway through but then start playing real competition and back into the playoffs in the last spot.

    • el Pachyderm says:

      this team is as good as ‘everyone has been saying’ and it is up to them to live up to that praise.
      simple. They had not been beaten in six matches. Not likely we are dealing with— The Invincibles here.
      A discerning person could go through every teams’ schedule and argue as you are arguing. Not quite as likely someone would go through a team’s schedule and argue… man we just came up against the best of that team week after week the breaks just aren’t going our way when we play these teams with no injuries and no suspensions and guys on international duty, or low and behold beating up teams they are better than… the fixtures are the fixtures.
      At this point it is completely reasonable to expect his team to finish in top half of conference.

    • This team is better than the 2016 team, and that’s being conservative. This team “is” as good as everyone has been saying and I’d argue that they’re highly underrated. They completely bossed Seattle last week and outplayed the Timbers tonight. This just in…the Timbers are good! They’re 4-1-1 in their last 6 games and have yet to play a home game this year! But hey, you’re right, you have to finish. The Union hit the post twice and couldn’t finish numerous 2nd half chances. For as much praise as Monteiro and Aaronson are getting (and rightly so), they’re finishing has been poor. Oh and by the way they’re 2nd in the East without hardly any help from Marco Fabian. If this team can improve it’s “box play” and get even higher % opportunities, the sky’s the limit.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Should also mention that other teams should have no worries when fouling the Union or kicking it out for a corner because the Union are no threat on set pieces.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      This has been a problem for years with the Union. Amazing how they can’t even threaten on a corner.

      • Andy Muenz says:

        And that was with switching from their usual in-swingers to out-swingers in the first half last night.

  3. One of those nights. Liked the effort. They didn’t deserve the loss. Real shame they couldn’t do better for the crowd. Real MotM performance from the fans tonight.

  4. UnionGoal says:

    Slipped on the “patchy” pitch. Cue the shill for the sod company. Now you’re in for it, Ryan, never should have used that adjective, no matter how true…
    Otherwise good writeup-thank you.

    Ok before everyone jumps of cliff off despair, hey, this hasn’t just been another version of Curtin’s annual “save my job” win streak, albeit earlier in the script. What’s it been, 3 years where team crappy out the door, then May -June win streak, then fall apart in August, as players get injured, relegated to bench for social media, or depressed or homesick?

    Team actually looks good, and I think last half will show, especially if Tanner picks up another piece o r Fontana gets a shot.
    But fatigue setting in.
    Bedoya, Haris, Elliott, and even Fafa need a game off, rest up.
    Team will bounce back despite Keegan and Conor’s homecoming–at least they are bringing aging Howard and not Zac who is gone and probably has biggest chip in shoulder and would hurt us the most just to spite us.
    Still figure Union for 2nd-3rd in very weak conference and 1-2 playoff wins. More than that probably asking a lot but playoffs in any sport can be odd.Just ask the Saints this past year.
    So don’t despair or give up just yet.

    • Just Rob f/k/a Rob127 says:

      I don’t think Bedoya slipped on the turf at all. It looked to me like he put his weight on the ball and it squirted out from under him. You know, like they teach you not to do in pee wee leagues. That was an embarrassment, and from the captain no less.

  5. OneManWolfpack says:

    Disagree with Andy. I think this team is solid. I think they know how to create and make things happen… but I obviously do agree… the finishing is just atrocious. They could’ve easily won both games (Seattle and Portland), but instead got only one point. I’m not as negative, but I’ll say I’m beginning to get a little concerned. They need to not just beat a Colorado team on Wednesday, that is literally dead last, but crush them. Score in bunches and get back on track. 9 points available before the Gold Cup (I didn’t check but I think this is right)… I’d say 6 is a must. I’d really like to see Fabian come back healthy and make an impact. We do need a RB, and I’d bring another striker in. I’m sure a lot of people will say they’re frauds, but I don’t see it. I still see a good team.
    I’ll reserve judgement till the Gold Cup break… but I’d say on a concerned level (1-10), I’m at about a 3.

  6. Atomic Spartan says:

    Creating chances, taking shots, mostly just unlucky not to score. More worried that squad won’t rotate until injury requires it. Love Kai, but U either need to convert those crosses or vary the tactic because it has become too predictable. And like Andy says, this team needs better set piece tactics and execution

  7. Great One says:

    Chances created but no finishing. Couple costly mistakes they couldn’t overcome. The pitch is horrible once again. They need to shake this off, give santos a good run of playing, give some squad rotation, and get a new striker and or left back.
    Shake it off and win next week.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      I assume you mean they should get a new right back rather than left back since Wagner is the best left back they’ve had in years.

    • UnionGoal says:

      Great One,
      Enough complaining about the pitch. You should know it takes time for sod to take root. Should be fine by the 2419 A. D. season.
      So no matter how many game-costing slips, or groin injuries from males in their 20’s doing splits only teenage female gymnasts should do, or videos of opposing keepers lifting whole patches of pitch and tossing them into the crowd like Harper tossing balls at Wrigley field—it’s nothing to do with the pitch. So please just stop, smell the roses and wait for the sod to take root.
      Thank you.

      • Great One says:

        The worst was early on, a Portland corner, Blake went down literally just stepping. Thankfully it was fluffed to the net so he could catch it, but he got up and tried to fix a huge hole.

  8. Tough loss. The Union are a good solid team and should bounce back. They’ve persevered through injuries, suspensions, a weird visa issue, and dubious officiating. They have excellent build up and create quality chances to score. They need a light’s out DP striker. Where is the Union’s Brian Fernandez? You can ride mediocre strikers just so far. My biggest concern at the moment is that their high priced DP is still missing in action and Santos isn’t starting.

  9. I also disagree with Andy. I think this team is good. I also think adjustments need to be made. Maybe someone needs a rest or maybe switch formations for a few games. The 4-2-2 diamond has become a bit stale. Things livened up with the switch back to the familiar 4-2-3-1, but Jim went a bit over-board with the 3-4-3 (?). I think the defense also needs a tweak or some rotation. But despite these things they are a good team.

  10. Well done. For the player ratings article can you add a new category? Rate the field condition. On the second goal Bedoya slip set up the counter and trusty’s slip iced it. Turning pint in the match

  11. Andy Muenz says:

    Since a lot of people have been responding to my initial comments, I do want to say that I do think the Union are a good team, with the possible exception of 2011, the best in franchise history. That being said, I was really trying to point out that they do still have a ways to go to finish where they are (and they are still in first on a points per game basis). The good news is that except for the Seattle game, they have taken advantage when they are clearly the better team.
    Wednesday’s game can really only provide bad news since if they win, they will have just done what is expected (although Colorado has now won two straight). The real test comes Sunday when they visit a Minnesota team that has been really good at home so far.

    • So let me add by giving the state of the team as I see it. The Union have gone from what was last year a edge of the playoff’s team to now a team of the league’s second tier. I.E. not Atlanta or L.A. F.C.. But they are a step below. Now I think they still need a striker/partner for Prys. They still need a right back. And probably some more midfield depth. Monteiro can’t do it all and should see a rest at some point.
      Now how good they can be by the end of the season is still up in the air. Say Santos steps up, or Ernst finds another gem in the transfer window. Maybe M’baizo steps in for Ray. Oh there’s still that Fabian guy and Mark Mack will return. Whatever happens, I don’t expect Ernst to be complacent. So in my mind this team has a good shot at reaching that top tier and competing for the Cup depending on how the summer goes.
      I have no illusions this team is great. They are damn good though. A player or two and they could become something special. But for once as a Union fan I’m not worried. I’m not panicked. I’m not Negadelphian. In Ernst I trust. With Curtin I will ride along, and actually be happy about it. This is something good, and I will not ruin it.

  12. So the Elephant the other day made a challenge that at the last time I looked was only met by one. I admit fully to perversely holding off responding to see how long his point would be carried forward. He was right though. As such I’d like to post this:

    An Open Letter to Jim Curtin:

    Jim. Oh Jim. You’ve taken our shit on the face, the chin, and to the heart. You’ve had the grace to only get testy a few times, which only goes to prove how good the man you are is. You’ve had a disgrace as a G.M. hire you, cut your legs out from under you with a goalie signing, and do countless hair brained other things. You’ve worked with less more often than not and probably did more than rightly could have been expected. This, at least for me, has become readily apparent with the quality you have been graced with this season. Having been given such players you’ve done what we as Union fans have always wanted. Made the Union relevant.
    Please Jim forgive us our passionate outbursts as fans. You, who is usually pointed out as local area native understand us best. This is probably also why you’ve handled the criticism so well. Many of us have called for your head on a pike. Myself being one of the biggest offenders. I was wrong. I’d also like to say thank you for sticking it out. Please keep it up. I can’t say I won’t criticize you in the future but I do promise to be less of a prick about it. Go UNION!

  13. The Truth says:

    Streaks end. The Diegos reigned supreme. The Timbers look good and down the road, come playoff time, I don’t think this loss will hurt so much. The draw to Seattle hurts more. Dropping any points against Colorado will be an abomination.
    Hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend.

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