Union match reports

Match report: NYCFC 4-2 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

There is no house of horrors in MLS for the Philadelphia Union like Yankee Stadium.

The Union collapsed in the second half on Saturday night in the Bronx, with New York City FC coming from behind through three unanswered goals to grab all three points in a key Eastern Conference clash, 4-2.

Philadelphia were the better side in the first half, with sweet finishes by Fafa Picault and Kacper Przybylko powering the Union ahead of NYC, who managed a PK goal scored by Maxi Moralez. But the hosts were given another penalty early in the second half, converted by Moralez, and the Union never recovered, with a Valentin Castellanos brace ensuring that the home fans would go home happy.

Faced with a short turnaround between matches and a short field at Yankee Stadium, Jim Curtin shuffled both his lineup and his formation to start the match. Philadelphia returned to last year’s comfortable 4-2-3-1, with Fafa Picault and Ilsinho coming in as wingers in place of Sergio Santos and Brenden Aaronson. Marco Fabian returned to the bench for the first time in four weeks.

It didn’t take long for the choice to start Picault to pay off, as the winger put Philadelphia into the lead in the seventh minute. Jamiro Monteiro put a sweetly lofted ball to Picault in the center of the box, who took the ball down with his chest and controlled with a sweet touch. On the turn, he fired a low drive into the NYC net, leaving keeper Brad Stuver helpless. It was only Picault’s second goal in what has been a stop-and-start campaign for the American winger.

Both teams had chances to score in the 17th minute. First, a beautiful through ball from Monteiro sent Kacper Przybylko in on goal, where he managed to round Stuver but could only hit the side netting with his attempted finish. At the other end, Anton Tinnerholm roasted Kai Wagner and took a point-blank shot at the Union net. Rookie keeper Matt Freese got a hand on it, but the ball was still goal-bound when Jack Elliott made a terrific goal-line clearance to save a goal.

The Union’s lead would be short-lived. A brilliant long-ball from Maxi Moralez and a whiff by Elliott sent Valentin Castellanos in on goal, where a challenge from Auston Trusty sent Castellanos to the ground. Although it didn’t look like there was much contact, the referee pointed to the spot. Moralez made no mistake on the penalty, sending Freese the wrong way and leveling the match in the 23rd minute.

Philadelphia reclaimed the lead in the 30th minute thanks to a gorgeous finish from Przybylko. Ilsinho made a powerful run to the endline, where his cross was redirected by Monteiro toward the top of the box. The striker atoned for his earlier poor finish with an absolutely lethal blast on the volley.. It was his team-leading sixth goal of the season.

The remainder of the first half played out at a physical, fast pace, with neither team really troubling the keepers. The Union were forced into a change in stoppage time after Ilsinho’s challenge on Maxine Chanot left the Brazilian with a head injury — and a yellow card adding insult to injury. Sergio Santos came on to play right wing in his place.

Ten minutes into the second half, the Union conceded another penalty — drawn, again, by Castellanos. As the striker turned in the box, Alejandro Bedoya bowled him over with a very physical challenge, leading to Castellanos theatrically hitting the deck. Referee Alex Chilowicz pointed to the spot, to the fury of the Union players. Like the first penalty, the call was borderline, though it was undoubtedly a foolish challenge by the Philadelphia captain. Moralez again stepped to the spot and again beat Freese — this time, the Union keeper guessed right but the power on the strike was too much to stop.

After the penalty, the Union lost their cool and lost control of a match that they had thoroughly controlled for the first 55 minutes. Suddenly, the hosts had the better of the play, forcing at least one strong save from Freese.

New York City made the Union pay for their poor second half, and it was Castellanos who cemented his status as a new nemesis for Philadelphia fans. At the conclusion of a a beautiful team move, Moralez passed it across the top of the box to the Argentinean striker, whose first-time strike just snuck in at Freese’s far post.

In response, Curtin introduced Fabian for Picault, giving the club’s record signing twenty minutes to impact the match. The hosts, however, retained control of the match, and put the nail in the Union’s coffin in the 78th minute. Again, it was Castellanos and Moralez combining, with the two working a gorgeous 1-2 at the top of the Union’s box. Moralez’s one-time return slipped in Castellanos, who neatly clipped the onrushing Freese to complete his brace.

Neither team did much in the remaining time, leaving the bleacher creatures at Yankee Stadium an opportunity to celebrate a win for their side. The Union are now 0-5-1 in matches played there.

The Union remain in first place in the Eastern Conference, but with this weekend’s results NYC FC and Atlanta United have both passed the Union in points per game. There will be little rest for busy Philadelphia, who wrap up their three-game road trip with a visit to Orlando City on Wednesday night. Kickoff from Exploria Stadium is at 7:30 p.m.

Three points
  • Composure. For the first time this season, the Union let adversity get the better of them. After a strong first half, the Union lost their cool in the second, with City taking over the match and seizing all three points. Hopefully, it will be a one-time implosion for a team that has had a strong mentality all season.
  • Penalties. Of course, the loss of composure came courtesy of two soft penalty calls, both drawn by the frustrating Castellanos. To me, the first call was much weaker than the second, which was an inexcusably rash challenge by Bedoya. But both weren’t sure things, which will only continue the conversation about MLS refereeing.
  • Striker wars. The impending arrival of Andrew Wooten has the Union’s current striker corps knowing that they’re fighting to avoid reduced playing time. Picault and Przybylko made their case with two really nice goals; Sergio Santos, reduced to a bench role, was less impressive.

Philadelphia Union
Matt Freese; Raymon Gaddis, Jack Elliott, Auston Trusty, Kai Wagner; Haris Medunjanin, Alejandro Bedoya; Fafa Picault (Marco Fabian 73′), Jamiro Monteiro, Ilsinho (Sergio Santos 45+2′); Kacper Przybylko
Unused Subs: Carlos Miguel Coronel, Aurélien Collin, Fabinho, Mark McKenzie, Brenden Aaronson

New York City FC
Brad Stuver; Anton Tinnerholm, Maxime Chanot, Sebastien Ibeagha, Ben Sweat; Alexander Ring, Keaton Parks; Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (Ebenezer Ofori 83′), Maximiliano Moralez, Alexandru Mitrita; Valentin Castellanos
Unused Subs: Jeff Caldwell, Luis Barraza, Jesus Medina, Daniel Bedoya, Juan Torres, Justin Haak

Scoring summary
PHI: Fafa Picault — 7′ (Jamiro Monteiro)
NYC: Maxi Moralez — 23′ (PK)
PHI: Kacper Przybylko — 30′ (Jamiro Monteiro, Ilsinho)
NYC: Maxi Moralez — 55′ (PK)
NYC: Valentin Castellanos — 71′ (Maxi Moralez)
NYC: Valentin Castellanos — 78′ (Maxi Moralez)

Disciplinary summary
NYC: Valentin Castellanos — 13′ (unsporting behavior)
NYC: Maxime Chanot — 39′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI: Ilsinho — 45+2′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI: Alejandro Bedoya — 54′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI: Jack Elliott — 57′ (unsporting behavior)
PHI: Ray Gaddis — 88′ (dissent)


  1. Recap: On a pitch the size of a swimming pool, Philadelphia Union played soccer but was beaten by a perfect triple pike off the 10 meter.

  2. el Pachyderm says:

    Alright here’s the deal, that display of anti-soccer in the 2nd half is simply unacceptable, cowardly, and does not represent me as a fan of the game. Disgraceful and cowardly.
    As an example…again and again Freese belting the ball on 2 bounces to the City keeper as the home team gained more and more confidence and momentum after halftime which you were allowing.
    Totally unacceptable. I’d rather lose with honor and ideas then resign to the back foot of fear. Attack Attack Attack. You played that game not to lose and got your assess assaulted in the New York subway by the boogeyman of your own imagination. GOOD. Fuckall.
    —-for the first time this season you blinked. Wether it was the players or Jim I do not know though I have my suspicions… but it better not happen again because that version of Philadelphia Union soccer is in the rearview mirror. Disgust me tonight.

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    I said it earlier in the week, but Why the fuck were the Union playing on 3 days rest against a team who hadn’t played a regular season game in 3 weeks that also has 4 games in hand on the Union? Of course the Union were the exhausted team by the end.
    And then there was a joke of a ref who’s calling everything at one end and nothing at the other. Just before the second PK, Przybylko missed a shot because he was taken down in the box and there was no call. Not to mention, I’m pretty sure there were several opportunities to give Castellanos a second yellow but the ref didn’t.
    Finally, Gaddis was a worthless waste of space tonight. He looked like a rookie in his first game as he was getting beat all over the place. Maybe they should start Fabhino as a right back like they used to start Gaddis on the left.
    Hopefully DC will lose at home tonight.

    • Two things that are woeful in MLS: Schedule and Officiating. There Supporters shield at present is practically meaningless because the schedule just isn’t balanced. Tell tonight was poor. Castellanos is a dive specialist. He should be fined in review. The ref was oblivious.

      • In Tanner We Trust says:

        I put Castellanos up on my list with Michael Bradley, Kaku, and Rais M’Bohli. Guess what kinda list it is

      • Who are people that have never been in my kitchen and are not welcome either?

  4. Got the sense they might have out thought themselves because of the pitch size in the first half. In the second half they didn’t really try to play. Just capitulated. Not sure why. They were hard done by the ref, but they found a way to earn the loss. Disappointing.

  5. Ugh. This team returning to form after a really easy schedule in the first half of the season. The Union is a 6th place team at best and they’ll be exposed in the more challenging second half of the season.

  6. Santos: Jay Simpson 2.0 with more whining?

    • Bring back burke says:

      Thats a bad take.

    • Maybe on some of the plays, but when 2 guys swing their feet at the ball, both miss and both fall over, it usually means they hit feet. In the box, that is a penalty because the contact affected the chance. Pathetic ref never even thought to look.

  7. In Tanner We Trust says:

    A yellow card for embellishment is possibly the most underused foul/rule. Castellanos deserved to be sent off, instead he gets a standing ovation. That referee was disgraceful. I look forward to giving NY a Philly welcome October 6th. So many angry thoughts, but I’ll conclude with this: as mentioned above, somehow they earned this loss

  8. Bring back burke says:

    In fairness to sergio santos a small pitch is not condusive to his playstyle.

  9. The Truth says:

    Nycfc matches mean nothing to me.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I’m so mad at myself… that I get so mad when we go up there and I watch the games on that crap field. It’s such a clown show and an embarrassment to the league. Whatever. I’m not freaking out about one loss. To me the second PK call was really what doomed them. That was just flat out horrible and to not even look at it on VAR?!? Joke.

  10. The ref, no integrity. However the Union played liked suckers. It should be obvious by now that NYCFC games them with diving and corrupt officials in NYC on that POS field and that POS Castellanos so why do they fall for it? Sergio Santos was sloppy and lazy and that’s the nicest thing I can say about his performance. The Union had this game and to a man played right into the cheap diving and ref bating tactics of NYCFC after Ilsinho went out. Captain Bedoya should know that. It’s a damn shame Ale. Just gotta move on from it. I pray that Wooten lives up to expectations because even with 2-1 lead the Union need a lights out striker moving forward. When Wooten is ready he should be paired with Picault. Of course if they can’t get balls crossed in from the right back consistently the offense could still be missing a vital part of the attack. When is Comcast(yeah I know) going to buy the Union so that there is finally some clout behind this franchise?

  11. If Castellanos isn’t retroactively suspended, you’ll have all the information you need. Remember, Wagner was suspended for how many games for simulation? Castellanos dove with no contact at one point at the top of the box (for which there was, based on the ref, remarkably no call). I can’t claim to be an expert. I follow the Union, not MLS, but Castellanos was clearly vying for all time shit house performances last night. And guess what? It worked.

    • Union fan says:

      Wagner was suspended for foolishly almost breaking a guy’s ankle. Never suspended for embellishment, however he was fined twice for it. No way Castellanos gets suspended for his antics- worth watching to see if he’s fined though. I’m actually very interested to see if he’s named MLS player of the week. That would be hard to take.

  12. The second penalty took them out of this game. They backed up and let NYC run right at them. Looked like they were trying to play for a draw. Not good enough. But the pitch is a disgrace. And they know how to make the most of the extra tight spaces. Hope’s this an outlier. Not the new norm!

  13. Castellanos is why ppl hate soccer. I hope he somehow gets suspended for diving. The fucking idiot had a bad touch that got away from him and Bedoya saw and pounced on it. No foul what so ever. I seriously hope Castellanos gets injured for the rest of the season. He deserves it. Better yet he deserves to be abolished from soccer. And once again the refs are complete shit. Use VAR!!! Wtf is it there for if they won’t use it properly !!! ??? On another note, our Defense got caught ball watching. And Trusty is just fucking horrible. He’s a liability. I guess I’m the only one who sees this. He has no athleticism.

  14. Why did we not start a #10?
    Why in the second half did we have 4 strikers on the field with two playing midfield?
    Why did we have one of our two best wing midfielders at #10 with two #10s sitting on the bench?
    Why did we start Ilsinho when never plays well as a starter?
    Why did we start Ilsinho on a pitch where there is not room for him to take on people?
    Why did we start fafa on a pitch where there is no room to go over the top?
    Why doesn’t every team bring a roller every game to measure the field then either refuse to play or file a protest with the league?

    In spite of the postage size stamp pitch, the sod stability of Talen and questionable lineup, I thought we played a decent first half.
    It’s a shame they bent over and grabbed their ankles for the second half.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      The answer to most of your questions is squad rotation, given that it is the 2nd of 4 games in a week and a half and the least winnable of the 4. And then you answered your own questions in saying that they had a decent first half with a lot of the lineup decisions you are questioning.

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