Analysis / Union

Postgame analysis: D.C. United 1-5 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Marjorie Elzey

Philadelphia Union’s thrashing of D.C. United was a reverberating victory on a variety of fronts: The Union snatched back their first-in-the-East honor from Atlanta United by a cool three points, at least momentarily. Captain Alejandro Bedoya not only earned MLS Player of the Week after his goal on Sunday, but he made national and international soccer news for his statements on gun violence. Head coach Jim Curtin also earned his fourth MLS Coach of the Week honor this season after Sunday night’s match.

However, the Union will certainly already be looking forward towards their next few fixtures set ahead of a climactic end-of-the-season schedule against MLS’s Goliaths. In that regard, there was a lot from Sunday night’s matchup that was encouraging for the Union, and, as always, some vital things to learn from and adjust going forward.

Creative and fun offensive football

Who would have thought that a starting line-up that featured newcomer Andrew Wooten and lacked typical starters Fafa Picault, Jamiro Monteiro, and Brenden Aaronson, would play some of the most fun football that the Union has put together in weeks? Throughout the 90 minutes, the Philadelphia offense was able to create opportunities and finish them in creative, slick, and efficient ways, in stark contrast to prior matches where they have struggled to make good decisions. Of course, this is all with the caveat that it’s easier to score on a team that has one player down. However, the take away should be that if the Union are able to keep up the energy and drive to score, they should be able to accomplish a lot at the end of this season.

Glimpses of Marco Fabian

The way that Fabian was marketed by the Philadelphia Union front office built expectations to the superlative degree. Unfortunately when he started his season for the Phang Gang, there was simply something that was left wanting. Then, when he was out with injury for a while, it seemed that the Union were able to do well enough without him. However, over the last few games, he has started to show some glimpses of what drew Earnst Tanner and the Union to invest in him. His cool finishes in the match against DC United showed a killer instinct as well as the ability to show patience when appropriate. If he can continue to keep his shots on target, and to keep up good situational awareness, it isn’t unrealistic that he could have the same impact on the second half of the Union’s season as Monteiro had in the first. To summarize, his stats from the match in D.C., speak for themselves: 6 shots, 5 on target, 2 goals, 6 key passes, and a perfect 10.0 rating on WhoScored.

The Union toe the line between success and failure

The scoreline reads like a horror novel for DC United fans, and like a winning lottery ticket for Philadelphians, but the gameplay on the field was actually closer that one would otherwise imagine. In the 54th minute, DC United brought the game to a two goal margin. They followed up with two very dangerous opportunities, both of which caught goalkeeper Andre Blake off his line. If they had capitalized on those opportunities – which they certainly could have – then the Union would have found themselves without a lead despite being a man up. It would have been labelled ‘another implosion’. While Philadelphia did well to seize their opportunities up front, they will have to be better in the back, especially when they start to play the MLS giants without a one man advantage. Andre Blake will certainly have to do better to avoid regressing this season, and the Union defense especially will have to continue to solidify their defensive coverage and to minimize lapses that leave the team vulnerable. If they can accomplish this, then playoff success will certainly be within reach.


  1. el Pachyderm says:

    a lot went right in that game but what stood out most to me was Warren Creavalle’s immediate one touch footballing impact that created a canvas everyone else seemed to want to paint on.

  2. It’s not this simple, of course, but more often than not…
    (1) When Union score first, the dynamics shift and favor their preferred press and counter style as the opposing team tries to attack.
    (2) When they concede first, their weakness is exposed and it’s much more of a struggle to posses and attack beyond hopeful crosses.
    So… Are we getting too excited about the lopsided win? If Union score first, should we *expect* multiple goal wins? And when Union don’t score first, should we be surprised (different than dismayed) when they lose big?

    • For the record, I support the team, have enjoyed the ride and think the trajectory is clearly positive. 🙂

    • The Union have more comebacks from a goal down than any other team in the league. Last time I checked the Union had 4 and the next team(s) had 1. Obviously they have the multiple 4 goal losses but that seems to be a spacing/positioning issue. This year specifically when they have had their defensive slumps it’s been fixed by tightening up the space between lines or making sure the back four have the right positioning. Having all your players available doesn’t hurt either.

  3. Chris Gibbons says:

    How thin the line was there in the early second half is noteworthy. Still things to fix even in a demolition.

  4. Wish I had DVRed this one. Was away for the weekend and completely forgot. Will have search for a replay.

  5. I honestly can’t say what was different, maybe that Fabian stayed higher, but he was more productive in his involvement, and I don’t just mean the goals. The offense just worked better, flowed more freely.

  6. I missed the first 30 minutes of the match, but the thing I saw that made this game for the Union, that I think defines our game, both its strengths and weaknesses more than anything else, was Haris Medunjanin.

    DC gave him all kinds of time on the ball. And he responded by absolutely picking them apart, with surgical precision — pass after incisive pass. In fact, some of them didn’t work because they were so good that his teammates weren’t expecting them! Instead of just doing the long ball thing, he would send balls through traffic in the middle, he would lay off to someone, he’d send it up the sideline… he was a genuine regista. He made all 6 players in front of him into offensive threats.

    At the same time, of course, shielding the back line is exactly what he does NOT do. So you get the spectacle of balls over the top and our CBs scrambling to get back. Or a late runner in the box who gets picked up by nobody.

    I think our team goes depending upon whether Haris provides more goals than he gives up. In this match he sure did, in part due to luck (DC should’ve scored at least one more), in part because from good finishing (thank you Fabián), and in part from his own consummate skill.

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