Union match reports

Match report: Columbus Crew SC 2-0 Philadelphia Union

Photo: Earl Gardner

Philadelphia Union’s hopes of finishing at the top of the Eastern Conference slipped away as they fell 2-0 to Columbus Crew in a soggy Sunday night match at MAPFRE Stadium.

The Crew scored twice in the second half, once from a lethal counter and once from a seeing eye volley.

Despite joining fellow Ohio club FC Cincinnati as the only teams eliminated from playoff contention in the Eastern Conference entering the match, Columbus had lost only once in their last 11 matches.

After the midweek road win over San Jose Earthquakes, Union head coach Jim Curtin stuck with the 4-2-3-1 formation that fueled the comeback. Wingers Fafa Picault and Brenden Aaronson returned to the starting lineup, as did center back Mark McKenzie. The latter returned after picking up a knock in last weekend’s loss to New York Red Bulls.

Former MLS Cup-winning coach, Columbus’s Caleb Porter, also made three changes to a lineup which drew 1-1 in Vancouver last weekend. The home side were lifted by the return of their captain, midfielder Wil Trapp, who was a substitute against the Whitecaps.

The game’s early stages played out in balanced, if not boring, fashion. Each side had their share of half chances, with the first shot on goal coming in the 24th minute and belonging to Columbus. It’s a stat Philadelphia were unable to match until the second half.

The most notable event of the first half came in the 44th minute, and it wasn’t good news for Philadelphia.

Alejandro Bedoya went down holding his right quad after completing a routine pass. The non-contact injury meant the Union would be without their captain for the remainder of the match, with Warren Creavalle replacing Bedoya in the midfield.

Overall, Columbus were the better side in the first half. They stayed compact defensively with numbers behind the ball. When the Crew regained possession, they looked to break quickly. The Union couldn’t create incisive movements and had the energy of a waterlogged side playing their third road game in eight days.

The halftime whistle gave both sides a chance to dry off and adjust for the final 45 minutes of action. Both teams could hang in the locker room a bit longer than usual. The first half rain storm was followed by lightning, which delayed the restart of the game by just under an hour.

But while the Union sat around, their competition for the top seed in the Eastern Conference floundered. Atlanta United grabbed a lead and then relinquished it to Montreal Impact. More importantly, New England Revolution defeated New York City FC 2-0, who would have clinched first place with a win or a draw.

By the time the Union returned to the field, they controlled there own destiny. They just had to take care of business.

The results energized the Union, who came out attacking to start the second stanza.

Curtin brought on his not-so-secret weapon in the 60th minute. Ilsinho replaced Brenden Aaronson.

Jamiro Monteiro nearly opening the scoring in the 65th minute. The diminutive midfielder was on the receiving end of a centered pass five yards out from a mouth-wateringly empty net. Monteiro sent his shot sailing over the crossbar. While the ball was bouncing, it’s a chance that needs to be put away.

The miss proved fatal.

Minutes later, Columbus opened the scoring. A Union attack in the 69th minute broke down, and a four vs. two Crew counter followed.  Winger Pedro Santos pinged a ball wide to Youness Mokhtar, who entered the match in the 57th minute. The Dutch attacker cut back in the box and rolled a shot by goalkeeper Andre Blake.

The goal left the Union desperately grasping for the first round bye that accompanies a conference title. That faint hope didn’t last long.

Just four minutes after scoring the opener, Columbus inserted the dagger.

The Crew swung a cross into the Union’s box in the 73rd minute. Blake punched the ball seemingly out of danger, but looks can be deceiving. The ball fell to Santos about 22 yards from goal, who struck a first-time volley. The shot seemed to skip in molasses as it rolled into the back of the net with Blake never recovering from his punch. The Union would not recover from the 2-0 deficit.

The loss was felt more on the standings that the scoreboard. With everything falling perfectly for the Union, they failed to take the opportunity.

With the loss, New York City FC clinched the top overall seed. They’ll travel to Talen Energy Stadium next Sunday as both teams wrap up their regular season before the playoffs start.

Three points
  • Road tripping up. The Union haven’t looked great in any of the three road games in eight days, despite Wednesday’s victory. It stings all the more knowing the Union will now likely have to win two road games to win the East.
  • Get well soon. Bedoya was missed in the second half, both in talent and leadership. Philly needs their captain healthy.
  • No time to dwell. The result hurts, but the playoffs are right around the corner.

Philadelphia Union
Andre Blake; Raymon Gaddis, Jack Elliott, Mark McKenzie, Kai Wagner; Alejandro Bedoya (Warren Creavalle, 44′) Haris Medunjanin; Fafa Picault (Marco Fabián, 77′), Jamiro Monteiro, Brenden Aaronson (Ilsinho, 60′); Kacper Przybylko
Substitutes: Joe Bendik, Aurélien Collin, Rober James Allen, Andrew Wooten

Columbus Crew SC
Eloy Room; Harrison Afful, Jonathan Mensah, Josh Williams (Aboubacar Keita, 60′), Connor Maloney; David Guzmán (Youness Mokhtar, 57′), Wil Trapp, Artur; Luis Diáz, Gyasi Zardes (Jordan Hamilton, 87′), Pedro Santos
Substitutes: Jon Kempin, Luis Argudo, David Accam, Romario Williams

Scoring Summary
CLB: Youness Mokhtar — 69′ (Pedro Santos)
CLB: Pedro Santos — 73′

Discipline Summary
PHI: Jamiro Monteiro — 13′ (unsporting behavior)
CLB: Wil Trapp — 55′ (unsporting behavior)
CLB: Youness Mokhtar —80′ (time wasting)
PHI: Kacper Przybylko — 90′ + 1′ (unsporting behavior)


  1. Union should have offered Columbus a couple of draft picks next year to throw the game.

  2. OneManWolfpack says:

    Well that sucked. Please go back to the 4-4-2. The book on the Union is out. Just sit back and let them try to break you down. I genuinely didn’t think the Union would win MLS Cup. But I really thought they’d at least get a home win. Odds of even that have gotten tougher. Hopefully Bedoya isn’t too injured. What a shame… that next Sunday could’ve been for first place. Instead you’ll be playing the NYC B squad… now that’s so Union…

  3. Hot take. Curtin lost the game by going conservative and subbing in Crevalle.

    • No, Crevalle is the most logical sub. Putting in someone else doesn’t help against the counterattack. Curtin didn’t lose the game. If you want to blame one person, it was Monteiro for missing the sitter but really it was again the inability to score on the road. Shut out 5 of the last 7 road games, all of them multi-goal defeats. Much worse was the number of times when they had an opportunity to break in the first half and Ray or Fafa pulling up and making a back pass to give Columbus time to get back.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      I actually agree Sieve… For me, no reason to go back to the 4-2-3-1. It wasn’t so much the Creavalle sub, as much as not playing the 4-4-2. Montiero is not a 10. Stop playing him there.

    • 1. Curtin failed to rotate the squad. Again. What kind of performance do you expect when you send the same guys out there at the end of a long season to play 3 games on the road in 8 days???

      2. I agree that the Creavalle sub was a mistake, and I was disappointed that he made it give how toothless the Union were looking on offense.

      3. I think the 4-2-3-1 is a far better formation for this team than the 4-4-2. But Monteiro is not a #10, for God’s sake. Please stop playing him there! It should be Aaronson or Fabián.

      Some of this loss definitely falls on Jim.

    • Wrong Sieve….. I guess I’ll make this my post for the day. Creavalle was logical. We had to try to get possession back and try to calm things down. He was the only sub that could play that Role I think or even Fontana. His mistake was keeping in Medujanin. Mr. ( try to loft balls over the defense every time he had the ball). He was a disaster just like the entire team. After stuffing the opposing player and getting a break down field, He could have passed to Kacper instead of trying to play Monteiro, who btw had a horrible game as well. Przyblko couid have collected the ball and then cut in by the defender for a shot. Oh yea , what did Fabian do again ?? That’s right nothing. He’s a wash. I true professional would not be subbing in a player playing that poor. Idc if he’s a DP or not. Again, Aaronson should be and has been the best number 10 we have. Keep him there !!!! What an Impact he had playing out wide ……… just having him at the 10 might have made the difference in this game. Have we forgotten how he destroyed Atlanta twice Infront of net!! His best ability is being that option to recieve short balls in tight spaces in the Middle of the field and the 18. He’s also good I front of goal. Stop playing him out of Position Curtin.
      As far as Blake goes, wtf was he thinking ?? He couldn’t try to grab the ball instead of punching it out ???? Like it looked like he could have clearly grabbed it and should have. He’s been very off lately. I wouldn’t mind seeing Bendik. He’s a starting keeper playing a sub role.

    • I’m with Sieve, Wolf, and Hopkins

    • OK, several people have argued against Crevalle coming in but none have suggested an alternative to play for 50 minutes. Your choices are limited to Ilshinho, Fabian, Wooten, Allen, and Collin.
      And remember that Crevalle only played about 10 minutes in San Jose.

      • Spot on.

      • I think the alternative would be putting Fabian in and sending Monteiro back to the 8. Monteiro is better than Creavalle. Obviously, that option depends on what you think of Fabian’s ability to perform at the 10. Honestly, I think either choice would be defensible.

      • Fabian is such an obvious choice o didn’t think it needed to be stated.

        No matter how far out of favor Fabian is he is still a better choice than Crevalle

  4. “With everything falling perfectly for the Union, they failed to take the opportunity.”

    Story of our life. Hard to fight back the feelings of certain and all too familiar doom. But that was just a shit show. A literal shit show.

    • Couldn’t drink enough water to physically exhibit how pissed I am. We all know how much was left on the table today with the road paved by other results and who we played. They flopped against NYRB too.

      It’s been fun and promising until the home stretch chokes, and it’s up to them if they want to be another blue ball Phailure story.

      We will see next week if they deliver or are just a playoff zombie needing the merciful head shot and having no business with the CCL.

  5. First off, we can’t throw in the towel on the 2 seed especially the way NE is playing, they could get a result in Atlanta. Second, the Union need to come flying next week just for psychological reasons irregardless of seeding. With the new one-off playoff format, urgency will necessary for the playoffs. I have no doubts they can beat DC, NYRB or Toronto at home.

    • The most important reason they need to win that match is because it will give them about an 87% chance to pick up a CONCACAF Champions League berth.

      • As i figure it…
        If they lose next week, they need both Minnesota and Seattle to lose in order to have a shot at the CCL berth…
        If the Union win next week and so do Atlanta, they would finish 4th overall behind LAFC (CCL berth as Supporters shield winner), NYCFC (CCL berth as Eastern Conference champs), and Atlanta (CCL berth as USOC champs). So if any of those 3 teams win MLS Cup, the Union would get the last CCL slot as the top regular season finisher without a CCL berth already…

      • IIRC, in addition to NYCFC, LAFC and Atlanta winning the MLS Cup as explained, if we win next week and a Canadian team wins the MLS Cup then we also make the CCL.

        Hopefully NYCFC plays reserves on Sunday.

      • Mark, you are close. If the Union lose next week, they need Seattle and Minnesota to draw next week (they play each other). If the Union draw, then they need either a draw or a Seattle win by fewer than 7 goals. A Union win means 3rd or 4th overall regardless (depending upon the Atlanta result).

      • Andy is correct. Though we know Seattle ain’t winning by 7 goals. So, a draw, with a Seattle win or a draw, puts us in extremely good position for CCL.

        A win and we’re likely in. A loss would require a draw in the MIN-SEA game.

  6. The story tonight is Alejandro Bedoya. Period. Hope to Hell its just a ‘knock’ whatever they are defined as.
    …and 3 games in 8 days with a cross country trip included is no small task. Charters be damned. Columbus is undefeated in forever for a reason.
    Would have loved the NYCFC match up to matter more but truth be told, finishing 2nd and playing NE might not be the elixir we’re liking for.

    • Beating NYCFC next Sunday will still give us a great shot at making the CCL given the Western results today.

      Of course, if today is anything to go by when almost all results went our way for setting up the shot at finishing 1st in the East and almost assuring we make the CCL, it doesn’t matter who we play in the playoffs.

  7. Curtin is so, so bad. He’s proving he can win games, sure, but he can’t get over the hump and really push the team forward.

    Firstly, WHY is he falling in love with the 4-2-3-1 again? WHY!? It takes Monteiro AND Aaronson out of their best position.

    Secondly, my god if Bedoya is hurt long term that is 100% on Curtin. Is it that hard to rest your players Jim. After Fontana’s 3 good appearances, is it that crazy to give Fontana a 60 minute start and rest Bedoya? Jesus Jim.

    “Put in Illsinho and hope he makes something happen” is NOT a viable long term strategy you amateur.

    Speaking of long term, RB is our #1 priority. How many times is Jim going to sit on the sideline and smile aimlessly as he watches the other team allow us to cycle the ball to Gaddis’ side, knowing he can do nothing with it?

    I’m not even looking forward to the playoffs anymore, because the book is out on us and I have 0% faith in Jim to actually do anything about it.

    • Agree with some of this, but the problem is not the 4-2-3-1. That’s definitely our best formation. We just need to put Monteiro next to Medunjanin (which should be his best position anyway) and Aarsonson at the 10 (ditto). Bedoya (when healthy) goes wide R, Picault wide L.

      • Micah Bertin says:


      • IDK man, we were playing our best soccer ever early in the season in the 4-4-2 diamond.

        Also I disagree with saying 4-2-3-1 is our best formation, when your starting RW is someone who has never ever played there for us.

        I think 4-2-3-1 is a safe fallback for us, probably the clubs true identity at this point given how much we used it the past few years, but man, we were so decisive and dangerous in that 4-4-2…

      • Agreed, but thinking outside the box, how about dropping Bedoya to RB and sitting Gaddis? Ray adds nothing (and no, he’s not a good defender), and would allow Wooten or Santos to play Right wing.

  8. I can appreciate 3 games in 8 days, but I recall only one real run of intent from the striker during possession build up in the final third. That is not a formula for success.

  9. Uncreative, listless, visibly tired. I’m not shocked with the result. At least I had a phenomenal roast beef sandwich after the game. Whatever, ready for next week.
    Gutted for Bedoya.

  10. It’s my fault for the loss. I apologize. With the rain delay, I opted to start making dinner. I was only halfway done when they restarted the game and I was only half watching. Had I been able to fully commit, they would have played better.

    • That’s it. You’re fired from your job as fan who controls how the Union play. (Or maybe it is my wife’s fault for not having done laundry in time for me to where the same shirt I wore on Wednesday.)

  11. In Tanner We Trust says:

    So I think Curtin deservedly will take some heat, but he didn’t have many options. I personally believe he should’ve rested Kacper, but who steps up? All that talk about a loaded attack when we traded Accam, and now what? Fafa is not a CF, neither is Santos. And what is with Wooten? Is Ngalina still too raw? We still have solid depth, but if Kacper, Monteiro, Haris, Kai, or Jack get hurt, our season is over.

    • In Tanner We Trust says:

      Correcting myself, I forgot about Burke. We really could use him to save Kacper at times.

      • Exactly what I was going to say about Burke. Hopefully Wooten will step up after he gets an offseason with the team. If I recall correctly, it took Ale until his first full season before he really fit in.

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