Union match reports

Match report: Philadelphia Union 2-1 D.C. United

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Author’s note: I lost power at halftime, so apologies for the lack of  insight into this match.

Philadelphia Union overcame VAR, a lengthy weather delay, and D.C. United to pick up all three points just before midnight Saturday evening.

An early second half penalty from United’s Yamil Asad cancelled out forward Sergio Santos’ early goal, but the Brazilian’s selfless assist in the 83rd minute secured the 2-1 win for Philadelphia.

It pushed the Union’s unbeaten streak to 10 matches against their I-95 rivals— eclipsing their longest such run against any oppenent. The win also saw Philadelphia rise to second place in the Eastern Conference, trailing New England Revolution by three points.

The Union returned home to Subaru Park for the first time since Jun. 23, a 1-0 win over Columbus Crew. Since then Philly endured a three game road winless streak— two draws sandwiching a loss in Nashville.

With a shorthanded roster, a loud crowd saw the debut of Daniel Gazdag at the No. 10. The Hungarian playmaker replaced the suspended Jamiro Monteiro. Also suspended was reserve goalkeeper Matt Freese. His red card in the last match against New York Red Bulls left the Union scrambling to find a late goal to secure the draw shorthanded. It meant Joe Bendik started in net for the first time since 2019.

Conversely, D.C. United saw the return of their captain Steve Birnbaum. The U.S. center back started an MLS game for the first time this season after a lengthy absence following significant ankle issues. It added a boost to a side which trounced Toronto FC 7-1 in their last meeting.

Fans were better off ambling in the concourses than rushing to their seats. The Union were flat footed and sloppy. Poor passing and lackluster defending saw United threaten the River End.

And yet it was the Union who unleashed a lethal counter to open the scoring in the 11th minute. With a virtuoso escape from his own third, right back Olivier Mbaizo sprung Alejandro Bedoya down the right flank. The captain’s pass, with a deft deflection from Gazdag, found forward Sergio Santos alone in the final third. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid got a piece of the Brazilian’s shot, but not enough to deny Santos is second goal in as many matches.

Near the half hour mark, Santos nearly had his brace. It was a unique situation with D.C. playing without Russell Canouse and Adrien Pérez— both of whom were replaced moments later. Mbaizo took advantage and swung a beautiful cross into Santos, but his powerful header was directed too close to Hamid.

If not for a “saves by Bendik” moment in the 37th minute, D.C. would have had their equalizer.  A caromed ball fell to the right foot of Yamil Asad. The strong diving hand of Bendik was enough to change the shot’s course, having it clank of the crossbar and out of the danger area.

United found their equalizer moments into the second half. Granted a penalty, Asad leveled the match in the 51st minute.

The Union thought they’d earned their first penalty of the season after midfielder Leon Flach went down in the box, but VAR correctly ruled the ball was won fairly.

VAR again struck, ruling out a would-be Santos goal. Following a series of corners, the Union finally found the back of the net. Tangled with his defender just in front of the goalmouth, the striker’s leg was inches offside as the ball came his way.

The winning goal, though, could not be denied in the 83rd minute. Leading a 2v1, Santos found his attacking counterpart Kacper Przybylko who scored his first goal in five matches.

Mother Nature delayed the inevitable with just minutes remaining, with the action paused until 11:20pm. When both teams returned to the field, the Boys in Blue saw out the victory.

The Union will again be on the road for their next match Thursday night against Orlando City.

Three Points
  • Missed opportunity. How could the Union not wear that kit tonight?
  • Santos. He was “electric” tonight. When he’s on, he’s dynamic. It’s just the consistency that is missing.
  • Looking ahead. A trip to Orlando should tell us a lot about who the Union are. It’s been awhile since they’ve looked dominant, yet they still sit near the top of the conference.

Philadelphia Union

Joe Bendik; Olivier Mbaizo, Jakob Glesnes, Jack Elliott, Kai Wagner; Jose Martinez, Alejandro Bedoya, Leon Flach, Daniel Gazdag; Kacper Przybylko, Sergio Santos (Quinn Sullivan 84′)
Subs: Jack McGlynn, Greg Ranjitsingh, Paxten Aaronson, Aurelien Collin, Cole Turner, Matt Real, Stuart Findlay, Nathan Harriel

D.C. United

Bill Hamid; Andy Najar, Steven Birnbaum (Frederic Brillant 85′), Tony Alfaro; Julian Gressel, Russell Canouse (Moses Nyeman 30′), Junior Moreno, Joseph Mora; Adrien Pérez (Yordy Reyna 32′), Nigel Robertha (Griffen Yow 85′), Yamil Asad (Felipe 85′)
Subs: Chris Seitz, Jon Kempin, Drew Skundrich, Chris Odoi-Atsem

Scoring Summary

PHI: Sergio Santos — 11′ (Daniel Gazdag, Alejandro Bedoya)
DC: Yamil Asad — 51′ (penalty)
PHI: Kacper Przybylko — 83′ (Sergio Santos, Leon Flach)

Disciplinary Summary

PHI: Jose Martinez — 22′ (foul)
DC: Yamil Asad — 27′ (not retreating)
DC: Tony Alfaro — 45′ (foul)
DC: Yordy Reyna —45′ + 1′ (foul)


  1. el Pachyderm says:

    a Win. Move up to second place, I believe it is important to recognize those positives. I’m on the record saying I think the team is good enough to win the Cup but…
    ….Let’s not kid ourselves. The team is not playing well right now. At all.
    It’s one thing to reconcile a playing style which cedes possession to teams in your home stadium you are better then, it’s another thing to be so disjointed and sloppy in the style of play you are employing to make it really challenging to enjoy. Some of you can argue me all you want, make snide left handed comments from the pretty perch like last week which compels me to fire back this week … but it’s the truth and I am here to expose those truths.
    It’s just not good enough. It’s not all “about heart.”
    Like iggy Pop sings on American Caesar, with resignation in ‘Fucking Alone’—“so this is me…” —play your style of press and counter. Stand still in the attacking third waiting on the hump and dump, But start doing it with more acumen . Just Play Well.
    Clean it up. A lot.

    • It feels like teams have an encyclopedia worth of tape on how we like to play and are studying it weekly and passing the results among themselves. I feel like in so many situations teams are sitting in our passing lanes leading to more bad passes this past month than I saw all last year. Not to mention the more obvious issue that teams are going 3 or 5 in the back in an attempt to nullify our press

      Now the fact we are still #2 in the East despite this says a lot about the talent on this team and yes, our “heart.”

      But I sure hope Curtin and his coaches are spending extra time in the film room figuring out how to implement the Union System 2.0

    • Chris Gibbons says:

      I’m with you, Pachy. Boatloads of wasted possession last night in favor of aimless, lobbed balls into 2v5 scenarios. DC’s formation wasn’t nearly as effective as NYCFC’s or others, but they didn’t have to be: the Union gave them the ball back for little to no effect, time and again.

    • It really is tough to watch. The entire attack and midfield feels lost. Mistakes were certainly made, but the reason this team is in second place is the back line and Blake (solid game from Bending last night, too). That and some luck.

      Santos is really driving me crazy. He deserves alot of credit for the goal (though it was so close to being saved) and for his assist to Przbylko, but he’s constantly doing things that boggle the mind. At one point he collected the ball to the left of the box with no one on him, over dribbled it backwards and lost the ball.

      I could go on, but agree. It really does need to get better. This team won’t beat America for sure. And it won’t make it far in the playoffs if it plays like this.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        I agree regarding SS. I like him because he is so likeable. And in a day and age where vile humans are spiteful beyond the pale, I aim to be magnanimous as much as possible regarding the player.

    • Yawn.

  2. Andy Muenz says:

    Bendik hasn’t let up a non PK goal all season. (One correction to the article, though, Bendik did start the penultimate game in 2020 against Columbus.)
    Santos was both the hero and the goat given that it was his lazy foul which gifted DC the PK.
    MLS.com gave Gazdag man of the match, but I thought it was Elliott. Time after time he was in the right place to break up the DC attack.

  3. Andy Muenz says:

    Definitely a mixed bag with regards to the delay. The Supporters Shield was making its way along the concourse and I finally got to hold it (and got make picture taken with it again).
    The music they were playing over the PA was amusing. Box of Rain, Rain, Purple Rain, Who’ll Stop the Rain, The Rain Song, Bohemian Rhapsody, and several other weather related songs.
    Unfortunately, I’ve read a couple accounts of Sons of Ben being told by security that the game had been postponed and they were forced out of the stadium while the lightning was still in the area. So that wasn’t so good.

  4. Great job Joe Bendick, looked like days of old!! But Glesnes HAS to stop being casual with back passes. Almost cost us a goal again. And Martinez is going to follow Fontana into Curtin’s doghouse with more out of control behavior on his part. would have thought the recent Red card and suspension would have done it, maybe why Tanner is about to sign another defensive midback from Venezuela.

    Good win, not overall strong, but a gutsy win that gets us to 2nd place… but also 6th place if everyone at 23 poinys wins their next game at hand.

    Am worrying about Orlando and Miami next. We need to come away with at least 4 points on this road trip. Miami is a must win. A tie in Orlando would be sweet.


  5. They got the win. They didn’t look great but the counter attack goal was a thing of beauty. Gazdag gave a glimpse of hopefully what is to come. Agree Elliot was the best player last night. He covered for Glesnes multiple times. Mbaizo giving the good and bad as always. Flach was his usual all over the place self. Holy shit Bedik made saves. WOW.
    So yeah they played disjointed, they were missing 3 starters. I honestly don’t expect this team to start looking on the same page till maybe a month after the Gold Cup. This team has adopted Curtin’s mantra of survive and advance and that’s what they’ve been doing. Lineup changes, injuries, international breaks, card accumulation, red cards, new additions, international tourneys and schedule congestion. They don’t play pretty? You don’t say. Oh but second in the East huh? Perspective.
    El P, don’t know why your panties are in a bunch, but if you want to play childish games so be it. I don’t think anything I wrote last week was veiled at all. I thought I was quite clear in my statement. I wasn’t even thinking of you in particular when I wrote what I did. I wrote what I did in response to what I saw as a common sentiment among the fandom. I stand by it. I doubled down today. The point was to have perspective on the team and the season. It’s been a shit storm of a season and they’ve weathered it so well so far. So El P, if you felt I was attacking you specifically last week, well that’s on you and you may want to ask yourself why you had that reaction. As for above, yeah have no doubt that was aimed at you.
    Have a nice day.

    • Andy Muenz says:

      Your comment should be plural…”the counter attack goals were things of beauty”

    • el Pachyderm says:

      Yes I did find the nature of your commentary targeted to me and figured we were past that approach by now ALL4U. Nothing childish from my comments as you say.
      Speaking of childish commentary though…as for pantries… I go neked.
      …carry on.

      • “Some of you can argue me all you want, make snide left handed comments from the pretty perch like last week…” Childish IMO. But to each their own. And as for what approach I have no idea of what you speak. I can’t make it any clearer you weren’t the specific target. Again, if you were part of the group that I had pointed out then so be it. You generally seemed concerned about style over substance, and I find little value in that. I thought we made that clear long ago. Just like I find your playing games with people and on people deplorable and down right disgusting. If the question is whether or not I like you , I don’t. I thought that was clear too. But again, nothing I wrote last week was specifically aimed at you. The “you” I used last week was a plural you and not at anyone specific. I don’t go into every piece looking for your comments just so I can respond. Most of the time now, I try and avoid them. I’ve said all I can and wasted enough time on this. If you understand good and if you still think it’s aimed at you then IDGAF.

      • So I was a bit harsh and wrong when i said I don’t like you. I don’t like some of the things you do and some of the interactions you have with the fans here. I don’t like the playing for the aesthetic approach you take. If these actions and say surface approach had actual consequences between us in real life, we certainly wouldn’t be interacting for long.
        Saying that, I think 95% of your takes on matches, players, footy in general, are spot on and well thought out. It’s the approach I disagree with. You hardly ever write without thought. And when that bit extra is needed, you admit so and offer mea culpa. I know nothing of you personally but can bet my life you are a wonderful family man. I believe you are also a good friend to those who are worthy. You have conviction in what you believe and that is admirable. Maybe a little zealous, but admirable. Pot, Kettle. These impressions have come from how you present yourself on here. I think, and hope, that the good parts are genuine. I don’t aim to come here and just start shit with you. Hell no.
        So what caused me to write last week was a feeling of “Philadelphia Fandom” panic and over analyzation of minutiae and failing to see the bigger picture. if this felt like it hit home and was directed at you, well then I think it should. I think it should hit a lot of Philadelphia fans right at home. It hits me. I’m a Philadelphia fan and have had this same tendency my entire life. I’m doing what I can to beat this the hell out of me. It clouds judgement and the “picture” of what we are seeing unfolding in front of us. I think we are really seeing something great. Not greatness perse, but great transformation and growth. I’m asking for a step back and perspective. Pleading. Begging for it. If you felt it was directed at you I’m sure you’re not alone, and honestly would be surprised and quite disappointed if you were. I’m asking you to think outside of birth and environment (arguably the same here). It’s bound to make anyone feel attacked.
        Be well el P, everyone. Please forgive my blunt piss and vinegar. Malice was not intended.

      • el Pachyderm says:

        We’re good. I accept responsibility for riling things up here.
        I try to be honorable, generally impersonal, (unless perceived provoked) tempered…..yet 100% acerbic as the week in week out state of the team dictates…..’Oh my God they’re fine. Oh my God they’re terrible’. It’s a whetstone to sharpen the writing instrument.
        The game is more about art and style then wins and losses for me so finding balance between them shades much of the point of view.
        Carry on.

  6. Agree that midfield was disjointed, but that is to be expected at the moment. Gazdag is not yet integrated, the top paid MF on the team was out, Brujo has been away for a couple weeks and Flach is young & still in his first year with the team.
    More important to me was that Gazdag worked hard and was downright filthy in some of his moves – including the assist. When this midfield gels – assuming El Brujo can keep his cool – it could be really good.

    • OneManWolfpack says:

      They were also missing Montiero in the midfield and to me it showed, big time. A win at home is a win at home. Take the 3 and get better.

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